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Pope Praises Melkite-Muslim Relations

Receives Visit From Patriarch and Pilgrims

VATICAN CITY, MAY 8, 2008 ( Benedict XVI is praising the Melkite Catholic Church for their work in establishing good relations with Islam.

The Pope expressed this view today when he received some 300 members of the Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarchate, headed by Patriarch Gregorios III Laham. The group is on pilgrimage in Rome.

The Holy Father praised “the vitality of the Melkite Church, despite the difficulties of the [Mideast] region’s social and political situation.” He said that “on drawing near to the beginning of the year dedicated to St. Paul, I cannot forget that the see of your patriarchate is established in the city of Damascus, on the road to which the Apostle lived the event that transformed his existence and opened the doors of Christianity to all the nations.”

Benedict XVI has declared a jubilee year marking the 2,000th anniversary of Paul’s birth from June 28, 2008, to June 29, 2009.

The Pontiff used the occasion of the jubilee to invite the patriarch to carry out “an intense pastoral outreach” to awaken in the faithful “a new impetus to know ever more closely the person of Christ, thanks to a renewed reading of Paul’s writings.”

This focus,” he emphasized, “will also guarantee a thriving future for the Melkite Church.”

The Holy Father also promoted the role of the bishops’ synod to “ensure the evangelical dynamism and unity of the communities, as well as the proper functioning of the ecclesial work in the patriarchal Churches.”

He encouraged giving the bishops’ synod — and not just the permanent synod — the “standing it merits,” above all “when it has to do with questions related to those same bishops.”

Gospel light

Referring to ecumenical outreach, the Pope recalled that “the commitment to the search for unity of all Jesus’ disciples is an urgent obligation” and therefore “everything possible must be done to tear down the walls of division and mistrust that prevent us from achieving it.”

“Nevertheless,” he said, “we cannot lose sight of the fact that the search for unity is a task that concerns not only a particular Church but the entire Church, in respect of its nature.”

“I also appreciate your good relations with Muslims,” the Pontiff continued, “as well as your efforts to resolve, with a sincere and objective spirit of fraternal dialogue, problems that may arise.”

“In line with the Second Vatican Council,” he added, “the Melkite Church has sincerely sought mutual understanding and the promotion and a shared defense of social justice, moral values, peace and freedom with Muslims to the benefit of all.”

Benedict XVI acknowledged that to achieve its mission “in the troubled and at times dramatic context of the Middle East” the Melkite Church “finds itself faced with situations where politics plays a role that is not indifferent to its life.”

“That is why it is important to maintain contacts with the political authorities and institutions and the various political parties,” he said. “Nevertheless, it does not fall to the clergy to dedicate themselves to a political life. That is the duty of the laity.

“The Church, however, should propose the light of the Gospel to all so that all may dedicate themselves to serve the common good and so that justice may always prevail, so that the path to peace for all peoples in this much loved region may be opened.”

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