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     Home > Synod >  2010-10-17 13:39:16
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Intervention of Mr. Anton R. ASFAR, Council Member of the Syriac-Catholic Patriarchal Exarchate of Jerusalem (ISRAEL), auditor

To be a Christian living in the Middle East is a great honor, a vocation and a witness of the presence of Christ for all Christians. God gave us the grace of living in the Holy Land; this implies great wisdom which for some is obvious, whereas some others cannot understand or interpret it. We, the Christians of the Holy Land, live in an atmosphere that cannot be experienced in any other country of the world. It is an environment made up of religious pluralism, on one hand Christians, Muslims and Jews, on the other Arabs and Israelis. Those who say that we cannot live or co-exist in this environment should leave this land, because they are not worthy of being witnesses of Christ. Yes, we can live in this holy space of land, because where there is suffering, there is life and witness. As one of the Fathers said one day, we can find a laboratory of cohabitation, and if we can achieve this, the world can too.
Christian youth in the Holy Land is a youth capable of effectively building society, but it needs continuous and permanent support from the local and universal Church. The Christian youths in the Holy Land really appreciate what the Church does to support their existence and appurtenance in this land.
The Catholic Church in the Holy Land has acted and will always act to ease the suffering of the Christians in the Holy Land by assuring them at the same time of institutions in the areas of education and healthcare, as well as the pastoral, housing and programs for development. Now, despite all its effectiveness, all these programs and projects aim at confirming Christians in the Holy Land, the Church does not have the enough means to be able to change the reality that the Israeli authorities impose such as modifying the lay of the land, especially in Jerusalem. Here, I would like to thank His Eminence Card. Foley for having realized this question and for the attention he dedicates to it. In his brief speech, he stated: “The infrastructures controlled by the Israelis make this difficult”. Land in the region of Jerusalem is greatly reduced and many are threatened with expropriation and sale, but the Church doesn’t have the means to buy this land which is offered to it every day. This reduces the occasions of assuring the future generations of the possibility of living and confirming their presence in Jerusalem. The whole world highly appreciates what the Latin Patriarchate and the Custos of the Holy Land do with regards to this, in trying to conserve its sacred identity, and what other Churches have done, but the numbers talk of a great demand for housing in Jerusalem by Christians. This discourages our young persons and increases their duties, especially economic, and thus pushes them to have less children. In fact, recently we can see a decrease in the number of children in Christian families.
Excellencies, here are some hopes:
1. To create a bank for the Holy See which would be called Bank for the support of Christian presence in the Holy Land, which would be available to the Council of Catholic Bishops in the Holy Land, and which would entail several particular mechanisms to achieve the following objectives:
a) buying a large number of plots in the region of Jerusalem, in particular, and Bethlehem in general, because of the sacred meaning in these two places and the need to safeguard the Christian presence;
b) to encourage young persons to marry, ensuring them with a first support to form a Christian family;
c) ensure the greatest number of housing units.
2. To diminish the economic burden that weighs upon the believers in the two regions of Jerusalem and Bethlehem, make it so that Christians that live in these two regions are exonerated of any scholastic or university fees, which would reinforce their presence in the region and would encourage them to have more children.
I would like to thank His Holiness the Pope for having invited me to this living and vital Synod for our region and I would also like to thank those that constitute it.

[00156-02.02] [UD018] [Original text: Arabic]


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