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Intervention of Mons. Joseph SOUEIF, Archbishop of Cyprus of the Maronites (CYPRUS)



The Synod for the Middle East is a space for renewing within the Church the experience of communion and witness “so that the world may believe” (Jn 17:21). Communion in fact is the starting point of the existence of the community of the faithful; it is reinforced and develops in the personal meeting with the Lord Jesus, in his Word and in the Eucharist; from here to the witness of life in collaboration, a strategic choice today. With sincerity, humility, responsibility and love we want to remove the negative elements that obstruct communion; ecumenism will be the most important pastoral methodology; and with the love of Christ we will move to the dialogue of life and respect the theological dialogue that is the work of the Spirit.
We need to believe in the force of the presence in the Middle East: a presence that is qualitative, dynamic, missionary and diaconal, which has always been that and will always remain so in the East and the West. We need to believe that only God is the Lord of history and times: let’s pay attention to his plan.

There are challenges: the political situation, conflicts, the problem of religious freedom and freedom of conscience; the Church is a guarantor of liberty; that is why her presence is an advantage not just for Christians themselves but for everyone, in particular for those who believe in human and spiritual values, and who meet directly or indirectly with the behavior of the Church. Therefore the presence of Christians is really a sign, and it has to be supported at the level of the Universal Church and the international community, to confront with the popular majority, the socio-religious systems that go against the values of freedom, the values of dialogue and of meeting between different cultures. Today we are experiencing a real cultural conflict, a conflict of mentality, a conflict of approach and vision, even within religion itself and where Christianity has a lot to say and do, including offering a certain response; let’s take initiatives together to draw up educational and social plans that help change mentalities, that educate people to accept differences; human rights. The area is expecting a clear contribution from Christians to build the culture of forgiveness and peace. Our absence is a loss for us and for everyone; emigration should become missionary expansion, bringing the spirituality of the East through the liturgy which has powerful overtones in the lives of the faithful; and through different religious and human behavior that make of our families the yeast and salt within the great secularized societies. Immigration of Christians in the area is a prophetic sign of witness whose fruits none of us can be certain of. History teaches us that the first Christian Syriac communities went to India and China for human and social reasons and they brought faith with them. We ask our brothers to reinforce their act of solidarity; and we ask ourselves to make pastoral, spiritual and social projects that demonstrate communion and restore the faith of our people.
The experience of Cyprus, of my diocese, shows that religions can live together despite wounds: we Maronites have been living on the island since 1200 and our history has its saints and martyrs; with our fellow countrymen we are seeking peace in justice and love based on truth and freedom. We want all the churches and mosques to be open to everyone, that they be a space for meeting and forgiveness, a place of purification for memories. We Maronites want to go back to our villages, despite the difficulties. We want to bear witness in this island that is a bridge between East and West to the values of dialogue, cohabitation to build a culture of peace and love.

[00173-02.03] [IN113] [Original text: Italian]




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