(Vatican Radio) The Prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, recently visited the small Maronite Catholic community on the island of Cyprus, the population of which is mostly Greek Orthodox.
During a Mass on the Solemnity of St. Maron on 7 February, he spoke about the desire of the Maronite community “to be recognized as a national, and not only religious, minority” in a possible unitary and federal state entity which might evolve in the future if the island – currently partitioned between the internationally recognized government, and the Turkish-occupied north – achieve unification.
“In order to remain a bridge between peoples, Cyprus cannot allow itself to maintain walls, barriers and divisions,” Cardinal Sandri said. “To live without them, however, it is necessary above all, as Pope Francis often repeats, especially during this Jubilee of Mercy, to disarm one’s heart and dispose oneself to pardon and reconciliation.”
He also spoke about the situation in Lebanon, which has been without a president, who must be a Maronite Christian, since May 2014.
“This is something for which the people have already awaited for too long, something of which they have need, as does the region for purposes of equilibrium,” he said.
Below please find Cardinal Sandri’s homily, as well as his remarks to a meeting of men and women religious
Homily of Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, Prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches,
at the Divine Liturgy in the Syro-Antiochean Maronite rite on the Solemnity of St. Maron
Cathedral of Our Lady of Graces, Nicosia (Cyprus), Sunday 7 February 2016 A.D.
Mr. President of the Republic, Your Excellency Anastasiades,
Most Reverend Excellency, Mons. Soueif, Maronite Archbishop of Cyprus,
His Excellency Bishop Paul Sayah, Representative of Patriarch Rai,
Reverend Priests, Men and Women religious,
Brothers and Sisters in the Lord!
1. I thank you for the invitation to share this day with you, celebrating the Solemnity of Saint Maron, the Saint who is at the origins of the history of the venerable Church of Antioch of the Maronites. We are deeply grateful to the President of the Republic of Cyprus, who, again this year, by his presence at the Divine Liturgy expresses his closeness to the Maronite community and at the same time acknowledges their presence as among the most deeply rooted in the millennial history of this island.
Our thoughts and prayers recall the Holy Father, Pope Francis, whom I met before my departure and informed that I would be here today. At the conclusion of this Holy Liturgy, you will receive the blessing, which he asked me to impart to you in his name. We ask the Lord to accompany the Holy Father on his voyage to Mexico and, more generally, to bless all of the innumerable gestures by which he encourages us to become builders of bridges of reconciliation and peace in the various contexts in which we live, among all of the challenges which they bring. I remember in particular the meeting of His Holiness with the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church, H.H. Kyrill. We also have present in our minds the Patriarch, H.B. Cardinal Bechara Boutros Raï, with whom just two weeks ago I venerated the relics of St. Maron kept in the Cathedral of Foligno, and we also recall the Orthodox Archbishop of Cyprus, H.B. Chrysostom II, a great supporter of dialogue with the Catholic Church.
2. “This Extraordinary Jubilee Year [is] dedicated to living out in our daily lives the mercy which the Father constantly extends to all of us. In this Jubilee Year, let us allow God to surprise us. He never tires of casting open the doors of his heart and of repeating that he loves us and wants to share his love with us. The Church feels the urgent need to proclaim God’s mercy […] She knows that her primary task, especially at a moment full of great hopes and signs of contradiction, is to introduce everyone to the great mystery of God’s mercy by contemplating the face of Christ” (Misericordiae Vultus, 25). This is the affirmation of the Holy Father Francis is the Bull of Indiction of the Jubilee of Mercy. As the Maronite community of Cyprus, we truly do wish to “allow God to surprise us”: wonder is born of contemplating the fidelity of God on our personal and communal journey. Thanks to that fidelity, and to the many saints, from Saint Maron through Saint John Maron, to Saint Charbel, Saint Rafka and others, it has been possible to consolidate, through many vicissitudes and sufferings, a Church which plays a particular role in Lebanon, the Land where the Maronite Church has flourished. Especially with regard to those who serve the common good there in service to the political sphere: may their fidelity be reawakened to the great history of the Country and to working together for a promising future, through the completeness of its institutions, including that of a President. This is something for which the people have already awaited for too long, something of which they have need, as does the region for purposes of equilibrium.
The same appreciative remembrance of the past and inclination towards the future must animate the perception of reality of the Maronite communities of Cyprus: you have been here since the VIII (eighth) century, living side by side your Orthodox brothers and witnessing to the Christian faith together with them. You desire to be recognized as a national, and not only religious, minority in a possible unitary and federal state entity. Also you wish to remain dedicated to carrying out the mandate contained in the Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Medio Oriente: “Christians as fully-fledged citizens can and must do their part with the spirit of the Beatitudes, becoming builders of peace and apostles of reconciliation to the benefit of all society” (n. 55).
3. We are asked, above all, both in Cyprus and in Lebanon, to rediscover the gift of being, as Christians, “fully-fledged citizens”. Cyprus constitutes a precious bridge between Europe and the East, and a positive stimulus for both. For the Near East, there is still in many Countries a difficulty recognizing the full citizenship of Christians. Indeed, at times they are made an object of persecution or segregation on account of their faith, as we have seen so sadly in Iraq and Syria for too long a time. For Europe, there is the need to examine seriously its fidelity to its own religious and cultural roots, which seem to be forgotten in many aspects. Firstly, there is the very idea of the person, often subordinated to the logic of profit and enrichment of small groups; then, the capacity of welcome and integration of the poor and of those searching for refuge and asylum; and also the aspect of the values which define the family and life itself, from conception to death. In order to remain a bridge between peoples, Cyprus cannot allow itself to maintain walls, barriers and divisions. To live without them, however, it is necessary above all, as Pope Francis often repeats, especially during this Jubilee of Mercy, to disarm one’s heart and dispose oneself to pardon and reconciliation. Such interior dimensions have definite consequences in the life of society; they are attained through suffering by those willing to pay personally. What sort of disciples of Christ would we be, if we wished to do more than the Master, in particular, to fail to carry the Cross with Him? Let us go forth thinking of the Church of Agia Kyriaki Chrysopolitissa in Paphos, where the column is found to which St Paul was bound and beaten: if necessary, may we be capable, like Paul, of suffering so that the Kingdom of God might be increased.
4. May the All Holy Mother of God help us by her intercession, us who are gathered in this beautiful Cathedral, where she is venerated under the title Lady of Graces. In order that all may be done according to the will of God, we must ask Her in particular for this grace: to be capable of authentic prayer, such as will put us in profound communion with the Lord and with our brothers. Of this prayer, the Saint we celebrate today, Saint Maron, was a master, as Theodoret of Cyrus attests: “I now remember Maron, because he has made beautiful the choir of saints. While doctors prescribe a different medicine for every disease, his medicine was ever the same, as is the case for all the saints: prayer. It did not only cure illnesses of the body, but also those of the soul. It healed one person of avarice, another of anger; it taught this one temperance and that one justice.” May he, by his prayer, heal our hearts also, and make us his authentic sons and disciples. Amen.
Remarks of Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, Prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches
at a meeting with Men and Women Religious
Cyprus, 5 February 2016
and especially, my dear brothers and sisters, men and women religious of Cyprus,
It is a particular joy and privilege for me to gather with you today. After the Holy Mass we will have a meeting, sharing our thoughts and concerns more informally, in a spirit of fraternity befitting disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ.
You are well aware, I know, that our meeting comes just a few days after a great confluence of religious descended upon Rome to celebrate both the close of the Year of Consecrated Life and, in the context of the Year of Mercy, the Jubilee of Consecrated Life. Pope Francis, himself a religious, of course, received them warmly and spoke to them from his heart. Of particular note was his emphasis on the great necessity of your charism for the Church and the world. Referring specifically to women religious, he asked: “What would the Church be if there were no sisters?” Imagine, indeed, the Church and the world without the manifold contributions of religious over the centuries: without the schools and hospitals, without the monasteries and the missions, without the consoling and inspiring presence of poor, chaste and humble men and women? The Church and the world would be more than impoverished. It would be orphaned, abandoned and very much in danger.
Ever since the earliest days of the Church, my dear brothers and sisters, in every place, chosen souls, moved by a particular love of God and desire for perfection, have wished to live only and all for Christ. Their entire life becomes, as Pope Francis said the other day, a prophecy: which “says that there is something more true, more beautiful, greater and better to which we are all called”. That is a point worth underlying. We speak of a special call, and your vocation, which you have received, is special indeed. At the same time, however, it is a call to the holiness and happiness “to which we are all called”. Your mission, then, is to inspire every member of the Church, and in some way, every man and woman, to aspire to a full and vibrant life in Christ. In this way, thanks to you, our families, parishes, and communities become everyday more infused with the odor of Heaven. You are anticipating the life of the Kingdom, by your eager rejection of all the world can offer. Paradoxically, in this consists your great and urgently needed gift to the world, to the Church and to all mankind.
My dear brothers and sisters, be assured of my personal gratitude to you for your fidelity and generosity. The tradition of consecrated life is particularly dear to the Eastern Churches; it is a cause for just pride. As Prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, I seek to support you in your mission, and I count most definitely on your prayers for me.