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Report of Card. Roger Michael MAHONY, Archbishop of Los Angeles (USA), for North America


On behalf of the Bishops and the Catholics in North America, I am pleased to offer my greetings to all our brother Bishops and Catholics from the various Churches in the Middle East gathered for this historic Special Assembly. We are blessed in our countries to have very large numbers of your members living in our midst and in solidarity with the Catholic Church in the United States.
My focus here will be on the question of how Christians from the Middle East in the diaspora are living the mystery of communio among themselves and other Christians. I will then turn my attention to the specific witness that Christians from the Middle East are challenged to give.
Although my remarks have broad application across North America, I will give examples from my experience in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles since all of the Eastern Catholic Churches are represented in our Archdiocese.
Witness to Communio
While acknowledging their union with Rome, interecclesial relations should be encouraged, not only among the sui iuris Churches in the Middle East but especially in the diaspora (para 55). Recognizing the haemorrhaging of Christians from the Middle East to Europe, Australia, and the Americas, we have sought various ways to transform emigration into a new opportunity for support for these Christians as they become established throughout the diaspora (para 47-48). We try to support these Eastern Catholic Churches sui iuris by welcoming them and by assisting them in the establishment of parishes and schools, cultural institutions and organizations to serve the needs of their people as they settle in the West.
We have welcomed Assyrian-Chaldean, Coptic, Greek Melkite, Maronite, and Syriac Catholics, and the Archdiocese has assisted several of them over the years with financial loans and other means to help these peoples make a home in Los Angeles. In my twenty-five years as Archbishop, I have visited each of these communities, encouraging them "to be themselves" while living within the geographic area of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles. Among other resources, we have the Eastern Catholic Pastoral Association, which provides clergy from these and other Eastern Catholic Churches to gather bimonthly for prayer and mutual support in an effort to coordinate pastoral activities in a spirit of mutual edification rather than rivalry (para 55).
Communio is at the heart of the divine life: diversity in unity; unity in diversity. Unity in diversity; diversity in unity, lies at the heart of the communio which is the Church. In the United States, deep respect for diversity poses unique challenges. "The faithful of the various Churches sui iuris often frequent a Catholic Church different from their own" [i.e., a Roman Catholic Church]. "Such people are asked to maintain their attachment to their own community, i.e., the one in which they were baptized" (para 56).
But many Eastern Catholics coming from the Middle East do not do this and simply become Roman Catholic. Two practical examples of the tension between diversity and unity will suffice. When it comes to the question of enrolling their children in Roman Catholic elementary schools, where there is a reduction in tuition for children of those who are active "parishioners", how do Christians of the Eastern Churches maintain their attachment to the Church in which they were baptized? How might Roman Catholic pastors, administrators and heads of schools be educated and encouraged to assist these immigrants in retaining their connection with their own community by not placing additional burdens on them such as having to choose between joining a Roman Catholic parish for the benefit of a tuition reduction, or retaining their membership in a parish of their own Eastern Church?
A second example might highlight the tension: many Eastern Churches admit infants to the Eucharist beginning with Baptism. When parishioners of these Churches attend Roman Catholic Masses their young children, who are accustomed to receive the Eucharist, are often prohibited from doing so.
Greater sensitivity to very practical matters such as these would ease the plight of the Eastern Catholic immigrants from the Middle East. Do our seminary courses give sufficient attention to the practical challenges that priests and pastors will face if they are to help this diaspora live the mystery of communio in a way that respects the legitimate diversity of peoples of these Churches?
Throughout North America there are many Catholic institutes of higher learning. The preparation of catechists, the provision of spiritual and liturgical formation, and theological training in these Catholic Colleges is almost exclusively Roman in orientation. Where do Eastern Catholic immigrants fit in at these Catholic educational institutes which are keen to offer courses and seminars on other religions, be it Judaism, Islam, Buddhism or Hinduism, but little if any attention is given to the theology, liturgy or spirituality of the Eastern Churches? Especially in areas with a high concentration of such immigrants, how might we assist these institutes of higher learning, as well×as our seminaries, to recognize the need for such courses so that members of this diaspora might "acquire a sufficient knowledge of theology and spirituality proper to the Church to which they belong" (para 64)?
Witness to Forgiveness
A particularly challenging area in assisting the peoples of the Eastern Churches to live the fullness of the Gospel is addressed in Lineamenta 90f, “The Desire and Difficulty of Dialogue with Judaism” and 95f, “Relations with Muslims”. Many of these initiatives have already been taken up in our country and in our Archdiocese where we have a strong ecumenical, interfaith and interreligious legacy. Regrettably, such initiatives take place without much participation on the part of immigrant Christians from the Middle East. In fact, they are often critical of our efforts in these arenas, especially in the matter of forgiveness (para 68,69, 113).
Often Middle Eastern Christians come to north America with attitudes and opinions toward both Muslims and Jews that are not in keeping with the Gospel or with the strides we have made in the Church's relations with other religions. Because we in Los Angeles live "up close" with peoples of many different faiths, how can we assist the people of this particular diaspora to correct these erroneous beliefs which might then influence their homelands through Christians living in the West? Although they may not want to hear it, Christians living in the Middle East and emigrating to the West need to be challenged to be a sign of reconciliation and peace. The sine qua non of both is forgiveness.
I have found that the biggest challenge we face with our immigrant peoples - whether they be Middle Eastern Catholics or Vietnamese Catholics who have fled their country for Southern California, or Cubans who have fled Cuba for the Miami shores - is not one of assisting them in living the mystery of communio between and among various Christians and Christian Churches. The biggest challenge is to help them respond to the grace of giving witness to the Gospel by forgiving those enemies who quite often are the principal reason for their leaving their homeland to find peace and justice on our shores. We would do well to be mindful of our late Holy Father, Pope John Paul II. After giving his message for World Day of Peace 2002 to the world's diplomats, he summed it all up in the challenging phrase: "No peace without justice, no justice without forgiveness."

[00022-02.02] [RC005] [Original text: English]



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