Home > Synod > 2010-10-13 17:43:49
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Intervention of Card. Angelo SODANO, Dean of the College of Cardinals (VATICAN CITY)

A first requirement
Turning our gaze now to the actual Assembly, I would like to say immediately that I fully agree with what is written in our "Instrumentum laboris" and therefore that ecclesial communion is the first requirement that Christians must listen to in the current complex reality of the Middle East. This unity is then also the first evidence that Pastors and faithful may give to the society in which they live, whether one is in Cyprus, or in Kuwait, in Turkey or in Egypt, in a society where the Christian presence is a minority as in various countries on the Arab Peninsula or where it is very important like in Lebanon.
The hardships of today may indeed may become a stimulus to greater cohesion between the various Christian communities, also overcoming the denominationalism which is narrow-minded and limited. Christians, indeed, are, above all, members of the same Mystic Body of Christ. Before the differences of language, of nationality, of membership of various other denominations, there is, in fact, membership in the one Church of Christ, and therefore there is the duty of close cooperation and a charitable and fraternal style of living.
Even before the spread of Christianity in the Middle East, the anonymous author of the letter to Diognetus described the identity of Christians as "indistinguishable from other men either by nationality, language or customs .... or speak a strange dialect ...yet there is something extraordinary about their lives" (Letter to Diognetus, n. 5).
I remember that the late Pope John Paul II was very insistent on the subject of Christian unity and of solid openness to others during the Synod for Lebanon, in 1995. He then devoted in this respect some important pieces of the post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation of 1997, reminding us that all the different Christian communities form one and the same Catholic Church united around the Successor of Peter and devoted to the service of humanity (post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation "Une espérance nouvelle" n. 8).
Ecclesial unity
Sometimes the discussions in our communities are also born from differing pastoral attitudes, between one who prefers to give priority to the custody of the legacy of the past and the other that calls more for renewal. However we know, in the end, we must always be cognizant of the criterion given to us, the criterion of the "new things as well as old." (Mt 13,52), and thus the new and old to be extracted from the treasury of the Church.
This was also referred to recently by our beloved Holy Father Benedict XVI, speaking to a group of newly appointed bishops, telling them: "The concept of "guarding" does not only mean preserving what has been established although this element must never be lacking but includes, in its essence, also the dynamic aspect, in other words a perpetual and practical aspiration to perfection, in full harmony and continuous adaptation to the new needs that have arisen from the development and progress of that living organism which is the community". (L'Osservatore Romano, 13-14 September 2010).
Of course, the unity between Pastors and faithful in the Middle East also involves a close unity with the Church of Rome, where Providence guided the Apostle Peter to make his See. In this respect who does not recall what the great Bishop of Antioch, St. Ignatius, wrote to the Church of Rome?
This is an affective union which must then lead to effective union with the Holy See, through the numerous channels that exist today. In this regard I would also like to mention the opportunity for a closer union with the existing Papal Representatives in the countries of the Middle East. Eight were worthily posted by the Pope to Jerusalem and to Beirut, to Damascus and to Ankara, to Baghdad and to Tehran, to Cairo and to Safat in Kuwait with the plan to work together with local Pastors in this difficult hour of their mission.
Our hope
In conclusion, we must all work together to prepare for a new dawn for the Middle East, using the talents that God has given us. Of course, it is urgent to facilitate the resolution of the tragic Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Yes, it is urgent to take action to end the aggressive elements within Islam. Of course we must always demand respect for the religious freedom for all believers. It is a difficult mission that you, venerable Pastors of the Church in the Middle East, have to carry out in such a dramatic moment in history. But know that you are not alone in your daily concern to prepare a better future for their community.
It is true, that sometimes in the face of the tests of today, it could come naturally to someone to repeat with the Psalmist: "Exsurge, Domine! Salvos nos fac, Domine!" (Ps 3,8). "Arise, Yahweh, rescue me, my God!".
But faith tells us immediately that the Lord is already very vigilant next to us and that there is always the promise that Christ made one day to the Apostles: "I am with you always; yes, to the end of time" (Mt 28,20). Dear Brothers, let this certainty sustain us in the difficult times in which we live!
[00023-02.05] [IN001] [Original text: Italian]


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