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Intervention of Mons. Ramzi GARMOU, President of the Iranian Episcopal Conference (IRAN)


In its conclusion the Instrumnentum laboris poses this very important and at the same time disconcerting question: What future for the Christians of the Middle East?

In my opinion this question sends us an urgent plea for a real and deep conversion of the heart to a life in conformity with the Gospel message. It is true, the future of the Church in our countries and in the entire world is in God’s hands, who watches over all His children like a Father full of tenderness and mercy. But it is also entrusted to our responsibility as pastors, successors of the Apostles, who have received the task of grazing God’s flock, not through cupidity, but through devotion, in becoming the models of the flock (1 Pet 5:2-3).
For this Synod to be the source of grace and renewal for our churches, we must listen to the what the Holy Spirit says to us. He can purify our hearts and free them from all that prevents us from being authentic and faithful witnesses of the Risen One. In this Holy Synod, we are asked to be meek and attentive to the voice of the Holy Spirit who reminds us that the mission of the local church is to be of service to the people to whom it was sent; its main mission is to proclaim the good news of the Gospel according to the culture of that people. Fortunately, the working document warns us of the danger of confessionalism and an exaggerated attachment to the ethnicity that transforms our churches into ghettos and closes them in on themselves, whereas the mission of evangelization calls upon us to live the diversity that characterizes the venerable traditions of our churches in a deep communion that manifests their wealth and their beauty.
An ethnic and nationalistic church opposes the work of the Holy Spirit and Christ’s will who told us: “but you will receive the power of the Holy Spirit which will come on you, and then you will be my witnesses not only in Jerusalem but throughout Judaea and Samaria, and indeed to earth's remotest end” (Acts 1:8). Saint Paul, because of the passion he had to proclaim the Gospel to all peoples, gave himself the title of “Apostle of the Nations”, he who could glorify himself in being Jewish and an Israelite. Let us listen to what he says: “I myself could rely on these too. If anyone does claim to rely on them, my claim is better... Circumcised on the eighth day of my life, I was born of the race of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrew parents. In the matter of the Law, I was a Pharisee; as for religious fervour, I was a persecutor of the Church; as for the uprightness embodied in the Law, I was faultless. But what were once my assets I now through Christ Jesus count as losses” (Phil 3:4-8). So that he could bear witness to the died and risen Christ in pagan nations, Paul sacrificed his nation and his ethnicity. Are we ready to imitate him on this so that our churches may find a new missionary breath, making the ethnic and nationalistic barriers fall, which threaten to asphyxiate and make them sterile?
The Instrumentum laboris almost ignored the vital importance of monastic and contemplative life for the renewal and the re-awakening of our churches. This form of life that was born in the East, was at the origin of an extraordinary missionary expansion and an admirable witness of our churches during the first centuries. History teaches us that the bishops were chosen among the monks, that is to say men of prayer and with a deep spiritual life, having vast experience in the “things of God”. Today, unfortunately, the choice of bishops does not obey the same criteria and we can see the results which are unfortunately not always happy ones.
The bi-millenary experience of the church confirms to us that prayer is the soul of the mission, it is thanks to this that all the activities of the church are fruitful and bear many fruits. Also, all those who participated in the reform of the church and gave back its innocent beauty and eternal youth were essentially men and women of prayer. For this reason our Lord invites us to pray without ceasing. With regret and bitterness we see that monasteries of contemplative life, source of abundant grace for the people of God, have almost disappeared in our Eastern Churches. What a great loss! How sad!

[00061-02.03] [IN039] [Original text: French]



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