the post-synodal exhortation, ‘testament’ for the Churches of the Middle East

From April 20 to 23, Cyprus hosted the “Rooted in Hope” symposium, attended by more than 250 delegates, including ecclesiastical, religious and secular leaders, on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the “Ecclesia in the Middle East“. Bishop Gugerotti highlighted the “great vitality” of the Churches in the region. The Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem recalled his vocation in a context of violence, wars and divisions and attacked “the alliance between the throne and the altar”.

Nicosia () – An event that should not remain isolated, but become “a style” marked by respect, acceptance, tranquility and mutual love, as true brothers and sisters, because “this is the Church”. With this admonition, mons. Claudio Gugerotti, prefect of the Department for the Oriental Churches, addressed the participants yesterday in the last day of the symposium that was held in Cyprus. A four-day event attended by more than 250 delegates and which focused on the 2012 post-synodal apostolic exhortation of Benedict XVI, a document that the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem defined as “a testament” entrusted to the Churches of the region. A text reread and compared with the events that marked the last decade in the region, to draw future lines of action and safeguard the Christian presence.

The symposium of the Churches of the Middle East, entitled “Rooted in hope”, is the result of an initiative of ROACO (Riunione delle Opere di Aiuto alle Chiese Orientali), with the support of the Department of Oriental Churches. The event marks the tenth anniversary of the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation “Ecclesia in the Middle East“, signed on September 14, 2012 by the recently deceased German pontiff during his apostolic trip to Lebanon, his last abroad as reigning Pope. In the days of meeting and debate, which took place from April 20 to 23 in Nicosia, capital of Cyprus, the Catholic patriarchs of the region participated, together with nuncios, bishops, priests, men and women religious, lay people, ambassadors and diplomatic representatives.

In his conclusions, mons. Gugerotti highlighted the “great vitality” of the Churches and their aspiration to be “holy, witnesses, free, active and vibrant.” Christians, he continued, have paid dearly for the events of the last decade, but they should not lament because “their ancestors walked the path of the cross singing hymns of praise.” Next, the prelate extolled the role of young people, who are not “a museum”, but “a source of pure water”. In this sense, he stressed the importance of preserving “our young hearts, because young eyes are capable of looking at the miracles of fidelity, courage and courageous decisions of our time.”

Among the various speeches, that of Patriarch Pizzaballa, who also gave the closing speech of the symposium before the final mass celebrated by the Maronite Patriarch, had special value. The Latin primate stressed that Christians cannot remain in the Middle East by “right”, because this would make them “a fragile part of a conflict and a war”. On the contrary, they must affirm their presence in a territory “torn by all forms of violence and conflict”, responding to a “vocation” and on the basis of a “choice”. For this reason, the Patriarch of Jerusalem called for shifting attention and reflection from the situation of the Churches and communities, “which can sometimes be worrying”, to the “vocation that our Churches have in this difficult context”. For this, it is necessary to set aside “the concern for occupying land or physical and institutional structures, to focus more on beautiful and good life dynamics.”

Patriarch Pizzaballa then recalled the “many sufferings” also linked to the economic crisis, which can at the same time be a “great opportunity” to be a poor Church among the poor, free from the idolatry of money, welfare, paternalism and of clericalism. Correcting forms of corruption, being credible are some of the tasks of the Church today, moving away from the mundane logic of power into which “religious authorities belonging to confessions other than ours fall much more easily. We know well how politics involves ordinary life in all its aspects in the Middle East,” he warned. The prelate highlighted some of the most positive aspects, such as the signing of the Document on Brotherhood in Abu Dhabi in 2019, Pope Francis’ apostolic visits to the region, from Iraq to Bahrain, and the pontiff’s commitment to ecumenical and interreligious dialogue. .

Lastly, Patriarch Pizzaballa is wary of allying himself with or instrumentalizing himself with political power. “It will be more and more difficult to preserve a prophetic role as Churches in our communities and in society in general, as long as the populations, Christian or not, see us as allies to the powerful of the moment, political and economic. To be prophets – he concluded – one must “You have to be free of any conditioning. The alliance between throne and altar has never done good, neither to the throne nor to the altar.”

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Written by Editor TLN

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