Sharing the suffering

The European bishops at the Synod (2)

The special Assembly for the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops themed “The Catholic Church in the Middle East: Communion and witness. ‘ And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul” (Acts, 4: 32)” is ongoing inside the Vatican (until October 24). In their addresses the Synod Fathers highlighted the difficult living conditions of local Christian communities, whose situation, aggravated by human rights violations – notably freedom of conscience and religion – compels many faithful to decide to flee from the region. The Synod will be attended also by the bishops of Cyprus, in the EU, by Turkey, which is EU candidate Member State, and by a representative of the Italian bishops’ conference, Msgr. Riccardo Fontana, archbishop of Arezzo-Cortona-San Sepolcro. Follows an excerpt of their speeches (C.f. Sir Europe 71 of October 15) Turkey. “I wish to wipe out the unbearable slander spread by the organizers of the crime. It was deliberate murder, schemed by the same occult powers that poor Luigi had indicated a few months earlier as responsible of the murder of Fr. Andrea Santoro, of the Armenian journalist Dink and of four Malatya protestors: an obscure network of connivances between nationalist and religious extremists, expert in tension strategy”. The voice of Msgr. Ruggero Franceschini , president of the Turkish Bishops Conference and apostolic administrator of the Vicariate of Anatolia, held by mgr. Luigi Padovese until he was murdered last June, resounded across the Assembly: “The pastoral and administrative situation of the Vicarage of Anatolia is serious – protested the president of the Turkish bishops -. The reasons are the divisions within the Christian community, which is already fragile per se; the management of the economy of the Vicarage and the scarcity of missionary workers”. “We ask the Church to provide us what we are in dire need of: a priest, someone that will help him and the means to carry out his service. It is rather urgent. Ours is a very ancient Church, whose material poverty is as great as the richness of her tradition, which is only comparable to that of Jerusalem and Rome. Forgive my free rein we call upon you to share this situation with us that can be overcome in the short run, at least under two aspects: the appointment of a new minister and financial aid”. Cyprus. Before situation of conflicts in the Middle East, and given the problematic respect of human rights, the Church is indeed “the guarantor of freedom, her presence is a gain not only for Christians, but for everyone, especially for those who believe in human and spiritual values. The presence of Christians is a true sign, and it must be supported at the level of the universal Church and of the international community”. Thus declared Msgr. Joseph Soueif , archbishop of Cyprus of the Maronites, in his address at the Synod for the Middle East. “We are living a true cultural conflict, a conflict of mentality, of approach and of vision”, remarked the Maronite prelate, for whom Christianity still has “a lot to say, to do and to offer”, such as the development of “educational and social projects which can promote a change in mentality, along with the acceptance of diversity, education, and human rights”. Mons. Soueif pointed out that Cyprus is the destination of many Christians. He described Christian migration to the island as “a prophetic sign and a Christian witness, whose fruits we are all awaiting”. Emigration is “missionary expansion, which brings Eastern spirituality within the larger secularized societies. The experience of Cyprus shows that religions can live together despite the wounds; we want all churches and mosques to open up to everyone, so they may become a place of encounter and forgiveness, a place for the purification of memories. In the island which bridges the East and the West we want to testify to the values of dialogue, coexistence, in order to build a culture of peace and love”. Italy. In the first six months of 2010, 1,600,000 people went on pilgrimage to Palestine. The figure was released by Riccardo Fontana , Archbishop of Arezzo-Cortona-San Sepolcro, who spoke today at the Synod of Bishops and conveyed “the greetings and spiritual closeness” of the Italian bishops. “Our pilgrims receive more in terms of spiritual life and meaning of faith than what they can actually give through their solidarity”, said Msgr. Fontana, highlighting that “the Italian Church pays great attention to the deep suffering of the Palestinian people and of that silent group of Israeli Jews who cannot accept any form of discrimination which fuels terrorism and violence in the name of security”. “”An increasing number of charitable projects were launched in Italy to respond to the extreme poverty of Christians in the Holy Land and in the Middle East”, he continued. “From 2000 to 2005, the Italian Bishops’ Conference (CEI) has allocated over €25 million to projects in the area. Other projects were also financed by Religious Institutes and local dioceses”. But it’s not enough. According to the archbishop, “more still needs to be done”.

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