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Saturday, 23 October 2010

Patriarch Gregorios on the Petrine Ministry for the sake of the unity of the Church in the Middle East


We ought to have a pope

The Melkite Greek Catholic Church took the bold step of resuming full ecclesial communion with Rome, three hundred years ago. It was a difficult decision, which was the outcome of a gestation of fifty years! We experienced difficulties, both on the part of the Roman Catholic Church and on the part of our own Orthodox Church, whose tradition we keep.

Life in the ecclesial communion with Rome has caused us to lose part of our original authentic Eastern tradition, that we have not succeeded in keeping in its wholeness.

Despite that we feel happy in this communion. It has brought us much! We have also brought a great deal to the Latin Roman Catholic Church, especially during and through the Second Vatican Council!

We are above all more than ever convinced of the absolute and imperative necessity for Christian unity, the unity of the Church, which by its very nature must be one – that the world may believe!

We thank the Holy Father Benedict XVI, Pope of Rome, for the unique and gracious initiative of convoking this Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for the Middle East which bears the most significant and inspiring title The Catholic Church in the Middle East, Communion and Witness.

In that we find in sum the essence of our mission and the meaning of our presence in the Middle East, cradle of Christianity.

This synod is the mark of the Holy Father’s respect for the Eastern Catholic Churches which have suffered a great deal and given a great deal to remain in communion with Rome. It is a call to these Churches for them to take charge of their mission, calling and vocation, whether that be in the family dialogue with Orthodox Churches or in the dialogue of fellow-citizens in the Muslim majority Arab world. It is also a sign of high regard for all the Eastern Churches.

On that basis we consider that our particular position of being Eastern Catholic Christian Arabs, open both to Arabism, Islam and Orthodoxy as well as to the Roman Catholic Church imposes on us a greater mission, that goes beyond mere dialogue! We feel that despite all the deficiencies of what is pejoratively called “Uniatism,” the model does not have just negative aspects!

It is up to us to make our model a prophetic one. It has the power of a prophetic gesture, sign or call to more unity, as is the dream of all Christians.

Our model is, in its fragility, a model in which there is a certain measure – limited, indeed – of unity, but also of diversity. We are in full communion with Rome whilst making every effort to preserve our specific character as Easterners, meaning Orthodox! This model certainly requires complementary elements, especially in the living and dynamic conservation of the common tradition of the first millennium in the life of the Christian Church of East and West. We have succeeded in finding again part of that undivided tradition through renewed dialogue among our Eastern Catholic Churches and the Latin Catholic Church. We hope to recover still more as we go forward with this dialogue!

On the basis of that experience, we dare, on the occasion of the Synod for the Middle East, launch an appeal to our brethren in Churches not yet in full communion with Rome, to venture to move resolutely forward in the theological ecumenical dialogue at different levels. We ask them, whilst awaiting complete and perfect unity with Rome, to consider the pope as primus inter pares, as the symbol of Christian unity respectful of the identity of each Church and its tradition and particular and specific ecclesial governance.

So the pope would be the centre of Christian unity, whilst awaiting the ecclesial, hierarchical and perfect theological communion.

The Christian world needs this sign of hope, this courageous step. The Christian world, the Christian Church in all its denominations needs this step forward, this prophetic gesture, particularly in these times when many powers are raised against the Church and its values.

In confronting all that, the Church needs to be strong and coherent, full of its ideal, open and present, witnessing and serving, not recognizing an enemy, but witnessing to the Love of Christ before and in the presence of all. A Church that is not afraid, since it speaks of and seeks to bring to the world the Gospel, the Good News and love of mankind.

For all that, we need a pope who would be the link for this radiant communion!

That is the call of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church to the Christian world on the occasion of the Synod for the Middle East! We proclaim this in all humility, simplicity, friendship, respect and love! In union with the prayer of Jesus, “Father! That they all may be one... that the world may believe!” (John 17: 21)

The world needs a united Church capable of uniting in a common programme the values to which every human being – every believer and non-believer -  aspires: justice, peace, equality, brotherliness, freedom of religion, of conscience, human rights (including those of women, children and the disabled), development, solidarity, service, mutual esteem...a loving and serving Church, a Church which really fulfils the adjectives used in the Creed to describe it: one, holy, catholic and apostolic.

Thus the pope would be the symbol of unity, despite diversities present at all levels.

A dream? Utopia? Novelty? Childish wish? Perhaps! But it is worthwhile! It is the future of Christianity and of the Gospel! To be or not to be?

Yes, to Jesus! Yes, to the Gospel! Yes, to unity! Yes, to the pope!

Gregorios III

Patriarch

19 September 2010

Translation from French: V. Chamberlain
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