Every second Saturday of the month, Divine Liturgy in English of Sunday - Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral of the Holy Family, Duke Street, London W1K 5BQ.
4pm Divine Liturgy. Next: 13th November 2021

Very sadly, the Divine Liturgy in English at 9-30 am on Sundays at the Holy Family Cathedral, Lower Church, have had to be put on hold. Until the practicalities we cannot use the Lower Church space. Hopefully this will be resolved very soon. Please keep checking in here for details.

Owing to public health guidance, masks should still be worn indoors and distance maintained. Sanitisers are available. Holy Communion is distributed in both kinds from the mixed and common chalice, by means of a separate Communion spoon for each individual communicant.

To purchase The Divine Liturgy: an Anthology for Worship (in English), order from the Sheptytsky Institute here, or the St Basil's Bookstore here.

To purchase the Divine Praises, the Divine Office of the Byzantine-Slav rite (in English), order from the Eparchy of Parma here.

The new catechism in English, Christ our Pascha, is available from the Eparchy of the Holy Family and the Society. Please email johnchrysostom@btinternet.com for details.

Friday 29 October 2010

Rector of Pontifical Oriental Institute Reflects on MIddle East Synod

From Edward Pentin and Zenit, with grateful acknowledgement:
Rome, 28 October 2010 (Zenit.org).

One Holy See institution that took a particularly keen interest in the recent Special Assembly for the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops was the Pontifical Oriental Institute in Rome.

Situated just a few steps away from the Basilica of St. Mary Major in Rome, the Pontificium Institutum Studiorum Orientalium Ecclesiarum -- to give it its full Latin title -- is the premier center for the study of Eastern Christianity in Rome, founded by Benedict XV in 1917.

Post-graduate students, both religious and lay and from a wide variety of backgrounds, study for licentiates or doctorates in their dogmatic, liturgical, spiritual or canonical traditions. Most of them are members of the Easte rn Catholic Churches, but also, in accordance with Benedict XV's ecumenical vision, some are from the Orthodox Churches.

"We strictly deal with the non-Latin rites of the Church, so from Ethiopia to India, the Middle East, the Slavic world, and the Byzantine tradition," explains the new rector of the institute, Chicago-born Jesuit, Father James McCann. "We're a locus for all the Christian Churches of East, and that is our great strength: Our students are quite diverse."

Many of the students are Indian or Ukrainian, but there are also Slovaks, Russians, Palestinians, Europeans, and even some Americans and Canadians. Often they reflect the rich diversity of culture and tradition in the Middle East. Greek Orthodox Palestinian Bishara Ebeid, for example, is a student who speaks Arabic, comes from an Arabic culture, studied at a Hebrew university, was born to a Maronite mother and a Greek Orthodox father, and has many friends who belong to t he Greek Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant churches. "It's very strange for others, but to me it's a treasure and a joy," he says.

Each student, regardless of their particular rite, is taught together with students of the other traditions, including the Orthodox. This has become a prized tradition of the institute, mainly because the Eastern Churches have historically struggled to be united among themselves -- a major concern also at the recent synod.

"Becoming accustomed to each other on a daily basis is an assurance that, in the future, they'll conduct themselves in a polite, if not fully combatable, fashion," says Father McCann. "That's a great strength of the place -- no other institute is charged with this focus."

Public relations

One of the priorities of Father McCann, who before taking up his appointment was head of the U.S. bishops' conference Office to Aid the Church in Central and Eastern Europe, is to try to raise greater awareness of the Eastern Churches. It was a point also made at the synod, as many Catholics in the West remain unaware of the various Eastern rites, with some mistaking them for the Orthodox, or having some association with the "Orient" and the Far East.

"When I was appointed, someone in my family said: 'But you don't know any Chinese.' So we have some work to do to make these churches better known -- even in Rome," says Father McCann. "Some people find it rather mysterious, so we're trying to open it up."

One aspect about the institute that differentiates it from other Pontifical universities in Rome is that, as marriage is permitted for priests in the Eastern Churches, quite a number of the students have wives and families. "Some of them are even under pressure to marry and won't be ordained until they marry," says Father McCann. "Their bishops will sometimes say: 'Find somebody!' -- i t's something we're not accustomed to." But he adds that the financial burden is often not considered: "If you have married clergy in your parish, it's going to change your budget rather significantly, but no one seems to think about this."

The Pontifical Oriental Institute, which has almost always been run by the Jesuits, has had a number of illustrious alumni and faculty staff. Perhaps one of its best known alumnus is the Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I. Also associated with "The Orientale," as it's commonly known, have been Cardinal Thomas Spidlik and the former superior general of the Society of Jesus, Peter-Hans Kolvenbach.

The respected Jesuit scholar of Islam, Father Samir Khalil Samir, has taught there since the early 1970s. For him the Institute is vital in teaching an "academic approach" to tradition, showing that it is something organic and subject to change. He notes that the Ort hodox tradition has never changed -- "a strength but partly a defect" -- so the institute plays a role in helping them to develop it. He stresses that tradition "does not mean something perpetual, forever, but gives us a line to follow." This, he says, "opens ourselves up to new trends" and to "renew ourselves."

Father Samir and some of his colleagues played an active role in the synod while students assisted some of the patriarchs or sat in on some of the congregations. A key part of the discussions was how to help reassure the Eastern Churches they could come into closer communion without losing their identity. "It's a bit like the European Union, the fear of loss of identity," says Father McCann.

Emigration crisis

Other important themes, important to the institute's students, were the crisis of Christian emigration from the region, which affects some of the students personally, and what Father McCann says is the "huge contribution" the Eastern Churches can make to building peace in the region. There was also the question of patriarchal jurisdiction over those Eastern Church Catholics who have emigrated -- an issue apparently so complicated it is not even close to being resolved.

The institute's rector welcomes that the synod fathers urged Christian emigrants to retain their property and goods back home, a point mentioned in the final message. "They have never been quite so open about that," he says, adding that it will help the Church carry out a more "organized response" to the emigration crisis.

Overall, Father McCann is pleased with the "very positive" collaborative atmosphere at the synod, and not too concerned about the dispute with Israel, who was disappointed with its tone and some controversial comments. Rather, he is more interested in the attention the synod drew to the dwindling Christian communitie s in parts of the Middle East, and "how little has been done" about this at the international level.

The synod highlighted this problem, he says, "when Islam tends to be the vast focus," and these groups "tend to be marginalized and forgotten." This was one way, he adds, of "putting them in the international spotlight."

Currently the Pontifical Oriental Institute has close to 400 students, the highest number it has ever had, and the university appears to be flourishing.

Symbolically, a large and healthy looking 90-year-old Lebanon cedar stands in its courtyard, as old as the institution itself.

"The trees of the Lord are well watered, the cedars of Lebanon that he planted," says the biblical verse.

As it approaches its centennial, this appears to be true of the institute as well.

* * *

Edward Pentin is a freelance writer living in Rome. He can be reached at: epentin@zenit.org

Thursday 28 October 2010

New Catholic Media Centre for the Middle East

According to the report from Zenit.org, a new Catholic media center in the Middle East will house two Catholic television stations, three radio stations, a newspaper and a magazine, the Vatican has announced.  During the Special Assembly for the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops, which concluded Sunday, the Vatican press office highlighted the project, which is a joint effort of two major Middle Eastern Catholic television networks: Tele Lumiere (TV of Light), and its satellite television counterpart, NourSat.

The future Catholic media center will be the new home of both networks as well as three radio stations, both a newspaper and a magazine, and will be the headquarters for several Internet Web sites. The groundbreaking ceremony took place on 1st October 2008, in the Fatka region of Lebanon, and was attended by the Eastern Patriarchs. The new structure will be built on 27 square kilometers (approximately 10.5 square miles) of land donated by the Maronite Church.

The proposed project will consist of three structures. The first, a large Church serving all Christian denominations, will be located in the center of the compound. A second building will accommodate all media aspects of the organization, including eight television studios, a 700-seat theater, three conference halls, six multipurpose halls, a music institute and a recording studio.

Three satellite television studios accommodating NourSat and two new channels - Nour al-Shabab and Nour al-Shaq -- will also be located in the building. Other components of the building will be centers for both theological research and spiritual exercises, as well as facilities for employees and visitors.

A third building will provide 155 of the most technologically advanced offices in the region for the Patriarchates, the diocese, the parishes and humanitarian institutions.

Both Tele Lumiere and NourSat broadcast in Arabic, the language of Middle Eastern Catholics. However, in order to appeal to the growing demographic of Catholics in the region, a new project is under way to begin incorporating other languages into their broadcast spectrum. These include English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Syriac and Greek. Both Tele Lumiere and NourSat are non-profit organizations started in the late 1990s by a group of Catholic laypeople committed to serving the Church.

Wednesday 27 October 2010

2nd Catholic-Orthodox Forum: Concerns over Secularisation

From Rhodes, 2th October 2010, Zenit.org.

Representatives from both the Catholic and Orthodox Churches in Europe are sharing concerns about the secularization of society.  They warned about the dangers derived from a secularized society, "without points of moral reference and without a plan worthy of the human person," in a final communiqué of the 2nd Catholic Orthodox Forum.  The forum took place Oct. 18-22 in Rhodes, on the theme "Church-State Relations: Theological and Historical Perspectives."

It was presided over by Metropolitan Gennadios of Sassima of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, and by Cardinal Peter Erdo, president of the Council of European Bishops' Conferences (CCEE). Some 17 delegates from the council participated, and as many other representatives of the Orthodox Churches.

The participants affirmed, "It is not possible to lay the foundations of coexistence without establishing a relationship with the objective reality of the human being, with the need to be open to the whole reality in which he is integrated, which is not just reduced to the quest for material well-being, but which includes the search for the meaning of life through a never ending spiritual quest."

They added, "The image of the human being that is projected in public speeches and in the media is often foreign to the quest for truth, while the satisfaction of subjective desires is valued exclusively."

"The juridical order on which states are erected and, hence, relations between citizens, cannot depend on people's changing opinions, or on the action of pressure groups," the communiqué stated.

It st ressed that this order "must be based on intangible human values," that are "innate to the human being" and "preceding the law and the state."

The Forum addressed some topics in particular: the Church-state relationship from the theological and historical point of view, the way in which Churches live their relations with the state; the common good and the service/diakonia of the Church to society.

The communiqué noted that in Europe the system of separation with cooperation between the Church and the state is the most widespread.

It added that this separation must be understood "as separation of the political and religious fields, and not in the sense of a reciprocal ignorance, impossible to apply."
"Independence and reciprocal autonomy must allow for a specific and harmonious cooperation between the two institutions," the partici pants stated.

In this context, they added, the Churches "wish to participate more actively in the ethical and moral debates that affect the future of society."

The participants affirmed, "It seems important to us to confirm that our countries of Europe cannot break off their Christian roots without destroying themselves and that the ethical challenges are determinant for our future in a globalized world."

"The Churches have the duty to awaken consciences," they asserted, "and to defend the dignity of the human person created in the image of God," confirming in particular "the right to conscientious objection for medical staff, whom no one can oblige to practice abortion or euthanasia."

The communiqué particularly mentioned "the notable differences" existing between the Churches in regard to their material conditions of life:" Some "are fi nanced with state money, others have a system of ecclesiastical tax imposed by law, others take recourse exclusively to the donations of the faithful."

It acknowledged that "in some countries of Europe, the Churches continue to wait for the restitution of the goods that were confiscated by the Communist regime, something that would enable them to fulfill their pastoral, charitable and social mission."

Finally, the forum participants insisted on liberty of education, affirming that the duty of education belongs to parents.

They stated that the Church "has the constitutive right to offer an education that is in conformity with the Christian principles of the families that have requested it."

Tuesday 26 October 2010

The 44 Propositions of the Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the Catholic Church in the Middle East

The Catholic Church in the Middle East: Communion and Witness

Unofficial translation - with thanks to www.zenit.org


Propositio 1
Documentation Presented to the Supreme Pontiff

The synod fathers present to the Supreme Pontiff for his consideration the documentation resulting from the Special Assembly concerning «The Catholic Church in the Middle East: Communion and Witness. "Now the company of those who believed were of one heart and soul" (Acts 4: 32)». This documentation includes: the "Lineamenta", the "Instrumentum laboris", the "ante" and "post disceptationem" presentations, the texts of the interventions, both those presented in the synod hall and those "in scriptis", and especially some specific recommendations to which the synod fathers have given a certain importance.

The synod fathers humbly ask the Holy Father to consider the possibility of issuing a document on the Communion and Witness of the Church in Middle East.

Propositio 2
The Word of God

The Word of God is the soul and foundation of the Christian life and of all pastoral work; we hope that every family would own a Bible.

The synod fathers encourage daily reading of and meditation on the Word of God, especially "lectio divina", and the creation of a website about the Bible, including Catholic explanations and commentaries which are easily understood by the faithful. We would also like to see the preparation of an introductory booklet to the Bible, b oth Old and New Testaments, which could offer a simple way to help people read the Bible.

They also encourage eparchies / dioceses (throughout the document, the word "diocese" also applies to an "eparchy", the equivalent term in Eastern terminology) and parishes to introduce and promote Bible studies in which the Word of God is meditated upon and explained in such a way as to answer the questions the people have, and help them to become more familiar with the Scriptures, deepening their spirituality and apostolic and missionary commitment.

Propositio 3
A Biblical Pastoral Programme

The synod fathers urgently recommend that work be undertaken to place the two Testaments of Holy Scripture at the centre of our Christian life by encouraging the faithful to proclaim them, read them, meditate on them, interpret them in the light of Christ and celebrate them liturgically, as did the first Christian communities.

We propose that a Year of the Bible be proclaimed after due preparation and that it be followed by an annual Week of the Bible.


Propositio 4
Identity of the Eastern Catholic Churches

Amidst a world marked by division and extreme positions, we are called to live communion in the Church staying open to everyone, without succumbing to confessionalism. We will be able to do this if we remain faithful to our rich historical, liturgical, patristic and spiritual heritage as well as the teaching of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council and to the norms and structures of the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches, the Code of Canon Law and the particular laws of the Churches.

Propositio 5
Sharing in the Cross

Whilst denouncing persecution and violence like everyone else, the Christian remembers that being Christian means sharing the cross of Christ. The disciple is not greater than the Master ( cf Mt 10:24). He recalls that blessed are those who are persecuted for justice sake, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven (cf Mt 5:10).

However, persecution must raise the awareness of Christians worldwide of the need for greater solidarity. It must also arouse in us the commitment to support and insist on international law and respect for all people and all peoples.

The attention of the whole world should be focused on the tragic situation of certain Christian communities of the Middle East which suffer all manner of trials sometimes even to the point of martyrdom.

National and international bodies should also be called upon to make a special effort to bring an end to this situation of tension by re-establishing justice and peace.

Propositio 6
The Land

Given that attachment to the land of one's birth is an essential element of the identity both of individuals and of peoples, as well as an environment of freedom, we exhort our faithful and our Church communities not to give in to the temptation to sell off their real estate. In difficult economic circumstances, we propose to help Christians retain possession of their lands or to acquire new ones through the creation of projects responsible for making them prosper, allowing the owners to stay where they are with dignity. This effort must be accompanied by an in-depth examination of the meaning of the Christian presence and vocation in the Middle East.

Propositio 7
Managing Goods

For the sake of transparency, it is necessary to devise an auditing system for the Church's financial affaires, which distinguishes clearly what belongs to the Church and what belongs personally to those in service of the Church. At the same time, it is necessary to maintain the properties and goods of the Church and her institutions.

Propositio 8
Encouragement to Make Pilgrimages

The East is the land of biblical Revelati on. Very early on, the region became a place of pilgrimage in the footsteps of Abraham in Iraq, of Moses in Egypt and in Sinai, of Jesus in the Holy Land (Egypt, Israel, Palestine, Jordan, Israel and Lebanon) and of St. Paul and the Churches mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles and the book of Revelation (Syria, Cyprus, and Turkey).

Pilgrimage to the Holy Places has been encouraged by the Supreme Pontiffs. Going back to the place of origins is an opportunity for a profound catechesis, enabling the pilgrim to discover the riches of the Eastern Churches and to meet and encourage the local Christian communities, the living stones of the Church.

Propositio 9

Our Churches commit themselves to pray and to work for justice and peace in the Middle East and call for a "purification of memory", choosing the language of peace and hope and avoiding that of fear and violence. They call upon the civil authorities to implement the resolutio ns of the United Nations concerning the region, particularly the return of refugees and the status of Jerusalem and the Holy Places.

Propositio 10
Consolidating the presence of Christians

Our Churches must create an office or a commission entrusted with the study of the phenomenon of migration and of the factors behind it so as to find ways of stopping it. They are to do all that is possible to boost the presence of Christians in their countries, and to do this especially through development projects to limit the phenomenon of migration.

Propositio 11
Pastoral practice for emigration

The presence of numerous Eastern Christians in all the continents challenges the Church to devise an appropriate pastoral programme in light of emigration:

1. the Eastern bishops are to visit the seminaries of the Middle East to present the situation and the needs of their eparchies;

2. the formation of seminarians with a missi onary spirit, open to different cultures;

3. the preparation and accompaniment of priests missioned outside the patriarchal territory;

4. the promotion of vocations work in the communities outside of the patriarchal territory; and

5. the sending of priests and the establishment of their own eparchies wherever the pastoral needs require them according to the canonical norms.

Propositio 12
Emigration and Solidarity

1. To awaken and reinforce a sense of solidarity and of sharing with the country of origin, by contributing to pastoral projects and in cultural, educational, economic and social development;

2. to educate Christians who have emigrated to remain faithful to the tradition of their origins;

3. to strengthen bonds of communion between emigrants and the Churches in their native countries.

Propositio 13
Emigration - Formation

We urge Churches in the countries which rece ive immigrants to be familiar with and to respect Eastern theology, traditions and patrimonies, and that this be reflected in their norms, and sacramental and administrative practices. This will help collaboration with Eastern Churches present in those countries, and in the formation and pastoral care of their faithful.

Propositio 14

We are seriously concerned about the condition of immigrant workers in the Middle East, both Christians and non-Christians, especially women. Many of them find themselves in situations that are difficult or that even undermine their dignity.

We call on patriarchal synods and episcopal conferences, Catholic charitable institutions, especially Caritas, political leaders, and all people of good will, to do everything in their power to ensure the respect of immigrants' fundamental rights as recognised by international law, regardless of the nationality or religion of the immigrants in question, and to off er them legal and human assistance. Our Churches should seek to provide the spiritual help they need as a sign of Christian hospitality and of ecclesial communion.

Propositio 15
Welcoming Churches

To better welcome and guide immigrants to the Middle East, the Churches from which they come are asked to maintain regular contact with the Churches which welcome them by assisting them to set up the structures they need, i.e. parishes, schools, meeting places, etc.


A. Communion Within the Church (ad intra)

Propositio 16
Communion within the Catholic Church

"The Holy Catholic Church, which is the Mystical Body of Christ, is made up of the faithful who are organically united in the Holy Spirit by the same faith, the same sacraments and the same government and who, combining together into various groups which are held together by a hierarchy, form separate Churches or Rites. Between these there exists an admirable bond of union, such that the variety within the Church in no way harms its unity; rather it manifests it" ((Orientalium Ecclesiarum, 2). To strengthen this communion, we recommend:

1. the creation of a commission of cooperation between the Catholic hierarchs of the Middle East, which will be responsible for the promotion of a common pastoral strategy, better understanding of one another's traditions, inter-ritual institutions and joint charitable organizations;

2. the organisation of regular meetings between Catholic hierarchies of the Middle East;

3. the sharing of material resources between rich and poor dioceses;

4. the foundation of a priestly association, Fidei Donum, for the mutual assistance of eparchies and Churches.

Propositio 17
New Ecclesial Movements

A number of the synod fathers recognize that the new ecclesial movements of the Western tradition, increasingly present i n the Churches of the Middle East, are a gift of the Spirit to the whole Church. To help the charism of these movements to build up the Church, it behoves their members to live out their own charism taking into full account the culture, history, liturgy, and spirituality of the local Church. To make this happen, these movements are asked without delay to start working in union with the bishop of the place and to follow his pastoral instructions. It would be desirable for the Catholic hierarchy of each country of the Middle East to work out a common pastoral position on the movements in question, their integration and pastoral activity.

Propositio 18
The Jurisdiction of Patriarchs

Outside of the patriarchal territory, in order to maintain the communion of the Eastern faithful with their patriarchal Churches and to provide them with appropriate pastoral service, it is desirable to study the question of extending the jurisdiction of the Eastern Patriarchs to cover members of their Churches wherever they live throughout the world, with a view to taking appropriate measures.

Propositio 19
The Situation of the Catholic Faithful in the Gulf Countries

In a spirit of communion and for the good of the faithful, it would be desirable to form a commission bringing together the representatives of the relevant dicasteries, the apostolic vicars of the region and the representatives of the sui iuris Churches concerned. This commission would be responsible for studying the situation of the Catholic faithful in the countries of the Gulf, the ecclesiastical jurisdiction, and suggest solutions to the Holy See which it deems helpful for the promotion of pastoral action.

Propositio 20

Vocations work supposes:

-- prayers for vocations in the family, in the parish, etc.;

-- promoting the Christian life in families so as to make possible the blossoming of vocations;
< br />-- the creation of vocations committees in each diocese involving priests, consecrated men and women and lay people to organize meetings for young people so as to present to them the various vocations in the Church and clarify their discernments;

-- devise a plan of spiritual formation for young people involved in the ecclesial movements;

-- making parishes and schools more aware of the different kinds of vocations, priestly, consecrated and lay;

-- maintaining or setting up minor seminaries where feasible;

-- calling on priests and consecrated men and women to witness by the coherence of what they say and do in their lives;

-- to intensify an ecclesial communion between priests, which requires an openness to the different pastoral needs of dioceses. This can help remedy the low number of priests in some dioceses; and

-- to attract young people to consecrated life by the example of a deep, radiant, happy spiritual life.

Propositio 21
The Arabic Language

The experience of the synod for the Middle East has highlighted the importance of the Arabic language, above all that it has contributed to the development of the theological and spiritual thought of the universal Church, and more precisely the patrimony of Arabic Christian literature.

The proposal was made to make greater use of the Arabic language in the major institutions of the Holy See and their official meetings, so that Christians of Arab culture have access to information from the Holy See in their mother tongue.

B. Communion Among the Bishops, Clergy and Faithful

Propositio 22
The Clergy

To make sure the clergy have a reasonable and dignified standard of living, especially when they are advanced in years and not in active service, it is necessary:

1. to put in place a system of solidarity that ensures an equal salary for all priests who are a ctive or inactive, as set out in the canonical norms;

2. to institute a system of social protection according to the conditions of each country that should be extended to men and women religious, as well as to the wives of married priests and to their children who are minors.

Propositio 23
Married Priests

Clerical celibacy has always and everywhere been respected and valued in the Catholic Churches, in the East as in the West. Nonetheless, with a view to the pastoral service of our faithful, wherever they are to be found, and to respect the traditions of the Eastern Churches, it would be desirable to study the possibility of having married priests outside the patriarchal territory.

Proposito 24
The Laity

By Baptism, lay people participate in the triple function of Christ's priesthood, becoming prophets, kings and priests. The Second Vatican Ecumenical Council recognized the role and mission of the laity in its decree on the lay apostolate (Apostolicam actuositatem). Pope John Paul II convoked a synod on the laity and published the apostolic exhortation Christifideles laici in which he expressed esteem for "the very important apostolic collaboration which the lay faithful, men and women, bring to the life of the Church through their charisms and all their activity in the cause of evangelization, the sanctification and the Christian animation of the temporal realm" (no. 23).

The synod fathers commit themselves in the same way, especially since lay people in the East have always played a role in the life of the Church. The fathers want lay people to share in a greater degree of responsibility in the Church, encouraging them to be apostles in their workplace and to witness to Christ in the world in which they live.

Propositio 25
Formation of seminarians

As a way of developing our unity in diversity, seminarians are to be formed in the seminaries of the ir respective Churches as well as to receive their theological formation in a joint Catholic faculty. In certain places and for pastoral and administrative reasons, however, it may be helpful to have a single seminary for different Churches.

Propositio 26
The Consecrated Life

At the heart of the Church is consecrated, apostolic, monastic and contemplative life. The synod fathers show deep gratitude to consecrated men and women for their evangelical witness. They remember especially the martyrs of yesteryear and the present day. They ask that the consecrated life, adequately renewed, be welcomed, encouraged, and integrated ever more closely into the life and mission of the Church in the Middle East.

Our Churches recognize the importance of the place of consecrated women and women religious in society, by virtue of their witness of faith, their disinterested service and their precious contribution to "the dialogue of life".

Propositio 27
Women and Children

Our Churches are to take the appropriate means to foster and reinforce the respect, dignity, role and rights of women. The competent and generous devotion of women at the service of life, the family, education and healthcare need to be highly appreciated. Our Churches are to ensure that they are integrated and take a full part in pastoral activities by listening carefully to them. Children are the crown of marriage and a special gift for the world, the Catholic Church and Catholic parents have always shown a special interest for the health and education of all their children. Every effort must be made to safeguard and promote the respect of their natural human rights from the moment of conception, and to provide them with healthcare and Christian education.

C. Communion With the Churches and Ecclesial Communities: Ecumenism (ad extra)

Propositio 28

Unity between the disciples of Christ in the Middle East is above all the work of the Spirit. It is to be sought through a conversion of the heart, in a spirit of prayer, respect, perseverance and love, far removed from any trace of the mistrust, fear and prejudice which constitute such obstacles to unity.

We wish to see our Churches renew their ecumenical commitment through practical initiatives:

-- by supporting the Council of the Churches of the Middle East;

-- by providing our parishes, schools and seminaries with formation in an ecumenical spirit, underlining the achievements of the ecumenical movement;

-- by implementing any pastoral agreements which may have been made;

-- by organising meetings of the faithful and pastors for prayer, meditation on the Word of God and collaboration in all areas;

-- by adopting a standard Arabic translation of the Our Father and the Nicene Creed; and

-- by working for a common date for the celebrat ions of Christmas and Easter.
The Eastern Catholic Churches, living in communion with the Church of Rome and in fidelity to their Eastern traditions, have a vital ecumenical role to play.

The synod fathers urge these Churches to inaugurate an ecumenical dialogue at the local level. They recommend also that the Eastern Catholic Churches take part as much as possible in international commissions for dialogue.

Propositio 29
Feast of Martyrs

To inaugurate an annual feast in common for all the martyrs of the Churches of the Middle East and to request each Eastern Church to draw up a list of its own martyrs, witnesses of the faith.


A. Christian Formation

Propositio 30

To help adults to grow in a living faith, our Churches of the Middle East propose the creation of catechetical centres where they are lacking. On-going format ion and collaboration between the different Churches at the level of the laity, seminaries and universities are indispensable. All these centres should be open to all the Churches. Catechists in particular must be properly prepared through a suitable formation which takes into account current problems and challenges.

All the baptised are to be ready to give an account of their faith in Jesus Christ and are to be concerned about putting forward the Gospel without timidity but also without giving offence. Formation is to address the celebration of the mysteries, knowing, living and acting. Homilies are to be well prepared, based on the Word of God and linked to real life. It is important that formation includes learning about modern technology and communication science. Lay people are to witness firmly to Christ in society. The foundations which will enable them to become such witnesses are in Catholic schools which have always been recognised as the most important means of religious education for Catholics and for a social formation which leads to mutual understanding of all members of society.

At the university level, we encourage the foundation of an association of institutions of higher education with particular attention to the social doctrine of the Church.

Propositio 31
Pastoral Workers

In order to form leaders and pastoral workers in various areas, we recommend the foundation of inter-ecclesial formation centres in each country which employ the new technology of audiovisual communications.

The resources they produce should be available on-line and on DVD to make them as cheaply and widely available as possible.

Propositio 32
Catholic schools and Educational Institutions

The synod fathers encourage Catholic schools and educational institutions to continue to be faithful to their mission of educating new generations in Christ's spirit, in human and Gospel values, and consolidating a culture of openness, conviviality, care and concern for the poor and for those who suffer from disability. In spite of the difficulties, the fathers invite them to maintain the educational mission of the Church and to further the development of young people who are the future of our societies. Given how important the role of these institutions is for the common good, we remind those in positions of responsibility to offer them their support.

Propositio 33

The synod fathers have noted the pivotal importance of the new means of communication for Christian formation in the Middle East, as well as for the proclamation of the faith. They are communication networks which hold out the promise of special opportunities for the spreading of the Church's teaching.

Concretely, the synod fathers advocate the aid and maintenance of the existing structures in this area, such as "Télé-lumière-Noursat," "la Voix de la Charité" and others, so as to fulfil the objectives for which they have been established in an ecclesial spirit. Some synod fathers have even wanted to support the creation of a media city for Noursat both regionally and internationally.

The synod fathers heartily recommend to those in charge of audiovisual structures in our Churches:

-- the creation of a team with technical and theological expertise;

-- the establishment of programmes of biblical formation for pastoral purposes; and

-- the use of subtitles in Turkish and Farsi for Christians in Turkey and Iran.

Propositio 34

Heirs of an apostolic spirit which has taken the Good News to distant lands, our Eastern Catholic Churches are asked to renew their missionary spirit in prayer, through formation and through being sent on mission. The urgency of the mission both ad intra and ad extra is an incentive for the Churches.

Propositio 35
The Family

The family, the basic unit of society and the "domestic Church," needs to be accompanied and supported through its problems and difficulties, especially in the urban environment. In order to attain this objective, we need to make better provisions in centres for marriage preparation, counselling and guidance centres, spiritual and human guidance of young families, and their on-going pastoral support, above all those facing difficult situations (emotional difficulties, disability, drugs etc.). Child bearing and the good education of children should be encouraged. The practice of home visiting by pastors should be revived.

Propositio 36

"Youth are the future of the Church", said Pope John Paul II. His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI continues to encourage youth: "Despite these difficulties, do not let yourselves be discouraged, and do not give up on your dreams! I nstead, cultivate all the more your heart's great desire for fellowship, justice and peace. The future is in the hands of those who know how to seek and find sound reasons for life and hope" ("Message for the XXV World Youth Day", 7, 28 March 2010). Moreover, he appeals to them to be missionaries and witnesses in their societies and in their way of life. He calls them to deepen their faith and grow in their knowledge of Jesus Christ, their Ideal and Model, so as to participate with him in the salvation of the world.

The synod fathers commit themselves:

-- to listen to them so as to respond to their questioning and their needs;

-- to ensure their necessary spiritual and theological formation, suitable to assist them in their work;

-- to build with them bridges of dialogue so as to bring down the walls of division and separation in societies; and

-- to put to use their creativity and their know-how so they can serve Christ, their peers and the society in which they live.

Propositio 37
A New Evangelisation

Our Churches are called upon to adopt the mentality of a New Evangelisation by taking into consideration the cultural and social context in which people live, work and act today. This demands a profound conversion and renewal in light of the Word of God and the sacraments, especially reconciliation and the Eucharist.

Propositio 38
Social Doctrine

The synod fathers urgently recommend the diffusion of the social doctrine of the Church, which is oftentimes lacking. It is an integral part of faith formation. The Catechism of the Catholic Church and the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church are important resources in this area.

The synod fathers urge the bishops' conference of each country to form an episcopal commission to prepare and propagate the Church's social discourse, taking as its starting point the teaching of the C hurch, the various positions adopted by the Holy See regarding current affairs and the actual circumstances facing each country.

The synod fathers urgently recommend that the Eastern Churches take care of the elderly, of immigrants and refugees with their many different social needs and most especially of the disabled, setting up whatever structures are needed to meet their needs and facilitating their integration in society.

In fidelity to God the Creator Christians are to have at heart the protection of nature and the environment they call upon government and all men of women of good will to unite their efforts to safeguard creation.

B. The Liturgy

Propositio 39

The biblical and theological wealth of the Eastern liturgies is at the spiritual service of the universal Church. Nonetheless, it would be useful and important to renew the liturgical texts and celebrations, where necessary, so as to answer better the need s and expectations of the faithful. This renewal must be based on an ever deeper knowledge of tradition and be adapted to contemporary language and categories.

C. Interreligious Dialogue

Propositio 40
Interreligious dialogue

Christians in the Middle East are called upon to pursue dialogue with the followers of other religions, bringing hearts and minds closer together. For this to happen, they, along with their partners, are invited to work to fortify interreligious dialogue, to strive for the purification of memory through the forgiveness for the events of the past, and to seek a better future together.

In their daily lives, they are to endeavour to accept one another in spite of their differences, working to build a new society in which fanaticism and extremism have no place.

The synod fathers would like to see drawn up a formation plan which helps people to be more open, for use in teaching establishments as well as in seminaries and novitiates. This will help build a culture of dialogue based on human and religious solidarity.

Propositio 41

Judaism has a central place in the Declaration of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Nostra aetate. Initiatives of dialogue and cooperation with Jews are to be encouraged so as to foster human and religious values, freedom, justice, peace and fraternity. Reading the Old Testament and getting to know Jewish traditions lead to a better understanding of the Jewish religion. We reject anti-Semitism and anti-Judaism, while distinguishing between religion and politics.

Propositio 42

The Declaration of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Nostra aetate, alongside the pastoral letters of the Eastern Catholic Patriarchs, serves as the basis for the Catholic Church's relations with Muslims. As Pope Benedict XVI has said: "Interreligious and intercultural dialogue between Christians and Muslims cannot be reduced to an optional extra. It is in fact a vital necessity, on which in large measure our future depends" (Pope Benedict XVI, "Meeting with representatives of Muslim Communities", Cologne, 20 August 2005).

In the Middle East, Christians share a common life and a common destiny with Muslims. Together they build up society. It is important to promote the notion of citizenship, the dignity of the human person, equal rights and duties and religious freedom, including both freedom of worship and freedom of conscience.

Christians in the Middle East are called to pursue a fruitful dialogue of life with Muslims. They are to take care to show an attitude of esteem and love, leaving aside every negative prejudice. Together, Christians and Muslims, they are called upon to discover their respective religious values. They are to offer the world an image of a positive encounter and a fruitful collaboration between believers of the t wo religions, combating together every sort of fundamentalism and violence in the name of religion.


Propositio 43
Follow-up on the Synod

The Churches which have taken part in the Synod are called upon to make sure that it is properly followed up by working together with the Council of the Catholic Patriarchs of the Middle East and the official structures of the relevant Churches, with a greater involvement of priests and lay and religious experts.

Propositio 44
The Virgin Mary

Holy Mary, the Virgin of Nazareth, who shows us how to listen to the Word of God, is the Blessed Daughter of our land. From the very beginning of Christian history, it was the theological reflection of our Eastern Churches which led to the decisive and glorious definition of Mary as "Theotokos", Mother of God.

In the liturgies of all our Churches, the Virgin Mary has a place of honour and is the object of the s pecial love of all the People of God.

This Daughter of our land, whom all peoples call blessed, is justifiably invoked as Mother of the Church, especially since the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council.

Aware of the special bonds which, by God's design, unite us to the Mother of Jesus, we propose that our Churches come together and jointly entrust the entire Middle East to the protection of the Virgin Mary.

Monday 25 October 2010

Pope Benedict's Homiy at Close of Middle East Synod of Bishops

This is the homily delivered on 24 October 2010 in St. Peter's Basilica at the solemn closing of the Special Assembly for the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops. The theme of the two-week synod was: "The Catholic Church in the Middle East: Communion and Witness." The Gospel text was: "Now the company of those who believed were of one heart and soul" (Acts 4:32).

* * *

Venerable Brothers,
Illustrious Ladies and Gentlemen,
Dear brothers and sisters,

Two weeks on from the opening Celebration, we are gathered once again on the Lord’s day, at the Altar of the Confession in St. Peter’s Basilica, to conclude the Special Assembly for the Middle Eas t of the Synod of Bishops. In our hearts is a deep gratitude towards God who has afforded us this truly extraordinary experience, not just for us, but for the good of the Church, for the People of God who live in the lands between the Mediterranean and Mesopotamia. As Bishop of Rome, I would like to pass on this gratitude to you, Venerable Synod Fathers: Cardinals, Patriarchs, Archbishops, Bishops. I wish to especially thank the Secretary General, the four Presidents Delegate, the Relator General, the Special Secretary and all the collaborators, who have worked tirelessly in these days. This morning we left the Synod Hall and came to “the temple to pray”: in this, we are touched directly by the parable of the pharisee and the publican, told by Jesus and recounted by the evangelist St Luke (cf. 18:9-14). We too may be tempted, like the pharisee, to tell God of our merits, perhaps thinking of our work during these days. However, to rise up to Heaven, prayer must emanate from a poor, humble heart. And therefore we too, at the conclusion of this ecclesial event, wish to first and foremost give thanks to God, not for our merits, but for the gift that He has given us. We recognize ourselves as small and in need of salvation, of mercy; we recognize all that comes from Him and that only with his Grace we may realize what the Holy Spirit told us. Only in this manner may we “return home” truly enriched, made more just and more able to walk in the path of the Lord.

The First Reading and the responsorial Psalm stress the theme of prayer, emphasizing that it is much more powerful to God’s heart when those who pray are in a condition of need and are afflicted. “The prayer of the humble pierces the clouds” affirms Ecclesiasticus (35:21); and the Psalmist adds: “Yahweh is near to the broken-hearted, he helps those whose spirit is crushed” (34:18). Our thoughts go to our numerous brothers and sisters who live i n the region of the Middle East and who find themselves in trying situations, at times very burdensome, both for the material poverty and for the discouragement, the state of tension and at times of fear. Today the Word of God also offers us a light of consoling hope, there where He presents prayer, personified, that “until he has eliminated the hordes of the arrogant and broken the sceptres of the wicked, until he has repaid all people as their deeds deserve and human actions as their intentions merit” (Ecc 35:21-22). This link too, between prayer and justice makes us think of many situations in the world, particularly in the Middle East. The cry of the poor and of the oppressed finds an immediate echo in God, who desires to intervene to open up a way out, to restore a future of freedom, a horizon of hope.

This faith in God who is near, who frees his friends, is what the Apostle Paul witnesses to in today’s epistle, in the Second Letter to Timothy. Rea lizing that the end of his earthly life was near, Paul makes an assessment: “I have fought the good fight to the end; I have run the race to the finish; I have kept the faith” (2 Tm 4:7). For each one of us, dear brothers in the episcopacy, this is a model to imitate: May Divine Goodness allow us to make a similar judgment of ourselves! St Paul continues, “the Lord stood by me and gave me power, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed for all the gentiles to hear” (2 Tm 4:17). It is a word which resounds with particular strength on this Sunday in which we celebrate World Mission Day! Communion with Jesus crucified and risen, witness of his love. The Apostle’s experience is a model for every Christian, especially for us Shepherds. We have shared a powerful moment of ecclesial communion. We now leave each other so that each may return to his own mission, but we know that we remain united, we remain in his love.

The Synodal Asse mbly which concludes today has always kept in mind the icon of the first Christian community, described in the Acts of the Apostles: “The whole group of believers was united, heart and soul” (Acts 4:32). It is a reality that we experienced in these past days, in which we have shared the joys and the pains, the concerns and the hopes of Christians in the Middle East. We experienced the unity of the Church in the variety of Churches present in that region. Led by the Holy Spirit, we became “united, heart and soul” in faith, in hope, and in charity, most of all during Eucharistic celebrations, source and summit of ecclesial communion, and in the Liturgy of the Hours as well, celebrated every morning according to one of the seven Catholic rites of the Middle East. We have thus enhanced the liturgical, spiritual and theological wealth of the Eastern Catholic Churches, as well as of the Latin Church. It involved an exchange of precious gifts, from which all the S ynodal Fathers benefitted. It is hoped that this positive experience repeats itself in the respective communities of the Middle East, encouraging the participation of the faithful in liturgical celebrations of other Catholic rites, thus opening themselves to the dimensions of the Universal Church.

Common prayer helped us to face the challenges of the Catholic Church in the Middle East as well. One of these is communion within each sui iuris Church, as well as in the relationships between the various Catholic Churches of different traditions. As today’s Gospel reminded us (cf Lk 18:9-14), we need humility, in order to recognize our limitations, our errors and omissions, in order to be able to truly be “united, heart and soul”. A fuller communion within the Catholic Church favors ecumenical dialogue with other Churches and ecclesial communities as well. The Catholic Church reiterated in this Synodal meeting its deep conviction to pursuing such dialogue as well, so that the prayer of the Lord Jesus might be completely fulfilled: “May they all be one” (Jn 17:21).

The words of the Lord Jesus may be applied to Christians in the Middle East: “There is no need to be afraid, little flock, for it has pleased your Father to give you the kingdom” (Lk 12:32). Indeed, even if they are few, they are bearers of the Good News of the love of God for man, love which revealed itself in the Holy Land in the person of Jesus Christ. This Word of salvation, strengthened with the grace of the Sacraments, resounds with particular potency in the places in which, by Divine Providence, it was written, and it is the only Word which is able to break that vicious circle of vengeance, hate, and violence. From a purified heart, in peace with God and neighbor, may intentions and initiatives for peace at local, national, and international levels be born. In these actions, to whose accomplishment the whole international community is called, Christians as full-fledged citizens can and must do their part with the spirit of the Beatitudes, becoming builders of peace and apostles of reconciliation to the benefit of all society.

Conflicts, wars, violence and terrorism have gone on for too long in the Middle East. Peace, which is a gift of God, is also the result of the efforts of men of goodwill, of the national and international institutions, in particular of the states most involved in the search for a solution to conflicts. We must never resign ourselves to the absence of peace. Peace is possible. Peace is urgent. Peace is the indispensable condition for a life of dignity for human beings and society. Peace is also the best remedy to avoid emigration from the Middle East. “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem” we are told in the Psalm (122:6). We pray for peace in the Holy Land. We pray for peace in the Middle East, undertaking to try to ensure that this gift of God to men of goodwill sho uld spread through the whole world.

Another contribution that Christians can bring to society is the promotion of an authentic freedom of religion and conscience, one of the fundamental human rights that each state should always respect. In numerous countries of the Middle East there exists freedom of belief, while the space given to the freedom to practice religion is often quite limited. Increasing this space of freedom becomes essential to guarantee to all the members of the various religious communities the true freedom to live and profess their faith. This topic could become the subject of dialogue between Christians and Muslims, a dialogue whose urgency and usefulness was reiterated by the Synodal Fathers. During the work of the Synod what was often underlined was the need to offer the Gospel anew to people who do not know it very well or who have even moved away from the Church. What was often evoked was the need for a new evangelization for the Middle East as w ell. This was quite a widespread theme, especially in the countries where Christianity has ancient roots. The recent creation of the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization also responds to this profound need. For this reason, after having consulted the episcopacy of the whole world and after having listened to the Ordinary Council of the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops, I have decided to dedicate the next Ordinary General Assembly, in 2012, to the following theme: “Nova evangelizatio ad christianam fidem tradendam - The new evangelization for the transmission of the Christian faith”.

Dear brothers and sisters of the Middle East! May the experience of these days assure you that you are never alone, that you are always accompanied by the Holy See and the whole Church, which, having been born in Jerusalem, spread through the Middle East and then the rest of the world. We entrust the results of the Special Assembly for the Middle East, as well as the preparation for the Ordinary General Assembly, to the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church and Queen of Peace. Amen.

© Copyright 2010 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

Saturday 23 October 2010

Patriarch Gregorios at the Middle East Synod on Christian-Muslim Dialogue

Speech of H.B. Patriarch Gregorios III

during the Special Assembly for the Middle East

of the Synod of Bishops in Rome, 10-24 October 2010


Islamic-Christian Dialogue


From the early period of his pontificate, during his first apostolic visit to Germany and his meeting with young Muslims in Cologne, His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI has underlined the importance of Islamic-Christian dialogue, in the same way as did Vatican II.


The experience of our Churches shows us that this dialogue is necessary and vital, and of course that it is possible, contrary to what some are saying.


This dialogue is taking place on two very distinct levels. There is the properly doctrinal and intellectual level, that can be found for example in the regular meetings of the Pontifical Council for Inter-Religious Dialogue and the University of Al Azharor in the teaching and publications of the Pontifical Institute for Arabic and Islamic Studies (PISAI) and other study centres in several of our countries. Then there is the existential level, that of the everyday life of our faithful living in Muslim majority countries.


The Pontifical Council for Inter-Religious Dialogue is familiar with and encourages the centres, groups, institutions and initiatives of Christian inspiration which practise and favour this dialogue, in Lebanon, Syria, Egypt, Jerusalem, Jordan and Iraq.


It is important to point out, since this fact is virtually unknown outside the Middle East, that there are also dialogue initiatives of Islamic inspiration, mainly in Jordan, but also in Lebanon, Syria, Qatar and Turkey.


This existential dialogue is that of everyday life in society, in its different aspects and various dimensions: exchanging good wishes for the major feasts of both religions, neighbourly relation in cities from which formerly completely Christian districts have by now vanished, professional relations and relations in schools and universities attended by Christians and Muslims. This dialogue is going on in all our countries, except Saudi Arabia, the only country in the region where Christianity is still outlawed.


The pursuit of this dialogue is therefore an element of great weight to slow the emigration of Christians. If they disappear from the region, what would become of this dialogue, equally important for preventing a conflict between a predominantly Muslim Middle East and a reputedly Christian West?


This Synodal Assembly ought therefore explicitly to encourage the pursuit of this dialogue, at all levels.   

Gregorios III

Patriarch of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church

Patriarch Gregorios on the need for Patriarchate Structures to serve the reunion of the One Church

Speech of H. B. Patriarch Gregorios III

During the Synod of Bishops:

Special Assembly for the Middle East

Rome 10-24 October 2010


Ecclesiology and Ecumenism


The Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches, promulgated by the Venerable Pope John Paul II, says very properly that the Patriarch is Pater et Caput of his Church. The title of Patriarch is a synodal title. We very much regretted the fact that the Pope renounced his title of Patriarch.


Cardinal and Patriarch

Consequently, we want to have a role in the decisions taken about our faithful. We want to be closer to the Pope, without however becoming part of the College of Cardinals. The title of Patriarch is different, from the perspectives of protocol, ecclesiology, pastorate and history, from that of Cardinal. The Patriarch is neither superior nor inferior to the Cardinal: there is a difference of category. The title of Cardinal, which for very special reasons, was conferred on my predecessor Patriarch Maximos IV and more recently on certain of my colleagues, Patriarchs and Major Archbishops here present, confronts us with an ecclesiological problem. So we prefer to remain satisfied with the great inheritance comprised in the title of Patriarch.


Patriarchal Council around the Pope

As a corollary of that, we repeat our previously formulated proposal, which has a pastoral, ecumenical, ecclesiological and even political significance: significance for our presence in the Muslim Arab world, and importance for the dual title of this Synodal Assembly, Communion and Witness.


The proposal is the following: we are keen to request firmly that we form a Patriarchal Council around the Pope to meet according to its own agenda.


We hope that this proposal will be adopted by this Synodal Assembly and accepted by His Holiness as primordial and important fruit of this Synodal Assembly and for a good outcome of its acts and results.


Eastern Catholic Churches

From the rostrum of this Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, which is entitled, The Catholic Church in the Middle East: Communion and Witness, we ask for a clarification as far as we are concerned. We are Eastern Catholic Churches. Why are these attributes suppressed?


We do not wish in any way to hide these Eastern titles, because of the minority presence (except in the Apostolic Vicariates of Kuwait and Saudi Arabia) of the Latin Church in the East.


We ask to be treated as Eastern Catholic Patriarchal Churches. We are neither suffragans nor dependent dioceses of some dicastery or other, as is continually stated in some Roman news bulletins.


Synod and episcopal conference

Our Synods are very different from Latin Episcopal Conferences. It should be noted that the concept of an Episcopal Conference was set out at the Second Vatican Council by our predecessor of blessed memory, Patriarch Maximos IV.


But his idea was very different from what is today the Episcopal Conference of the Latin Church. He wanted it to be an embryo of the patriarchal system.


Retreat on the ecclesiological level

We wish to be taken seriously when we tell you that our tradition, in its fullness, is Eastern and Orthodox, not Latin and Western.


In the measure that you take us seriously as authentically Eastern Churches, to that same degree the Orthodox world will believe in the veracity of the ecumenical activity and dialogue of the Roman Church.


Unfortunately, the decrees of Vatican II Unitiatis Redintegratio and Orientalium Ecclesiarum have not been sufficiently incarnate in the life and ecclesial praxis of the Latin Church nor in that of several Roman Dicasteries, contrary to what was hoped.


The Dies Orientalis instituted by Pius XI practically disappeared after Vatican II.


Interest for the Eastern Churches in general (Catholic and Orthodox) has lessened in the West, both on the official level and on the level of the faithful.


Ecclesiology was more sensitive towards the East before the Council and during its celebration, but it did not progress after the Council.


Election of bishops in the Eastern tradition

For more than two centuries, our Church elected its bishops in the context of our synods, but since the Council, our elections have to be sanctioned by a Roman enquiry.


The late Metropolitan Neophytos Edelby, in his book The Eastern Churches (written in collaboration with Archimandrite Ignace Dick) wrote, “The Melkite Synod, presided over by the Patriarch, has always proceeded freely to the election of bishops, without being required to have any prior authorisation or confirmation from the Holy See.”


From 1817 to 1954, the election of just twenty-three bishops of our Church was confirmed by the Apostolic See of Rome, and that at the express request of the Patriarch or of the bishop concerned.


Canons 251-255 of the Motu Proprio, Cleri Sanctitate of Pope Pius XII (2 June 1957) prescribe that the election of a bishop by the synod must be communicated by the Patriarch to the Roman Pontiff, who, if the elected does not figure in the list of “episcopable” priests previously drawn up (by vote) by the synod and confirmed by the Pope, either confirms or rejects the election. From 1959 to 1962, six hierarchs of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church were confirmed in that way by Rome after their election by the synod.


The Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches (1990), on the basis of the Vatican’s decisions, keeps the list of episcopables and replaces the “confirmation” of the episcopal lists by what is called the “consent” of the Pope to the election.



This issue has been the subject of several meetings of the Council of Eastern Catholic Patriarchs, which presented a collective paper on the matter to the Holy Father in October 2001, that was almost completely in agreement with the viewpoint set out on 21 January, 2000 in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith by the then Patriarch of Antioch of the Syrians, now Emeritus, His Most Eminent Beatitude Cardinal Ignatius Moussa Daoud.


As we did already during the plenary session of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches in November, 2002, we propose a slight modification to canon 182 of the CCEC (CCEO), with a view to introducing a more collegial procedure for gathering information about candidates for the episcopate, without losing the spirit of the legislation.


That means that the Pope and the synod will together exercise their prerogative and duty of vigilance in the choice of the Church’s pastors.


Communion between Rome and the Eastern Catholic Churches: trust and co-ordination

There must be created an atmosphere of complete trust, real collaboration and co-ordination, and effectual communion between Rome and the Eastern sui iuris Churches. The former terms of confirmation, consent or assent should be avoided and replaced by that of joinder, in the sense that the Pope joins in the synodal collegiality and adopts as his the decision of the bishops with their Patriarch.


There remains however the Pope’s right – ius vigilandi – not to join in an election but to reject it for special reasons which should be communicated confidentially to the Patriarch and eventually to the synod.


However this ius vigilandi of the Apostolic See of Rome, always exercised, from the perspective of Vatican II, in harmony with the Eastern Churches sui iuris, which themselves also enjoy this ius vigilandi, should not become the basis for regular interference.


East and West, even in the Catholic Church, must be in continual dialogue to bring about unity. The election of bishops is one of the most important issues in this regard, since it affects the East’s autonomy and furthermore the Orthodox brethren with whom we long to resume communion.


We ask to be treated as real Easterners and even, to speak plainly, as Orthodox in communion with Rome and so Catholic.


We are an Eastern Church in communion with Rome

We are an Eastern Church in communion with Rome and faithfully so, yet which wants to remain faithful to the pure, Orthodox spiritual tradition. I make bold to say that we are an Orthodox Church with the little or big plus of communion with Rome, with the Pope and our Holy Father Benedict XVI who presides in primacy and charity. Treat us as a real Eastern Church, just as you would the Orthodox on the day when the much longed for union takes place!


It is not just a matter of simple terminology or etymology. The great theologian Joseph Ratzinger certainly understands the justification for this account.


I am still referring to what the then Professor Ratzinger wrote in a book (in French) published in 1971, The New People of God: “Unitary ecclesial law, unitary liturgy, one and one and the same centralised model of bishops being nominated by Rome, all those do not necessarily form part of the primacy as such, as may be seen to be true only when both ministries [of Pope and Patriarch] become just one. So, in future, we shall have to distinguish more clearly the actual function of Peter’s successor from the patriarchal function and if need be, create new Patriarchates detached from the Latin Church.”[1]


These words form a very significant ecclesiological basis which has not yet been taken up and used by the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity, or in the dialogue and work of the Joint Commission for the Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church.


For all that, we urge that a place be given us on the Joint Commission.


Encouraging local dialogue: Orthodox-Catholic

On that basis, we wish then for more encouragement to develop local dialogue with our sister Orthodox Church and co-operation with her in the fields of pastoral care, catechesis, activities of confraternities, social involvement and matters relating to the personal statute.


It should be recalled that after our synodal initiative of 1996 with the aim of re-establishing communion with the Orthodox Church of Antioch, while remaining in communion with the Catholic Church, Rome, through the agency of Cardinals Joseph Ratzinger, Achille Silvestrini and Edward Idris Cassidy in a letter dated 11 June 1997, opposed no veto on that initiative, as many thought and said, but asked us to consult the Holy See for any decision in which doctrinal questions were involved.


Gregorios III

Patriarch of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church


Translation from the French: V. Chamberlain





[1] Joseph Ratzinger  «Le nouveau peuple de Dieu. » Aubier-Montaigne, collection  «L’intelligence de la foi » (1971), p. 68