Previewing the upcoming synod for the Church in the Middle East at a press conference today, Archbishop Nikola Eterovic announced that the gathering is meant to increase communion between the Eastern Catholic Churches and provide support to a community of believers plagued by violence and discrimination.
Archbishop Nikola Eterovic, secretary general of the Synod of Bishops, announced additional information today during a briefing in the Holy See Press Office about the the planning for the synod. Extra considerations had to be taken because of the unique make-up of the Church in the Middle East.
Although only 1.6 percent of the population is Catholic within the 16 middle eastern states included in this synodal assembly, the 5.7 million Catholics in the region are made up of members of seven different traditions within the Catholic Church.
Archbishop Eterovic explained that "Apart from the Church of the Latin tradition, since earliest times, there have been six 'sui iuris' Eastern Catholic Churches, each with its own patriarch, father and head of the Church.” Those Churches are: the Coptic Church, the Syrian Church, the Greek-Melkite Church, the Maronite Church, the Chaldean Church and the Armenian Church.
He noted though that “The variety of traditions, spirituality, liturgy and disciplines is a great treasure to be conserved not only for the Eastern Catholic Churches, but for the whole Catholic Church presided over in charity by the Bishop of Rome, Universal Pastor of the Church."
Given the complex situation in the region, Vatican organizers decided to shorten the length of the synod because, as Archbishop Eterovic explained, “we do not want to keep the pastors from their flocks for too long."
Even though the synod will be brief, about 14 days, the archbishop announced that it will be "a joyous occasion to present the riches of the Eastern Catholic Churches to the entire world, especially to Christians, that they may offer greater spiritual and material support to their brothers and sisters in the Middle East, in particular those who live in difficult situations because of violence, terrorism, emigration and discrimination.”
Unlike an ordinary assembly of bishops, this synod will bring together a smaller number of participants—around 185 synod fathers as compared to the usual 250. This lower number will allow almost all of the ordinaries in attendance to meet with Pope Bendict XVI, the archbishop said.
According to Archbishop Eterovic, the Synod for the Middle East has two goals: "Reviving communion between the venerable 'sui iuris' Eastern Catholic Churches, that they may offer an authentic, joyful and attractive witness of Christian life" and "strengthening Christian identity through the Word of God and the celebration of the Sacraments.”