.- Representatives from Vatican delegations and aid agencies working in the Middle East wrapped up the working sessions of the Reunion of Aid Agencies for the Oriental Churches (ROACO in its Italian abbreviation) on Thursday. According to the organizing Vatican congregation, expectations are "great" among the participants for October's Special Assembly for the Middle East.
The 83rd session of the ROACO is taking place in the Vatican this week.
Thusday's session, which centered on the situation in the Holy Land, was highlighted by addresses given by the Archbishop Antonio Franco, pontifical representative to Jerusalem in Israel, Palestine and Cyprus; Fr. Pierbattista Pizzaballa, Custos of the Holy Land; as well as other experts who spoke of current issues in the region and initiatives being undertaken in support of Christians there.
A press release from the Congregation for the Oriental Churches noted a "significant willingness" of representatives over the course of the meetings "to guarantee a better future for Christians in the Holy Land and in the entire Middle Eastern region."
The congregation noted that discussions during the ROACO have highlighted certain priorities in support of pastoral, social, educative and assistance activities of the Church in the region and that special emphasis was given to the ecumenical and inter-religious challenges.
The communique also reported the great expectations of aid agencies for this fall's convocation of the Special Assembly for the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops. According to the congregation, "the very attentive acceptance of the Instrumentum Laboris constitutes an appreciable hope for an equally sincere analysis and of possible valid orientations for the Universal Church in confirmation of its solidarity towards Christians ..."
The Instrumentum Laboris, or “working document,” for October's synod provides an overview of the current situation of the Church in the Middle East as described and compiled by the leaders of local Churches themselves.
The ROACO closes on Friday with an audience between participants and Pope Benedict XVI.