The survival of the Christian minority and the need for greater missionary zeal in the region were among the key topics to emerge from the initial sessions of the special Synod for Bishops on the Middle East.
Coptic Bishop Yohannes Zakaria of Luxor, Egypt warned that the tiny Christian minority "is fighting against the danger of its own decline.”
He said the Church in the region must renew its commitment and its enthusiasm for mission.
Melkite Archbishop Elias Chacour of Haifa, Israel said that Christians in the region face daily threats from governments that want to expel them from the land.
Christians of the Middle East, he said, have been both "condemned and privileged to share oppression, persecution and suffering with Christ.”
"He is risen," the archbishop said, "but his cross is still high in our sky. Our Christianity is still hanging on that terrible cross."
Archbishop Chacour appealed for greater solidarity with the persecuted Church in the region. Christians in the West must remember that the Church in the Middle East is more than just the “holy places” of Christian antiquity. The Church there is also “the living stones” of the present day Christian communities.
“Being the archbishop of the largest Catholic Church in the Holy Land, the Melkite Catholic Church, I insistently invite you and plead with the Holy Father to give even more attention to the living stones of the Holy Land. …We want to stay where we are, we need your friendship more than your money.”
The Oct. 10-24 synod was called by Pope Benedict XVI following his 2009 pilgrimage to Jordan, Israel and Palestine in order to encourage and strengthen the Church in the Middle East.