.- The Holy Father met with the leaders of the Catholic Church in the Middle East on Saturday morning in Castel Gandolfo. During the discussion the Pope announced that a synod will be held in October 2010 to focus on the communion of the Catholic Church in the region.
Before announcing plans for the synod, Pope Benedict spoke with the representatives from the Middle Eastern Churches in communion with Rome about their desire to have more contact with him to “strengthen the communion of your Churches with Peter's Successor and together examine, as necessary, themes of particular importance."
The Pope then referred to the Apostolic Letter "Orientale lumen" in which John Paul II reiterated "the hope that the Eastern Catholic Churches may 'flourish' and with new apostolic vigor execute the task entrusted to them ... to promote the unity of all Christians, especially Eastern Christians, in keeping with the decree on ecumenism."
"The ecumenical question is often connected to the inter-religious question,” said the Pope. “In these two areas the Church as a whole needs that experience of coexistence which your Churches have matured since the first Christian millennium.”
Recalling then how today's meeting would serve to examine the problems currently troubling the bishops, the Holy Father remarked: "In particular, I do not forget the appeal for peace you placed in my hands at the end of last October's assembly of the Synod of Bishops. And, on the subject of peace, our thoughts go out first and foremost to the regions of the Middle East."
The Holy Father concluded audience by announcing that a Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for the Middle East will take place Oct. 10 – 24, 2010 and will carry the theme: “The Catholic Church in the Middle East: communion and witness: The whole group of those who believed were of one heart and soul.”
Those present at Saturday’s meeting include: His Beatitude Cardinal Nasrallah Pierre Sfeir, Patriarch of Antioch of the Maronites, Lebanon; Cardinal Emmanuel III Delly, Patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans, Iraq; Cardinal Lubomyr Husar, Major Archbishop of Kyiv-Halyc, Ukraine; Cardinal Varkey Vithayathil C.SS.R., Major Archbishop of Ernakulam-Angamaly of the Syro-Malabars, India; His Beatitude Antonios Naguib, Patriarch of Alexandria of the Copts, Egypt; His Beatitude Gregorios III Laham, Patriarch of Antioch of the Greek Melkites, Syria; His Beatitude Ignace Youssif III Younan, Patriarch of Antioch of the Syrians, Lebanon; His Beatitude Nerses Bedros XIX, Patriarch of Cilicia of the Armenians, Lebanon; Archbishop Lucian Muresan of Fagaras and Alba Iulia of the Romanians, Romania; His Beatitude Baselios Moran Mor Cleemis Thottunkal, Major Archbishop of Trivandrum of the Syro-Malankars, India, and His Beatitude Fouad Twal, patriarch of Jerusalem of the Latins.