Pope Benedict calls eastern rite Catholic Churches a beacon of unity ‘in a fragmented world’


As an historic Synod of the Syrian Catholic Church concluded Sunday in the Vatican, Pope Benedict XVI charged the gathered bishops to be a witness in the Middle East to the rich history and fraternal communion of the Catholic Church and her particular rites, as well as to “announce the Gospel decisively.”

The extraordinary Synod met from April 26th to the 28th and was presided over in the by Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone S.D.B. In attendance were was His Beatitude Ignace Pierre VIII Abdel-Ahad, Patriarch of Antioch of the Syrians in Lebanon, as well as thirteen other bishops.

Pope Benedict told the group that had called for the assembly in order "to revive the secular ties that bind your Church to the Apostolic See and, at the same time, to express the esteem and interest of the Bishop of Rome for each one of you.”

He called the bishops “pastors of a part of the People of God that is not large but ancient and important."

Drawing from the day’s readings from the Acts of the Apostles and recalling the history of the ancient Church, the Holy Father noted that progress has not always been easy, “but was rich in apostolic fruits. From the beginning there was no lack of external hostility and persecutions, nor of ... tensions and contrasts within the communities themselves."

He pointed out however, that "despite the shadows and difficulties of various kinds which the first Christians had to face, the shining light of the Church's faith in Jesus Christ has never been extinguished."

The late Pope John Paul II was known for his particular concern over what are known as “Oriental” or eastern Churches. Pope Benedict reaffirmed his words calling on the bishops "to seek unity and reconciliation;" and stressed that "today too, as at the dawn of Christianity, each community is called to give a clear witness of fraternity."

The Pope recalled the numerous challenge which Catholic communities face “all over the world" because of dangers and problems that "can obscure the values of the Gospel.”

“As for your own Church,” he said, “the violence and conflicts suffered by a part of the flock entrusted to you represent supplementary difficulties that further endanger not only peaceful coexistence, but even people's lives."

The solution to this problem, the Holy Father concluded is for the Syrian Catholic ecclesial community “to announce the Gospel decisively, promoting appropriate pastoral activities to face the challenges of post-modernity, and as a shining example of unity in a fragmented world."

Pope Benedict concluded his address recalling the words Vatican Council II, which charges the Oriental Catholic Churches “to play a special role in furthering the ecumenical journey."

“Continue with enthusiasm, trust and perseverance”, the Pope told the Synod, “in the missionary activity of St. Paul, following the footsteps of St. Ignatius of Antioch, St. Ephraim and the patron saints."

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