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Synod on the Middle East



Reflection of Br. Emili Turú, Supeiror General

28/10/2010: General House

Today (10 October 2010), the Synod on the Middle East was inaugurated in the Basilica of Saint Peter. On the cover of the booklet of the celebration is a XIVth century fresco of the Ascension of the Lord (from the “Timios Stavros” or Holy Cross church in Pelendri, Cyprus). I have reproduced it here alongside this text. Although the copy is not of great quality, my attention was drawn to the astonishment on the faces of all those present (once more, Mary and the apostolic community!). And it also brought to mind the wonderful insight of Saint Gregory of Nyssa, who himself came from the region we call the “Middle East”: “Concepts create idols. Only wonder grasps anything”. It makes me think of the need we have to build bridges with the Christian East, something which can be such an enrichment to us as “westerners”. Both John Paul II and Benedict XVI, using an image from Vyacheslav Ivanovich Ivanov, have reminded us that we need to go back to breathing with two lungs, east and west, rather than limit ourselves to the poverty of using one lung only. As you know, we are present in the Middle East, thanks to our communities in Lebanon and Syria; a fragile but very important presence. The Synod’s Instrumentum Laboris mentions that education is the major investment of the Church in the region and that Catholic schools and universities are open to thousands of people of all religions, as are the hospital and social services centres. It is, in fact, “above all thanks to the charitable activities directed not only to Christians, but also to Moslems and Jews, that the action of the Churches for the common good is particularly tangible” (30). It is well known that for decades the lack of a solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, the lack of respect for international law and human rights, together with the egoism of the great powers, have destabilized the balance of the region and imposed on the people a violence which risks driving them to desperation. The consequence of all this is emigration, especially of Christians. The same Instrumentum Laboris emphasises that the Churches of the Middle East are of apostolic origin and that “it would be a loss for the universal Church if Christianity is weakened or disappears precisely from where it was born”. For this reason, there is a “grave responsibility” to “maintain the Christian faith in these holy lands” (19). As well as the Latin Church, there are six patriarchal Churches, each with its own rich spiritual, theological and liturgical patrimony. “These traditions are, at the same time, a richness for the universal Church” (15-18). I believe that the celebration of the Synod is an invitation to us to accompany the Christians of this region in our prayers, and in a special way our Brothers and all the lay people involved in our Marist mission in the region. And I ask myself if, as an Institute, we should not be allowing ourselves to be challenged more forcefully by this “grave responsibility” of which the Instrumentum Laboris speaks.

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