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VATICAN CITY, 19 JAN 2010 (VIS) - At midday today in the Holy See Press Office Archbishop Nikola Eterovic, secretary general of the Synod of Bishops, presented the "Lineamenta" of the Special Assembly for the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops. The synodal meeting is due to be held in the Vatican from 10 to 24 October on the theme: "The Catholic Church in the Middle East. Communion and Witness. Now the company of those who believed were of one heart and soul".
The "Lineamenta" or draft guidelines on the theme of the Synod have been published in Italian, English, French and Arabic, and are made up of an introduction, three chapters and a conclusion. The text includes a general questionnaire concerning the topics covered, the answers to which (thirty-two in all) must be sent to the general secretariat of the Synod no later than Easter. A summary of the answers will then be compiled, and this will form the "Instrumentum laboris" or working document of the Synod, which the Pope will hand to representatives of the Eastern Catholic Churches during his apostolic trip to Cyprus scheduled for 4-6 June.
Archbishop Eterovic explained how the first chapter of today's document, "The Catholic Churches in the Middle East", briefly reviews the history of the Eastern Churches and presents the current challenges, including: "political conflicts in the region (Israel-Palestine, Iraq, Lebanon); ... and freedom of worship and of conscience, lamenting the considerable number of obstacles to exercising this fundamental right of individuals and of all religious communities".
"Ecclesial communion", the title of chapter two of the "Lineamenta", focuses on "the question of communion within the Catholic Church; that is, among the various Eastern Catholic Churches. ... Obviously, communion is also expressed in the relations between the bishops of the various Eastern Catholic Churches, as well as between them and the faithful", said the archbishop.
He then went on to explain how chapter three, "Christian witness", turns the spotlight on "the witness of Catholics within the Church herself, especially by means of catechesis and works, as well as outside the Church.
"Dialogue with other Churches and Christian communities exists", he added, "but it needs to be increased". The chapter also mentions Jewish-Christian dialogue "which exists in Palestine and in Israel thanks to various associations".
On the subject of relations with Muslims, the archbishop noted the document's focus on the "need to promote dialogue, also in order to know one another better, ... and as the best way to resolve problems".
The conclusion to the "Lineamenta" presents "the reasons - not so much political reasons as those of faith - why it is essential that Christians remain in the Middle East and continue to make their specific contribution for a more just, peaceful and prosperous society".
For his part Msgr. Fortunato Frezza, under secretary of the Synod of Bishops, explained that what we call the Holy Land "is not simply a geographical entity. ... That small space wedged between sea and desert was the stage for nearly two thousand years of history of the Jewish people, from the coming of Abraham to the Hasmonean dynasty of the second century BC and, subsequently, for the human history of the Son of God made man, and that of His disciples and Apostles".
He went on: "The Synod will concern itself with all the Middle East from Asia Minor to Iraq, and the Holy Land is a geographical part of that vast and heterogeneous area, a spiritually eminent part that is by no means historically inferior or insignificant for civilisation. There, and specifically in Jerusalem, the three monotheistic religions have vital roots and bonds, each in its own way".
"These vital bonds directly concern the original stages of each of the historical religions, yet we must ask whether belonging to this portion of the Middle East can foment an awareness of the authenticity and purity of faith and of religious practice. We must also ask", he concluded, "whether a shared land of origin and coexistence can favour reciprocity of recognition and respect, going so far as to have a positive influence on relations in the entire area of the Middle East".
SE/LINEAMENTA/MIDDLE EASTVIS 100119 (710)