VATICAN CITY, 19 SEP 2009 (VIS) - This morning in Castelgandolfo Benedict XVI received Catholic patriarchs and major archbishops from the Oriental Churches, in response to a request the prelates had made on various occasions in the past.
Participating in the meeting were Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone S.D.B. and Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, alongside the "Heads and Fathers" of all the Eastern Catholic Churches in communion with the Bishop of Rome.
They are: 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.
According to a communique, the representatives of the Eastern Churches spoke to thank the Holy Father for his initiative and highlighted the two facets of the faithfulness that characterises them: "the bond with the Christian East and the bond with Peter's Successor, the universal Pastor, with his charism of unity in truth and in love". They also focused on "a number of more general themes, such as the phenomenon of migration ... and the ecumenical and inter- religious context in which their Churches live".
In his address to them the Holy Father recalled how, since the start of his pontificate in 2005, he had begun "an 'ideal' pilgrimage into the heart of the Christian East; another stage of this pilgrimage is today's meeting", he said, "and it is my intention to continue".
He then referred to the request made by the representatives of the Oriental Churches to have "more frequent contact with the Bishop of Rome in order to strengthen the communion of your Churches with Peter's Successor and together examine, as necessary, themes of particular importance".
"As for me, I feel a primary duty to promote that sinodality which is so dear to Eastern ecclesiology, and which was greeted with appreciation by Vatican Council II", the Pope said. He then went on to refer 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 vigour 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. 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 prelates, the Holy Father said: "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".
Pope Benedict concluded: "I take, then, this opportunity to announce a Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for the Middle East, which I have called and will take place from 10 to 24 October 2010 on 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'". At the end of the meeting, the Holy Father lunched with the representatives of the Eastern Churches.
AC/EASTERN CHURCHES/...VIS 090921 (670)