of Antioch and All the East
of Alexandria and of Jerusalem
Damascus, 1 March 2010
His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI
Most Holy Father,
The decision of Your Holiness to convoke a Special Assembly of Bishops for the Middle East is one of the tokens of your deep, fatherly love for the Christian communities of the Holy Land and the countries of this region, which was the first to be evangelised by the Apostles.
I have already had the opportunity of thanking you personally for this during your meeting with my brother Patriarchs and Major Archbishops at Castel Gandolfo on 19 September, 2009.
But, without waiting for the holding of this Special Assembly next October, I feel it my duty to tell Your Holiness the concern I feel at the way the regional situation is developing and becoming increasingly dangerous for everyone, but particularly for Christians in our countries.
There is a diffuse but sure rise of Islamic extremism, provoked by the threats of the Israeli government against Palestinians, Lebanon, Syria (and Iran), which is spreading throughout all the countries in the region. Even in Syria, where such extremism has been up to now very limited, its advance has become more and more evident, despite efforts from the government against it.
This extremism does not hesitate to use terrorist methods, especially against Christians (in Iraq and in Egypt particularly), provoking a new wave of emigration of the latter.
But Christians, though they are the primary victims, are not the only ones. Once more we find ourselves facing a new danger of outburst across the whole region, which may well degenerate on a wider scale.
I beg Your Holiness, humbly but insistently, most insistently (instanter et instantius), that besides ardent prayer and outside the context of public speeches, which can only be limited, like the most recent appeal of Your Holiness to the highest authorities in Iraq, the Holy See's diplomacy redouble its efforts to persuade the Tel Aviv government, despite the views of its most intransigent wing - probably via the United States and those European countries which, having sponsored the birth of the State of Israel and supported it ever since, should be able to exert effective pressure on it - of the grave danger of this development which in the medium and perhaps short term, runs against the interests and future of the State of Israel itself, which needs peace in the region just as much as Arab countries, to be able eventually to live normally all together.
Having delivered to Your Holiness these thoughts, which have haunted me during this Lent, and trusting in the power of your prayer and the effectiveness of your directives, I can only assure you once more, Most Holy Father, of my filial devotion and deep respect in the Lord.
+ Gregorios III, Patriarch
SECTION FOR GENERAL AFFAIRS
From the Vatican, 21 April 2010
You recently wrote to His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI to share your thoughts about developments of the situation in the Middle East, for which His Holiness thanks you warmly.
The Holy Father is particularly aware of the situation of the Christian Communities in the region. He sends his strong encouragement to the faithful and their pastors in the ordeals they are undergoing, as he desires their legitimate rights to live in peace and security on their land and for them to be able to participate fully in national life.
The Pope also wishes the special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for the Middle East, which will be held next October, to contribute to tightening the bonds of communion between the Eastern Catholic communities, so that they carry out their mission with vigour, in a spirit of ecumenical and inter-religious openness. May it be an opportunity for faithful the world over to continue to show genuine, concrete solidarity towards their brothers and sisters from this region!
As the whole Church is in the joy of Paschaltide, the Holy Father, entrusting you to the motherly intercession of the Virgin Mary, sends to you and to all the Bishops, priests and faithful of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church, an affectionate apostolic Blessing.
Please accept, Beatitude, my warmly devoted regards in the Lord.
Tarcisio Card. Bertone
Secretary of State to His Holiness