CWNews.com - Pope Benedict XVI formally closed the Synod of Bishops for the Middle East with a Mass in St. Peter’s basilica on Sunday, October 24. In his homily the Holy Father called for solidarity among the Christians in the Middle East and for continued drive for a lasting peace in the region.

“We must never resign ourselves to the absence of peace,” the Pope said. “Peace is possible. Peace is urgent.”

During the Mass—which he concelebrated with the 177 bishops and priests who had participated in the Synod—the Pope reflected on the day’s Scripture readings, with their exhortation to persistent prayer. “Today the Word of God offers us a light of consoling hope,” he said. When the troubled people of the Middle East pray, or when others pray for them, the Pontiff observed: “The cry of the poor and the oppressed finds an immediate echo in God, Who desires to intervene to create a way out, to restore a future of freedom, a horizon of hope.”

During the Synod, the Pope continued, the participants affirmed “the liturgical, spiritual and theological wealth of the Eastern Catholic churches, as well as of the Latin Church.” The Synod underlined the need for unity within these different churches, and unity among all the Catholic churches in the region. Unity within Catholicism, the Pope remarked, can only help the process of ecumenical work.

The Pope next spoke of the volatile political situation in the region, and the moral imperative of work toward peace. "Conflicts, wars, violence and terrorism have gone on for too long in the Middle East,” he said. “Peace, which is a gift of God, is also the result of the efforts of men of goodwill, of national and international institutions, in particular of the states most involved in the search for a solution to conflicts.”

A lasting peace will help curb the flow of Christian emigrants from the region, the Pope said. He also called for efforts to assure “authentic freedom of religion and conscience, one of the fundamental human rights that each state should always respect.” The subject of religious freedom, he said pointedly, should be “the subject of dialogue between Christians and Muslims.”

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