Rome, 24 October 2010
Closure of the Special Assembly
For the Middle East
To their Majesties the Kings
And their Excellencies the Presidents
Of Arab Countries in the Middle East
I had the honour of addressing a letter to you (dated 18/06/2010) on the subject of the Special Assembly for the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops entitled The Catholic Church in the Middle East: Communion and Witness.
At the end of this Synod, it is my pleasure to communicate the following reflections to you in this letter:
1- The Arabic language was an official language of the Synod alongside other languages. A resolution requested that it be adopted again in the Vatican's Roman Dicasteries. It is a gift due to the concern of the Arab Catholic Patriarchs and Bishops for the Arab world! Indeed it is the language of our culture, faith and societies. It is the great common denominator among Arab countries. This represents a great achievement!
2- The Arab Middle East, together with Turkey and Iran, was the most important topic before the Synod.
3- To speak more precisely, the following themes were the special subject of the Synod: living together, life together, citizenship, modernity, faithful laity, human rights, including those of women, religious freedom of worship and conscience, the construction of churches and places of worship, especially in Saudi Arabia, respect for others and their beliefs, plurality, diversity, rejection of fanaticism, violence, negative fundamentalism, extremism, terrorism, exploitation of others, especially weaker folk and minorities...
4- Featuring in all the discussions of all members of Synod (about 200 persons), was especially Islamic-Christian dialogue in all its dimensions and modalities, significance and urgent necessity, and the support to be brought to its development and animation by all Christians and Muslims.
5- The Synod members or Fathers dealt with the challenges that Christians have to cope with, which include: emigration, insecurity, economic, social and political crises, and the consecutive wars in the region. These challenges have increased, especially because of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. They are the cause of many misfortunes and calamities in our societies. They have sown hatred and enmity among Christian and Muslim citizens locally, regionally and globally. Also resulting from them are fundamentalism and terrorism, represented in the media as though Muslim and Christian Arabs were born terrorists and fundamentalists! This might make people think that religion is the cause of terrorism, violence and fundamentalism, though religion is not to blame for all that.
As a consequence of this state of affairs our whole society has become "abused," with these disasters mainly striking our young people!
6- The Fathers and members of Synod sought remedies for these calamities: they found that the most efficacious remedy is principally Islamic-Christian dialogue. In the Arab world, it must be our daily bread. In any case that dialogue was the experience of our living together throughout our shared history of the last 1432 [Islamic] years, despite dark centuries, when problems, tensions and even massacres whose victims can be counted in thousands, caused loss of trust in living together, in others and their values... And in its place crept in hatred and enmity and the traditional virtues of pity, compassion, love and fellowship became stunted...
7- The Fathers and members of Synod stressed the need to overcome crises! We must continue the journey together. Furthermore they considered that the success of our singular and difficult experiment in living together is the guarantee of the success of dialogue between followers of different faiths. What is more, it became clear to all, as was remarked on and reported often in the press, that any failure and lack of success of our experience of living as Christians and Muslims together in the East will have a destructive effect on all possibilities for dialogue, and will be a bad harbinger of the fact that all dialogue among people, civilisations and religions in East and West, will be doomed to failure.
So we shall have the following result: the East, symbol of plurality and dialogue becomes void of Christians. So the Arab East becomes Muslim without Christians. On the other hand, the West is considered Christian (even if only through baptism). This Christian West supports Israel, in its turn considered the enemy of Islam and Muslims. So the final, terrifying equation is this: the Christian West supports Israel and Jews, the enemies of Islam and Muslims! So Christian Europe is the enemy of Islam and Muslims! And that is precisely the great misfortune, the dark and terrifying future that awaits us! God grant it may not happen!
8- Peace was a basic topic of the Synod's deliberations, speeches and proposals. For peace is both the greatest good and a lost possession! Peace is the great challenge! Peace is most desired by all sides! That is also why bringing it about is the responsibility of all: East and West, Arabs, Europeans and Americans. The Synod members strongly emphasised the role of the Vatican and the Pope or Popes, because of the global influence they exercise. The members of Synod, Patriarchs, Cardinals, and Bishops, emphasised their own responsibility to work for peace.
Yet we think that peace is an Arab responsibility! We think that if Arab countries were united in fellowship and concord, and nobly, boldly and firmly decisive, they could impose on the Israelis, with the United States of America, and Europeans, a complete just and lasting peace!
For this bold peace is the great jihad (struggle) and the great challenge, which can give an answer to all other challenges, issues, fears, apprehensions that afflict our Middle East.
Dear Friends, Kings, Presidents, Princes!
We confide this brave peace like a precious treasure to your hearts, thoughts and decisions!
9- In our preceding letter (18 June 2010), we spoke to you as follows: "You are the guarantee of the Christian presence in the Middle East!" You are indeed our warranty! We said it again in the Synod, a prominent platform for the Arab cause, as we faced the media from all over the world!
Today at the Synod's end, we say to you, dear, most esteemed friends: you are the guarantee of the success of the Synod held in Rome. You are the warranty of the decisions, proposals and hopes of this Synod being followed up and put into action in our Arab countries!
The sessions of the Synod were preceded by prayers according to the different liturgical rites and languages of our Eastern Churches, whose main language is Arabic.
We shall continue our prayers, in our churches and monasteries for peace, for all our fellow-citizens and for you personally! You have care for the sons and daughters of our parishes! Care for our many churches, monasteries, institutions, which are at the service of our Arab countries that we love and for which we have laboured and will continue to give our all in the service of their prosperity and development, with the Blessing of God and through your vigilance!
We are praying to Almighty and Merciful God, for our Arab homelands, and for Christians and Muslims to remain together and together be salt, light and the leaven of faith, hope and love!
With my respect and friendship
Patriarch of Antioch and All the East
of Alexandria and of Jerusalem
Translation from French: V. Chamberlain