Address during the signing ceremony
of the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation
following the Special Assembly for the Middle East
of the Synod of Bishops
(14 September 2012)
Most Holy Father,
Herzlich Wilkommen! Welcome to the East and to Beirut and the Church of Lebanon, one in all its spiritual traditions! Welcome to Lebanon, with all its Muslim and Christian denominations! Welcome to the Melkite Greek Catholic Church and to this church dedicated to Saint Paul, built after the model of the Basilica of the Holy Wisdom (Aghia Sophia) in Constantinople, and property of our Missionary Society of Saint Paul!
Welcome too in the name of the Assemblies of Eastern Catholic Patriarchs and Bishops who responded to your call and took part in the Special Assembly for the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops, which was a sign of your care and affection.
You are bringing a message to this "message-Lebanon,” as it was so aptly described by your predecessor, Blessed Pope John Paul II, a friend of Lebanon, Arab countries and the whole world.
Light comes from the East: ex Oriente lux. From the East the light went out westwards, carrying the message of Jesus. “That was the true Light which lighteth every man that cometh into the world,” (John 1:9)
Most Holy, beloved Father,
Today, you are bringing back to us light from the East, Orientale lumen, contained in this Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation. As Jesus said to his elect, Peter, "When thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren;" (Luke 22: 32b) so you, most Holy Father, have come to strengthen the Eastern bishops by your love. For our part, we receive this Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation with affection and gratitude. Hence, in our turn, we would like to give Your Holiness mutual confirmation of your faith and that of our beloved brothers in the West.
You decided to sign this Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation in Lebanon, but, in fact, from Lebanon it speaks to the whole Arab East. This document speaks to the Christians of Lebanon and the rest of the Arab world, helping them understand the meaning of their existence, role, mission, service and witness in this Arab world with its Muslim majority. This mission can be summed up in the call to be light, salt and leaven. It allows Christians to know that they are the little flock that is not afraid and does not shrink when confronted by the greatness of that role of being for and with the big flock.
The essence of this Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation lies in its title, Communion and Witness, meaning inner unity for outward witness (ad intra and ad extra.)
This title is a Christian slogan, but can be seen as Christian and Muslim alike. It is in fact a motto that must be lived out in interaction with all the constituent communities of the Arab world.
Most Holy Father,
The Special Assembly for the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops was concerned, in a remarkable way, with a case that has a very great influence on the Church in the Arab world: that is, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
We are grateful for the firm, constant position of the Holy See and the Popes with regard to this case over the years. This strong position is a courageous act of equity, justice and truth, so needed by today’s world where political injustice is rampant: thus the Holy See remains always the pioneer of world justice.
Furthermore the solution of the Israeli-Palestinian Arab conflict is the warranty for resolving the very complex problems of the Arab world and a warranty too for slowing down the emigration of Christians and strengthening their presence in the East, which is the cradle of Christianity, and enabling them to continue their historic role and mission, side by side and hand in hand with Muslim and other fellow-citizens, “that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly -” (cf. John 10: 10), a freer, more dignified, open, developed and flourishing life.
Recognition of the Palestinian State is the most precious asset that can be acquired by the Arab world in all its Christian and Muslim denominations. It will ensure the realisation of the guidance set out in this Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation, for which we express our keenest gratitude. It could prepare the way for a real Arab spring, real democracy and a revolution capable of changing the face of the Arab world and giving peace to the Holy Land, the Middle East and the world.
Most Holy Father,
On this occasion, it is a great happiness for us to proclaim the full, firm, constant communion of our Patriarchate with the Church of Rome that presides in love.
Furthermore, we should like to emphasise the importance of Christian unity, a central theme of the Synod for the Middle East. Let our strong, coherent Churches working together, show everyone through their synergy the values of the ever-new Gospel message, values which you expressed in your Encyclicals on the theological virtues: Love of God (Deus Caritas est), hope (Spe salvi) and love in truth (Caritas in veritate).
The world needs the Church to breathe with both lungs and all its vitality, and for faith to remain pure, joyful and beautiful, so that the world may be renewed. Then will reign the civilization of faith, hope and love: the civilization of Heaven on earth.
Most Holy Father,
We conclude with the prayer which is recited for you during the Divine Liturgy in this church and in all Melkite Greek Catholic churches every day throughout the whole world by the Patriarch and all bishops and priests:
"Among the first, remember, O Lord, our Holy Father Benedict XVI, Pope of Rome, whom do thou grant unto thy holy Churches in peace, safety, honour, health and length of days, rightly dividing the Word of thy truth!"
Thank you very much for your visit!
Thank you very much for the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation!
Thank you very much for your love!
We tell you, we love you!
Ad multos annos!
Eις πολλά έτη, Δέσποτα!
+ Gregorios III, Patriarch