Sunday, November 7, 2010

Lebanese Bishops Meet to Discuss the Recent Catholic Synod for the Middle East

The Arabic original, by Hala Himsi in an-Nahar can be found here.

Patriarch IV and the Metropolitans of Lebanon Discuss the Suggestions of the Synod

Khodr: Our Hope is that the Pope will accept what the Arab Bishops said

On Thursday Rum Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch and all the East Ignatius IV met with his metropolitans in Lebanon, at the patriarchal residence in Balamand. The recommendations of the special synod of the Catholic Church for the Middle East was the topic of discussion. "The basic purpose of the meeting was to discuss the synod," Met. Georges Khodr, who represented the Antiochian Orthodox Church at the synod, told an-Nahar, explaining that, "the fathers at the meeting examined the synod and discussed some of its recommendations."

He said, "What has been understood and decided upon since the end of the Second Vatican Council during the time of Pope Paul VI is that the Catholic Church does not have councils which make decisions and instead have consultative councils. For this reason, the attitude that people take towards the synod has to be modest, in the sense that they cannot take its recommendations as final and Pope Benedict XVI will publish what he considers to be essential with regard to the Catholic Church in the Middle East during the coming year. From the very beginning, it must be said that this synod is a Catholic discussion of the Middle East, based to a certain degree on Western theology. However, at the primary level it is a reading of the reality in this part of the world."

Within these limits, the fathers who were gathered discussed the topic. "We have the recommendations that were sent by the fathers of the council to their parishes in the Middle East," he said. In this he saw "something new which shows that the fathers of the synod have something to say to their parishes. And this is a good thing." This leads him to say that, "it was not clearly understood what those who attended and took part in the synod know, that the council was a consultative meeting for the Pope. In my opinion, this is the right thing."
For Met. Khodr, the expression "Catholic synod" means "the rest of the Christians in the region were not consulted about anything at all. However, the synod greeted them and called them brothers and said that the Orthodox are almost in complete communion with the Papal See, and also greeted the Protestants with a few words. They largely focused on the Jews and the Muslims." The synod's cooperation with the latter two "was outstanding," as he described it. "They gave organized lectures, while no lecture was requested from the rest of the Christians."
Because of this, Met. Khodr finds "they have started to see their partners in cooperation as being the Jews and Muslims. There is no sentiment, given this absence in the text, that the Christian view of Jews in Palestine and Muslims was undertaken in brotherhood and with the study and analysis of Christians gathered together. Just the Catholics. We must rectify this."

Does this cause the Orthodox any disappointment? He responds, "No. From the beginning, we were not consulted about anything. In the tradition of the Catholic Church, for hundreds of years they have held meetings where the Orthodox were concerned, and they did not confer with them about anything and so the Orthodox look on from outside as matters are finalized. However, the Orthodox fathers who were gathered yesterday were pleased that a part of the Christians here in the East-- and it is the part that is smallest numerically if we look at the Copts-- studied the affairs of the region."

"Something completely new"

Met. Khodr talks about "something completely new" that is noticed by one who follows goings on in the Vatican, which is that "the statement about Judaism and the Jews which was prominent in the basic statement which was presented to those gathered was greatly diminished in the synod's final communique while the portions dedicated to the Muslims were increased in terms of the number and amount of pages." He also notices that "The role of the Arab Catholics, especially the Maronites, was important in making this correction."

In his opinion, the most important thing is that "it appears that the Arab Catholics do not feel that great importance that Western theology gives to the Jews. It was clear that they are loyal to the heritage of the Fathers which does away with Judaism completely. A propos of this, it is also remarkable that some of the Arab Catholics rejected the violence of the Jewish god and the idea of a promised land."

With regard to the Orthodox Church, "Prudence requires that we wait for what the Pope will say and what he will publish in what might be called an apostolic directive. We are following with love what goes on in the thought about the Catholic about this region," says Khodr. When asked what are its hopes in this matter, he says, "I do not believe that they will meet to define their position. It is not a subject defined by the synod. It is the Catholic Church that wanted to directly engage the Arab people in general and her parishes in specific. If the Catholic parishes return the synod's engagement, then they will have come into an active role."

With regard to putting the suggestions into effect, "we must look at the text, at each individual suggestion," he said. "The text is not a mountain, but there are many useful and constructive words." During Thursday's meeting, Patriarch Ignatius IV and the metropolitan "went over the suggestions in detail... and naturally we were pleased, especially that the fathers of the synod did not pay much attention to Judaism and the Jews, as they had in the original report. This is something very important."

After the meeting, the Patriarch will discuss various matters with the Orthodox metropolitans in Syria, especially about the texts coming from the Vatican about the synod and "during our annual meeting after Easter we must look at what was said." In this regard, what attracted Met. Khodr's attention the most was "the statement of the Catholics' synod that you must from now on look after politics and society, after your freedom and the rights which you have in your countries and your safety in carrying out your mission and living your life. Indeed, you must look after the rights of all citizens together, Muslims and Christians, and after your freedoms. These are new words coming from the Catholics."

Met. Khodr's reading of this matter leads him to believe that "the Papacy wanted to get Catholics out of their great interest in themselves and to cast them into the national field in every society in which they live." With regard to this, it can be said that, "The Pope will pay special attention to this synod... after he heard that his Arab flocks are more concerned about Islam (than about the Jews), it was no longer possible for him to escape this framework. I believe that he will introduce the Catholics into Arab life." He realizes that "the time has come for the Catholics to realize that they are part of the Christian world and that they are talking with all the Christians and the other, non-Christian world. Our hope is that the Pope will accept much of what his brothers, the Arab patriarchs and metropolitans said."

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