Catholic Churches in the Middle East stressed unity at their Continental Synod as they gathered under “difficult circumstances” amid a massive economic and humanitarian crisis in the wake of the devastating earthquake in Turkey and Syria.
Representatives of the Churches from Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Israel, Iraq, Lebanon, and the Persian Gulf states gathered February 13-17 in the last stage of global Catholic preparations for the Synod on Synodality scheduled to conclude in 2024.
The spirit of synodality is “a core of the heritage of Eastern-rite Churches” originated in the Middle East, Church leaders said in a press release after the meeting in Lebanon’s capital Beirut. Rescue efforts continued as the gathering began after a 7.8-magnitude earthquake on February 6 destroyed hundreds of apartments and multi-story buildings, reportedly killing more than 45,000 people in south-eastern Turkey and northern Syria.
“Therefore, the participants in the assembly stopped at this painful and heart-breaking event and raised daily prayers for the victims, wounded and displaced in the affected areas,” the statement said.
Top leaders of the seven Churches in the region attended the weeklong gathering along with representatives of priests and religious and lay people. They included Maronite Patriarch and Cardinal Mar Beshara Boutros Al-Rahi, Coptic Patriarch Anba Ibrahim Isaac, Antiochian patriarch Mar Ignatius Youssef III Younan, Melkite Patriarch Youssef Al-Absi, Chaldean Patriarch and Cardinal Mar Louis Raphael Sako, Armenian Patriarch Raphael Bedros and Latin Patriarch Pierrebattista Pizzaballa of Jerusalem.
“Continental Synodal Assembly of Catholic Churches in the Middle East that brought together the Catholic family with its seven Churches” and it inspired them to “pray together in communion, participation, and mission”, the final statement said.
The gathering reaffirmed the basic qualities of the Church in the Middle East. The regional Church has achieved “unity in diversity through unity in communion and the mission and testimony of Churches” and the basis of its unified message is the “common roots” of the Churches, the statement said.
The gathering stressed the importance of liturgy saying it “is our life”. The call for a liturgical renewal will be addressed by making liturgy compatible with “the aspirations of our youth while preserving its essence and symbols”.
The gathering also said the Church in the Middle East is called “to grow and expand amidst the challenge of survival and the rejection of emigration”. Christians have been reportedly migrating en masse from several Middle Eastern nations after Islamic fanatics targeted them and attacked their churches, homes and villages.
The gathering also stressed “fellowship and hope in suffering” and wanted to renew the structures “of a more synodal Church” for better mission and witness in the region. They also identified the need for “a creative and renewed ecumenism” and dialogue with other Christian groups in the region.
The leaders also identified the need to train pastors specialised in dealing with families, women and youth. They also identified media, particularly digital media as “an effective communication tool” for the Church to deliver its “message in a more comprehensive manner”.
Originally reported by UCA News.