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The Holy See at the side of Middle Eastern Christians

As representatives of the Catholic Churches in the Middle East gather in Cyprus, the Prefect of the Dicastery for the Eastern Churches apologises for the role the western Church has historically played in undermining Christians in the region, and pledges the Holy See’s support.

“We Westerners bear a heavy responsibility for destabilising the Middle East, with our tendency to export our culture and ask its peoples to conform their lives to it”. 

This were the words with which Archbishop Claudio Gugerotti, Prefect of the Dicastery for the Eastern Churches, greeted more than 250 representatives of the Middle Eastern Catholic Churches.

They had gathered in Nicosia for the opening of the symposium “Rooted in Hope”, organised to mark the tenth anniversary of Pope Benedict XVI’s post-synodal apostolic exhortation Ecclesia in Medio Oriente.

Worries for the diaspora 

“As Western Catholics,” the Prefect said, “we apologise for supporting this myopic approach. We pay tribute to your heroic efforts to be witnesses to our common faith despite difficulties of all kinds.”

Gugerotti expressed his concern for “the diaspora of Middle Eastern Christians, which is caused by the current tragic situation, deeply affecting their daily lives.” It is therefore a priority, he said, for the Holy See to support Middle Eastern Christians, because “however generous your efforts to assist the members of your Church in the diaspora may be, they will be even more effective if specific instructions are given to the bishops of the Latin Church throughout the world, so as to avoid any assimilation, even unintentional, and to help you preserve your witness of faith in its specificity”. 

The Universal Church, said Gugerotti, cannot afford to lose “the presence, the heritage, the witness and above all the faith of the Christians of the Middle East”, which is why it will continuie to be present with financial and other forms of aid.

Pope Benedict’s Exhortation

Speaking after the Prefect, Pietro Pizzaballa, the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, stressed that in the Middle East “there is a need for the recovery of an authentic Christian identity”.

The Patriarch discussed the last ten years of challenges experienced by the Churches in the region, years marked by Islamic extremism, following the end of the Arab Springs, by the violence of Isis and by wars – Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Libya – where Christian communities “have paid a very high price”, but have also borne witness to hope with the martyrdom of “so many brothers and sisters”. 

They were years, too, that saw the Abu Dhabi Document on Human Fraternity and the Pope’s historic trips to the region, which show how Francis has at heart “the Middle East, the Eastern Churches, ecumenical dialogue with the Orthodox, and interreligious dialogue, in particular brotherhood and peace with Muslims and Jews”. 

The present day, with its lights and shadows, forces us to make “a true and concrete synthesis” of what has been experienced over the last ten years, the Patriarch said, encouraging his listeners to re-read Pope Benedict’s Exhortation, “a sort of testament for to the Churches of the Middle East”, and to re-read what has happened on a political, social and ecclesial level since its publication. 

It is from the Middle East, despite crises and scandals, he went on to explain, that “redemption for the entire Universal Church” can begin again.

Source: Vatican News