The hard work of collaborating and witnessing to Jesus Christ for 14 million Eastern Christians is indeed a difficult task, but one that is only sustained by prayer, mutuality and study.
During his trip to Cyprus Pope Benedict released what he things is a reasonable agenda for the forthcoming Synod of Bishops for Christians in the Middle East. But don’t be fooled in thinking that this Synod is merely for those in funny hats doing the Liturgy in a different manner. On the contrary, this Synod, as all Synods, have a direct impact on our Christian lives here in the USA for those living outside of the Middle East. What happens to our brothers and sisters in the East impacts the life of the Church across the world whether we realize it or not. So often, we neglect our Christian brothers and sisters in other parts of the world because there seems to be little identifiable connections between what and how they live there, and what and how we live here. Remember, Christ our Lord and Savior lived, died and resurrected in the Middle East. Why wouldn’t we be concerned with the Christians in the Holy Land and neighboring countries? You and I don’t have to be Melkite, Maronite, Coptic, Syriac or Hebrew Catholics to care for the other. Let’s not wait to later to do this caring, let’s do it now.
The Lineamenta (the agenda for the Synod of Bishops) is built under the title of “The Catholic Church in the Middle East: Communion and Witness.” Acts 4:32 sets the framework: “Now the company of those who believed were of one heart and soul.”
The heads (and assistants) of Eastern Churches in the Middle East have been preparing for the Synod of Bishops to be held in Rome 10-24 October 2010.
An H2O News interview explores some themes.
The Holy Father in consultation with the bishops and many experts speaks of the point of the Synod in this manner, which sets the bar pretty high in my opinion:
1. to confirm and strengthen Christians in their identity through the Word of God and the sacraments;
2. to deepen ecclesial communion among the particular Churches, so that they can bear witness to the Christian life in an authentic, joyful and winsome manner.
In the Pope’s mind these 2 goals are only possible through an ecumenical approach “if Christian witness is to be genuine and credible.” For Pope Benedict, and I pray for all the bishops and religious orders and secular institutes in the Middle East, and for this blog dedicated to communion theology, that communion among Christians will lead to a unified Christian mind and heart which will in turn revitalize Christian life together. That is, that one day full, visible communion among the Churches and ecclesial communities will be a fact.
I urge you to read the working document (the lineamenta) noted above. Beg the Holy Spirit to guide your reading. Take the questions posed in the document with a degree of seriousness to see what can be done from your context to build a deeper bond of communion with Christians in the Middle East and with those who have immigrated to the West.
Let us all be united in prayer to the Holy Spirit and to the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, to assist the bishops and the experts in dealin with the critical issues being faced by Eastern Christians at this time.