VATICAN CITY (CNS): Pope Benedict XVI announced that he was convening a Synod of Bishops for the Middle East to be held in October of 2010, to address the trials and tribulations of the Christian population in the region.
The Pope said the synod would look at the various problems faced by the minority Christian communities in Middle Eastern countries, from migration to inter-religious dialogue.
He announced the initiative at a meeting on September 19 with patriarchs and other Church leaders from the region.
The synod will be held from October 10-24, 2010, on the theme “The Catholic Church in the Middle East: Communion and Witness: ‘The community of believers was of one heart and mind'”.
The quotation is a description of the unity of the early Church from the Acts of the Apostles.
“During this brotherly meeting, from your speeches will surely emerge the issues that beset you and the orientations toward their proper resolution,” the Pope said.
He told the Church leaders that he was praying for them and their communities daily.
A Vatican statement said the informal discussion between the pontiff and the Eastern Church representatives focused in particular on problems related to migration, ecumenical relations and inter-religious dialogue, and highlighted the Church’s efforts to promote peace in the region.
Pope Benedict has spoken frequently about the pressures faced by Christian and Catholic minorities in the Middle East, particularly in the Holy Land and in Iraq.
The synod was designed to provide an opportunity for a much-needed strategising session at the level of the universal Church.
Secretary-general of the Synod of Bishops Archbishop Nikola Eterovic said the idea for such a synodal assembly on the Middle East has been around for a while.
Archbishop Eterovic said the synod would include representatives from other Christian Churches, and perhaps those of the Jewish and Muslim faiths.
“We don’t know the format yet, but it is clear that one must take into account the entire complex reality of the Middle East,” Archbishop Eterovic told the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano.
“The synod is not ‘against’ anyone, but is an open space of dialogue that aims at communion and peace in justice and truth. Certainly we will find the way to hear the voices of the Jewish world and the Muslim world,” he said.
Archbishop Eterovic said it would be the first regional synod held in modern times.
Those participating in the talks with the Pope included the Chaldean patriarch, Cardinal Emmanuel-Karim Delly of Baghdad, Iraq; Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal of Jerusalem; the Lebanon-based Maronite patriarch, Cardinal Nas-rallah P Sfeir; and representatives of the Ukrainian, Syro-Malabar, Coptic, Melkite, Syrian, Armenian, Romanian and Syro-Malankar rites.