09/18/2009, 00.00
VATICAN – MIDDLE EAST
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Pope and Patriarchs meet to discuss the future of the Church in the Middle East

by Fady Noun
The audience with the Pope of the heads of the region’s seven Catholic Rites will focus on the growth of fundamentalism in the Middle East and the concerns it is generating among Christians as well as on the importance of Islamic-Christian dialogue, the status of Eastern Catholic Patriarchs in the Universal Church and the Ecclesiastic jurisdiction in Kuwait and the Gulf States.
Beirut (AsiaNews) – The growth of fundamentalism in the Middle East and the concerns it is generating among Christians, the importance of Islamic-Christian dialogue, the status of Eastern Catholic Patriarchs in the Universal Church and the Ecclesiastic jurisdiction in Kuwait and the Gulf States are the four main issues the seven Eastern Catholic Patriarchs will discuss tomorrow with Benedict XVI at their request.

Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Boutros Sfeir (pictured), Armenian Catholicos Bédros XIX and Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignace Joseph III Younan arrived in Rome yesterday; Melkite Patriarch Gregory III, Chaldean Patriarch Emmanuel Delly, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem Fouad Twal and Coptic Patriarch Antonios Naguib will join them today.

The Patriarchs’ observations are contained in a note to be delivered to the Pope. In their meeting, they plan to talk in great detail with the Holy Father first of all about issues relating to the place of their Churches in the Universal Church as well as other ecclesiological matters, including the ecclesiastical jurisdiction of Kuwait and the other Gulf emirates, countries which in recent years have welcomed tens of thousands of Arab Christian blue and white collar workers attracted by their booming economies. The Eastern Churches want Rome to reflect on the fact that from an historical perspective the region should belong to the Antiochian Rite.

The Patriarchs are also concerned about the fate of Christians of the Middle East, who are challenged, especially in Egypt and Iraq, by the growth of fundamentalism. They will stress the importance of a strong and concerted international action to redress the injustice visited upon Palestine, and will recommend a just resolution that would include the right of Palestinians to their own state. They also insist on the importance of the Islamic-Christian dialogue.

During their stay in Rome, the Patriarchs will also participate on 21 and 22 September to a preparatory session for a special assembly of the Synod of Bishops for the Middle East, which should be held in the Vatican next year.

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