A prelate from the Holy Land calls for unburdening bishops of their administrative tasks so that they can be shepherds again. Young people in the Middle East deserve a future of peace and security, jobs and a family without the danger of fanaticism present in other faiths. Staying in one’s land is a vocation.
Beirut (AsiaNews) – Mgr Georges Bacouni, Greek-Catholic archbishop of Akka, Holy Land, called for unburdening bishops of their administrative tasks so that they can be once more “shepherds” among the faithful. The prelate made the appeal during his address to the general congregation of the Synod on Young People currently underway (3-27 October) in the Vatican.
The archbishop, who has called for stronger Christian unity and a better and safer future for Christians in their home countries, is one of the Synod participants from the Middle East, a region where Christians are often victims of violence and persecution. Two days ago, we published the first part of a reflection on Lebanon as a "mix” of cultures and religions that makes it a leader “par excellence".
Bishop Georges Bacouni is one of the Middle East voices at the Synod on Young People. As the Greek Catholic Archbishop of Akka, Holy Land, he heads a congregation of 70,000 faithful.
In his address last Thursday to the general congregation, the prelate, who is one of the youngest leaders of his Church, pleaded for a lighter administrative burden on bishops in order to let him "become shepherds again".
"When I was ordained bishop 13 years ago," said Archbishop Bacouni to the French Catholic channel KTO, "the last part of the ceremony was about the lost sheep. I was told, ‘You are a shepherd, you must go in search of the lost sheep.’ I ended up realising, taking on my episcopal tasks, that I no longer have time to look for the lost sheep. nor even those who are not lost. We are too involved in office work, the administrative side of things. I’d like us to be free from this. The bishops must be released so that they can become shepherds again."
"For a long time, long before this Synod, I started listening to young people. They have many expectations, but most of all, they want pastors who are close to them to be true witnesses. I attended the previous synod, devoted to the family, and some of the things that are said today were said at that time,” Mgr Bacouni explained.
"Families also expect pastors to be close to them. So do the young, the old, migrants. Families are correct in their expectations. But where can we find the time within the existing system where we are overwhelmed?” he wondered.
Staying in the East: a vocation
With respect to the challenges facing young people in the Middle East, Bishop Bacouni goes on to say: "The first challenge, which is common to all young Christians in the Middle East, is their desire to have a better and safer future. They want to find work and have a family in a safe environment. At the same time, they fear fanatical currents in other religions.”
“This is why some young people want to leave and not stay in the East. This is one of the essential issues of vocational discernment at home. Those who still wish to remain in the Middle East – except for the poor who cannot leave – are young people who are convinced that God is calling them to stay in the East."
The bishop also touched on the theme of unity. "Young people say: you speak of one Church, you speak of brotherly love, love one another, but one of the signs of such love is being united, at least in our festivals, with other apostolic Churches, both Catholic and Orthodox. Note that I am talking about the expectations of young people, of what we hear them say. Young people here do not bother with ecumenical considerations."
"Sometimes," he added, "I feel that certain leaders are insufficiently aware of the need to work more on Christian unity."