11/16/2015, 00.00
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For Eastern Churches, Mideast governments can no longer guarantee peace and security

by Fady Noun
In their final statement, Lebanese patriarchs and bishops refer to the deadly attacks in Paris (and Beirut). They call on world powers to find "peaceful solutions" to conflicts, and ensure countries’ territorial unity. The prelate spoke about pastoral collaboration between the Eastern Churches, nullity of marriage and election of the Lebanon’s president.

Beirut (AsiaNews) – The Assembly of Catholic Patriarchs and Bishops in Lebanon (ACPBL) issued a statement on Saturday at the end of its annual session (9-14 November), which was centred on "the pastoral cooperation among Catholic Churches in Lebanon".

Notwithstanding strictly ecclesial concerns, the ACPBL session was taken up by geopolitical changes underway, the news of the terrible massacre in Paris, and the slaughter in Bourj el-Brajneh, both claimed by the Islamic State group, which the patriarchs and bishops condemned in the strongest terms.

Although coming at the end of the statement, the ACPBL’s geopolitical concerns reflect the fact that security is no longer within the reach of the region's states. Thus, the ACPBL believes that "regional security has become an international responsibility".

As it condemns the violence against Christians and other minorities in Syria and Iraq, the ACPBL also calls on the international community and the major powers to end the war and reach a "peaceful settlement" to the conflict "in accordance with international law, which ensures the rights of peoples and states as well as their territorial integrity." This is a clear reference to partition plans for Syria, which the Eastern Churches oppose.

In his Sunday homily, the Maronite Patriarch, Cardinal Bechara al-Rahi, strongly condemned the terrorist attacks in Beirut and Paris, whilst deploring the fact that some countries "financially and morally" support terrorist groups.

The head of the Maronite Church also referred to the duplicity of some states in the region whose relations with violent Islamic groups are at best ambiguous.

Pastoral issues

With respect to "pastoral cooperation among Eastern Churches", the report says that participants "made concrete proposals likely to reinforce (this cooperation) in order to establish working mechanisms to strengthen the communion of Churches." However, no indication was given about these concrete proposals.

Turning to the encyclical Laudato si’, the assembly largely ignored its social aspects in favour of its environmental component, as evidenced by the decision to entrust the follow-up to the encyclical to the "ACPBL health committee, which becomes hereafter the health and environment committee."

The ACPBL also noted that the educational and hospital services provided by religious congregations, as well as Caritas-Liban (Lebanon), have been placed on alert. Likewise, government authorities have been urged to assume their social responsibilities, including paying arrears owed to free schools.

Finally, with respect to the motu proprio on simplifying and personalising the procedure of declaration of nullity of marriage, the Assembly listened to the explanations of the dean of the Apostolic Tribunal of the Roman Rota, Pio Vito Pinto. These provisions will be applied by the respective courts and bishops, when it comes into effect on 8 December, start of the Holy Year of mercy.

At home, the ACPBL is satisfied of the sitting of parliament on 12 and 13 November, stressing that "this Assembly cannot legislate during the period of presidential vacancy."

For the patriarchs and bishops, the exception cannot become the rule. Their report in fact stresses the need to elect a new president as a "preamble to the process that leads to the common good."

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