Beirut (AsiaNews) – The annual Synod of the Greek Melkite Catholic Church, held on 15-20 June at the patriarchal summer residence in Ain Trez (Lebanon), focused on the development of centres of catechesis and Christian preparation for marriage, drop-in and information centres for families in crisis, as well as the situation in Syria, whose war has devastated the country and the Middle East, sparking a Christian exodus.
As part of the annual meeting, participants analysed some detailed reports on the situation of the Church’s Syrian dioceses and prayed that a "time of peace and reconstruction" may come very soon after five years of bloody conflict.
About Lebanon, the country where the Synod took place, the Fathers prayed for the election of a new president "as soon as possible". For more than a year, the office has been vacant, a situation that has held up the country’s political life and prevented dialogue among its various political factions.
As a sign of unity, the Greek Catholic Synod saw the first official visit by a Syriac Orthodox Patriarch, Mar Ignatius Aphrem III, together with a group of bishops. Likewise, on ecumenism, the Synod fully agreed with Pope Francis’ recent proposal to unify Easter.
In his introductory address, Patriarch Gregory III Laham touched the theme of Christian unity, stressing that "what brings us closer is greater than what separates us."
Indeed, against the backdrop of war, violence, and persecution, Christians “are experiencing an ecumenism of blood in Syria and Iraq."
Despite a context of conflict and attacks against the Christian community, the Synod did not neglect the field of pastoral care, in particular vis-à-vis families and marriage.
In view of the many challenges it faces, "the family, in the current environment and for the future," was the focus of many sessions, the Patriarchate’s final communiqué said.
An increasingly secularised world, which seems to have "no room for God and Christian values," has exacerbated its problems.
In response to this situation, the Synod Fathers have decided to set up and promote "centres of catechesis and Christian marriage preparation" in all eparchies, along with drop-in and information centres that families and couples in crisis can turn to.
Finally, the Synod decided to add new saints to its liturgy, some of them from the Latin tradition, like Francis of Assisi, John Paul II, John XXIII, St Rita, Don Bosco, Ignatius of Loyola, Teresa of Avila, Thérèse of Lisieux, Vincenzo de 'Paoli and St Alphonsine.