In Middle East the challenge is to be “truly” Christian, thus truly free
Lebanese Catholics, Orthodox and Protestants meet to discuss the Christian presence in the country. For Patriarch Sfeir this presence is a positive factor. Armenian Catholicos Aram I stresses a “dialogue of life” with Christians’ Muslim brothers.

Beirut (AsiaNews) – How to face the declining numbers of Christians in the Middle East is the issue addressed at a four-day special meeting (see photo) that opened yesterday bringing together all of Lebanon’s Churches, including Catholics, Orthodox and Evangelical.

Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir, Greek-Catholic Patriarch Gregorios III, Armenian Catholicos Elias Audeh, and the Papal Nuncio Luigi Gatti are attending the event along with some 200 priests, religious and laity, all together to discuss the ‘Christian Presence’ in Lebanon.

This presence is the bearer of a traditional and spiritual tradition that is positive for all, Muslims included.

Its dwindling numbers are thus an evil that Cardinal Sfeir blamed on emigration and the ways people live their Christianity.

According to the Maronite patriarch, the flight from the homeland is due first of all to the “country’s tragic’ political situation that has brought it “to the edge of the abyss.” The “great challenge” for him is how to “become truly Christian.”

“The ‘Son of God’ freed us,” he said. ‘We are free. Our values and destiny lie in this freedom.”

For his part, Aram I, stressed the missionary commitment the Church must have, highlighting that its social and educational activities are an “essential aspect of Christian life.”

Lastly Monsignor Gatti spoke about the Christian presence in Lebanon “as an essential and necessary aspect of Lebanon’s identity.”

He noted that emigration is rooted in causes internal to the community but “certainly also to external causes” which can be confronted if “we can be Christian in the most complete and profound way possible.”