Pope: Synod to reinforce solidarity among Christians of the Middle East
Benedict XVI delivers the Instrumentum Laboris to the synodal assembly. Memory of Msgr. Padovese. The international community must work to end conflicts in the region, rather than "lead to an increased shedding of blood." For Christians, artisans of reconciliation, both recognized the freedom of religion.

Nicosia (AsiaNews) - The Synod on the Middle East "will try to deepen" bonds between the ancient churches of the region, to express the solidarity of Christians around the world for those brothers who in those countries "suffer great trials due to the present situation "to give support to the witness that they offer, to assert the right to freedom of religion and" direct the attention of the international community to the condition of those Christians in the Middle East who suffer because of their faith, so that we can find just and lasting solutions to the conflicts that cause so much suffering".

At the end of the Mass celebrated by Benedict XVI in Nicosia's Eleftheria Sport Centre pictured), the only public Mass of his visit to Cyprus which ends today, the Pope handing the Instrumentum laboris to each member of the Special Council of the Synod of Bishops for the Middle East.  He expressed in these terms his hopes for the October Synod, which will gather to Rome representatives of all the Catholic Churches of the region.  The also Pope renewed his call “for an urgent and concerted international effort to resolve the ongoing tensions in the Middle East, especially in the Holy Land, before such conflicts lead to greater bloodshed".

The synod will feel the absence of one bishop: Mgr. Luigi Padovese, recommended to the "Lord of peace" during the prayers of the faithful. The secretary general of the Synod, Archbishop. Nikola Eterović stressed this before the synod document was delivered, the Pope recalled that " as President of the Turkish Catholic Bishops, contributed to the preparation of the Instrumentum Laboris that I am consigning to you today.  News of his unforeseen and tragic death on Thursday surprised and shocked all of us.  I entrust his soul to the mercy of almighty God, mindful of how committed he was, especially as a bishop, to interreligious and cultural understanding, and to dialogue between the Churches.  His death is a sobering reminder of the vocation that all Christians share, to be courageous witnesses in every circumstance to what is good, noble and just”.  And again at the Angelus when he prayed that Christians will be "witnesses" of Christ.

The Synod, therefore, Benedict XVI says, " will attempt to deepen the bonds of communion between the members of your local Churches, and the communion of these churches with each other and with the universal Church. The Assembly also aims to encourage you in the witness of your faith in Christ in those countries where the faith was born and from where it spread. It is also known that some of you have endured great hardships due to the current situation in the region. The Special Assembly is an opportunity for Christians from the rest of the world to offer spiritual support and solidarity to their brothers and sisters in the Middle East. This is an opportunity to highlight the significant value of the Christian presence and witness in countries of the Bible, not only for the Christian community worldwide, but also for your neighbours and fellow citizens. You are help the common good in countless ways, for example through education, health care and social assistance, and you work to build society. You want to live in peace and harmony with your Jew and Muslim neighbours. Often, you act as peacemakers in the difficult process of reconciliation. You deserve recognition for the invaluable role you fill. This is my serious hope that your rights are increasingly respected, including the right to freedom of worship and religious freedom, and that you will never again suffer discrimination of any kind".

Attending the consignment of the document and to a certain sense introducing the Synod’s work, are six thousand people at the Mass, a numerical representation of the small flock of Catholics living on the island. Among them, several immigrants from the Philippines and Sri Lanka, for whom the Pope had a "special greeting”. It was also the occasion for another warm embrace with the Orthodox Archbishop Chrysostomos, who wanted to be present today.

And 'Mass for Corpus Christi, a "reality" which is the source of the mystery of communion in the Church; “each of us who belong to the Church needs to leave the closed world of his individuality and accept the 'companionship' of others who "break bread" with us. We must think not in terms of 'me' but 'we'. That's why every day we pray 'our' Father, 'our' daily bread. Breaking down the barriers between us and our neighbours is the first prerequisite for entering the divine life to which we are called. We need to be liberated from all that imprisons us and isolates us: fear and mistrust towards others, greed and selfishness, unwillingness to run the risk of vulnerability to which we expose ourselves when we are open to love”.

"We are called - he concluded - to overcome our differences, to bring peace and reconciliation where there is conflict, to offer the world a message of hope.  We are called to reach out to those in need, generously sharing our earthly goods with those less fortunate than ourselves.  And we are called to proclaim unceasingly the death and resurrection of the Lord, until he comes.  Through him, with him and in him, in the unity that is the Holy Spirit’s gift to the Church, let us give honour and glory to God our heavenly Father in the company of all the angels and saints who sing his praises for ever "