Bishops: the Middle East needs Lebanese Christians
by Youssef Hourany

The Assembly of Patriarchs and Bishops ended with an appeal to the international community. The need of a journey of Christian formation "to sow the seeds of revival" was underlined. Cardinal Sfeir recalled the value of independence.

Beirut (AsiaNews) – May the international community keep its promises to Lebanon and the country's Christians, because the "Christian presence in Lebanon is a necessary and indispensable condition for the prosperity and defence of the Christian presence in all the Middle East". This was the appeal contained in the concluding message of the 39th assembly which drew together 61 Catholic patriarchs and bishops of Lebanon.

The assembly was dedicated to adult formation, seen also as a means of allowing Catholics to make their mark on the future of Lebanese society. The assembly deliberations included contributions from Orthodox experts and scholars. The assembly wanted to send words of faith and hope to all Christians in Lebanon and especially to Catholics, passing through a difficult time because of delusions arising out of the situation and at times conditioned by a "lack of Christian, human and spiritual formationÂ…" The message emphasized the necessity of starting a new journey of formation capable of "sowing seeds of revival".

In their message, the Fathers insisted on the importance of centres of theological formation, spread throughout many dioceses, welcomed with great satisfaction by the faithful, and attended by many people who wished to live their faith in a coherent manner, and they recommended the Catechism of the Catholic Church as the basic text for any journey of formation.

The Catholic patriarchs and bishops also drew attention to the irreplaceable role played by the family, the parish and apostolic movements which have emerged in recent years to enhance adult formation. They expressed their concern about the increased problems and risks facing the Christian family in Lebanon because of many difficulties, not least those of an economic nature. They launched an appeal for support for families in crisis and praised the efforts of many pastoral leaders and workers for religious matrimony, which is passing through a rocky patch owing to mixed marriages, free unions and divorce. There is, however, a large number of Lebanese who continue to be attached to religious wedlock as the "only approved union between man and woman" which refuses all other forms of union. The final message calls on political and religious leaders to support families and to help them come out of crises.

The message also highlights the value and the worth of means of social communication, which have expanded much over the last 20 years, and they appealed to all to support these means defined as the "New Areopago". The message expressed solidarity with the radio, "Voice of Charity" which was struck by a car bomb. Further, it described the presence of more than 75 Christian magazines as a "sign of the times" which makes for an enormous richness in Lebanese social fabric as well as for the rest of the Arab world. The bishops also expressed their wish of starting a Catholic daily newspaper, like Avvenire or the Osservatore Romano.

For his part, the Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir yesterday recalled the value of independence on the eve of the 62nd feast of Lebanon's freedom, which will be marked tomorrow, 22 November. Cardinal Sfeir also called on all to contribute to the rebirth of democracy in the country.