Beirut, Maronite Church synod to foster hope and solidarity
About forty bishops from Lebanon, the Arab world and the diaspora will gather from 14 to 19 June. An appointment that precedes the ecumenical meeting on July 1st, announced by the Pope. The themes include the social, economic and financial crisis, liturgy, seminaries and the formation of priests.
Beirut (AsiaNews) - The Maronite Church has begun its annual Synod (June 14-19, 2021) in the presence of about forty bishops from Lebanon, the Arab world and the diaspora. The meetings will continue throughout the current week and will close on the weekend with the publication of a final press release.
The agenda takes in some problems of an internal nature: liturgy, seminaries and priestly formation, the situation of overseas dioceses, as well as the serious social questions launched as a challenge to the Maronite Church and closely linked to the economic and financial crisis.
Finally, the so-called "national" question: The Maronite patriarch's campaign in favour of the proclamation of positive neutrality in Lebanon and the holding of an international conference under the aegis of the United Nations, dedicated to Lebanon.
In a speech delivered at the opening of the meeting, Patriarch Beshara Raï stressed that the days of spiritual retreat that preceded the work of the synod "reinforced our convictions, that the Maronite Church be a source of hope and that it is in this virtue that she walks with her people.” He therefore made a particular mention of “solidarity […] which protects the community from disintegration, from wandering and from getting lost”.
Taking into account the dangers highlighted by the patriarch, many expect this session of the synod to focus more on the situation of the Maronite Church in Lebanon, rather than on the dioceses of the diaspora.
Insisting on the word "hope", the patriarch referred - in his opening address - to the title of the Apostolic Exhortation "A new hope for Lebanon", published on May 17, 1997, following the 1995 synod held in Rome under the presidency of St. John Paul II.
A careful observer underlines that the Churches of Lebanon are being invited to return to this exhortation and its message. A true lesson on coexistence, this exhortation specified at the time: "Having lived side by side for long centuries, sometimes in peace and collaboration, sometimes in confrontation and conflicts, Christians and Muslims in Lebanon must find respectful dialogue of the sensitivities of the people and of the different communities, the indispensable way to welcome and build society ".
And it adds: “The Lebanese must not forget this long experience of relationships, which they are called to tirelessly renew for the good of the people and the whole nation. For men of good will, it is unthinkable that members of the same human community, living in the same land, come to distrust one another, to oppose and exclude each other in the name of their respective religions.”
In fact, the synod on Lebanon was held in the presence of the representatives of the Eastern Catholic Churches, but also in the presence of "fraternal observers" from the Orthodox world and representatives of the three Lebanese communities, Sunni, Shiite and Druze.
In his opening remarks the patriarch did not fail to denounce - no longer finding strong enough words in his homilies - what he defines as the "negligence of those responsible who block the executive power and that of the economic and financial capacities of the state”.
Or, again, the fact that "half of the Lebanese people live in conditions of food insecurity" or, finally, the generalization of a chaos that progressively spreads to the administration, the borders, the port and the airport, as well as the worsening of the migratory movement, especially of the youth.
There is no need to remember, that the Lebanese pound has already lost 90% of its value, that food and medical equipment are monopolized by importers, that some elements of vital basic care, such as dialysis, are threatened.
Powdered milk has disappeared from pharmacy shelves, and the requests for food aid in the form of rice or sugar by public employees whose salaries no longer exceed, in value, 30 dollars or employees who find themselves out of work from one day to the next and have to wait several hours to fill up with petrol while politicians weigh the pros and cons of each ministerial appointment for weeks on end.
Finally, the synod should also address, through the "national question", the ecumenical meeting program which is scheduled in Rome on July 1st, on the initiative of Pope Francis, and to which all the religious leaders of the Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant Churches present in Lebanon are invited.