Vicar of Arabia on the Synod of a migrant Church in a Muslim land
Bishop Paul Hinder issues a pastoral letter for the synodal period, which opens in mid-October with a Mass in Abu Dhabi’s cathedral. This journey calls for “the active participation of all the faithful”. The local Church is centred on pilgrimage and catholicity. The sacramental way and evangelisation in the media are among the topics to be explored.
Abu Dhabi (AsiaNews) – Bishop Paul Hinder, Apostolic Vicar of southern Arabia (United Arab Emirates, Oman and Yemen) and Apostolic Administrator of the vacant seat of northern Arabia (Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Bahrain) issued a pastoral letter ahead of the 2023 Synod.
In it, he writes: “As a Church of migrants amidst a Muslim society, comprising the faithful of different nationalities and traditions, our witness stands unique and important within the universal Church.”
Titled “Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you” (Zechariah 8:23), the letter underscores the importance of a shared synodal journey of a Church that is one of a kind, made up of migrants in a Muslim majority region.
The prelate encourages “the active participation of all the faithful” in the synodal process in the vicariates of northern and southern Arabia, which will officially open on 15 October at St Joseph Cathedral in Abu Dhabi, a few days after Pope Francis leads services in the Vatican (9-10 October).
The Synod is divided in three phases, between October 2021 and October 2023. The first diocesan phase aims at listening to the people of God, while the second and third phases will focus on the continental and universal Church, so that the People of God can journey together in each, with the Synod as much a process as an event.
The Synod, the vicar of Arabia explains, is like “journeying together along the same path” in which the faithful must be engaged. “We are a local Church that shows in a particular way the character of pilgrimage and catholicity,” he writes.
It is a “Pilgrimage, because we do not have citizenship in these countries of our residence and therefore are living here without guarantee of permanence for a lifetime” and it is about “catholicity, because most of our parishes comprise of the faithful from many language groups and traditions, similar to what the Acts of the Apostles report about the variety of peoples present at the first Pentecost.”
With respect to travel, he acknowledges that “the pandemic is still an obstacle”, but the goal is that of “living in communion, with the participation of everyone, implementing our mission as disciples of Jesus Christ”, called to be the “people of God”.
In recent years, encouraging signs have come from the vicariates in terms of dialogue and encounter, starting with the Pope's apostolic journey in February 2019 and the signing of the document on human fraternity for world peace and common coexistence with the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Ahmed Mohamed Ahmed El-Tayeb.
In his pastoral letter, Bishop Hinder mentions a number of issues, including sacramental life during and after the COVID-19 pandemic; the education of children, young people and adults; the different ministries of the Church; relations between priests and laity; family care; the challenges of Christian marriage; help to the poor and needy; interfaith relations; the laity’s participation in parish life; and the role of social and electronic media in evangelisation.
“Although we cannot realise everything at once, it is always better to start in a modest way than to rest inactive and to remain observers without personal involvement,” the letter reads.
Synodality, the prelate emphasises, is “both a human and a spiritual process” that “involves mutual listening in which everyone has something to learn.” It refers to “the very essence of the Church” and is “thus oriented towards evangelisation.”
Ultimately, “The Synod is not so much a place to push one’s own idea or agenda,” involving people in decision making, nor is it a “representation or quota system”. Instead, it seeks to involve “the baptised in discerning God’s will and listening to the Holy Spirit to look for a path ahead for the Church in the third millennium.”