Bishops From the Middle East Synod is taking place in Rome from October 10-24.
In addition to the Catholic delegates with all the hierarchs, experts and auditors, there also are regional representatives - albeit there as observers - of Orthodox and Reform Churches such as Greek Orthodox, Armenian and Lutheran as well as Muslim and Jewish representatives , Ayatollah Sayyed Ahmadabadi from Iran, Dr Mohammad Sammak from Lebanon and Rabbi David Rosen from Jerusalem.
There are representatives from many other Catholic conferences of the world - including Archbishop Patrick Kelly of Liverpool from the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales (CBCEW) in view of the annual efforts of coordination that this conference deploys in Israel-Palestine as well as its solidarity with Iran, Iraq, Lebanon and elsewhere in the region.
Five main challenges face Christians in the Middle East, namely political conflict, freedom of religion and conscience, Christians and developments in contemporary Islam, emigration from the whole region and finally, the immigration of Christians to the Middle East from the rest of the world.
Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli,
President of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications at the Synod of Bishops made this speech on 14th October.
“The Churches in the East have a centuries-old iconic tradition, an admirable capacity for creating a language through images. This is not just the fruit of a spirituality but it is reinforced by and generates a culture as well, a school of life and thought that forms part of the common identity of so many local Churches and society.
Modern-day culture creates and feeds new languages and ways of thought. It pervades mentalities, ways of understanding, ways of learning, topics on which to dialogue. We cannot therefore answer the challenges of today and tomorrow with the solutions of yesterday. We cannot continue to speak in our categories to a population that is increasingly distant from them. For the love of our peoples, we have to make a pastoral conversion, learn again how to listen and communicate, which does not mean running after the latest technology but understanding the categories of the other and using them.
This “digital” culture is marked by its immediacy, by its fast sequence of images, music, by brief concise text. The spoken form too has changed, and words alone are no longer sufficient. Books and the press will not disappear, nor will the simple parish bulletin, but these are no longer enough.
Digital culture is also present in the various nations and the local Churches through TV, radio, cinema, websites and social networks. All this media space has an impact on daily life: it shapes values, choices, opinions and questions, what a person thinks, and it affects Christians too... sometimes with a force that is much more incisive than that of the catechists, the priest in his sermon, the bishop. It is no coincidence the Holy Father has invited us to be present, to exercise a diakonia of this culture, offering the message of Christ in today’s languages, digital and traditional, real and virtual, announcing the mercy of God, listening to the other, love for our enemies, welcome and respect for every human being, in particular, the weak. Diakonia, service to people in their culture.
This is also possible in dialogue with non-believers with so many who are in search of God, opening - as Pope Benedict invited us - “the courtyards of the Gentiles”, that is, of spaces for dialogue and listening for those who have questions and are searching. The media surprises the world with the quantity of books, films, websites, etc that have to do with religion, the search for the transcendent and for spirituality, the search for justice and peace. The Church has to listen, walk with this humility and offer the precious treasure of the Gospel. But it has to seek to do so in the categories that are used today.”