Skip to comments.(Catholic) Patriarchs invite synod members to Mideast to discover land of Bible
Posted on 10/11/2008 3:46:26 PM PDT by NYer
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The patriarch of the Melkite Catholic Church, who lives in Syria, and the Latin-rite patriarch of Jerusalem invited members of the Synod of Bishops on the Bible to visit them and discover how living in the land of the Bible can make its words come alive.
Melkite Patriarch Gregoire III Laham of Damascus, Syria, and Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal of Jerusalem addressed the synod Oct. 10, extending invitations but also talking about some of the challenges Christians in the Holy Land are facing.
Patriarch Laham told the synod: "The word of God unites us; it reinforces our faith. We must not be afraid to love the word of God, to share it with our brothers and sisters."
At the same time, he said, "we also must not be afraid of knowing certain verses of the Quran," just as Muslims are not afraid of knowing some verses of the Gospel or of the Torah, the Jewish term for the first five books of the Bible.
Christians' enthusiasm for the word of God must be something that leads them to holiness and to deepening their knowledge of the faith, he said.
"We must not allow this zeal to become a weapon to exploit others, to judge them, to persecute them or to contradict them," because that would "embarrass our own faith," he said.
"We must also do our absolute best to make sure the word of God is not the source or cause of conflicts, disputes and disagreements among our faithful," the patriarch said.
And, coming from a land often torn by violence, Patriarch Laham insisted, "The word of God must never become an instrument of terrorism."
During the year dedicated to St. Paul, who was converted on the road to Damascus, the patriarch sent a personal letter to all synod participants, inviting them to make a pilgrimage to Syria.
Patriarch Twal also invited the synod members to make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, to take the faithful with them, to pray for Christians in the Middle East and to offer concrete signs of their solidarity.
The land under the patriarch's pastoral care is the place where "the Word became flesh," he told synod members.
"To read, to meditate and to pray the word of God in the Holy Land is a very special gift. In the Holy Land the Word of God has become a living reality that is concrete and has flesh," he said.
"Even the geography enriches people," the patriarch said. "We have called the Holy Land 'the fifth Gospel.'"
Patriarch Twal praised the work done at the specialized biblical institutes run by the Franciscans, the Dominicans and the Jesuits in the Holy Land, saying they have helped the entire church better understand the Bible and its connection to the region.
"But now I want to share with you some problems and obstacles," he said. "The Israeli-Palestinian conflict provokes many difficulties in reading and understanding passages of the Bible because of fundamentalist interpretations and political or ideological interpretations."
For example, he said, the words "covenant," "election," "land" and "chosen people" all are important concepts in the Bible, particularly in the Old Testament, "but they have been taken by different groups to mean different things," including leading some to claim an exclusive right to live in the Holy Land.
"Arab Christians often have difficulty reading the Old Testament, not because of the word of God itself, but because of the political and ideological interpretations," he said.
But the Catholic Church offers Christians a "double system for protecting" its faithful from the temptation to misunderstand or misuse the Bible verses, the patriarch said.
First, he said, the church teaches that the entire Bible must be read "in the light of Christ," who said that he did not come to abolish the law, but to bring it to completion.
Second, he said, the church's interpretation must be the starting point for all interpretations of the Bible.
"Any interpretation outside of the church is dangerous," he added.
Although it is not widely known in our Western world, the Catholic Church is actually a communion of Churches. According to the Constitution on the Church of the Second Vatican Council, Lumen Gentium, the Catholic Church is understood to be "a corporate body of Churches," united with the Pope of Rome, who serves as the guardian of unity (LG, no. 23). At present there are 22 Churches that comprise the Catholic Church. The new Code of Canon Law, promulgated by Pope John Paul II, uses the phrase "autonomous ritual Churches" to describe these various Churches (canon 112). Each Church has its own hierarchy, spirituality, and theological perspective. Because of the particularities of history, there is only one Western Catholic Church, while there are 21 Eastern Catholic Churches. The Western Church, known officially as the Latin Church, is the largest of the Catholic Churches. It is immediately subject to the Roman Pontiff as Patriarch of the West. The Eastern Catholic Churches are each led by a Patriarch, Major Archbishop, or Metropolitan, who governs their Church together with a synod of bishops. Through the Congregation for Oriental Churches, the Roman Pontiff works to assure the health and well-being of the Eastern Catholic Churches.
While this diversity within the one Catholic Church can appear confusing at first, it in no way compromises the Church's unity. In a certain sense, it is a reflection of the mystery of the Trinity. Just as God is three Persons, yet one God, so the Church is 22 Churches, yet one Church.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church summarizes this nicely:
"From the beginning, this one Church has been marked by a great diversity which comes from both the variety of God's gifts and the diversity of those who receive them... Holding a rightful place in the communion of the Church there are also particular Churches that retain their own traditions. The great richness of such diversity is not opposed to the Church's unity" (CCC no. 814).
Although there are 22 Churches, there are only eight "Rites" that are used among them. A Rite is a "liturgical, theological, spiritual and disciplinary patrimony," (Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches, canon 28). "Rite" best refers to the liturgical and disciplinary traditions used in celebrating the sacraments. Many Eastern Catholic Churches use the same Rite, although they are distinct autonomous Churches. For example, the Ukrainian Catholic Church and the Melkite Catholic Church are distinct Churches with their own hierarchies. Yet they both use the Byzantine Rite.
To learn more about the "two lungs" of the Catholic Church, visit this link:
The Vatican II Council declared that "all should realize it is of supreme importance to understand, venerate, preserve, and foster the exceedingly rich liturgical and spiritual heritage of the Eastern churches, in order faithfully to preserve the fullness of Christian tradition" (Unitatis Redintegrato, 15).
A Roman rite Catholic may attend any Eastern Catholic Liturgy and fulfill his of her obligations at any Eastern Catholic Parish. A Roman rite Catholic may join any Eastern Catholic Parish and receive any sacrament from an Eastern Catholic priest, since all belong to the Catholic Church as a whole. I am a Roman Catholic practicing my faith at a Maronite Catholic Church. Like the Chaldeans, the Maronites retain Aramaic for the Consecration. It is as close as one comes to being at the Last Supper.
Just catching up on some reading :-)?
D@rn those Jew-loving fundies. If it weren't for them and their anti-scientific and Zionist progpaganda the entire world would have converted to chr*stianity long ago.
"Any interpretation outside of the church is dangerous," he added.
Except for the interpretations of atheist academic "Bible scholars," which the Catholic Church has been quite willing to learn from for almost a century.