Skip to comments.Patriarch Raļ: The Conclave from a Middle Eastern perspective
Posted on 03/07/2013 11:10:54 AM PST by NYer
He was one of the last to land in Rome but he got to work immediately alongside the other cardinals. Yesterday, the Maronite Patriarch of Antioch, Cardinal Bechara Raï, handed cardinals with a dossier on the situation of Christians in the Middle East: The universal Church and the next Pope must never forget that Christianity has its origins in the Middle East. And they should keep in mind what is happening to Christian communities in the Middle East. This is a priority that cannot be ignored, the Lebanese cardinal told Vatican Insider.
Your Holiness, as leader of the Church in the Middle East, what would you say the regions Christians expect from the Conclave?
I wouldnt say everyone is thinking about what has happened over the past few years. A million and a half Christians have fled from post-Saddam Iraq. And at least 60% have left Aleppo. There is not one Christian left in Homs. The Coptic Church in Egypt is still strong. But with the new Sharia-based laws, things are going to get much harder. Then there are the problems in the Holy Land Cardinals will also need to take this into consideration during the Conclave. If we only discuss the Churchs internal problems we risk being one-track minded. This is why I have handed out a dossier on the current condition of Christians in the Middle East to cardinals. Christians have been there for two thousand years. They have helped shape local civilization and culture. They have transmitted a sense of moderation to Islam. Real Islam is moderate. It is not that which is preached by fundamentalists whom Eastern and Western countries load up with arms and money out of political and economic interest.
How did Lebanon react to the news of Benedict XVIs resignation?
Everyone saw it as an act of strong and humble faith and self-denial. A Kenosis. Muslims were full of admiration. Some of them asked themselves: what is Christianity? The man who holds the highest position in the Catholic Church voluntarily stepped down! It was also seen as an example by laymen: he showed that ones responsibilities, whichever these may be, should be faced with an honest conscience.
Before you came to Rome for the Conclave you were in Moscow. What were the expectations expressed there?
I was invited by Moscows patriarch, Kirill. We spoke for hours about the situation faced by Christians in the Middle East and the possibility for collaboration on a cultural, religious and social level; we also talked about the promotion of unity between Catholic and Orthodox Churches in the Middle East for the good of the region and about how to create awareness of the Christian faith among Muslims. I was glad to see the Russian Orthodox Church is blossoming again: the Church has 184 dioceses across the world and the Patriarch ordained 60 bishops in the space of just a few years. I also met the Chairman of the State Duma, Sergej Naryshkin, and his advisors: what is happening in the Middle East today has nothing to do with the advent of democracy. The political interests of external powers are trying to destabilise the entire area, fomenting inter-confessional conflicts among Muslims. And when chaos breaks out, the Christians killed are often innocent victims.
You are one of the four leaders of Eastern Catholic Churches who will be taking part in the Conclave. What will your contribution be? Could one of you be elected Pope or are there any ecclesiological obstacles?
Our presence in the Catholic Church testifies the Churchs diversity and richness. Can one of us become Pope? The papacy is a divine vocation. The Lord chooses the person he wants. In as far as the cardinals are concerned, they must join together in prayer and discussion to identify through suffrage who Gods chosen one is.
Is there a legitimate and pastorally opportune way of taking geo-political factors into account when electing the Pope?
One always hopes that one of their own countrys candidates will be chosen; someone who knows and is is able to deal with problems and pastoral emergencies experienced in their own part of the world. But we cannot have a Pope for each country. What is important is that the General Congregation discussions give a truthful picture of the Churchs condition in all parts of the world so that the new Pope is aware of the new challenges and expectations that exist and is aided in exercising a ministry that is by nature universal.
Maronite? You mean like JohnKerryite?
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.
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.
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In fact, while to us, the American Catholics, the issues with the HHS mandate and the growing acceptance of gay "marriage" loom large, objectively, the near-collapse of Catholic Christianity in the Middle East should probably be the next Pope's concern number 1.
Back in the days of John Paul II, while he was still alive, one article I saw said that often, after a long papal reign (and his was a longer one), the successor tends to be rather older; and that after that breather (a short reign), a younger man will be graced with the succession.
Pipe dream of mine — for the Syro-Malabar Patriarch to become Pope. it’s close to impossible, but would be nice
Nope, Maronite as in an ancient branch of the One Catholic church that resides in Lebanon, with a tradition dating back partially to St. Maron in the 3rd century and fully back to Christ with links to the bishop of Rome
So Cardinal Raï is informally bringing Patriarch Kirill into the pre-conclave consultations on the state of the Church and what is needed in the new Pope?
No. According to the article,
We spoke for hours about the situation faced by Christians in the Middle East and the possibility for collaboration on a cultural, religious and social level; we also talked about the promotion of unity between Catholic and Orthodox Churches in the Middle East for the good of the region and about how to create awareness of the Christian faith among Muslims.
While I have never visited the Middle East, I practice my catholic faith in a Maronite Church where many of the congregants are from that part of the world. Through them I have gained a better understanding of the persecution they have endured for centuries! Christianity was born in the Middle East and it remains the home for a large number of Orthodox and Catholic Churches. Pope Benedict, keenly aware of the horrific situation, visited Lebanon last September, to address religious freedom.
"You know all too well the tragedy of the conflicts and the violence which generates so much suffering. Sadly, the din of weapons continues to make itself heard, along with the cry of the widow and the orphan. Violence and hatred invade peoples lives, and the first victims are women and children. Why so much horror? Why so many dead? I appeal to the international community! I appeal to the Arab countries that, as brothers, they might propose workable solutions respecting the dignity, the rights and the religion of every human person! Those who wish to build peace must cease to see in the other an evil to be eliminated. It is not easy to see in the other a person to be respected and loved, and yet this is necessary if peace is to be built, if fraternity is desired.
"May God grant to your country, to Syria and to the Middle East the gift of peaceful hearts, the silencing of weapons and the cessation of all violence! May men understand that they are all brothers! Mary, our Mother, understands our concern and our needs. Together with the patriarchs and bishops present, I place the Middle East under her maternal protection. May we, with Gods help, be converted so as to work ardently to establish the peace that is necessary for harmonious coexistence among brothers, whatever their origins and religious convictions". (VIS)
Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI engaged the Orthodox Church leaders in a dialogue of unity. Cardinal Rai rightfully felt it important to convey the importance of ensuring these dialogues continue.
I really, REALLY like Cardinal Raï.
Thanks so much. I LOVE the photo with him gazing at the icon of the Annunciation!