As reported earlier, the synod for the Middle East (composed of Latin and Eastern Catholic representatives) came up with hundreds of propositions to send to the Pope of Rome that were then whittled down to 44 propositions. The entire list can be found here. Below are some that I found to be interesting.
Pastoral practice for emigration
The presence of numerous Eastern Christians in all the continents challenges the Church to devise an appropriate pastoral programme in light of emigration:
- the Eastern bishops are to visit the seminaries of the Middle East to present the situation and the needs of their eparchies;
- the formation of seminarians with a missionary spirit, open to different cultures;
- the preparation and accompaniment of priests missioned outside the patriarchal territory;
- the promotion of vocations work in the communities outside of the patriarchal territory; and
- the sending of priests and the establishment of their own eparchies wherever the pastoral needs require them according to the canonical norms.
Emigration - Formation
We urge Churches in the countries which receive immigrants to be familiar with and to respect Eastern theology, traditions and patrimonies, and that this be reflected in their norms, and sacramental and administrative practices. This will help collaboration with Eastern Churches present in those countries, and in the formation and pastoral care of their faithful.
Communion within the Catholic Church
"The Holy Catholic Church, which is the Mystical Body of Christ, is made up of the faithful who are organically united in the Holy Spirit by the same faith, the same sacraments and the same government and who, combining together into various groups which are held together by a hierarchy, form separate Churches or Rites. Between these there exists an admirable bond of union, such that the variety within the Church in no way harms its unity; rather it manifests it" (Orientalium Ecclesiarum, 2). To strengthen this communion, we recommend:
- the creation of a commission of cooperation between the Catholic hierarchs of the Middle East, which will be responsible for the promotion of a common pastoral strategy, better understanding of one another's traditions, inter-ritual institutions and joint charitable organizations;
- the organisation of regular meetings between Catholic hierarchies of the Middle East;
- the sharing of material resources between rich and poor dioceses;
- the foundation of a priestly association, Fidei Donum, for the mutual assistance of eparchies and Churches.
The Jurisdiction of Patriarchs
Outside of the patriarchal territory, in order to maintain the communion of the Eastern faithful with their patriarchal Churches and to provide them with appropriate pastoral service, it is desirable to study the question of extending the jurisdiction of the Eastern Patriarchs to cover members of their Churches wherever they live throughout the world, with a view to taking appropriate measures.
Clerical celibacy has always and everywhere been respected and valued in the Catholic Churches, in the East as in the West. Nonetheless, with a view to the pastoral service of our faithful, wherever they are to be found, and to respect the traditions of the Eastern Churches, it would be desirable to study the possibility of having married priests outside the patriarchal territory.
Unity between the disciples of Christ in the Middle East is above all the work of the Spirit. It is to be sought through a conversion of the heart, in a spirit of prayer, respect, perseverance and love, far removed from any trace of the mistrust, fear and prejudice which constitute such obstacles to unity. We wish to see our Churches renew their ecumenical commitment through practical initiatives:
- by supporting the Council of the Churches of the Middle East;
- by providing our parishes, schools and seminaries with formation in an ecumenical spirit, underlining the achievements of the ecumenical movement;
- by implementing any pastoral agreements which may have been made;
- by organising meetings of the faithful and pastors for prayer, meditation on the Word of God and collaboration in all areas;
- by adopting a standard Arabic translation of the Our Father and the Nicene Creed; and
- by working for a common date for the celebrations of Christmas and Easter.
The synod fathers urge these Churches to inaugurate an ecumenical dialogue at the local level. They recommend also that the Eastern Catholic Churches take part as much as possible in international commissions for dialogue.
Feast of Martyrs
To inaugurate an annual feast in common for all the martyrs of the Churches of the Middle East and to request each Eastern Church to draw up a list of its own martyrs, witnesses of the faith. This was written with special emphasis on the martyrs of the 19th and 20th centuries.
The biblical and theological wealth of the Eastern liturgies is at the spiritual service of the universal Church. Nonetheless, it would be useful and important to renew the liturgical texts and celebrations, where necessary, so as to answer better the needs and expectations of the faithful. This renewal must be based on an ever deeper knowledge of tradition and be adapted to contemporary language and categories. This proposition has struck a chord in traditional Catholic circles as it is a lesson learned post-Vatican II (read: Novus Ordo). Much has been said about the need for organic growth over manufactured change where the life of the Church is concerned - especially in her liturgy - so that renewal means change with full respect for Tradition and not with an eye to the tastes of the current culture and perceived expediency of abbreviation or suppression of ancient customs.
The Virgin Mary
Holy Mary, the Virgin of Nazareth, who shows us how to listen to the Word of God, is the Blessed Daughter of our land. From the very beginning of Christian history, it was the theological reflection of our Eastern Churches which led to the decisive and glorious definition of Mary as "Theotokos", Mother of God.
In the liturgies of all our Churches, the Virgin Mary has a place of honour and is the object of the special love of all the People of God.
This Daughter of our land, whom all peoples call blessed, is justifiably invoked as Mother of the Church, especially since the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council.
Aware of the special bonds which, by God's design, unite us to the Mother of Jesus, we propose that our Churches come together and jointly entrust the entire Middle East to the protection of the Virgin Mary.