Statement of the Conference of Latin Bishops of the Arab Regions (CELRA)
NICOSIA – From July 6 to July 9, 2015, Bishops from the Arabian Peninsula, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Palestine, Israel, Cyprus, Djibouti and Somalia had their annual meeting. Below is the communiqué they released at the end of the meeting.
Our sixty-fifth meeting took place at the Franciscan convent of the Holy Cross in Nicosia (Cyprus), from July 6 to 9, 2015, with the participation of bishops coming from the Arabian Peninsula, Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan, Palestine, Israel, Cyprus, Djibouti and Somalia. We met Christian and Muslim religious leaders at the Maronite Archbishopric and sensed the ecumenical spirit among the various Christian Churches. We went on a pilgrimage to the Tomb of Saint Barnabas, apostle of Cyprus, and we prayed for an improvement in the relations between the Turkish and the Greek parts of the island. We paid a visit to the Greek Orthodox Archbishop Chrysostom II.
After a rich exchange about the pastoral situations in our respective countries, we studied four themes, which were proposed by the program: consecrated life, the future of the Christian community in the Middle East, the family and the Jubilee of Mercy.
1. Consecrated life: The religious congregations, the new communities and the ecclesial movements present in our dioceses carry out much appreciated work, putting their evangelical charisma, composed of prayer, charity and communion, at the service of our Churches. While saluting these communities, which continue to work for peace and reconciliation in areas of conflict, we call on all religious communities to improve fluency in the local languages, enter into the culture of the people they want to serve and lovingly integrate even more fully into the local pastoral plan in order to provide even better service.
2. The future of the Christian community: We, bishops, participate in the sufferings of our people in the areas where great political instability prevails. More than a year has passed since the Gaza war and the fall of Mosul as well as five months since the Arab coalition proclaimed war in Yemen, yet there is no sign or glimmer of hope. Despite the desperate situation of our communities in Syria and Iraq, we insist that our future depends on the quality of our faith. Furthermore, we are confident that interreligious dialogue can help to better coexistence with our Muslim brothers because there are many people of good will, who reject radicalism and intolerance and respect the freedom of conscience and religious pluralism.
Therefore, we reiterate what we wrote in our statement last year:
“No peace without justice as there is no justice without respect for human, social and religious rights. A true peace requires forgiveness and reconciliation. Otherwise, the same factors that produced the conflict will continue to generate more hatred and more wars.”
One cannot kill in the name of God, nor manipulate religion for political or economic interests, as every human being is entitled to respect regardless of his religious or ethnic affiliation or his minority status.
3. In view of the forthcoming Synod on the family to be held in Rome during the month of October, we exchanged ideas about the beauty of the Christian family, willed by God according to the model of the Holy Family of Nazareth. We discussed the various challenges to the family in general, and especially those related to bio-ethics. We need to form couples to be open to life, the gift of God and the fruit of human love. We brought to mind those couples that are separated or in crisis. We expect much fruit from the upcoming Synod and invite our faithful to pray for the Synod Fathers so that the Lord might enlighten them in giving appropriate responses to the challenges and risks run by the institution of the family.
4. We thank Pope Francis for having established a Year of Mercy in order to preach mercy to the whole world, inviting all urgently to conversion and reconciliation at all levels: individual, family, national and international. We will make a special effort to fully rediscover and enhance the beauty of the sacrament of reconciliation and the practice of corporal and spiritual works of mercy.
The bishops of the CELRA
Nicosia, July 9, 2015.