Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Suffering of Middle Eastern Catholics - My November Fraternity Newsletter Column

“They (Secular Franciscans) have been made living members of the Church by being buried and raised with Christ in baptism; they have been united more intimately with the Church by profession. Therefore, they should go forth as witnesses and instruments of her mission among all people, proclaiming Christ by their life and words.” (Art. 6a, SFO Rule)

Recently, an Extraordinary Synod of Bishops concerning the Middle East was held at the Vatican; attended mostly by Eastern Catholic patriarchs and bishops. Sadly, it was not long after the Synod concluded that an Eastern Catholic church in Baghdad was attacked by terrorists; killing a number of laity and clergy.

In the past, there was a significant number of Catholic Christians in the Middle East, mostly Eastern rite Catholics. Many Western Catholics may not have been aware of their existence. Their first view of them may have been at the funeral of Pope John Paul II, when a group of Eastern patriarchs, offered prayers for the deceased pontiff. Since the Israeli – Arab conflict began; the community of Christians in the Holy Land has significantly decreased. Palestinian Christians face suspicion from both the Israeli and Moslem communities. This pressure has caused many Christian families to leave the Middle East for what they hope will be safer lands. In other countries in the Middle East, native Christians face discrimination, at worst, violent attacks, especially in Iraq.

As we are approaching the season of Advent, and the celebration of Christmas, a significant day of celebration in the Holy Land, let us remember our Eastern rite brothers and sisters. Let us keep them in our prayers, for their safety and well-being.

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