By Robin Gomes
"Be the heart of your countries, the artisans of their history, whatever the cruelty of the times and of men." This was the encouragement of the patriarchs of the Eastern Catholic Churches to their young people of the Middle East.
"Faced with the difficulties and challenges you confront because of the situation in the Middle East and the haemorrhage of emigration that threatens your future and the Christian presence throughout the East, we stand by you and share your pain,” the Council of Catholic Patriarchs of the East (CPCO) said in a final message following its 26th meeting in Baghdad, Iraq, November 26-30.
The theme of the meeting was “Youth a Sign of Hope in the Middle East Countries.”
The Catholic patriarchs urged the young people to "remain firm in the faith and in their lands" and at the same time to "contribute to the construction" of their countries. "We are a small number,” the patriarchs said, reminding them of Jesus who said they were “salt, light and yeast” and were a Church of martyrs.
“Believe and love as God loves all his creation,” they exhorted. “ Be strong believers in your love and builders of your lands of origin with all your compatriots, sharing in their suffering and sacrifice, to ensure prosperity and life.”
The Catholic leaders admitted that the very existence of Christians in the region was under threat but the faithful continue “to bear witness to the Lord Jesus amid a turbulent world interrupted by mighty waves.”
Solidarity with Palestinians
The patriarchs pledged their solidarity with the Palestinian people who continue to be oppressed by the occupation and by the stalemate in the peace process. They urged the international community to support the Palestine state in the framework of the two-state solution and the return of Palestinian refugees to their homeland.
They reiterated their total rejection of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, the shifting of the US embassy to Jerusalem and the recent law that defines Israel as the Nation-State of the Jewish People.
Regarding Syria, the CPCO expressed satisfaction over “the stability in most parts of the country, where life has returned to normal,” hoping the rest of the country will also follow suit. The Catholic leaders appealed to all decision-makers to work hard for the return of displaced people and refugees, which they stressed “will have a profound impact” on maintaining national unity “so that Syria will be the land of peace, freedom and dignity.”
The patriarchs appreciated Lebanon’s effort in welcoming Syrian refugees and displaced
The CPCO appreciated the "stability" and "coexistence" in Jordan and Egypt’s efforts to renew the “religious discourse” through the elimination of hatred and the recognition of equality based on the principle of "citizenship" and brotherhood of all.
The next meeting of the Catholic patriarchs will be hosted by the Coptic Catholic Patriarchate of Alexandria in Cairo, Egypt, from 25 to 29 November 2019.