Syriac Catholic Archbishop Youhanna Jihad Battah Syriac Catholic Archbishop Youhanna Jihad Battah 

Syriac Catholic Archbishop: We must listen to the needs of the faithful

Speaking to Vatican News at a synodal assembly in the Middle East, Archbishop Youhanna Jihad Battah urges his fellow bishops to consult the faithful: “We cannot give orders and make decrees with knowing about their needs.”

By Joseph Tulloch and Fr. Jean-Pierre Yammine

Delegates from Catholic Churches across the Middle East have gathered in Lebanon for the region’s Continental Synodal Assembly.

In between sessions, Vatican News’ Jean-Pierre Yammine spoke with Archbishop Youhanna Jihad Battah, Syriac Catholic Archbishop of Damascus, Syria.

In a brief interview, Archbishop Battah stressed the importance of synodality to the life of the Church, but cautioned that instability in the Middle East makes it difficult to live it out in practice.

A call to synodality

Addressing his fellow bishops, Archbishop Battah called on them to embrace a synodal approach.

“I ask my colleagues and brothers in the episcopate to call young people and the laity to participate in the synods,” he said, referring not only to the worldwide Synod on Synodality but also to the various local synods of the Eastern Churches.

There is a long and rich history of synodality in the Christian East. Archbishop Battah had particular praise for the women's synod in the Maronite Church and the youth synod of his own Syriac Catholic Church, which, he said, meets regularly, and recently managed to bring together “all the young people from our Church in Syria.”

Synodality is essential, he stressed, because it allows the bishops to hear about the needs of the faithful they serve: “We cannot give orders and make decrees without knowing about their needs.”

Basic necessities

The Archbishop did, however, stress that it can be difficult for the Churches of the Middle East to keep their focus on synodality while they are suffering from great instability.

Referring to crises such as the deteriorating economic situation in Syria and Lebanon, and the exodus of young people from many countries in the region, he said, “Before we can participate, before we can walk together, we need to feel secure.”

A path of hope for the Middle East

Also present at the Continental Assembly was Maryse Saghbini. A professor of Theology at Université Saint Joseph in Beirut, she also works with the Greek Melkite Archeparchy of Saïda.

Speaking to Vatican News, she expressed her hope that the Church might emerge from the synodal process “with a new way of seeing the world, of situating ourselves in relation to the world.”

“I hope,” she continued, that “the Word of God might be a living word, giving meaning to our life, giving meaning to our world, with all the challenges that it has, especially our region, where we’re experiencing immense tensions at all levels.”

“I think that this path will be a path of hope for our Churches today in the Middle East,” she concluded.

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15 February 2023, 12:50