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11-ACN-NASSAR

Faith is not weakened by persecution or charity

It takes a brave person to speak up on religious injustice and persecution in the Middle East as tensions spiral, especially if that person lives in the region. It takes a wise person to identify those who need to take responsibility and action for these problems without apportioning blame or pointing fingers. Archbishop Elias Nassar is such a person.

The Maronite-rite Catholic bishop of Saida, Lebanon, spoke last week to Aid to the Church in Need supporters in Scotland during a visit to Motherwell Diocese organised by the charity. His message, a call for people to stand in solidarity with the Middle East faithful, comes at a poignant time ahead of the October 20 consistory of cardinals on the crisis facing Christians in the Middle East called by Pope Francis and after the Vatican meeting of the Apostolic nuncios from the Middle East earlier this month.

In the spirit of solidarity called for by the Holy Father, Archbishop Nassar and Aid to the Church in Need, this week’s SCO front page carries the Aramaic/Arabic symbol Christian—a symbol used by the IS to identify Christian homes and businesses to be targeted in countries such as Libya and now displayed on social media by many identifying themselves as members of the Christian family to support the Faithful in the Middle East.

In spite of the interest in the ongoing extraordinary synod on the family, and the occasional insights gained by a summary of opening prayers, by-and-large talks given by bishops at the gathering are being kept private, something that even the Pope’s own doctrinal head—Cardinal Gerhard Müller— is struggling with. The Pope called for free and candid discussion during the synod, but clearly for its participants not for the sound bite-obsessed 24-7 news cycle.

Even so, the relatio post disceptationem document summing up the synod so far has been described as a ‘pastoral earthquake’ by Vatican commentators such as John Thavis. The document by synod fathers selected by Pope Francis, instructs the Church to build on the ‘positive aspects’ of irregular relationships—such as between remarried couples or same-sex partners—and keep the ‘doors always wide open’ to such people. This is described as an act of charity.

It is expected that only after the synod concludes on Sunday will the official outcome of its deliberations be made public, and even then only as a pre-cursor to the love is our mission (the family fully alive)-themed World Synod on the Family next October. Perhaps we should all keep that in mind before allowing interim reports to carry too much sway.

 

Pic: Tom Eadie

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  • European bishops’ family life commission meet in Scotland
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