2010-10-09 15:34:04

Bishop Shomali on staying with conviction in the Holy Land

“The Catholic Church in the Middle East: communion and Witness” that’s the theme of a two week synod of bishops which gets underway here in the Vatican on Sunday. Over 300 church leaders, religious and lay experts have begun gathering for the opening Mass which takes place in St Peter’s Basilica on Sunday celebrated by Pope Benedict XVI. 13 delegates from other Christian churches will address the synod, as will a well known Jewish leader, Rabbi David Rosen and, for the first time, a Sunni and Shia Muslim representative.

While focusing primarily on the pastoral needs of the churches across the region, the meeting will also throw the spotlight on the complex political problems in these countries where Christians, mostly, live as minority communities and where many are fleeing from conflict, discrimination or economic hardship.

Among the areas which have suffered most from the exodus of Christians over recent years is the Holy Land itself, birthplace of the faith 2000 years ago but also source of many of the conflicts plaguing the region today.

“What we need to do is convince our people that remaining here is a vocation and not fatalism”.

So says Bishop William Shomali, auxiliary to the Latin Patriarch in Jerusalem and former rector of the seminary there. Speaking to Vatican Radio, he said that there are three contributing factors to the haemorrhaging of Christians from the Holy Land: “the three factors are security, economy and religion”. “This is a land that has suffered 8 conflicts in 80 years. It’s too much for a country”, “when the security is not good the economy is not good”.

The third reason is religious, says Bishop Shomali, “Christians are a minority – its not easy to live as a minority. This does not mean that there is persecution here, I refuse this affirmation”. However Bishop Shomali adds that many people simply “feel better living in the west”, particularly when it comes to their children’s education. “We need to help them to make the choice to stay, and help them to choose to stay with conviction”. Hear more: RealAudioMP3

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