2010-10-13 17:41:45

Intervention of Rev. F. José RODRÍGUEZ CARBALLO, General Minister of the Franciscan Order of Friars Minor (ITALY)

In the year 1218 St Francis of Assisi departed for the East. In Damietta he met with Sultan Malek al Kamil. In the manner of the crucified, the poor man did not commence with weapons, nor with the desire of conquest, but with the firm will to encounter others, the different and, in that situation, the enemy. Do not go against anybody, but in the midst of, among (cf. 1 Rule 16.5). It is the teaching of “non violence” and of dialogue. Since then we, the Franciscans, have been continuously present (cf. Paul VI) in the Holy Land, as Custodians of the Holy Places, on behalf of the Catholic Church, and the “living stones”, in schools, parishes and in the numerous social services available to all, without distinction of creed. It is the small/great miracle of this prophetic act of Francis at Damietta, and of the teaching of non-violence and of the “dialogue of life”.
Dialogue-become-encounter has no possible alternative in relations with other Christian communities–ecumenical dialogue; it has no alternative in connection with Judaism and Islam–interreligious dialogue–which requires the recognition of the spiritual and moral qualities that exist in these religions ( cf. NA 2) but, following the methodology proposed by St. Francis in his Rule, also calls for the profession of their faith with life in every moment, without syncretism or relativism, with humility and without initiating disputes, and, when it pleases the Lord, even with the word (cf. 1 Rule 16, 6 7). Dialogue and the “way of non violence” has no alternative even in relation to the whole peace process in the region.

Faced with the tragic spectacle of so many conflicts in the Holy Land and against thewidespread idea that religions are the basis for them, Christians are called to show the world that religions, lived in authenticity, are to foster understanding between different peoples, in the service of peace, and that shape the hearts of the reconciled and the reconcilors. Reconciliation in the Middle East requires the encounter of religions, and for we as Christians through the meeting/dialogue between the distinct Christian denominations. “Without communion there is no witness” (Benedict XVI).
In the context of the new evangelization I make four proposals:
- To create one unique catechism for all the Catholics in the Middle East.
- To take concrete initiatives for a formation appropriate to the needs of the new evangelisation, of the particular situation of the Middle East, of all the pastoral agents, priests, religous and the laity.
- In continuity with the Pauline Year, to celebrate a year dedicated to St John in all the Churches of the Middle East, if possible with the brothers of the non-Catholic Churches.
- To enhance biblical studies, especially through the three Biblical Institutes already present in Jerusalem: the the Franciscans’ Faculty of Biblical Sciences and Archaeology, the Dominicans’ School of the Bible and Archeology, and the Jesuits’ Biblical Institute.
Further, I hope that, in the face of the steady decline of Christians in the Holy Land, a word of comfort arises out of this Synod for the Christian and, in particular, Catholic, communities living in those lands. The Synod is a good opportunity to forcefully strengthen ecumenical and interreligious dialogue. It raises, further, an intense and faithful prayer for peace in the Middle East and Jerusalem, and an urgent call to those who hold in their hands the destiny of the peoples of the Middle East and especially in the Holy Land, that they may hear the cry of many men and women of good will that cry out for peace and respect for justice.

[00068-02.16] [IN045] [Original text: Italian]

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