Syriac Catholic Bishops Cite Challenges Christians Face in Middle East

The Syriac Catholic bishops, gathered in Lebanon for the first time since 2019 because of the pandemic, called on the governments of the Middle East to work “to stop wars and renounce the logic of sectarianism and racism”.

In a statement following their September 12-19 meeting, chaired by Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignatius Joseph III Younan, the bishops reviewed the “grave challenges facing Christians in the East, especially the immigration due to political, security and economic conditions. “

The bishops said they had studied the dioceses spread across Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, the Persian Gulf, Jerusalem, Jordan, Egypt and Turkey, “and the calamities that befell them as a result of the various wars and Conflicts”.

They said their hearts “were so moved by the many pastoral, cultural, social and spiritual activities which lead the children of the church to joy and hope for the future.”

The bishops also thanked Christian humanitarian works “which contribute to the reconstruction of what has been destroyed by the forces of darkness”.

Regarding “the wounded country of Lebanon”, the Syriac Catholic bishops said they had prayed for the country “and its economic, social, health and educational crises”.

Lebanon, which spent 13 months without a government, quickly fell back into an economic and political crisis called by the World Bank one of the worst in the world since the 1850s.

The bishops called on the new Lebanese government, formed on September 10, “to work quickly to alleviate the suffering of the Lebanese people”.

The United Nations has determined that 78% of Lebanese now live in poverty, up from less than 30% before 2019.

The bishops also called on the Lebanese government “to work seriously on a criminal examination to uncover the fate of Lebanese money and bank deposits, which have been looted”.

For two years, Lebanese banks have imposed a de facto account freeze, limiting withdrawals and prohibiting depositors from transferring their own money abroad. The Lebanese currency has lost more than 90% of its value, causing wages to drop to barely a tenth of their previous value.

In addition, the bishops called on the government to “reveal the truth” about the Beirut port explosion in August 2020, which killed more than 200 people, injured more than 6,000 people, left 300,000 people homeless and shattered. lives and livelihoods in Beirut and beyond. There has been no report of responsibility for the disaster.

In their statement, the Syriac Catholic prelates underlined that the legislative elections in Lebanon must take place as planned in May “to form a new political class which will emerge in Lebanon from its repression”.

The bishops expressed disappointment that Syriacs in general and the Syriac Catholic community in particular were not represented in the newly formed government.

Lebanon’s new cabinet consists of 11 Christian ministers, 9 Muslim ministers (five Shiites and four Sunnis) and two Druze ministers. Among the Christian ministers are five Maronite Catholics, two Melkite Catholics, two Greek Orthodox, one Latin Rite Catholic and one Armenian apostolic.

The Syriac Catholic bishops also addressed the situation of churches in the United States, Canada, Australia, Europe and Venezuela, in particular following the increase in the number of Syriacs forcibly displaced from their countries of origin, in particularly from Syria and Iraq.

The bishops underlined the importance of accompanying the faithful “to their new countries, and of taking care of them by placing priests at their disposal to serve them and by creating churches and cultural, spiritual and social centers which will serve them. gather “.

They called on the faithful emigrants “to adhere to their religious, cultural and liturgical roots, and to take up the challenge of their assimilation in Western countries”.

Coinciding with the synod, which took place at the patriarchal monastery of Our Lady of Deliverance near Harissa, Our Lady of Lebanon, north of Beirut, Patriarch Younan celebrated his 50th anniversary as a priest and the 25th anniversary of his episcopal ordination on September 12.

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