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Candid working document outlines troubles for Middle East Synod

Catholic World News - January 19, 2010

The Vatican has released the lineamenta, or preliminary working document, for the October discussions at a special Synod of Bishops for the Middle East. The document, introduced at a January 19 press conference by Archbishop Nikola Eterovic, the secretary-general of the Synod, will be distributed to all the world’s bishops with a request for comments. The responses will be fashioned into the instrumentum laboris that will form the basis for discussions at the Synod meeting. The Vatican schedule calls for Pope Benedict XVI to unveil the instrumentum laboris during his June trip to Cyprus.

The lineamenta encourages discussion of the special problems that Christians face in the Middle East. The topics for discussion include the challenges facing a religious minority in Muslim countries (or, in the single case of Israel, a Jewish country); the limitations on religious freedom; the steady exodus of young Christians looking for better opportunities elsewhere; and the need for coordination and dialogue among the various Eastern churches.

The Synod document includes some candid reflections on the difficult political circumstances confronting Christians in the region. "The Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories makes everyday life, freedom of movement, economic and religious life difficult,” the document notes. Muslims tend to regard Christianity as a Western influence, and so hostility against Western governments is frequently translated into contempt for Christianity.

The lineamenta points to specific problems facing Christians in several countries. In Iraq, the religious minority is under pressure from militant Islamic forces, with the government slow to offer protection from violence. In Lebanon, “Christians are deeply divided along political and confessional lines,” and a state traditionally friendly to the faith is struggling to maintain its autonomy. In Turkey, the government’s ideological commitment to secularism imposes restrictions on Christian churches, if not to the Islamic majority.

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