AMMAN – On October 2, the Catholic Ordinaries of the Holy Land began their two-day General Assembly at the Queen of Peace Center of the Latin Patriarchate, Amman. On the agenda, among other topics, is the adoption of two official texts pertaining to “Guidelines in cases of Sexual Abuse” and “Military and Civil Service of Christians in Israel”.
About 14 participants were welcomed by Bishop Selim Sayegh, Bishop Emeritus of Jordan, and Fr. Imad Twal, the Center’s director. During this session, the Assembly renewed the term of the Secretary General, Fr. Pietro Felet, for five more years.
The meeting is conducted “in a very brotherly atmosphere among Bishops”, according to Bishop Marcuzzo, Patriarchal Vicar for Israel, and “discussions have gone smoothly”. The questions, however, are numerous and complex in view of a very charged regional and pastoral situation.
The first day was devoted to the study of outlines of the last meeting, of the last documents received from Rome, of reports on activities by youth and family delegates, of feed-back on the historical meeting in Amman regarding the “challenges facing Arab Christians”. The meeting was sponsored by King Abdullah, which brought together no less than 70 Patriarchs, Vicars, bishops, priests and other important figures from Christian communities in the area. On the other hand, the issue of Syrian refugees in Jordan was explained in detail by witnesses brought in by Caritas Jordan and four priests who are involved in this socio-humanitarian action, in Mafraq, Hosson and Zarqa. Today, Jordan is a fragile haven, sheltering more than 1 million refugees. Additionally, a meeting was held with the chaplains (English-speaking, Sri-Lankan, and Hispanic) in charge of immigration and pastoral ministry within the diocese. The first day concluded with a Solemn Mass in honour of the feast day of Pope Francis (Editor’s Note: the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi is fixed on October 4), celebrated by the Nuncio in Jordan and Iraq, Archbishop Giorgio Lingua, and the homily by Patriarch Fouad Twal, followed by an official reception hostedby the Apostolic Nunciature.
Official documents for adoption
On the second day of the meeting, the Ordinaries are expected to adopt two official documents on “Guidelines in case of sexual abuses” and “Military and civil service of Christians in Israel” A round up of several topics should conclude the full session, including the problems faced by Christian Schools in the Holy Land, regarding financing non official educational institutions, closing of the Year of Faith with a plan to hold an International Day of Faith in Nazareth on the 16th and 17th of November; and feedback from the National Biblical Competition, which took place earlier this year. The question of a meeting for the Judges of a common Church Court and for judges from different rites will also be raised. The question of an Assembly for the judges of the ecclesiastical courts of the various rites was discussed.
The next meeting has been scheduled for March 11-12, 2014, possibly in Cyprus. Otherwise, the Assembly of Ordinaries will meet in MountTabor, Galilee. The central topic will be chosen from points to be discussed in the forthcoming meeting of the Catholic Patriarchs of the East with Pope Francis in Rome on November 22-23, 2013. Representatives of the Orthodox Church may be present. The meeting, being held at a time when war in Syria and the rising of Islamism are sources of serious concern for the Christian minorities of the East, will expectedly take place at the end of the full assembly of the Congregation for Oriental Churches.
Christophe Lafontaine with correspondent