05/07/2005, 00.00
SYRIA
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Gregory III Laham: No to fundamentalism, hope for a peaceful Arab world

by Jihad Issa

Damascus (AsiaNews) – An utter rejection of fundamentalism and hope for a peaceful and reconciled Arab world. These are the main contents of an apostolic letter "The 50th day" written by the Greek-Melchite Patriarch, Gregory III Laham, of Antioch, Jerusalem and Alexandria.

The patriarch exhorted the faithful of his Church to "show efforts worthy of their vocation in the Arab world" and to "reflect on the state of those baptized" and "redeemed by the cross of the Lord". He urged the faithful towards "sincere repentance from the heart", so conversion will take place and "worthily host" the Holy Spirit.

He also called on the entire Greek-Melchite Church to "lift up fervent prayers" for the repose of the soul of the deceased pontiff, John Paul II, and for "long life" for the new Supreme Pontiff Benedict XVI.

The letter ends with a strong appeal to the faithful to remain "in this blessed land", which has "witnessed great events in religious history". The patriarch expressed "full conviction" about the importance of dialogue – ecumenical and inter-religious – and showed "optimism and hope" in seeing a "reconciled and peaceful" Arab world as soon as possible. Gregory III also reiterated "with vigour" the "total rejection of all fundamentalism from whichever source it comes".

The Greek-Melchite Church is a Patriarchal Church which follows the Byzantine rite: its faithful are scattered all over the Middle East. Since 2000, His Beatitude Gregory III has been leading this church from three sees: one in Damascus – where he presides over the assembly of patriarchs and Catholic bishops – another in Egypt and a third in Lebanon.
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