06/22/2005, 00.00
LEBANON
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Gregory III Laham: "Reconciling the Church and defending the Christian vocation"

by Youssef Hourany

Ain Trez (AsiaNews) – Total reconciliation of the church and defence of the Christian vocation in the Middle East: this was the main thrust of the opening speech of Greco-Melchite Patriarch, Gregory III Laham, at the Synod attended by more than 30 bishops from around the world.

The Synod of Patriarchs is currently under way in Ain Trez in Mount Lebanon, the summer headquarters of Patriarch Gregory III Laham. The Patriarch said deliberations during these days "are aimed at studying current problems and the most appropriate solutions of the Greco-Melchite Church". Gregory III invited all the bishops to "walk together" and pinpointed "total reconciliation" as the only way towards prosperity of the Church. "Reconciliation must be made concerning our history, our tradition and our liturgical rites," he said. "And it is important that our particular vocation is defended and reconciled within this Arab world with a Muslim majority." For him, "the only means through which we can strengthen the Christian presence in the Middle-East is the universal call towards the Lord's Supper".

The Patriarch recalled the death of John Paul II whom he defined as "the conscience of the world"; he emphasized the deceased pontiff's precious legacy and his address to bishops of the Greco-Melchite Church in 2001, when he confirmed that "our Church is a strong church in harmony". Gregory III announced that priests attending the Synod will concelebrate a mass for John Paul II on Thursday 23 June. Another part of his address was dedicated to the importance of new pope Benedict XVI's ideas on ecumenism and dogma.

The Patriarch closed his inaugural speech by outlining deliberations set to take place, namely about the Christian presence in the Middle-East and the situation in Iraq and Palestine. Gregory III then invited all the faithful of the Church to "raise up confident prayers for peace in the world".

There are over two million Greco-Melchite Catholics around the world. Around 700,000 are based in the east.

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