Highlights from the pope’s apostolic exhortation

Keep Alive the Flame of Divine Love
Highlights from the apostolic exhortation of Pope Benedict XVI

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In September, Pope Benedict XVI made a historic trip to Lebanon to deliver a document addressing the church’s concern for the Christians of the Middle East. That “apostolic exhortation” grew out of the Special Assembly for the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops in 2010. In this new document, the Holy Father addresses several issues that have marked the work of CNEWA since the agency’s founding — including works of charity, formation of persons and the call for unity, “that all may be one.” What follows are excerpts from the exhortation, entitled “On the Church in the Middle East: Communion and Witness.” The excerpts conclude with a short interview with Father Elias Mallon, CNEWA’s external affairs officer, who helps put the exhortation in context. You can also read the entire document on our website

Call entrusted to patriarchs and leaders of the churches in the Middle East.
“The church in the Middle East, which from the dawn of Christian faith has made her pilgrim way in those holy lands, today courageously continues her witness, the fruit of a life of communion with God and neighbor. Communion and Witness! This was the conviction which occasioned the Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for the Middle East, which gathered around the Successor of Peter from 10 to 24 October 2010 to discuss the theme, “The Catholic Church in the Middle East: Communion and Witness. ‘Now the company of those who believed were of one heart and one soul.’ ” (Acts 4:32)

“At the beginning of this third millennium, I wish to entrust this conviction, which draws its strength from Jesus Christ, to the pastoral concern of all the pastors of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church, and in a more particular way to my esteemed brothers the patriarchs, archbishops and bishops who together, in union with the bishop of Rome, oversee the Catholic Church in the Middle East.” (paragraphs 1, 2)

Call to unity of Catholic churches.
“It is precisely because it is divine in origin that communion has a universal extension. While it clearly engages Christians ... it remains no less open to our Jewish and Muslim brothers and sisters, and to all those ordered ... to the People of God. The Catholic Church in the Middle East is aware that she will not be able fully to manifest this communion at the ecumenical and interreligious level unless she has revived it in herself…” (3)

Four pillars of early church.
“The unity of believers was thus nourished by the teaching of the Apostles (the proclamation of God’s word), to which they responded with unanimous faith, by fraternal communion (the service of charity), by the breaking of bread (the Eucharist and sacraments), and by prayer. ... It was on these four pillars that communion and witness were based within the first communion of believers.” (5)

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