Latin Patriarch Thankful For Middle East Synod

JERUSALEM (CNS) — In his annual Christmas message, Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal of Jerusalem thanked Pope Benedict XVI for convening the Synod of Bishops for the Middle East in October, noting that the gathering had stressed the importance of ecumenical and interreligious dialogue and condemned all forms of religious fundamentalism.

“We hope that his dialogue will advance not only within intellectual circles, among scholars and theologians, but be a dialogue of life for all segments of society,” Patriarch Twal said in the Dec. 21 message. “(The synod) called on religions to assume their responsibilities in promoting dialogue among cultures and civilizations in our region and in the entire world.”

He added that the synod had also called on Christians in the Middle East to live their lives involved in the development of their communities as “true believers and good citizens” both in Israel and in Arab countries.

A Palestinian, Patriarch Twal noted that talks between the Vatican and the Palestinian Authority had resumed on applying the basic agreement signed by the Vatican and the Palestine Liberation Organization in 2000. The discussions focused on religious freedom and fiscal legislation, he said.

Nevertheless, he said, Palestinians continue to “suffer from the failure of direct peace negotiations” on a broader scale.

“This should not lead us to despair,” he said. “We continue to believe that on both sides, and in the international community, there are men of goodwill who will work and put their energies together in their commitment for peace. We believe that nothing is impossible with God.”

The patriarch also urged Europe to take a greater role in peace efforts. “This process is still a monopoly of the United States,” he said.

Patriarch Twal offered condolences to the families of the victims of the recent four-day forest fire in the Carmel region of northern Israel that left 44 people dead.

“This sad event made us experience international solidarity,” he said. “The fact that the Palestinian Authority made available their team of firefighters was a very significant gesture and may be a beginning of a fruitful collaboration in the future, when peace will be established in this troubled land.”

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