Reconciliation marks Melkite Catholic Church Synod of Bishops

BEIRUT (CNS) — The Melkite Catholic Church resumed its Synod of Bishops after a nearly eight-month interruption.

The bishops thanked “the divine redeemer for the spirit of reconciliation and renewed commitment to walk together in partnership to restore peace in the church” in a statement released at the conclusion of the three-day meeting Feb. 23 at the patriarchate in Rebweh, Lebanon.

The synod’s resumption followed a boycott of it in June by several bishops, leaving the gathering without a quorum. At issue was the management of some landholdings of the Melkite Catholic Church. The bishops who did not attend had called for the resignation of Patriarch Gregoire III Laham, 83, who has held his post since 2000.

“The synod thanks the Holy Father Francis for his attention to issues of our church property,” the statement said.

Archbishop Gabriele Caccia, the Vatican’s nuncio to Lebanon, and Cardinal Mario Zenari, nuncio to Syria, also attended the synod.

In their statement, the bishops expressed “regret and concern over the persistent difficulties that have emerged in recent times.” They stressed the meeting allowed “a frank dialogue … to reach positive results.”

In June after the synod prematurely concluded, the patriarch cited the bishops’ absence as a “case of open rebellion,” which he said contradicts the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches.

He maintained that “the patriarchal seat is considered vacant only (upon) the patriarch’s death or renunciation of his office.”

The patriarch in that statement called for three days of prayer and fasting regarding the “ordeal” facing the Melkite Catholic Church and suggested that prayer hours be organized in convents, monasteries and parishes as well as in homes, especially in the presence of children and the sick.

The bishops’ new statement, characterized by reconciliation and a renewed commitment to serving the Melkite Catholic Church, urged the faithful to walk with Jesus in order to represent all people who are suffering from wars and violence in the Middle East. They also called for repentance and good deeds during Lent.

The next synod is scheduled for June.

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