Synod: Middle East Christians and Islam

VATICAN CITY — Coptic Catholic Patriarch Antonios and Jesuit Father Samir Khalil Samir of St. Joseph’s University in Beirut will meet with members of the press tomorrow, 20 October, from 10 to 11 a.m. at the Istituto Maria SS. Bambina, Via Paulo VI, No. 21, which runs along the southern side of the Piazza S. Pietro.

While the patriarch and the professor live in two vastly different countries, they live in an Arab Muslim world that, in the words of the patriarch, “has confessional, cultural and ideological differences.” How do they describe Christian-Islamic relations in the region? Are these experiences a clash of civilizations or an encounter of cultures?

The Coptic Catholic Church, which includes some 164,000 people, shares the rites and traditions of the Coptic Orthodox Church, the preeminent church of Egypt including 8 million, or some 10 percent of the population. Father Samir Khalil Samir is professor of Arab culture and Islamic studies at the Jesuit-run institution.

Founded in 1926 by Pope Pius XI, CNEWA is an agency of the Holy See providing aid to the churches and peoples of the Middle East, Northeast Africa, India and Eastern Europe. Its operating agency in the Middle East, the Pontifical Mission for Palestine, was founded by Pope Pius XII to provide humanitarian assistance to refugees displaced by the Arab-Israeli war in 1948. Today, the Pontifical Mission today functions as the Holy See’s relief and development agency for the Middle East. Programs include emergency relief to displaced Iraqi and Palestinian families, community redevelopment projects, job-creation programs and pre– and postnatal medical care.

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