February 12, 2000
1. The Diocesan Synod of the Catholic Churches (which is a local general
ecclasial council) held its General Assembly in Bethlehem, the birthplace
of our Lord Jesus Christ, from February 8-12,2000.
Those who participated in the General Assembly of the Synod were members of the Assembly of Catholic Ordinaries in the Holy Land (the Roman Catholics, the Greek Catholics, the Maronites, the Syrian Catholics, the Armenian Catholics, and the Custody of the Holy Land).
2. Other participants were representative of priests, and religious
men and women, and the laity from various parishes. The participants numbered
about 300 persons.
Representatives of other Christian Churches were invited as well as Muslims, Druze, and Jews.
A representative of the Holy See and of the Congregation of the Oriental Churches attended as well as the Apostolic Delegate and Nuncio.
The General Assembly was the conclusion of a long synodal process that began in 1995.
The meeting was marked by a spirit of prayer, brotherhood, and fellowship, as well as by Grious reflection, a shared sense of the Church, constructive dialogue, and an intellectual and spiritual open mindness shared by all.
The meetings of the General Assembly were a strong synodal and ecclessial experience.
They reminded all of the spirit of the first Christian Church where we read in the Acts of the Apostles that the believers were persevering in following the teaching of the apostles, in fellowship, in the breaking of the bread, and in prayer.
They also shared their possessions. The group of believers had one heart and one soul and they praised God, finding favour with all people.
3. The Assembly dealt with 16 subjects that revolved around the basic themes of the Synod: Believers in Christ, Participants in the Church, Witnesses in Society. These themes were studied previously at various levels in eachparish.
4. The task of the General Assembly was the formulation of the General
Pastoral Plan that would be a source for the Catholic Churches and a work
program in all the activities of these Churches, and in their pastoral,
Spiritual, cultural, social, national, economic, and political Services.
The Subjects discussed were:
4-1 Common programs for religious education in the Churches.
4-2 Intensification of adult religious education, the practice of the sacraments, prayer and Spiritual life.
4-3 Effective participation in the life of the Church; the special roles of religious men and women, and of the laity.
4-4 The mission of the Catholic school.
4-5 The co-operation between the Churches in view of Christian unity which is a condition for the success of the mission of the Churches in serving society in the areas of health, culture and social work.
4-6 The presence and witness of the Church in society. This subject attracted special interest in this historic meeting for all the previous subjects aim at the intensification and support and activation of Christian presence which will help the Church to be a better servant and witness. The Church witnesses through its constructive, committed Service to the community in this Holy Land where the Lord Jesus wanted us to be a faithful, active and committed presence. We are called to seek justice, peace, human dignity and evangelical values in co-operation and participation with all citizens, fellow Christians, Muslims and Jews, in this world where we live, in which we belong, and which we care for. In this way Christians express their firm desire to remain present and incarnate and persevering in their land and its holy places.
4-7 The issue of peace, the Palestinian question and the problem of Jerusalem were given special concern in the discussion. For Jerusalem has a unique permanent, doctrinal importance with deep roots for our Christian Arab and Palestinian thinking. It is not possible or acceptable for us to give up our established rights. Jerusalem is a holy city for three religions and for two peoples, the Palestinian and the Israeli. All of them feel that they are at home there, in their city and in their holy places, and that they live in it with dignity, equality, security, stability, brotherhood, co-operation, and solidarity. We are also concerned with action for justice and peace.-in all our Arab countries: Jordan, Palestine, Syria and Lebanon.
4-8 The issue of inter-religious relations, took up a good share of the discussion, and the participants affirmed their sincere desire to live with conviction. joy, and hope in this Arab Christian, Islamic and Jewish society. 1t is God's will for us to live as Christians is an indivisible part of our societies, neither aliens, nor es people carrying a constant yearning for emigration within ourselves. This firm conviction is the solid basis for the realisation of the true Christian commitment that was indicated in the previous section.
5. Thus Christians will enter the new millennium with a new joy, a new spirit, and a high morale, with determination, faith, hope and love. They will draw from the teachings of the divine teacher Jesus Christ and from the teachings of His Holy Gospel: energy, determination to realise their common general pastoral plan so that in the new millennium they might be faithful to Jesus they were in the first two millennia. Thus they will also be participants in the Church and witnesses in society.
In this spirit we await the visit of the Holy Father, and we will welcome
him as a pilgrim whose prayers will renew our faith, and whose prophetic
word will encourage the unity of our Churches and our people in their wearing
search for Justice and Peace.
Assembly of Catholic Ordinaries of the Holy Land