Address of Archbishop Eterović to Mideast Synod

"The Holy Land Is Dear to All Christians"

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VATICAN CITY, OCT. 11, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Here is an excerpt of the Vatican translation of the report of the secretary-general of the Synod of Bishops, Archbishop Nikola Eterović, given today on the first day of the Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for the Middle East.



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Holy Father,
Your Eminences and Excellencies,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

“Go from your country and your kindred and your father's house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing” (Gen 12:1, 2). Abram, born in Ur of the Chaldeans, heard these words addressed to him by God in Haran. He passed through the region and dwelt near the Oak of Moreh (cf. Gen 12:6). He then set up camp in Negeb (cf. Gen 12:9), went down into Egypt (cf. Gen 12:10-20), returned to Negeb, went to Bethel (cf. Gen 13:1, 2) and then to the land of Canaan (cf. Gen 12:12), where he came and dwelt at the Oaks of Mamre, in Hebron (cf. Gen 13:18). God made a covenant with his servant Abram, who became Abraham, because he was given a special mission: “Behold, my covenant is with you, and you shall be the father of a multitude of nations. No longer shall your name be Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations” (Gen 17: 4, 5). Knowing the faith and justice of Abram (cf. Gen 15:6), God made him a threefold promise: a son, a people beyond counting and a land. The oath of the God of Israel will never fail, as St. Paul attests (cf. Rm 9:1-11:36).

“I am who am!” (Ex 3:14), are the holy words of the Lord God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, who appeared on Mount Horeb in the burning bush which burnt but was not consumed. They were addressed to Moses to reveal his holy name and entrust Moses with the mission of freeing his people from slavery in Egypt: “I have seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt, and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters; I know their sufferings [...]. Come, I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring forth my people, the sons of Israel, out of Egypt” (Ex 3:7-10). Strengthened by the grace of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, Moses surmounted numerous difficulties and guided the Hebrew people through the Red Sea and the desert to the Promised Land, which he could only view from “Mount Nebo, which is in the land of Moab, opposite Jericho” (Dt 32:49), where he died and was buried “opposite Beth-pe'or” (Dt 34:6). God established, through his friend Moses (cf. Ex 33:11), a covenant with the Chosen People on Mount Sinai. If the people will hear the voice of Yahweh and observe his law, they will be for him “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Ex 19:6). God entrusted the Chosen People with “Ten Words”, the Ten Commandments, which were the terms and basis for the covenant (cf. Ex 20-24).

“Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am” (Jn 8:58). In his discussion with the Jews in the temple of Jerusalem, Jesus alluded to the divine name revealed to Moses (cf. Ex 33:14), implicitly declaring himself to be God, born in Bethlehem to save humanity (cf. Lk 1:4-14). “Your father Abraham rejoiced that he was to see my day; he saw it and was glad" (Jn 8:56). Jesus Christ, “Son of David, Son of Abraham” (Mt 1:1), also applies to himself the expression “Day of the Lord”, which was reserved in the Old Testament for God alone, thereby designating himself as the true object of the promise made to Abraham and the joy he experiences in the birth of his son, Isaac (cf. Gen 12:1-3).

After 30 years of his hidden life in Nazareth, Jesus, as he preached throughout Galilea (cf. Mt 4:23) and travelled “all the cities and villages” (Mt 9:35), had also to indicate his relation to the great prophet, Moses. At the beginning of his public life, as he walked along the lake of Tiberias, he called disciples who were convinced that they found “him of whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph" (Jn 1:45). Their conviction was confirmed on Mount Tabor, when “two men talked with him, Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of his departure, which he was to accomplish at Jerusalem” (Lk 9:30,31). In his discussion with his fellow-Jews in the Temple of Jerusalem, Jesus again refers to the testimony of Moses: “If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote of me” (Jn 5:46). John the Evangelist summarises in the following words the contribution of both in salvation history: “For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (Jn 1:17).

These brief citations from the Old and New Testaments show the importance of the geographic area of the Middle East for all Christians, especially those who actually live in the Holy Land, the land which Jesus sanctified with his birth in Bethlehem, his flight into Egypt, his hidden life in Nazareth and his preaching in Galilee, Samaria and Judea, which was accompanied by signs and wonders, primarily his passion, death and resurrection in the holy city of Jerusalem. The events from salvation history, which took place in the Middle East, continue to be vividly remembered in the hearts of the inhabitants of the region, particularly Christians. In them, Bible peoples can be said to continue today. As a result, the events that took place centuries ago remain alive not only through the power of the Word of God, which is always alive and effective (cf. Heb 4:12), but also through these peoples’ vital link to this land, which was sanctified by the special presence of God, who revealed himself in the fullness of time (cf. Heb 9:26) in his only begotten Son, Jesus Christ. If these “peoples of the Bible” exist today, so too “bishops of the Bible”, i.e., in reference to the places where they exercise their pastoral activity. There are many such Pastors in this synodal assembly which gathers all the ordinaries of the 101 ecclesiastical jurisdictions of the Middle East, whom I greet in a special way. We add to these Pastors the 23 ordinaries from the Diaspora, who through their pastoral care nurture the faith of those who have emigrated from the Middle East to various parts of the world.

In a certain way, all bishops are “bishops of the Bible”. In addition to the bishops from the geographic locations mentioned in the Bible, there are also “bishops of biblical communion”. The presence of representatives from all 5 continents clearly shows the interest of the entire Christian world in the Catholic Church on pilgrimage in the Middle East. We further add to this group 19 bishops from neighbouring countries or those particularly involved in the spiritual and material assistance of their brothers and sisters in the Holy Land.

[Translated version received from the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops]

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