Exhibit, Synod Point to Positives in Mideast

Multi-media Display Gives Insights Into Churches of Region

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By Chiara Santomiero

ROME, OCT. 12, 2010 (Zenit.org).- A multi-media exhibit complementing the synod on the Middle East gives a chance to remember the positive aspects the Churches of the region appreciate, such as 14 communities of contemplatives who do nothing but pray for peace.

This was one of the observations made by Archbishop Fouad Twal, Latin patriarch of Jerusalem, at the inauguration Sunday of the "Abana: Our Father" exhibit.

The display, sponsored by the Custody of the Holy Land, Holy Land Publishers, and other Italian Church organizations, is providing a venue for debates and analysis on the situation of Christians in the Middle East, as the synod is under way in the Vatican through Oct. 24.

"In a dark room a little light illumines the whole hall; this is also true for the few Christians of the Middle East, who, though a small number, are destined to illumine the whole of their society," Archbishop Nikola Eterović, secretary of the synod, said during the exhibit's inauguration.

"Often, there is the sensation of being prisoners in a vicious circle of vengeance and violence, but Christians can break it," he continued.

The prelate lauded the exhibit for fostering knowledge of the Christian situation in the Middle East, one that he said is particularly rich because of six Eastern Churches sui iuris and that of the Latin rite.

House of prayer

Archbishop Twal spoke about being a minority in the Holy Land, saying this "does not give us a complex."

"Dialogue today is a problem," he did acknowledge, "above all with the Jews, because it is a dialogue between occupiers and occupied, but we continue to believe in it."

In that spirit of optimism, the archbishop said these days are an occasion to "count the positive aspects of our reality, such as the hundreds of religious congregations and the 14 contemplative houses that do nothing but pray for peace."
 
To this is added "the presence of pilgrims, always welcome, witnesses -- for us Christians -- that someone is close to us and prays with us to obtain peace, and -- for our Jewish and Muslim brethren -- that our land is a house of prayer," he said.

Realistic hope

Franciscan Father Pierbattista Pizzaballa, custos of the Holy Land, spoke of the synod itself, cautioning against unrealistic optimism.
 
"There are so many expectations for the synod that it will end by having also many disappointments," he said. "We must approach the complexity of the issues with humility and a willingness to listen."

The Franciscan characterized the synod as a mini-council of the Middle East, "because all the realities are represented. It will be an experience of communion and exchange of experiences, to discover that, despite the differences, we have much in common."

And for the West, he said, it will be an opportunity to make known elements besides the conflict, such as "the vitality, relevance, identity, and strength of our testimony."

Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Vatican press office, said these moments are milestones in a "long process of reflection and communication in the Church and for the world, which began with the Pope's trip to Cyprus."
 
In this perspective, he said, "the synodal summit is not an isolated moment, but is inserted in the mission of the Church to communicate her message of hope."

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On the Net:

Video of the exhibit (in Italian): www.youtube.com/watch?v=_UOdmj1c_MU