Synod briefing: Quest for fraternity, not war, is only solution to conflict

Synod briefing: Quest for fraternity, not war, is only solution to conflict

At Thursday’s Synod briefing, several participants share their reflections on the topics under discussion in the General Assembly, which include a prayer for the serious situation in the Middle East.

By Paolo Ondarza

The Middle East, Ukraine, Iraq, Africa: Prayer for peace unites the Church all over the world.

This is the message from the Synod on Synodality according to the update briefing at the Holy See Press Office. Those who spoke on Thursday afternoon expressed the urgency of walking together in interreligious and intercultural dialogue.

Power of prayer for peace

Among those bringing her witness to the journalists present was Margaret Karram, president of the Focolare Movement, an Arab Catholic of Israeli and Palestinian origin.

She told journalists that the prayer of supplication on Thursday morning at the Synod was “a very strong moment”, because “ever since the war broke out, my heart has been broken and I wondered what I was doing here at the Synod. Joining in prayer with everyone was a very profound moment.”

According to Margaret Karram, many efforts are needed for peace, but “the power of prayer is crucial”.

“This experience is teaching me what it means to walk together, to dialogue, to let oneself be challenged by others, and synodality is not just a methodology, it must become a way of life of the Church: listening to the other with respect, beyond different opinions,” she said.

In prayer with the whole world

The president of the Focolare Movement then cited the many initiatives of interreligious prayer put in place in recent days, including on digital platforms, in order to involve as many faithful around the world.

“Yesterday, there was also a connection with Ukraine. We agreed to meet at the same time to pray together through the Living Peace initiative, and we also asked for concrete gestures of solidarity towards brothers of other religions together with the commitment to sign an appeal for peace to be addressed to world leaders.”

Goodness that makes no noise

Good deeds do not make noise; people talk only about hatred; but Margaret Karram is keen to point out that in Israel many are concerned about building bridges with those living in Gaza.

“I have a Jewish friend,” she confided, “who decided to pray at the same time as Muslims to be united with them in prayer.”

Prompted by questions from the press, the president of the Focolare Movement called for concerted action by the international community so that negotiations might be resumed and the urgency of resolving this conflict might be felt.

“There is still too much silence. My voice alone will not bear fruit; everyone’s commitment is needed to promote respect for human rights and reconciliation between peoples.”

Africa and synodality

“Synodality forms part of African culture, because we always do things together as a family,” according to Archbishop Andrew Nkea Fuanya of Bamenda, Cameroon, who is also the president of the country’s Bishops’ conference.

“I think this synod is a very big consolation to Africa,” he said. “Because with the problems we have in Africa, sometimes we feel isolated and abandoned. But coming to the Synod, we join with the rest of the universal Church to sit down and pray together for the problems that are going on in Africa, and especially for the countries that are affected by war.”

And, he added, “I think that this is a very wonderful opportunity for Africa to make its own mark within the Synod.” With regard to war, the Archbishop stated with conviction: “War can never be the solution.”

The Gospel that unites different languages

Sister Caroline Jarjis, a doctor at the Baghdad health centre and a religious of the Congregation of the Daughters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, also experienced being one family at the Synod.

This morning, together with the other participants in the assembly, she read the Gospel in her own language, Arabic, and was struck by how her words were understood by all.

“God is present in the work we do at the Synod. He chose us and prepared us before coming to Rome,” she said. “Together, we are having the experience of the first Christians who shared everything.”

The witness of Iraqi martyrs

Sister Caroline’s gaze communicates hope, even though she does not hide the signs of twenty years of suffering in her country.

“I came from a country at war, where Christians are a minority, but the richness of our Church is given by the presence of the martyrs. Their blood,” she told journalists, “gives us the impulse to go on, and I will return home with a greater strength deriving from this experience of communion with the universal Church.”

Responding to journalists’ questions, the Iraqi nun expressed her full support for Cardinal Louis Raphael Sako’s decision to withdraw from the headquarters of the Patriarchate of Baghdad after President Rashid’s decision to revoke for the Chaldean Church the decree recognising the Cardinal as the head of the Christian community there with responsibility for ecclesiastical property.

“It is right to live with dignity as Christians in a land of martyrdom: we are not second-class citizens,” she said.

The pilgrimage to the Catacombs

On Thursday afternoon, Synod participants were invited on a pilgrimage to the Catacombs of St. Sebastian, known for temporarily harbouring the relics of Saints Peter and Paul, as well as the catacombs of St. Callistus and St. Domitilla.

On Friday morning, after the Mass at the altar of the Chair in St Peter’s Basilica, at which Cardinal Ambongo Besungu will preside, the 8th General Congregation will take place. The Congregation will address the third module of the Instrumentum laboris, on the theme: “Co-responsibility in Mission: How can we better share gifts and tasks in the service of the Gospel?”

Earlier, with the Seventh Congregation on Wednesday afternoon and Thursday morning with the Sixth Session of the small groups and the delivery of the reports to the General Secretariat of the Synod, the work on the second module – dedicated to “Communion” – was concluded.

The topics of the Seventh General Congregation

On Wednesday, 343 members were present in the hall, with 36 speaking. Among the themes that emerged were interreligious and intercultural dialogue; the impact of colonialism on indigenous communities; the importance of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, which allows us to be accepted if we ask for the forgiveness of sins; and listening to and involving young people in their thirst to meet Jesus.

In this regard, during the briefing, Archbishop Nkea Fuanya shared the experience of his diocese where, in this year dedicated to the Eucharist, every parish is preparing a chapel for perpetual adoration.

Also at the centre of the work of the Synod were the figure of Mother Teresa of Calcutta and her care for the sick; the urgency of Catholic leaders’ commitment to the promotion of peace; the drama of marginalised women in the peripheries; and the need for inclusion and listening in the life of the Church.

The Synod and Mary

Finally, the president of the Commission for Information, Dr. Paolo Ruffini, who is also Prefect of the Dicastery for Communication, recalled that Thursday is the feast of Our Lady of Aparecida and of Our Lady of Pilar.

“This morning”, he said, “the importance of the Marian profile of the Synodal Church was emphasised. Mary is mother, is lay, is prophecy, is dialogue, is charisma, she is holiness, she is lived Gospel.”


Published On: 12/10/2023