(Agenzia Fides) – The Christian Syrians have suffered persecution and martyrdom “since ancient times”. And today, faced with the present situation in the Middle East which causes suffering to the local Christian communities, the first task of the pastors is to console the people and help everyone to read the “signs of times”. This is the spiritual discernment of the present time that the Patriarch of Antioch of the Syrians, Ignace Youssif III, wanted to suggest during the intervention with which he opened the annual Synod of the Syro-Catholic Church, convened in Rome from 8 to 10 December.
In the sessions of the Synod, chaired by the Patriarch, 18 Syro-Catholics Bishops, mostly from the Middle East, are called to take charge of the problems and urgent needs experienced by the faithful, both in the Middle East and in Countries where there are Syrian Catholic communities of the diaspora. The agenda of the Synod also include the development of initiatives planned to commemorate the hundredth anniversary of the mass killings against the Armenian and Syriac Christians, in Anatolia in 1915. In the synod discussion, attention will be dedicated to the relationship between the priests and Bishops and ecumenical dialogue with our brothers of the Syro-Orthodox Church.
In his opening speech, Patriarch Ignace Youssif III expressed concern about the institutional stalemate experienced in Lebanon, calling the Lebanese political class to take responsibility “before God, the people and history” and paying tribute to the army and security forces that protect the Country of the Cedars from the jihadist negative effects.
The Patriarch also spoke about the suffering of the Christian communities in northern Iraq that have had to leave their homes before the offensive of the militiamen of the Islamic State (IS). Currently – said His Beatitude Ignace Youssif III among other things – more than a third of the Syrian-Iraqi Catholics live the plight of homeless refugees, subjected to the temptation to flee abroad and abandon their homelands forever.