Pope Receives Catholic Patriarch of Antioch of the Syrians


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VATICAN CITY, 19 JUN 2009 (VIS) - In the Vatican this morning, Benedict XVI received His Beatitude Ignace Youssif III Younan, the new Catholic patriarch of Antioch of the Syrians, accompanied by various members of the Synod of that Church.

"Divine Providence", said the Pope in his address, "has made us ministers of Christ and shepherds of His one flock. ... Christ Himself, our Lord, appointed the Apostle Peter as the 'rock' upon which He founded the spiritual edifice of the Church, calling upon His disciples to remain in full unity with Peter, under his sure guidance and that of his Successors".

"Over the course of your millenarian history", he continued, "your communion with the Bishop of Rome has always been accompanied by faithfulness to the spiritual tradition of the Christian East. These are complementary aspects of a single heritage of the faith which your venerable Church professes".

The Pontiff then recalled how, in order to emphasise "the Eucharistic roots" of this communion, he had granted "ecclesiastica communio" to the patriarch when he was elected head of the Synod. Addressing the patriarch directly, he added: "With a public sign - yesterday's Eucharistic celebration in the basilica of St. Mary Major - you most appropriately demonstrated the close ties binding you to the bishop of Rome and the Universal Church".

Pope Benedict went on: "In effect, the Eucharist fuses our different traditions in the unity of the one Spirit, making them a source of wealth for all God's people. May the celebration of the Eucharist, source and summit of ecclesiastical life, keep you anchored in the ancient Syriac tradition which can claim to possess the language the Lord Jesus spoke, and at the same time open your horizons to ecclesial universality. ... The Eucharist is the Bread of Life that nourishes our communities and makes them grow in unity and charity. In the Eucharist, Sacrament of unity and community, may you find the strength to overcome the difficulties your Church has faced over recent years, in order to rediscover the paths of forgiveness, reconciliation and communion".

Finally the Holy Father expressed his satisfaction at the return to full activity of the Synod of this Church and encouraged "efforts being made to favour unity, understanding and forgiveness, which must always be considered as priorities for the edification of the Church of God".

"I pray continuously, among other things, for peace in the Middle East, especially for Christians living in the blessed land of Iraq, whose sufferings I offer every day to God during the Eucharistic sacrifice".