Pope appeals for patience, courage in efforts to build Middle East peace

Pope Benedict said he hopes the Holy See can make a contribution to building  peace in the Middle East.  Speaking to journalists on his flight to Cyprus yesterday, who referred to the attack on the Gaza aid convoy,  Pope Benedict replied: "I would say that we principally contribute in a religious way. We can also be helpful with political and strategic advice, but the Vatican's essential work is always religious. ...

"After all the violence we must not lose patience, not lose courage, not lose the generosity to start again, ... in the certainty that we can progress, that we can achieve peace, that not violence, but patience and goodness, is the solution. Creating these conditions is, I feel, the principle work the Vatican, its offices and the Pope can perform".

He said: "This trip to Cyprus is in many ways a continuation of the trip I made last year to the Holy Land, and of my visit to Malta earlier this year. ... I am not coming with a political message, but a religious message, which I hope will prepare peoples hearts to find an opening for peace".

IN response to a question about Catholic - Orthodox relations, the Holy  Father said:  "the great progress achieved in our common witness to Christian values in the secularised world. ... Of course, there are many theological problems, but here too there are strong elements of unity".

The Pope specifically noted "three elements that bind us and bring us increasingly closer together. Firstly, Scripture. ... Secondly, what we could call tradition, which interprets and opens the door to Scripture. ... The third point is the so-called 'regula fidei'; in other words, the confession of the faith as elaborated in the ancient Councils, which is the summa of Scripture. ... Of course", he went on, "it is not theological discussion that of itself creates unity. It is an important element, but all Christian life, knowing one another, the experience of brotherhood, learning despite the experiences of the past, this shared fraternity, are processes that also require great patience. And I believe we are learning patience".

The last question put to the Holy Father was: "What are your main expectations and hopes for the Middle East Synod, for the Christian communities and for followers of other faiths in that region?"

"The first important point", said the Pope, "is that bishops and heads of Churches will come together" in "a tangible communion of dialogue and life. Secondly, the visibility of these Churches ... will help us to be neighbours, to increase our mutual knowledge, to learn from and help one another, and therefore also to help the Christians of the Middle East not to lose hope, to remain even if their situation can be difficult. Thus, and this is the third point, in their dialogue between one another they open also to dialogue with other Christians (Orthodox, Armenians, etc.) attaining increased Christian responsibility and a common capacity for dialogue with our Muslim brothers, who remain brothers despite our differences".

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