did Pope John Paul II convoke a Synod for Lebanon ?
The Synodís Interactions with the Lebanese Life
The Synodís Importance and Role in the Near Future
This subject contains three points: Motives for the Synod, its interactions with the Lebanese life, and its future effectiveness.
did Pope John Paul II convoke a Synod for Lebanon ?
His Holiness Pope John Paul II developed a moral conception that "Lebanon is more than a country, it is a mission due to its intercommunitarian structure, where religions and cultures are encountered to establish conviviality, dialogue and cooperation among themselves. Hence, the Lebanese society becomes a model for a religious and cultural plurality within a national unity, for a freedom within all its aspects, for a democratic consensus in the most relevant national issues, and for the Christian-Islamic dialogue at the level of life, culture and politics.
The Pope expressed his moral certainty in many of his diplomatic and ecclesial interventions, namely, in his sermons, apostolic exhortations and messages since the day of his Pontifical election in October, 1978 until the day when he declared the Special Assembly for Lebanon of the Synod of Bishops on June 12, 1991, However, the succession of wars in Lebanon started in 1975, were caused by internal, regional and international interferences endorsed by several Middle Eastern and Western countries. Moreover, many non-Lebanese armies participated in these wars were supported by many foreign policies aiming to achieve their own self-interest. These factors have deformed the above community based on participative structure of Lebanon destroying what is known by "the Lebanese Pact". The purpose of that was to fulfill the political, economic, touristic and religious interests nationally and internationally.
When weapons were silenced in the Fall of 1990, except in South of Lebanon where a cold war was still in effect using arms, in addition to the political, economic, and social crisis all over Lebanon, His Holiness Pope John Paul II called for a Synod for Lebanon on June 12, 1991, and followed his convocation by a message to all the Lebanese people and a letter to the Catholic Patriarchs and Bishops in Lebanon (July, 1991).
A. The Synodís Objective: The spiritual renewal with penance and reconciliation; a new launch toward the future; a human solidarity facing the warsí leftover of material and human destruction; and self-awareness of the values on which Lebanon was built in the past and are still effective for the construction of Lebanonís future life.
B. The Concerned People in the Synod: - Directly, all the faithful of the Catholic Church with its six denominations: The Maronites, the Melkites, the Armenian Catholics, the Syrian Catholics, the Chaldeans, and the Latins.
Indirectly, the four Orthodox Churches: The Orthodox, the Armenian Orthodox, the Syrian Orthodox, the Assyrians, and the Evangelical Church. The Synod aims to establish with them a bond of prayer, consultation and cooperation.
According to the citizenship, the Moslem communities, the Sunnites, the Shiites and the Druze; in order to understand this Catholic endeavor; to cooperate together in overcoming the misunderstandings and obstacles.
In fact, the Synod was simultaneously undertaken with the peace negotiations in the Middle- East emphasizing the value of Lebanon and its role in the region as being a factor for balance according to the expression of Pope John Paul II, putting at risk the trust of the United Nations and the Universal Order.
Synodís Interactions with the Lebanese Life
A. The Synod created an atmosphere of hope and optimism to all the Lebanese people. It caused as well a sentiment of fear and caution towards others. Hence, in the course of its preparatory stage, many initiatives for consultations and dialogue took place between June 12, 1991 and October, 1995. This atmosphere and consultations were revealed through the participation of delegates representing the five non-Catholic Churches, and the three Moslem communities during the sessions of the Assembly of the Synod which took place in the Vatican (Nov. 26 - Dec. 14, 1995); even though the Moslem representatives left before the end of these sessions for their proper reasons while the invitation was addressed to them to attend all the lectures of the Synod.
B. The Synod has created a large movement of awareness of values, namely, the spiritual renewal as a basis for the reconstruction of the Lebanese society. It strengthened the ties of collaboration among the Catholic Churches through the Assembly of Patriarchs and Catholic Bishops in Lebanon as well as the Commissions from which they are issued. It pushed the ecumenical movement in Lebanon to discuss pastoral issues and make decisions about them. They are namely: predication, catechizes, participation in sacraments and prayers and mixed marriages. It vivified the Islamo-Christian dialogue through conferences, meetings, and official commissions and determined its content about fundamental national issues such as conviviality, freedom, democracy, Lebanese formula, national unity, mutual recognition, cooperation in preserving spiritual and human values, social justice and equal growth.
C. The Synod endorsed all kinds of social initiatives which were taken by the Church through the Patriarcates, the Dioceses, the Religious Orders, the social organizations, the apostolic movements, and a number of investors discussing the following;
E. In spite of all the efforts put to explain the Synodís objectives to the responsables and Lebanese public opinion, there were many direct or indirect oppositions, from within and from abroad, on behalf of those who found that renewal, mutual understanding, unity, and the rebuilding of the Lebanese society in its national unity, territorial integrity, political sovereignty, and conviviality between Christians and Moslems would contradict their goals and purposes. Because of this, there emerged waves of critics, cautions and non-objective interpretations causing anxiety and fear. Then, there came forth social, political, administrative and legal practices that troubled the situation and caused tensions trying to turn off the flame of hope, destroying the Churchís credibility and minimizing its effects on the Lebanese society and nation.
Synodís Importance and Role in the Near Future
There is no doubt that the Popeís visit to Lebanon on May 10 and 11 to celebrate the closure of the special Assembly of the Synod for Lebanon, deliver officially the Apostolic Exhortation, and His sermons that will have positive effects on two levels that Lebanon is a message and an ideal model to the East and the West as the Pope said in his apostolic letter to the Catholic Bishops in the world. :
- At the ecclesial Level: The Christians will be more aware of their spiritual, social, cultural and political role in Lebanon and the Middle-Eastern world, as well as of their apostolic mission in the African countries and capitals of migrants, reminding them of what he said on May l, 1984 : the flourishing of Christianity in Lebanon is a condition for the existence of other Christian communities in the Middle-Eastern countries.
- At the National Level: The Lebanese people along with the international public opinion will realize the importance of the Lebanese political system which is based on two characteristics: 1. It is an intermediate system between the theocratic one that is dominating in the Middle-Eastern countries such as the Arab countries and Israel, and the secular system in the western countries. In Lebanon, it is the civil system which respects the religious dimension in a common social structure. It reveres the religions, recognizes the religious freedom, leaves to the authorities of different faith and denominations the legislative and judicial autonomy in the matters of matrimony and family in what is called "the Personal Statutes", according to the public order within the Lebanese constitution and allows all citizens to share the governmentís responsibilities with equal proportion of 50% between the Christians and the Moslems until the establishment of new non confessional parties, when the Lebanese people reach a stage of conformity that eliminates the confessional allegiance and the biased political approach and practice. This will aim to weaken the foreign confessional interferences in Lebanon. Hence, it is well known that this matter is extremely difficult and far away due to the theocratic environment surrounding Lebanon.
In this system, the Christians of Lebanon prove to be able to live in a non secular system, and the Moslems of Lebanon are able to live in non theocratic system. Therefore, the Lebanese people prove as well that people in the world are able to build up a political, civil and civilized system without any infringement in religion, traditions and heritage that belong to the communities constituting the common structure of Lebanon. By this, Lebanon is a message and a model. The theocratic system considers religion to be the foundation of the state, the Koran to be the source of legislation and the power is exclusive to the followers of this religion (Islam) which is at the same time the stateís religion. This is not applicable to Lebanon which is different from the other Middle-Eastern countries. Now, the secular system does not take into consideration the religion neither in organizing the state nor in its power or legislation, except in few matters.
As a result of that, the parliamentary and democratic system is based upon
the principle of public freedom, democratic consensus, equality under the
law, rights and duties, mutual cooperation among the citizens, balance
among the different social classes, and the cultural and religious plurality.
This has been exactly revealed by the updated Lebanese constitution (1991)
as a consequence of the Taef Accord (1989), and mentioned by the final
message of the Special Assembly for Lebanon of the Synod of Bishops (December