Archive for May, 2008
Interview With Lebanese Presidential Hopeful
ROME, JUNE 11, 2007 (Zenit.org).- A candidate for the Lebanese presidency says that the country needs a balanced government, which includes the participation of Christians.
General Michel Aoun, 72, a Lebanese military and political leader, came to Rome last week to visit Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, Vatican secretary for relations with states.
Aoun returned to his country just two years ago, after spending 15 years exiled in Paris. He has become one of the leading figures in the complex Lebanese political scene.
As the leader of the opposition-aligned Free Patriotic Movement, he is a presidential hopeful.
In this interview with ZENIT, Aoun reflects on the role of Christianity in the Middle East.
Q: General, you are the leader of one of the biggest parliamentary factions with an Arab Christian majority. What does this visit to the Vatican mean to you?
Auon: To me, the Vatican is the supreme spiritual reference point in the heart of the Catholic Church. We can also say that it is an important moral authority in the Christian world in general, Catholic or not. The Vatican’s positions are influential at an ethical and moral level. And we, as Maronites, are part of the Catholic world.
When Lebanon goes through crises or challenges, we find it important to keep the appropriate Vatican authorities informed of the situation, especially since the media coverage sometimes reflects the interests of those covering the news and not the reality lived by the Lebanese people.
From this arises the importance of my coming here in person, to have a dialogue and discuss with [Vatican] authorities and get this image clear. We certainly met with people equipped with a critical sense, and therefore able to discern what is true and what is false. This means that the Church’s position, be it a moral question, or advice or something else, is more useful and objective.
Q: Given your faith experience, is it possible to speak of Arab Christianity? Could we say that such a thing exists?
Aoun: Arab Christianity was one of the first forms of Christianity that expanded throughout the Arab peninsula, Mesopotamia and even to India.
There are multiple traces of a Christian culture that can be seen in northern Syria even today; and recorded Arab history tells us that Christians were widely spread. There are remains of only a small number of Christian Arabs but, historically speaking, they were present throughout the Arab peninsula.
Q: What is the present role of Christian Arabs in modern-day Lebanon?
Aoun: The Christians of Lebanon comprise Maronites, Greek Orthodox, Greek Catholics and other confessions. Setting aside the fact that there are five patriarchs that bear the name of “Patriarch of Antioch,” we know that the first Christians and the Good News came out of Antioch.
In my book, I recall the Christian presence in the East, our historic roots, and the fact that we are not immigrants but authentic inhabitants established in the East 662 years before the birth of Islam. There is some confusion between Westerners regarding what is considered Arab. Everything that is Arab is not necessarily Muslim.
The Arab race includes all regions. Regarding the Arab civilization, it is the Christians that have worked to keep it alive, and the ones that have preserved the Arab language. They were among the most illustrious scribes, and in the time of the Caliphate, the court poets were Christians — for example, the poet Al-Akhtal.
Arabs form part of the Eastern world, thus the importance of the postsynodal apostolic exhortation written by Pope John Paul II, and published in May 1997, in which he speaks of the Christians of Lebanon and the East.
On the other hand, the Christians of Lebanon these days serve as a reference point for the Middle East; and the model of their relationships serve as an assurance and guarantee of the Christian presence in the rest of the Arab countries of the region.
Q: In Islam there is an intimate link between the political and the social. Do you expect Lebanon to someday separate politics from religion?
Auon: As a political movement, we seek to separate the political sphere from the religious one. Lebanon has known periods — like the Ottoman War, which was one of the most cruel and unjust — during which people were forced to “affiliate” with a particular religion, under a policy of marginalization and persecution.
The situation started to improve after World War I, when Lebanon became a French protectorate and later gained its independence thanks to the national pact. At that time the Christian influence in the social life was notable and Christian elements were active in the political life until the events of the ’70s — the civil confrontation between Christians and Muslims — 1975-1980 — when the political equilibrium was shaken and Christians were marginalized.
Lebanon can’t survive without a balanced government and the participation of everyone, which includes Christians, Shiites and Sunnis. Michel Chiha — may he rest in peace — one of the most prominent figures who understood well the Lebanese reality, said, “Whoever tries to eliminate religion in Lebanon is trying in reality to eliminate Lebanon.”
Important to Recover the Capacity for Interior Silence”
VATICAN CITY, JUNE 10, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today to the crowds gathered in St. Peter’s Square when he led the praying of the midday Angelus.
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Dear Brothers and Sisters!
Today’s solemnity of Corpus Domini, which in the Vatican and other nations was already celebrated this past Thursday, invites us to contemplate the great mystery of our faith: the most holy Eucharist, the real presence of the Lord Jesus Christ in the sacrament of the altar.
Every time that the priest renews the Eucharistic sacrifice, in the prayer of consecration he repeats: “This is my body … this is my blood.” He does this giving his voice, his hands, and his heart to Christ, who wanted to remain with us as the beating heart of the Church. But even after the celebration of the divine mysteries, the Lord Jesus remains living in the tabernacle; because of this he is praised, especially by Eucharistic adoration, as I wished to recall in the recent postsynodal apostolic exhortation, “Sacramentum Caritatis” (cf. Nos. 66-69).
Indeed, there is an intrinsic connection between celebration and adoration. The holy Mass, in fact, is in itself the Church’s greatest act of adoration: “No one eats this food,” St. Augustine writes, “if he has not first worshipped it” (Commentary on Psalm 98:9; CCL XXXIX, 1385). Adoration outside holy Mass prolongs and intensifies what happened in the liturgical celebration and renders a true and profound reception of Christ possible.
Today, then, in all Christian communities, there is the Eucharistic procession, a singular form of public adoration of the Eucharist, enriched by beautiful and traditional manifestations of popular devotion. I would like to take the opportunity that today’s solemnity offers me to strongly recommend to pastors and all the faithful the practice of Eucharistic adoration. I express my appreciation to the institutes of consecrated life, as also to the associations and confraternities that dedicate themselves to this practice in a special way. They offer to all a reminder of the centrality of Christ in our personal and ecclesial life.
I am happy to testify that many young people are discovering the beauty of adoration, whether personal or in community. I invite priests to encourage youth groups in this, but also to accompany them to ensure that the forms of adoration are appropriate and dignified, with sufficient times for silence and listening to the word of God. In life today, which is often noisy and scattered, it is more important than ever to recover the capacity for interior silence and recollection: Eucharistic adoration permits one to do this not only within one’s “I” but rather in the company of that “You” full of love who is Jesus Christ, “the God who is near us.”
May the Virgin Mary, Eucharistic Woman, lead us into the secret of true adoration. Her heart, humble and silent, was always recollected around the mystery of Jesus, in whom she worshipped the presence of God and his redemptive love. By her intercession may there grow faith in the Eucharistic mystery, the joy of participating at holy Mass, especially on Sunday, and the desire to bear witness to the immense charity of Christ.
[After the Angelus, the Pope said in Italian:]
Unfortunately, I receive frequent requests for intervention on behalf of persons — some of whom are even priests — who have been seized for different reasons and in different parts of the world. I carry all in my heart and they are present in my prayer. I think, among other cases, of the painful situation in Colombia. I direct my solicitous call to the authors of such detestable deeds that they reflect on the evil they have done and return those they hold prisoner as soon as possible to the affection of their loved ones. I entrust the victims to the maternal protection of Mary Most Holy, Mother of all men.
[Translation by ZENIT]
[In English, he said:]
I greet the English-speaking visitors and pilgrims who have gathered here for the Angelus. On this day, many are celebrating the feast of Corpus Christi, the feast of the Most Holy Eucharist. We give thanks to God for the great gift of the Eucharist, the sacred banquet in which we receive Christ. We remember his sufferings, our minds are filled with his grace and we receive a pledge of the glory that is to be ours. I pray that all of you may grow in love for the Lord through the great sacrament of his Body and Blood. May God bless you all.