March 15, 2004
Bishop Skylstad, President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops,
Brother Bishops, Priests, Religious Laity,
Members and staff of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
I am grateful for your kind invitation to visit you and address a few words of thanks to you for all your efforts of solidarity, with me, the Catholic Patriarchs and Bishops of Lebanon and the Middle East. As Christians from the land where Christ once walked we feel a great pride yet also vulnerability.
As the world received Our Lord and did with him what they wanted, so does our world receive us and at times treat us the same. Our neighbors are not convinced we are truly of the East and have a shared destiny. It is a must that we remain part of the East where we are deeply rooted. We therefore need now more than ever the solidarity of the West. It is important that we Christians of the Middle East be part of the East yet also receive the support and solidarity with the West.
Christians of the Middle East are a valuable bridge between East and West, between Christians and Muslims, between ancient and new cultures and societies.
I come today at your invitation to share with you the struggles we have and hopefully to share in your struggles as well. As Christians we have the privilege and the responsibility to witness to Him in season and out, as St. Paul says.
Our Holy Father convoked Synods for the different continents of the world, and a separate Synod for Lebanon alone. His hope was to strengthen the different Catholic Communities there with the vision of establishing an even greater and more fruitful koinonia, communio for the good of the Christians in the Middle East.
Our time together now embodies the very hope of our Holy Father and makes us even more One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic.
Thank you again for receiving me and for your sense of fraternity with the Christians of Lebanon and the Middle East