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Bridges of mercy and charity

· ​In the dialogue with Eastern Orthodox Churches ·

Jesus' birth narrative ends with two unexpected journeys. The first is that of the Three Wise Men who, being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, departed to their own country by another way (cf. Mt 2:12). Then there is the Holy Family's flight to Egypt after an angel appeared to Joseph in a dream, telling him: “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there till I tell you” (Mt 2:13). These two changes of direction are the result of bad news and of a violent operation implemented by Herod against the Child Jesus.

Many Christians in the Middle East recognize themselves even too well in this threatening atmosphere of uncertainty and displacements which surrounds the birth of the Messiah. The fate of the Holy Family was that of many Christian families in the region who, in order to guarantee a future to their children, find themselves forced to pack their bags and set off for safe places.

Over the last 10 years there has been the new phenomenon of growing Christian communities from the Middle East in the diaspora. This new reality calls for building bridges of solidarity and charity, for stimulating a spirit of conviviality and an ecumenism of life and for strengthening the link between these diapora communities and the community in their homelands. Since ecumenism is not only an exchange of ideas but also an exchange of gifts, many ways can be found on the level of an exchange of culture and language, for example the study of the Arabic and the Syriac languages, but also an understanding of the Oriental liturgical tradition. In many places, the Catholic Church has offered extensive assistance to communities in the diaspora, mainly by putting church buildings at their disposal. Such cooperation is highly appreciated and should be promoted.

Representatives of the Catholic Church and the Oriental Orthodox Churches met from January 27 to February 3, 2014. The Joint Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Oriental Orthodox Churches, was co-presided. The meeting was hosted in Kerala, India, by His Holiness Baselios Marthoma Paulose II, Catholicos of the East and Malankara Metropolitan of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church. At this meeting, the members continued their study of the ways in which full communion among our churches was expressed in the first five centuries with special emphasis on the development of the various Eucharistic Prayers (Anaphoras) in the early Church and on the significance of pilgrimages.

Gabriel Quicke,

Official at the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Untiy

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