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Archbishop Pascal Gollnisch: “Benedict XVI did not want to hide the difficulty of a violent or extremist Islam for Eastern Christians”


INTERVIEW - Benedict XVI, like John Paul II, "had great attention for the Christians of the East", greets Mgr Pascal Gollnisch, director general of the Work of the East.

Monsignor Pascal Gollnisch is Director General of the

Oeuvre d'Orient

and Vicar General of the Ordinariate of Oriental Catholics in France.

In 2016, he published

Christians of the East, resisting on our land

(Cherche midi).


- Benedict XVI, like his predecessor John Paul II and in the continuity of Vatican II, paid particular attention to the Christians of the East.

What are the great achievements of his pontificate?

Monsignor Pascal GOLLNISCH.-

From afar, his decision to convene a synod, that is to say a gathering of bishops on the Christians of the Middle East.

It was a very original initiative which was prepared in all the dioceses of the East.

This synod was an opportunity for the Eastern bishops to realize how much the Latin Church held on to them and their importance for the pope.

At the end of this synod, a document,

Ecclesia in Medio Oriente,

was published.

It is one of the last great texts of Pope Benedict XVI.

Many issues are addressed and guidance provided.

Benedict XVI in Nazareth.


First of all, awareness of the difficulties encountered by these Christians in the Middle East.

The pope called on them to look forward, to feel invested with a mission like any baptized person.

But also to pursue their mission of education, health, service to the populations of the countries in which they live.

And finally to deepen relations with Muslims.

Benedict XVI underlined that these Christians, who admittedly sometimes suffer in the name of Islam and Islamism, are nevertheless the Christians in the Arab world.

And as such have a mission of relations with Muslims.

"For him, the Christians of the East are important for the recognition of the catholicity of the Church"

Beyond the Synod, Benedict XVI visited the Middle East several times...

He went to Turkey to the Patriarch of Constantinople, but also to Cyprus to launch the preparatory path for the Synod.

Benedict XVI also went to Lebanon for one of his last apostolic journeys, where he had strong words on the commitment of Christians.

This pope was very involved for the Christians of the East.

Proof of this is the creation of a number of cardinals among the heads of the Eastern Churches, particularly the Eastern Catholic Churches of India, but also in the Middle East.

He wanted these patriarchs to be associated with the central government of the Catholic Church.

Read alsoThe three historic decisions of Benedict XVI

For him, the Christians of the East are important for the recognition of the catholicity of the Church.

The Catholic Church is not just the Latin Church.

It is only truly Catholic if it is able to realize that it has an Eastern component, both Byzantine and Eastern.

In Lebanon, Benedict XVI particularly insisted on the need for religious freedom in the Middle East.

Why ?

Because it is only in Lebanon that religious freedom exists in the Middle East.

With the exception of Saudi Arabia, there are many Christian places of worship in this region, but this does not create freedom of worship because they are only those who have always been Christians.

In a way, it is unthinkable that a Muslim enters there.

Freedom of worship is only one aspect of religious freedom that goes much further.

It is the possibility of publicly expressing one's faith and of implementing it while respecting public order.

And it only exists in Lebanon.

Pope Benedict, like his predecessors and like his successor, is well aware that Lebanon has something highly symbolic about this religious freedom.

If the Lebanese experiment were to fail, it would obviously be terrible for Lebanon, but it would also be terrible for religious freedom in the Middle East.

The pope met with the kings of Jordan, Saudi Arabia, visited the Middle East several times.

Did he have a "

diplomacy of Eastern Christians


It is always difficult to assess the diplomacy of the Holy See because it is extremely discreet.

We do not necessarily have all the evaluation elements.

Benedict XVI, like John Paul II, had great concern for Eastern Christians.

Pope Francis is the Pope of the East, but Benedict XVI prepared this path with the synod, as well as with the attention he had in these lands of Islam.

To read also Camille Pascal: "Why Benedict XVI will mark the history of the Church"

He recalled the difficulties encountered by these Christians in the name of Islam, but also the importance for the Church of deepening its relations with the Muslim world.

Because, beyond the religious interest, there is peace in the world in general, and in the Mediterranean basin in particular.

Pope Benedict is strongly committed to his relations with Islam.

In truth and sometimes not mince words, which was more or less well accepted.

He did it in truth but, at the same time, with this gentleness and this humility that inhabited him.“

"I was struck by the light, the transparency of his gaze and by the kind of strong, but intense, quiet, humble truth that emanated from it"

Some statements, like that of Regensburg, were sometimes distorted or misunderstood, or were very frank.

What was his ambition on the link between Eastern Christians and Islam?

I think he was aware that some of the violence was done in the name of Islam.

After the Synod, there were attacks: at the Syriac cathedral in Baghdad, at the Orthodox cathedral in Alexandria.

Benedict XVI, as a man of truth, but also as a scientist and a man of rigour, did not want to hide the difficulty that violent or extremist Islam can cause for Christians.

But it shouldn't stop there.

He wanted to engage with Muslims of good will, with men of peace for a real dialogue from which everyone drew the benefit.

Both moderate Muslims, who are a very large majority, and Christians.

You have been received by Benedict XVI.

What memory do you keep?

I have been received on several occasions, at least once a year, with the various organizations which are at the service of the Christians of the East.

I was very impressed... especially by the light in his gaze.

He had blue eyes, a very handsome gaze.

I don't know how to explain it, but I was struck by the light, the transparency of his gaze and by the sort of strong, but intense, quiet, humble truth that emanated from it.

Source: lefigaro

All news articles on 2022-12-31

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