On December 15, 2010, the Assembly of Catholic Ordinaries in the Holy Land in collaboration with the Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies, the Jerusalem Center for Jewish Christian Relations and the Interfaith Coordinating Council in Israel organized a symposium in Hebrew about the Synod for the Catholic Church in the Middle East that took place in Rome from October 10 to 24, 2010.
The Assembly of Ordinaries initiated the organization of the symposium and collaborated with Israeli organizations that work to improve relations among the different communities. The symposium took place on Wednesday evening, December 15, 2010 at 18.00 at the Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies in Jerusalem. The discussion was held in Hebrew and the hall was packed to capacity with many standing in the aisles. In the audience were also the Vatican Nuncio, Msgr. Antonio Franco, the Latin Patriarchal Vicar in Israel, Msgr. Boulos Marcuzzo, Mr Cesar Marjieh, representing the Ministry of Interior and Mr. Bahij Mansour, representing the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Before the beginning of the discussion, tribute was paid to the memory of Daniel Rossing of blessed memory, founder of the Jerusalem Center for Jewish Christian Relations, who passed away on November 3, 2010 and who contributed much to Jewish-Christian relations in Israel.
The speakers at this symposium were:
- His Excellency Mgr. William Shomali, Auxiliary Bishop of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, who spoke about the background, planning and aims of the Synod. He was the only speaker to speak in English.
- Father Pierbattista Pizzaballa, Custodian of the Holy Land and Superior of the Franciscans, addressed the international dimension of the Synod and the international vocation of the Church in the Holy Land.
- Father David Neuhaus, Patriarchal Vicar in charge of Hebrew speaking Catholics in Israel, described some of the pleasant surprises for an Israeli, Hebrew speaker at the Synod.
- Deacon Soubhi Makhoul, Administrator of the Maronite Exarchate in Jerusalem, spoke about the presence of laity, especially youth and women in the Synod proceedings.
- Finally, Ms. Hana Bendcowsky, who was present throughout the Synod, working for Vatican Radio, responsible for the Radio’s internet page in Hebrew, spoke about the experience of a Jewish, Israeli bystander engaged in cultural mediation.
After these speakers, a panel of experts posed their reactions:
Dr. Amnon Ramon, researcher at the Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies, described the main themes of the Synod, underlining the new challenges before the Church.
Rabbi Dr. Ron Kronish, director of the Interfaith Coordinating Council in Israel, spoke on the urgent need for more education in Israel about the Christians.
Finally, Ms. Yisca Harani, a researcher of Christianity, described the Synod and how it was reacted to by some Israelis.
The floor was then opened to the public and the first speaker was Mr. Bahij Mansour, who presented the view and the concerns of the Israeli Foreign Ministry.
The evening was a successful experiment in dialogue and we can only hope that these initiatives might multiply.