A summit of leaders from churches across the Middle East began today (Sept 9) in Washington, with representatives from Syrian Orthodox, Coptic Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Melkite Greek Catholic, Chaldean, Antiochian Orthodox, Syrian Catholic, Assyrian Church of the East, and more. It continues Sept 10-11.
The format of the opening prayer service was apparently one which was last done by St John Paul II in 1987, and had never been done in the United States. It was based on 3rd and 4th century customs, and in several languages.
The messages were simple, and clear: history divides us but faith [and desperation?] unites us; we must fight the most difficult way: with love; when in doubt, follow the Golden Rule. The homily was one from St John Chrysostrum: you are the salt of the earth and St Matthew calls you to work for the whole world.
John Ashcroft (member of Assemblies of God) keynoted, mostly of the importance of doing the right thing for the right reason. But he also made an interesting distinction: we know governments don’t provide us with rights; God does. But He endows mankind with Liberty, not democracy – a distinction Ashcroft said we too often forget in American foreign policy. Cardinal Leonardo Sandri insisted that “clash of civilizations” was not true and must not be allowed to become true.
The reception after included tables with people “selling” their concerns – Canadian Assyrian College Students; a Middle East Christian satellite television station; several relief agencies; etc. Talking with them was, to say the least, interesting.
At a Mass at St Joseph’s Cathedral in Erbil, Kurdistan Region, Iraq, in late 2012, Archbishop Bashar Matti Warda asked the visiting Cardinal Theodore McCarrick to say a few words. Cardinal McCarrick told the overflowing congregation that they were truly the church of the martyrs, and that they were not forgotten. The congregation was moved to tears. Cardinal McCarrick was clearly correct about the first part. Now, it seems, is when we find out whether he was correct about the latter.
Update: Yes, this is the meeting at which Senator Ted Cruz made headlines. Among a wide range of analyses of Cruz and the attendees that followed, one from Forbes is here.