January 31, 2013. (Romereports.com) These bishops hail from many countries as varied as Syria, Spain, the United States and Poland. For three days they gathered in Rome for the meeting of the Bishop Friends of the Focolare Movement.
MSGR. SIMON ATALLAH Maronite Bishop of Baalbek (Lebanon) “Today, I'm here to participate in this regional gathering of Bishops Friends of the Focolare Movement, because when you have a purpose in life, you need to feed it. This meeting feeds us with its testimony, and with our experiences in this world. It gives us strength we live in a difficult environment, and it challenges us, it builds resistance.”
MSGR. FRANCISCO PEREZ Archbishop of Pamplona (Spain) “For me it was a moment of hope and clarity since I was young, 16 or 18, and learned about the movement in Spain, specifically in Avila. It moved me to later on keep delving into this spirituality.”
Several of the bishops that took part in the gathering live in areas deeply affected by violence and in which being a Christian poses a risk.
MSGR. SIMON ATALLAH Maronite Bishop of Baalbek (Lebanon) “Being a Christian can cost you your life, especially in the tasks of conversion, because some Muslims ask for a baptism and I don't do baptisms easily. I work with them for about two years and study their situation. I try to protect them because it is dangerous.”
MSGR. ARMANDO BORTOLASSO Vicar Apostolic emeritus of Aleppo (Syria) “We all know that what's at stake here is the survival of these ancient churches, in the birthplace of Christianity, and we need to unite. That's why in Egypt, they're thinking of creating a council of the various Christian churches. That's something that had never been thought of, that we never though could happen. The tragic situation of Christians in the Middle East pushes us to create the conditions to achieve unity between all Christians.”
MSGR. FRANCISCO PEREZ Archbishop of Pamplona (Spain) “In my diocese there are also some very difficult situations, such as all the effects that stem from the violence from ETA. So we have a lot healing to do. It is time for a human restoration, a spiritual restoration.”
The Pope himself closed off the gathering. He greeted the attendees during Wednesday's general audience at Paul VI Hall. BENEDICT XVI “Particularly, I'd like to greet the Bishop Friends of the Folocare Movement... Assuring you of my prayers, I hope that the charisma of unity is particularly dear to you, to support you and encourage you in your apostolic ministry.”
Similar gatherings will take place this year in other countries, such as Lebanon, South Korea, Cameroon, Madagascar, the United States and Germany. It will allow participating bishops a few days to reflect on one of the tenets of the Folocare Movement, based on the golden rule: “Do onto others as you would have them do to you.”