Detroit Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron is one of three Roman Catholic archbishops in North America to participate in the Vatican’s Synod of Bishops for the Middle East. The synod, a gathering of 185 bishops from around the world, began Sunday, Oct. 10, at the Vatican and will last until Oct. 24. The synod predominantly involves participants from Eastern Catholic Churches. Bishop Ibrahim N. Ibrahim, who heads the Southfield-based Chaldean Eparchy of St. Thomas the Apostle, also is in participation. Pope Benedict XVI is heading the assembly, which is being conducted predominantly in the Arabic language.
The focus of the synod is to strengthen the Catholic Church in the Middle East — where the Christian population is in the minority — and to help bolster dialogue there with leaders of Islam and Judaism. Other North American archbishops participating are Cardinal Roger M. Mahony of Los Angeles and Archbishop Thomas Collins of Toronto. Synod participants were named by the Vatican on Friday, Oct. 8.
Southeast Michigan has a large population of Eastern Rite Catholics, including Melkite, Maronite, Chaldean, Syrian, Ukrainian, Romanian, Byzantine, and Armenian. The Eparchy of St. Thomas the Apostle — the diocese for Chaldean Catholics in the Eastern portion of the United States — estimates the Chaldean population of Metro Detroit to be about 150,000. That population has grown significantly since the beginning of the Iraq war.