(Vatican Radio) Tracey McClure is currently in Lebanon's capital Beirut awaiting Pope Benedict XVI's arrival there on Friday 14th September. She was granted an interview by Patriarch Ignace Joseph III Younan, the leader of the Syrian Catholic Church of the Antiochian Tradition whose Patriarchal See is based in Lebanon.
In this interview the Patriarch affords us a brief overview of this Church which finds its roots in Syria where at the current time people are witnessing one of the darkest chapters in this nation's history.
Asked by Tracey McClure how Christians there are able to give witness to hope and peace the Patriarch begins by setting a time line: ..."Until what the West likes to call the Arab Spring Christians were living in Syria relatively in peace, their Church was respected in the same way as other Churches because there was a secular regime in place..."
The Patricarch then highlights how despite this relatively peaceful situation, apart from Lebanon , in this region of the Middle East Christians did not enjoy full citizenship in the same way as the Muslim majority.
Furthermore today following the Arab Spring there is great concern, the Patriarch says for the plight not only of Syriac Catholics but of all Christians across Syria: "..we are really frightened that another exodus like the one we witnessed in Iraq will take place in Syria.."
Speaking with Patriarch Younan about the Apostolic Exhortation Pope Benedict will present and sign while in Lebanon, a document which is the result of the 2010 Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops dedicated to Christians in the Middle East, Tracey McClure also focuses on issues concerning greater recognition of the contribution of Christians to society, equal civil rights and freedom of conscience.