Melkite Greek Catholic Church
Paris attacks of 13 November 2015 Gregorios III, “For the mystery of iniquity is already at work…”
The whole world was shocked by the wave of criminal barbarity that broke out in Paris and its suburbs yesterday. We were deeply moved when we learned of this unspeakable horror. Yet again we find ourselves caught up in the spiral of blind violence that seems to have engulfed our world, and especially the Arab world, for the last five years. It reminds us of the words of Saint Paul (2 Thessalonians 2:7): “For the mystery of iniquity is already at work…” in this world alienated from God. Neither can we forget the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, speaking of a disaster in his own days, “Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.” (Luke 13:3) With our Holy Synod, our eparchies and our French parishes of Saint-Julien-le-Pauvre in Paris, Saint-Nicolas de Myra in Marseille and our nuns at Aubazine in Corrèze, we join in the prayer of the Churches of France and call for the celebration of the Divine Liturgy in all our Melkite Greek Catholic parishes in remembrance of the victims and for the intentions of their families and for Peace. So everyone may heed the voice of Faith and the holy commandments: Do not murder, but rather love your neighbour as yourself, so that the mystery of the Resurrection may prevail, and not that of iniquity! We exhort the international community and call upon all believers of all religions to stand with us for peace, faith, hope and charity. “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments re not grievous. For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh he world, even our faith.” (1 John 5:3-4) 
Gregorios III
Patriarch of Antioch and All the East
Of Alexandria and of Jerusalem
Attack on Beirut’s Southern Suburbs Gregorios III says, “Everyone is responsible for this destructive chaos That destroys people and stones!”
Following the double suicide attack that struck Beirut’s southern suburbs today, Thursday 12 November 2015, HB Gregorios III, Patriarch of Antioch and All the East, of Alexandria and of Jerusalem, “appeals to the world’s conscience, because everyone is responsible for this destructive chaos that is destroying people and stones. “We confront the international community with its responsibilities, given this conflagration that has flared up in all our countries and our region of the Middle East, heralding further wars, acts of violence, terrorism, destruction, hatred and hostility, pitting the confessions and rites of our countries against one another! “We call upon the international community for greater unity and more consultation, so that we can finally bring to an end this war on our countries, communities, expertise in living together and holy land, cradle of religions. “We pray for the repose of the souls of the victims, for the consolation of their families, and for the recovery of the injured.”
Reprinted from Frankfurter Neue Presse:

Artist Oleg Kuzenko (left) still has to apply the finishing touches to his icons and frescoes. Jesuit Father Prof. Dr. Michael Schneider supervises him as he does this, so that absolutely nothing can go wrong at the consecration of the church at St George’s on Wednesday.'

42 square metre House of God

"This church is something special: small, but exclusive," says artist Oleg Kuzenko while he contemplates his colourful paintings on the wall and the ceiling, For they depict Jesus Christ, his mother Mary, the Apostles’ Communion, John the Baptist and the four evangelists’ symbols. Oleg Kuzenko created the murals and the icons for Saint George’s Graduate School of Philosophy and Theology’s new Byzantine church, which will be consecrated next Wednesday by Patriarch Gregorios III Laham of Damascus and the Limburg Bishop Thomas Loehr. It will be called "Of the Holy Cross of Jerusalem."

Room for 40 faithful

And it is really something special: not only because there are hardly any church consecrations nowadays, but because the new house of worship is probably also the smallest in Frankfurt, if not in the whole of Germany, since the space, which consists of an altar and a nave, measures just forty-two square metres and can accommodate some forty faithful. “Everyone has to stand,” says, Jesuit priest Prof. Dr. Michael Schneider, who runs the Institute of History of Dogma and Liturgy as well as the Department of Byzantine Studies at the College and is responsible for the planning and design of the room. He adds, with feeling, “To be able to inaugurate and consecrate a new church is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.” Michael Schneider has been close to the Eastern Catholic Churches since his student days, as he recounts – particularly the Melkite Greek Catholic Church, to which only about two million believers belong, but for whom the new house of worship in Oberrad aims to be a place of encounter. The Church has a strong presence in Syria, which Schneider himself has often visited, and helped develop many social projects, kindergartens and schools. The last time he went there was four years ago. In those days, when there was still no war, "It was a really beautiful, prosperous country with contented citizens," says Schneider. But that has long since changed. "At the beginning of construction work on our church, the influx of refugees began," says Schneider. "It therefore seemed appropriate to remember the new situation in Germany when choosing the patronage." That is why Patriarch Gregorios III Laham will also be carrying out the consecration. He is the leader of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church, and it was he who, at Frankfurt Cathedral in 2002, elevated Michael Schneider to Grand Archimandrite of the Patriarchate of Antioch. In other words: the theologian himself is a representative of the Greek Catholic Church in Germany.

A lot of money and work

Formerly there used to be a prayer-room for the Byzantine Rite in Saint George’s. However, that was in the old building of the seminary, which is currently being demolished. "Therefore, it was necessary to find a new space for worship," says Schneider. The answer came in the form of a storage room in the kitchen area of ​​the communications building. Even though, given its parlous state, you might not have been able immediately to conceive of it as a setting for the Byzantine Liturgy, yet the room’s shape and height would have convinced you. Before the installation of the future church and the paintings could begin, a ceiling had to be plastered, walls and floor levelled, as well as new electrical wiring installed. This is no cheap enterprise when you take into account the extensive joinery by the Regensburg Woodwork Company and the artworks by Oleg Kuzenko. "It will all cost a great deal of money," says Schneider. He could not say exactly how much, but just that the church was financed by private donations. Until the consecration of the church can be done next week, the last tool has yet to be packed away and the stained glass windows installed. They will be delivered on Saturday, so that the consecration can be performed at 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday. It is open to the public. However, you will need to allow plenty of time. The service will take up to four hours. But Schneider promises, "There is so much to see that time flies."

Colourful mural and ceiling paintings together with an ornate wooden iconostasis adorn the new church

© 2015 Frankfurter Neue Presse
Reprinted from Frankfurter Neue Presse: From the embattled Syrian capital, Damascus, Patriarch Gregorios III Laham came to Saint George’s College. He gave an interview to this newspaper in the new seminary. The so-called Islamic State (IS) is on the rampage in the Middle East; countless folk are fleeing. Will there be any Christians left there in the future? GREGORIOS III LAHAM: Yes, certainly. We Christians must remain there, even though we are only a small flock. We should never forget that the Church began with just twelve Apostles. The fact that, although Christians have been in the minority in the Middle East since the thirteenth century they are still there, I take to be a special grace. At the moment the situation is of course very difficult. There is the danger that more and more Christians will go away. How threatened are Christians in Syria and Damascus these days? GREGORIOS: All people are in a state of war. That means that you cannot tell the difference between Muslims and Christians. The bombs are falling on everyone. IS and various rebel groups are even fighting against other Muslims. Is a normal parish life with church services still possible at all today? GREGORIOS: Yes, where there are still Christians and churches, life goes on despite the war. In Damascus we have gone on celebrating our services, and youth and women’s confraternities are meeting as usual. Feast-days are celebrated too, but perhaps with less pomp than in peacetime. How many Christians live in Syria at the moment, and how strong is the flow of refugees? GREGORIOS: Before the crisis, there were about two million Christians of all denominations in Syria. Now I estimate that there are some four hundred and fifty thousand Christians currently fleeing, inside and outside the country. You have often stressed that Christians in the Middle East should not leave. How do you motivate them to stay? GREGORIOS: I always say: Christ was born in the Middle East and the first Christians had their place here. Benedict XVI said that the Middle East could not be understood without reference to Christianity. Christians translated texts – for example, on philosophy, medicine or mathematics – from Greek. In that way they laid the foundation for Arab and Islamic culture. Syria was always considered a country where Muslims’ and Christians’ living together worked well. Has anything in that been changed by the war? GREGORIOS: Living together is, by and large, thriving, although there is no organisation that is devoted to interfaith dialogue. But there are also border zones, into which IS, with its ideology, has infiltrated. What kind of support are you getting from Rome and the Church around the world? GREGORIOS: I am grateful to the Churches and international organisations, which are very deeply involved. The Vatican and individual dioceses support us, as does Caritas international, charities and smaller groups. The Church is close to people who are in need. The help is considerable, but of course, never enough. On what is the financial aid spent? GREGORIOS: It is spent on food and medicines, relief supplies such as blankets and camp-beds, and on schools. Reconstruction of destroyed houses and churches only plays a role whenever people who have fled come back. In the Middle East people are risking their lives for their faith in Jesus Christ, while in Germany that faith seems to be evaporating. What impression do you have of the Churches in Germany? GREGORIOS: Churches in Germany do have dwindling membership numbers, but also special tasks: the faithful must encounter Muslim refugees. And they must show their Christian identity more strongly, not in the sense of confrontation, but in the sense of a brotherly togetherness. If there is a vacuum on the side of Christianity, Muslims will fill it with their own faith. What can Christians in Germany learn from Eastern Christians? GREGORIOS: We are certainly rather more religious and adhere more firmly to our tradition and rites. Among us, religion plays a greater role in everyday life. If you, as Patriarch of Damascus, could have one wish granted – what would it be? GREGORIOS: My wish is for all Christian Churches of all denominations to campaign with unified voice for peace in the Middle East. Peace there is indeed crucial for the future of the whole world. The Church’s task is to be a peacemaker – even in the dialogue with Islam. © 2015 Frankfurter Neue Presse
Reprinted from Frankfurter, Allgemeine: A senior Church leader of Syrian Christians holds the German asylum offer responsible for the fact that so many people are leaving his country. By so doing, he reveals himself as a supporter of the Assad regime. Syrian Patriarch Gregorios III Laham has expressed reservations about Germany’s great receptivity. He was "glad about the reception, but sad about the invitation," the head of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church said on Wednesday in Frankfurt. The willingness of the Federal Government to grant protection to war refugees from Syria was "understood there to mean that Germany wanted to have a certain number of people." Certainly fear is a motive for flight, but this fear was deliberately exacerbated by "Islamic State," said the clergyman. Other reasons for the exodus from Syria were "hope for a better life and a better future" as well as desire for "adventure," said Gregorios III. He likened the exodus to an "epidemic." The patriarch, who resides in Damascus, was visiting Frankfurt on the occasion of the consecration of the Byzantine chapel at the Jesuit College of St. George. Although the civilian population in Aleppo was suffering under very difficult conditions, and the situation in Homs was increasingly difficult, life in Damascus was mostly going on as usual. All commodities are available and the cost of living is still cheaper than in neighbouring Lebanon. "The bazaars are full," said Gregorios III. It was “not true” that people are fleeing from government areas. On the contrary, many internally displaced persons were seeking shelter in places that were under the control of Syria's President Bashar al Assad. "Security is where the government is," said Gregorios III. As evidence, he pointed to his Patriarchate’s refugee assistance. At the beginning of the conflict in 2011, the reception centre in Damascus was supporting three hundred families; now it supports eight thousand. The Patriarch described the Syrian conflict as controlled by different interests. The "so-called opposition" was "paid," demonstrations "bought." In Syria, meanwhile, many war profiteers or "riches de la guerre" were making a living. House prices had fallen due to oversupply, from which a mafia profited. Even employees of international humanitarian organizations were highly paid, according to the Church leader.

High praise for the dictator Assad

Syria’s President Assad is, from the perspective of the senior Church leader, the victim of targeted defamation. In the Western media "manipulation, ignorance, the desire to learn the worst," prevailed, Laham said. Furthermore he blamed Syria’s negative image on Jesuit Paolo Dall'Oglio who was abducted over two years ago. The latter, as "a lone priest" and head of a government-supported monastery, had systematically spoken ill of the Assad government. Compared to the era of Hafez al Assad, the incumbent President’s father who ruled from 1970 to 2000, the situation in Syria has changed fundamentally, according to the Patriarch, head of an Eastern Church in union with Rome. There was greater religious freedom than in most other countries of the Middle East. Apart from Lebanon, Syria is the only country in the region where Islam is not the state religion. He himself could not share the negative view of Assad, Gregorios III said. In personal meetings, the President appears cultivated, full of sympathy and respect for the Christian religion. "I do not know what people have against him," to quote the patriarch verbatim. The Italian Jesuit Dall'Oglio had disappeared in July 2013 in Raqqa near the Turkish border and is supposed to be held by fundamentalist groups. For more than thirty years he worked in Syria, having settled there specifically to promote Christian-Muslim dialogue. The Catholic Church and the Italian government have been trying, so far in vain, to obtain the release of the religious. Born near Damascus, the Patriarch has ruled the Melkite Greek Catholic Church since 2000. The Eastern Church united with Rome has an estimated 1.6 million members, almost half of whom live abroad in parishes in Brazil and Argentina. © 2015 Frankfurter, Allgemeine
St. Paul describes Jesus as “he who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us, having abolished in his flesh the enmity…[He] came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh.” (Ephesians 2:14, 17) This description corresponds to the desire of all people in the Middle East. Our appeal responds to the injunction of St. Ignatius of Antioch in his Epistle to the Romans, “Remember in your prayers the Church in Syria.” (Romans 9) Every day brings more news of atrocities and horrific, inhuman crimes, carried out by the variously-named godless groups, while the world remains divided on how to combat this apocalyptic terrorism and criminality, which are sowing terror and causing the global scourge of continual migration, displacement and dispersal in different directions. Pope Francis referred, in his 2015 Lenten Message, to the problem of a “globalization of indifference.” Today we are facing a kind of third world war: let us now therefore work together towards global solidarity. The present crisis, which has been building up over the last five years, has now spread beyond Syria’s distress and tragedy to become a regional disaster, with repercussions all over Europe and indeed the whole world. Through this situation each and every human being in the Arab Middle East is threatened:
  1. Co-existence between the peoples of the region is threatened!
  2. Prospects for future generations and their faith values are currently threatened!
  3. The future of the whole region is in danger: religiously, culturally, educationally and economically… all are threatened!
The International Community has to date proved incapable of defeating takfiris, those barbarous and inhumane extremists - no doubt because some of its members continue arming and supporting them. Yet the whole International Community loudly proclaims that it is impermissible for these criminals to continue terrorising law-abiding citizens and making our God-created world a world of heartbreak, slaughter and mayhem. Since these current overwhelming tragedies and dangers are crushing our people and their morale, paralysing their Christian spirituality and even shaking their Christian faith, and the faith of every human being of every confession, we have to sound an alarm call to historic and global action. It is the role of Christian leaders to set out clearly the urgency of the situation and to call for peace in the region, and the cessation of violence, terrorism, political chaos, universal radicalization and the exploitation of Arabs and Easterners in the name of a global policy of manipulating the fate of the region’s peoples. Therefore, in the face of these atrocities, we express our deep pain, and appeal to the Arab world and the whole world, especially the Great Powers, (including the United States, the Russian Federation and the European Union) and other countries of the Americas, Asia, Australasia and elsewhere, and confide to them with great trust our most earnest plea, and the cherished expectation and hope of millions, that they will stop the wars that have flared up in our Middle East, particularly the wars in Syria and Iraq.
  • The influx of weapons to all sides must be stopped.
  • Syrians of all parties and confessions must be in the vanguard of the peace process.
  • Human rights, dignity and religious freedom ought to be guaranteed according to international standards.
  • Support the governments of those countries that have been fighting terrorism and fight alongside them to achieve victory together, and after that, the peace and security of the whole region.
Only peace can stem the flow of emigration which is sapping all our communities. Otherwise, the fire of violence, terrorism and takfirism will consume the world, East and West, and unparalleled religious conflicts will erupt, heralding a world war. “Quod omnes tangit, ab omnibus tractari et approbari debet.”[note“What concerns all must be discussed and approved by all.”] Thus thought the Church in the first millennium: let us act accordingly! We are grateful to members of the International Community for welcoming tens of thousands of Syrian citizens and other asylum seekers arriving in their countries. Pope Francis emphasized during his visit to the Holy Land in May 2014, that there are two keys for peace in the region and in the world:
  • A comprehensive peace agreement to end the war on Syria.
  • Justice for Palestinians (i.e. a resolution of the Palestinian Arab-Israeli conflict.)
It has been sixty-seven years and more since the conflict began, since when it has caused many wars and crises (more than twenty) and has constituted one of the most important reasons for the emigration of Christians and others. At present neither Israel nor any Arab country can enjoy safety and stability. Since therefore peace in Syria and Palestine is key to peace in the whole region, we need a kick-start towards resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. There is an urgent need for greater stability to enable us to create a forum for dialogue and reconciliation. In conclusion we must emphasize that no bombs or weapons can defeat ISIL and make peace but only a common voice of the Church and a common voice from a coalition of the International Community, without excluding any country. The Churches of the Middle East in their different denominations need encouragement from their fellow Christians in Europe and the whole world to continue to fulfil, by their presence and witness, their role, vocation and mission in the Middle East. In making this appeal, we, as a pastor and spiritual leader, are fulfilling Pope Francis’ call to be workers for peace! With this conviction we want to go out into the world and down in the annals of history as a peacemaker and so fulfil the Beatitude of Jesus, "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God."
+ Gregorios III
Patriarch of Antioch and All the East,
Of Alexandria and of Jerusalem
Thoughts on the tragic Syrian emigration
I am writing these thoughts under the impact of the news concerning the reception of displaced Syrians in the European Union (September 2015). Both Syrian Christians and Muslims are being displaced. Muslims constitute the majority of them, but even though the number of displaced Christians is smaller, yet these relatively large numbers of Christians migrating and being displaced represent red lines for the Christian presence and role in the Middle East, cradle of Christianity. I am addressing the West in particular about the risk of migration of Syrians, especially Christian Syrians. I say:
  • Arabism is being displaced, as we Christians are its advocates! Someone said at the beginning of the crisis in Syria: Keep your Christians to preserve your Arabness!
  • Democracy, whose children and advocates we are, is being displaced!
  • Co-existence, in which we are partners and major advocates, is being displaced!
  • Partnership and plurality is being displaced...
  • Christian-Muslim life-dialogue is being displaced.
  • The builders of the age-old Christian culture are being displaced!
  • Our churches are being transformed into museums!
  • War has demolished stone, the church of stone, but you are now deserting and tearing down the human Church!
  • Our churches are made sad and nostalgic for the voices of young people and girl- and boy-scouts playing drums ...
  • Our Church of the Orient (meaning, whence light dawns) is being made into a senescent Church, alone, weak, sad and powerless!
  • Social institutions, where both Muslims and Christians have been living and learning together Christian and Islamic religious education have become empty.
Dear West! Fellow-Christians in the West, thank you for your attention to the displaced ... but we say to you that the greatest good that you can do for Christians and Muslims alike in the Arab East is to work for peace! You should join together - the United States of America, the Russian Federation and the European Union, South America, China, and the Arab countries, all without exception, including Iran and Turkey ... all unite together for peace! Thus we shall all be victorious together over takfirism, exclusion and atheism, violence and terrorism and suicide bombing. The lure of migration is our greatest loss! It is a trap to which people are drawn perhaps ignorantly and unawares! Or, God forbid, for suspicious and criminal reasons! You are removing constituent elements of our nation! And ... the whole world is losing a model of living together, for we Muslims and Christians have been living together over 1436 [Islamic] years, without wars, despite some disagreements and conflicts ... but over the years peace and coexistence have outweighed controversy! You countries participating in the latest plan to receive displaced Syrians, I’ve perused your programme in Europe and America (which makes no mention of any Arab country!!!). The upshot of the programme is that you are drawing hundreds of thousands of misguided and displaced Syrians to your countries! Reckoning on the basis of the number of persons displaced from Syria to date, the number of Syria’s migrants and displaced people, most of whom are Muslims, is projected to be some three to four million by the end of this year. Since the Christian minority was the first to migrate and flee ... for the Church this means reaching red lines, and the threat of the Arab East being emptied of its Arab Christians! As Patriarch, I warn the world of the consequences of this policy and these measures and decisions taken by Western countries: it will mean slow death to Christians! That is why I am raising my voice aloud against these measures. I realise that there are negative reactions to my positions here and there, as I know through social media ... and there are those who launch insults at me ... and I accept it and bear it. But I am convinced of my position, because I love this people, this Arab community, the Arab world, which I cannot bear to see disintegrate during this migration of its components, losing its plurality, the beauty of living together due to this emigration.... That is why I am resisting these Western measures and asking Western countries to revise their decisions. This is my position and was also the position of Lebanon's Christians, when the USA had ships moored off the port of the capital, Beirut, and was inviting Christians to emigrate during the Lebanese civil war! Christians rejected that plan. Do not let us fall into this trap! Let us not fall in with this experiment! We shall resist and I call on my people to adopt the position of a Muslim and Christian civil society and Church, to resist this plan, which as I said, I hope is inspired by noble humanitarian sentiments. But whatever the intent behind it, it is destructive for us and for our Syrian society with its Christians and Muslims. On the other hand, I am addressing with respect and love and trust and appreciation all the heads of state and leaders of countries that have decided to receive such large numbers of displaced Syrians; I address you with great respect and appreciation, love and trust, and resolutely humane conviction, and through the vision of an Arab Christian Church with wide horizons, and in the spirit of the Gospel ... declare in the words of the Lord Jesus, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God!” and share with you these basic thoughts:
  1. A common position has to be reached that includes all countries of the world: European states, without exception, as well as Arab and regional countries, without exception, and even the whole Islamic world, without exception, to confront the phenomenon of takfirism, violence and terrorism.
  2. Alongside this unity in the overall global position, the greatest and most influential factor in any successful campaign to break the power of the takfiri groups will be literary and intellectual.
  3. This comprehensive global position would be more effective in defeating these groups than the arsenals of weapons flowing into the region, fuelling the fire of war in our Arab countries.
  4. This is the global stance and position of spiritual and really humanitarian faith, stronger than the force of arms!
  5. A comprehensive global decision for peace in the region can be made on the basis of solving two dilemmas which are crucial to peace in the region, as stated by Pope Francis during his visit to the Holy Land from Jordan on 24 May 2013, “There are two keys to peace in the region and in the Middle East and in the whole world:
    • a comprehensive solution to the crisis in Syria
    • justice for Palestinians, which means resolving the Israeli-Palestinian-Arab conflict.”
Failure to achieve peace in the Middle East means behaving in such a way as will lead to a third world war, which has in fact already begun. I hope my voice may be heard and the voice of millions of people in the Arab world, especially in Syria, who are exposed to migration and death from violence and terrorism. Their voices are all calling for the desired peace, which is the greatest good for our world mired in war! May God inspire you with all that is for the good for the region’s peoples that aspire to peace, security and stability, and to a decent living, and to the values of the world of faith, hope and love, which are timeless values of spiritual faith, which is the best asset of our historic and authentic heritage. Work for Arab unity, which is a warranty for regional peace and Christian and Muslim living together and for the Christian role. Meanwhile, I call upon my Syrian brothers and sisters, both Christian and Muslim, especially young people and families, to solidarity together, in order to fight the destructive ideas of migration, which are demolishing our society and our way of life and killing our Muslim-Christian Syrian Arab heritage. I beseech and implore you to stay together! Protect your country from becoming a human, moral and social vacuum caused by this escalating migration! Christians and Muslims, protect one another from the danger of this mass migration and the risk of those calling for a mass exodus. This migration will jeopardise the future of the country of origin of the displaced (Syria) and the host countries. If Syria is to avoid this historic tragedy of migration and a war similar to the Armenian and Syriac genocides ... we call on our beloved citizens to steadfastness and unity and national solidarity ... and also call on the states of the European Union to review their position on displaced persons ... and especially, as I said earlier, to work hard and rapidly take the final resolution to end the war and end the supply of weapons, and restore security and peace. This is the remedy of the bravest for the tragedy of migration. Let me ask the Arabs, why the Arab League is not meeting to address the war situation in the region, particularly in Syria, and the tragic situation of migration, which is causing the loss of its youth and the builders of its future! Have mercy on Syria! Make a public affirmation of peace in the region! This is the sought-for breakthrough; this is a bright future not only for Syria, but for the whole region. With my love and my blessing
+ Gregorios III
Patriarch of Antioch and All the East,
Of Alexandria and of Jerusalem
Of the Greek Catholics
Protocol 495/ 2015 D
The tragedy of emigration:
A pity for the Arab world!
I am writing these thoughts with tears in my eyes of grief and anger at the tragedy of emigration! And I turn to Arabs before the Western states, exclaiming, “What a pity for the Arab world!” Migration is consuming everyone, whether Christian or Muslim! And takfirism is winning over hearts and feelings and serving as an incubator for hatching and fostering criminals and murderers! Do you want especially Christians to emigrate? Do you want peaceful citizens to emigrate? Do you want to decimate Christian and Muslim communities, whose co-existence binds the region together in good times and bad? Do you want to destroy Syria and elsewhere, imposing migration on everyone? Every day seeing buses loaded with migrants? How long will the war and fighting last, which is the main cause of migration? I say this after having browsed the social media images, showing European Christians at train stations in various large cities, particularly in Vienna (Austria) and Munich (Germany). We see them greeting displaced people, especially Syrians and others, with words of welcome, kindly cheering them and bringing tons of aid: food, clothes, medicines, clothing and toys for children ... all for free! O Arab world! See how those so-called infidels receive their fellow human beings, with generosity, love, respect and delicate humane sentiments! Yet, O Arab world, you Arabs are erecting barriers on borders, closing borders to people and goods traffic and people’s livelihood, from your own religion, country and nation! ... Yet you waste millions or rather billions of dollars killing one another! Have you forgotten the precious Qur'anic verse: “O mankind! Indeed, We created you from a male and a female and We made you nations and tribes that you may know one another,” or forgotten the holy verse, “if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it!” And the Gospel verse, “He (Jesus) came to gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad." And to my beloved fellow leaders and Arab peoples, I quote an appeal by Jesus to the holy city of Jerusalem, “Jerusalem! Jerusalem! That kills the prophets ... how often would I have gathered thy children as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but ye would not. Behold your house is left unto you desolate.” And Jesus said, "Every Kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation." This is the case of the Arab world and the Arab League! O fellow Arabs! Learn a lesson, my brothers, the leaders of the Arab States and peoples and hear the word of Almighty God. Seek peace! You should know that Arabism is honour and authenticity, proud generosity, solidarity and love. I raise my supplication for the Arab world which I love, for its countries, people and leaders to be worthy of the Beatitude uttered by our Lord Jesus Christ in the Holy Gospel, "Blessed are the peace-makers, for they shall be called the children of God.” In that I echo what the Kuwaiti journalist, Ahmad Sarraf wrote on 2nd September 2015 in Al Qabas newspaper, “Muslims of the Middle East, imitate Christians. We need to imitate Eastern Christians and learn from them something of love and a great deal of tolerance. We have had enough of mutual hatred, which has caused the displacement of millions of us. And we loathe all calls to slaughter and arson and demolition. We are tired of seeing all this bloodshed and vandalism. And our tears have dried up through weeping over the hundreds of thousands of our dead. We have lost our homes. We should give peace and love a chance and take care over the correct education and special needs of our children, now that they have been filled with self-hatred and hatred of others. You will lose nothing by trying to imitate your Christians, be it for but a day." And I echo what was said by the same journalist already in the same newspaper in July 2014 when he wrote so bitterly and sadly, "Send away the Christians of Mosul, because we want to get back to the deserts! And we want to exchange their civilization for the art of grave-digging." And I echo what Dr. Wafa Sultan said about Christians in Syria. Here are some extracts: "Christians are our salt and sugar, flour of our bread, our flowers and gardens. Without them, life in Syria would be very ugly and very barren. Nomadic hordes destroyed their heritage, language and history, and tried to replace them with the culture of the desert, which adopts the principle of: Do not use charity toward them. But they have remained faithful to the teachings of their God: unreciprocated love of enemies. And they do good to their enemies and do not hate them, but bless their enemies and do not curse. They are certainly loyal...they forgive and do not hold grudges ... they give and do not ask for anything in return ... They remained faithful to their homeland and to their brothers in humanity." I certainly do not say this in order to boast. As the venerable Qur’an says, Christians are not a proud people. But my reason for writing this is to call upon my fellow Arab citizens of all spectra to solidarity and co-existence and living together in mutual respect, and to charity, which is the bond of perfection, and the most beautiful relationship between God and man, and man with God and his fellow man. I ask with sincerity and warmth for Christians to love Muslims with sincerity and trust, and Muslims to love Christians. I also call on Muslims to defend the Christian presence and say to their fellow citizens, “We need to keep you with us.” And for Christians to tell their Muslim fellow citizens, “We'll stay with you and for you, to remain together and build a better life together, together building a civilization of love.”
+ Gregorios III
Patriarch of Antioch and All the East,
Of Alexandria and of Jerusalem
Of the Melkite Greek Catholics
To my dear children and beloved young people, Cordial greetings with my love, blessing and prayers! Dear young people, I am sending you affectionate, hearty greetings by way of this brotherly and fatherly letter addressed to you, which is rather a conversation with you, as I am in daily conversation with you in prayers, meditations, thoughts, trips and travels here and there, and in conferences, talks and meetings the world over, both at home and abroad. Beloved, When I talk to youth groups in our parishes I often repeat my slogan:
A Church without young people is a Church without a future. Young people without a Church are young people without a future.
Now I add:
A homeland without young people is a homeland without a future. Young people without a homeland are young people without a future.
The almost communal wave of youth emigration, especially in Syria (but also in Lebanon and Iraq) breaks my heart, wounding me deeply and dealing me a deadly blow. Given this tsunami of emigration, the above-quoted motto becomes meaningless. What future is left for the Church? What will become of our homeland? What will become of our parishes and institutions? Of course, I understand the many reasons that incite you young people to emigrate. Despite all that, I implore you to remain, arming yourselves with resolution, patience, endurance, strength and good courage. Our fathers and mothers suffered much. Many died in the frequent turmoil in our countries, especially Syria. We all know about the revolution of 1860, when thousands of Christians were killed, and the churches of Damascus Old City were burnt down, from Bab Tuma to Bab Sharki. Our Cathedral of the Dormition, which had been built in 1835 by Patriarch Maximos III (Mazlum), was destroyed. My predecessor Patriarch Gregorios II (Sayyur) had it rebuilt and enlarged in 1865, and we have just celebrated the 150th anniversary of its reconstruction. Then, in 1860 there was just the cathedral, but now we have nine churches in Damascus. My dear young people, Our forebears underwent great difficulties, but they exercised patience and so the Church remained, Christianity remained and the number of Christians even grew after 1860. That is why I say again, despite all your suffering, stay! Be patient! Don’t emigrate! Stay for the Church, your homeland, for Syria and its future! Stay! Do stay! I conclude this brotherly and fatherly letter by reminding you again of my love and esteem. You are the future of the Church and your country. I shall go on praying for you every day, for Jesus, the Saviour to keep you and give you the grace of patience in the current, tragic circumstances. Be sure that the Church, with all its capabilities, is accompanying you. Our Lord Jesus, friend of young people, speaks to you, telling you, as he often did his disciples according to the Gospel, “Be not afraid. I am with you always, even unto the end of the age. Ye will be my witnesses.” My dear young people, I love you,
+ Gregorios III
Patriarch of Antioch and All the East,
Of Alexandria and of Jerusalem
Opening of the cause for the beatification and canonisation of the Apostle of Upper Egypt
“Boutros Wadih Kassab was the apostle of Upper Egypt and the apostle of youth,” says Gregorios III
On Friday 7 August 2015, at the Cathedral of the Resurrection in Cairo, HB Gregorios III, Patriarch of Antioch and All the East, of Alexandria and of Jerusalem, presided over the solemn opening of the cause for beatification and canonisation of Boutros Wadih Kassab (1913-86), the apostle of Upper Egypt. “It gives us great joy to open the process of the cause for beatification and canonisation of Boutros Wadih Kassab, a great Christian layman deeply committed to his faith, which led him to found and work for very many Catholic associations dedicated to serving young people. This was the lynchpin of his life and life-long commitment… not to mention his involvement, on the one hand, in the Saint Vincent de Paul Society that illuminated his Christian life and which he chaired for very many years, and on the other, his commitment to the institutions particular to his Melkite Greek Catholic Church in Cairo, such as its Upper Council... “We have read and studied with great interest the testimonies of French and Egyptian Melkite Christians and Muslims describing meetings with Boutros Kassab… Despite their different backgrounds, they all testify to Boutros Kassab’s readiness to serve or lead any spiritual, ecumenical and ecclesial commitment to youth service. … There can be no doubt that he was the most influential lay-person in the Church in Egypt… as he always used to say, `Working in the Catholic Youth Association is my whole life!`  “He was the apostle of Upper Egypt and Port Said as well as the apostle of youth, an everyday example of a committed lay-person living out his faith, rooted in Gospel values. The cause of Boutros Wadih Kassab’s beatification and canonisation will be a long, slow ecclesial process requiring a great deal of precision. Yet without prejudging Church decisions, we can already say with the psalmist, `God is wonderful in his saints,` and with Our Lady, `He that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name!` We ask her intercession and blessing for this cause that we are opening today. “The Eastern Churches have given the Catholic Church great saints like Saints Sharbel and Rafqa. More recently still, our Church gave two women saints whose example and charism are guides for every one of us: Saint Mary of Jesus Crucified (Mary the Arab) and Saint Marie-Alphonsine Ghattas. May these saints grant our Churches and faithful the ability to realise the dream of every person created in the image of God of being holy, thus fulfilling the commandment of Our Lord Jesus Christ, `Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect!`”
For further information, contact Névine Toutounji-Hage Chahine, Tel: + 961 3 22 64 87

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