Melkite Greek Catholic Church
 

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May the Holy and All-Pure Mother of God

protect, guide and guard all our children and families.

 
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

At the request of His Grace, The Most Revered NICHOLAS J. Samra, Eparchial Bishop of Newton, His Holiness, Pope Francis, has named Saint Anne Melkite Greek Catholic Church in Los Angeles, California, as Co-Cathedral of the Melkite Greek Catholic Eparchy of Newton. The Divine Liturgy for the Solemn Inauguration of the Cathedral of Saint Anne will be celebrated by His Grace, Bishop NICHOLAS, on Saturday, 1 August 2015, at 4:00 P.M. His Eminence, Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, Prefect of the Congregation for the Eastern Churches in Rome, will preside at the Divine Liturgy and will read the decree of Pope Francis elevating the Church as a Cathedral for the Eparchy of Newton. A grand Banquet will follow the Divine Liturgy at the Hilton Hotel in Studio City, CA.

Saint Anne Cathedral was founded in 1909 when Father Gerasimos Sawaya, the first Melkite missionary priest, traversed the west coast visiting and ministering to the Melkites in the Western United States. The present church building is 51 years old and is quite unique in the United States for its modern Byzantine architecture. The church is a jewel of iconography with mosaic and painted icons decorating the entire interior, featuring the Great Feasts of the Byzantine calendar and related accounts of the New Testament Gospel periscopes, as well as many saints. Its semi-circular exterior arcade features icon scenes from the Old Testament.

St. Anne Cathedral was the Mother Church of the following Melkite communities founded from it: Holy Cross Church in Placentia, CA; Virgin Mary Mission in Temecula, CA; St. Jacob Mission in San Diego, CA; St. Philip Mission in San Bernardino, CA; St. Paul Mission in West Los Angeles, CA; and Annunciation Mission in Covina, CA. In addition, St. Anne Church was also involved with the foundation of the following communities: St. George Church in Sacramento, CA; St. Elias the Prophet Church in San Jose, CA; and St. John of the Desert Church in Phoenix, AZ; and St. Joseph Mission in Seattle, WA.

The Eparchy of Newton has jurisdiction over all the Melkites in the entire United States. The seat of the Eparchy is in Boston (Newton) Massachusetts, where its Eparchial Cathedral of the Annunciation is located. Because of the vast extent of the Eparchy, Bishop NICHOLAS requested the naming of a Co-Cathedral on the West Coast in order to express to the Melkite faithful there the unity of the Church and the solicitude of it bishop. The Eparchy of Newton presently has 45 parishes and missions, sixty active and retired priests, and sixty-two deacons, with several priests and deacons on special assignment outside the Eparchy.

 
Bishop Nicholas J. Samara – Bishop of Newton

Major Catechetical Teaching Points

  1. Cultural development sometimes veers away from Christian thinking: Funerals are not about memories and reminiscences of the departed, but rather focus on the reality of their present life in Christ and prayers for their “good defense before the awesome Judgment Seat of Christ.”
  2. Encourage the faithful to notify clergy of someone’s illness so that prayers for the sick may be offered. The mystery of Holy Unction is not just for one who is dying, but a healing remedy for the living.
  3. Funeral Services: Trisagion at the Funeral Home, Funeral in church, Graveside Prayers.
  4. Respect at the Funeral Home for the departed and the family. Offering condolences should not turn into a “free- for-all” visit with friend and acquaintances. Instead encourage the reading of the Psalms or Gospels throughout the viewing.
  5. If viewing is at Church: no pictures or slide shows of the departed are permitted. An atmosphere of prayer is to be maintained in the church. The church is not a place for social gatherings but a house of prayer. Psalms and/or Gospels must be read during the entire duration of the viewing. No piped in music, please!
  6. The Possibility of evening Funerals and morning Trisagion at the church or directly at the grave without the procession of cars.
  7. No eulogies by laity or clergy are permitted. The homily should focus on the “end” of earthly life and the beginning of the new life to which we are all called, being restored through the resurrections of Christ.
  8. If family members wish to speak, the ideal time is at the mercy meal, not at the funeral service or Trisagion.
  9. No music other than funeral chants is permitted; nor are any services by fraternal organizations permitted in church.
  10. Simple mercy meals, not extravagant dinners.
  11. Memorials with Kolyva (sweetened boiled wheat) or sweetened bread.
  12. Development of Bereavement Ministry among the parish laity to assist with service and even mercy meals.
  13. Simpler caskets–no need for outrageous costs, which can be a sign of vanity. These are of no avail for the deceased.
  14. Cremation: the Church upholds the ideal of burial as the traditional, preferred practice. If cremation is chosen and is not motivated by reasons opposed to Christian faith, we still recommend that it is done after the funeral. Cremated ashes may never be scattered or taken home; they must be buried or entombed in a mausoleum or columbarium.
  15. Donations to the church or charities can be recommended. If flowers are given, they can be used in front of the icons after the funeral.
  16. The Funeral Service with open coffin is our traditional rite, so that the body may be anointed with oil and sprinkled with ashes; and the custom of the last kiss may be observed at the conclusion of the service.
 
from.our.bishop

My Beloved Clergy and Faithful,

Christ is risen! He is truly risen!

Pascha is our celebration of Faith and Hope, our belief and trust in God’s promise that “we have been born anew to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and to an inheritance which is imperishable, undefiled and unfading, kept in heaven for you” (1 Peter 1:3-4). Indeed, our yearning for abundant life is fulfilled by the Resurrection that gives promise for our future.

Without hope life can be very sad and painful, and we can become disillusioned in relationships, in shattered dreams, in family problems, in illness, and of course, in death. Yet Pascha proclaims an undying hope–the risen Christ comes today to bring hope and victory. He comes to bring resurrection and new life.

On Holy Friday, we heard the reading of Ezekiel’s vision of an entire valley filled with dead men’s bones. The Lord who is ever faithful breathes over the bones and brings His people back from death and captivity. This vision is fulfilled by the risen Christ who even today calls us back to life and clothes our dry, dead bones with purpose, hope, and eternal life!

On the night of His Resurrection, Jesus walks to Emmaus with two of his disciples who do not recognize Him immediately (Luke 24:13-35). In their sadness they tell Him: “We hoped that He was the one who would redeem Israel.” They mention the women, and some other disciples, finding the empty tomb, “but Him they did not see.” Jesus then interprets for them the Scriptures concerning Himself, and He opens their eyes in the “breaking of the bread.” Immediately, He brings them from the darkness of despair to the joyful light of hope in Him.

Our life, too, is often filled with shattered dreams and broken hopes. Truly, our world is still filled with problems: wars, killings, injustice, hatred, and the like. So many people lose themselves in despair. But if Christ is risen, then hope is risen! If Christ is risen, death is conquered, and we live in the everlasting arms of our beloved Savior who died so we may live. In Him “we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Colossians 1:13).

The risen Christ liberates us from all negativity and pessimism. Our lighted candles on Pascha remind us that we sing with full and joyful hope as we proclaim with St. John Chrysostom: “Christ is risen, and the demons are cast down. Christ is risen, and the tombs have been emptied of their dead. Christ is risen, and life is set freed” (Paschal Homily)!

Sartre speaks of the silence of God.

Heidegger speaks of the absence of God.

Jaspers speaks of the concealment of God.

Bultmann of the hiddenness of God.

Buber of the eclipse of God.

Tillich of the nonbeing of God.

Altizer of the death of God.

However, the New Testament writers–eyewitnesses–speak of the hope of the Risen and Living Lord! To Him be glory, honor, and worship, praise and thanksgiving for all ages. Amen.

My sincere and prayerful wishes that you will find your Hope in the risen Lord, and that your Paschal celebration and its forty-day festal season be filled with great joy. I offer all of you my prayers, blessing, and love.

Sincerely yours in the risen Christ,

✠ Most Reverend Nicholas J. Samra
Bishop of Newton
 
Now available from Sophia Press…
the long-awaited second edition of the
Publicans Prayer Book

The Publicans Prayer Book, 2nd Edition, contains everything in the 1st Edition…

PLUS… 140 additional pages including:

  • Selections from the Horologion: Vespers, Orthros, and Typica
  • Prayers for the Dying and Departed: Canon for the Parting of the Soul from the Body, Trisagion Prayers (Memorial Service for the Departed), Canon for the Departed, Akathist Hymn for Those who have Fallen Asleep
  • Instructions for praying the Psalter including the Rule for the Weekly Recitation of the Psalter and the Twenty Kathismata of the Byzantine Psalterion
  • Instructions on the Jesus Prayer
  • Additional Selected Texts from the writings of the Holy Fathers

The Publicans Prayer Book is a valuable help for Eastern Christians who seek to sanctify their daily lives by responding to the Lord’s call to “pray at all times” (Luke 21:34). It also makes an especially meaningful gift for occasions such as: graduation, holidays, names day, birthday, first confession, anniversary, etc. for anyone who loves the Lord.

Richly leather-bound with gold embossing, sewn binding, fine quality archival paper, gilt edges, silk ribbons, two-color printing throughout, in a practical 4.5×6.5 size, with lovely graphic reproductions from antique Byzantine liturgical books.

On sale now from Sophia Press ($38.00). Easy online ordering!

 
from.our.bishop


Eastern Catholicism in the Middle East
Fifty Year after Orientalium Ecclesiarum
Observation – Analysis – Evaluation
Turmoil, Divisions and Hopes For Unity in the Church of Antioch


Bishop Nicholas Samra, Eparchial Bishop of Newton
University of St. Michael’s College
In the University of Toronto
October 18, 2014

Introduction

My presentation on Eastern Catholicism in the Middle East fifty years after Vatican II’s document Oreintalium Ecclesiarum needs an introduction that begins long before Vatican II. It actually begins in the early Church centuries when the faith was being formulated in human languages, especially through the seven ecumenical councils as well as many other local councils. These early centuries witnessed great discussions as well as what have become known as many heresies.1

I speak mainly of the Church of Antioch, the major city of the Roman Empire in the East – in the area which was known as Greater Syria: present day Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, Jordan, Iraq, modern day Israel, and parts of Southern Turkey. It was the Patriarch of Antioch who had jurisdiction over this vast area. The designation of Jerusalem as a Patriarchate became more honorary to a very limited area.

Even though Greek was the major spoken language in the entire Roman Empire, local languages still existed, particularly in villages outside of populated cities. Aramaic and Syriac were predominant in the Christian villages and had a variety of dialects. Arabic was unknown in this area until the coming of Islam hundreds of years later and did not become the more commonly spoken language until the 17th century especially among Christians.

Without getting into dates and council declarations, very early on the Church of Antioch became very diverse. From its common core, numerous Churches developed. The main liturgical setting of the Church of Antioch was the Liturgy of St. James, however others developed. The East Syrian Church used the more ancient Anaphora of Addai and Mari, noted because it does not contain an announced institution narrative.

A large part of the Church of Antioch followed the Nestorian issues, although today we do not use that term as a designation. This Church of the East spread from what is modern day Iraq into the Persian Empire (Iran) and all the way east and south to China and India. At one point in history it was larger in numbers than the spread of the Roman Church in the West. A very evangelical Church, it almost went into extinction in many areas, but developed in others, particularly India.

The West Syrian Church developed into the Syriac Church, which through theological debates divided more. Parts of it followed the Nestorian heresy. After the Council of Chalcedon (451 AD) the Syriac Church divided into Chalcedonian and non-Chalcedonian Churches. Those opposed to the Council dubbed those who accepted it “ the Melkites,” a word from Syriac (Malko) meaning the King or Emperor – or royalists since the emperor accepted the Chalcedonian doctrine that Jesus Christ was true God and true man. At that time “Melkite” was considered a derogatory term. The non-Chalcedonians had a different understanding in the unity of Christ – God and man. And I note that it was not until almost 1900 years later that it was recognized as a mainly semantic issue and not a theological misunderstanding.

Another part of the Chalcedonian Church, the Melkite, now divided again into what is known as Maronite and Melkite. The Maronites at first were not pure Chalcedonians. According to some historians (of course mainly non-Maronite) they were for a time Monothelites – another bad word today. But for the sake of starting a public controversy, I will not pursue the theological debate but just emphasize two more Churches, each distinct, were born.

The Church of Antioch spread into Asia Minor and gave its initial liturgical life to Constantinople – the seat of the empire, where it was more hellenized and stylized. John Chrysostom was Patriarch of Antioch before his election to the Patriarchate of Constantinople. The Byzantine Church developed, although much of the liturgical life of Palestine passed directly to Constantinople unaltered.

After the Muslim conquest in the 7th century and the Crusades which were initially meant to check its presence, more divisions developed. The Crusaders ousted the legitimate church leaders – Patriarch and bishops – in favor of Latin appointees. The Patriarch of Chalcedonian Antioch fled and took refuge in Constantinople where his Church was more hellenized. After several hundred years it lost its Syriac liturgical traditions to the more Hellenized traditions of Constantinople, sometimes called the Byzantine Church.

Jump ahead several hundred years and we see the Church of Rome, the Latins, sending missionaries to the Middle East beginning in the 1600’s. If it was considered to convert Muslims, it was not successful because Islam prohibited conversions to Christianity and protected itself with fear of death to any Muslim who even considered conversion. In actuality a tremendous proselytizing took place among the Orthodox faithful and new Churches were born of unions or communions with Rome – derogatorily called “uniates”, now Eastern Catholics. The Romans or Latins now opened their own churches and because of the financial support of the west, won converts to the Latin churches, a poor means of evangelizing.

To recap then in this long introduction, from the one Church of Antioch the following developed:

  • West Syrian:
    • Syriac Orthodox/Catholic
    • Maronite – all Catholic
    • Melkite Greek Catholic and Orthodox, known as Greek Orthodox in the East and Antiochian Orthodox in the West.
  • East Syrian:
    • Chaldean Catholic and Church of the East (the non-Catholic branch) which does not use the term Orthodox but rather Apostolic Catholic Church of the East.
    • Syro-Malabar Catholic and Orthodox in India – following the Chaldean tradition.
    • Syro-Malankara Church in India – Catholic and Orthodox following the west Syriac tradition.

Let me add to this unique Church of Antioch, now divided into different Churches, the Church of Armenia – a national Church, even older than the Church of the Empire. The Armenian tradition is a mixture of Syriac and Byzantine elements as it developed across Asia Minor. There are two Churches: Catholic and Orthodox, also called Apostolic Armenian.

So what developed were six Orthodox Churches and seven Catholic Churches all from the one Church of Antioch – not counting the proselytizing Latin churches.

I take another leap to the Ottoman Empire. In order to conquer and rule, the Ottomans who ruled in the Middle East, the Balkans and Greece 400 years, made each Church a “nation” or in Arabic a “Taifat,” in Turkish a “millet”. The patriarchs and bishops of each “nation” or community were civil heads over their individual churches. Ottomans interfered to collect head tax and when a Christian killed someone. All other issues were resolved by the Church heads. Christians were heavily taxed and even had to pay to have bishops and patriarchs recognized by the civil authorities. Thus many patriarchs and bishops were elected more for their civil know-how and not necessarily for their spirituality.

To save their own lives, many Christians learned the bad aspects of their rulers – cheating and lying in order to deal with the Ottomans. Many bishops, priests, patriarchs and laity died for their faith during Ottoman times. World War I – the Great War ended the Ottoman rule which had begun to crumble long before with the West’s involvement in the Middle East, yet Christians learned Turkish conniving and scheming.

Historical Evaluation of Divisions

This brings me to today and several issues or problems that I see were predominant. The Church of Antioch was greatly divided and very much competition took place. Jealousies abounded. Each particular Church developed strong individuality and each Church saw itself as the more legitimate heir of the See of Antioch. Three Catholic Patriarchs and two Orthodox Patriarchs claim the title of Patriarch of Antioch and all the East.

Competition and rivalries developed among the Churches, each group thinking itself more authentic than the others. With the existence of the Latin religious communities (Jesuits, Franciscans, Dominicans, etc) each Church had to struggle to keep their own faithful because the Latins began to build churches and homes for the people – in a sense buying them to accept the Latin Church. In Jerusalem the Latin Church is still nicknamed the Church of the Bread Latins! because they became Latin for food and financial support.

Instead of all Christians working together for education and schools, each Church attempted to open their own schools in the cities as well as in small villages where several churches existed.

Enter the Protestant Churches who were financially supported by the West, particularly the United States. Again, money, homes, food, and support distracted Eastern Christians away from their proper roots and traditions.

Orthodox faithful were greatly disarmed and Eastern Catholics were born of divisions from their mother Churches and were greatly Latinized.

Insights to Vatican II Decree Orientalium Ecclesiarum

In the Vatican II decree of which we are speaking, recognition of each particular Church was noted. It speaks of the “Rites of the Catholic Church” and not as the Eastern Rites of the Catholic Church, as if the Catholic Church was Latin. There is equal dignity among the Churches – none superior to the others – Latin included.2 But recognition of this fact would take years to develop, coming out of hundreds of years of oppression and a great loss of their faithful. The “unity of action and common endeavor to sustain common tasks; so as to safeguard more effectively the ordered way of life,” took many more years to expand and it is still not flourishing.3

Vatican II calls for the Eastern Catholic Churches to rule themselves. This is still delayed and impeded because of Roman interference. Here I mention one of the difficulties of Roman interference. When there is a head above the head – in other words the pope above the patriarch and synod, in the event a problem is not solved to the likings of the complainers, the “super head” is appealed to. We have a problem in Jordan where several priests did not agree with their proper Melkite bishop and were not satisfied with the Synod’s assessment. So they made an appeal, and Rome named a Latin Rite Auxiliary Bishop to the Melkite Archdiocese in Jordan with full power over the seated Archbishop.

The Vatican document calls the Churches “to preserve their legitimate liturgical rite and their established way of life.” This is still lacking due to excessive Latinization, theologically as well as liturgically. There is more to dressing up Eastern Catholics in Orthodox clothes and calling them legitimate to their proper traditions.

I cannot speak for all the Churches but I can speak for mine – the Greek Melkite. After Vatican II, our Synod returned in 1968 to the practice of communicating newly baptized and chrismated children, but you will still see First Communion ceremonies at age 7 throughout the Patriarchate. They may now call them “Solemn Communion” but let us not be fooled. Ask the laity what is celebrated! The identity has not totally been integrated. The U.S.A. Eparchy instituted this in 1970 with the coming of Archbishop Joseph Tawil and we took pains to reeducate our faithful in this matter. After Tawil the custom redeveloped in a few parishes with a few priests, and three years ago after I became Eparchial Bishop, I had to reissue this proper tradition via a Pastoral Letter,4 stronger than the first time around.

The feast of Corpus Christi, a distinct Latin feast was adopted by the Melkite Church soon after its communion with Rome in 1724. It was discussed at the Synod after Vatican II. The bishops concurred it was a Latinization but chose to keep it on the calendar – even as a 1st class feast with a pre-feast and after-feast. Their reasoning was still Latinized since the text was composed in a Byzantine fashion, but it boiled down to its social aspect in some eparchies, a religious procession enhanced with street fairs of food and dance and even carnival atmosphere.5

We still have issues with Rome’s involvement in the election of bishops within and outside of the traditional patriarchate which Rome seems to see as the lines of the Ottoman Empire.

In 1995 the Congregation for the Eastern Churches issued a document titled Instruction for the Application of the Liturgical Prescriptions of the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches.6 I will not get into all of the prescriptions but it is clear that pains should be taken to return to the legitimate customs of the Eastern Churches. This is one of the best documents from Rome on this subject. However, to date, the only one giving Communion to infants after baptism and chrismation is the Melkite Church. It appears as if the other Church synods haven’t even read the document, or if they have, just ignored it, refusing children to participate in the Lord’s Eucharistic table. And that’s just one of many prescriptions and traditions to reintroduce. I have repeatedly asked our Synod to discuss this document and to date nothing has happened. I comment no further.

The question of the date of Pascha still remains an issue. As you know Christians are laughed at and mocked by Islam because we generally have two Paschas. Islam considers this a scandal and sees our divisions, yet sometimes not seeing their own. Yet it remains a scandal that after so long we cannot agree on a date. The Vatican II decree states that the “patriarchs or supreme authorities of a place come to an agreement” but it adds “by unanimous consent and combined counsel of those affected to celebrate the feast of Easter on the same Sunday.”7

This has worked in Egypt and Jordan where all Churches celebrate Pascha with the Orthodox, but it was mainly the civil governments who got this to work. In the Holy Land, Melkites celebrate both dates according to the majority faithful although this may change in 2015 when hopefully all Catholic Christians will celebrate on the Orthodox Pascha date.

When Pope, now Saint John Paul II visited Syria after the year 2000, the common date of Pascha surfaced. There was an attempt for all Churches to be unified and celebrate with the Orthodox. Initially there was agreement, however the Armenian Catholics in Syria pulled back because their sister Orthodox Church had accepted to celebrate the western date internationally. Then the Syriac and Maronite Churches reneged because across the borders in Lebanon they would not be in line with their local churches there. The Melkite Patriarch remained committed but Rome recommended (or maybe imposed) that there should be unanimity among the Churches in one country. So we remain the laughing stock of Islam, crucifying and raising Christ twice.

Orientalium Ecclesiarum speaks about relations with the Orthodox Churches, and urges Eastern Catholics “to promote the unity of all Christians, especially Eastern Christians.”8 The means it offers are “Prayer… example of their lives, by religious fidelity to the ancient Eastern traditions, by a greater knowledge of each other, by collaboration and a brotherly regard for objects and feelings.”9

The document admits Orthodox to the Mysteries of Penance, Eucharist and Anointing of the Sick “if they ask of their own accord,” and if needed because of no Catholic priest, a Catholic may receive the same from an Orthodox priest – if the priest is so disposed to do so.10 At a recent ordination of a priest several weeks ago in Placentia, California, a visiting Syriac Orthodox priest approached the Eucharistic table along with my Melkite priests and deacons. The same happened at a Patriarchal Liturgy some years ago in Los Angeles when the Syriac Orthodox Bishop of the west coast approached the Eucharistic table to communicate from the Melkite Patriarch.

Ecumenical Observations

Two popes visited Syria and Lebanon in the past decades: Saint John Paul II and Benedict XVI. Both called for a greater working relationship among the Churches – first among Catholics and also with Orthodox to give witness to the one Christian faith in prayer and practice. Both went beyond the Catholic communities to our Orthodox brothers and sisters in the faith – a communion that is tarnished but yet can be polished and relived in a united Church. All Eastern Catholics and Orthodox were urged to work together, use common facilities, have common mission and break down barriers of separation.

Here I note a great development in the past 10 years. In Aleppo, Syria and Damascus, Syria, the Melkite Catholics and Greek (Antiochian) Orthodox built common churches by a working relationship with Church officials. Both churches were consecrated jointly by Orthodox and Catholic patriarchs and times for Divine services were set. However, it is well known that Orthodox and Catholic faithful crisscross liturgies and receive communion.

This brings me to my last point in this presentation – ecumenism, called for by Vatican II in Orientalium Ecclesiarum and other documents as well.

In the past several decades the issues that I mention of diversity, competition and proselytizing have been greatly discussed and met head on through the formation and gatherings of the Patriarchs and Bishops. Conferences were formed and even Orthodox/Catholic meetings now take place among the hierarchs of all the Churches in the Middle East.11

Vatican II assisted the Eastern Catholic communities to a stronger working relationship for common issues such as religious education, social gatherings, conferences and service related programs particularly of charity. In education Catholic students study at the Orthodox Balamand University and Orthodox students at the Maronite University of Holy Spirit (Kaslik), Lebanon. A greater focus was placed on working together. This continues to escalate in the past few years especially with the internal strife within Islam, now overflowing severely to affect the Christian presence in the lands of its birth and growth. A new genocide is taking place.

Initially after the partial communions of some Orthodox Churches with Rome, there was great strife within each liturgical family. However the Catholic Churches slowly began to see that partial unions were not the most praiseworthy and a greater working relationship developed between the Orthodox and Catholics.

A great change took place within the Roman Church and it slowly filtered down into the Eastern Catholics. Papal concern began to grow particularly since St. John XXIII, Venerable Paul VI, St. John Paul II, Benedict XVI and now Pope Francis. Meetings went beyond just polite “hellos” and “nice words.” There has been a breakdown to understand how East and West were one and united for 1000 years. New studies developed. Divisions were recognized as more politically oriented than theologically motivated and new dialogues resumed.

I will speak specifically about my Church, the Greek Melkite Catholic and our goals for unity with the Greek Orthodox Church of Antioch, which is known in the West as the Antiochian Orthodox.

The Melkite Church took an important role in Vatican II as spelled out by Fr. John Erickson and Fr. Brian Daly SJ, earlier at this Conference. It acted as a synod of bishops in their preparations concerning all documents and as a united hierarchy at the Council under the leadership of Patriarch Maximos IV Sayegh.12 The preparation work, discourses and memoranda of the Patriarch and his hierarchs have now been published in English by Sophia Press of my Eparchy The Greek Melkite Church at the Council.13 I worked hours upon days to edit this great translation from French. Publication was this year in commemoration of Vatican II – 50 years later. Obtain from our website Melkite.org – books in Sophia Press, $30.00.

The “Zoghby Initiative”

In 1975 a prophetic voice arose in the Melkite Synod. Archbishop Elias Zoghby of Baalbek, Lebanon, was already known at Vatican II for his forward thinking about the Eastern Church’s concept of divorce and remarriage. He now proposed to his synod a project of double communion with Rome and Orthodoxy for his Melkite Church. It would allow the Greek Melkite Catholic Church to reunite with the Greek Orthodox Church of Antioch while remaining in communion with Rome.

Initially the majority of synod fathers were not enthusiastic about the project. Rome too had objections. The Catholic and Orthodox synods formed a joint commission to study the project but the long disastrous Lebanese war hindered much progress.

In 1981, Zoghby published a small book: Tous Schimatiques published later in English as We Are All Schismatics.14 It was welcomed by ecumenists but frowned upon by Rome because it questioned the recognition of the infallibility of Vatican I. Zoghby quoted Pope Paul VI who qualified the Council of Lyons as the 6th of the General Synods of the West. Since Paul VI did so, Zoghby extended this thinking to Vatican I.

Twenty years passed and ecumenical ideas matured with Vatican II and the Popes St John XXIII, Venerable Paul VI and St. John Paul II. Zoghby renewed his project of double communion, now known as the “Zoghby Initiative” internationally. He wrote a short thirty one page booklet, Orthodox Uni? Qui! Uniate? Non! (United Orthodox? Yes! Uniate? No!)15

It contained a short profession of faith:

  1. I believe everything which Eastern Orthodoxy teaches.
  2. I am in communion with the Bishop of Rome in the limits recognized to the first among the bishops by the Holy Fathers of the East during the first millennium, before the separation.

An Orthodox theologian Metropolitan Archbishop George Khodr of Byblos and Batroun (Lebanon) was satisfied with this Profession of Faith. It was also accepted and ascribed to by another member of the Orthodox/Catholic Dialogue in Antioch, Archbishop Cyril Bustros of the Melkite Catholics.

Twenty five of twenty seven bishops at the Melkite Synod of 1995 signed the document which was done during coffee breaks after each bishop read it and not at a public session of the Synod. Patriarch Maximos V sent it to the Orthodox Patriarch Ignatius IV and was surprised with his enthusiastic response to proceed with study by his Synod. Then the Melkite Synod spent several days of its 1996 Synod to study more and it unanimously adopted the project and issued a document calling for an end to divisions of the two Churches.16

The Orthodox Synod reacted with a serious study and emphasized that Antiochian unity could not be separated from the restoration of communion with Rome and all of Orthodoxy.

I add a note here that one cannot deny that there was a double communion in Antioch in the 1600’s and 1700’s before the full communion with part of the Church of Antioch in 1724. Latin missionaries confessed and communicated Orthodox laity with the permission of their Orthodox hierarchs and even preached in the Orthodox Churches. Orthodox bishops entered into communion with Rome without being rejected by their confreres.

Ecumenists and many others saw the “Zoghby Initiative” as a door opener. Numerous articles appeared internationally.

In 1997 a letter to the Melkite Patriarch and Synod was presented by Joseph Cardinal Ratsinger, Achille Cardinal Silvestrini and Edward Cardinal Cassidy, representing the Pontifical Dicasteries of Doctrine of the Faith, Eastern Churches, and Council for Christian Unity respectively. Although many interpreted this letter as a rejection of the project, it gave in reality reflections to continue this dialogue “with caution.”17

Proof of this came on September 29, 1998 when Pope John Paul II met with the Eastern Catholic Patriarchs and strongly encouraged them to help restore full unity with Orthodox Churches. St. John Paul II asked them to seek with him the most suitable forms of Petrine ministry, engaging them and also Orthodox Patriarchs and theologians “in a patient and fraternal dialogue on the ways to exercise this ministry of united”. Basically he said and recognized that the Pope was the issue of disunity in sense – so let’s talk about how my ministry can be adapted and properly understood.18

Such an important dialogue has ups and downs – we see this also in the International Orthodox/Catholic Dialogue as well as its forerunner, the North American dialogue.

A damper arose once again over Antiochian Dialogue toward unity. But a new sign appeared just this year. The horrific war in Syria, the near extermination of Christianity in Iraq, the instability of all the countries of the Middle East, particularly in Egypt and Palestine, the severe rivalries among Sunni and Shiite Muslims, once again spilling over to Lebanon which had a majority of Christians until its disastrous war: all this now threatens the existence of Christianity and its faithful. These issues bring a new impetus for the need of walking together, working together and healing our age old problems and divisions.

The new Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch, John X, met with Melkite Patriarch Gregorios III and asked to visit our Melkite Synod this past June. He also brought up: “we need to look at the Zoghby Initiative once again.” It was a great day on June 19, 2014 when Patriarch John X arrived to Ain Traz, Lebanon with three of his Metropolitans and secretary to meet and speak brotherly love with our Melkite Synod, and he spoke strongly for unity.19

Melkite Patriarch Gregorios III along with other Eastern Catholics and Orthodox Patriarchs of Antioch participated at a special conference on the Church of Antioch in July 2014 at Balamand University and Monastery. They were also welcomed to visit at the Greek Orthodox Synod days later.20

Another great ecumenist is the newly elected Moran Mor Ignatius Afram II, Patriarch of the Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch. Now forty-eight years old, he served as Archbishop of the Eastern Diocese of his Church in the USA for eighteen years. He and I are members of CCT – Christian Churches Together, the largest ecumenical body in the USA.

Conclusion

Good days, bad days, ups and downs, rigidly and flexibility, enthusiasm and calmness – yet we are on a new road to unity within the ancient Church of Antioch which is now spread worldwide.

Orientalium Ecclesiarum of Vatican II is somewhat a weak document but it inaugurated a stronger belief for working Church relationships as well as the need of unity. Could we ask for more?

Thank you for your kind attention.

  1. On this Introduction cf. Ignatios Dick, Melkites: Greek Orthodox and Greek Catholics of the Patriarchates of Antioch, Alexandria and Jerusalem (Nicholas Samra, trans. and ed.), West Roxbury MA: Sophia Press 2004, Part 1, pp.13-54.  
  2. Orientalium Ecclesiarum (OE), www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican _council/documents/vat-ii_decree1..., No. 3.  
  3. OE, No. 4.  
  4. Bishop Nicholas Samra, Pastoral Letter on Infant Communion and “First Communion” Ceremonies also called “Solemn Communion” or “Eucharistic Awareness, Sophia – Journal of the Melkite Catholic Eparchy of Newton, Vol. 42, No. 2, (Spring 2012), pp. 6-7.  
  5. Ignatios Dick, Melkites Op.Cit., p. 151.  
  6. Congregation for the Eastern Churches, Libreria Editrice Vaticana, Vatican City 1995.  
  7. OE, Op.Cit., No. 20.  
  8. OE, Ibid., No. 24.  
  9. OE, Ibid., # 24.  
  10. OE., Ibid., No. 27.  
  11. Elias Zoghby, (Nicholas Samra, trans.), “Triumph of Uniatism: The Congress of Catholic Patriarchs and Bishops of the Middle East,” Journal of Ecumenical Studies, Vol. 37, No. 1 (Winter 2000), pp. 93-95.  
  12. On Maximos IV Sayegh, cf. Gerasimos T. Murphy, Maximos IV at Vatican II, A Quest for Autonomy, West Newton MA: Sophia Press 2011; cf. also Thomas E. Bird, Patriarch Maximos IV Saygh, (Men Who Make the Council Series, M. Novak ed.) Notre Dame IN: University of Notre Dame Press 1964; cf. also George D. Gallaro, The Greek Melkite Church at the Council – The Melkites’ Day at the Second Vatican Council, unplublished English manuscript, Arabic translation publish in al-Masarat, Harissa Lebanon: Paulist Press.  
  13. Sophia Press, West Roxbury MA 2014.  
  14. Philip Khairallah (trans.), We Are All Schismatics, Educational Services Office of Eparchy of Newton, 1996.  
  15. Elias Zoghby, Jounieh Lebanon: Paulist Press 1995; English translation in Eastern Churches Journal, Vol. 2, No. 3 (Autumn 1995), Fairfax VA, pp. 11-14.  
  16. Bishop Nicholas Samra (trans.), Press Release and Synodal Text in Eastern Churches Journal, Vol. 3, No. 2 (Summer 1996), Fairfax VA, pp. 5-12.  
  17. French Original with Bishop Nicholas Samra.  
  18. Cf. “We extend our arms in brotherhood – Holy Father encourages Catholic Patriarchs to help restore full unity with Orthodox Churches,” L’Osservatore Romano, No. 40, 7 October 1998, Weekly Edition 7.  
  19. “Orthodox Patriarch John X Visits Melkite Synod,” Sophia – Journal of the Melkite Catholic Eparchy of Newton, Vol. 44, No. 4 (Fall 2014), p. 11.  
  20. “Patriarch Gregorios Addresses Antiochian Unity Conference in Lebanon,” Sophia, Ibid., p. 12.  
 
from.our.bishop

Christ is among us! He is and always will be!

My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ,
 
“Put out into the deep and lower your nets for a catch:” these words which Our Lord spoke to His apostles in today’s Gospel symbolize the mission He is to give them, namely to make them “fishers of men,” sending them out into the midst of the world to bring all people into the saving net of the Church. These words of our Lord are as relevant and necessary today, as they were in the time of Jesus. For our world is in great need of the saving message of the Gospel at this moment in history.
 
Our secular culture casts God aside with renewed vigor and seeks desperately after every kind of fleeting pleasure and self-indulgence; all the while forgetting the “one thing needful,” which is the love of God in Christ Jesus, our Lord. In our own country, the very freedom of the Church to preach this Gospel of love, guaranteed by our Constitution, is under assault. In the Middle East, the violent persecution and systematic elimination of Christians from their ancient homelands shocks the conscience of the world. We receive, almost daily, reports of atrocities committed against innocent Christians in the very homelands of our Church, in a return to the barbarism of the 7th century where Christians are beheaded, crucified, and enslaved by a self-declared Islamic caliphate for no other reason than they believe the True Faith. Especially now, Christ our God speaks these bold words to His Church: “Put out into the deep and lower your nets.”
 
In such a troubled world and culture, in the face of such odds, we might well respond to the Lord’s command with the frustration and weariness of St. Peter in today’s Gospel: “Lord, we have been at this for so long and have caught nothing.” How long must Your Church labor in such a world? How can we preach the Gospel when it seems that everywhere we turn, the enemies of God are ready to attack?

But we, too, are called to the same faith and trust in the Lord, which St. Peter showed when he responded: “But Lord, if You say so, I will lower the net.” And when they had lowered their nets, as the Lord commanded, so great was the catch that their nets were filled to the breaking point. And, the Gospel tells us, “They were amazed!” Indeed, they were amazed at what could be accomplished when they put their trust in Christ and not in themselves.

Our Lord is teaching us an important lesson today. He did not simply make fish miraculously jump into their boat. Rather, Jesus required their effort; He required them to go out again and lower their nets, in order to show forth His Divine power. St. Peter’s personal sacrifice and willingness—reluctant perhaps—was the condition Jesus required to perform His miracle.

Truly, the Lord is calling His Church, you and me, to do the same today. To trust, not in our own power, but to rely upon the victory over evil and sin He has already accomplished for us upon the Cross. The Lord is calling us to unite our own personal sacrifice with His Divine power to “put out into the deep” of our stormy world. “Be not afraid” He tells Peter, and Peter left everything to follow Him. Such is the power of Christ’s call!
 
And so, my brothers and sisters, do not be afraid to bring the saving Gospel of Christ to the world in which you live. When all seems dark, when the Church’s efforts appear to be futile, it is precisely at this time that the saving truth and love of Christ is most needed. Especially at this time, we must let our light—the light of Christ—shine in the darkness.  

And so, I come to you in these troubled times to seek your generous financial assistance to bring the light of Christ to the people we serve. When we view the needs of our Church in America in light of those of our suffering brethren in the Middle East, we cannot but give thanks that the Lord has spared us the suffering they endure, and we cannot but be moved to support them in whatever way we are able. And so, again this year, we will tithe, or give ten percent of all the monies collected in the Bishop’s Appeal for the relief of our persecuted and suffering fellow Christians in the Middle East, as well as for charitable works in our own country. I am pleased to report that, from last year’s Bishop’s Appeal, our Melkite Eparchy in America has sent over $36,000 to His Beatitude, Patriarch Gregorios III, bringing the total sent to the Middle East by our Eparchy for charitable and refugee assistance to $250,000! His Beatitude made special mention of his deep appreciation for this at the Synod of Bishops in Lebanon last June.

In addition, we are forming a Consolidated Melkite Charity Fund with a committee of several clergy and laity to oversee it: 60% of the charity funds will be distributed here in America to worthy causes, and 40% will be sent abroad to our Mother Church in need. This will also include Shepherd’s Care–your fasting savings during Great Lent.

And so, my beloved Melkite flock, your financial support is absolutely essential! Your gifts to the Bishop’s Appeal help us continue the work we have begun of revitalizing the adult religious education program of our Eparchy. I know many of you have already taken part in the new instructional programs offered around the Eparchy and on-line by our office of Educational Services. In addition, your gifts to the Bishop’s Appeal support the continued publication and distribution of SOPHIA magazine, which is an important means of unity in our Church, bringing to the homes of all our faithful enlightening articles and teachings about our Melkite faith and news from our parishes around the country. Your contributions to the Appeal also fund our deacon formation program and support our seminarians in their studies for the holy Priesthood. When there are needs in our struggling missions, your generous gifts provides for them, and they also support our elderly priests who have served our Church so faithfully for so many years.

When you receive my appeal letter at home, please do not delay. I ask you to be as generous as you possibly can in responding to the needs of our Church and our suffering brothers and sisters. Your sacrifice made with a loving heart is indeed a pleasing offering in the sight of God.

May our heavenly Father reward your generosity with His abundance. And may the Most Holy Theotokos, our “watchful Protectress and our unfailing Hope,” be close to all those who suffer for their faith in Christ, especially in the ancestral homelands of our Melkite Church. With my prayers and blessing, I remain

Your Father and Shepherd,

Your Father and Shepherd,
Most Reverend Nicholas J. Samra
Bishop of Newton
  1. On this Introduction cf. Ignatios Dick, Melkites: Greek Orthodox and Greek Catholics of the Patriarchates of Antioch, Alexandria and Jerusalem (Nicholas Samra, trans. and ed.), West Roxbury MA: Sophia Press 2004, Part 1, pp.13-54.  
  2. Orientalium Ecclesiarum (OE), www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican _council/documents/vat-ii_decree1..., No. 3.  
  3. OE, No. 4.  
  4. Bishop Nicholas Samra, Pastoral Letter on Infant Communion and “First Communion” Ceremonies also called “Solemn Communion” or “Eucharistic Awareness, Sophia – Journal of the Melkite Catholic Eparchy of Newton, Vol. 42, No. 2, (Spring 2012), pp. 6-7.  
  5. Ignatios Dick, Melkites Op.Cit., p. 151.  
  6. Congregation for the Eastern Churches, Libreria Editrice Vaticana, Vatican City 1995.  
  7. OE, Op.Cit., No. 20.  
  8. OE, Ibid., No. 24.  
  9. OE, Ibid., # 24.  
  10. OE., Ibid., No. 27.  
  11. Elias Zoghby, (Nicholas Samra, trans.), “Triumph of Uniatism: The Congress of Catholic Patriarchs and Bishops of the Middle East,” Journal of Ecumenical Studies, Vol. 37, No. 1 (Winter 2000), pp. 93-95.  
  12. On Maximos IV Sayegh, cf. Gerasimos T. Murphy, Maximos IV at Vatican II, A Quest for Autonomy, West Newton MA: Sophia Press 2011; cf. also Thomas E. Bird, Patriarch Maximos IV Saygh, (Men Who Make the Council Series, M. Novak ed.) Notre Dame IN: University of Notre Dame Press 1964; cf. also George D. Gallaro, The Greek Melkite Church at the Council – The Melkites’ Day at the Second Vatican Council, unplublished English manuscript, Arabic translation publish in al-Masarat, Harissa Lebanon: Paulist Press.  
  13. Sophia Press, West Roxbury MA 2014.  
  14. Philip Khairallah (trans.), We Are All Schismatics, Educational Services Office of Eparchy of Newton, 1996.  
  15. Elias Zoghby, Jounieh Lebanon: Paulist Press 1995; English translation in Eastern Churches Journal, Vol. 2, No. 3 (Autumn 1995), Fairfax VA, pp. 11-14.  
  16. Bishop Nicholas Samra (trans.), Press Release and Synodal Text in Eastern Churches Journal, Vol. 3, No. 2 (Summer 1996), Fairfax VA, pp. 5-12.  
  17. French Original with Bishop Nicholas Samra.  
  18. Cf. “We extend our arms in brotherhood – Holy Father encourages Catholic Patriarchs to help restore full unity with Orthodox Churches,” L’Osservatore Romano, No. 40, 7 October 1998, Weekly Edition 7.  
  19. “Orthodox Patriarch John X Visits Melkite Synod,” Sophia – Journal of the Melkite Catholic Eparchy of Newton, Vol. 44, No. 4 (Fall 2014), p. 11.  
  20. “Patriarch Gregorios Addresses Antiochian Unity Conference in Lebanon,” Sophia, Ibid., p. 12.  
 
from.our.bishop

Beloved clergy, religious, and faithful of the Eparchy of Newton,

Christ is risen! He is truly risen!

These joyful words announce the main proclamation of our Christian faith. These words form the heart of the Church’s preaching, worship, and spiritual life: “If Christ had not been raised, then our preaching is in vain, and your faith is in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:14).

We celebrate the Passover of the Lord—the Christian Passover when Christ passes over from death to life, an event of victory and triumph. The early Church was so vividly aware of the eternal significance of Christ’s resurrection in God’s plan of salvation that this Feast became the greatest event of the Christian year—indeed, the Feast of Feasts! …And by His death He has trampled upon death—here trampling means Christ destroyed the power of death and to those in the tombs He granted life.

Great Lent was intense for some of us; Holy Week was even more so, but the three small words announcing the Resurrection—Christ is risen!—repeated again and again, produce ecstasy and overflowing mystical joy, for the ancient fear of death is banished. We need to make the next forty days more important by joyfully living and witnessing Christ in all our words and deeds. Great Lent was our time to reflect on renewing our Christian life received in holy Baptism; Pascha moves us from reflection to action: we must become the living Christ to all.

The resurrection of Jesus is not just the personal survival after death of Jesus. It is not a simple announcement of life after death; it is much more. It is a new era for all of us. As God has entered our history to defeat and overcome evil, the greatest witness to the Gospel is us—people whose lives have received new power and who recognize our gifts in His triumph.

We are filled with new power, new wisdom, new enthusiasm. We experience the living Christ in ourselves, and we recognize Him in each other. The Resurrection must make a great change in us—each and every one! We are the “good news” that Jesus is alive. Christ is risen—and me too!

St. Gregory the Theologian speaks loud and clear in his Paschal Oration:

Let us become like Christ, since Christ became like us.
Let us become divine for His sake, since for us He became man.
He assumed the worse that He might give us the better.
He became poor that by His poverty we might become rich.
He came down that we might be lifted up.
He was tempted that we might conquer.
He was dishonored that He might glorify us.
He died that He might save us.
He ascended to lift us who had fallen.
Yesterday I died with Him; today, I am made alive!

My brothers and sisters, live your Paschal joy as children of God! May the joy of this Feast of Feasts fill you with overflowing life and joy, and may we be the icons of Christ to all.

With my prayers and blessings, I remain

Sincerely yours in the risen Christ,
Most Reverend Nicholas J. Samra
Bishop of Newton
  1. On this Introduction cf. Ignatios Dick, Melkites: Greek Orthodox and Greek Catholics of the Patriarchates of Antioch, Alexandria and Jerusalem (Nicholas Samra, trans. and ed.), West Roxbury MA: Sophia Press 2004, Part 1, pp.13-54.  
  2. Orientalium Ecclesiarum (OE), www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican _council/documents/vat-ii_decree1..., No. 3.  
  3. OE, No. 4.  
  4. Bishop Nicholas Samra, Pastoral Letter on Infant Communion and “First Communion” Ceremonies also called “Solemn Communion” or “Eucharistic Awareness, Sophia – Journal of the Melkite Catholic Eparchy of Newton, Vol. 42, No. 2, (Spring 2012), pp. 6-7.  
  5. Ignatios Dick, Melkites Op.Cit., p. 151.  
  6. Congregation for the Eastern Churches, Libreria Editrice Vaticana, Vatican City 1995.  
  7. OE, Op.Cit., No. 20.  
  8. OE, Ibid., No. 24.  
  9. OE, Ibid., # 24.  
  10. OE., Ibid., No. 27.  
  11. Elias Zoghby, (Nicholas Samra, trans.), “Triumph of Uniatism: The Congress of Catholic Patriarchs and Bishops of the Middle East,” Journal of Ecumenical Studies, Vol. 37, No. 1 (Winter 2000), pp. 93-95.  
  12. On Maximos IV Sayegh, cf. Gerasimos T. Murphy, Maximos IV at Vatican II, A Quest for Autonomy, West Newton MA: Sophia Press 2011; cf. also Thomas E. Bird, Patriarch Maximos IV Saygh, (Men Who Make the Council Series, M. Novak ed.) Notre Dame IN: University of Notre Dame Press 1964; cf. also George D. Gallaro, The Greek Melkite Church at the Council – The Melkites’ Day at the Second Vatican Council, unplublished English manuscript, Arabic translation publish in al-Masarat, Harissa Lebanon: Paulist Press.  
  13. Sophia Press, West Roxbury MA 2014.  
  14. Philip Khairallah (trans.), We Are All Schismatics, Educational Services Office of Eparchy of Newton, 1996.  
  15. Elias Zoghby, Jounieh Lebanon: Paulist Press 1995; English translation in Eastern Churches Journal, Vol. 2, No. 3 (Autumn 1995), Fairfax VA, pp. 11-14.  
  16. Bishop Nicholas Samra (trans.), Press Release and Synodal Text in Eastern Churches Journal, Vol. 3, No. 2 (Summer 1996), Fairfax VA, pp. 5-12.  
  17. French Original with Bishop Nicholas Samra.  
  18. Cf. “We extend our arms in brotherhood – Holy Father encourages Catholic Patriarchs to help restore full unity with Orthodox Churches,” L’Osservatore Romano, No. 40, 7 October 1998, Weekly Edition 7.  
  19. “Orthodox Patriarch John X Visits Melkite Synod,” Sophia – Journal of the Melkite Catholic Eparchy of Newton, Vol. 44, No. 4 (Fall 2014), p. 11.  
  20. “Patriarch Gregorios Addresses Antiochian Unity Conference in Lebanon,” Sophia, Ibid., p. 12.  
 

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“He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, but he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must do as he has made up his mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” And God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance…” (2 Corinthians 6-7).

  1. On this Introduction cf. Ignatios Dick, Melkites: Greek Orthodox and Greek Catholics of the Patriarchates of Antioch, Alexandria and Jerusalem (Nicholas Samra, trans. and ed.), West Roxbury MA: Sophia Press 2004, Part 1, pp.13-54.  
  2. Orientalium Ecclesiarum (OE), www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican _council/documents/vat-ii_decree1..., No. 3.  
  3. OE, No. 4.  
  4. Bishop Nicholas Samra, Pastoral Letter on Infant Communion and “First Communion” Ceremonies also called “Solemn Communion” or “Eucharistic Awareness, Sophia – Journal of the Melkite Catholic Eparchy of Newton, Vol. 42, No. 2, (Spring 2012), pp. 6-7.  
  5. Ignatios Dick, Melkites Op.Cit., p. 151.  
  6. Congregation for the Eastern Churches, Libreria Editrice Vaticana, Vatican City 1995.  
  7. OE, Op.Cit., No. 20.  
  8. OE, Ibid., No. 24.  
  9. OE, Ibid., # 24.  
  10. OE., Ibid., No. 27.  
  11. Elias Zoghby, (Nicholas Samra, trans.), “Triumph of Uniatism: The Congress of Catholic Patriarchs and Bishops of the Middle East,” Journal of Ecumenical Studies, Vol. 37, No. 1 (Winter 2000), pp. 93-95.  
  12. On Maximos IV Sayegh, cf. Gerasimos T. Murphy, Maximos IV at Vatican II, A Quest for Autonomy, West Newton MA: Sophia Press 2011; cf. also Thomas E. Bird, Patriarch Maximos IV Saygh, (Men Who Make the Council Series, M. Novak ed.) Notre Dame IN: University of Notre Dame Press 1964; cf. also George D. Gallaro, The Greek Melkite Church at the Council – The Melkites’ Day at the Second Vatican Council, unplublished English manuscript, Arabic translation publish in al-Masarat, Harissa Lebanon: Paulist Press.  
  13. Sophia Press, West Roxbury MA 2014.  
  14. Philip Khairallah (trans.), We Are All Schismatics, Educational Services Office of Eparchy of Newton, 1996.  
  15. Elias Zoghby, Jounieh Lebanon: Paulist Press 1995; English translation in Eastern Churches Journal, Vol. 2, No. 3 (Autumn 1995), Fairfax VA, pp. 11-14.  
  16. Bishop Nicholas Samra (trans.), Press Release and Synodal Text in Eastern Churches Journal, Vol. 3, No. 2 (Summer 1996), Fairfax VA, pp. 5-12.  
  17. French Original with Bishop Nicholas Samra.  
  18. Cf. “We extend our arms in brotherhood – Holy Father encourages Catholic Patriarchs to help restore full unity with Orthodox Churches,” L’Osservatore Romano, No. 40, 7 October 1998, Weekly Edition 7.  
  19. “Orthodox Patriarch John X Visits Melkite Synod,” Sophia – Journal of the Melkite Catholic Eparchy of Newton, Vol. 44, No. 4 (Fall 2014), p. 11.  
  20. “Patriarch Gregorios Addresses Antiochian Unity Conference in Lebanon,” Sophia, Ibid., p. 12.  
 
from.our.bishop
The Nativity of Our Lord, God, and Savior
Jesus Christ, According to the Flesh
2013

Beloved clergy, religious, and faithful of the Eparchy of Newton,

Christ is born! Glorify Him!

Throughout all of the liturgical hymns for the Offices of the Nativity of Christ and the Theophany—feasts of God’s manifestations to us—we hear again and again that the Son of God became man to reunite our humanity with His Divinity. In Great Compline we sing: Heaven and earth are united today, for Christ is born. Today God has come upon earth, and man has gone up to heaven. Today, for our sake He who by nature is invisible is seen in the flesh. We give glory and cry aloud to Him. Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, which your coming has bestowed upon us, O Savior. Glory to You!

God makes a “breakthrough” in time and space by becoming a human being. He assumes our flesh so that we may share His divine life. God intervenes in our life…

    …a God who came not to call the righteous but the sinner;
    …a God who came to seek and save the lost;
    …a God who came not to be served but to serve;
    …a God who came to give us abundant life;
    …a God who came as light so that whoever believes in Him may not remain in darkness;
    …a God who came not to judge the world but to save it;
    …a God who is not impersonal but who is Emmanuel—God With Us;
    …a God who is a Person, Jesus-Savior;
    …a God who cares, who loves, who forgives.

As you meditate on this great mystery of God made flesh for us…

    …allow Jesus to outgrow swaddling clothes and wrap you in His love;
    …discover that you are part of the flock to whom the angels announce the good news;
    …rejoice knowing Christ’s tidings of great joy were for all people and that you are His messenger;
    …let His love and wisdom fill you to serve others as gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

God comes to us in Jesus wrapped, not in holiday paper, but in human flesh from His holy Mother, the Theotokos. He is one with us in the flesh. In the anaphora of the Divine Liturgy we chant: “He left nothing undone until He lifted us up to heaven and bestowed upon us the Kingdom to come.” Because He loves, God sends Jesus, not only to tell us, but also to show us, the height and the depth and the breadth and the length of His love. Only one thing is required: that is our acceptance of His love and our transformation into Godly people.

May the Christ our God, manifested in the flesh, bless each and every one of you in special ways during this glorious season. Be assured of my love, prayers, and blessings for each of you and for your families.

Sincerely in Christ God,
Most Reverend Nicholas J. Samra
Eparchial Bishop of Newton
  1. On this Introduction cf. Ignatios Dick, Melkites: Greek Orthodox and Greek Catholics of the Patriarchates of Antioch, Alexandria and Jerusalem (Nicholas Samra, trans. and ed.), West Roxbury MA: Sophia Press 2004, Part 1, pp.13-54.  
  2. Orientalium Ecclesiarum (OE), www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican _council/documents/vat-ii_decree1..., No. 3.  
  3. OE, No. 4.  
  4. Bishop Nicholas Samra, Pastoral Letter on Infant Communion and “First Communion” Ceremonies also called “Solemn Communion” or “Eucharistic Awareness, Sophia – Journal of the Melkite Catholic Eparchy of Newton, Vol. 42, No. 2, (Spring 2012), pp. 6-7.  
  5. Ignatios Dick, Melkites Op.Cit., p. 151.  
  6. Congregation for the Eastern Churches, Libreria Editrice Vaticana, Vatican City 1995.  
  7. OE, Op.Cit., No. 20.  
  8. OE, Ibid., No. 24.  
  9. OE, Ibid., # 24.  
  10. OE., Ibid., No. 27.  
  11. Elias Zoghby, (Nicholas Samra, trans.), “Triumph of Uniatism: The Congress of Catholic Patriarchs and Bishops of the Middle East,” Journal of Ecumenical Studies, Vol. 37, No. 1 (Winter 2000), pp. 93-95.  
  12. On Maximos IV Sayegh, cf. Gerasimos T. Murphy, Maximos IV at Vatican II, A Quest for Autonomy, West Newton MA: Sophia Press 2011; cf. also Thomas E. Bird, Patriarch Maximos IV Saygh, (Men Who Make the Council Series, M. Novak ed.) Notre Dame IN: University of Notre Dame Press 1964; cf. also George D. Gallaro, The Greek Melkite Church at the Council – The Melkites’ Day at the Second Vatican Council, unplublished English manuscript, Arabic translation publish in al-Masarat, Harissa Lebanon: Paulist Press.  
  13. Sophia Press, West Roxbury MA 2014.  
  14. Philip Khairallah (trans.), We Are All Schismatics, Educational Services Office of Eparchy of Newton, 1996.  
  15. Elias Zoghby, Jounieh Lebanon: Paulist Press 1995; English translation in Eastern Churches Journal, Vol. 2, No. 3 (Autumn 1995), Fairfax VA, pp. 11-14.  
  16. Bishop Nicholas Samra (trans.), Press Release and Synodal Text in Eastern Churches Journal, Vol. 3, No. 2 (Summer 1996), Fairfax VA, pp. 5-12.  
  17. French Original with Bishop Nicholas Samra.  
  18. Cf. “We extend our arms in brotherhood – Holy Father encourages Catholic Patriarchs to help restore full unity with Orthodox Churches,” L’Osservatore Romano, No. 40, 7 October 1998, Weekly Edition 7.  
  19. “Orthodox Patriarch John X Visits Melkite Synod,” Sophia – Journal of the Melkite Catholic Eparchy of Newton, Vol. 44, No. 4 (Fall 2014), p. 11.  
  20. “Patriarch Gregorios Addresses Antiochian Unity Conference in Lebanon,” Sophia, Ibid., p. 12.  

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