Final declaration of the Episcopal Synod 2012

Final Declaration of the Synod of Bishops of the Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarchate
Meeting in the Patriarchal Summer Residence of Ain Traz
18 – 23 June 2012

H.B. Patriarch Gregorios III opened the Episcopal Synod of the Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarchate in the patriarchal summer residence of Ain Traz, on Monday 18 June 2012 at 10a.m. Present at the opening were the bishops of the Middle East, the Americas, Australia and bishops emeriti, patriarchal vicars and assistants as well as the main superiors of the masculine monastic orders.

Here follows a list of names of Holy Synod members present:
Bishop Boulos Borkhosh, Metropolitan of Bosra and Hauran;
Bishop André Haddad, Archbishop Emeritus of Zahleh, Fourzol and All the Beqaa;
Bishop Abraham Nehmeh, Metropolitan Emeritus of Homs, Hama and Yabroud;
Bishop Georges Riachi, Metropolitan of Tripoli and North Lebanon;
Bishop John Haddad, Metropolitan Emeritus of Tyre;
Bishop Cyril Bustros, Metropolitan of Beirut, Jbeil and surrounding districts;
Bishop Nicolas Samra, Metropolitan of Newton;
Bishop Boutros Mouallem, Archbishop Emeritus of Saint John of Acre, Haifa, Nazareth and All Galilee;
Bishop Isidore Battikha, Metropolitan Emeritus of Homs, Hama and Yabroud;
Bishop Georges El-Murr, Archbishop Emeritus of Petra, Philadelphia and All Jordan;
Bishop Jean-Clément Jeanbart, Metropolitan of Aleppo, Seleucia and Koresh;
Bishop Fares Macaron, Archbishop of São Paulo;
Bishop Georges Kahhale, Apostolic Exarch to Venezuela;
Bishop Issam Darwish, Archbishop of Zahleh, Fourzol and All the Beqaa ;
Bishop Nicolas Sawwaf, Archbishop of Lattaqieh and Tartous;
Bishop Joseph Absi, Patriarchal Vicar in Damascus;
Bishop Georges Haddad, Archbishop of Banias and Marjayyoun;
Bishop Ibrahim Ibrahim, Archbishop du Canada; Bishop Elias Rahhal, Archbishop de Baalbek;
Bishop Georges Bacouni, Metropolitan of Tyre;
Bishop Elias Shakkour, Archbishop of Saint John of Acre, Haifa, Nazareth and All Galilee;
Bishop Georges Bakar, Patriarchal Vicar in Egypt and Sudan;
Bishop Michael Abrass, Patriarchal Assistant for Lebanon;
Bishop Youhanna Abdo Arbash, Archbishop of Argentina;
Bishop Elie Beshara Haddad, Archbishop of Sidon and Deir El Qamar;
Bishop Yasser Ayyash, Archbishop of Petra and Philadelphia and All Jordan;
Bishop Robert Rabbat, Archbishop of Australia and New Zealand;
Archimandrite Jean Faraj, Superior General of the Salvatorian Basilian Order;
Archimandrite Samaan Abdel Ahad, Superior General of the Soarite Basilian Order;
Archimandrite Najib Tobji, Superior General of the Aleppine Basilian Order;
Father Elias Aghia, Superior General of the Society of Paulist Fathers.

Excused from participating for various reasons were the following bishops:
Bishop Hilarion Capucci, Archbishop Emeritus of Caesarea in Palestine;
Bishop Gregorios Haddad, Archbishop Emeritus of Beirut and Jbeil;
Bishop Spiridon Mattar, Archbishop Emeritus of São Paulo;
Bishop John Adel Eliya, Bishop Emeritus of Newton;
Bishop Joseph Kallas, Archbishop Emeritus of Beirut and Jbeil;
And Exarch Gabriel Ghannoum, Patriarchal Administrator of the Eparchy of Mexico.

On this occasion His Beatitude gave a speech, broadcast by the main networks and disseminated by the press, in which he touched on the painful vicissitudes of the nations of the region and outlined the business before the Synod. After the spiritual retreat led by Bishop Cyril Bustros on the theme of Jesus Christ, Saviour and Redeemer, the Fathers spent two days studying the criteria for selecting candidates to the priesthood and for priestly training and asked the Episcopal Committee supervising the Seminary to produce a working paper based on studies relating to these matters set out in this and previous Synods, with the expectation of ratifying and including it in the Seminary’s statutes.

After having considered the situation of the Seminary of Saint Anna (Rabweh) the Fathers dealt with drafting regulations governing the transfer of seminarians and theology students from one eparchy to another or from one institution of consecrated life to another and recommended that these be referred to the Canonical Committee to be inserted among the particular statutes.

It was decided to celebrate priests’ day in each eparchy or group of eparchies in 2013 and that in 2014 a general congress for Melkite Greek Catholic priests would be organised.

In this context a meeting would take place for lay-people and clergy belonging to Greek Catholic eparchies in Western Europe, from 1 – 3 November 2012 in the monastery of Aubazine (France.)

Then they proceeded to the election of a new committee for the Synod’s Secretariat, composed of Bishops Elie Beshara Haddad, Georges Haddad and Georges Bacouni.

The Fathers also elected Fathers for the supervisory committee for the Seminary of Saint Anna (Rabweh), composed of Bishops Elie Beshara Haddad, Elias Rahhal, Issam Darwish and Robert Rabbat.

The Holy Synod entrusted to the Canonical Committee the task of studying the particular law of our Church published in 2004 and 2010 in order to complete the correction of what needs to be done and to add anything that should be added.

The request was made to open the process of beatification of Doctor Boutros Wadih Kassab, a layman, father of a family and apostle of the Egyptian delta, who lived out evangelical Christian virtues and was remarkable for his courage and zeal. It was agreed to leave to His Beatitude the business of carrying out on the spot the requisite procedures, since he is the real Bishop of the Patriarchate of Alexandria to which Doctor Kassab belonged.

The main outlines of the General Synod to be held in Rome (7 – 28 October 2012) on the New Evangelisation were cursorily discussed. The Holy Synod delegated Bishop Joseph Absi to accompany His Beatitude to take part.

The Fathers welcomed the visit of H.H. Pope Benedict XVI to Lebanon in mid-September this year with a view to signing the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation for the Synod on the Middle East held in Rome in 2010. This will take place on the feast day of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross in the Church of Saint Paul in Harissa.

The Fathers began discussing how to top up our Church’s mutual fund. A process for doing so was devised, with a view to helping needy eparchies, especially in Syria and, more particularly, the stricken Eparchy of Homs.

The Synod Fathers elected bishops for vacant eparchies in the Middle East and in expansion countries. Their names will be published in due course.

Outside the work of the Synod proper, the bishops of the expansion met to begin preparing for their next congress to be held in autumn (fall) 2013 in the USA.

Lastly the Fathers decided to hold the next Synod in the week of 17 – 22 June 2013.

The Fathers reflected on the difficult, tragic situations that our region in general and Syria in particular are going through and they noted that the bloodshed would leave behind it animosities and injuries that it will be difficult to assuage and that is more dangerous than war itself. They confirmed that the Church will stand alongside all its children, especially those who have had to move out of their homes.

The Fathers appreciated the decision of General Michel Sleiman, President of the Lebanese Republic, to continue with the national dialogue, which in their view remains the most effective solution for reducing political tension. They expressed their hopes that their brethren and fellow-citizens would show great, unshakeable trust towards Lebanon. It is the country of security, hospitality, fulfilment and openness to its Arab brethren and its mission is love for and trust in them.

On Tuesday 19 June Archbishop Gabriele Caccia, the Apostolic Nuncio to Lebanon, took part in the session of the Synod, bringing the Pope’s blessing to the Fathers. The Fathers in their turn entrusted to him a message of gratitude and love to His Holiness, expressing their wishes for His Holiness’ visit to Lebanon to take place regardless of the vicissitudes of Lebanon and the region. In fact they are all expecting that this historic visit to Lebanon and the Arab East will consolidate the case for justice and peace, especially in Palestine and Syria.

The speech given by the Holy Father to the Church institutions (ROACO, 22-06-2012) tasked with helping the Eastern Churches had reassured everyone that the visit would take place, since it said, “May the intercession of the Most Holy Mother of God always accompany the Eastern Churches in their homeland and in the diaspora … May she also watch over the coming journey which – God willing – I will make to Lebanon for the solemn closing of the Special Assembly for the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops. ” In his speech the Pope warned lest the conflict spread from Syria to the whole region and invited the international community “to make every effort to bring Syria out of the present situation of violence and crisis which had already lasted for a long time.”

At the close the Fathers asked for prayers to be raised in churches, homes and pastoral meetings for safety and security and for the realisation of justice and peace in our homeland, Lebanon, and in Syria and our Arab countries, so that we can remain there in the communion of love as witnesses to the values of the Holy Gospel, showing our holy vocation to become light, salt and leaven in our Arab society.

Translation from French: V. Chamberlain