First report on pastoral visit to Venezuela

“Peace in the Middle East is the key to world peace,”
says Patriarch Gregorios III on pastoral visit to Venezuela

The Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarch of Antioch and All the East, of Alexandria and of Jerusalem, Gregorios III (Laham) on a pastoral visit to Venezuela, declared on his arrival, “Peace in the Middle East is the key to world peace, because the Holy Land must acquire stability and security, for Christians to remain in the region. Christians are the children of peace, messengers of peace, and if long-term conflicts persist, that will affect them directly, which is the biggest challenge that Eastern Christians are facing today.”

Patriarch Gregorios III is at the head of a delegation composed of the Superior General of the Aleppine Basilian Order Archimandrite Najib Tobji, the head of the patriarchal summer residence at Ain Traz, Archimandrite Nicolas Hakim and Patriarchal Chancellor Father Antony Dib, B.S. This pastoral visit will include all Venezuela’s regions, where Melkite Greek Catholic faithful have been living since the end of the nineteenth century. They are organized into nineteen regions, among which are many well-to-do industrialists and businessmen.

Gregorios III was welcomed on his arrival at Caracas airport by Bishop George Kahhaleh, the Apostolic Exarch in Venezuela and Bishop Abdo John Arbash, the Apostolic Exarch in Argentina, the representatives of various Christian communities, including Mgr Timothy Hikmat Beylouni, the Syriac Catholic Archbishop, Archimandrite Youssef Dib, representing the Antiochian Orthodox Church, Father Ignatius Saab, Superior of the Monastery of the Order of Saint Charbel of the Lebanese Maronite Church and the parish council from Caracas whose chairman is Mr. Michel Mazloum. Present in their official capacity were Ambassadors Charbel Wehbeh (Lebanon), Ghassan Abbas (Syria) and Ali Mrad (Egypt) and representatives of various Arab communities.

Patriarch Gregorios III’s current visit is very significant for strengthening the links between the expansion, its Church and countries of origin. That is one of the main recommendations of the Special Assembly for the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops held in October 2010 at the Vatican and presided over by Pope Benedict XVI.

During this fifteen-day visit, the Eighth Congress of the Melkite Greek Catholic Bishops of the Diaspora will meet. The various topics on the agenda are to do with pastoral, social, liturgical and spiritual issues.