In Memoriam Archbishop Salim Ghazal, B.S.

Archbishop Salim Ghazal

In Memoriam

Archbishop Salim Ghazal, B. S.

July 7, 1931 – April 29, 2011

Funeral Oration, preached on May 2, 2011, at St. Nicholas’ Cathedral, Saida, Lebanon,
for my brother, friend and companion on the way,
Archbishop Salim Ghazal of happy memory,
Titular Archbishop of Edessa in Osrhoene,
Emeritus Curial Bishop of Antiochia and Emeritus Patriarchal Auxiliary

“Today is the day of Resurrection… the Pascha of the Lord!” It is also Archbishop Salim’s Pascha or Passover (Pesach). Jesus is risen and has brought our brother Salim “from death to life, and from earth to heaven.” Father Salim, as it were, speaks to the risen, living Jesus, saying, “Yesterday, O Christ, was I was buried with thee, and today I rise again with thy rising. Yesterday I was crucified with thee. Glorify me with together with thyself, O Saviour, in thy Kingdom.” (Paschal Canon, various)

Today we are met together, dear brothers and sisters, my brother bishops, members of our Holy Synod, representatives of various beloved Churches, Father General John Faraj of the Basilian Salvatorian Order – of which this very worthy son, was formerly Father General – relatives, friends, Your Excellencies the sheikhs and ulemas, Your Excellencies, the ministers and members of Parliament, representatives of the army and security forces, brothers and sisters, sons and daughters of this resistant South, sons and daughters of this archeparchy of Saida, with, at their head, Archbishop Elie Beshara (Haddad) of Saida and Deir al Qamar, and beside him the bishops of this region, companions of the way of our Archbishop Salim, who has quit this perishable earth for an eternal country.

Brothers and sisters, I am here before you, saying, in your name, “Until we meet again.” I am bidding farewell to a monk, my brother in the religious, monastic life, in the Order of the Holy Saviour, our very dear “mother,” farewell to a brother, an itinerant apostle. Our way together began in 1961, after my return from Rome. We walked some way together, in the Shouf, east of Saida, as far as the border of Southern Lebanon.

Farewell to a brother and companion of the way in social work in this region! He was alongside me in founding the Salvatorian Social Union, the Home for Girls, and indeed the Providence Home, and the Apostolic and Religious Training Centre.

Farewell to the Superior General of the Basilian Salvatorian Order! After having finished his term of office, he returned immediately to the work of the apostolate, as before, the work that he preferred above all. After that he founded the Dialogue and Development Centre, right beside the Providence Centre.

Farewell to my Patriarchal Auxiliary! I wanted him to be beside me, right from the first year of my patriarchal service. He was the first bishop that I consecrated. I laid my hand on his head for the episcopal consecration on the Eve of the Transfiguration and Feast of Holy Saviour, (5 August) 2001. After he had resigned for health reasons, he returned with the strength and enthusiasm of youth to his preferred work, to become once again an itinerant apostle, whence he had first set out, on the way of people, on the way of God and man.

In the verses of Holy Scripture, the living Word of God, especially in the Gospels and the Epistles of Saint Paul, we find the finest, most eloquent and apt verses to describe the way of this monk, priest and bishop, this teacher and friend of children and young people, this apostle of peace and love, dialogue and understanding, living together, respect, fellowship, inclusive participation, reconciliation, this go-between at frontiers and checkpoints, bridge-builder, saviour of deprived detainees and victims of injustice, this fiery preacher, speaking the word of truth, frank and brave, without counting the cost. He was alongside every man, no matter of what party or religion, stance or viewpoint, with sincerity, frankness, veracity and absolute impartiality. He was the faithful friend who loved others.

Our dear departed brother bishop found the best guidance in the Word of God, the guide for his Christian religious, priestly and episcopal life. He said to Jesus, like Saint Peter, full of enthusiasm, “To whom shall we go, Lord, for thou hast the words of life.” (John 6: 68) And for his part, he heard the words of Jesus guiding him in all the stages of his life. He read, “Go ye into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature.” (Mark 16: 15) Take nothing for your journey, no staves nor anything else with you. (cf. Matthew 10: 10) Go and find the lost sheep. (cf. Matthew 18: 12) Go into the villages; go everywhere. (cf. Mark 11: 2) That was his preferred work, to go into the villages. “I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.” (John 10: 11) (There was a lovely photograph of him when young, carrying a lamb in his arms.) Another saying was his guide in life: “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1: 21) “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15: 13) And he heard the words of Saint Paul, “Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season…” (2 Timothy 4: 2) “Yea, woe is unto me if I preach not the Gospel.” (1 Corinthians 9: 16) “I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.” (1 Corinthians 9: 22)

And with Saint Paul, he said, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord…shall give me.” (2 Timothy 4: 7-8) And despite illness and suffering, he remained until the end on that course. He struggled for the Word of God, and I heard that at the end of his life, he said to his companion, Father Sharbel in the hospital, “I’ve fulfilled my mission,” like Jesus, who said on the cross, “It is finished.” (John 19: 30) All is finished.

Thank you for the care that was given at the hospital, Dr. Ghassan Hammoud and all the doctors.

We, now in the church, with the verses of Scripture and the Divine Liturgy, say the last farewell to our friend the Archbishop, “Blessed be the way that thou hast taken, for the God of Peace is with thee.” May the Christ whom thou hast loved and served in these brothers and sisters of all Muslim and Christian denominations, give thee rest, our father and brother bishop, in the city of the living. May he open for thee the doors of Paradise and make thee a fellow-citizen of his Kingdom. May he grant thee forgiveness of thy sins, since thou art a lover of Christ.

Brothers and sisters, accept my condolences, to each and all in your position, especially relatives, friends, brothers and sisters, and the Basilian Salvatorian Order, and may the soul of Archbishop Salim be with the saints. Accept brother Salim, these words of condolence, this funeral oration, from your loving brother monk and Patriarch. Until we meet again. May thy memory be eternal, everywhere that thou hast loved and served!


+ Gregorios III, Patriarch

Translation from French: V. Chamberlain