Melkite Greek Catholic Church
Bishop Samra at the Entrhonement

August 23, 2011

As reported by Justin Bell in PilotCatholicNews.Com

with additional photography from Kathleen Laplante's Blog Taste and See

A New Jersey native was installed as the first American born eparchial bishop in the United States for the Greek Melkite Catholic Church on August 23.

Bishop Nicholas J. Samra, 67, was installed as the Eparch of Newton during an elaborate service, called an Enthronement Liturgy, at the Melkite Cathedral of the Annunciation in West Roxbury.

The Melkite Church is an Eastern rite of the Catholic Church.

Bishop Samra was first ordained as an auxiliary bishop of Newton in 1989 and went into retirement in 2005, until his appointment as eparch this June.

After an entrance procession that included many bishops, priests, and deacons, Exarch Joseph Haggar read a letter from Pope Benedict XVI, called the Papal Bull of Designation, which declared the appointment of Bishop Samra.

Bishops at Enthronement

Bishops and Heirarchs at the Enthronement

"May the lights and joy of the Holy Spirit and under the protection of the most holy Mother of God, be always with you and with your ecclesial community which is so very dear to us," stated Pope Benedict in his letter.

The previous Eparch of Newton, Metropolitan Archbishop Cyrille Bustros of Beirut and Jbeil, thanked Bishop Samra for his work as a priest and auxiliary bishop. He also thanked the clergy, religious, and laity of the Newton Eparchy and pledged his prayers for them, while asking for their prayers in turn.

Archbishop Bustros then read a letter from Patriarch Gregory III, the head of the Melkite Church who resides in Damascus, Syria.

The patriarch wished Bishop Samra "a successful pastoral ministry founded on strength and faith in the hearts of the believers in your vast country."

"We pray that he will continue to find those we call the hidden Melkites, whom we do not know, so we can serve them the holy mysteries and that they will not feel lost in their Church, but have one Church to belong to," stated Patriarch Gregory.

Following the letter, Bishop Samra approached Archbishop Bustros to receive the shepherd's staff, escorted by various clergy. Prayers were then invoked by a deacon and the choir that the new bishop may be preserved by God for many years.

Clergy at the Enthronement

Preists and Deacons at the Enthronement

In the vesting ceremony of the liturgy, Bishop Samra received and blessed seven distinct vestments, a pectoral cross, and medallion called an engolpion. He also blessed his crown--similar to a bishop's miter in the Roman rite -- and his staff.

Following these rituals, the Divine and Holy Liturgy of John Chrysostom began. After a Gospel reading, Bishop Samra addressed the congregation.

He noted that the date was the closing of the eastern feast of the Dormition of the Mother of God, marking the death or "falling asleep" of Mary. Bishop Samra called it probably the most important day of commemoration for Mary. In the Roman rite, the Dormition is celebrated as the Assumption, when Mary was taken into heaven.

In his remarks, he repeatedly pointed to Mary as an example for Christians to follow in giving flesh to Jesus. Bishop Samra cited Sacred Scripture and the Eucharist as ways for the faithful to bring Christ to others.

"Not only should we hear it, but we should digest it into our hearts and then when we leave the church, we become the word of God to the community outside," said Bishop Samra.

He noted that when the bread and wine are brought to the altar prior to the consecration, these items also represent the gifts of the people assembled.

"We say thank you to God for life and for all the aspects of life that he continues to give us -- each day of our lives -- and we take those gifts and place them on the altar, you are now there," said the bishop.

He said that God in turn gives the gifts back to the people transformed into the body and blood of Christ.

"Now Christ flows through you, but it's not over. That's nice, we're transformed, we become one body because we're one bread and one cup. It unites us together, but something more important happens, we leave the church...Now that we are transformed we go back into the world in which we live to transform it," said Bishop Samra.

Following his homily, the liturgy proceeded into the eucharistic consecration and distribution of communion. The overall ceremony incorporated English, Aramaic, and Greek words and chants.

Toward the end of the liturgy, Bishop Samra expressed thanks and signaled the dismissal of the people with a blessing gesture with two long candles, called a dikerion and trikerion.

Cathy Moody, whose grandfather came to Massachusetts from Lebanon and was one of the founding members of the cathedral, described the event as "incredible" and said she was "excited for the future of the Melkites in America."

Eric Alaimo, 27, a religion teacher from Central Catholic High School in Lawrence, is a Latin Catholic who attends the Latin Rite Mass on Saturday evening and the Melkite liturgy on Sunday morning.

"To quote Blessed John Paul II, I like to breathe with both lungs," said Alaimo, referring to the late pope's description of the Churches of the East and West as the two lungs through which the universal Church breathes.

Alaimo said the event had an extra special significance with Bishop Nicholas being American born.

"I'm curious to see where that's going to lead the Melkite Church in America," said Alaimo.



Great Honors


Wonderful News

For the People of the Melkite Eparchy of Newton

June 15, 2011

The Rt. Rev. Exarch Joseph Haggar, Administrator pro tempore of the Eparchy of Newton, announces the following:

His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI has given assent to the canonical election by the Holy Synod of the Melkite Catholic Church of the Most Rev. Archbishop Cyril Salim Bustros as Metropolitan of Beirut and Jbeil, Lebanon, and, at the proposal of the Holy Synod of the Melkite Catholic Church, has named the Most Rev. Bishop Nicholas James Samra as Eparch of Newton.

In addition, His Holiness has also given assent to the canonical election of the Most Rev. Bishop Issam John Darwish as Archbishop of Zahleh and Furzol, Lebanon, and has named the Rt. Rev. Archimandrite Robert Rabbat as Eparch of St. Michael the Archangel of Sydney (Australia and New Zealand).

The Patriarchal Web Site announced the joyous news this way . . .

His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI has given his assent to the election of two archbishops, canonically elected by the Holy Synod of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church, at Ain Traz on 25 June 2010.

They are:

The Most Rev. Archbishop Cyril Salim Bustros, hitherto Eparch of Newton (USA), elected Metropolitan of Beirut and Jbeil, Lebanon; and The Most Rev. Bishop Issam John Darwish, B. S., hitherto Eparch of St Michael the Archangel of Sydney, (Australia and New Zealand), elected Archbishop of Zahleh and Furzol, Lebanon. 15 June 2011

As of today, 15 June 2011, His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI, at the proposal of the Holy Synod of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church, has named two hierarchs for the eparchies of our expansion vacant as a result of the transfer of their respective eparchs to other eparchies.

They are:

The Most Rev. Nicholas James Samra, hitherto titular Bishop of Gerasa and former Protosynkellos of the Eparchy of Newton, (USA), named Eparch of the same Eparchy of Newton; and The Rt. Rev. Archim. Robert Rabbat, hitherto rector of the Eparchial Cathedral of Newton and editor-in-chief of the eparchy’s journal Sophia, named Eparch of St Michael the Archangel of Sydney (Australia and New Zealand).


Address of Most Rev. Cyril Salim Bustros at the Enthronement Liturgy

Cathedral of the Eparchy of Newton

August 18, 2004

Your Beatitude, Most Reverend Bishops, dear priests, deacons and subdeacons, dear sisters and brothers in Christ,

"Let your light shine". This is the program of my new ministry and my appeal and Christ's appeal to everyone of you. I am coming from Baalbeck, in Lebanon, the ancient "Heliopolis", a Greek word that means "City of the sun". There I was born, and there I served as Archbishop for sixteen years, from 1988 to 2004, after having been for twenty-two years rector of St. Paul's Institute of Philosophy. I am a bishop of the Catholic Church. At my first interview with the press in 1988, they asked me some questions about political problems; my short answer was "I am a Doctor in theology not in politics". And in fact, I did not interfere in political matters, and I was at the service of all men and women from all religions and all political parties. I accepted the priesthood and after that the episcopacy for the singular aim of preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ, Son of God and Savior of all human beings, and to unite the diversity of human beings and the diversity of nations into one body, the Body of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, has reconciled in his Body all who were before enemies, as St. Paul wrote to the Ephesians: "Christ himself is our peace: He it is who has made both one, and has broken down the intervening wall of the enclosure, the enmity, in his flesh" (Eph 2, 14). So we can say with Saint Paul: "Hence there is not ‘Gentile and Jew', ‘circumcised and uncircumcised', ‘Barbarian and Scithyan', ‘slave and freeman', but Christ is all things and in all" (Col 3, 11).

Adapting this saying to the American situation, we can say: "There is no American and Arab", but only Christ, and we, Americans and Arabs, are the One Body of Christ. The Arabs remain Arabs: they cannot deny their origin; neither can they loose their identity. They are bearers of a very rich heritage of which they are proud. But at the same time, they became Americans, and they are also proud of this new identity. I personally, am also proud to be Lebanese; but at the same time, I am happy to come to America, and to be enriched by my new American identity. We read in the letter to the Hebrews: "Here we have no permanent city, but we seek the city that is to come" (Heb 13, 14). This city that is to come is the Kingdom of God. This Kingdom of God is to come, but it is already here, though in a mystical way: He is in us! We are all citizens of the one Kingdom of God. In Christ we have become, all who were baptized, a new creature. We are all in pilgrimage on this earth, and our mission is to make the whole humanity a new creation in Christ Jesus by the power and inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, has appointed me Eparch of Newton upon my election by our Greek Catholic Melkite Synod. I accepted with joy and love this nomination. When I obtained my Doctorate in Theology in 1976 from the English Department of the University of Louvain in Belgium, after having followed for two years all the courses in English with many Americans who were following the same courses as I, I did not know at that time that God was preparing me to be one day a Bishop in the United States of America. And when I came after obtaining my doctorate in 1976 to visit the late Most Reverend Joseph Tawil and spend one month with him in Boston, I never imagined that I shall be after twenty-eight years his successor as Eparch of Newton.

My dear co-workers, Most Reverend Nicholas Samra and all priests and deacons and subdeacons in the Eparchy; my dear sisters and brothers: I am coming to you to serve you. And the best food I can offer to you in my service is my love, which I hope shall be the reflection of the Love of God the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and the link of unity between all the members of our dear Eparchy. In this love, we are called by God to collaborate for the good of the Church in general and for the prosperity of our Melkite Church in particular. I know that there are many problems that need to be solved. I cannot solve them alone, or immediately, but with you and with love, we can solve the most serious problems. I do not fear to face serious problems. I am used to that, in my long ministry in Baalbeck. And I can say with Saint John the Evangelist: Where there is love, there is no fear.

Dear Brothers, Most Reverend bishops of the other churches, I thank you very much for coming to participate with us in this Liturgy. We are all ministers of the One, Holy Catholic Orthodox and Apostolic Church. And this Church, as Pope John Paul II has said many times, has to breathe with two lungs: East and West. I know what this saying means, having been a member of many ecumenical commissions in the Middle East, and General Reporter of the Synod of Bishops in its special Assembly for Lebanon. And I am still a member of the Commission of Dialogue between the Catholic church and the Assyrian Church of the East.

I thank Most Reverend Bishop John Adel Elya for the service he has done during his ministry as Eparch of Newton. He is now free of this heavy responsibility, and he can have the rest, he has merited. But he remains my dear friend and the dear friend of all of you. And to my other friend, Most Reverend Bishop Nicholas Samra, I say: we will work together in a very cordial collaboration, and be a sign of the unity for the Church.

I thank His Beatitude our Patriarch Gregorios the III, for presiding over this Liturgy. And we shall remain in contact with him and with all the bishops of our Greek Catholic Melkite Synod, so that our Melkite Church can also breathe with two lungs: the one in the Middle East and the one spread all over the world.

May the Love of God the Father and the grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.

Icon of the apostles at Pentecost Group photograph of all the Melkite Clergy surrounding Archbishop Cyril Bustros

It was a beautiful, bright, and balmy afternoon, August 18, 2004, when the lengthy procession of some thirty-three Archbishops and Bishops and over seventy Priests and Deacons solemnly made its way into the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Annunciation, the Mother Church of the Eparchy, for the Divine Liturgy of Enthronement. With great anticipation, the Faithful, representing many churches in the Eparchy, filled the Cathedral.

After the solemn vesting of the new Archbishop by the Deacons, Father Eugene Mitchell, B.S.O., Rector of the Cathedral, called upon His Excellency Archbishop Gabriel Montalvo, the Apostolic Nuncio to the United States, the Pope's personal representative to our country, to come forward to read the Papal Bull proclaiming Archbishop Cyril Bustros as the Fourth Eparch of Newton. Then, His Beatitude, Patriarch Gregorios III, Father of Fathers and Shepherd of Shepherds of the Melkite Church, imparted the pastoral staff of authority to Archbishop Cyril instructing him to rule, govern, and guide the Eparchy of Newton with firmness and love. The Pontifical Divine Liturgy then followed.

After the congregation had received the Precious Body and Blood of Christ in Holy Communion and the Divine Liturgy had concluded, Bishop John Elya, now Eparch Emeritus of Newton escorted his successor, Archbishop Cyril Salim Bustros, from the Holy Doors to ascend the Hierarchical Throne of his new Cathedral for the first time. From his Eparchial Throne, the new Eparch solemnly blessed the clergy and people with the Dikirion and Trikirion, the two and three-branched candles that symbolize the two Natures of Christ and the three Persons of the Most Holy Trinity. Then, the Clergy and the people came forward to kiss the hand of the new Eparch as a sign of loyalty and obedience.

Eastern bishops attending the enthronement

Patriarch Gregorios III Archbishop Montalvo, Papal Nuncio, Bishop John and Archbishop Cyril pause for a moment before entering the Cathedral

The procession into the church before the enthronement of the new Eparch of Newton

The Patriarch blesses the clergy and people

Eparchial Clergy in attendance at the Enthronement

Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Montalvo read Papal Bull proclaiming Archbishop Cyril Bustros Fourth Eparch of Newton.

Archbishop Cyril, Eparch of Newton

The Patriarch blesses the clergy and people

Archbishop Cyril receives the obeisance of clergy and people after his Enthronement

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