Melkite Greek Catholic Church
 

Repose in the Lord of the Mgr. George Kwaiter 1928-2011

Mgr George Kwaiter was born in Damascus on 28 April 1928. While still very young he entered the monastery of Holy Saviour of the Basilian Salvatorian Order, at Joun, where he made his solemn vows in 1951 and was ordained priest on 13 June 1954, after having finished his studies in philosophy and theology.

He served in different parishes in Lebanon, Jordan and the Holy Land, as well as at the seminary of the Holy Saviour monastery. He took over the direction of the monastery’s press and founded the collection “Popular Saints,” in which were published notably three works written by his own hand.

As soon as the Providence Home and social centre was founded at Salhieh (in the archeparchy of Saida) with Father Lutfi Laham in 1966, he became its director, remaining there for 21 years, until his episcopal election.

In recent years, he also became deputy head and vicar-general of his order.
After the tragic events of the region of East Saida in 1985, he remained in post among his people, restoring hope and life to everyone, despite the massive exodus after the end of the civil war.

Elected by the Holy Synod on 23 July 1987, Mgr George Kwaiter was consecrated Archbishop of Saida and Deir el Qamar on the following 23 October, in the cathedral at Damascus, by Patriarch Maximos V, assisted by Archbishops Francis Abu Mokh and Lutfi Laham.

Retired since 9 October 2006, he remained resident in the archeparchy undertaking various pastoral services, and especially the completion of work on the basilica of Our Lady of Mantara at Maghdusheh. Archbishop George died on 26 July, 2011.

Funeral and burial in Saida, Lebanon Of Archbishop Emeritus of Saida and Deir el Qamar H.E. Mgr George Ibrahim Kwaiter (1928-2011)


The mortal remains of Mgr George Kwaiter were displayed at the chapel of the Providence Home (of which Archbishop George had been director and co-founder with H.B. Patriarch Gregorios III) in Salhieh on Friday 29 July 2011 from 10a.m. onwards for the faithful to pay their last respects and offer their prayers: many people from the region and abroad came to pray beside the coffin.

At 2p.m. Patriarch Gregorios III arrived at the social centre to pray and to receive condolences.

At 2:30p.m. the body was brought to Saida, to the central Place de l’Etoile, whence it was carried on people’s shoulders to St. Nicholas’ Cathedral. Christians and Muslims were together as mourners.

At 3:45p.m. Patriarch Gregorios III arrived at the cathedral, where he was welcomed by bishops and made his entry.

The funeral began at 4p.m. with some sixteen bishops present, including nine members of the Holy Synod, together with others from Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant Churches. Several shaykhs were present from different Muslim communities. Also present were representatives of the President of the Lebanese Republic, Michel Sleiman, parliamentary deputies and ministerial representatives, together with members of religious orders, relatives of the deceased and other people from the local eparchy and from further abroad.

A message from the Holy Father was read by the Papal Nuncio, Archbishop Gabriele Caccia. In his sermon, the Patriarch outlined the life and work of the late Archbishop George, mentioning especially the latter’s co-founding of the Providence Home and social centre in 1966, his presence during the Lebanese civil war, the way in which he reconstituted his eparchy afterwards, by rebuilding some twenty churches and restoring many others damaged in the war, his love for the Mother of God and his building of the still to be finished church near the grotto at Maghdusheh, Lebanon, the place which is traditionally associated with the stay of Mary, Mother of God while her Son was preaching in Tyre and Sidon. His Beatitude, Maronite Patriarch Beshara sent a message of condolence which was read to the mourners and the current eparchial bishop, Archbishop Elie Beshara Haddad spoke, as did the Superior General of the Basilian Salvatorian Order, Jean Faraj. The body was then taken in procession outside to be laid in the archbishops’ crypt under the altar of the cathedral.

On Sunday, 31 July, the departed was commemorated during the Divine Liturgy celebrated at St. Cyril’s Church, Damascus, by Patriarch Gregorios III. This church, served by the Salvatorian Fathers, is the parish church of the late Archbishop and his family. Archbishop George’s brother and sisters, with other relatives and friends attended the service.

Translation from the French: V. Chamberlain

 
Holy Synod of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church Ain Traz, 20 - 25 June 2011   Close of the Synod

Divine Liturgy of the Close of the Synod

A solemn Divine Liturgy was celebrated on Saturday, 25 June 2011 for the close of the Holy Synod, which had begun its work at the Patriarchal Residence of Ain Traz on 20 June, presided over by H. B. Patriarch Gregorios III. Participating with the Patriarch were eighteen bishops. The others had had to leave already on Friday, 24 for various reasons, as the Holy Synod ended at 7p.m. that day.

Features of that Liturgy

The Liturgy began on the solea (in front of the iconostasis) around the Patriarch. The multilingual service was celebrated in eight languages, Arabic, Greek, English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish, the languages of our liturgy in the Middle East of and the countries to which our faithful have spread. It was also the Liturgy of the Feast of the Divine Body. The Patriarch’s sermon centred on the words, “Take.., eat.., drink...” Priests say it in the name of Christ, but in doing so they put themselves at the disposition of the faithful, “Eat me, I am yours.” As Father Antoine Chevrier said, “The priest is a man consumed.” The Patriarch told his bishops that they celebrated the Synod, so as to be closer to their faithful. The Synod was in the line of the motto of the Synod of the Assembly of Bishops for the Middle East: Communion and Witness.

Communion ad intra

  • From or of the Church, the parish
  • With other Churches
  • With every citizen
  • Our identity

Witness ad extra

  • Witnessing, being martyrs
  • There is no Church that is without its martyrdom of blood and witness of life
  • Witness of our Church with fidelity to our tradition
  • Witness in the world: the multilingual liturgy bore witness and invited to openness
The Patriarch took pleasure in greeting his brother bishops from all eparchies. He named each bishop present, inviting the camera from Télélumière to focus on each, so that the faithful could recognize their pastor. Concerning solidarity, His Beatitude cited the words of the Apostle Paul, “And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it.” (1 Corinthians 12: 26) Or, as the Fathers of Vatican II said in Gaudium et Spes, “The joys and the hopes, the griefs and the anxieties of the men of this age, especially those who are poor or in any way afflicted, these are the joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties of the followers of Christ.1” “That is the programme for our solidarity with our world, our eparchy, our parishes, our priests, monks and nuns and laypeople; but also with our world, especially our suffering Arab world, and Syria,” His Beatitude emphasised. On the Feast of the Ascension, 23 June, in Damascus, and elsewhere in Syria, and in the Holy Synod, His Beatitude asked for prayers to be held, for a peaceful future, with stability, understanding and prosperity.

Invitation to our faithful

“Courage! Be not afraid!” His Beatitude concluded. “Do what Jesus calls you to do: be the light, salt and leaven in the lump.” The Patriarch gave greetings to each and all through Télélumière, saying, “We love you: I love you. Love us: love your pastors.”

Kiss of Peace

The Patriarch kissed the holy gifts and the holy table. Then he took his seat on the solea, in front of the iconostasis. The bishops followed suit and came to greet the Patriarch and sit beside him. So a big circle was formed in the body of the church. Meanwhile the choir sang the hymn for the kiss of peace, “I will love Thee, O Lord, my strength. The Lord is my firm support, my refuge, and my deliverer.”(Psalm 17: 1 LXX)

Creed

With everyone forming the big circle, the Creed was recited in the nave. Then the Liturgy continued. The Anaphora was carried out in Greek and Arabic and Portuguese. At the end, the Polychronion was sung.
 

Holy Synod

of the

Melkite Greek Catholic Church

Ain Traz, 20 - 25 June 2011


Inaugural Address

By Patriarch Gregorios III

Document No. 5

In the name of the Saviour, we open the Holy Synod. Let us sing with the Church: "Today the grace of the Holy Spirit has brought us together," (Vespers of Palm Sunday) for the Spirit brings us together, as successors of the holy Apostles around the Mother of God and our Mother, the Patron of Our Lady of the Annunciationin the Patriarchal Residence of Ain Traz, which this year celebrates the bicentennial jubilee of its construction (1811-2011.)

Let us sing festive hymns with the Holy Spirit on glorious Pentecost, praying to Jesus to bless our work and makes us members of our Synod live Pentecost in our Church and in our parishes and among the faithful, and we pray,

“After thy Rising from the tomb, O Christ, and thy divine Ascension to the height of heaven, thou didst send down thy glory to thy Disciples who had seen God, renewing a right spirit within them, O Merciful Saviour; therefore as a tuneful lyre they mystically made clear as with a divine plectrum thy melodies and thy dispensation.”

(Kathisma, Tone 8 after the Polyeleos at Matins of Pentecost)

Following the spirituality of our holy fathers, let us reflect together on our priestly and episcopal pastoral Christian vocation, saying,

"On as many as the grace which flows from God has breathed, resplendent, dazzling, transformed, with a strange, most glorious transformation, we have come to know the Essence of equal might, indivisible, wise, of triple radiance; and we give glory.” (Troparion of Matins of Pentecost, Ode 9, Tone 4)

We find in this spiritual fragrance the programme of our spiritual, ecclesial and pastoral work in this Synod, which is confronting us with our responsibility to our citizens and the dear souls entrusted to us by the Holy Spirit, as the Apostle Paul tells us in his appeal to the bishops and priests of the Church of Ephesus: "Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood."(Acts 20:28)

At the beginning of this Synod we want to commemorate our late lamented brother, Archbishop Salim Ghazal, who moved to his heavenly rest on the morning of Friday, 29 April 2011. The funeral was attended by a large number of members of our Holy Synod.

And we welcome our brother bishops and pastors: Archbishop Cyril Bustros, who has recently moved from the Eparchy of Newton in the United States to the Archeparchy of Beirut and Jbeil, Bishop Issam John Darwish, who has moved from the Eparchy of Australia and New Zealand to the Eparchy of Furzol, Zahlé, and all the Beqaa, and Bishop Nicholas Samra, who has received responsibility for the Eparchy of Newton and Bishop-elect of the Eparchy of Australia and New Zealand, Archimandrite Robert Rabbat. We also thank the Reverend Metropolitan Emeritus Joseph Kallas and Archbishop Emeritus André Haddad for their dedication to episcopal service and wish them well.

We cannot fail to offer thanks at the beginning of this Synod on the beatification of Father Beshara Abou Mrad, monk of Holy Saviour. May he be a patron of the Salvatorian Order and its monks, pastors and priests of the faithful.

Through the media, we are pleased to give our children and others, a glimpse of the basic orientations of the Holy Synod.

I.

Firstly our Synod has witnessed the sight of terrible scenes of the difficult conditions and tragic bloodshed experienced in our Arab countries, and so have our churches, eparchies, parishes and our sons and daughters and all our citizens. So our situation can be expressed in the words of the Second Vatican Council in Gaudium et Spes: "The joys and the hopes, the griefs and the anxieties of the men of this age, especially those who are poor or in any way afflicted, these are the joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties of the followers of Christ," (just like the Church in the world today.)

In fact, we lived the tragedies of our country, especially during the time of Lent, Holy Week and the Paschal Feast. Prayers were offered in our churches and monasteries for the victims and the suffering, the wounded and sick. And especially in Syria we abstained from external manifestations of the feast. Documents were issued and statements of us personally and a large number of bishops of our Church and our priests, urging all governments and citizens to show restraint, prudence, wisdom and discernment and dialogue, trust and unity, and to avoid violence and not be drawn into civil, factional, partisan or religious strife.

We shall offer daily prayers during the Synod for our peoples, our countries and all our citizens. The details of this situation will be made available by us to share with you, Venerable Brothers, so as to ensure we continue to do our canonical and national, humanitarian, social, domestic and international part, towards the issues of our countries, in particular with regard to working hard to end the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and bring a just, lasting and comprehensive peace to the Holy Land, as it is the key to resolving the conflicts and to overcoming the crises, calamities and destructive tendencies that afflict our region, and cause paralysis in our Church, and negatively affect our citizens in their spiritual progress. May it not incite more of our children to emigrate from their homes and livelihoods and heritage!

This situation of the Arab world was addressed in our Paschal Letter this year entitled, "The Arab World’s Way of the Cross towards Resurrection,” and conveying the Christian message to this world "Our Arab world, you have a resurrection.”

II: The Five-Year Plan

Our Synod this year is the first after the Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for the Church in the Middle East, entitled: "Communion and Witness.” Our church had a distinguished and effective role in the meetings of the Synod (10-24 October, 2010.) We published a special issue of our magazine for the Synod. (Le Lien No: 3-4.75 5ème année 2010)

We have also in it published our speeches and the contributions of our bishops and others, and a Diary of the Synod in the press ...I am in the process of preparing a book on the Synod held in Rome for Melkite Greek Catholics in the Middle East, like the book which was issued on the occasion of the Second Vatican Council.

I have personally to follow up many of the activities of the Synod for the Arab world, at the level of the Latin and other Western Churches that participated in the Synod.

Among numerous initiatives, the First International Congress was held in Damascus on 15 December 2010, in cooperation between the Patriarchate (and the churches of Syria) and the Ministry of the Awqaf. There participated in it 13 Churches, including 35 Arab and Western representatives of the Patriarchs of East and West and 3,500 participants.

I am particularly keen for us to work during the Synod to follow up the idea of the “five-year plan.” Letters were sent about this to the bishops and superiors-general mothers general, and all the sons and daughters of our Church.

The five year-plan document is in your hands, for discussion in the synod and in workshop sessions, so you can decide what you think is appropriate given the subject matter, and formulate the way in which to apply it at the level of the Church, or the Eparchy, or the parish or monastic community...

III: Good Shepherds

The most important business before our Synod is the selection of good pastors for vacancies in our eparchies. Canon laws have been initiated to create the method for nominating and electing bishops. (Canon 182 of the Code of Canons for the Oriental Churches) The work of nominating according to canon law is always ongoing. All the local bishops are interested in identifying priests (and they are few) of our Church, by collecting public and private information about them, in order to identify them. Over time, a file is put together consisting of certain priests, who are most qualified, efficient and mature in knowledge and virtue. The information is gathered in the files of the Patriarchate. These notes facilitate the process of selection and election to the vacant eparchies during the synod.

We shall dedicated time to the important work of this Synod in selecting righteous pastors for our Church, for the foreseeable future and in the long run.

The importance of keeping this whole delicate process secret must be pointed out. All we bishops and priests, monks, nuns and secular lay people must help each other to respect the confidentiality of this important canonical task and avoid the leaking of information, rumours, and suppositions and speculation both before, during and after the Synod...

Many customarily solicit information on the process of nomination of candidates for the episcopate and election results.

We invite everyone to desist from this bad habit. Let us bishops and priests, monks, nuns and lay- people work together to abide by the duty of confidentiality imposed by canon law.

IV: other topics

The work of the Synod for the year includes administrative, pastoral and liturgical matters. There will be published the new edition of the Little Euchologion (or service book containing the Mysteries and blessings), and the and Evangelion. A prayer book has recently been published for young people and families, designed to help lay-people with prayer.

We will update and exchange information among our eparchies: there will be a paper on the Patriarchal Academy, and one on the Seminary of St. Anna at Rabweh, which educates students for the priesthood for our eparchies. We shall also hear news about the conditions of our eparchies...

Today, in this Synod we can rejoice together at this special news: the inauguration of the Liqa’a Centre for global dialogue of civilizations, on 10 May 2011, i n thepresence of the President of the Lebanese Republic. Please note that this unique building interreligious dialogue is gift of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said, may God protect him. The benevolence of this great man and of the Sultanate of Oman will remain in the memory of our Church, and we wish them safety, security and prosperity.

This centre is for you, my brothers and sisters, and all the sons and daughters of our Church in the Arab world and in the expansion and everywhere. (See the attached Patriarchal Letter and brochure on the status of the Liqa’a Centre.)

V: The Synod on the New Evangelisation

We will reflect on the first document, the Lineamenta of the Synod to be held in Rome (7-28 October 2012.) The theme of the "New Evangelisation” is an important issue which will help us in the follow-up to the Synod for the Middle East, particularly in the renewal of pastoral work for the transmission of the holy faith in our Church, particularly among the younger generations, ravaged by currents destructive of evangelical values ​​and sound ethics, including: the secularised way of looking at life, hedonism, superficiality, self-centredness, the unproductive cult of the individual, spiritual atrophism, emptiness of heart and the loss of fundamental elements of explaining the faith. (See Section 6, para. 3 in the English text.1)

And we (Fathers) are asked to provide answers to the questions raised in the document before 1 November, 2011. The document was distributed to bishops and superiors-general of Orders, and mothers-general. It must be studied in our eparchies and institutions and among our citizens.

Dear Brothers and Sisters

In our Synod we shall study the topics in review (in addition to the later suggestions of the Fathers), as we see clearly the importance for our Synod of having broad horizons, and exercising great responsibility towards our citizens, especially in the current circumstances experienced by Arab countries. (Ten countries have been affected by revolutions and upheavals in varying degrees.) These conditions affect our parishes and the faith of our children, and the recommendations of the Synod for the Middle East, in which we our hope. These crucial developments have profound implications for our parishes and may have caused a new wave of creeping immigration.

For this we need to redouble our vigilance to the community in order to be closer to our parishes, supporting them, responsive to the most urgent needs in these circumstances.

We raised our voice in the meetings of the Synod for the Middle East, and warned all the participant Synod Fathers - both the Pope, cardinals and our other fellow-bishops - of the immediate and far-reaching danger of the succession of wars, crises and setbacks, that is due to the Palestinian Arab-Israeli conflict, that has now lasted for over sixty-three years .We sent message after message to the heads of state in the European Union and the Americas to do whatever can be done to bring about a just and comprehensive solution to this conflict, and the recognition of the rights of our Palestinian brothers in their homeland to their land and their water, their freedom and their dignity and their right to return to their ancestral land.

Now from the platform of this Synod, since we have nationals in Arab countries and abroad, let us raise our voice, demanding that efforts be made to end the conflict that threatens the security, integrity and stability of Arab society, and the dialogue between citizens, and co-existence among all denominations and confessions. can affect the values ​​of dialogue and coexistence, solidarity and peace throughout the whole world, especially among the youth and future generations.

What we fear for the Arab world in general and especially Lebanon and Syria in particular, is that the so-called revolutions are not rebellions demanding reforms, but are escalating towards sectarian strife here and there. Neither Lebanon nor Syria, nor other Arab countries are immune from this, so let us be wary of sedition!

Such strife is a way of driving a wedge into the Arab world to divide and weaken it. Political intrigue aims at damaging civil peace and harmony, especially Christian-Muslim co-existence in the Arab world and that living together, which, despite its deficiencies, remains a model for Christian-Muslim dialogue in Europe and the rest of the world.

We call for unity in Lebanon, and for Lebanon to be worthy of its vocation and mission and to reflect the language of civilization, and to distance itself from attempts to sow discord and destabilisation. This is what we see with regret going on here and there in various regions in Lebanon. We strongly condemn what happened in Tripoli2. Let all Lebanese citizens and Lebanese everywhere not allow Lebanon's “sectarian political system” to be reflected in a narrow, partisan, sectarian and factional mentality, which would negate the religious, social and political diversity that characterizes Lebanon.

That is why we are specifically calling for two things:

Firstly, the revival of the national dialogue roundtable for any domestic affliction, and for strengthening civil peace, so that this table can be a place open to all for permanent dialogue and communication, coordination, advice and solutions that preserve unity in love.

Secondly, we held a spiritual summit in May, and our citizens were glad to see their spiritual leaders presenting a united front. Now we call for a collective congress of Lebanese including spiritual leaders, political leaders and government and state officials, to be held at the Presidential Palace in Baabda, under the chairmanship of H. E. President Michel Suleiman. Such a conference would have a significant impact and strengthen Lebanon in all sectors in the current circumstances of the moment that the region is experiencing.

So our Synod, and our church and our pastors, the bishops who are here representing the Arab world and the world of expansion, are calling out to the leaders of the Arab world to “love one another, with a pure heart fervently.” (1 Peter 1: 22) Either the Arab world and its leaders must unite in solidarity and cooperate, and sketch out together a better future for their peoples, especially the young people and future generations, or fall too easily prey to regional and global interests and ambitions. Where is the Arab League and the Islamic Conference? Where do these institutions stand in the face of the explosive revolutionary internal situation of Arab countries and in the face of frequent meetings in Europe about the situation of our country?

We members of this Synod invite everyone to foresight, determination and solidarity and to develop plans to ward off the dangers surrounding us all, which can destroy all our societies in a conflagration of hatred!

We call upon the EU countries and the USA and Russia, not to waste their time and make decisions here and there, and talk of revolutions here and there! What we want is for them to be able to impose a just, comprehensive and lasting peace and recognize courageously and firmly a Palestinian State, and be even-handed in dealing with Israel and Palestine and other Arab states. Only this can safely restore the confidence of the Arab world, Israeli and Palestinian lives, and the lives of everyone in the region, and enable the cycle of reform, development and prosperity in the region to begin. We hope to be worthy of Christ’s blessing: “Blessed are the peacemakers, they shall be called the children of God.”

We shall pray for this, and we shall offer our prayers in this Synod, first for our beloved Lebanon for hosting our Permanent Synod, and Syria, where our patriarchal seat of Antioch is, and for Egypt, Sudan, Palestine, Jordan, Iraq and the Gulf States, as the Church is well represented over the greater part of the Middle East.

As we say at the beginning of the Divine Liturgy, "We pray for peace from above and for the salvation of our souls. And for the peace of the whole world, the stability of the holy churches of God and the union of all.” We hope to spend in the light of our countries’ security and good government "a tranquil and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence.” (1 Timothy 2: 2)

Thanks to the media for covering the opening of our Holy Synod, and thank you, brethren, distinguished members of the Holy Synod, fathers-general and mothers-general, for your attention. We thank the viewers following our Synod for their prayers and aspirations. The Synod’s greetings on behalf of all its members to the priests, monks and nuns and our children all over the world: we pray for them and ask for their prayers.

And we place this Synod under the intercession of Mother Mary, Our Lady of the Annunciation, who is the patron saint of the monastery and the Patriarchal headquarters, that it may be successful and blessed, in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, one God. Amen.

With love, supplication and appreciation,

Gregorios III

Patriarch of Antioch and All the East, of Alexandria

And of Jerusalem of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church

 

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!

Amen.

+ Gregorios III, Patriarch

Translation from French: V. Chamberlain

 

Celebration in Memory of

Blessed John Paul II

Blessed John Paul II

On Sunday May 15th 2011, in the Patriarchal Cathedral of the Dormition, in Damascus, a solemn Divine Liturgy was concelebrated, presided over by His Beatitude Gregorios III, the Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarch of Antioch and All the East, of Alexandria and of Jerusalem, to give thanks to the Lord on the occasion of the sixth anniversary of the Pontificate of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI, of the beatification of the beloved Pope John Paul II and of the tenth anniversary of his apostolic visit and historic pilgrimage to Syria "in the steps of Saint Paul" (May 2001), and also to beseech civil peace in Syria.

Concelebrating with the Patriarch were the Patriarchal Vicar, Archbishop Joseph Absi, the Cathedral’s priest, Archimandrite George Jbeil, and several other priests.

Present in the choir were Archbishop Mario Zenari, Apostolic Nuncio to Syria, accompanied by the Nunciature’s Counsellor Mgr Matthew Amponsah-Saamoa, as well as all the Catholic bishops of Damascus (the Syriac Metropolitan, the Maronite Archbishop and the Armenian Bishop and Patriarchal Exarch), and Mar Youssef-Massoud Massoud, the Maronite Bishop of Lattakieh, two bishops representing the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate and two others representing the Syriac Orthodox Patriarchate.

The Government of the Syrian Arab Republic was represented by Mr. Faissal Mekdad, Deputy Foreign Minister (accompanied by the Foreign Ministry’s Chief of Protocol, Dr. Hamza Dawalibi, and the director of European Affairs, Dr. Ghassan Nasser), as well as the chief of staff of the Ministry of the Awqaf (Religious Affairs), Mr. Nabil Sleiman.

Also present were the ambassadors of Lebanon, Poland, France, Italy, Austria, Hungary, Norway, Argentina, Brazil and Japan, the representative of the Iranian Embassy and several members of the consular staff.

The liturgical texts of the day (troparion, Epistle and Gospel) were inspired by those that the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments had prescribed for commemorating the new Blessed in the Roman liturgy.

After the proclamation of the Gospel, the Apostolic Nuncio read the words spoken on the same day, at noon, after the Marian prayer Regina coeli, by the Holy Father 1, calling for civil peace in Syria: “My thoughts also go to Syria, where it is urgent to restore a partnership geared towards harmony and unity. I ask God that there is no further bloodshed in the homeland of the great religions and civilizations, and urge the authorities and all citizens to spare no effort in seeking the common good and in accommodating the legitimate aspirations for a peaceful future and stability.”

Then, in his sermon, the Patriarch commented on the three commemorations of this celebration, then gave a summary, with textual citations, of the teachings of Blessed John Paul II during his pilgrimage to Syria in May, 2001.

After the sermon, the deacon and choir sang the great ektenia alternately, with lines read by several people (priests, religious and lay-persons) from the prayer for peace uttered by Blessed John Paul II at Quneitra on 7 May, 2001. 2

Translation from French V. C.

 
Pope Benedict

Papal Visit to Cyprus and Appeal for Christians in the Middle East

June 4-6, 2010

Background to and purpose of the visit

Pope Benedict XVI, in his weekly public audience on June 9, summarised his trip the previous weekend to Cyprus, the first trip of his pontificate to a predominantly Orthodox country, and the first trip of any Pope to the island, adding a look forward to the October meeting of the Synod of Bishops, which will discuss the Middle East.

The Pope's trip had fulfilled three purposes:

  • encouraging the small Catholic community of Cyprus,
  • encouraging ecumenical progress,
  • and reaching out to all the peoples of the Middle East.

He praised the vigour of the local Catholic Churches and thanked the Orthodox Archbishop Chrysostomos II for his hospitality, saying that the latter was living proof that "rootedness in tradition does not prevent the Orthodox community from being firmly committed to ecumenical dialogue together with the Catholic community." Catholics and Orthodox are drawn together by their common reliance on the Scriptures, the Christian tradition, and the "profession of faith drawn up by the ancient councils."

In choosing to accept Archbishop Chysostomos' invitation to visit Cyprus as the site for the release of the working document, the instrumentum laboris, for this October's Synod of Bishops on the Middle East, the Pope indicated that the Eastern Churches are an essential part of any initiative in the region. His visit was "a religious message," which "should prepare more souls to find an opening for peace."

He underlined the importance of preserving a vigorous Christian presence in that troubled region. During his trip to Cyprus, he had said, "I made a heartfelt appeal to all the Catholics of the Middle East, despite their great trials and the difficulties they notoriously face, not to give in to discouragement and the temptation to emigrate, because their presence in the region represents an irreplaceable sign of hope."

The October Synod will take up the same question, the Pope said, reminding all the world's Christians that the Middle East "occupies a special place" for believers, as the place "where God made Himself known to our fathers in the faith." The Synod, he continued, would also address the "situations of suffering and conflict" that still plague the region and would also be an occasion to bring public attention to the Christian presence in the region, "so the world can see that there is a great and ancient Christianity in the Middle East." He spoke of the importance of dialogue among the different Christian Churches of the region - including the different rites of the Catholic Church - and continuing efforts to promote peaceful coexistence with Islam.

In divided Cyprus, Pope's theme was unity

On Friday, June 4," following in the footsteps of our common fathers in the faith, Sts. Paul and Barnabas," Pope Benedict XVI arrived in Cyprus, to be greeted by President Demetris Christofias, Orthodox Archbishop Chrysostomos II, Maronite Patriarch Cardinal Nasrallah Boutros Sfeir and a number of other Catholic prelates. On arrival, the Pope said: "Cyprus stands at the crossroads of cultures and religions, of histories both proud and ancient but which still retain a strong and visible impact upon the life of your country."

Later that day, at an ecumenical service in the church of Agia Kiriaki Chrysopolitissa, the Pope stressed the ties that bind together all Christians. Christians should pray for a renewal of that original unity, he said, noting that "it will strengthen the witness to the Gospel in today's world...The Church of Cyprus, which serves as a bridge between East and West, has contributed much to this process of reconciliation." The Christians of Cyprus are mostly Orthodox, and during his visit the Pope spoke frequently of the need for Orthodox and Catholics, in view of their common concerns, to join together in common witness.

During a June 5 meeting with the Orthodox Archbishop Chrysostomos of Cyprus in St. John's Cathedral, Pope Benedict shed some light on his choice of the island nation as the spot for the release of the instrumentum laboris. "Cyprus," he observed, "is traditionally considered part of the Holy Land, and the situation of continuing conflict in the Middle East must be a source of concern to all Christ's followers. No one can remain indifferent to the need to support in every way possible the Christians of that troubled region, so that its ancient churches can live in peace and flourish."

Patriarch Gregorios III, who had arrived on this day from Beirut, accompanied by Archbishop Joseph Jules Zerey, Patriarchal Vicar in Jerusalem, Archbishop Elias Rahhal of Baalbek and Chancellor Archimandrite Tony Dib, also took the opportunity to talk with Archbishop Chrysostomos, with whom he has a cordial relationship since the latter's visit to him in Damascus in May 2009.

Although Cyprus is a divided nation, with its own difficulties, mirroring some of the region's persistent conflicts, some are working to promote dialogue between Muslims and Christians. Thus the Pope had an unscheduled encounter with Sheikh Mehmet Nazim Adil Al-Haqqani, the 89-year-old head of the Islamic Naqshbandi sect based in the Turkish-controlled north of Cyprus, who had come to visit him at the apostolic nunciature in Nicosia. Before separating, they exchanged gifts and embraced. The sheikh asked the Pope to pray for him, and the latter replied: "Of course I will: we will pray for one another." SheikhNazim told reporters, "May Allah grant him a good life here and hereafter."

That evening, Patriarch Gregorios III was among the concelebrating Patriarchs and bishops as the Pope presided at Mass in the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem's Parish Church of the Holy Cross in Nicosia, which is administered by Franciscans. The Latin Patriarch welcomed the Pope in the name of all the Eastern Catholic Patriarchs expressing his hope that suffering Christians in the Middle East might receive support from His Holiness and an experience of resurrection. In his sermon, the Pope offered special encouragement to the assembled congregation of consecrated persons, reflecting on the meaning of the Cross: "an instrument of torture, suffering and defeat, but at the same time it expresses the complete transformation, the definitive reversal of these evils: that is what makes it the most eloquent symbol of hope that the world has ever seen."

Papal trip highlights crisis facing Christians in the Middle East

On Sunday June 6 Patriarch Gregorios III together with the other Patriarchs and over fifty bishops of the many different Catholic communities in the Middle East were among some 6,000 people, attending the Papal Mass for Corpus Domini in the Elevtheria arena in Nicosia. Also attending the Mass were Archbishop Chrysostomos with several other Orthodox bishops of the island. "It is well known that some of you suffer great trials due to the current situation in the region," the Pope said before switching from English into Polish to announce the beatification of Polish martyr, Father Jerzy Popiełuszko.

At lunch, Pope Benedict XVI and Archbishop Chrysostomos II dined together in company with the Eastern Catholic Patriarchs and clergy both Catholic and Orthodox and other guests.

Afterwards the Eastern Catholic Patriarchs and Major Archbishops received from the Pope the document, the instrumentum laboris, that will form the basis for discussion at their October Synod meeting. The Synod will be "an opportunity for Christians of the rest of the world to offer spiritual support and solidarity to their brothers and sisters in the Middle East," Pope Benedict XVI said. The Pope offered a prayer that "just and lasting solutions may be found to the conflicts that cause so much hardship."

His Holiness' last visit was to the Maronite Cathedral of Our Lady of Graces and to the Maronite school, where he was welcomed by Patriarch Sfeir and Archbishop Youssef Soueif, who played a key role in organising the papal visit to the island.

As he prepared to leave Cyprus the Pope made one final appeal for international "efforts to build a real and lasting peace for all the peoples of the region." He assured the participants in an airport farewell ceremony that "Cyprus can play a particular role in promoting dialogue and cooperation." He promised to pray for the people of Cyprus, who have lived in an ethnically divided state for 36 years. "I have seen for myself something of the sad division of the island, as well as learning of the loss of a significant part of a cultural heritage which belongs to all humanity. I have also listened to Cypriots from the north, who wish to return in peace to their homes and places of worship, and I have been deeply moved by their pleas," he said.

Sources: CatholicCulture.org; CW News.com; VOA News.com; http://www.asianews.it/ and HB. Patriarch Gregorios III.

Ed. V. Chamberlain

Index of the Documents Concerning the Council for the Middle East

 
Protrait of Beshara Abou Mrad B.S.O., Melkite Priest

Beshara Abou Mrad B.S.O.,

Melkite Priest

An Eastern Curé d'Ars

The Holy Synod in June 2009 studied the announcement from Pope Benedict XVI of a Year of the Priest 19 June 2009 to 19 June 2010. In order to commemorate the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the death of Jean-Marie Vianney (April 25 2009), patron of parish priests throughout the world, the Synod suggested some commemoratory activities: firstly, to address a letter in the name of the Patriarch and the Holy Synod to all priests; second, to present the Servant of God Beshara Abou Mrad, Salvatorian Father, as a model for parish priests; thirdly, to prepare a congress for all priests of the Melkite Church; fourthly, to publish some leaflets about the priestly vocation and fifthly, to organize meetings in the various congregations, schools, universities and parish movements so as to invite young people to consider the priesthood as a vocation.

A committee was appointed under the leadership of Archbishop Selim Ghazal to supervise the whole celebration of this year.

In September of 2009 the Melkite Patriarch started preparations for the letter, taking into consideration eventual suggestions from bishops.

The following presentation was given by His Beatitude to His Holiness at their meeting on September 19, 2009 in Castelgandolfo.

Beshara Abou Mrad B.S.O., Melkite Priest -

An Eastern Curé d'Ars

This little presentation aims to draw out from the discourses of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI the characteristics of the spiritual life of Saint Jean-Marie Vianney that are to be found in the life of Father Beshara Abou Mrad.
Curé d'Ars Father Beshara Abou Mrad

The Curé d'Ars dedicated himself with all his might to shepherding his flock, making his chief priority the religious education and edification of the people confided to his care.

The pastoral zeal of Father Beshara Abou Mrad and his devotion to his parish were shown through his motto taken from the Prophet Ezekiel, "I have placed thee as guardian of this people and for each soul that is lost, I shall require in its stead thine own."(Ezekiel 17:3) This strong conviction created in him a huge respect for the priestly ministry and for the service of souls.

The Curé d'Ars dedicated his life to humble, patient work. He undertook to be the faithful servant of the holiness of the service entrusted to him, so he decided to make the parish church his home: he went into it before sunrise and only went out after the angelus prayer...

The parishioners of Deir Al-Qamar would speak with respect and veneration of Father Beshara. According to them he is a saint, as they never saw him but with arms outstretched in prayer: he would spend his time in church, ceaselessly repeating hymns to the Mother of God.

Old people from the parish tell how, having been woken by the sound of the bell, they were astonished to see their priest already kneeling before the altar, meditating in deep silence.

The Curé d'Ars used to visit all sick persons and their families and take care of orphans... by his own witness he taught his parishioners.

Father Beshara, following his Saviour's example "took upon himself people's frailties and bore their sicknesses." He continually visited all the families, giving special care to all its members, both young and old. He took care of the sick and suffering, offering them heavenly nourishment and helping them bear their illness, and above all ensuring that the dying received the sacraments.

The Curé d'Ars affirms, "Good works cannot match the sacrifice of the Mass, because they are the work of humanity, but the Liturgy is God's work." He was convinced that the life of the priest is dependent upon the Eucharist.

Before the Church of the Annunciation was built, Beshara Abou Mrad used to begin the day with Mass in one of the houses among the villages he served. Nothing could stop him celebrating Mass - neither cold, nor rain, nor unseasonal weather.

People from the region recall how often they helped him cross the river by ladder because of torrential currents. Seeing their astonishment at his zeal, he would say to them, "What rain, what cold? Could I leave you without Mass?"

The Curé d'Ars sought by preaching and other means to enable the rediscovery of the meaning and beauty of the sacrament of Reconciliation, which is, according to him, an inseparable condition for receiving the Eucharist. And it is unforgettable how crowds used to flick from all over France to make confession.

The reputation of Father Beshara in the villages in the Saida region and the districts around Deir Al-Qamar, made him a source of blessing for the people of those villages who would come to him. In fact, he would spend most weekdays hearing confession. He would go from school to school and church to church, spending hours hearing the confessions of several hundred people, taking back the lost sheep to the Father's house. Everybody wanted to go to him for confession and receive his blessing. As a result he no longer had enough time to pray. Therefore, so as to be able to pray, he decided to sleep in church under the pretext of keeping alight the sanctuary lamp in front of the Holy Sacrament.

The poverty, chastity and obedience of the Curé d'Ars were an example to be followed for the priests of his day. He was poor among the poor. What was his he considered as belonging to others. His life was entirely dedicated to God and his Church.

The vows of poverty, chastity and obedience were like an eighth sacrament for Father Beshara. In fact he lived like the most deprived of the poor. In his room there were but a bed and a wooden crate that he used as a wardrobe ... he gave the presents he received to the poor, withholding nothing for himself.

He would habitually eat as the poor did. Father Malatios Khoury said of him that he ate half what others ate. The countless sacrifices and mortifications that he made and the hours of prayers that he spent in front of the Holy Sacrament were so many tokens of his chastity. For Father Beshara, God's will was manifest in the will of his superiors.
 

"New Creature"

A new Child, a new creature

Gregorios, by the grace of God,

Patriarch of Antioch and of All the East, of Alexandria and of Jerusalem:

May divine grace and apostolic blessing rest on and embrace my brother bishops, members of the Holy Synod and all the faithful clergy and laity of our Melkite Greek Catholic Church.

"If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature." (2 Corinthians 5: 17)

"For unto us a new Child is born, God before the ages," incarnate in the fullness of time. He took on human nature so that each of us might be in him a new creature, the heir of his glory. That is the great announcement peculiar to Christmas, as Saint Paul expresses it, saying, "If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature." (2 Corinthians 5: 17) Christ, the newborn Child, through his incarnation, a new creation, is man deified (θέωσις): that is the mystery hidden from the ages; Christ himself is the new creature.

Renewal and the new creature in Holy Scripture

Let us take a walk together in this Paradise of the holy Word where we find continually repeated such expressions as newness of life, new, renew, renewal, the call to put off the old and put on the new and to spiritual renewal. I am reviewing those passages which all refer to that renewal which is the substance of the Word of God and the goal of divine revelation. Indeed, we find the call to renewal in all the books of the Old and New Testaments. God speaks in the words of Prophet Isaiah, saying, "Remember ye not the former things...Behold, I will do a new thing." (Isaiah 43: 18-19)

The holy city, Jerusalem, despite her history of holiness, is also called to renewal: "The righteousness [of Jerusalem shall] go forth as brightness, and the salvation thereof as a lamp that burneth. And the Gentiles shall see thy righteousness, and all kings thy glory: and thou shalt be called by a new name, which the mouth of the Lord shall name." (Isaiah 62:1-2)

God himself calls to renewal, as we read in the prophecy of Ezekiel, "And I will give them one heart and I will put a new spirit within you...A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you..." (11:19; 36:26) And again, "Cast away from you all your transgressions, whereby ye have transgressed; and make you a new heart and a new spirit..." (18:31)

In the Psalms of King David, we find, "Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me." (Psalm 50: 10 LXX) and "Thy youth is renewed like the eagle's." (Psalm 102: 5 LXX)

In other psalms there is always a call to renewal and a new hymnography, new songs: as in (Septuagint) Psalms 32: 3; 39: 3; 95: 1; 97: 1; 143: 9. God himself promises to all humans to bring to pass something new, "For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth: and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind." (Isaiah 65: 17 and 66: 22.) The same prophecy is quoted in the Second Epistle of St. Peter, "Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness." (2 Peter 3: 13) The same verse is also mentioned in the book of Revelation ascribed to Saint John, "And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away..." (21: 1)

All the books of the New Testament speak of the new, as the whole Testament is new! Gospel is God-spell=Good News, and in Greek the same: Eὐαγγέλιον=Good News. Jesus calls his testament the New Testament, "This is my blood of the new testament..." (Matthew 26: 28) And he promises his disciples a new drink. (Matthew 26: 29) He reminds his disciples not to spoil a piece of new cloth by putting it into an old garment, "No man putteth a piece of new cloth unto an old garment..." (Matthew 9: 16-17) The children of the Kingdom always have something new. (Matthew 13: 52) Jesus calls his disciples the new generation, or belonging to the age of renewal, "Ye which have followed me, in the regeneration..." (Matthew 19: 28) We find also similar verses in Mark 2: 21-22 and in Luke 5: 36-38, on the topic of new cloth and old garments, new wine and old bottles.

Saint John links the New Testament with new commandments, "A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another..." (John 13: 34) and he links together both Testaments, "I write no new commandment unto you, but an old commandment which ye had from the beginning...the Word which ye have heard from the beginning." (1 John 2: 7-8)

Saint Paul speaks a great deal about the new creature, and it is the title of our Christmas Letter, "If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature." (2 Corinthians 5: 17) He invites us in his Letter to the Romans "to walk in newness of life," (Romans 6: 4) and "to serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter." (Romans 7: 6) He recommends, speaking of Christ as Passover, "Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump...the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth." (1 Corinthians 5: 7) He affirms that "if any man be [baptized] in Christ he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold all things are become new." (2 Corinthians 5: 17) Saint Paul invites us to free ourselves from the old: he writes to the Galatians, "But now, after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements..." (Galatians 4: 9)

Christ the new Child, God before the ages, "abolished in his flesh the law of [the old] commandments" by his new teachings, "for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace." (Ephesians 2: 15) And as Christ is God and man, the new Adam, Saint Paul invites us to "put off ...the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; and be renewed in the spirit of [our] mind; and that [we] put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness." (Ephesians 4: 22-24) And he invites us to "put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him." (Colossians 3: 10) That gives us strength in the struggle, for "though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day." (2 Corinthians 4: 16) That is the important matter, for, "in Christ Jesus, neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature." (Galatians 6: 15-16)

Similarly, in the Epistle to the Hebrews, the writer affirms that God, "will make a new covenant with" his people. (Hebrews 8: 8) He explains what the New Testament means: "‘For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days,' saith the Lord; ‘I will put my laws into their mind and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people'...In that he saith, ‘A new covenant,' he hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away." (Hebrews 8: 10-13) Christ is "the mediator of the New Testament," (Hebrews 9: 15 and 12:24): "not by works of righteousness, which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration[the new baptism], and renewing of the Holy Ghost." (Titus 3: 5) There is a danger of the heart becoming very hardened, so that man is incapable of renewing himself. "For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost...if they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance..." (Hebrews 6: 4-6)

So we see that all the books of the New Testament contain very beautiful expressions on the topic of renewal. We find in the Revelation of Saint John, "Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name." (3: 12) Saint John declares, "And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. And I, John, saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, ‘Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.' And he that sat upon the throne said, ‘Behold, I make all things new.' And he said unto me, ‘Write; for these words are true and faithful'. And he said unto me, ‘It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely. He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son.'" (Revelation 21: 1-7)

Call to renewal and the new creature in liturgical texts

As I said in the preface to this letter, my letter is based on the words of God, on liturgical texts which in their turn reflect the Word of God and the thought, vision and commentary of the Church Fathers on this divine Word.

My reliance on liturgical texts in my letters appears to some as fanaticism for the liturgy, but it comes from my conviction of the deep relationship between texts from Holy Scripture and those of the liturgical prayers and hymns.

In fact, as I have often mentioned, our Holy Fathers read Holy Scripture in its two Testaments, frequently and even daily. They meditated daily on the Word of God and, through their meditations, composed their sermons and commentaries, taught the people and opened their eyes to the treasures of divine revelation. Later came the monks, who read those sermons and, on that basis, composed the hymns which have been handed down to us in our liturgical books.

It is unthinkable that a sermon, letter, teaching, Gospel evening, conversation or spiritual guidance be devoid of verses from Holy Scripture (especially the Gospel and the Epistles), and all the interlinked liturgical hymns and words of the Holy Fathers.

Thus the Word of God becomes the most significant foundational guide. We read it, meditate upon it, make a sermon on it, or turn it into teaching and spiritual guidance: we sing it and proclaim our faith joyfully, with beautiful hymns, well-chosen melodies that our choirs sing in fine voice; our faithful, similarly, sing of their holy faith of which they are proud, and which they consider as their most precious possession and the light that enlightens their way their whole life long.

Dear brothers and sister, walk with me among the hymns of the Feast of the Renewal and Dedication of the Church of the Resurrection in Jerusalem, and of the Feast of the Nativity and Theophany (Epiphany) of our Lord God and Saviour Jesus Christ. We shall discover the meaning of the new creation, the new creature and spiritual renewal, for there is no feast that is not in some way a call to renewal, to new life, new creation, and the new creature.

Feast of the Renewal and Dedication of the Church of the Resurrection in Jerusalem (13 September)

Vespers
Lamp-lighting psalm Tone 6
Let us be dedicated anew, brethren! And, putting off the old man, live in newness of life, placing a bridle on all those things from which death comes. Let us discipline all our members, hating every evil eating of the tree, and so only remembering the old that we may flee it. Thus is mankind renewed, thus the day of the Dedication is honoured.
Orthros
Kathismata Tone 4
Christ has enlightened all things by his presence; he has renewed the world by his divine Spirit; souls are made new; for a house has been dedicated to the glory of the Lord, where too Christ our God makes new the hearts of the faithful for the salvation of mortals.
O faithful people, the festive day of the Dedication has come to Christ's chosen flock, and urges us all to be made new and with shining face faithfully to sing from the depths of the heart songs to the Master as deliverer and him who makes us new.
Ode 8
Today Christ, the second Adam, has shown a spiritual Paradise, this new tabernacle which contains instead of the tree of knowledge the life-bearing weapon of the Cross for those who sing: All ye works of the Lord, bless the Lord.
Lauds
Prosomia Tone 4
Today the divine, sacred, honoured and light-bearing house of the resurrection of Christ is shiningly renewed; and the divine tomb distributes life to the world and furnishes an immortal fount; it gushes forth streams of grace; bursts forth rivers of wonders; grants healings to those who hymn it with faith.
The brilliant, shining beam has blazed from on high and enlightens all things; faithfully then let us all honour the Resurrection of Christ the Creator, and let us feast with hymns and celebrate with psalms the life-bearing divine festival of the sacred Renewal, that we find the Saviour and Lord full of mercy.
Tone 1 by Monk John
Be renewed, be dedicated, O new Jerusalem; for the glory and light of the Lord have risen upon thee. For the Father has built this house; the Son has established this house; the Holy Spirit has renewed this house, the Spirit which enlightens and strengthens and hallows our souls.
Tone 3
Come back to yourself, O mortal; become new instead of old; feast the rededication of your soul. Now is the time: let your way of life be renewed. The ancient things have passed away; lo, all things have become new. Bear this fruit for the feast: making the change to a fair change. In this way is mankind renewed, in this way the day of Renewal honoured.

Royal Hours of the Vigil of the Nativity

The First Hour
Stichera by Sophronius, Patriarch of Jerusalem
And so Adam is renewed with Eve as they cry: God's good will has appeared on earth to save our race. … Bethlehem... from thee will go forth for me in the flesh a leader of the nations, from a young Virgin, Christ our God, who will shepherd his people, the new Israel.
The Ninth Hour
Mortify our carnal will, so that we, having stripped off the old man, may put on the new, and live for thee, our Master and Benefactor.

Feast of the Nativity (25 December)

ORTHROS
Ode 4 Second Canon
For a new babe, even the Word, has now come forth from the mountain that is the Virgin1, unto the renewal of the nations.
Ode 5
O Christ, ...thou hast set us free, who were servants of the enemy and of sin. Sharing wholly in our poverty, thou hast divinised our clay through thy union and participation in it.
Kontakion of the Feast Tone 3 by Romanos the Melode
For unto us is born a new Child, God before the ages.
Matins
Ode 9
"Where is the new-born Child and King, whose star we have seen?" the Wise Men said.

Forefeast (Paramone) of the Theophany

COMPLINE
Ode 1
O Lord my God, I will sing on the Forefeast a new hymn of light to thee, who by thy divine Theophany, dost mystically give me the gift of new birth, recalling me to thy divine splendour.
Ode 3
Now, thou hast indeed visibly revealed the hidden mysteries, showing thyself to men today and granting them new birth.
Ode 5
O Creator, who art the New Adam, thou dost renew those born on earth, bringing to pass a strange regeneration and wonderful restoration by fire and the Spirit and water, renewing mankind, without destroying or melting down, through the holy sacrament of baptism.
Through the Spirit thou dost make our souls new and through the water thou dost sanctify our body, compounded from the elements, refashioning man as a living being. For in thy wise economy, as physician alike of souls and bodies, thou dost profitably apply suitable remedies to both.
ORTHROS (5 January)
Ode 4
... "Prepare ye the ways and make them straight for Christ who comes, that by baptism he may shape us anew who were growing old, loosing us from the ancient sentence2."

Feast of Theophany (6 January)

The blessing of the waters
[We thank the Lord for having led us on a new way through new birth and restored our first freedom, since through water and the Spirit he renewed human nature which had grown old through sin.]
ORTHROS
Ode 1
The Lord, King of the ages, in the streams of the Jordan formed Adam anew, who was fallen into corruption…
Second Canon
O Word without beginning, thou hast buried man with thee in the stream: he was corrupted by error, but thou makest him new again.
Ode 6
Christ will baptize in the fire of the last day those who defy him and believe not that he is God: but in the Spirit and by the grace of water he grants new birth to all who acknowledge his divinity, delivering them from all their faults.
Ode 9
Fallen Adam, poor man, cried and the Lord heard him: he came and in the streams of the Jordan made him new again…

...For Christ will sprinkle with the water of renewal those who hasten to him with faith and he baptizes them with the Spirit unto life that grows not old.

In the Appendix to this letter you will find a selection of hymns and spiritual songs about renewal and the new creature from the other Feasts of our Lord, of the Virgin and some Saints through the liturgical year.

Reflections on the theme of renewal

"If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature," (2 Corinthians 5: 17) as Saint Paul tells us. When I read this extraordinarily beautiful verse, many thoughts, reflections and feelings come into my heart and I write them to you in this letter's spiritual meditation.

I begin with a passage from my patron, Saint Gregory of Nazianzus, who says, in his First Paschal Oration, "that He who today rose again from the dead may renew me also by His Spirit; and, clothing me with the new Man, may give me to His New Creation, to those who are begotten after God, as a good modeller and teacher for Christ, willingly both dying with Him and rising again with Him." In his Second Paschal Oration, he adds, "The gates of hell are opened, and death is destroyed, and the old Adam is put aside, and the New is fulfilled; ‘if any man be in Christ he is a new creature;' (2Corinthians5:17) be ye renewed."

Jesus Christ is himself the new creature, as we sing at the Feast of the Nativity, "For unto us is born a new child, God before the ages.3"Jesus is a new creature, as he became incarnate. Yet he is God, and that is the new thing, that God became united to man in the person of Jesus Christ, the model for the new creature, by which man would no longer be alone in this world, since God is Emmanuel – God with us. Man is called to be as God created him, in his image and likeness. (Genesis 1: 26-27) That means that man may become God, since God became man, while remaining God, in order that he might unite man to himself and through man, all things in heaven and on earth; so that the whole creation and all people be united in the person of Jesus Christ.

That is the new creature and that is why we find at the beginning of Genesis, "In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth," (Genesis 1: 1) and at the beginning of the Gospel of Saint John, we find, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God...and the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us..." John 1: 1, 14) So Saint John unites two creations, the beginning of humanity and the beginning of Christianity: Jesus is the new creature and Christianity is a call to man to become a new creature.

Christianity, as I like to define it (without calling it better, greater or higher than any other religion) is a new creature. It is something else, as I have mentioned in many talks and meditations. Christ is a new creature and a man different from men: he is somebody else.

Christianity and the New Testament begin from the blood of Christ. "Drink ye all of it..; this cup is the New Testament in my blood; ...this is my blood of the New Testament." Christianity's real name is the New Testament, the testament of God with man, and the testament of Man with God, the testament of man with his brother-man, with the creation, with the world, the cosmos. Nothing can be new which is not based on the old, and the new has the goal of renewing the old: hence the correlation between the Old and New Testaments, which are in fact one single Testament. Hence too the close relationship between world faiths, for there is much in common between all faiths.

The Holy Gospel is not a book which can become old. It is a book of news, of Good News, the latest news, completely modern and entirely new. It is ever-new and Good News, for its word speaks to people through the Holy Spirit, which as Jesus said, "will teach you all things" and be the "Comforter." (John 14: 26)

Christianity is a new creature, a new way or method, a new vision, new form or look, as we read in the Acts of the Apostles. Jesus asks of Nicodemus to be "born again ... of water and of the Spirit." He says, "Verily, verily, I say unto thee, ‘Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot see the Kingdom of God.'" (John 3: 3-9) Christ is a new creature, every baptized person is a new creature, every true believer is a new creature.

The Church, which is the community of believers, is a new creature and that is why the Church, throughout its history, has never hesitated to renew itself and to admit that it must be new, requiring renewal and restoration in all aspects of its life. It is not afraid either to confess that there are sinners among its children, when they stray from the teachings of their Master, Jesus Christ and do not walk according to the guidance and inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

That is why Pope John XXIII proclaimed Vatican II (1962-65) under this splendid motto of renewal, aggiornamento and Pope John Paul II advanced the idea of the new evangelization, or the new method of evangelization, and on June 28 2010 Pope Benedict XVI announced the formation of a Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization.

This call for renewal is a continual appeal to man to be in relation with God, who calls him to perfection and who is Perfection beyond the capacities of man's weak and feeble nature. That is what Jesus said to his disciples, when putting to them an almost impossibly high ideal, in the teaching that concludes his magnificent, unique, lofty, sublime commandments that are both divine and human, "Be ye therefore perfect as your Father which is in heaven is perfect." (Matthew 5: 48)

What Jesus asks of his disciples and all those who follow him, including all those Christians baptized in his name and indeed the whole world, is just based on this theological truth, (to which we attach little importance, as if it were self-evident, though it is very difficult) which lies at the heart of the meaning of our existence and relationship with God and his with us, and is summed up in this relationship (which people nowadays do not wish to acknowledge at all, though it is at the basis of all our relationships): – that God is Creator, he is my Creator, my origin and the goal of my life, above everything that I am capable of imagining, thinking or understanding.

As we say in the anaphora of the Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom, "thou art God, beyond description, beyond understanding, invisible, incomprehensible, always existing, eternally the same, thou and thine only‐begotten Son and thy Holy Spirit." That is what is said by the Prophet Isaiah (45:15), "Verily, thou art a God, that hidest thyself, O God of Israel, the Saviour," and that is what Saint Paul said on the Areopagus in Athens, faced with the multiplicity of gods worshipped by the Greeks, "As I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, To an unknown God: whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him I declare unto you...For in him we live and move and have our being, as certain of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring." (Acts 17: 23, 27)

This unknown God remains so, as we always misjudge him and we always wish to see and reach him, even as we deny him, for denial is a proof of his existence that is superior to ours and unattainable. Yet we always wish to reach him and to know him better, in his perfection.

God the Creator remains always above our understanding and our relationship with him is always something new, ineffable. Yet if God were to be within our reach, thought and understanding, he would be an idol, like those of the Athenians. He becomes an idol when we fail to discover in him something new, that escapes us. He becomes an idol when he becomes a rite, for we fail to understand that he is a "new Child," close to us, but still "God before the ages," who raises us to himself, divinises us (θέωσις) and perfects us, making us into "a new creature" of an ineffable newness.

That is what happened to the three apostles on Mount Tabor at the transfiguration. The disciples lived with Jesus and knew him very well, but on Mount Tabor, they saw his glory in an ineffable way, above all their expectations. At first they did not understand the meaning of that vision, and what the presence of Moses and Elijah around Jesus meant. Moreover, though the disciples had remained with Jesus until the last moments of his life here below, yet just before his ascension to heaven they were still in ignorance of just how new Jesus' mission was, as if they were still under the Old Testament and with a mindset of this world. "Lord, wilt thou at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?" (Acts 1: 6)

Saint Paul speaks of that in his Epistle to the Ephesians, praying for them "that they may comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and depth and height; and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, and that [they] might be filled with all the fullness of God." (Ephesians 3: 18-19) He calls the faithful, saying, "Be transformed by the renewing of your minds." (Romans 12: 2) And he says elsewhere, "But we have the mind of Christ." (1 Corinthians 2: 16) So this is not the mind of Aristotle or Kant, but another kind of thinking, an ever-new thinking, the mind of Christ.

Analysis of the meanings of renewal in the texts of Holy Scripture and the liturgy

What do the Biblical and liturgical texts, which we have reviewed, say to us?

The mind and meaning of renewal and the expressions pertaining to the new are all linked to the evangelical, Biblical and liturgical concept found repeatedly in the holy books and in our prayers. From that we return to the first image, the meaning of renewal. At the first stage, the taking stock, metanoia, repentance, the remoulding of the human clay, the return to God, the former beauty, return to Paradise. Metanoia is one of the most important expressions, meaning change of mind, the new mind, a new way of thinking.

Renewal can be realised through the life of faith, hope and charity, through the practice of good works, participation in the sacraments of the Church, reading sacred books, following and living by the teachings of Jesus, the Sermon on the Mount and Gospel values.

Through renewal, man becomes a new creature, by being divinised. Renewal is salvation, θέωσις, divinisation, spiritual transfiguration, as if God created man anew in his image and likeness. He is in the act of moulding him again, making his clay anew, refining him like gold in the fire, and making him into his image (icon) once more.

We, as believing Christians, are called to this renewal and θέωσις, or divinisation. We are called to become every day a new creature: that is the strength of the Christian faith. What helps us towards realising this renewal is receiving the sacraments, as we said, especially the Eucharist and confession. That is the goal of Christian perfection and Christian holiness.

Christian renewal leads to a new spiritual policy, as Jesus teaches us, at Mid-Pentecost. We have learnt new, modern politics from Christ: that means, a new way, a new way of dealing with problems and difficulties, crises, calamities, illnesses, temptations, challenges and different circumstances that occur in life. That is the quintessence of Jesus' teaching and of his Gospel.

Furthermore, we see in that a new vision, as we find in the service of the Man Born Blind, a vision different from physical sight of the material, bodily eye. Our prayers say that the blind man became "a lamp, shining with new light." New eyes, new ears, new limbs - all renewed!

So the renewal reaches human language and expression or vocabulary: professional, spiritual and social human speech, as we read in the service for Pentecost, which refers to the renewal of tongues, languages, melody, sight and terminology.

Through spiritual renewal, there is renewed in us the knowledge of mysteries, doctrines and teachings. Before our eyes, there shine forth the secret things and symbols of Holy Scripture, all illuminated by the light of new knowledge. The renewal which comes from the Holy Spirit reaches our innermost being, our feelings and aspirations, desires and hopes, as we read at Matins of Pentecost, "Almighty, renew a cherished right spirit within us, to hold it eternally." (Ode 6)

The prayers of Pentecost express the effects of the renewal by the Holy Spirit: that is, apostles speak and each apostle speaks and each believer speaks with extravagant expressions, extravagant gifts and extravagant visions. Besides, it is such a luminous change, as if the believers were in an estrangement from the world and from a worldly way of thinking or worldly mindset.

That is why the true believer feels that if he wants to live his faith in society, he feels estranged, foreign, and others feel him foreign to them and to their way of thinking. Furthermore, the words, terms, phrases, verses of Holy Scripture, prayers, liturgy and so on, become strange for many and they no longer understand those words.

That presents a great challenge to believers, on the one hand and for their non-believing companions, far from faith, religion or the Church. The great challenge for the Church today and for priests, who are spiritual directors, dispensing the sacraments and preaching, is how to dispel that estrangement, whilst conserving the teaching of the Gospel and of the Church. The challenge is how the Church ought to address the Christian and non-Christian faithful and society with words of life, in the light of the Gospel, but with contemporary language, that of development and continuous, extraordinarily rapid change.

The challenge is how to bring to people the new evangelization as something new, attractive, lively, filled with animation and accepted with love. The object of evangelization is always new, in principle, but it is our duty, our responsibility to present it with a new tunic, a new form and to attract people to hear it and live by its inspiration and resplendent light. Thus it becomes a word of life, as Saint Peter said to Jesus in the name of all the apostles, "Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life." (John 6: 68)

Yet we are full of confidence that the world is being renewed by the renewal of the children of faith, as Pope Benedict XVI said, "Those who believe are never alone.4" And "every soul that rises above itself, raises up the world," in the words of the great thinker Lacordaire (1802-61) whose words we learnt while still a seminarian at the Seminary of Holy Saviour.

It is beautiful to notice how the Feast of Renewal in our Church is linked to the commemoration of the resurrection of Christ and the mother of all Churches throughout the world and of Christianity, the Church of the Resurrection (in the West called the Holy Sepulchre) in Jerusalem.

Furthermore, renewal is really linked to θέωσις, a term which is the key to (especially Eastern) Christian theology, which means that renewal is linked to union with God. Further, it is as a result of that union that those who are really united to God, always discover the new in their life, enabling them to glorify God, serve him and serve their brothers and sisters in society. Believers in God are creative, full of initiative, working miracles, inventive, with ever-new ways of acting, courageous, full of confidence and optimism and always finding an outlet in life. That is the grace of God and of the Holy Spirit who supports our weakness.

Continual, inspired renewal, to which the Scriptural texts and prayers refer, is in complete conformity with the very high human calling in all its great dignity, as Saint Irenaeus says, that "the glory of God is a living man."5 So man is always in search of the heights: he seeks self-fulfilment, he aspires always to the new and more perfect. Real dignity is that man should always keep his essential worth, that is the image (icon) and likeness of God in himself, with its beauty and splendour, as we say in the prayer for a saintly monk or nun, "In thee [Name]was accurately preserved that which is according to the image, for thou didst take up the cross and follow Christ."

So continuous renewal is a very lofty goal, implying renewal for the whole creation, of which man is head, renewal of society, renewal through baptism as second birth, and renewal of the whole cosmos.

Renewal is a source of great joy, an ever-renewed sublimity, but something difficult, requiring much watchfulness, and continuously sustained great effort, for whatever causes death in man must be restricted. Heart, soul, mind and body require an education of all the members and the purification of mind and memory from things that are failing and old, leaving behind what is old and the sins that govern and enslave, lower and degrade man, reducing his stature and making him impure.

All that means that renewal must be from the base, visceral, a rehabilitation, a fresh start, as we say in the prayers, "O chosen apostles, the Holy Spirit ineffably descending upon you has, through your tongues, reformed as in a furnace mankind deformed by sins, and has refashioned them anew for life." (Paraklitike, Tone 6 Canon of Thursday morning, Ode 3, Troparion 2)

That means that the Law itself is liable to become old and obsolete and that is why Jesus always gives us a new commandment, even if the commandment can already be found elsewhere in the Old Testament and the Holy Apostle John talks of a commandment that has already been made known much earlier, from the beginning (1 John 2: 7-8.)

So the commandment, the order itself must be renewed. The Prince of both Testaments is he who unites both in himself and gives newness to all that might be liable to becoming old and obsolete. We are always in a real, continual and present danger of returning to old principles, the Old Testament, the old vision and old mentality.

People today, as in the time of Jesus Christ, expect outward miracles and apparitions from beyond, a faraway place and we forget that the beauty of the righteous is an inner beauty and that the great miracle lies within people, in the depths of their souls. Human beings make miracles and God helps them to bring about in themselves the miraculous inner change of renewal and as Mary said, "For he that is mighty hath done to me great things." (Luke 1: 49) The miracle is the renewal and restoration of human nature, as occurred with the blind, the deaf, the dumb and the lame.

So renewal remains always the fruit of union with God, whence comes "every perfect gift," as Saint James says in his Epistle (1: 17.)

The aim of the feasts that we celebrate during the year, the Dominical and Marian feasts and those of the saints, constitute a continuous renewal for people and a call to unity with God. The feasts are stages in the divine economy, stages of renewal and repeated appeals for renewal, perfection and holiness.

Renewal is also linked to the journey to the Kingdom, as Jesus says to his disciples, that he "will drink no more henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when [he] drink[s] it new with [them] in [his] Father's kingdom." (Matthew 26: 29) We are in a process of continuous renewal, "so that [our] youth is renewed like the eagle's." (Psalm 102: 5 LXX)

Without God and without the link to eternal life and the Kingdom, man becomes obsolete and his strength becomes very weak and feeble. Even human life becomes meaningless, the conjugal life, professional life, the priestly vocation, religious consecration all become obsolete and old, when we do not know how to reveal the new in our souls and our surroundings, in nature, in our relations with the world, the cosmos and other people. We become old, grow cold, insipid and insignificant. Charity grows cold, faith weakens, hope grows ever weaker in us and we fall into danger of division, schizophrenia, personality disorders, lies, delusions and can even lose all meaning in life and become suicidal.

That is why God who loves mankind, knowing human nature, weaknesses, strengths and potential, nevertheless, himself still calls people, "Be ye therefore perfect even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect." (Matthew 5: 48) This call to perfection and holiness is a call to renewal and it is God himself who renews us.

The believing Christian begins the new way forward with the mystery of holy baptism and that is why we sing during baptism, after the three-fold immersion, "As many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.6" That is why the baptized put on new white robes, the symbol of purity, resurrection and new creation: they really are a new creature in Jesus Christ.

Baptism is the entry or introduction to life in Christ and to new life. It is the beginning of the new way, the appearance of the new vision, the first sign of the new mindset and new behaviour. It is really the road to Damascus, like the new way of Saint Paul.

Baptized Christians are then people called to continuous renewal, as new people, to whom is confided a new mission and role, that of renewing society, community and family, work and so baptism becomes the basis of their social responsibility. That is why one cannot be a good Christian, a real Christian without carrying real responsibility towards society, the homeland, the nation, relatives and so on.

And as Jesus himself began his mission after the baptism at the hands of Saint John the Baptist, so believing baptized Christians start their mission with baptism. The baptized in the name of Christ are called to do the works of Christ their master and realise in themselves what Christ said, "I am come that they might have life and have it more abundantly." (John 10:10)

To realise this goal, Pope Benedict XVI founded, as we mentioned, the Pontifical Council for New Evangelization. How happy I was to see that I have been moving in the same direction as the Holy Father as I began preparing my letter some months ago and glad to read about that foundation. We read in the speech proclaiming His Holiness' foundation, "The grace of the Holy Spirit ... constitutes the force of the new law of the Gospel and who always renews the Church; ‛new' in the search of ways that correspond to the force of the Holy Spirit and are adapted to the times and the situations; ‛new' because necessary also in countries which have already received the proclamation of the Gospel."

The Pope continues,"In this perspective, I have decided to create a new organism, in the form of pontifical council, with the specific task of promoting a renewed evangelization in countries where the first proclamation of the faith already resounded, and where Churches are present of ancient foundation, but which are going through a progressive secularization of society and a sort of ‛eclipse of the sense of God,' which constitutes a challenge to find the appropriate means to propose again the perennial truth of the Gospel of Christ.7"

Practical Guidance

In this last part of our letter, we wish to cast light on the significance of the vision of the new creature in the life of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church. Vatican II was the greatest construction site for renewal in the history of the Catholic Church in east and west. This Council was summoned by blessed Pope John XXIII and I was personally present when the Pope announced that it would be held. He celebrated the Liturgy of the Conversion of Saint Paul on 25 January, 1959 in the Basilica of Saint Paul-without-the-Walls. After having said Mass, the Holy Father went to visit the monastery of the Benedictine Fathers who take care of the liturgical services in the basilica and in the dependency of the basilica. Only the monks living in the monastery were allowed to be present during the reception for the Holy Father's visit. I was there with eight other of our seminarians from Holy Saviour. We were in the Benedictine monastery during our studies at St. Anselm's in Rome as the late, Father Gabriel Acacius Coussa, B. A., then Assessor of the Sacred Congregation for the Oriental Church (and future Cardinal and Secretary of the same Congregation) wanted all the monks of the Eastern Greek Catholic and Maronite religious communities to study in Rome and we, as members of the Benedictine community were allowed to welcome the Holy Father into the hall inside the monastery. We were present as the Holy Father announced his decision to hold an ecumenical Council, which would have as its aim to work for Christian unity and renewal of the Church. He put forward his well-known formula of aggiornamento.

In fact, the documents of Vatican II discussed the renewal of thought in the Church, the life of the Church and Church government in all their dimensions. It suffices to review the titles8 of the documents of this Council to be convinced of the breadth of Vatican II's horizons. Furthermore, the programme of Vatican II can be described as an enduring programme of renewal for the Church in its interaction with the contemporary world as its influence will continue to be felt for a very long time.

In fact these documents of Vatican II reviewed the life of the Church in all its dimensions, liturgical, sacramental life, the preparation of the servants of the Word, seminarians, dedicated men and women, monks, nuns, deacons, priests, bishops, patriarchs, the ministry of service in the Church - the mystical Body of Christ, Christian doctrine, Christian faith in relation to other Christian Churches and communities and other very varied faiths throughout the world, the relationship of the Church with civil, economic, cultural and academic society, the role of lay-people in the Church and the apostolic missionary work of the Church.

These documents are summed up in the first paragraph of the document The Church in the Modern World:

1. The joys and the hopes, the griefs and the anxieties of the men of this age, especially those who are poor or in any way afflicted, these are the joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties of the followers of Christ. Indeed, nothing genuinely human fails to raise an echo in their hearts. For theirs is a community composed of men. United in Christ, they are led by the Holy Spirit in their journey to the Kingdom of their Father and they have welcomed the news of salvation which is meant for every man. That is why this community realizes that it is truly linked with mankind and its history by the deepest of bonds.

All this requires the Church to be capable of renewal, able to become encultured, acclimatised, interacting in solidarity, with power to influence and desire to develop the world. All this can be done only under the aegis of the Holy Spirit's work in renewing the Church's government, as we quoted from the prayer at the Feast of Pentecost. Any true renewal can only be the result of the Holy Spirit's work through his descent, as we say in our Eastern theology, at the epiclesis. The Church, for its renewal, needs a daily, continuous epiclesis. That is why there is the daily celebration of the Divine Liturgy which is very important, especially in the priest's life, for he daily invokes the descent of the Holy Spirit on the gifts, on the mystical Body of Christ, on the church, his parish, his pastoral activity and service. Thus he can remain in a continuous process of renewal and can lead the parish on a new way, into the real "new age." That is why we pray, "Let thy good Spirit lead me in the straight way." (Psalm 142, LXX) and "Renew a right spirit within me." (Psalm 50, LXX)

Renewal in liturgical life

The Saviour ordained, through the decision of the Holy Synod and of my predecessor of happy memory Maximos V, that I should head the Patriarchal and Synodal Liturgical Commission from 1986 onwards. With the Commission, we were able to renew all our liturgical books in a new, attractive presentation and lay the foundational principles for liturgical renewal and animation, and complete renewal in our liturgical services.

We obtained fairly good results in promoting renewal and animation. Yet we aspire to much more and ask our brother bishops and our children, priests, monks and nuns, to become more deeply aware of the significance of renewal in liturgical services, singing, and in administration and celebration of the sacraments, for it is the normal, almost daily place for the relationship with our parish, so that we can bring holiness and new life to it and to all the faithful. Furthermore we think that renewal in prayer and liturgical life amounts to renewal in faith, since lex orandi lex credendi: the rule of prayer is the rule of faith.

Renewal in pastoral work

Besides liturgical life, prayers and sacraments, pastoral work is very important in the priest's life. It is a very large field for continual renewal and for initiatives for excellent work.

Pastoral work refers to the way of celebrating the Divine Liturgy, the sacraments or mysteries of the Church, as we said above. Similarly it has to do with preaching, spiritual counselling, Gospel evenings, pastoral visits, visiting the sick, suffering and others, guiding the confraternities, groups and youth movements etc.

All that requires a great effort for it all to become the bearer of salvation, redemption and joy, faith and hope and spiritual and social activity and solidarity, mutual help, strength, giving. Otherwise it all becomes void, an empty routine, lacking content, attraction, taste or colour, odourless, colourless and tasteless.

That means that the priest must tackle pastoral work with a great deal of care and attention, knowledge and developed awareness, intellectual training, sufficiently extensive spiritual and pastoral experience, in a constant relationship with people, in their different groups, especially the young and those who are distant from the church and especially those who are far from faith, those who doubt and so forth. The art of pastoral work consists in the priest being able to bring together clarity, limpidity and purity of Christian doctrine at the same time as different new directions in the parish, in order to lead it into the pastures, the Paradise of holy faith.

That is an operation of renewal which must aim to make the parish really into a new creature, an ever-developing swarm in a continuously developing world. We must present the Christian faith, Christian doctrine in an attractive, convincing form that is both pleasing and beautiful. Indeed, in society there are many attractions of all sorts: that is why we must confront these different attractions with the word of God, the Saviour, a living, attractive word that makes our faithful feel that it is the word of life for each and every one of them.

Renewal through apostolic and youth movements

The broadest setting for pastoral work and renewal is really in apostolic and youth work and we cannot exaggerate if we say that youth work is the best springboard to parish renewal. Indeed, young folk are demanding: they have broad horizons; their thoughts do not always originate only in the Gospel and in the Church's teaching. That is why the priest has to accompany young people and their ideas. He will be in touch with their society, the setting in which they live, their intellectual and social milieu. He must be aware of the things that make an impression on them and guide them and that permeate their thoughts and hearts, their outlook. He must present to them, on the other hand, the Gospel, the Church's teaching, Christian ethics, spiritual and faith values, so that they become part of their lives and of their spiritual and personal experience of faith. So they can live out these values in their very multicultural society, in the various groupings and trends of everyday living without fear, embarrassment, or restriction, yet without boastfulness or triumphalism.

Here we repeat with pleasure our slogan that all our young people everywhere know, "A Church without young people is a Church without a future, and young people without a Church are young people without a future."

Priests and bishops must convince young people that they have a role and mission in their society and that they have a future, that they are a Church and that they have a homeland and society. With all that, they have a very great, meaningful and daily responsibility. All this is significant in really lessening the influence and rise of emigration especially of young people, by convincing them of their role and mission of faith in our dear East, amongst all our citizens of another religion than their own and that they have the role of bringing to them the message of holy faith in this land where God has spoken to people in the words of Jesus Christ.

Apostolic movements, catechism, parish activities in their various registers are the most propitious areas for the renewal of faith amongst young people, for strengthening them in their convictions and for awakening in them the vocation to be consecrated in priestly or religious life, so that they find their place and role in the parish and Church, society and homeland.

Renewal in eparchies, religious congregations and among consecrated people

The other areas which are significant for renewal of Church and of society, through the Church, are eparchies, religious congregations and training colleges for priests, monks and nuns and religious.

We call upon our brother bishops, superiors general and all those who direct training colleges and catechetical centres, various adult education centres for the laity, for those establishments to be swarms, basic nuclei for renewal of the Church, for a renewed future for the Church and that through them the pastors of the future and those called to build their homeland and society may be developed.

It is also important to renew the rule for consecrated life in our religious congregations for men and for women, especially from within the mother houses and in the various centres where monks and nuns work. The renewal must be based on the old, original form of religious life, according to sacred, patristic teaching and the outlook of the founders. It is very important to animate liturgical life and communal living and to be faithful to monastic vows and commitments. In fact, monks cannot live as such without being in continuous relations with each other, particularly in small groups in religious centres where there are elements of religious life, so that our parish centres where there are religious become spiritual lighthouses, attracting families, young folk, fraternities, youth groups, and enabling them to live an ecclesial, spiritual, liturgical life there thanks to their visits to these monasteries and centres, praying there and making spiritual retreats in them.

So, our monasteries, our youth centres and male and female religious congregations become centres of spiritual renewal for the Church and renewal of faith in our parishes. It is important for monasteries to play this role in renewal and for them to become really attractive, with a spiritual attraction, for all those seeking spiritual renewal and renewal of faith in our parishes.

We should like the Fathers General, Mothers General and Superiors of the different religious provinces and all our brethren and children, the monks and nuns, especially those working in our parishes, to hear this call. We thank them especially on this occasion for everything they do in the way of service in our eparchies, in Arab countries and in countries of the expansion.

Church renewal, modernity, globalization and advanced technology

The new creature is a creation that must be lived in a modern, developed society. The faithful baptized Christian is that new creature. He or she must live out the faith, the Gospel, the Church's teaching and faith values in a fast developing, modern society, in a world of globalization and modernity and through freely available technology that opens up new horizons to the view.

The Church is called to accompany modernity, globalization and must use modern, advanced technology, so that working systems can be developed in the eparchies and parishes using new technology. The Servant of God John Paul II issued guidance on "a change of mentality and pastoral renewal" in his Apostolic Letter, The Rapid Development9:

9.....Many Christians are already creatively using [the Internet], exploring its potential to assist in the tasks of evangelization and education, as well as of internal communication, administration and governance. However, alongside the Internet, other new means of communication, as well as traditional ones, should be used...

While the content being communicated must obviously be adapted to the needs of different groups, the goal must always be to make people aware of the ethical and moral dimension of the information....

In the conclusion to this Apostolic Letter, the Pope wrote:

14....To those working in communication, especially to believers involved in this important field of society, I extend the invitation which, from the beginning of my ministry as Pastor of the Universal Church, I have wished to express to the entire world "Do not be afraid!"

Do not be afraid of new technologies! These rank "among the marvellous things" – inter mirifica – which God has placed at our disposal to discover, to use and to make known the truth, also the truth about our dignity and about our destiny as his children, heirs of his eternal Kingdom.

Do not be afraid of being opposed by the world! Jesus has assured us, "I have overcome the world!" (John 16:33)

In 2002, Pope John Paul II issued a Message for the 36th. World Communications Day, heralding the Internet as a "New Forum for Proclaiming the Gospel," while more recently, His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI has described the Internet as an "instrument for the proclamation of Christ.10"

Modern communications affect many different areas of church life, liturgical prayers, celebrating the Divine Liturgy, animating the administration of sacraments, organization of pastoral work, parish records, central eparchial records, ways of presenting catechism and Christian education to different groups in the parishes, youth work, ways of bringing the Good News to the different groups that make up our parishes and which are still in part far from the Church and are not reached by the priest's activities for a variety of reasons. All this must be discovered, so that the priest's work can attract and reach all the children of his parish. So the parish becomes really a new creature, a new church.

How I wish that the organisation of our patriarchal Church, in all our eparchies, in Arab countries and countries of the expansion could be open to new working methods in communication and information technology, working with precision in these fields, to make use of them, to develop and increase the Church's effectiveness and its relation with society, and its presence and witness. That is why we are asking specialists in information technology to help us in that direction and the Patriarchal Chancellery is ready to accept the various initiatives or proposals for development so that we can realise this significant, promising idea, so that our Church can really accompany modernity, globalization and advanced technology.

Renewal in our ecclesial and Arab society

The modern development that we desire, and that we have proposed above, is very important if we are to be agents of renewal in our ecclesial society and in our Arab society, this society that is very pluralistic in doctrine and belief, with Churches in their various denominations, influenced positively or negatively by all the various tendencies, by the local or regional context and the global state of affairs. Otherwise, we would be obliged to live as though on an island.

Now the Church cannot live withdrawn on a desert island or in a monastic hermitage in some far off wilderness: the Church must step outside its walls, church halls, presbyteries, monasteries, hermitages, eparchial residences, offices with strength renewed, based on prayer, Eucharist, meditation, spiritual reading or lectio divina, study, research and information. It must throw itself with new power towards meeting with each person, as Saint Paul says, "bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ." (2 Corinthians 3: 5) So the Church must become strong, renewed, developed, with broad horizons, so as to be "all things to all men." (1 Corinthians 9: 22)

Thus everyone will be really able to be informed about "the mystery which hath been hid from ages," (Colossians 1: 26) the mystery of salvation and redemption through the Word of God, who is a word for all people, to enable them to come into the light, and "that they might have life and that they might have it more abundantly." (John 10: 10) For Christ came to give light to those in darkness and to save those who were perishing, and to reunite all the separated children of God into one and to bring about fellowship between them and an interaction in which all of them feel safe, in stability, dignity, happiness and hope.

That is the apostolate of the Church which is a new creature, ever renewed and renewable: it is a continuous renewal, bringing the message of renewal, development, modernity, prosperity, in society, especially in Arab society with its Muslim majority. This renewal must reach all areas of our Arab world, which needs renewal, especially the areas of young generations. Among the areas that need renewal and very balanced development, areas that are common to both Christians and Muslims, citizens of Arab countries through our different doctrines and beliefs which all have a right to exist and develop and to be really citizens' values.

These values and areas are mainly to do with spiritual values, faith, religion, religious freedom, freedom of worship and of conscience, struggle against religious and social discrimination, and for the rights of women and children, the mentally or physically handicapped, the poor and marginalised, for family values and solidarity, strength and persistence, for a worthy life for every citizen, religious and moral education promoting values of charity and mutual respect, living together, dialogue, acceptance of others and human dignity in an absolute sense (since man is created in the image and likeness of God) and education aimed at eliminating all feelings of hatred, aggressiveness, terrorism, violence, undue influence, persecution, domination and so on.

The work of the Church in all that lies at the heart of its mission and constitutes an area of continuous renewal for its human, spiritual, cultural, faith and social work and activity. Along these lines bishops, priests, monks, nuns, teachers, trainers, catechists must make new Christian generations develop, through preaching, spiritual direction, confraternities, welfare societies, adult education centres, for Christians who are open, aware of their apostolate and the meaning of their presence in society, convinced of the basic elements of their faith and moral behaviour, finding success in their society, being happy, strong and able to withstand the stress of difficulties, pressures, crises, and the pull of various attractions, particularly of emigration, and be strong in the face of temptations to fear, discouragement, despair, isolation and withdrawal. Those Christians are able to live in Christian and non-Christian society and capable of being active apostles, working for good, for the development of Christian society in their church and parish, in their non-Christian society, in their homeland great or small and in the Arab world.

Believing, open renewed Christians are capable of influencing, being in interaction and in joint work. Pastors and Church leaders must really educate such Christians and look to their development. Such Christians can really be the future of their Church and country. Our Melkite Greek Catholic Church needs such faithful Christian citizens.

Our Church cannot renew itself and remain faithful to its Christian apostolate through its Christian children with regard to the Arab world, of which it is an integral part, being in, with and for that homeland; it cannot succeed in its open apostolate except through such Christians, being trained in future frameworks, to be pillars of the Church and society.

To bring about this renewal of Church and Arab society, we pastors, bishops, priests, monks, nuns, influential faithful, business-people, politicians, academics need to be a "strong, coherent Church" if we are to realise the Church's inner work of renewal in the Holy Spirit, just as we need to be strong and capable of interaction in different areas of our society, so that we can really continue to keep the Church in an effectual relationship with society, so that our institutions and different communities can have a great and effective influence on our society, a Christian influence, a faith influence, through spiritual, social, economic, health and political development. Thus and only thus shall we be reckoned with and thus we shall be able to fulfil our Christian mission, our unique vocation.

We must remain faithful to the Christian faith in the Arab world, so that we can be the little flock, but one which is courageous, fearless, ever-present, ever-faithful to our witness and ready for martyrdom if necessary, ever-faithful to Gospel values of holy faith. Thus we can fulfil the various demands of our vocation which Jesus gives us, and which have been entrusted to us since the day we entered upon the Christian faith through holy baptism. Thus we can be partakers in his holy mission, which is addressed to all people, especially to our fellow-citizens. This is a difficult mission, calling us to forgiveness and reconciliation, to turn the other cheek to be struck, to the love of enemies, to giving without counting the cost, to spontaneity, to not always asking for parity. Through this sublime ethic and spiritual character we can realise that to which Jesus called us, when he said, "Ye are the salt of the earth...Ye are the light of the world...Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect." (Matthew 5: 13-14, 48) In the parable of the leaven in the lump (Matthew 13:33), Jesus pictures the Church as leaven working in the world to transform it. Those are the values of true renewal and which characterise the new creature. That is the basis of the new ethic, which makes baptized Christians faithful new creatures in Christ Jesus.

Renewal through the Synod for the Middle East

The Special Assembly for the Middle East also continues the theme of renewal by its appeal to the Churches to take stock of the way they carry out their mission in the Middle East. Guidance on the matter formed part of the Synod of Bishops' study in relation to the work of the Assembly.

The Special Assembly for the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops, which was held in Rome from 10 to 24 October last, was also concerned with the theme of renewal and asked the Churches to take stock of their mission in the East. The Fathers of the Synod, on 22 October addressed a Message to the People of God11 which emphasised the "renewing force" that our countries' young men and women represent.

The synodal Assembly, at the end of its work, submitted forty-four proposals to the Holy Father with an eye to the forthcoming Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation.

Propositio 30 refers to Christian Formation:

To help adults to grow in a living faith, our Churches of the Middle East propose the creation of catechetical centres where they are lacking. On-going formation and collaboration between the different Churches at the level of the laity, seminaries and universities are indispensable. All these centres should be open to all the Churches. Catechists in particular must be properly prepared through a suitable formation which takes into account current problems and challenges.
...It is important that formation includes learning about modern technology and communication science. ..

The next Propositio (31) more especially has to do with the formation of Pastoral Workers:

In order to form leaders and pastoral workers in various areas, we recommend the foundation of inter-ecclesial formation centres in each country which employ the new technology of audiovisual communications. The resources they produce should be available on-line and on DVD to make them as cheaply and widely available as possible.

On the topic of social means of communication, we read in Propositio 33:

The synod fathers have noted the pivotal importance of the new means of communication for Christian formation in the Middle East, as well as for the proclamation of the faith. They are communication networks which hold out the promise of special opportunities for the spreading of the

Church's teaching.

Concretely, the synod fathers advocate the aid and maintenance of the existing structures in this area, such as "Télé-lumière-Noursat," "la Voix de la Charité" and others, so as to fulfil the objectives for which they have been established in an ecclesial spirit.

Propositio 37 refers to A New Evangelisation:

Our Churches are called upon to adopt the mentality of a New Evangelisation by taking into consideration the cultural and social context in which people live, work and act today. This demands a profound conversion and renewal in light of the Word of God and the sacraments, especially reconciliation and the Eucharist.

Conclusion

Dear friends, the expression "new creature" sums up our Christian faith and our Christian ethics and morals and the nobility of our human and divine vocation and our unique apostolate and also gives a meaning to our presence, life, way and existence on this earth as we make our way towards Paradise, towards the Kingdom.

The birth of Jesus Christ is a continuous call to people to arise and be renewed, raise their sights, ascend, move forward and surpass limitations, weaknesses, sins even, knowing that God is able to work miracles in and through them. He created us from nothing for life and is able to create a new spirit in us, make us into new creatures and raise us to the heights of θέωσις and sharing in the divine life in us. So we return to the state in which God created us in holiness and purity in his image and likeness. To that the magnificent Christmas hymn12 calls us,

"Christ is born! Glorify Him!
Christ descends from the heavens, welcome Him!
Christ is now on earth, lift up your hearts!
Sing to the Lord, all the earth,
And sing praises to Him with joy, O ye people,
For he has been exalted."

To all that the Feast of the Nativity calls us and to that I call you, dear friends, my beloved brother bishops, my children the priests, the monks and nuns, the faithful, men and women, young people and children of our eparchies and parishes in Arab countries, countries of the expansion and everywhere. Accept these spiritual meditations, everyone, on the topic of the new creature, which is really Christ himself, the "new Child and God before the ages" and who is each of us; accept, receive these meditations as a Christmas present, as a bouquet of intercessions, of cordial good wishes to you all.

May our Church always remain strong and coherent, unafraid, always moving forward unhesitatingly, not growing old, not despairing, not allowing itself to give way to fear, but always open and always renewed by the Holy Spirit. It will thus resemble the person of whom Jesus Christ speaks in the Gospel – that the child of the Kingdom can bring forth from his store things new and old and sow hope, in order that the gifts of God, his grace, may yield abundant fruit in all the Church's children, thirty-, sixty- and an hundred-fold and eternal life.

Christ is born: glorify him!

Merry Christmas and happy New Year, a year of peace!

With my friendship, my love and blessing,

Gregorios III

Patriarch

Translation from the French: V. Chamberlain

 

Message to the People of God

During the Fourteenth General Congregation held Friday 22nd October 2010, the Synod Fathers approved the Nuntius, the Message to the People of God, at the conclusion of the Special Assembly for the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops.

The full text (written in Arabic, French, Italian and English) of the English version is published below:

"Now the company of those who believed were of one heart and soul" (Acts 4:32)

To our brother priests, deacons, monks, nuns, consecrated persons, our dear lay faithful and all people of good will.

Introduction

1.May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God the Father and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you.

The Synod of Bishops for the Middle East was for us a new Pentecost. "Pentecost is the original event but also a permanent dynamism, and the Synod of Bishops is a privileged moment in which the grace of Pentecost may be renewed in the Church's journey" (Pope Benedict XVI, Homily at the Opening Liturgy, 10 October 2010).

We have come to Rome, We the Patriarchs and Bishops of the Catholic Churches in the Middle East with all our spiritual, liturgical, cultural and canonical patrimonies, carrying in our hearts the concerns of our people.

For the very first time, we have come together in a Synod, gathered around His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI, with both cardinals and archbishops, who are heads of the various offices in the Roman Curia, presidents of episcopal conferences around the world, who are concerned with the issues of the Middle East, representatives from the Orthodox Churches and ecclesial communi¬ties and Jewish and Muslim guests.

We express our gratitude to His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI for his care and for his teachings, which guide the journey of the Church in general and that of our Eastern Churches in particular, especially in the areas of justice and peace. We thank the episcopal conferences for their solidarity, their presence in our midst during their pilgrimages to the holy sites and their visits to our communities. We thank them for guiding our Churches in the various aspects of our life. We thank the different ecclesial organisations for their effective assistance.

Guided by the Holy Scriptures and the living Tradition, we have reflected together on the present and the future of Christians and all peoples of the Middle East. We have meditated on the issues of this region of the world which God willed, in the mystery of his love, to be the birthplace of his universal plan of salvation. From there, Abraham's vocation was initiated. There, the Word of God, Jesus Christ, took flesh in the womb of the Virgin Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit. There, Jesus proclaimed the Gospel of life and the kingdom. There, he died to redeem humanity and free us from sin. There, he rose from the dead to give new life to all. There, the Church was formed and went forth to proclaim the Gospel of Christ to the world.

The primary aim of the Synod is pastoral. Thus, we have carried in our hearts the life, the pains and the hopes of our people as well as the challenges they need to confront each day "because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us" (Rm 5:5). Dear sisters and brothers, we therefore address this message to you. We wish it to be an appeal to safeguard the faith, based on the Word of God, to collaboration in unity and to communion in the witness of love in every aspect of life.

I. The Church in the Middle East: Communion and Witness throughout History

The Journey of Faith in the Middle East

2. In the Middle East, the first Christian community was born. From there, the apostles after Pentecost went evangelising the whole world. There, the early Christian community lived amid tensions and persecutions, "they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers" (Acts 2:42), and no one of them was in need. There, the first martyrs, with their blood, fortified the foundations of the nascent Church. After them, the hermits filled the deserts with the perfume of their holiness and their faith. There, the Fathers of the Eastern Church lived and continued to nourish the Church in both the East and West through their teachings. In the early centuries and later, missionaries from our Churches departed for the Far East and the West, bringing with them the light of Christ. We are the heirs of that heritage. We need to continue to transmit their message to future generations.

In the past, Our Churches provided saints, priests and consecrated persons; they still do in the present. Our Churches have also sponsored many institutions which contributed - and still do - to the well being of our societies and countries, sacrificing self for the sake of the human person, who is created to the image of God and is the bearer of his likeness. Some of our Churches continue to send out missionaries who carry the Word of God to many places in the world. The pastoral, apostolic and missionary needs mandate us to put together a pastoral master-plan to promote vocations to the priesthood and religious life in order to ensure the Church of tomorrow.

We are now at a turning point in our history: The God who has given us the faith in our Eastern lands 2000 years ago, calls us today to persevere with courage, strength and steadfastness in bearing the message of Christ and witnessing to his Gospel, the Gospel of love and peace.

Challenges and Aspirations

3.1. Today, we face many challenges. The first comes from within ourselves and our Churches. We are asked by Christ to accept our faith and to apply it to all situations in our lives. What he asks from our Churches is to strengthen the communion within every Church sui iuris and that of the Catholic Churches of various traditions, and to exert every effort in prayer and charitable acts in order to attain the full unity of all Christians so as to fulfil the prayer of Christ: "that they may all be one; even as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me" (Jn 17:21).

3.2. The second challenge comes from the outside, namely, political conditions, security in our countries and religious pluralism.

We have evaluated the social situation and the public security in all our countries in the Middle East. We have taken account of the impact of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on the whole region, especially on the Palestinians who are suffering the consequences of the Israeli occupation: the lack of freedom of movement, the wall of separation and the military checkpoints, the political prisoners, the demolition of homes, the disturbance of socio-economic life and the thousands of refugees. We have reflected on the suffering and insecurity in which Israelis live. We have meditated on the situation of the holy city of Jerusalem. We are anxious about the unilateral initiatives that threaten its composition and risk to change its demographic balance. With all this in mind, we see that a just and lasting peace is the only salvation for everyone and for the good of the region and its peoples.

3.3. We have reflected in our meetings and in our prayers the keen sufferings of the Iraqi people. We have recalled the Christians assassinated in Iraq, the continued suffering of the Church in Iraq and her sons who have been displaced and dispersed throughout the world, bringing with them the concerns for their land and their fatherland. The synod fathers have expressed their solidarity with the people and the Churches in Iraq and have expressed their desire that the emigrants, forced to leave their country, might find in the welcoming countries the necessary support to be able to return to their homeland and live in security.

3.4. We have extensively treated relations between Christians and Muslims. All of us share a common citizenship in our countries. Here we want to affirm, according to our Christian vision, a fundamental principle which ought to govern our relations, namely, God wants us to be Christians in and for our Middle Eastern societies. This is God's plan for us. This is our mission and vocation - to live as Christians and Muslims together. Our actions in this area will be guided by the commandment of love and by the power of the Spirit within us.

The second principle which governs our relations is the fact that we are an integral part of our societies. Our mission, based on our faith and our duty to our home countries, obliges us to contribute to the construction of our countries as fellow-citizens, Muslims, Jews and Christians alike.

II. Communion and Witness Within the Catholic Churches of the Middle East

To the Faithful of Our Churches

4.1. Jesus says to us: "You are the salt of the earth, the light of the world" (Mt 5:13.14). Your mission in our societies, beloved faithful, through faith, hope and love, is to be like "salt" which gives savour and meaning to life; to be like "light" by proclaiming the truth which scatters the darkness; and to be like the "leaven" which transforms hearts and minds. The first Christians of Jerusalem were few in number, yet they were able to take the Gospel to the ends of the earth because of the grace of "the Lord who acted with them and confirmed their Word by signs" (Mk 16:20).

4.2. We want to greet you, Christians of the Middle East, and we thank you for all you have achieved in your families and societies, in your Churches and nations. We commend you for your perseverance in times of adversity, suffering and anguish.

4.3. Dear priests, our co-workers in the mission of catechesis, liturgy and pastoral work, we renew our friendship and our trust in you. Continue to transmit to your faithful with zeal and perseverance the Gospel of life and Church's tradition through your preaching, catechesis, spiritual direction and the good example of your lives. Build up the faith of the People of God to make of it a civilisation of love. Provide the sacraments to the People of God so that this People might aspire to be renewed. Gather them together in the union of love by the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Dear consecrated men and women in the world, we express to you our gratitude and with you we thank God for the gift of the evangelical counsels – of consecrated chastity, of poverty and obedience – through which you have made the gift of yourselves as you follow Christ, the special love to whom you long to witness. It is thanks to your diverse apostolic initiatives that you are the true treasure and wealth of our Churches and a spiritual oasis in our parishes, dioceses and missions.

We unite ourselves spiritually to hermits, to monks and nuns who have dedicated their lives to prayer in contemplative monasteries, sanctifying the hours of day and night, carrying the Church's concerns and needs to God in their prayers. You offer the world a sign of hope through the witness of your life.

4.4. We express to you, faithful lay people, our esteem and our friendship. We appreciate everything you do for your families and societies, your Churches and home countries. Remain steadfast amidst trials and difficulties. We are filled with gratitude to the Lord for the charisms and talents which he has showered you and which equip you to participate, through the power of your baptism and chrismations, in the Church's mission and her apostolic work to permeate the temporal world with the spirit and values of the Gospel. We invite you to give the witness of an authentic Christian life, of a conscientious religious practice and of good morals. Have the courage objectively to proclaim the truth.

Those of you who suffer in body, in soul and spirit, the oppressed, those forced from your homes, the persecuted, prisoners and detainees, we carry you all in our prayers. Unite your suffering to that of Christ the Redeemer and seek in his cross patience and strength. By the merit of your sufferings, you gain God's merciful love.

We greet each of our Christian families and we look upon your vocation and mission with esteem as a living cell of society and a natural school of virtue and ethical and human values, the "domestic Church" which transmits the practices of prayer and of faith from one generation to the next. We thank parents and grandparents for the education of their children and grandchil¬dren, who, like Jesus grow "in wisdom, in stature and grace in the sight of God and men" (Lk 2:52). We commit ourselves to the defence of the family through our pastoral programmes on its behalf, through marriage preparation courses and centres, open to all but mainly to couples in difficulty, where they can be welcomed and obtain counseling, and by defending the fundamental rights of the family.

We now wish to speak to the women of our Churches in a special way. We express to you our appreciation for what you are in the various states of life: girls, mothers, educators, consecrated women and those who engaged in public life. We revere you, because you harbour human life within you from its very beginnings, giving it care and tenderness. God has given you a special sensitivity for everything that pertains to education, humanitarian work and the apostolic life. We give thanks to God for your activities and we hope that you will be able to exercise greater responsibility in public life.

Young women and men, we look to you with the same love which Christ had for the young man in the Gospel (cf. Mk 10:21). You are the potential and renewing force for the future of our Churches, our communities and our countries. Plan your life under the loving gaze of Christ. Be responsible citizens and sincere believers. The Church joins you in your desire to find work commensurate with your talents, work which will help to stimulate your creativity, providing for your future and making possible the formation of a family of believers. Overcome the temptation of materialism and consumerism. Be strong in your Christian values.

We greet the heads of Catholic institutions of education. Pursue excellence and the Christian spirit in your teaching and education. Aim at the consolidation of a culture of harmonious living and concern for the poor and disabled. In spite of the challenges which confront your institutions, we invite you to maintain them, so as to further the Church's educative mission and to promote the development and common good of our societies.

We address with great esteem those who work in the social sector. In your institutions you are at the service of charity. We encourage and support you in this mission of development, guided by the rich social teaching of the Church. Through your work, you strengthen the bonds of fellowship between people and serve the poor, the marginalised, the sick, refugees and prisoners without discrimination. You are guided by the words of the Lord Jesus: "Everything you do to one of these little ones, you do it to me!" (Mt 25:40).

We look with hope to prayer groups and apostolic movements. They are schools where our faith can mature and we can be given the strength to live that faith in family and society. We appreciate their activities in parishes and dioceses and their support for pastors, in accordance with the Church's directives. We thank God for these groups and movements which are active cells in the parish and seed-beds for vocations to both the priesthood and the consecrated life.

We appreciate the role of the means of social communication, both printed and audio-visual. We thank you journalists for your collaboration with the Church in broadcasting her teachings and activities and, over the course of these days, for having given global news coverage to the Special Assembly for the Middle East of the Synod.

We are pleased with the contribution of the media, both international and Catholic. With regard to the Middle East, Télé Lumiere-Noursat merits a special mention. We hope it will be able to continue its service of providing information and forming the faith, of working on behalf of Christian unity, of consolidating the Christian presence in the Middle East, of strengthening interreligious dialogue and the communion of all peoples of Middle Eastern origin, presently in every part of the globe.

To Our Faithful in the Diaspora

5. Emigration has become a generalised phenomenon by Christians, Muslims and Jews alike. All emigrate for reasons arising from political and economic instability. However, Christians also emigrate from a sense of insecurity, in varying degrees, in many Middle Eastern countries. May Christians have trust in the future and continue to live in their dear countries.

We send our greetings to you, members of our Churches in the various countries of the Diaspora. We ask you to keep alive in your hearts and concerns the memory of your countries and your Churches. You can contribute to their development and their growth by your prayers, your thoughts, your visits and by various other means, despite the fact that you are far from the Middle East.

Look at your goods and your properties in your home country; do not abandon and sell them too quickly. Keep them as your patrimony and as a piece of the homeland to which you remain attached, a homeland which you love and support. The land is part of a person's identity and his mission. It is a vital aspect of the lives of those who remain there and for those who one day will return there. The land is a public good, a good of the community and a common patrimony. It should not be reduced to a question of individual interests on the part of those who own it and who alone decide, according to their desires, to keep or abandon it.

We accompany you with our prayers, you the children of our Churches and of our countries, forced to emigrate. Bear with you your faith, your culture and your patrimony, so as to enrich your new countries which provide you with peace, freedom and work. Look towards the future with confidence and joy. Hold fast to your spiritual values, to your cultural traditions and to your national patrimony, in order to offer to the countries which welcome you the best of yourselves and the best of that which you have. We thank the Churches of the countries of the Diaspora which have received our faithful and unceasingly collaborate with us to ensure the necessary pastoral services for them.

To the Migrants in Our Countries and Our Churches

6. We send our greetings to all immigrants of varying nationalities, who have come to our countries seeking employment.

We welcome you, beloved faithful, and we see your faith as a source of enrichment and a support for the faithful of our Churches. We joyously provide you with every spiritual assistance you might need.

We ask our Churches to pay special attention to these brothers and sisters and their difficulties, whatever may be their religion, especially when their rights and dignity are subject to abuse. They come to us not simply to seek the means for living but offer the services which our countries need. Their dignity comes from God. Like every human person, they have rights which must be respected. No one should violate those rights. That is why we call upon the various governments which receive them to respect and defend their rights.

Communion and Witness Together with the Orthodox and Protestant Communities in the Middle East

7. We send our greetings to the Orthodox and Protestant Communities in our countries. Together we work for the good of all Christians, that they may remain, grow and prosper. We share the same journey. Our challenges are the same and our future is the same. We wish to bear witness together as disciples of Christ. Only through our unity can we accomplish the mission that God has entrusted to us, despite the differences among our Churches. The prayer of Christ is our support; the commandment of love unites us, even if the road towards full communion is still distant for us.

We have walked together in the Middle East Council of Churches and we wish, with God's grace, to continue on this path and to promote its activity, having as an ultimate goal a common testimony to our faith, the service of our faithful and of all our countries. We acknowledge and encourage all initiatives for ecumenical dialogue in each of our countries.

We express our gratitude to the World Council of Churches and to the different ecumenical organisations which work for the unity of the Churches and for their support.

IV. Cooperation and Dialogue with Our Fellow-Citizens, the Jews

8. The same Scriptures unite us; the Old Testament, the Word of God is for both you and us. We believe all that God revealed there, since he called Abraham, our common father in the faith, Father of Jews, of Christians and of Muslims. We believe in the promises of God and his covenant given to Abraham and to you. We believe that the Word of God is eternal.

The Second Vatican Council published the document Nostra aetate which treats interreligious dialogue with Judaism, Islam and the other religions. Other documents have subsequently clarified and developed the relationship with Judaism. On-going dialogue is taking place between the Church and the representatives of Judaism. We hope that this dialogue can bring us to work together to press those in authority to put and end to the political conflict which results in separating us and disrupting everyday life in our countries.

It is time for us to commit ourselves together to a sincere, just and permanent peace. Both Christians and Jews are called to this task by the Word of God. In his Word, we are invited us to listen to the voice of God "who speaks of peace": "Let me hear what God the Lord will speak, for he will speak peace to his people, to his holy ones" (Ps 85:9). Recourse to theological and biblical positions which use the Word of God to wrongly justify injustices is not acceptable. On the contrary, recourse to religion must lead every person to see the face of God in others and to treat them according to their God-given prerogatives and God's commandments, namely, according to God's bountiful goodness, mercy, justice and love for us.

V. Cooperation and Dialogue with Our Fellow-Citizens, the Muslims

9. We are united by the faith in one God and by the commandment that says: do good and avoid evil. The words of the Second Vatican Council on the relations with other religions offer the basis for the relationship between the Catholic Church and the Muslims: "The Church regards with esteem also the Muslims. They adore the one God, living and subsisting in Himself; merciful and all- powerful, the Creator of heaven and earth, who has spoken to men" (Nostra aetate 3).

We say to our Muslim fellow-citizens: we are brothers and sisters; God wishes us to be together, united by one faith in God and by the dual commandment of love of God and neighbour. Together we will construct our civil societies on the basis of citizenship, religious freedom and freedom of conscience. Together we will work for the promotion of justice, peace, the rights of persons and the values of life and of the family. The construction of our countries is our common responsibility. We wish to offer to the East and to the West a model of coexistence between different religions and of positive collaboration between different civilisations for the good of our countries and that of all humanity.

Since the appearance of Islam in the seventh century and to the present, we have lived together and we have collaborated in the creation of our common civilisation. As in the past and still existent today, some imbalances are present in our relations. Through dialogue we must avoid all imbalances and misunderstandings. Pope Benedict XVI tells us that our dialogue must not be a passing reality. It is rather a vital necessity on which our future depends (Pope Benedict XVI, Meeting with Representatives from the Muslim Communities, Cologne, 20 August 2005). Our duty then is to educate believers concerning interreligious dialogue, the acceptance of pluralism and mutual esteem.

VI. Our Participation in Public Life: An Appeal to the Governments and to the Political Leadership in Our Countries

10. We appreciate the efforts which have been expended for the common good and the service to our societies. You are in our prayers and we ask God to guide your steps. We address you regarding the importance of equality among all citizens. Christians are original and authentic citizens who are loyal to their fatherland and assume their duties towards their country. It is natural that they should enjoy all the rights of citizenship, freedom of conscience, freedom of worship and freedom in education, teaching and the use of the mass media.

We appeal to you to redouble your efforts to establish a just and lasting peace throughout the region and to stop the arms race, which will lead to security and economic prosperity and stop the hemorrhage of emigration which empties our countries of its vital forces. Peace is a precious gift entrusted by God to human family, whose members are to be "peacemakers who will be called children of God" (Mt 5:9).

VII. Appeal to the International Community

11. The citizens of the countries of the Middle East call upon the international community, particularly the United Nations conscientiously to work to find a peaceful, just and definitive solution in the region, through the application of the Security Council's resolutions and taking the necessary legal steps to put an end to the occupation of the different Arab territories.

The Palestinian people will thus have an independent and sovereign homeland where they can live with dignity and security. The State of Israel will be able to enjoy peace and security within their internationally recognized borders. The Holy City of Jerusalem will be able to acquire its proper status, which respects its particular character, its holiness and the religious patrimony of the three religions: Jewish, Christian and Muslim. We hope that the two-State-solution might become a reality and not a dream only.

Iraq will be able to put an end to the consequences of its deadly war and re-establish a secure way of life which will protect all its citizens with all their social structures, both religious and national.

Lebanon will be able to enjoy sovereignty over its entire territory, strengthen its national unity and carry on in its vocation to be the model of coexistence between Christians and Muslims, of dialogue between different cultures and religions, and of the promotion of basic public freedoms.

We condemn violence and terrorism from wherever it may proceed as well as all religious extremism. We condemn all forms of racism, anti-Semitism, anti-Christianism and Islamophobia and we call upon the religions to assume their responsibility to promote dialogue between cultures and civilisations in our region and in the entire world.

Conclusion: Continue to Bear Witness to the Divine Path That Has Been Shown to Us in the Person of Jesus

12. Brothers and sisters, in closing, we say with the St. John the Apostle: "What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we looked upon and touched with our hands concerns the Word of life for the life was made visible; we have seen it and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was made visible to us what we have seen and heard we proclaim now to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; for our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ."(1 Jn 1:1-3).

This Divine Life which has appeared to the apostles over 2000 years ago in the Person of our Lord Jesus Christ and to which the Church has witnessed throughout the course of her history will always remain the life of our Churches in the Middle East and the object of our witness, sustained by the promise of the Lord:"Behold, I am with you always, until the end of the time" (Mt 28:20). Together we proceed on our journey with hope,"and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the holy Spirit that has been given to us" (Rm 5:5).

We confess that, until now, we have not done what is possible to better live communion in our communities. We have not done enough to better live communion among our communities. We have not done everything possible to confirm you in your faith and to give you the spiritual nourishment you need in your difficulties. The Lord invites us to a conversion as individuals and communities.

Today we return to you full of hope, strength and resolution, bearing with us the message of the Synod and its recommendations in order to study them together and to put them into practice in our Churches, each one according to the Church's states of life. We hope also that this new effort might be ecumenical.

We make a humble and sincere appeal to you, that together we might embark on the road of conversion, allowing ourselves to be renewed through the grace of the Holy Spirit and again draw close to God.

To the Most Holy Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church and Queen of Peace, under whose protection we have accomplished our Synodal task, we entrust our journey towards new, Christian horizons in the faith of Christ and through the power of his word: "Behold, I make all things new" (Rev 21:5).

 
Middle East from Space

Speech of H. B. Patriarch Gregorios III

During the Synod of Bishops:

Special Assembly for the Middle East

Rome October 10-24, 2010

PPCrest
Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarchate
of Antioch and All the East
of Alexandria and of Jerusalem

Presence and Witness

In most of our countries, the Antiochian Church, with all its five denominations (Greek Orthodox, Melkite Greek Catholic, Syriac Orthodox, Syrian Catholic and Maronite) is a privileged ecclesiastical place for living together with Islam and for Islam, in the Arab world and for the Arab world. It is a privileged place for bringing to fruition our Christian presence and putting it to work.

More important than this historical and geographical reality is learning to discover, if possible, the true role of Christians in the Patriarchate of Antioch, in Islamic-Christian history, geography, culture and civilization. By all possible means, we must learn to see its history, geography and civilization in the light of salvation.

Of course, the Chaldean, Assyrian, Coptic (Orthodox and Catholic) and Latin Churches, as well as, to a certain extent, the Armenian Churches (Apostolic and Catholic), also have a role in this regard.

Our common great concern is always this: how to conserve the Christian presence, one of witness and service, in our predominantly Muslim Arab world? How can we avoid, or at least slow down Christian emigration? That emigration means gradually losing plurality and diversity in the Arab world, and the loss of great possibilities for Islamic-Christian dialogue, which is a human and faith dialogue, as well as being a dialogue of daily interaction of societies, cultures and consciences.

The living together that we have experienced and that we wish to continue is threatened by emigration, the most significant and dangerous cause of which lies in the crises which all originate in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the injustice arising from that. In the same way, extremism, fundamentalism, violence and terrorist ideology, as well as the lack of equality before the law and in employment and the limited possibilities for taking up different positions of responsibility in political life, are products of this conflict.

Those things make Christians in most of our countries feel troubled, fearing an unknown future in a society that is in the majority Muslim. Often they are stigmatized by epithets such as fifth columnists, crusaders, impious (kuffar), and collaborators with the West and with Israel. Those and many other such things ought to be the subject of study in the Muslim Arab world. Those problems should be treated with a great deal of objectivity and Christians and Muslims together should identify the real wound underlying the haemorrhage of Christian emigration.

We have the duty of continuing the way of living together of past centuries. Therefore, our Muslim brethren must not call us "dhimmis" (protected people); they have to consider us full citizens, just as they are. We have the same rights and duties as they do. We have to build up our countries together and work together for a better future.

Living together implies reciprocal charity, trust and respect, dignity, shared responsibility and solidarity. The great challenge, for Christians and Muslims, is that of finding out how we can live out our faith in the world of globalisation and how we can transmit faith as a precious and holy inheritance to new generations, to young Christians and Muslims, who are all exposed to the same dangers in today's world.

On this subject, the Council of Eastern Catholic Patriarchs, meeting at Bzoummar (Lebanon) for their sixteenth congress, underlined in their final message, of 20 October 2006:

  1. "Our presence in the East is the expression of the will of God, obliging us to be faithful to Christ, involved in witnessing to his love, putting into action the teachings of the Holy Gospel and fulfilling the duty of service to the societies in which we live. However insurmountable the difficulties, we nevertheless detect radiant signs of hope in the spiritual, cultural, social and national wealth which adorns with the jewels of its liturgical, theological and spiritual heritage, well-ordered in conformity with the Alexandrian, Syriac and Maronite Antiochian, Melkite Greek, Chaldean, Armenian and Latin traditions, the Church of Christ that is both one and diverse …
  2. Christianity, being an essential component of the regional culture, enriching the latter by its traditions (cf. A new hope for Lebanon, 1) it follows that the Church calls for a presence and a mission. So it becomes imperative to set up an exchange of ideas with the faithful of other religions about spiritual, moral, social and cultural values with a view to promoting social justice, equality and freedom and laying the foundations of peace. (Conciliar decree Nostra Aetate regarding the relationship of the Church with non-Christian religions, 2 and 3)
  3. Our Christian faith implies being incarnate and lived out in a mission springing from the heart of our faithfulness to Christ, our union with him and our determination to imitate him and take him for our model, which supposes, to begin with on our part, preserving our existence and presence in our land, in a spirit of fellowship, mutual help and shared responsibility. The economic and social crisis requires Church and State, all competent authorities and all people of good will, to take an initiative designed to develop economic life and instigate development projects that would provide job opportunities to young people and help them put down roots in their native land, fulfil their potential and give families the possibility of earning a decent, respectable living in their own country.
  4. As for the mission, it begins, in fact, by preserving living together in the face of the growing conflict of cultures and religions. It is a living witness of the possibility of co-existence in peace and creative complementarity in the heart of difference. For religions, in their essence, are a factor for gathering and not division, since the essence of each is worshipping God and respecting his creatures. Eastern Christians are Eastern in their belonging and citizenship and in fact are profoundly involved in their respective countries' cause." 1

Indeed, we must mutually encourage each other to remain in our countries, convince each other not to shirk our responsibilities, not to leave the land of our social, political, national and ethnic life, not to allow ourselves to retreat into ghettos, not to emigrate either inside or outside our countries. We ought to resist fear in the face of acts of terrorism and religious discrimination inspired by fundamentalist groups.

For an effective interaction with our societies and the different trends, currents and directions that can be found there, there have to be Christians who are open, present, witnessing in their society, involved in social, political and economic life, participating fully in the life of their country, taking as their starting points, firstly, citizenship and secondly, their faith and Gospel values.

What can most help the Christians of our countries to resist in the face of all difficulties and not to emigrate is the faith-based conviction, that remaining in these countries where Christianity was born and where God has planted them, is in itself an apostolate, vocation and mission. The context of this mission is the Church, a Church which has been Arab culturally and ethnically for centuries, "the Church of the Arabs" according to the expression of the late Father Jean Corbon, but also, in a certain sense, "the Church of Islam," because it is Emmanuel Church, God with us and for us, with and for others. Those others, are our Muslim fellow-citizens, in the predominantly Muslim Arab society, in which Christians are responsible for bearing the message, proclamation and values of the Gospel, so that the Church can be present and serving in that same society.

Gregorios III

Patriarch of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church


Translation from French: V. Chamberlain

Index of the Documents Concerning the Council for the Middle East

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