Melkite Greek Catholic Church
 
Middle East from Space

Matter of Concern for Special Synod for the Middle East - a Contribution from His Beatitude

PPCrest

Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarchate

of Antioch and All the East

of Alexandria and of Jerusalem

Prot. /2010D Damascus, 1 March 2010

His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI

Vatican City

Most Holy Father,

The decision of Your Holiness to convoke a Special Assembly of Bishops for the Middle East is one of the tokens of your deep, fatherly love for the Christian communities of the Holy Land and the countries of this region, which was the first to be evangelised by the Apostles.

I have already had the opportunity of thanking you personally for this during your meeting with my brother Patriarchs and Major Archbishops at Castel Gandolfo on 19 September, 2009.

But, without waiting for the holding of this Special Assembly next October, I feel it my duty to tell Your Holiness the concern I feel at the way the regional situation is developing and becoming increasingly dangerous for everyone, but particularly for Christians in our countries.

There is a diffuse but sure rise of Islamic extremism, provoked by the threats of the Israeli government against Palestinians, Lebanon, Syria (and Iran), which is spreading throughout all the countries in the region. Even in Syria, where such extremism has been up to now very limited, its advance has become more and more evident, despite efforts from the government against it.

This extremism does not hesitate to use terrorist methods, especially against Christians (in Iraq and in Egypt particularly), provoking a new wave of emigration of the latter.

But Christians, though they are the primary victims, are not the only ones. Once more we find ourselves facing a new danger of outburst across the whole region, which may well degenerate on a wider scale.

I beg Your Holiness, humbly but insistently, most insistently (instanter et instantius), that besides ardent prayer and outside the context of public speeches, which can only be limited, like the most recent appeal of Your Holiness to the highest authorities in Iraq, the Holy See's diplomacy redouble its efforts to persuade the Tel Aviv government, despite the views of its most intransigent wing – probably via the United States and those European countries which, having sponsored the birth of the State of Israel and supported it ever since, should be able to exert effective pressure on it – of the grave danger of this development which in the medium and perhaps short term, runs against the interests and future of the State of Israel itself, which needs peace in the region just as much as Arab countries, to be able eventually to live normally all together.

Having delivered to Your Holiness these thoughts, which have haunted me during this Lent, and trusting in the power of your prayer and the effectiveness of your directives, I can only assure you once more, Most Holy Father, of my filial devotion and deep respect in the Lord.

+ Gregorios III, Patriarch


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SECRETARIAT OF STATE

_________

SECTION FOR GENERAL AFFAIRS

From the Vatican, 21 April 2010

N. 146.277

Beatitude,

You recently wrote to His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI to share your thoughts about developments of the situation in the Middle East, for which His Holiness thanks you warmly.

The Holy Father is particularly aware of the situation of the Christian Communities in the region. He sends his strong encouragement to the faithful and their pastors in the ordeals they are undergoing, as he desires their legitimate rights to live in peace and security on their land and for them to be able to participate fully in national life.

The Pope also wishes the special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for the Middle East, which will be held next October, to contribute to tightening the bonds of communion between the Eastern Catholic communities, so that they carry out their mission with vigour, in a spirit of ecumenical and inter-religious openness. May it be an opportunity for faithful the world over to continue to show genuine, concrete solidarity towards their brothers and sisters from this region!

As the whole Church is in the joy of Paschaltide, the Holy Father, entrusting you to the motherly intercession of the Virgin Mary, sends to you and to all the Bishops, priests and faithful of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church, an affectionate apostolic Blessing.

Please accept, Beatitude, my warmly devoted regards in the Lord.

Tarcisio Card. Bertone

Secretary of State to His Holiness


Index of the Documents Concerning the Council for the Middle East

 
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

 
Middle East from Space

We ought to have a pope

Message of H. B. Patriarch Gregorios III

19 September 2010

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

We ought to have a pope

The Melkite Greek Catholic Church took the bold step of resuming full ecclesial communion with Rome, three hundred years ago. It was a difficult decision, which was the outcome of a gestation of fifty years! We experienced difficulties, both on the part of the Roman Catholic Church and on the part of our own Orthodox Church, whose tradition we keep.

Life in the ecclesial communion with Rome has caused us to lose part of our original authentic Eastern tradition, that we have not succeeded in keeping in its wholeness.

Despite that we feel happy in this communion. It has brought us much! We have also brought a great deal to the Latin Roman Catholic Church, especially during and through the Second Vatican Council!

We are above all more than ever convinced of the absolute and imperative necessity for Christian unity, the unity of the Church, which by its very nature must be one – that the world may believe!

We thank the Holy Father Benedict XVI, Pope of Rome, for the unique and gracious initiative of convoking this Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for the Middle East which bears the most significant and inspiring title The Catholic Church in the Middle East, Communion and Witness.

In that we find in sum the essence of our mission and the meaning of our presence in the Middle East, cradle of Christianity.

This synod is the mark of the Holy Father's respect for the Eastern Catholic Churches which have suffered a great deal and given a great deal to remain in communion with Rome. It is a call to these Churches for them to take charge of their mission, calling and vocation, whether that be in the family dialogue with Orthodox Churches or in the dialogue of fellow-citizens in the Muslim majority Arab world. It is also a sign of high regard for all the Eastern Churches.

On that basis we consider that our particular position of being Eastern Catholic Christian Arabs, open both to Arabism, Islam and Orthodoxy as well as to the Roman Catholic Church imposes on us a greater mission, that goes beyond mere dialogue! We feel that despite all the deficiencies of what is pejoratively called "Uniatism," the model does not have just negative aspects!

It is up to us to make our model a prophetic one. It has the power of a prophetic gesture, sign or call to more unity, as is the dream of all Christians.

Our model is, in its fragility, a model in which there is a certain measure – limited, indeed – of unity, but also of diversity. We are in full communion with Rome whilst making every effort to preserve our specific character as Easterners, meaning Orthodox! This model certainly requires complementary elements, especially in the living and dynamic conservation of the common tradition of the first millennium in the life of the Christian Church of East and West. We have succeeded in finding again part of that undivided tradition through renewed dialogue among our Eastern Catholic Churches and the Latin Catholic Church. We hope to recover still more as we go forward with this dialogue!

On the basis of that experience, we dare, on the occasion of the Synod for the Middle East, launch an appeal to our brethren in Churches not yet in full communion with Rome, to venture to move resolutely forward in the theological ecumenical dialogue at different levels. We ask them, whilst awaiting complete and perfect unity with Rome, to consider the pope as primus inter pares, as the symbol of Christian unity respectful of the identity of each Church and its tradition and particular and specific ecclesial governance.

So the pope would be the centre of Christian unity, whilst awaiting the ecclesial, hierarchical and perfect theological communion.

The Christian world needs this sign of hope, this courageous step. The Christian world, the Christian Church in all its denominations needs this step forward, this prophetic gesture, particularly in these times when many powers are raised against the Church and its values.

In confronting all that, the Church needs to be strong and coherent, full of its ideal, open and present, witnessing and serving, not recognizing an enemy, but witnessing to the Love of Christ before and in the presence of all. A Church that is not afraid, since it speaks of and seeks to bring to the world the Gospel, the Good News and love of mankind.

For all that, we need a pope who would be the link for this radiant communion!

That is the call of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church to the Christian world on the occasion of the Synod for the Middle East! We proclaim this in all humility, simplicity, friendship, respect and love! In union with the prayer of Jesus, "Father! That they all may be one... that the world may believe!" (John 17: 21)

The world needs a united Church capable of uniting in a common programme the values to which every human being – every believer and non-believer - aspires: justice, peace, equality, brotherliness, freedom of religion, of conscience, human rights (including those of women, children and the disabled), development, solidarity, service, mutual esteem...a loving and serving Church, a Church which really fulfils the adjectives used in the Creed to describe it: one, holy, catholic and apostolic.

Thus the pope would be the symbol of unity, despite diversities present at all levels.

A dream? Utopia? Novelty? Childish wish? Perhaps! But it is worthwhile! It is the future of Christianity and of the Gospel! To be or not to be?

Yes, to Jesus! Yes, to the Gospel! Yes, to unity! Yes, to the pope!

Gregorios III

Patriarch

19 September 2010

Translation from French: V. Chamberlain


Index of the Documents Concerning the Council for the Middle East

 

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).

 
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.
 

Inauguration of the

Liqaa Meeting Center

Rabweh, Lebanon - May 10, 2011

Meeting (Liqaa)

A Communication Bridge in a Divided World

Link to News Article about the Opening of the Liqaa

In a time of contradictions and conflicts, when discords and differences are at their peak, Meeting is a must. "That is why we chose the word Meeting," affirmed His Beatitude, the Patriarch in an interview. "We wanted it to be open to all the dimensions of human beings' encounter with God, with their brothers and sisters, with society, nation, politics, economics and everything."

Meeting has been an idea of His Beatitude, Patriarch Gregorios III from the beginning of his clerical mission. It is an idea that he has transformed into effective work in several centres across Palestine, Lebanon, Syria and Egypt, reflecting the ancient traditions of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church as a Church without borders.

Atop one of the Metn Hills at the heart of green Mount Lebanon, lies the new Meeting Centre. It is located within the patriarchal compound that also comprises the patriarchal school and a church still under construction.

After a series of meetings and reunions held by Father Michel Sabee, a visit to the Sultanate of Oman was arranged for His Beatitude, Patriarch Gregorios III, heading a delegation from the Melkite Greek Catholic Church, to meet personally with His Majesty, Sultan Qaboos bin Said al Said, and a number of religious representatives and officials. The main aim of this meeting was to discuss the ideas behind the international Meeting Centre for dialogue of civilisations in Lebanon. "Our visit to Oman was very fruitful and we had a very interesting meeting there with the Sultan. He responded with great keenness and very generously said to us, ‘I am with you, to plant and bring this idea to fruition,'" continued the Patriarch.

This idea is incarnate in a centre founded on Melkite Greek Catholic Church principles, starting with regard to its deep historical roots in Christian unity, then openness to others and finally, its membership of Arab civilisation and society.

Architect Elie Abou Hala designed the new centre and supervised its construction and interior furnishings. Officials from the Sultanate of Oman and its embassy in Lebanon, headed by His Highness Sayyid Haitham bin Tariq al Said, Minister of Heritage and Culture in the Sultanate of Oman, followed the work's progress from its earliest stages.

The three-dimensional architectural model of the building was designed along traditional lines, with details inspired by traditional features. Its interior design also takes into consideration ongoing and future technical challenges likely to be encountered. It is an architectural dialogue reflecting tradition and modernity in perfect harmony with its mission: the dialogue of civilisations.

The Meeting Centre comprises a Melkite library, church museum for the Melkite tradition, centre for Christian-Muslim research, theatre, conference room, reception hall, and furnished rooms to accommodate fifty persons. It is a centre whose objectives go beyond egoism and conflict to reach creative human solidarity. Its motto is, "Building bridges in a divided world."

In conclusion, His Beatitude says, "This is my gift from and to our Church, society, country and all Arab countries, to our Christian and Muslim brothers and sisters and to all those among them who are seeking to meet each other. As an Arabic saying goes, ‘two mountains cannot meet, only two humans can meet.'"


PPCrest

Speech at the Inauguration of the Liqaa Meeting Centre

Rabweh, Lebanon - 10 May 2011

In the name of Christ the Saviour, risen from the dead, we are inaugurating the Liqaa Meeting Centre for the dialogue of civilisations beside the Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarchate in Rabweh.

We are inaugurating this Liqaa Meeting Centre in your presence and under your patronage, Your Excellency, General Michel Sleiman, President of the Lebanese Republic. Your presence is the sign of your love for the Melkite Greek Catholic Church and of the very special concern you have for the spiritual and social values of dialogue in Lebanon, and your appreciation of the goals that the Liqaa Centre seeks to realise, as a place for the expression and development of those values.

The Liqaa Centre has taken as its object to be a local and international centre for dialogue between people in their religion, faith, civilisation, culture, industry, politics, thought, vision, outlook and perspectives of their whole life.

Though born today, it is in the very old, traditional line of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church, which has always been considered as a Church without borders, that makes every possible effort to build bridges in a divided world, through dialogue without frontiers – a religious, cultural dialogue that embraces the whole of civilisation.

Meeting has always been an object of very special concern to me. We were one of the first founders of the Al-Liqa Center in Jerusalem in 1983, together with its longstanding current Director, Dr. Geries Khoury, one of our faithful from Upper Galilee. We founded it together with a select group of Palestinian Christian and Muslim thinkers, university teachers. I was head of its board of trustees until my election as Patriarch in 2000. Palestine's Al-Liqa Center remains to this day its dialogue centre par excellence.

We chose the term Liqaa, wishing to express through this the essential goal of this institution: that of meeting, in the absolute sense. We call men and women to meet, without determining the aim or objective of the meeting. The meeting takes place within the bounds of human perspectives, whatever their scope or range.

Liqaa is a centre for meeting between God and man, through faith, religion and belief. It is a religious meeting, of Christian, Muslim and Jewish faith, and moreover, of meeting with all sorts of convictions, even outside those of church, synagogue or mosque. It is an encounter in the vast sanctuary or temple of the world, a meeting of people with one another in the world which is both God's and man's; limited by neither time nor place, nor confined to an East-West theme, nor to the civilisation and culture of our Eastern Arab world, nor to the cultural and intellectual ambiance of the Mediterranean basin nor even that of Europe and the West. In fact our Middle East was and still remains the road to the Far East. The world is the purview for our Liqaa Centre, which will be an open academic centre and a global platform. It is an intellectual, academic centre of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church in Arab countries, emigration countries and throughout the whole world and through this Church, a platform for everyone.

Allow me, Your Excellency, President of the Lebanese Republic, to say with pride that the Liqaa Centre is at the service of your thought and vision. In fact, it was you who launched the idea that Lebanon is the centre of meeting and dialogue of civilisations, from the highest global platform at the United Nations. In fact this Liqaa Centre is at the service of your congresses for implementation of your guidelines and for your dialogue programmes. Furthermore, we place the Liqaa Centre at the service of Lebanon's mission, which is itself the mission. In fact we can say that Lebanon itself is essentially and entirely a dialogue centre for the Arab world and for the whole world.

Your Excellency, President of the Republic, ladies and gentleman, my brothers and sisters, this great association, this Liqaa Centre, would not have seen the light of day, without the generosity of a great person, who has a broad, humane vision, a man of immense horizons, with an enlightened mind and large heart, engaged in dialogue and government, a wise leader, open to his people and citizens and to the Arab world and indeed the whole world: I mean the great Sultan Qaboos, Sultan of Oman, may God, in his protection and concern, preserve him.

It is thanks to the generosity of His Majesty and his hand, heart and mind that this Liqaa Centre was able to be built. Moreover a unique project has been realised in this way, a joint project between the Sultanate of Oman and the Melkite Greek Catholic Church. It is a project of charity, of love, that links the Patriarchate to the Sultanate of Oman, and the Patriarch and the Sultan. It is a project built through the stones of that love. The stone building was completed with God's blessing and the generosity of the Sultan's gift. There still remains the joint project between the Patriarchate and the Sultanate and its representatives, a continuation through the Liqaa Centre's projects, congresses, perspectives, spirituality and vision. This link between the Patriarchate and the Sultanate will be recorded in letters of gold in the registers of the Patriarchate's history and the memories of its generations to come. Here too, prayers and invocations will be continually raised in the church of Our Lady of the Annunciation, the Virgin Mary whom, as the Qur'an says1, "God chose and purified, chosen above all women of the nations." The Virgin Mary, our Lady of the Annunciation, who is the patron of this new church that overlooks the Liqaa Centre and that will be inaugurated very soon, will be the protector of His Majesty, the Sultan, his collaborators and all his people. She will bless him and all those who have worked and will continue to work in this centre, and all those who will benefit from the services of this centre.

The church of Our Lady of the Annunciation that we shall soon be inaugurating is linked to the mission of this Liqaa Centre. Indeed, the Feast of the Annunciation to the Virgin Mary was declared a national religious holiday for the whole of Lebanon and for all Lebanese citizens, both Christian and Muslim. It is a feast of dialogue, and in its Greek expression evangelismos, an announcement of beautiful, joyful news.

So from this Church of the Annunciation and this Liqaa Centre will be continually propagated pleasant news to people, to every person in the whole world, both in Lebanon and in the Sultanate of Oman. The venerable Qur'an says, "We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know each other,"2 and Saint John, the Beloved Disciple and Evangelist says, "The Word was made flesh and dwelt (set up his tent) among us3," and in these two venerated verses we find a summary of the Liqaa Centre's programme – a programme of politics, culture, industry and sociology.

God, may his name be praised, founded the first liqaa centre by creating man in his image and likeness, and by becoming incarnate he called the world, its people, humanity to meeting with him and his love. He called them to love and he made this love the condition for following him and the foundation of his commandments and the holy teachings of his Gospel. In fact, he said, "By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.4"

"For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace.5"

I would like to give hearty thanks to the basic team who accompanied the realisation of this unique dream: bringing this dream to the attention of His Majesty, Sultan Qaboos, preparing the architectural plans and following all the stages of its realisation. This team comprises: Rev. Dr. Michel Sabee, Head of our Patriarchal College in Beirut, who was the contact messenger, bringing this dream of the Patriarch to His Majesty the Sultan; then there is the Patriarchate's Economos, Rev. Economos Elie Shatawi, who undertook the supervision of the project on the spot; the architect, Mr. Elie Abou Hala and his wife Rosi, who expended all their experience, art, enthusiasm and faithfulness to make this Centre our Patriarchate's finest realisation. Our thanks also go to the engineers and workers who have worked generously, for the excellent quality of their work. We give our blessing to the centre's leadership team who will be working for the centre's aims. We wish them success! May the bountiful Saviour amply reward them!

Your Excellency, President of the Republic, my brothers and sisters, here is your centre, ready to welcome you and to host your activities. We hope that you will support this centre by all means, spiritual and material, at your disposal and through your thoughts and proposals, and also by finding sponsors for its congresses and activities. So the Liqaa Centre will be able to realise those projects through the blessing of the Saviour and through your work and fellowship.

To you all, my friendship and blessing,Signature

Patriarch of Antioch and All the EastM

of Alexandria and of Jerusalem

Translation from French: V. Chamberlain

 
Patriarch Gregory sitting on a chair on a porch

In view of the tragically difficult times that the whole Middle East, and especially Syria, is going through, H. B. Patriarch Gregorios III wrote a letter on 20 April 2011 to Western leaders, asking them to help boost social and political evolution in the region. He stressed that the current revolutions are unlikely to benefit Christians, and may even result in more Christians being obliged to flee the unrest. He believes that Western support for peace is very important for Muslim-Christian living together in the Arab region, for the Christian presence there, for the communion and witness of its Churches to be maintained and for the aims of the recent Special Assembly for the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops to be fulfilled. - V. C.

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

Letter to Heads of State

Damascus, 20 April 2011

In the current tragic situation of my country, Syria, I am writing to you once more, Your Majesty (Your Excellency).

During my meeting on 22 March of this year with some Ambassadors at the Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarchate, one or two of them asked me to write to you, and through you to the world, in the name of Syria's Christians and Muslims too.

Few television channels and media are making the link between the revolutions in the Arab world and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This conflict, in my opinion, has a great impact on these bloody revolutions arising as if by magic in various countries, including my homeland of Syria, where my Patriarchal Residence is situated, in the holy, historic quarter of Saint Paul. This is also the seat of my two colleagues, the Greek Orthodox and Syriac Orthodox Patriarchs, as well as of Archbishops and Bishops of the Orthodox and Catholic Armenian, Syriac Catholic, Maronite and Latin Churches, and of Protestant leaders.

Damascus is one of the most important cities in terms of Christian presence in the Arab world. Syria is also the most significant country for its Christian presence in a Muslim majority country, but which is a model of faithful and open secularism, as I affirmed before the Ambassadors on 22 March 2011.

I repeat what I said to the Ambassadors on 22 March in the Patriarchate, at the beginning of the events in Syria, and which is contained in the report issued after this meeting.

Here is the most important passage:

"If this [Israeli-Palestinian] conflict is not resolved, there is great danger for this Christian presence, threatened by demographic (lower birth rate) and political factors, particularly as a result of tensions weighing on the small Christian communities: hence the importance of peace, especially for the countries of the Middle East and particularly for Syria, where all the country's inhabitants really do live together."

One Ambassador "emphasised that the country's Christians, and the Patriarch, through his influence, should make Syria's importance better known, in the context of the current unrest; and he supported the wish, voiced by the Patriarch, for the international media not to adopt a hostile tone towards Syria but rather help Syria to surmount and move beyond this turmoil in order to safeguard its pattern of living together."

I expressed the same thing in a letter I wrote to several Heads of State of Europe and the Americas. Here is the most important passage of this letter:

"If you wish there still to be Christians in the Middle East, in the Holy Land, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Iraq, Egypt and the countries of the Gulf, help us to make peace and stop the Israeli settlements on the West Bank, recognized in international law as Palestinian land!

Christians, from lay-people to Patriarchs, together with Muslims in Arab countries are wondering why sanctions can be imposed upon a number of countries such as Syria, Iraq, and Iran, but never any that affect Israel.

Such a state of affairs feeds fundamentalism and extremism and in turn rebounds upon us Christians, especially in Iraq and Egypt."

This seems even more valid than ever, today in the present state of affairs of the situation in Syria and elsewhere in the Arab world.

Moreover, I would like to add an argument, the fruit of my knowledge and experience of the Arab world in Lebanon, Syria, Palestine, Israel, Egypt and Jordan.

Our Arab countries are not ready for revolutions, and not even for democracy of the European kind and model. That is due to their social, religious, demographic structures and their very multifaceted plurality. It is for these reasons that I am asking the West not to encourage revolutions unconditionally here and there in the Arab world. But rather Arab Heads of State should be invited and encouraged to develop democratic structures, freedom, respect for human rights, including those of women and children; and be supported in promoting systems of medical and social welfare, housing etc…

With this support, they can give real, tangible content to a programme that could be demanded from Arab countries' leaders.

This is the comment that I heard from an ambassador of a large, very conservative, Arab country. He told me: "What we need in our Arab world is evolution, not revolution."

What is the outlook after the revolutions?

That is why I am once more launching an appeal to our friends, the Heads of State, especially of the European Union, the Americas and elsewhere. Ask the Heads of State of Arab countries to work for real development and demand a clear, bold plan! But don't encourage revolutions!

Already, the situation has deteriorated into organised crime, robbery, fear, terror being spread, rumours of threats to churches; victims, including the forces of law and order and others, are being mutilated... All this creates trauma.

This did not happen in Egypt.

Fundamentalist groups are threatening citizens and wanting to create "Islamic Emirates." Now the government has reacted positively to the demands and demonstrations, on the political and social level.

I tell you this frankly as a Christian citizen and as Patriarch, a pastor and leader highly conscious of his responsibility: what I am asking has great influence on Muslim-Christian living together and dialogue, mutual respect and so forth.

Christians especially are very fragile in the face of crises and bloody revolutions! Christians will be the first victims of these revolutions, especially in Syria. A new wave of emigration will follow immediately. We have experience of that. In Lebanon, after the war in South Lebanon of 2006 and between 2006 and 2010, one million Lebanese emigrated.

Hence, Your Majesty (Excellency), this clear, frank, insistent, urgent appeal, springing from the heart of a pastor who is very committed as a Christian in society: an appeal based on our Christian faith! We Christians wish to be agents for peace! This appeal is based on our frank, sincere citizenship, our faithfulness to our homelands, our loyalty to our leaders, our sincere, indiscriminate love to our Sunni and Shi'a Muslim, Druze, Kurdish and Christian fellow-citizens.

This appeal is based on our great concern for national unity in every country, on our faith and conviction that the future lies in dialogue, fellowship, development of minds, citizenship training and not in revolutions, blood, violence, chaos and often armed, fundamentalist disorder; the Iraq experiment cost a great deal to Iraqis, especially to the little flock of Christians in that country, and to its unity.

What we need is:

  • The solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the recognition of the State of Palestine
  • General just and lasting peace
  • Stability and security
  • Social development

Help us, you Heads of State and governments, especially of Europe and the Americas. Help us!

I hope that all of you will hear this alarm call from an Arab Patriarch, who is open and sincere to God and his country, loving all citizens, and these Arab countries, which are our homelands, as Christians and Arabs. We constitute in these countries the Church of the Arabs, and even of Islam: a Church in solidarity with the Arab world and for this Muslim majority society. We want to stay here, in our Arab countries, which are the cradle of Christianity, and as our Master, Saviour and Lord Jesus Christ taught us, we want to be the light, salt and leaven in the lump of our world, and with and for this world.

Thank you! Excuse the length of this letter! I found it absolutely necessary and imperative to write this letter and make this presentation.

Thank you for your kind reception of this letter. I am praying for you and for your countries!

Sincerely yours,

Gregorios IIISignature

Patriarch of Antioch and All the East,

of Alexandria and of Jerusalem

Translation from French: V. Chamberlain


 
Patriarch Gregorious standing on a green lawn with background of building arches

Happy Feast of Pascha 2011

Way of the Cross: way of Resurrection

Once again this year all our Churches of East and West are together celebrating the Resurrection of our Lord God and Saviour. We shall do all in our power to continue to celebrate together in the years to come as a testimony of our common faith!

Our Arab world is still walking along the way of the cross in several of our countries. We are especially anxious about the situation in Syria, where our patriarchal see is situated.

We are praying and asking all our friends to pray for peace, security, national unity and calming of minds. May our government be able to cope with this situation calmly, firmly and successfully.

Thank you for your good wishes for the feast.

We wish you and all our dear friends an abundance of earthly and heavenly blessings! May Christ arise in our world, our hearts and our societies, and in our Eastern Churches, so we may continue our mission in "Communion and Witness."

Happy and Holy Feast !

Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!

+ Gregorios III

Patriarch of Antioch and All the East,

Of Alexandria and of Jerusalem

 

The Arab World's Way of the Cross towards Resurrection

Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!

To all of you, dear brothers and sisters,

your Graces the bishops,

Superiors General, Mothers General,

priests, deacons, monks, nuns

and all the sons and daughters of our Melkite Greek Catholic parishes

in Arab countries, the countries of emigration and throughout the world,

best wishes for

the Feast of the Resurrection of our Lord God and Saviour Jesus Christ,

who is Hope and bears the hopes of us all.

Patriarch Gregorious standing on a green lawn with background of building arches

This spiritual meditation, entitled The Arab World's Way of the Cross towards Resurrection is for you. Through this letter, I am trying to shed a little light from the Resurrection and awareness of the most sublime Resurrection on the situation of our Arab countries, so that their ways of the cross may lead them to the joys and hopes of the Resurrection.

The Way of the Cross, a way to Resurrection

So we may sum up the time of Great and Holy Lent: that is indicated in our liturgical services as early as the first day of the Fast, called Monday of the Monk, where we read, "Let us begin the all-venerable season of fasting with joy, shining radiantly with the holy commandments of Christ our God, with the brightness of love, with the splendour of prayer, with the purity of holiness, and with the virtue of courage; so that, clothed in garments of light, we may hasten to the holy and third-day Resurrection, that illumines the world with the glory of eternal life." (Kathisma Tone 2, Orthros of the First Monday in Lent)

The Arab World's Way of the Cross

The Arab world's way of the cross began around the first months of 2011. This is what Jesus Christ told us: "Ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars...For nation shall rise against nation and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. All these are the beginning of sorrows." (Matthew 24: 6-8)

This is a way of the cross, along which are walking with difficulty over 350 million inhabitants of the Arab world, starting with the Arab Maghreb, across North Africa, Tunisia and Libya, passing through Egypt and the Arabian Peninsula, the countries of the Gulf, Bahrain and Yemen to continue the circle towards Lebanon, Jordan and Syria. As in Jerusalem, there is a way of the cross going along different axes from north to east, and east to west of Jerusalem and so our Arab countries are transformed into a great city called Jerusalem, where there is a garden of olive-trees, the place of our Lord Jesus Christ's agony, the way of his Passion, Golgotha and Resurrection. Moreover, this way of the cross of Jerusalem is stretching out, so that the roads of the Arab world and a large number of these very beautiful and elegant places, have become a great way of the cross, of suffering, a bloody, sad Golgotha, where very many victims can be seen, weeping before or groaning under the cross, wounded, widows, orphans, wandering folk, each of whom is wounded in the heart, conscience and body. And voices are being raised, that are quite revolutionary and threatening. There are hands raised, not for prayer, but for vengeance, brandishing weapons for reprisal, revenge and destruction. People are afraid, they are leaving their country, their home: they are fleeing, frightened, wandering without shelter and without any way out, from one country to another that accepts or rejects them, spending the night in the open air on the borders of neighbouring countries.

That is the spectacle that hundreds of television crews are striving to film, magnifying and exploiting it. Millions of people are glued to their screens – men and women both young and old, teenage boys and girls, and little children - and learning these revolutionary shouts from television and enthusiastically and cheerfully repeating them.

We have been talking of Palestine's cross, Jerusalem, Golgotha and passion for over sixty years now. Today, the whole Arab world is walking along this way of the cross that is much bloodier than Palestine's and the Palestinians' way of the cross: blood is flowing, folk are dying, hungry. The Arab world, this world, so rich in resources, especially oil, is hungry, hungry for the bread of freedom and dignity and for the bread of a worthy life; folk are adrift in their own homeland. In the face of a revolution that is leaving in its wake chaos, looting, theft, fear and loss, God alone knows whither this revolution will lead our Arab world that is wandering without knowing what the eventual outcome will be.

On television screens, many politicians, sociologists, trade experts, are trying to analyse, endeavouring to explain these revolutions invading our region and find out the reasons for them. Are they instigated abroad, at home, from Israel, or America, from colonisation or occupation, through political, commercial or economic ambitions or interests?

Human dignity

Faced with these attempts to analyse the reality of the Arab revolution and the reasons for it, I remember a phrase of the Holy Father, Benedict XVI, in his message for the World Day of Peace 2009, in which he said, "Every form of externally imposed poverty has at its root a lack of respect for the transcendent dignity of the human person. When man is not considered within the total context of his vocation, and when the demands of a true ‘human ecology' are not respected, the cruel forces of poverty are unleashed." (Message for the Celebration of the World Day of Peace, 2009, N°. 2)

In this sense, I gave a sermon on the Feast of the Annunciation on 24 March, 2011, in the Convent of the Soarite nuns, wishing to show the greatness of the Incarnation of Jesus in the womb of the Virgin Mary. For, when he took a body just like ours, he wished thereby to show the dignity of the human body, and bear the dignity of man, whom God created in his image and likeness, as we read in Genesis, concerning man's creation by God.

What great need our world has of understanding the dignity of the body and the dignity of God! Man's dignity, as God respected it and created him in his image and likeness, with his freedom, value, development and education.

Our world today, the Arab world in particular since the beginning of this year is in revolution for human dignity, the dignity of man, his freedom and value.

God's dignity, respect for him and respect for his divine image are linked to respect for the image of man. There can be no respect for God without respect for man, as Saint John said, "If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?" (1 John 4: 20) That is one of the reasons for wars and revolutions throughout the whole world.

The Feast of the Annunciation is the Feast of the Entry of God into human history and life through Mary and her blood. He is called Emmanuel, God with us, and when man rejects God, or distances Him from his life, man's whole life is degraded, shaken and disfigured. An Arab proverb says, "Be with God and be not afraid," and on the other hand, when man removes God from his thoughts, conduct, ethics, politics, economics, social life, family, job, work, he lands in trouble, loss, error, anxiety, despair, and allows jealousy, dictatorship, violence, terrorism and fundamentalism into his heart. Those things become his programme instead of the commandments of God, his principles of faith, and his religious values, and that is the tragedy of our world. This tragedy invades with a destructive power like a tsunami, due to the fact of the removal of God from man's life.

Let us take down poor people from the cross and let the Arab world be taken down from the cross

In my letter for Lent, 2009, I wrote:

With trust and humility, I would like in this Lenten Letter to launch the slogan, "No more poor people after today in the Arab world," and call upon everyone to work to realise, at least in part, this motto in our Melkite Greek Catholic Church1 – everyone contributing according to his ability and circumstances. I am calling for us to realise this through sustained solidarity and mutual help in our Arab world, where there are plentiful resources, such as oil. Let oil be a weapon against poverty, sickness and disasters! May it accompany the way of the cross in our Arab world and take down poor, sick, suffering and disappointed Arab people from their cross - and lead them to the heights of resurrection.

This is an appeal that I am making to my Church and launching in the Arab world, which I love. I would like to be the apostle and servant of this motto, so as to bring this appeal to fruition. I am calling upon each Arab governor and every wealthy businessman or woman, hoping that my call will be heard.

I am also ready to be the itinerant apostle of that motto, making my way through the Arab world and spreading that slogan, "No more poverty, no more poor folk in the Arab world."

Besides, I think there is a divine call for us Christians and Muslims to draw upon our common faith values: we find an echo of it in our holy books. It is a call that unites us all around "a common word" (Aal ‘Imran 3:64) 2and a common action, so that God may walk with us and we may walk together with our peoples, our citizens, along the way of their cross and Golgotha, and help to take them down from their cross. ("I am crucified with Christ,"Letter for Great and Holy Lent 2009)

Man's true bread

Man is hungry and thirsty for God. He needs the values of holy faith, of the word of God, as Scripture says, "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God." (Matthew 4: 4; Deuteronomy 8: 3)

What our society needs to repair, heal, rebuild, renew, develop and raise it from its fallen state to real resurrection, beauty, transfiguration, radiance and purity, is God.

Man feeds first on the word of God, but he also needs material bread, just as he needs the bread of life. That means, being taught (in schools and universities), medicine, a job, a profession, health insurance, and social security for life, for the future, for old age or disability. People need a good environment that is healthy and clean in beautiful, natural surroundings, if they are to feel at ease socially, relax and enjoy themselves.

That is man's true bread. These are conditions indispensible to his dignity. Opportunities also have to be found for people to rise, excel, specialise, give, be productive and serve their country. They must also be able to be in relation with their fellow-citizens, in fellowship with them, understand them and co-operate with them for a better world. So they will be able to enjoy freedom, dignity, security, assurance and stability. They will look towards broad horizons of hope, love, universal brotherhood, freedom of conscience, faith and specific identity.

It is really to resurrection from the dead that the Arab world's way of the cross, the way of these demonstrations and displays, must lead. Resurrection must be the fruit of its sufferings, blood, thirst, hunger, wounds and many victims.

The Church's role

Our Churches and religious congregations must continue their way of ecclesial and national faith, developing their worship, and educational, cultural, health, youth and social services. Churches ought to take part in the resurrection of Arab countries and contribute to the social, national, political and economic project in all our homelands, where we have among our faithful, businessmen, politicians and economists.

We must redouble our efforts, beginning with the propositions and conclusion of the Special Assembly for the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops, held in Rome in October, 2010.

I have circulated to everyone a five-year plan, containing a bunch of thoughts, projects, works and initiatives that can help our churches participate in the service of development of our societies and homelands. We exhort everyone to study this five-year plan and put forward suitable proposals for furthering it. We hope to be able to deal with this five-year plan in our synod to be held at our patriarchal residence at Ain Traz in June 2011. We are counting very much on this work in order to accompany the development of our countries and further support our presence, communion, witness and mission to our countries and to all our citizens whom we love.

With His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI, in his Message for the Celebration of the World Day of Peace 2009, (cited above) we say that the Christian community is "faithful to this summons from the Lord," and "will never fail, then, to assure the entire human family of her support through gestures of creative solidarity, not only by giving from one's surplus, but above all by a change of life-styles, of models of production and consumption, and of the established structures of power which today govern societies." (N°. 15)

Unity of the Arab world

We should like the League of Arab States and the Organisation of the Islamic Conference to be able really to deal with this state of revolution in the Arab world by developing together a new programme for a new Arab Middle East: a really new programme, that we, not others, will set out, containing the conditions for a worthy life for all Arab citizens, Christian and Muslim, in this Middle East, cradle of religions, cultures and civilisations.

The unity of the Arab world is an important condition for coping with the serious development of these popular revolutions, or intifada.

If Arab countries do not manage to resolve together, univocally, these tragic, bloody developments, with wisdom, prudence, sense of responsibility, openness and a really clear plan that is transparent and sincere, the future of the Arab world looks very dark for all of us. No Arab country can be outside the evolution of this revolution.

Today more than ever, and not tomorrow, we need a sense of awakening, counsel, and a joint Arab social plan. Today, more than ever, we need a vision of an Arab Muslim-Christian future with immense horizons. Otherwise, our Arab world, with its various denominations of Muslim and Christian citizens, is liable to dislocation and division. This Arab world will crumble into isolated confessional statelets, fighting and hating one another.

Peace: the key to the future

On the other hand, it should be said that there exists a very significant element for realising all these hopes: peace. The Arab world cannot realise the hopes of Arab nations, especially those of young people, for freedom and democracy, if it does not work very seriously, with the mutual help of the West, to bring about just and lasting peace in the Holy Land, Palestine. Strength is needed for victory and that comes from unity and love among Arab countries. Unity will never be defeated and love will never fail or be disappointed.

A dream: an Arab Muslim-Christian spiritual summit

Perhaps I am being naive, a dreamer or idealist, if I dare to put forward an idea or project for holding an Arab Muslim-Christian spiritual summit? This is a call for a joint plan, for our Arab world to be enriched and inspired by the values of our Islamic and Christian faith, so that life can be better for all our citizens. I place this thought and dream in the hearts, minds, prayers and dreams of all the men and women who read this letter. God will grant our dreams to bear fruits of faith, love and hope.

Call to prayer

Dear brothers and sisters,

This year the Christian world of East and West, all our Churches are celebrating the Feast of the Resurrection together on the same day. We hope to be able to continue to celebrate together the greatest feast of the Christian faith.

We are living through difficult times, walking together with our Arab brothers and sisters along the way of the cross and passion, such as the Arab world has never known in its history. We call upon you to raise fervent prayers, especially during Holy Week, that we call Passion Week, for all those who have fallen, the victims of these bloody revolutions, for the afflicted, bereaved, injured in hospital, refugees, those who have fled the horrors of revolution; for children, students who cannot continue their university studies and even perhaps who are losing their future, those who are living in a climate of fear, violence, revenge, revolution, hatred and aggression. All that will surely have a great influence on their manners, characters, personalities, and their lives of faith and citizenship, and their social, political and environmental life.

We shall pray in our churches, monasteries, parishes, homes and in the intimacy of our families for our dear, suffering Arab world and for the whole world, for more fellowship, love and unity. We shall pray for the army, the security services, and the police that God may give them wisdom, prudence and sagacity to take suitable steps in these tragic situations. We shall pray especially for our governments, kings, presidents and all those who bear responsibility in our countries. We shall also pray that they respond to the demands, requests, hopes, sufferings, longings and needs of all their citizens; that they endeavour to establish a social and political programme, and so contribute to ensuring a worthy life for all citizens of their countries.

Our Arab world! You have a resurrection

Saint John the Evangelist brings us the miracle of the resurrection of Lazarus, friend of Jesus. Jesus speaks to Martha, Lazarus' sister, saying, "Thy brother shall rise again." (John 11: 23)

We say the same to every faithful person, to everyone, "You have a resurrection!" We tell our dear Arab world, "You have a resurrection too." We call on our governments in our dear Arab countries to work seriously, with dedication, sincerity, veracity and without delay on a clear plan to build a better future for their peoples, so that they will be able to say to their nations, "You have a resurrection. You, citizen, will arise. You will hold your head high. You are worthy in the Lord's eyes and in your homeland. You have a resurrection."

We hope that the joys of the Resurrection of our Lord God and Saviour Jesus Christ, will invade our Arab world and that all our dear citizens, both Christian and Muslim, will then be able to rejoice together, as we suffer together! And as we walk together on the way of the passion and cross, we shall walk together on the roads of the joyful resurrection.

Resurrection Hymns!

In the cadences of the Resurrection hymns, we should like to bring this joy, hope, gladness, to the hearts of all men and women, driving out from among us fear, distress and anxiety! And with the hymns of the Paschal Canon of Saint John of Damascus, son of Syria, we continue to sing throughout the whole world,

This is the day of Resurrection, let us be radiant, O ye peoples: Pascha, the Lord's Pascha; for Christ God hath brought us from death to life, and from earth unto Heaven as we sing the triumphal hymn. (First Ode)

We also sing:

Yesterday I was buried with thee, O Christ. Today I arise with thee in thy resurrection. Yesterday I was crucified with Thee: Glorify me with thee, O Saviour, in thy kingdom. (Third Ode)

We turn to our Mother, the Mother of God who accompanied her Son on the way of the cross, the Via Dolorosa! She accompanies us on the way of the cross and passion! With her, we rejoice on the day of her Son's Resurrection, which is our resurrection and that of our homelands and all our fellow-citizens.

We shall sing with faith, hope, love, trust, strengthening one another, in fellowship with one another, loving each other, in our Churches, homelands, and societies, with all our fellow-citizens (Christian and Muslim, men and women) where we shall be able to sing the hymn of the Resurrection and Life,

"Christ is risen from the dead! trampling down death by death, and to those in the tombs he has given life."

With my affection and blessing,

Gregorios III

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

Translation from French: V. Chamberlain

1 Cf. Patriarchal Christmas Letter Poverty and Development XII 2003

2 See the website http://www.acommonword.com/index.php?lang=en

3http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/speeches/2001/documents/hf_jp-ii_spe_20010507_prayer-peace_en.html

 

Speech of His Beatitude, Patriarch Gregorios III

Of Antioch and All the East, of Alexandria and of Jerusalem

During the Meeting of the Holy Synod of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church

Held after the consecration of the new Major Archbishop of Kyiv-Halych of Ukraine,

H. B. Sviatoslav (Shevchuk)

Kiev, Ukraine - March 28, 2011

Patriarch Gregory sitting on a chair on a porch

Speech of His Beatitude, Patriarch Gregorios III

Let us give thanks to the Lord for the new Major Archbishop, Sviatoslav of the Church of Christ in Ukraine. I refer once more to the substance of my speech during the enthronement of the new Head and Father of this Greek Catholic Church.

Thank you for the invitation to join you at this meeting of your Holy Synod.

We shall continue and intensify the relations between our Churches.

To that end I propose the formation of a joint theological and ecumenical commission of our two Churches.

At the next meeting of the Council of Eastern Catholic Patriarchs (which will be held in Iraq from 14 to 18 November, 2011) I undertake to put forward a proposal to formulate a joint motion, requesting the Holy See to raise the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church to the rank and title of Patriarchate.

Here and now I invite Your Beatitude, dear brother Sviatoslav, to the inauguration of our big Liqa'a cultural centre at Rabweh in Lebanon on 10 May, 2011.

I hope to organise an international Greek Catholic symposium in this Al-Liqa'a centre, under the auspices of both our Churches and our future joint theological and ecumenical commission.

I place these reflections, remarks and this ecclesial vision at the foot of the Cross that we have just venerated here in your Cathedral of the Resurrection on this Third Sunday of Great and Holy Lent, and under the protection of the Theotokos, Mary, our Mother and Protector of our Churches.

Thank you,

Gregorios III

Patriarch

Translation from French V. Chamberlain

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