Melkite Greek Catholic Church
 

Greetings of H. B. Gregorios III

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

for the enthronement of the new Major Archbishop

of Kyiv-Halyč of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church

H.B. Sviatoslav (Shevchuk)

Kiev, Ukraine - March 27, 2011

Patriarch Gregory sitting on a chair on a porch

Prot. 173/2011D Damascus, March 23, 2011

Your Beatitude, Major Archbishop of Kyiv-Halyč of Ukraine!

Blessed be the new Pastor whom the Holy Spirit has given to the Church of Christ in this holy land of Ukraine!

Dear brother, Sviatoslav, I have the joy and honour of offering you, Your Beatitude, my fraternal good wishes on the occasion of your consecration as Major Archbishop, Head and Father of the beloved sister Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church.

I offer you these good wishes in my own name and in that of the Holy Synod of our Melkite Greek Catholic Church of Antioch and All the East, of Alexandria and Jerusalem. With me on this auspicious occasion, are two bishops from our Holy Synod (Archbishop Michael Abras and Metropolitan Emeritus John Haddad) and our Patriarchate's Economos General, the Secretary of the Liturgical Commission, Rev. Fr. Elias Shatawi.

Today these greetings and good wishes reach you, through us, from Jerusalem, the Mother Church of all Churches, and from the Holy Land, where our Lord Jesus Christ was born and from the Middle East, cradle of Christianity.

I greet you in the name of the Church of the East, Church of the Arabs, and in the name of my colleagues, the Patriarchs of the Eastern Churches, who constitute the Council of Eastern Catholic Patriarchs.

Personally, I am very happy at how the ecclesial, brotherly communion between our two (Ukrainian Greek Catholic and Melkite Greek Catholic) Churches has developed, largely due to a long-standing friendship (of more than twenty years) with our dear brother and friend, His Most Eminent Beatitude Cardinal Lubomyr Husar, that great hero of the Christian East, its tradition, heritage and ecumenical mission! He will always be known as a Father of this Church of yours and a great defender of the ecumenical mission of the Eastern Catholic Churches, that are in full communion with the Church of Rome that presides in charity and with the Holy Father, Benedict XVI, (who showed his love for the Christian East by holding the Special Assembly for the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops), while remaining faithful to the Eastern tradition and maintaining cordial relations with the Orthodox Churches that are our sisters, ever present in all ecumenical work.

We have come to strengthen our brotherly communion with this Church that we love and respect, through you, dear brother, Your Beatitude, Sviatoslav! I think that the Melkite Greek Catholic Church and the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church are both called to play a very significant role in ecumenical work, since they are the two largest Churches of the Byzantine rite (Greek and Slavonic) in communion with Rome.

We shall remain in contact with each other, since we ought to integrate our efforts for that greatest service to the Church and to the world, which is to realise Christ's prayer, "That they may be one...that the world may believe."

Axios! Eis polla eti, Sevasmiotate! Makariotate, mnohaya lita!

Gregorios III

Patriarch of Antioch and All the East

Of Alexandria and of Jerusalem

 

Visit to Ukraine of H. B. Gregorios III

Leading a delegation from the Melkite Greek Catholic Church

On the occasion of the consecration of H. B. Sviatoslav (Shevchuk)

New Major Archbishop of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church March 26-28, 2011

Patriarch's Remarks at the Enthronement

Patriarch's Speech during the Ukrainian Holy Synod

(External Blog Post about Major-Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk)


At daybreak on Saturday 26 March 2011, H. B. Gregorios III, Patriarch of Antioch and All the East, of Alexandria and of Jerusalem, left Beirut airport for Kiev, via Paris, accompanied by H.E. John Haddad, Metropolitan Emeritus of Tyre and H.E. Michel Abras, titular Archbishop of Myra and Bishop of the Patriarchal Curia and Rev. Fr. Elias Shatawi, the Patriarchate's Economos General and Secretary of the Liturgical Commission. His Beatitude and the accompanying delegation were going to Ukraine for the consecration of the new Major Archbishop of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, H.B. Sviatoslav (Shevchuk), successor to H.M.E.B. Cardinal Lubomyr (Husar), who retired in February for health reasons.

Having arrived at Kiev airport at noon on Saturday, His Beatitude and delegation were surprised and deeply touched to be met by H.M.E.B. Cardinal Lubomyr, who, despite his blindness, had wished personally to welcome our Patriarch. Also present were H.E. Mr. Youssef Sadaka, the Lebanese ambassador, Mr. Akram Halabi, member of the Melkite Greek Catholic Upper Council in Lebanon, and Fr. Dn. Volodymyr Malchyn, Vice-Chancellor of the Major Archbishop's Curia, who accompanied us for the duration of our visit.

At the close of the welcome ceremony, the Melkite Greek Catholic delegation was invited to a fraternal dinner at the home of Major Archbishop Emeritus Lubomyr, before being accompanied to their hotel, arranged by Mr. Akram Halabi.

On Saturday evening, our Patriarch and the delegates toured the architectural treasures of Kiev: the wonderful Church of the Divine Wisdom (Aghia Sophia), dating from the eleventh century, and the adjacent metropolitan palace. Then they were invited by H.E. Ambassador Sadaka to dinner at the Coryphea restaurant in honour of His Beatitude. At the dinner, besides the three members of the patriarchal delegation, were the Syrian Ambassador, H. E. Mr. Mohamed Akil, three bishops of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church in Canada and the United States of America, and Mr. Riad Ibrahim (a Lebanese Greek Orthodox from Koura, the proprietor of the restaurant).

On Sunday, 27 March 2011, the third Sunday of Lent and the Veneration of the Precious and Life-Giving Cross, was an historic day for the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church.

The ceremony began at 10a.m. with a procession of 350 priests, sixty bishops, and our Patriarch and the Major Archbishop elect following, surrounded by deacons, to the still unfinished Cathedral of the Resurrection, whose five golden cupolas reflected the rays of the sun shining on the two thousand faithful present.

The Divine Liturgy lasted four hours, beginning with the enthronement of the new Major Archbishop, on whom several bishops in turn bestowed the archiepiscopal omophorion (embroidered with crosses and five stripes), the engolpion of the Panaghia, the crown or mitre, the ravdhos (T-shaped pastoral crosier) and the dikirion and trikirion, with which H. B. Sviatoslav blessed the faithful, facing the four compass-points. At the end of the celebration, H. B. Gregorios III gave a speech expressing his joy at the event. This Divine Liturgy, with its Slavonic chants, the strong, deep voice of the Protodeacon and the deep prostrations of the faithful transported us beyond time to the heavenly Divine Liturgy.

We were deeply touched by the great respect which the Ukrainians feel for our Church in general and our Patriarch in particular, as he was treated as guest of honour at this grandiose ceremony. This respect was shown especially by the liturgical commemoration of our Patriarch in the diaconal litanies and by the Major Archbishop himself.

Besides the outgoing Apostolic Nuncio, (recently appointed to the Russian Federation) Archbishop Ivan Jurković, several representatives of other Eastern Catholic Churches and Latin hierarchy, the highly symbolic presence of Orthodox bishops was remarked, including representatives of the Moscow Patriarchate and Patriarch Filaret, of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Patriarchate of Kyiv.

After the Divine Liturgy, our Patriarch and the accompanying delegation were invited to dinner in honour of the new Major Archbishop. H. B. Gregorios III then gave to his Ukrainian counterpart an epitrakhelion and an omophorion embroidered by Sister Photeine, an Orthodox nun from the Convent of the Presentation of Our Lady at Ashrafieh (near Beirut.)

After dinner, we were given a guided tour of the Great Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra, the Monastery of the Caves, which is the cradle of the spirituality of Rus. We were allowed to venerate the bodies, incorrupt for a thousand years, of the holy monks who were the pioneers of monastic life in this holy land.

Haydn's Oratorio The Seven Last Words of our Saviour on the Cross and dinner ended the festivities of this great day.

On Monday, 28 March at 9:30a.m., H.B. Gregorios III and the delegation from the Melkite Greek Catholic Church were the official guests of the Holy Synod of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, met for its closing session.

Our Patriarch was given the floor and he then gave a moving speech to the Synodal Fathers, who thanked him with a minute's applause. Their Beatitudes then exchanged symbolic presents: an antimension – sign of communion – from our Patriarch, and marvellously decorated Easter eggs from H. B. Sviatoslav.

Our Patriarch was given the floor and he then gave a moving speech to the Synodal Fathers, who thanked him with a minute's applause. Their Beatitudes then exchanged symbolic presents: an antimension – sign of communion – from our Patriarch, and marvellously decorated Easter eggs from H. B. Sviatoslav.

At the airport, the Lebanese Ambassador, H. E. Mr. Sadaka, bade our Patriarch and the delegation farewell, wishing us a safe return trip. At 12:30p.m., our plane left that land sanctified by the blood of old and new martyrs, and we brought back with us the memory of that holy Church in the hope of brotherly collaboration between our two Churches.

Rev. Fr. Economos Elias Shatawi

 
Meeting about the impact
on Arab Countries of the
Special Assembly for the Middle East
of the Synod of Bishops

Damascus

March 22, 2011

H.B. Patriarch Gregorios III's invitation to a lunch hour meeting on 22 March 2011 about the impact on Arab countries of the Synod of Catholic Bishops' Special Assembly for the Middle East was accepted by several ambassadors.

Participating were their Excellencies:

  • Archbishop Mario Zenari, Apostolic Nuncio of the Holy See;
  • Dr. Maria Kunz, Ambassador of Austria;
  • Mrs. Françoise Gustin, Ambassador of Belgium;
  • Mr. Mark Bailey, Ambassador of Canada;
  • Dr. Eric Chevallier, Ambassador of France;
  • Dr. Andreas Reinicke, Ambassador of Germany;
  • Mr. Achille Franco Luigi Amerio, Ambassador of Italy;
  • Mr. Rolf Willy Hansen, Ambassador of Norway;
  • Mr. Michał Murkociński, Ambassador of Poland;
  • Mr. Niklas Kebbon, Ambassador of Sweden;
  • Mr. Martin Aeschbacher, Ambassador of Switzerland;
  • as were Mrs. Sydma Aguiar Damasceno, First Secretary of the Brazilian Embassy and Mr. José María Davó Cabra, Secretary of the Spanish Embassy.

The Patriarch opened the meeting with a presentation on the Melkite Greek Catholic Church and the Christian presence in Syria which goes back to the time of Saints Ananias and Paul, immediately after Pentecost, and which occasioned President Bashar al Assad's remark that Syria is the cradle of Christianity, as the Church of Antioch was indeed the first after Jerusalem's to receive the message of Jesus.

The Patriarch went on to explain the meaning of the three names of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church:

  • Melkite was the name given by the opponents of the Council of Chalcedon (451) to the Byzantine Christians of the Patriarchates of Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem, a name adopted and made official by Arabs from the time of Saint Sophronios, Patriarch of Jerusalem
  • Greek (or Roman) since its original language was Greek, which gave way to Syriac and then Arabic; Greek is Rūm in Arabic, because the first members of the Church were subjects of the Roman Empire
  • Catholic, due to being in communion with Rome from 1724 onwards.

Thanks to this triple title, the ecumenical role of the Church can be seen both on the religious level and with regard to relations with Arab countries.

Then the Patriarch illustrated this role during the First Vatican Council (1869-1870), on the topic of papal infallibility: Patriarch Gregorios II sought to put forward an Orthodox perspective on this new doctrine. At the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965), one of the main members of Council speaking on collegiality was Patriarch Maximos IV. Recently, the Special Assembly for the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops (October 2010) emphasised the relation of the region's Christians with the Arab world. This Synodal Assembly could be said to have been for the Arab world and Islam in the Arab world.

As a member of that Assembly, Patriarch Gregorios III was very concerned to draw attention to this situation through writing two letters to Arab Heads of State before and after the sitting of the Synod, to explain its purpose and the propositions relating to Arab countries.

The Patriarch also gave a series of explanatory talks in Beirut, Saida and especially in Damascus, in the context of the International Congress held there on 15 December, 2010, organised in conjunction with the Syrian Ministry of the Awqaf (Islamic endowments), in order to show the impact of the Synodal Assembly on the Eastern Churches in Arab countries and with regard to the future of the Christian presence in the region.

Similarly, the Patriarch also wrote a letter to the Latin Cardinals, bishops and theologians who participated in the Synodal Assembly, and another to the Heads of State of several European and American countries, to tell them about the importance of the Christian presence and its preservation for the region and for the solution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. If this 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.

It is important for European and American countries to put pressure on Israelis and Palestinians to reach peace.

Certain European and American Heads of State had replied positively to the Patriarch's letter.

The Patriarch's talk was followed by a discussion and exchange of views. The French Ambassador, H.E. Dr. Eric Chevallier, 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.

The Ambassadors for their part, had also voiced the wish for a conference in the near future to make better known the situation of Syria's Christian Churches and were keen to affirm that the Syrian model of living together that they had observed, ought to be preserved and supported. They wanted the Patriarch to make his voice heard to that purpose.

The Patriarch was very grateful for that stance and in turn asked the Ambassadors to make this known to their governments. Rather than pursuing the way of discord, dissent and violence, leading to the clash of civilizations, dialogue between religions should continue to be fostered in order to build peace on strong foundations.

The Patriarch spoke to the media to ask them to immunise Syria against revolutionary contagion, as Syria, whilst realising that there still remains much to be done, has already given plenty of evidence of development, and since President Bashar al Assad is ready to go much further along the road that he has embarked upon, towards openness, greater freedom (of ideas and movement) and more employment opportunities.

The Patriarch spoke to the European countries represented in Damascus and asked them to lend their support to the Syrian model and allow the crisis, which has begun to penetrate Syria, to subside, so that this model which he characterised as "faithful, positive, democratic secularism" can be protected as a pattern for Syria's future and that of the Middle East as a region.

At the end of the meeting, the Patriarch led a brief tour of the Cathedral of the Dormition of the Virgin Mary, and then hosted a meal for his guests.

 
Icon of the prodigal son and the compassionate father

Letter of H. B. Gregorios III,

Patriarch of Antioch and All the East,

Of Alexandria and of Jerusalem,

for

Great and Holy Lent 2011

Damascus, 24 February 2011

Divine grace and apostolic blessing

To our brother bishops, members of the Holy Synod,

And to all the clergy and people,

Members of our Melkite Greek Catholic Church

In Arab countries and throughout the world!

It is a spiritual delight to speak to you through this short quadragesimal letter, to encourage the faithful clergy and people of our Church to observe the sacred rule of fasting.

In the rules of the Church I find a programme for these blessed days. This is a propitious occasion to remind ourselves of these rarely discussed rules, seven in number:

  1. Attend (or participate in) the Divine Liturgy on Sundays and appointed holy days
  2. Fast during Great Lent and other appointed times
  3. Observe abstinence on Wednesdays and Fridays
  4. Confess in the presence of a priest at least once a year
  5. Receive Holy Communion at least during Paschaltide
  6. Pay the tithe or tenth
  7. Abstain from getting married at seasons when it is disallowed.

It will be seen that these rules have a general character, although they are mostly linked to the Great forty-day Lent that precedes Pascha and to the other fasting seasons of the liturgical year (preceding the Nativity, the Apostles and the Dormition.)

As I do every year, I should like to refer to the Canon of Holy Lent, according to the ancient, original discipline as follows:

  • The days of fasting and abstinence are Wednesday and Friday of Meatfare Week before Cheesefare Week and Monday through Friday of the weeks of Great Lent and of Great and Holy Week, unless one of those days coincides with the Feast of the Annunciation (25 March)
  • Great and Holy Saturday is the only Saturday on which one must keep a fast. It is forbidden to fast on the other Saturdays of the year, because Saturday (Sabbath) is a holy day linked with the day of the Resurrection (Sunday)
  • Days of abstinence are for the whole time of Great Lent, including Sundays and during all of Holy Week, unless the Annunciation falls then, except for Palm Sunday, when fish may be eaten.
  • Abstinence is abstinence from meat and gravy, dairy products, eggs, milk, cheese and butter, whilst fish is permitted on some days: 25 March and Palm Sunday. Wine and oil are permitted on certain days.
  • Our Holy Synods have more than once dealt with the question of fasting and abstinence, especially between 1949-54. General guidance was given, above all, after Vatican II, that each local bishop organise the discipline of fasting and abstinence suitable to his eparchy.
  • Despite different dispensations which were put in place for different situations in life, the discipline of fasting according to the old, Eastern tradition remains firm and, thank God, fairly well practised in many monastic religious institutions, among the clergy and faithful.

The rules of the Church recall, besides Lent, other obligations. I exhort everyone to observe them, especially during Great Lent, as follows:

  1. Attend the Divine Liturgy on every Sunday of Lent.
  2. Confess and practise the sacrament of Penance, which seems to be disappearing from the spirituality and practice of our Christian life.
  3. Prepare for Holy Communion with fervour. In fact, Holy Communion is becoming something of an external, social observance, for one sees the faithful lining up, but without an appropriate inner preparation.
  4. Pay the tithe! We are aiming at the projected restoration of the practice of this rule, which has spiritual as well as social and humane aspects. Indeed, by observing this rule, we are practising charity to the poor, sick, sufferers, students, unemployed and anyone in need and penury. Besides, through the tithe, we support the social, cultural and health projects of our Church, parish and community. Further and above all, through the tithe, we put into practice the commandment of Our Lord, and all the spiritual and social values of the Gospel.

Dear brothers and sisters,

Through fasting, prayer, penitence, alms-giving, works of charity and mercy, we accompany the birth-pangs of several of our Arab countries, shaken from the beginning of this year (2011) by painful events. So we can help our people's way of the cross, sufferings and endurance to become the way of resurrection, through the realisation of social justice, rectitude in government, service for the well-being and development of Arab citizens and their spiritual, human and social progress in faith. In that way, those who govern and bear responsibility in our Arab countries, will put into practice what Jesus affirmed, describing the aim and goal of his Incarnation, Passion, Death and Resurrection, "I am come that they might have life, and might have it more abundantly." (John 10: 10)

The Word of God and fasting

When the tempter tested our Lord Jesus Christ, saying to him, "Command that these stones be made bread," Christ answered, "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God." (Matthew 4: 3-4)

That is why we encourage all our faithful to read the Word of God in Holy Scripture, especially during the time of Great Lent. That is what we read in Propositio 2 of the Special Assembly for the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops:

The Word of God is the soul and foundation of the Christian life and of all pastoral work; we hope that every family would own a Bible.

The synod fathers encourage daily reading of and meditation on the Word of God, especially "lectio divina," and the creation of a website about the Bible, including Catholic explanations and commentaries which are easily understood by the faithful. We would also like to see the preparation of an introductory booklet to the Bible, both Old and New Testaments, which could offer a simple way to help people read the Bible.

They also encourage eparchies and parishes to introduce and promote Bible studies in which the Word of God is meditated upon and explained in such a way as to answer the questions the people have, and help them to become more familiar with the Scriptures, deepening their spirituality and apostolic and missionary commitment.

Fasting together – celebrating Pascha together

Christians throughout the whole world celebrated Pascha together in 2010. We shall again celebrate the Feast of Feasts together in 2011. Everyone wishes to be able to celebrate the great Feast of the Resurrection together always.

It should be noted that the Synod for the Middle East dedicated Propositio 28 to inviting all Christians to work "for a common date for the celebrations of Christmas and Easter." Similarly, the Assembly of Catholic Patriarchs and Bishops of Lebanon has adopted this proposition of the Synod.

Syria is the next candidate for taking the decision to celebrate Pascha together. I ask especially our Christians of Syria to pray that Christ, risen and living in our Churches, may inspire our dear pastors to decide to celebrate together forever!

The Example of the Venerable Beshara Abu Mrad

We have the joy of proposing to one and all a magnificent monastic and priestly example for the blessed days of Great Lent, which is that of the Basilian Salvatorian monk, Father Beshara Abu Mrad, who has just been declared Venerable on 10 December, 2010. He is the example of fasting, prayer, mortification, ascesis and the practice of Christian virtues and the evangelical beatitudes.

A five-year plan

Lastly, we ask all our faithful, all our sons and daughters, to collaborate with their pastors, the bishops and priests, and their lay collaborators, to act upon the proposals of the Synod for the Middle East and to set up together a five-year plan to be submitted to our next Synod (June 2011) for our whole Patriarchal Church in Arab countries and throughout the world.

To everyone, I wish a Holy Lent!

With my love, my blessing and my prayer,

+ Gregorios III

Patriarch of Antioch and All the East,

Of Alexandria and of Jerusalem

V. C.

 

Feast of the Three Hierarchs

Sunday January 30, 2011

Patriarch Gregorios III meets Archbishop Ieronymos II of Athens and All Greece and Patriarch Gregorios III celebrates his Patronal Feast

Patriarch Gregorios III meets Archbishop Ieronymos II of Athens and All Greece

At the gracious invitation of Patriarch Ignatios IV

Patriarch Gregorios III attended the Divine Liturgy at the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of the Dormition in Damascus and lunch afterwards in honour of the visit of Archbishop Ieronymos II of Athens and All Greece. His Grace arrived in Syria to visit (from January 24-31) the sister Orthodox Church of Antioch as is customary for a recently elected (2008) hierarch, and in a spirit of ecumenical and interfaith friendship to cement the friendly relations between Syria, Lebanon and Greece and the Catholic and Orthodox Churches and Christians and Muslims in the Near East. His Beatitude was able to converse in German with Archbishop Ieronymos, who expressed admiration for the exemplary spirit of fraternity, amity and peace that he and his delegation had encountered in Syria.

Patriarch Gregorios III celebrates his patronal feast

Newly returned to Syria via Lebanon after his annual pastoral visit to Egypt, His Beatitude, assisted by the Patriarchal Vicar, Archbishop Joseph Absi, and twenty-five priests of the Patriarchate, celebrated the Divine Liturgy for the Feast of the Three Hierarchs on the evening of Sunday 30 January 2011 at the Cathedral of the Dormition of the Mother of God in Damascus. Representatives from the Greek Orthodox and Syrian Orthodox Antiochian patriarchates and bishops of different Orthodox and Catholic Churches in Damascus attended the celebration. The week before, His Beatitude had celebrated his patronal feast of Saint Gregory the Theologian in Cairo.

V. C.

 

After the Synod

Melkite Initiatives

Damascus

December 2010

After the Synod for the Middle East: Melkite initiatives

Having participated in the Special Assembly for the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops held at the Vatican from 10-24 October 2010, on the theme of The Catholic Church in the Middle East: Communion and Witness, H. B. Patriarch Gregorios III undertook a number of activities to publicise this event.

Patriarch Gregorios called this Synod for the Middle East "a great gift of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI to the Christian East, showing his special esteem for the Eastern Catholic Churches" and "an historic initiative."

Letter to Arab Heads of State

The Melkite Patriarch then undertook a series of post-synodal activities, through which he spoke to the Christian faithful. But he also wanted to challenge his Muslim brothers in Arab countries. He therefore wrote a letter (text here)to the Kings and Presidents of Arab countries before the Synodal Assembly (18 June 2010) and once it had been held (24 October 2010) (Text Here). He gave talks especially for Muslims in Beirut and Saida, Lebanon, and will be doing the same next month in Egypt (in Cairo and Alexandria) and in Jordan (Amman).

International Congress in Damascus

The biggest post-synodal event was the holding of an International Congress in Damascus, Syria, on 15 December 2010 entitled, The Impact of the Synod for the Middle East on Arab countries (Texts Here). This congress was organised jointly by the Syrian Ministry of the Awqaf and the Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarchate.

Attending the congress from about thirty countries were some three thousand persons, includi ng three Damascus based Patriarchs (Greek Orthodox, Syrian Orthodox and Melkite Greek Catholic) the Syrian Catholic Patriarch (from Lebanon), representatives of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the Patriarchates of Russia and Romania, the Orthodox Churches of Cyprus and Greece, the Holy Apostolic See of Rome (the Archbishop Secretary of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches), as well as the Apostolic Nuncio to Syria and about twenty-five members of Episcopates of thirteen Orthodox and Catholic Churches from Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, Armenia, Jordan, Iran and Israel.

On the Muslim side, as well as the Syrian Ministers of the Awqaf and of Information, and the Grand Mufti of Syria, many religious and political personalities from Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Oman, Libya and Iran attended, besides representatives of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC), Muslim-Christian dialogue centres and various Islamic institutions.

Christmas Plea for Peace to Western Heads of State

This week, Patriarch Gregorios III has written to Western leaders (Text Here) to apprise them of the Synod's importance with respect to three issues:

  1. The importance of the Christian presence in the Middle East and the challenges facing it
  2. Muslim-Christian dialogue
  3. The impact of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on the two preceding issues, and thus the urgent need for peace.

Patriarch Gregorios argues that if Western leaders "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," they should help with efforts towards peace and stopping Israeli settlements on the West Bank, recognized in international law as Palestinian land. He adds that Christians and Muslims are concerned about the apparent inequity of imposing sanctions on "Syria, Iraq, and Iran, but never any that affect Israel."

V. C.

 

Letter to Western Heads of State by

His Beatitude Patriarch Gregorios III

Damascus December 20, 2010

Protocol 577/2010D

Patriarch Gregory sitting on a chair on a porch

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

Prot. 577/2010D Damascus December 20, 2010:

To: Western Heads of State

Your Majesty/Your Excellency, (Mister President)

Please accept my respectful greetings, Your Majesty/ Your Excellency, (Mister President), firstly on the occasion of Christmas, as I wish you a blessed Feast of the Nativity of the Saviour of the world; our world which is, as the Liturgy has it, His world. May I also offer my best wishes for the New Year 2011 to Your Majesty/ Your Excellency, (to you, Mr. President) personally for your family and beloved country.

I should like to draw your attention, secondly, to the recent (10-24 October) holding of the Special Assembly for the Middle East of the Synod of Catholic Bishops, at the Vatican. You will readily understand the significance of this event, with regard to three aspects in particular:

  1. The importance of the Christian presence in the Middle East and the challenges facing it
  2. Muslim-Christian dialogue
  3. The impact of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on the two preceding issues, and thus the urgent need for peace.

In two recent letters addressed to the Kings and Presidents of Arab countries, I outlined this situation and the business of the above-mentioned Assembly and enclose with the present, a copy of that of 24 October, following the holding of the Synodal Assembly.

That explains why it appears to me all the more needful that I should address Heads of State in Western countries, to set out the importance of these aspects of vital urgency for the future of Christianity in the Holy Land and in Middle Eastern countries and for our living together and dialogue, as well as for the presence of Muslims in Western countries.

Since everything depends on peace and is linked to the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the Middle East's ongoing crises, fuelled by the rise of fundamentalism and emigration, are also bound up with this conflict.

That is why I am making this urgent appeal to you to work for peace, as His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI requested in his homily of 24 October, during the Closing Mass of the Special Assembly for the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops.

Two papers, illustrative of the urgency of the need for resolution, are also enclosed: one on The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: brave peace, the other on Jerusalem, capital of faith.

Three countries have just recognized the State of Palestine: Brazil, Argentina and Bolivia. It is expected that other Latin American countries will join them. Can the European Union continue to delay acting on its declared intention on the matter? Europe and the whole West are very important for us all in the Middle East.

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: the enclosed papers show that.

Thanking Your Majesty/Your Excellency, (you, Mister President) for your consideration of this letter and its accompanying papers, we hope that the year 2011 will bring good news, that is, the realisation of the wishes and hopes expressed in these lines.

With my esteem and blessing,

Gregorios IIISignature

Patriarch of Antioch and All the East,

of Alexandria and of Jerusalem


 
Happy Feast of Christmas 2010
The Eastern Catholic Churches - Communion and Witness
Gregorios III, Patriarch of Antioch andAll the East
Damascus, December 2010 Of Alexandria and of Jerusalem

The Special Assembly for the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops was a great historical event. We thank God and His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI for its being held.

This Synodal Assembly drafted a programme for us: communion and witness.

Our Eastern Catholic Churches are called to live an inner ecclesial communion with all the Churches of the Middle East, whose chief aim is to realise the Jesus' prayer, "That they all may be one...that the world may believe..." (John 17: 21)

These Churches are called to give witness to their Christian faith, especially in the Arab world, with its Muslim majority.

Peace is the great warranty for sustaining the life of communion and unity, for living Christian witness in the Arab world and for reducing or halting the increasing flow of emigration.

We ask our friends, our brothers and sisters receiving our Christmas good wishes, to pray for Eastern Christians, so that they remain living, believing stones, witnessing to the history and geography of salvation in this Christian East, cradle of Christianity.

We thank all our friends and benefactors who support our Churches, parishes and projects. We pray for them and we wish them abundance of grace from the Saviour, the New Child of the cave of Bethlehem.

We ask for the gift of peace: Lord, give us peace, for thou hast given us everything.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year 2011!

 
Black and White photograph of the Melkite Patriarch Gregorios seated

Activities of His Beatitude

News Briefs from the Patriarchate

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Tercentennial Celebrations at the Monastery of Holy Saviour, Lebanon And Feast of the Transfiguration

5-6 August, 2011

On 5 August, the eve of the Feast of the Transfiguration, a tercentennial celebration was held under the auspices of the President of the Lebanese Republic, Michel Sleiman, when H. B. Patriarch Gregorios III commemorated the founding of the Holy Saviour Monastery, Lebanon. There attended some fifteen bishops, representing different Christian Churches, the Superior General of the Basilian Salvatorian Order, Jean Faraj, several shayks, representing Druze, Sunni and Shi’ite Muslim communities, a number of ministerial representatives and parliamentary deputies and about fifteen hundred citizens of all religious communities.

After the celebration, a cedar tree was planted in the alley at the entrance to the monastery, with a commemorative plaque to mark the event.

The following day, 6 August, Feast of the Transfiguration, H. B. Patriarch Gregorios III celebrated the Divine Liturgy, and after a homily pronounced by Archim. Jean Faraj, His Beatitude also preached a sermon.

A large crowd of people from different towns and villages of Lebanon and Syria attended the festal service.

Visit of H.B. Patriarch Gregorios III to Slovakia

May 27-30, 2011

As Spiritual Protector of the Military and Hospitaller Order of St. Lazarus of Jerusalem, H.B. Patriarch Gregorios III was invited to Bratislava, Slovakia (27-30 May 2011.)

On 27 May he was welcomed by the Mayor of Bratislava, Dr. Milan Ftáčnik. He then gave a talk: the Greek Catholic Church and Peace. The future is meeting, trusting and building bridges in a divided world.

At 5: 30p.m. the Divine Liturgy was celebrated by Bishop Peter Rusnák of the Greek Catholic Cathedral of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, Bratislava, with a Vigil for postulants to the Order of St. Lazarus. His Beatitude presided from the throne.

On 28 May, at 5p.m. the Divine Liturgy was celebrated at the Roman Catholic Cathedral of St. Martin by His Beatitude, together with Bishop Peter Rusnák, Bishop Milan Chautur of Košice and some twenty priests, during which the Ceremonial Investiture of the Order took place for Knights and Dames of the recently inaugurated Grand Bailiwick of Slovakia headed by Chev. Ing. Zdenek Tomčík, the Grand Priory of Hungary, the Grand Priory of Germany, and the Grand Bailiwick of the Czech Republic.

This was followed by a Gala Dinner in the Carlton Hotel.

On Sunday, 29 May, His Beatitude baptized the child Stella Török, daughter of the Chancellor for the Slovak Jurisdiction, Chev. Norbert Török.

At 10: 30a.m., His Beatitude celebrated the Divine Liturgy at the Cathedral of the Elevation of the Holy Cross, with its Bishop Peter Rusnák concelebrating.

On 30 May, His Beatitude left Slovakia for Lebanon.

V. C.


Inauguration of the Liqaa International Centre for Dialogue

>(in Rabweh, Lebanon at 5p.m. on Tuesday 10 May 2011)

On Tuesday, 10 May 2011, in Rabweh (Lebanon), Patriarch Gregorios III of Antioch and All the East, of Alexandria and of Jerusalem for the Melkite Greek Catholic Church, inaugurated "in the name of Christ the Saviour, risen from the dead," the Liqaa International Centre for Dialogue, in the presence of the President of the Lebanese Republic, General Michel Sleiman and Sheikh Abdullah Bin Muhammad As-Salemi, Minister of the Awqaf and Religious Affairs of the Sultanate of Oman.

Many distinguished figures, both civil and religious, accepted the Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarch’s invitation. Present were the Grand Mufti of the Lebanese Republic, Sheikh Muhammad Rashid Qabbani, Sheikh Akl of the Unitarian Druze community, the Apostolic Nuncio to Lebanon, Archbishop Gabriele Giordano Caccia, representatives of the other Catholic Patriarchs of Lebanon, Pastor Selim Sahyouni, President of the Supreme Council of Evangelical Churches in Lebanon and Syria, as well as many Melkite Greek Catholic, Maronite and Orthodox bishops, not to mention the superiors general and mothers general of the main Lebanese religious orders.

Also present were Ministers Michel Pharaon, Tarek Mitri, Selim Wardeh and Hassan Mneimneh, as well as Members of Parliament Hagop Pakradounian, Michel Moussa, Ghassan Moukheiber and Marwan Fares, military leaders, heads of university and leading representatives of the judiciary.

The international community was very well represented by some 29 Western and Arab ambassadors and the Sultanate of Oman by a delegation led by the Secretary-General of the Sultan Qaboos Centre for Islamic Culture, Mr. Habib Bin Mohammed Al-Riyami.

The ceremony was introduced and presented by Father Michel Sabee. The Apostolic Nuncio read a letter from Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, Prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches. Then Mr. Habib Bin Muhammad Al-Riyami gave a speech for the occasion, and H. B. Gregorios III gave a speech that can be found on the Patriarchate’s website (in English, French and Arabic.) http://www.pgc-lb.org/eng/home

At the end of the ceremony, the Patriarch, the President and the Omani Minister unveiled the commemorative plaque of the event, then together cut the ribbon to the entrance to the Centre’s main hall, where a cocktail was offered to all the attendees.

Patriarch Gregorios III visits Bkerkeh to congratulate Maronite Patriarch Beshara

On 16 March, 2011, Patriarch Gregorios III of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church led a delegation of several bishops, with other clergy and lay-people, on a visit to Bkerkeh (Lebanon) to congratulate newly elected Patriarch Beshara Boutros (al Rai) of the Maronite Church.

Patriarch Gregorios III brought greetings and congratulations from the Melkite Greek Catholic Church of which he is father and head, and from the Assembly of Catholic Hierarchs in Syria of which he is president, from the Council of Eastern Catholic Patriarchs, from the Assembly for Catholic Patriarchs and Bishops in Lebanon (APECL) and from the Middle East Council of Churches (MECC.)

Commenting on the meaning of the name of the new Patriarch, which means Annunciation in Arabic, His Beatitude expressed the wish that his tenure would be "good news" for the Christian world. He assured him that he and his Church would continue to enjoy communion in love with the Melkite Greek Catholic Church, and that in their prayers all Syria's Christians were all wishing the new Maronite Patriarch many years of fruitful service.

Patriarch Beshara himself expressed the wish to pay a visit to Syria this year for religious purposes and to further friendship between Lebanese and Syrian faithful.

Prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches visits Melkite Patriarch's Lebanese Residence

On 6 March, 2011, Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, Prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, together with the Congregation's Undersecretary, Mgr. Maurizio Malvestiti, and in company with the Apostolic Nuncio to Lebanon, Bishop Gabriele Caccia and his Adjutor, visited Patriarch Gregorios III of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church at the patriarchal summer residence of Ain Traz. Cardinal Sandri and the other visiting clergy admired the restored residence, which, among its other functions, is very well adapted for meetings of the Melkite Synod of Bishops. Later this year, the Ain Traz residence will be celebrating the two hundredth anniversary of its foundation.

V. C.


Patriarch Gregorios III attends Maronite Patriarch's Diamond Jubilee of Priesthood

On Saturday, 05 March 2011, Patriarch Gregorios III, in company with the Syrian Catholic and Armenian Catholic Patriarchs, attended the Jubilee and farewell celebration of the Maronite Divine Liturgy in Bkerkeh, Lebanon, for Maronite Patriarch Emeritus, Cardinal Mar Nasrallah Boutros Sfeir, who, sixty years after his ordination as priest, and almost fifty as bishop and twenty-five as Patriarch, has just retired from his official functions at the age of ninety.

Also attending were the Prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, the Apostolic Nuncio to Lebanon, Bishop Gabriele Caccia, presenting a gift from the Pope, and many bishops from the Maronite and other Catholic Churches, the Orthodox Churches and representatives of Protestant communions. Lebanese President Michel Sleiman, Speaker Nabih Berri and Prime Minister Designate Najib Mikati were also present, together with other political figures and officials.

Pope Benedict XVI, in his letter of 26 February 2011, accepting Patriarch Mar Nasrallah Boutros' resignation "made freely and generously, expressing great humility and profound detachment," wrote that he was "sure that [the Cardinal Patriarch] would always accompany the way of the Maronite Church, through prayer, wise counsel and sacrifices."

The Synod of Bishops of the Maronite Church will begin meetings to elect a new leader on 9 March. The process, including several days of spiritual retreat, may take up to fifteen days.

V. C.

 

Appeal for Prayer for Arab Countries

To All Bishops, Priests and Faithful of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church

Throughout the World

From H. B. Patriarch Gregorios III

Patriarch Gregory seated

At this very difficult moment for Arab countries, we ask all Christian people to be mindful that, in the body of Christ, "whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it." (1 Corinthians 12: 26) The Fathers of the Second Vatican Council remind us further of the solidarity of Christians with their fellows,

The joys and the hopes, the griefs and the anxieties of the men of this age, especially those who are poor or in any way afflicted, these are the joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties of the followers of Christ. Indeed, nothing genuinely human fails to raise an echo in their hearts. For theirs is a community composed of men. United in Christ, they are led by the Holy Spirit in their journey to the Kingdom of their Father and they have welcomed the news of salvation which is meant for every man. That is why this community realizes that it is truly linked with mankind and its history by the deepest of bonds. (Gaudium et Spes 1, 1965)

For all these reasons, we appeal to all bishops, priests and people to pray on the First Sunday of Lent for peace, understanding, solidarity, healing, justice and liberty, by introducing a specially extended litany for peace, using the prayer from the Paraklesis to the Holy Virgin, "Again we pray for the safekeeping of this holy church and this city, and of all cities and towns from pestilence, famine, earthquake, flood, fire and the sword, from invasion of enemies, civil war, and unforeseen death; and that our good God, who loveth mankind, will be graciously favourable and easily entreated, and will turn away from us all the wrath stirred up against us, and deliver us from all his righteous chastisement which impendeth against us, and have mercy on us," and that of St. Basil, "Deliver, Lord, this city, and every city, town and village, from famine, plague, earthquake, flood, fire, sword, invasion by enemies and from civil war." (Prayer following the consecration from the Liturgy of Saint Basil)

In this way, we shall not be merely passively following events on the media, but actively praying for justice, social peace, unity and liberty. Every Arab is brother to his fellow, just as my fellow Arab is brother to me. Every Arab Christian is brother or sister to other Christian and Muslim brothers and sisters.

We are all linked in this world of ours which is God's world, and we are all linked in Christ who loves mankind. "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." (John 3: 16)

Patriarch Gregorios III

Of Antioch and All the East,

Of Alexandria and of Jerusalem


English language editor V.C.

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