Melkite Greek Catholic Church

Celebration in Memory of

Blessed John Paul II

Blessed John Paul II

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Translation from French V. C.

Middle East from Space

We ought to have a pope

Message of H. B. Patriarch Gregorios III

19 September 2010

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


19 September 2010

Translation from French: V. Chamberlain

Index of the Documents Concerning the Council for the Middle East


Address of the Patriarch to His Holiness the Pope in Amman, from CTV, YouTube Vatican Channel

Address of

His Beatitude Patriarch Gregorios III


His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI

In the Melkite Greek Catholic Cathedral of St. George in Amman, Jordan

May 9th 2009

During Vespers on the occasion of the meeting of the Holy Father with consecrated persons and lay-people involved in serving the Church in Jordan

Most Holy Father,

Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! You are blessed, most Holy Father, and the name you have chosen is blessed: Benedictus, Benedict.

Most joyfully we receive Your Holiness in this Melkite Greek Catholic Cathedral of Saint George in Amman. You are Father, Friend, elder Brother and you can rightfully say, with the Prophet, "Behold, I and the children whom God has given me."

Most Holy Father,

The great Jordanian consecrated family welcomes you today in this cathedral, beginning with my brothers, Their Beatitudes the Eastern Catholic Patriarchs and my brothers Their Excellencies the Bishops of different Churches in Jordan and other Arab countries. We welcome you especially in the name of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church. With a great number of Hierarchs of our Holy Synod and faithful lay-people, we had the happiness, just one year ago, on 8 May 2008, of meeting Your Holiness in Rome. We are happy, today, to welcome you to bless this cathedral.

Most Holy Father,

You have before you consecrated men and women, whom I can genuinely call the successors of the many collaborators who accompanied the Holy Apostle Paul (whose jubilee year we are celebrating) sharing with him in the spreading of the Gospel. The consecrated people here present are themselves, in their turn, bearers of the Good News in this third millennium. They are, as the inter-eparchial Synod, held by the Assembly of the Catholic Ordinaries of the Holy Land in the year 2000, declared, "believers in Christ, participants in the Church and witnesses in society."

Patriarch Gregorios speaking at the Vespers Service in Amman from CTV, YouTube Vatican Channel

Most Holy Father,

To you, who are the Father of Fathers, Shepherd of Shepherds and Chief of Chiefs, as we say in the Liturgy, we set out, with trust and hope, the principal problems relating to our Christian presence in the Kingdom of Jordan in particular and in the Arab world in general.

  1. We are an integral part of this Arab world with its Muslim majority, where, two thousand years ago, were born Christ in Palestine and Christianity in various Arab countries.
  2. We are the Church of martyrs and witnesses, of witness, Church of the Cross and Resurrection, suffering and hope, Church of history, today and tomorrow. We shall not emigrate! We shall remain here, to affirm, as did Peter, whose successor you are, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the Living God."
  3. We are a Church in daily, vital dialogue, Church of meeting, of perfect solidarity with our Arab peoples, with our different Christian communities in their diversity and richness, and also with all Muslim communities. We are and will remain the Church of mankind, created in the image and likeness of God. As Saint Paul said, in Christ "there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free...: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus." (Galatians 3:28)
  4. Our Churches in the Arab world form together the Church of that important and difficult living together, and we have before us the imperative duty of working, not only to live with others (our fellow citizens) but above all to work together with them for a better future for young people, knowing that they form sixty per cent of Arab society.
  5. Our Churches, in their pluralism, preserve the one, holy faith. In our diversity, we are the proof of what the Blessed Pope John XXIII used to say, "What unites us is so much more than what separates us."
  6. Those values of faith and dialogue are threatened by the fact of the Israeli-Arab conflict, which has caused and continues to cause wars, crises, calamities, fundamentalist currents, growth of violence and response to violence by violence, whose victims number thousands among our sons and daughters of the Middle East, in all Christian, Muslim and Jewish communities.
  7. Moreover, this conflict underlies emigration, especially Christian emigration. If emigration were to continue, it would mean that the mainly Muslim Arab society of the Middle East would be deprived, for its future, of its ambient, historical characteristics and of that Christian presence which has been for the last fourteen hundred years a fundamental element of symbiosis of civilizations and Christian and Islamic cultures.
  8. From all that, most Holy Father, you may conclude the importance of realizing just, durable, comprehensive peace in our region, especially in Palestine, but also in Syria, Lebanon and Iraq. The responsibility for peace certainly lies with Arab countries and their governments, but also with other states, especially those of Europe and America.
  9. We should like here to thank Your Holiness and his predecessors of happy memory for their clear, firm and just stances on the matter of the Palestinian question, the right of Palestinians to have a homeland and their rights with regard to Jerusalem, which is the holy city of faith for us all, Christians, Muslims and Jews.
  10. Your visit, Most Holy Father, is, for Jordan, the Holy Land and our entire Middle East, a factor for hope and opens for us radiant new horizons, since we all aspire to peace, safety, daily bread, a worthy life and a glowing future for youth.
  11. Indeed, we express before Your Holiness a wish that the Patriarchs who surround you today may be able to meet from time to time around the Pope to inform him about our circumstances, our role, our hopes and our trials, for we know that you have a great affection for the Middle East, which is the cradle of Christianity and a meeting-place of civilizations.

Most Holy Father,

With the Church, we pray for you, remembering this text from the antiphon of the Hypakoe of the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul, on 29 June, "O Peter, rock of faith and thou, Paul, glory of the whole world, come forth together from Rome and strengthen us."

Most Holy Father,

We entrust to you this country, dear Jordan, guided by His Majesty King Abdullah II; we entrust to you the citizens of this beautiful country. We entrust to you also the Holy Land, Lebanon, Syria and Iraq, so that we may be always present in your prayer and that we may have the benefit of your blessing. All these persons here present, consecrated to the Lord's service say to you, "We love you!"

Thank you, Most Holy Father, for your visit to Jordan!

+ Gregorios III, Patriarch


"Thoughts about the Lecture of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI of Tuesday, 12 September 2006"

by His Beatitude, Patriarch Gregorios III of Antioch, Alexandria, Jerusalem and All the East

We were frightened by the reactions in the Islamic world to the lecture of His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI given lately at Regensburg, where he was Professor from 1969-1971. He is now known as one of the greatest living Christian theologians.

We read the lecture in the German original, then in French and English, during our trip undertaken to publicize issues arising from the war in Lebanon and continued to reflect on it after our arrival in England on 15 September (2006).

We had the opportunity to read what appeared in the newspapers of different languages and countries about the reactions of Christians and Muslims: some of them violent demonstrations, others reports and analyses, saying that the Pope was insulting Islam and Muslims, that he should apologize or clarify the meaning of this lecture. Then we read reports of Vatican spokesmen and theologians, specialist historians and those involved in inter-faith dialogue.

Arising from these events, from our position as an Arab Christian Patriarch in the Arab world; from our spiritual, pastoral and scholarly responsibility towards our faithful, who were upset about what they heard and saw in the media about this issue; from our responsibility towards our fellow-Christians in the West and in consideration of our Christian ecclesial communion with the Holy Father and the Catholic Church – from all these diverse responsibilities, we think it our duty to make some remarks to help shed light on this issue, by explaining some complex aspects of this lecture, its context and its scientific, religious, spiritual and historical content. It is very important to clarify these things in order to overcome reactions and positions, which may have very bad consequences for Christian-Islamic dialogue, which has covered a lot of ground since Vatican II, where our Eastern Arabic Churches were pioneers in putting forward a very clear document about the position of Christianity in order to develop and deepen that same dialogue in our Arab world.

We our self founded, together with wonderful Muslim brothers, outstanding Palestinian professors and thinkers, the Aliqa' in Jerusalem in 1983. Since our election as Patriarch in 2000 we also founded Encounter Centres in Lebanon (2003), Syria (2003) and Egypt (2005) and we have continued to explain in our bi-annual Patriarchal Messages our thoughts about our presence and experience as Church of the Arabs and Church of Islam.

There follow some remarks about the lecture of His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI, given at Regensburg University on Tuesday, 12 September during his pastoral visit to his home country and his birthplace in Bavaria. The title of the talk was "Faith, Reason and the University: Memories and Reflections."

His Holiness began by pointing out some academic, scientific discussions (disputations) raised in the University in his time there about the relationship between faith and reason – a subject highly topical still today.

His Holiness also pointed out that he profited, when thinking about the problem, from a book by the title of Paléologue: Entretiens avec un Musulman, 7e controverse first published in 1966 by Rev. Prof. Adel Theodore Khoury, formerly Dean of the Theology Faculty of Münster, Germany. Father Adel Khoury is a priest of the Greek Catholic Melkite Church and a member of the Paulist Society, well known for their leading role in the Islamic-Christian dialogue through their quarterly Al Massarra.

The book quoted by the Holy Father dealt with topics of faith in the three structures embodied in the Bible (Torah, Gospel) and Qur'an. t is well known that this last contains several verses common to Christianity and Judaism, so that we may consider that religious dialogue lies at the heart of the three great monotheistic structures and is not extraneous to them. Furthermore, the texts of the faith on which Christianity, Judaism and Islam are based offer in themselves fundamental elements for a dialogue of faith of the broadest possible nature, embracing dogma, rites, devotion, ethics, politics and sociology.

Now we come to the offending paragraph, which caused the huge wave of criticism of this lecture, which began with a discussion of the relationship between faith and reason in the "three structures," which took place most probably around 1391 between the Byzantine Emperor, Manuel II Paleologos and an unknown Persian Muslim scholar and quoting a passage where the Emperor referred to insulting suggestions about Islam and its Prophet, relating to the practice of spreading faith by the sword.

The Emperor then added that spreading the faith by force is contrary to reason. "Violence is incompatible with the nature of God and the nature of the soul."

The Emperor's words should be understood neither as an insult nor as a condemnation, but as part of the dialectic of scholarly controversy, designed to provoke his interlocutor to refute the charge of pursuing a manner of thinking likely to lead to violence. In philosophical debate, this is classified as an argument ad hominem, and an invitation to further, more profound discussion. It all happened according to the rules of scholarly debate of the period.

Thus we can see that the Holy Father intended no insult to Islam, but rather to echo the Emperor's remark in a spirit of urgent enquiry to a debating partner: it is surely impossible for a way of life such as Islam to be a path of violence? It may be read as an invitation to Muslims to frank and open dialogue with Christians on the topic of jihad through the centuries. He too was speaking in the context of a university lecture, aimed at clarifying to his listeners the role of a modern university as a forum for educational and constructive interfaith dialogue.

It is in this same context that the Holy Father quoted another passage from Professor Adel Khoury's book, citing Arnaldez's views on the Muslim scholar Ibn Hazm (Ibn Hazn in the papal text) who founded a short-lived school of thought which aimed at a literal understanding of Qur'anic precepts and their direct application to everyday life. That school also favored a narrow approach to the scope and use of Hadith. This school happily did not find favor with mainstream Islam. Its principles therefore should have no place in an assessment of Islam. The doctrine of jihad, which is really to be understood in a spiritual sense, akin to zeal for faith, or a call to war in a casus belli, has nothing to do with general violence.

What then is the Holy Father's position on Islam? Firstly it is clear that, like the great Christian theologian that he is, he wants to engage in a dialogue with Muslims. He is very far from wishing to insult them. Indeed, he called them to stand up together with Christians in a common position of faith in opposition to atheism when he spoke to the German Muslim community in Cologne in August, 2005.

Then, in what he said about faith and reason and the literalist approach to the Qur'an of Ibn Hazm, he wished to point out that this issue of literalism is a problem commonly discussed over centuries of debate between followers of Judaism (Torah and halakhah), Christianity (Gospel and Christian tradition) and Islam (Qur'an and Islamic thought). These issues were not just topics of debate for the Byzantine Emperor and a Persian scholar but are also relevant today.

In fact, the Holy Father's principal criticisms are directed at a "Christian" Europe where faith is largely rejected by society in favor of relativism, personalism and individualism, in which a person is the sole arbiter of his own behavior in every sphere – political, ethical and social. Faith is in danger of being entirely lost. The targets of the Pope's main criticisms then are really current atheism and secularism in a society in which religion has become merely a matter of personal taste, enclosed behind the walls of churches, having little to do with the structures of contemporary society, politics and ethics.

We consider that the Holy Father's remarks (however inopportune, imprecise and lacking in clarity they may appear) on the controversy between the Byzantine Emperor and the Persian Muslim scholar and on the views of Ibn Hazm, are rather designed to encourage a better understanding of Islam than to malign it. He was in fact insisting on the need for a reading of the Qur'an, which comprises life and structure and dogma, that looks both to the letter and the spirit, to reason and faith.

If any doubt this analysis, they have only to look at the concluding part of the lecture, where the Holy Father's true intention is plain. Our explanation is not merely intended as an apology for His Holiness or born out of a desire for complaisance to Islam, but the product of logical thought and scholarly analysis of an academic lecture that cannot possibly have been intended as an attack on a venerable faith and its teaching. Remember too that Islam was not the topic of his lecture.

We would like to conclude our presentation on the Holy Father's lecture by giving the most important passage of his conclusion, in which he calls for "the broadening of our concept of reason and its application." … "We will succeed in doing so only if reason and faith come together in a new way and if we overcome the self-imposed limitation of reason to the empirically verifiable." He added, "Only thus do we become capable of that genuine dialogue of cultures and religions so urgently needed today."

In a clearly critical remark directed at the European position on reason and faith on the one hand and the position of Islam and the East towards faith and reason on the other, he says, showing a remarkable preference for the East, "In the Western world, it is widely held that only positivistic reason and the forms of philosophy based on it are universally valid. Yet the world's profoundly religious cultures" – and here we have a clear reference to the East and Islam – "see this exclusion of the divine from the universality of reason as an attack on their most profound convictions A reason which is deaf to the divine and which relegates religion into the realm of subcultures is incapable of entering into the dialogue of cultures." He concludes, "It is to this great logos, to this breadth of reason, that we invite our partners in the dialogue of cultures."

We understand the emotional reaction of the Islamic world to the lecture of the Holy Father and through these remarks we have shown that not only was it not his aim to upset Muslims, but that it was a profound, sincere, frank and faithful way to call for furthering the way of Islamic-Christian dialogue.

Furthermore, we as Arab Christians wish to call upon our fellow-citizens in the Arab world to close ranks to preserve our unique model of daily dialogue of life and faith and to continue to live together as we have for the last fourteen hundred years, unshaken by emotional reactions.

We would like to emphasize our unique role, even while facing the danger of the collapse of culture and the clash of civilizations, through continuing our unique model of life-dialogue in the Middle East, where the three great monotheistic religions originated and where the faithful are still living.

This unique model of living together in the Middle East should lead the Arab world to reach through its unity a real solution for the Israel-Palestine conflict in a just, lasting peace. This same model, practiced in the Middle East, should be a help for Jews, Christians and Muslims living in Europe, the U.S.A. and elsewhere to create a similar model for living together and for each other, which is the only future for the world.

Linguistic editor V. Chamberlain


"My question is regarding the position of an Eastern Catholic (a Greek-Catholic, such as a Melchite) as to the pope's encyclicals. In particular, this came up in a discussion on Humanae Vitae and a person made the statement that the encyclical only pertained to the Roman Catholics and didn't concern us at all, especially since the "Orthodox Church" has a different position on birth control. It is my understanding that we are not "Orthodox in communion with Rome" but we are Greek Catholics in union with Rome therefore we are obliged to accept Roman doctrines such as Purgatory, Papal Infallibility and their positions on birth control. Is this true?

Bishop John's Answer:

When we declared our union with Rome - in consistency with Apostolic tradition interrupted somehow by historical circumstances - we accepted the Catholic faith in its entirety. We do recognize the authority of the Pope of Rome, including universal jurisdiction and infallibility for whatever concerns faith and morals. It is true that the Western Theologians themselves have their own debates concerning these points; so we should not be "more papist that the Pope;" but Catholic is Catholic and truth is truth. We cannot pose as "Orthodox united to Rome" only for what suits us. I do mean it when we pray every day, at the Divine Liturgy, for "unity of faith and the communion of the Holy Spirit."

There is no 'Eastern truth' vs 'Western truth'. Truth is one. It may be articulated according to various cultural expressions, but truth is super-cultural. Truth should not be restricted by "party line" positions. We should accept or reject ideas for their worth and not for an artificial attachment to a given "identity." The Church teaches truth. If something is true, it would be absurd to say "Oh, we don't believe that in the East." This seems to be where we get short-circuited in ecumenical "dialogue." All too frequently, such "dialogue" seems to presuppose a relativism where you speak "your truth" and I'll speak "my truth" and we'll just leave it at that. A sort of ecumenical schizophrenia.

As to the Catholic position on birth control, we have no choice to accept it or leave it. If we leave the Catholic position, can we still pretend to be Catholic? "Humanae Vitae" is a given. However time is too short here to elaborate on its interpretations and implications by various theologians and National Episcopal Conferences. I must add, however, that Humanae Vitae is now much more appreciated in many academic circles as we come to realize its merit, especially regarding the dignity of marriage and the great abuses in recent years such as surrogate motherhood, sperm banks and cloning of humans, to name but few.

Here are two relevant canons from OUR Eastern Catholic Church Law:

c. 597 CCEO: "The Roman Pontiff, in virtue of his office (munus), possesses infallible teaching authority if, as supreme pastor and teacher of all the Christian faithful who is to confirm his fellow believers in the faith, he proclaims with a definitive act that a doctrine of faith or morals is to be held."

c. 599: :A religious obsequium of intellect and will, even if not the assent of faith, is to be paid to the teaching of faith and morals which the Roman Pontiff or the college of bishops enunciate when they exercise the authentic magisterium even if they do not intend to proclaim with a definitive act.; therefore the Christian faithful are to take care to avoid whatever is not in harmony with that teaching."



What is the relationship between our Bishops and the Pope? Are we obliged to accept dogmas like "The Immaculate Conception" as it is defined by Rome? Why are there differences in the way the Pope is commemorated between the various Eastern rites?

Bishop John's Answer:

God bless your eagerness to see clearly and concisely points that require volumes to elucidate and that have been object of controversy among many people of good will for too many years.

The truth is one, although interpreted in different ways, depending on where you stand. However, the same object could not be white for you and black for me, and we still pretend that we are both right. East and West see reality under different angles sometimes, in complicated manners hard to explain here in short terms. Some people enjoy finding differences, and other (as I try to do as often as I can) focus on what unites us rather than on what separates us. In all cases, if we are Catholic, then we have to accept all Catholic dogmas.

You are right to think that " we are one of many Eastern autonomous Churches (self-governing) as the Ukrainians, the Ruthenians and other self-governing (sui juris) Eastern Catholic Churches. We hold that the Pope of Rome is infallible in important matters of faith and morality, when he speaks "ex cathedra", in his position as the visible head of the Catholic Church. We may interpret these dogmas in "Eastern" terms; however, we are not allowed to deny their truth without breaking the bond of unity with the Pope of Rome, the successor of St. Peter the Rock.

You are right also that we commemorate the Pope of Rome only once, namely at the end of the Anaphora. However, the exact mandated translation is "FIRST, Lord, remember His Holiness N. Pope of Rome, His Beatitude … etc." Regardless of linguistic or historic pretexts, "Among the first" translation has been repeatedly prohibited by me, as Melkite Eparch, and by my predecessors. I consider persisting in using "among the first…" in our Melkite churches in America as an open defiance to legitimate authority.

I wish you continued success in your endeavors. May our Lord direct your thoughts and words to His pleasure in truth and love.

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