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

Divine Liturgy of the Close of the Synod

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

Features of that Liturgy

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

Communion ad intra

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

Witness ad extra

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

Invitation to our faithful

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

Kiss of Peace

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

Creed

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

Holy Synod

of the

Melkite Greek Catholic Church

Ain Traz, 20 - 25 June 2011


Inaugural Address

By Patriarch Gregorios III

Document No. 5

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I.

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

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

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

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

II: The Five-Year Plan

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

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

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

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

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

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

III: Good Shepherds

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

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

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

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

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

IV: other topics

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

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

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

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

V: The Synod on the New Evangelisation

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

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

Dear Brothers and Sisters

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That is why we are specifically calling for two things:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

With love, supplication and appreciation,

Gregorios III

Patriarch of Antioch and All the East, of Alexandria

And of Jerusalem of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church

 
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


pppCrest

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

 

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.

 

Special Assembly for the Middle East

of the Synod of Bishops

October 10-24, 2010

Presented from Most Recent to Oldest

Presented In Chronologic Order

 
Pope Benedict

His Holiness Pope Benedict's

Address to the
First General Congregation

October 11, 2010

Dear brothers and sisters,

On October 11, 1962, forty-eight years ago, Pope John XXIII inaugurated Vatican Council II. Back then, October 11 was the feast of the Divine Maternity of Mary, and by this action, on this date, Pope John wanted to entrust the entire council to the motherly hands, to the motherly heart of the Virgin Mary.

We are also beginning on October 11, and we also want to entrust this synod, with all its problems, with all its challenges, with all its hopes, to the maternal heart of the Virgin Mary, the Mother of God. Pius XI had introduced this feast in 1930, sixteen hundred years after the Council of Ephesus, which had legitimated Mary's title of "Theotókos," "Dei Genitrix". In this great expression "Dei Genitrix," "Theotókos," the Council of Ephesus had summarized the entire doctrine on Christ, on Mary, the entire doctrine of the redemption. And so it is worth it to reflect a little, for a moment, on the message of the Council of Ephesus, the message of this day.

In reality, "Theotókos" is an audacious title. A woman is Mother of God. One might say: how is this possible? God is eternal, he is the Creator. We are creatures, we are in time: how could a human person be Mother of God, of the Eternal, given that we are all in time, we are all creatures? So one realizes that there was strong opposition, in part, against this expression. The Nestorians said: one may speak of "Christotókos," yes, but of "Theotókos," no: "Theós," God, is beyond, above the events of history.

But the Council decided this, and precisely in this way brought to light the adventure of God, the greatness of what he has done for us. God did not remain within himself: he came out from himself, he united himself so much, so radically with this man, Jesus, that this man Jesus is God, and what we say about him we can always say about God as well. He was not born only as a man who had something to do with God, but in him God was born on earth. God came out from himself. But we can also say the opposite: God has drawn us into himself, so that we are no longer outside of God, but we are inside, inside God himself.

As we know well, Aristotelian philosophy tells us that between God and man there exists only a non-reciprocal relationship. Man exists in reference to God, but God, the Eternal, is in himself, he does not change: he cannot have this kind of relationship today and another kind tomorrow. He remains in himself, he does not have a relationship "ad extra," he does not have a relationship with me. It is a very logical reflection, but it is a reflection that makes us despair. With the incarnation, with the coming of the Theotókos, this has changed radically, because God has drawn us into himself, and God in himself is relationship and makes us participate in his interior relationship.

So we are in his being Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, we are inside his being in relationship, we are in relationship with him, and he has really created a relationship with us. In that moment, God wanted to be born of a woman while still remaining himself: this is the great event. And so we can understand the profundity of Pope John's action when he entrusted the conciliar, synodal assembly to the central mystery, to the Mother of God who is drawn by the Lord into himself, and so all of us with her.

The Council began with the icon of the "Theotókos." At the end, Pope Paul VI acknowledged the Virgin Mary with the title "Mater Ecclesiae." And these two icons, which begin and conclude the Council, are intrinsically connected, they are, in the end, a single icon.

Where Christ is born, there begins the movement of recapitulation, the moment of the calling, of the construction of his body, of the holy Church. The Mother of "Theós," the Mother of God, is Mother of the Church, because she is Mother of the one who came to reunite all in his risen body.

Saint Luke helps us to understand this in the parallelism between the first chapter of his Gospel and the first chapter of the Acts of the Apostles, which repeat the same mystery on two levels. In the first chapter of the Gospel, the Holy Spirit overshadows Mary, and so she gives birth and gives us the Son of God. In the first chapter of the Acts of the Apostles, Mary is at the center of the disciples of Jesus who are all praying together, imploring the cloud of the Holy Spirit. And so from the believing Church, with Mary at the center, is born the Church, the body of Christ. This twofold birth is the one birth of the Christus totus, of the Christ who embraces the world and us all.

Birth in Bethlehem, birth in the cenacle. Birth of the Child Jesus, birth of the body of Christ, of the Church. They are two events, or one single event. But between the two really stand the cross and the resurrection. And only through the cross does the journey toward the totality of Christ take place, toward his risen body, toward the universalization of his being in the unity of the Church. And so, keeping in mind that it is only from the grain that falls to the ground that the great harvest comes, from the Lord pierced on the cross comes the universality of his disciples gathered into his body, put to death and risen.

Keeping in mind this connection between "Theotókos" and "Mater Ecclesiae," our attention shifts to the last book of Sacred Scripture, Revelation, where, in chapter 12, this very same synthesis appears. The woman clothed with the sun, with twelve stars on her head and the moon under her feet, gives birth. And she gives birth with a cry of pain, she gives birth with great suffering. Here the Marian mystery is the mystery of Bethlehem extended to the cosmic mystery. Christ is always being born again through all the generations, and so he takes up, he gathers humanity into himself. And this cosmic birth is realized in the cry of the cross, in the suffering of the passion. And the blood of the martyrs belongs to this cry.

So, at this moment, we can take a look at the second psalm of this midday hour, Psalm 81, where a part of this process can be seen. God stands among the gods, still considered as gods in Israel. In this psalm, in a great act of concentration, in a prophetic vision, the gods are seen to be stripped of their power. What appeared to be gods are not gods, and they lose the divine character, they fall to the ground. "Dii estis et moriemini sicut nomine" (cf. Psalm 82 [81]:6-7 [Note: This is the citation of the Latin of the psalm that seems problematic to me; the Vulgate has "dii estis et filii Excelsi omnes 7 vos autem sicut homines moriemini"; so I think the word "nomine" must be "homines"]: the weakening, the downfall of the divinities.

This process, which took place over Israel's long journey of faith, and is summed up here in a remarkable vision, is a true process of the history of religion: the downfall of the gods. And so the transformation of the world, the knowledge of the true God, the weakening of the forces that dominate the earth, is a process of suffering. In the history of Israel, we see how this liberation from polytheism, this recognition -- "only he is God" -- takes place amid much suffering, beginning with the journey of Abraham, the exile, the Maccabees, up until Christ. And it continues in history, this process of weakening spoken of in chapter 12 of Revelation; this speaks of the fall of the angels that are not angels, are not divinities on the earth. And it is truly realized precisely in the time of the emerging Church, where we see how with the blood of the martyrs there is a weakening of the divinities, all these divinities, beginning with the divine emperor. It is the blood of the martyrs, the suffering, the cry of the Mother Church that knocks them down and so transforms the world.

This downfall is not only the knowledge that these are not God. It is the process of the transformation of the world, which costs blood, costs the suffering of the witnesses to Christ. And, if we look closely, we see that this process is never finished. Even today, in this moment, in which Christ, the only Son of God, must be born for the world with the downfall of the gods, with suffering, the martyrdom of the witnesses.

We think of the great powers of today's history, we think of the anonymous capitals [note: here, as I said above, the translation seems inadequate; it would be better as "anonymous financial interests" or something similar] that enslave man, that are no longer something belonging to man, but are an anonymous power that men serve, and by which men are tormented and even slaughtered. They are a destructive power that threatens the world. And then the power of the terrorist ideologies.

Violence is done apparently in the name of God, but this is not God: these are false divinities that must be unmasked, that are not God. And then drugs, this power that, like a ravenous beast, stretches its hands over all parts of the earth and destroys: it is a divinity, but a false divinity, which must fall. Or even the way of life promoted by public opinion: today it's done this way, marriage doesn't matter anymore, chastity is no longer a virtue, and so on.

These ideologies that are so dominant that they impose themselves by force are divinities. And in the suffering of the saints, in the suffering of believers, of the Mother Church of which we are part, these divinities must fall, what is written in the letters to the Colossians and Ephesians must come true: the dominations and powers fall and become subjects of the one Lord Jesus Christ.

This fight in which we find ourselves, this weakening of the gods, this fall of the false gods, who fall because they are not divinities but are powers that destroy the world, are spoken of in chapter 12 of Revelation, and with a mysterious image for which, it seems to me, there are nonetheless different fine interpretations. It is said that the dragon directs a great stream of water against the fleeing woman, to sweep her away. And it seems inevitable that the woman will drown in this river.

But the good earth absorbs this river, and it can do no harm. I think that it is easy to interpret what the river stands for: it is these currents that dominate everyone, and want to eliminate the faith of the Church, which seems to have nowhere to stand before the power of these currents that impose themselves as the only way of thinking, the only way of life. And the earth that absorbs these currents is the faith of the simple, which does not allow itself to be swept away by these rivers and saves the mother and saves the son. This is why the psalm says, the first psalm of the midday hour: "The faith of the simple is true wisdom" (cf. Psalm 118:130). This true wisdom of simple faith, which does not let itself be devoured by the waters, is the power of the Church. And we have come back to the Marian mystery.

And there is also a final expression in Psalm 81, "Movebuntur omnia fundamenta terrae" (Psalm 82 [81]:5), the foundations of the earth are shaken. We see this today, with the climatic problems, how the foundations of the earth are threatened, but they are threatened by our behavior. The outer foundations are shaken because the inner foundations are shaken, the moral and religious foundations, the faith that leads to the right way of life. And we know that the faith is the foundation, and, without a doubt, the foundations of the earth cannot be shaken if the faith, the true wisdom, stands firm.

And then the psalm says: "Rise up, Lord, and judge the earth" (Psalm 82 [81]:8). So let us also say to the Lord: "Rise up in this moment, take the earth in your hands, protect your Church, protect humanity, protect the earth." And let us entrust ourselves again to the Mother of God, to Mary, and pray: "You, the great believer, you who have opened earth to heaven, help us, open the doors today as well, so that the truth may be triumphant, the will of God, which is the true good, the true salvation of the world." Amen.


Index of the Documents Concerning the Council for the Middle East

 
Icon of Pentacost

Final Report of the

Synod of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church

at the

Patriarchal Summer Residence, Ain-Traz

June 21- 26, 2010

Introduction

The Synod of Bishops of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church was held at the Patriarchal Residence of Ain Traz, Lebanon, from 21 to 26 June 2010. It was presided over by His Beatitude, Patriarch Gregorios III with the participation of hierarchs of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church who had come from the Church's eparchies in Lebanon, Syria, Egypt, Jordan, the Holy Land, the United States of America, Canada, Brazil, Argentina, Venezuela, Mexico, Australia and New Zealand, together with the superiors general of the religious orders and of the Society of Missionaries of Saint Paul.

Their names and ranks are as follows:

  1. The Rt. Rev. Boulos Borkhosh, Metropolitan of Bosra, the Hauran and Jabal Arab
  2. The Rt. Rev. André Haddad, Archbishop of Furzol, Zahlé and all the Beqaa
  3. The Rt. Rev. John Adel Elia, Bishop emeritus of Newton (USA)
  4. The Rt. Rev. Ibrahim Nehmé, Metropolitan emeritus of Homs, Hama and Yabrud
  5. The Rt. Rev. Georges Riashi, Archbishop and Patriarchal Administrator of Tripoli – Lebanon
  6. The Rt. Rev. Georges Kwaiter, Archbishop emeritus of Saida and of Deir-el-Kamar
  7. The Rt. Rev. Yuhanna (John) Assaad Haddad, Metropolitan emeritus of Tyre
  8. The Rt. Rev. Cyril (Salim) Bustros, Archbishop-Bishop of Newton
  9. The Rt. Rev. Boutros Mouallem, Archbishop emeritus of Saint John of Acre, Haifa, Nazareth and all Galilee
  10. The Rt. Rev. Isidore Battikha, Metropolitan of Homs, Hama and Yabroud
  11. The Rt. Rev. Georges el Murr, Archbishop emeritus of Petra, Philadelphia (Amman) and of all Transjordan
  12. The Rt. Rev. Jean-Clement Jeanbart, Metropolitan of Aleppo, of Seleucia, of Cyr
  13. The Rt. Rev. Farès Maakaroun, Archbishop-Bishop of São Paulo (Brazil)
  14. The Rt. Rev. Georges Kahhalé Zouhairaty, Apostolic Exarch of Venezuela, titular Bishop of Abila, Lysania
  15. The Rt. Rev. Issam John Darwish, Bishop of Sydney (Australia and New Zealand)
  16. The Rt. Rev. Joseph Kallas, Metropolitan emeritus and Patriarchal Administrator of Beirut and Jbeil
  17. The Rt. Rev. Nicolas Sawaf, Archbishop of Lattakieh and Christian Valley – Syria
  18. The Rt. Rev. Selim Ghazal, titular Archbishop of Edessa and Patriarchal Auxiliary emeritus
  19. The Rt. Rev. Joseph Absi, Patriarchal Vicar in Damascus and titular Archbishop of Tarsus
  20. The Rt. Rev. Joseph-Jules Zerey, Patriarchal Vicar in Jerusalem and titular Archbishop of Damietta
  21. The Rt. Rev. Georges Nicolas Haddad, Archbishop of Paneas and Marjayyoun (Caesarea Philippi)
  22. The Rt. Rev. Ibrahim Michael Ibrahim, Bishop of Montreal (Canada)
  23. The Rt. Rev. Elias Rahhal, Archbishop of Baalbek
  24. The Rt. Rev. Georges Bacouni, Metropolitan of Tyre
  25. The Rt. Rev. Elias Shakkour, Archbishop of Saint John of Acre, Haifa, Nazareth and all Galilee
  26. The Rt. Rev. Georges Bakar, Patriarchal Vicar in Egypt and Sudan, titular Archbishop of Pelusium
  27. The Rt. Rev. Michel Abrass, Patriarchal Auxiliary (Bishop of Curium) and titular Archbishop of Myra
  28. The Rt. Rev. John Abdou Arbash, Apostolic Exarch in Argentina and titular Bishop of Palmyra
  29. The Rt. Rev. Elia Beshara Haddad, Archbishop of Saida and Deir-el-Kamar
  30. The Rt. Rev. Yasser Ayyash, Archbishop of Petra and Philadelphia (Jordan)
  31. Archimandrite Gabriel Ghanoum, Patriarchal Administrator of the Eparchy of Mexico
  32. Archimandrite Jean Faraj, Superior General of the Basilian Order of the Most Holy Saviour
  33. Archimandrite Samaan Abdel-Ahad, Superior General of the Soarite Basilian Order
  34. Archimandrite Najib Tobji, Superior General of the Aleppine Basilian Order
  35. Father Elia Aghia, Superior General of the Society of Missionaries of Saint Paul

Absent and excused were the following:

  1. The Rt. Rev. Hilarion Capucci, titular Archbishop of Caesarea in Palestine and Patriarchal Vicar ad extra of Jerusalem
  2. The Rt. Rev. Gregory Haddad, titular Archbishop of Adana and Metropolitan emeritus of Beirut and Jbeil
  3. The Rt. Rev. Boulos Antaki, titular Archbishop of Nubia and Patriarchal Vicar emeritus in Egypt and Sudan
  4. The Rt. Rev. Spiridon Mattar, Bishop emeritus of São Paulo (Brazil)
  5. The Rt. Rev. Nicolas James Samra, titular Bishop of Gerasa and Auxiliary Bishop emeritus of the Eparchy of Newton (United States of America)

The secretariat was provided by:

The Rt. Rev. Michel Abrass, Secretary General of the Synod,

assisted by Father Elias Shatawi, Economos General and Father Antoine Dib, Chancellor of the Patriarchate.

Opening

His Beatitude Patriarch Gregorios III opened the Synod, before a delegation of journalists, with a speech welcoming the hierarchs and superiors general:

The Patriarch in his opening remarks called to mind the late Rt. Rev. Antoine Hayek, Archbishop emeritus of Paneas-Marjayyoun (Caesarea Philippi), who had departed this life on Saturday, 1 May 2010, and asked the Lord in his mercy to receive him. (Text of His Beatitude's Opening Speech)

The Patriarch then moved on to the main topics, first of all inviting the faithful children of our Church to adhere to their faith and religious obligations and bear the difficulties and pressures which affect the Christian community today.

He proposed as examples the apostles and martyrs whose shrines he had visited, and where they had proclaimed the Gospel of Jesus Christ and been martyred for his sake: the Apostle Thomas in India, the Apostle Paul in Malta and the Apostle James in Saint James of Compostela in Spain.

His Beatitude repeated his appeal to the faithful not to be afraid of the future, exhorting them to optimism and trust in God, who never abandons his children.

His Beatitude similarly called to mind the preparations for the Synod of Bishops' Special Assembly for the Middle East The Catholic Church in the Middle East: Communion and Witness, convoked by His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI for October 2010.

The Patriarch recalled that he had addressed a letter to the Heads of State of Arab countries to explain to them the meaning and objectives of that special Synodal Assembly and its importance for the Christian presence and for co-existence in the Middle East, developing faith values, human rights, freedom of religion and conscience, the value of women and the protection of families: all values common to Christians and Muslims.

His Beatitude had received a letter from His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI with his good wishes for the success of the Synod, for continuous renewal in the mission particular to the Melkite Greek Catholic Church, and on the eve of the Synod of Bishops' Special Assembly for the Middle East, for the Church to be a communion and witness among Christians, and a stabilising factor for peace and brotherhood among the peoples of the region.

At the beginning of the session, the Fathers of the Synod had addressed a letter to the Holy Father, asking for His Holiness' blessing on the work of the Synod.

His Beatitude spoke again on the first day of the Synod in a meditation for the half-day of recollection:

The Patriarch presented the main points from his Christmas Letter 2009 for the Year for Priests, emphasising the duty of holiness for each bishop and priest, and the need for permanent formation, commensurate with the rapid progress in all sectors; he also emphasised the need for openness on the part of priests towards working with lay-people.

The Patriarch communicated some good news:

  1. He will make a pastoral visit to Latin America (August-September 2010) to our eparchies of Brazil, Venezuela and Argentina. In the last country, he will take part in the seventh congress of the eparchies of the expansion.
  2. In 2011, the jubilee of the bicentenary of the Patriarchal Residence of Ain Traz will take place.
  3. In the spring of 2011, there will take place in Rabweh the inauguration of the Al-Liqa'a international centre for the dialogue of civilisations and next year there will be the first conference, in memory of the late Archbishop Elias Zoghby, who was a great voice calling for Christian unity.

Agenda

Various topics figured in the Synod's agenda.

The Rt. Rev. Bishop Issam John Darwish presented, on the occasion of the Year for Priests, a study, submitted for discussion by the Fathers of the Synod, entitled "Priestly Integrity," calling attention to priestly training and vocations.

The Fathers discussed ways and means of our Church's participation in the Synod of Bishops' Special Assembly for the Middle East and decided upon the topics to be dealt with by each of them during the Synod.

The topic of ecclesiastical courts also drew the Fathers' attention, particularly, how to enable competent and qualified lay-people to take part in the business assigned to these tribunals. They underlined the importance of preparing priests specialising in canon law prior to their taking office. They recommended expediting the verdicts on matrimonial cases and not prolonging the trials. They decided that a Council for Family Protection should be formed in each eparchy, as families are the foundation of Church and society.

The Fathers reviewed the activities that had marked the Year for Priests, in the Patriarchate in general and the eparchies in particular. Then, they were expecting progress in the beatification and canonisation process of the Servant of God, Beshara Abou Mrad, hieromonk of the Basilian Order of the Most Holy Saviour.

Reports

The Fathers examined the report on the Patriarchal Major Seminary of Saint Anna (Rabweh, Lebanon). For the ad hoc Committee supervising the Seminary, the Fathers elected Archbishop Joseph Absi, Patriarchal Vicar in Damascus, to succeed Archbishop Georges Kwaiter, who has resigned from the Committee.

A report was presented about the Community Fund. The Fathers asked the Canonical Commission to prepare an internal statute to help develop the fund to meet the increasing needs of the Eparchies and institutions in realising their projects.

The Patriarchal Liturgical Commission, presided over by His Beatitude, and whose Secretary is the Economos, Elias Shatawi, presented a report on its work, especially with regard to the re-printing of the Evangelion, the Epistolarion, the little Euchologion and the Typikon. Attached to the report was a list of all the liturgical books, texts and hymns published by the Commission since 1992. His Beatitude recalled the obligation for everyone to respect liturgical norms, according to the Church's requirements regarding unity and discipline.

Some Fathers also provided data on developments in the eparchies, which are workshops for the glory of God, the service and preservation of faith and the development of man and society.

Then Mrs. Neveen Haj Shaheen, director of the patriarchal quarterly Le Lien, gave a presentation about the magazine, asking for it to be circulated and asking for news from the eparchies, as the review is our Church's window opening onto the western world and our children in all the regions of our Church's expansion.

Resolutions and Appeals

The Fathers of the Synod strongly condemned the harassment, even killings, perpetrated by extremist groups against our Christian brethren in Iraq, who are the oldest inhabitants of the country and are good citizens, having lived in peace for centuries with their non-Christian fellow-citizens.

The Fathers launched a world-wide appeal for help for Iraq's Christians, bishops, priests and faithful (including university students), to protect their presence in the country and to work for peace in that country, so that all its inhabitants, Christians and Muslims, can work to promote their living together according to the age-old tradition of that country.

The Fathers of the Synod did not fail to register the repercussions of the situation in Palestine, particularly in Gaza and Jerusalem. They strongly condemned the blockade imposed by the Israeli authorities on the Gaza strip, which deprives its inhabitants of many of the basic necessities for life. They appealed to international bodies to intensify their pressure for the delivery of aid to the Gaza strip.

They stressed the importance of the restoration of Palestinian rights and peace in the Middle East, because it is the key to peace in the world. They also appealed to all governments and regional principalities and powers to impose a quick solution to this grave crisis. Similarly, they appealed to Palestinians for national unity to ensure the achievement of their supreme goal of establishing a worthy Palestinian homeland.

The Fathers addressed the Lebanese authorities, especially the police, requesting that they redouble their effective vigilance and take care to thwart sedition and the spread of lawlessness, such as the distribution of leaflets calling for the expulsion of Christians east of Saida from their villages. They also appealed for the Government to work effectively against the epidemic sweeping our young people, such as drugs, moral confusion, etc., so that Lebanon can always remain an oasis of peace, and be worthy of the popular proverb, "Blessed is he who owns a goat-shelter in Mount Lebanon!"

Elections and next Synod

The Fathers went on to elect bishops to eparchies that had become vacant: the names of those elected were sent to the Congregation for Oriental Churches.

They also specified the dates of the Synod for next year, from 20 to 25 June, 2011.

Conclusion

The Synod concluded with the Divine Liturgy, presided over by His Beatitude, surrounded by the Fathers of the Synod, praying ardently for the sons and daughters of our Church, clergy, monks, nuns, and lay-people committed to serving the Church and all our faithful throughout the world, especially for strengthening faith and bringing about justice, love and peace.

Translation from the French: V. Chamberlain
 
Patriarch Gregorios III (File Photo)

Speech of His Beatitude Patriarch Gregorios, III

at the opening of the

Holy Synod of the Melkite Church

Beloved brother Bishops,

Members of the Holy Synod and right reverend Fathers,

Beloved Superiors of our religious congregations

We thank the Savior who has brought us together today in this year's synod as brothers in faith and partners in care, as pastors and servants of the Word of God and of our fellow human beings.

Hearty greetings and best wishes to you, and my prayer for you and the faithful of your eparchies and the members of your religious orders and congregations!

We remember the soul of our deceased brother Archbishop Antoine Hayek who departed into the joy of his Lord on the first Saturday of April. We presided over the funeral in his hometown of Maghdouche with a group of brother bishops.

In this year dedicated to the priest and the priesthood, our parishes have engaged in different activities to commemorate this year. God arranged in his divine mercy for us to encounter this year three Apostles, three Messengers of Jesus Christ's glory. I would like to review for you aspects of these three Apostles Thomas, Paul and James.

I visited India with my brother His Grace Archbishop Joseph Absi, Patriarchal Vicar General in Damascus, and His Grace Archbishop Jules Zerey, Patriarchal Vicar General in Jerusalem, and Economos Elie Chataoui, Patriarchal Steward and Archimandrite Antoine Dib, Patriarchal Chief of Staff. Together we visited the Church of South India, the Syro- Malankara Church, where the believers are called, "Saint Thomas' Christians," because Thomas brought them the Gospel of Jesus Christ in about the year 54 AD! We see Thomas the Apostle doubting as stated in the Gospel. However, we believe in going to India (through Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Iran) he acquires another aspect! He is the brave, courageous Apostle! And his courage and daring (despite doubt) were the basis of his search for the revealed truth! Besides, this boldness and courage underlay his great struggle for the sake of the Holy Gospel, and the dissemination of its divine values in India, a country with a culture that was completely different from Hellenism or the Middle Eastern culture ... He was venturing into the unknown, in order to preach the gospel of the unknown God, to the point of witnessing with his blood. The words of the Apostle Paul seem to apply to him: "For God hath not given us the spirit of fear, but of power and of love!" (2 Timothy 1: 7) Thomas is an example to us of living in the service of our master, Jesus Christ and living our calling, and withstanding hardships in the service of the Gospel, and spreading the word of God in today's world.

I visited Malta with my brother, his Grace Archbishop Joseph Absi, Patriarchal Vicar General and Archimandrite Mtanios Haddad, Apocrisary to the Holy See of Rome. The island has 365 churches, of which 50 have the name of St. Paul. Paul arrived in Malta in an extremity of vulnerability, humiliation and shame: he was a prisoner - bound - ashamed - shivering from the cold, caught between barbarians on the one hand and the ruthless Roman soldiers on the other. After he had spent fifteen days in danger of sinking from the waves, his ship was wrecked on the island... as he was on his way to witness for his master and God Jesus Christ! Before him lay a great mission though he was in the depths of misery and humiliation!

When he arrived at the island he changed from a weak, miserable, tremulous, pitiable man into the missionary wonder-worker, leading the island's governor and all its inhabitants to know Christ and his love! It was like a marvelous, new transformation such as he had undergone at the gates of Damascus, where he was converted from persecutor into preacher of Christ.

And it was as he said, describing the weakness in a letter to the Corinthians: "Of such an one will I glory: yet of myself I will not glory, but in mine infirmities. For though I would desire to glory, I shall not be a fool; for I will say the truth: but now I forbear, lest any man should think of me above that which he seethe me to be, or that he hearth of me. And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong." (2 Corinthians 12: 5-10)

Together with Archimandrite Gabriel Ghanoum and Archimandrite Mtanios Haddad, I visited a great western place of pilgrimage, the largest after the Church of the Resurrection and the Holy Land, the place of St. James the Apostle in Spain in Santiago de Compostela, which translates as: St. James of the field of the star!

We have in him an example: James travelled from the east to the far west, the end of the inhabited world (so-called in the French, Finistères) from the Mediterranean region, to the wide ocean in order to convey the Gospel of his Master Jesus from East to West! ...

In all that there is a lesson for us as pastors and successors of the apostles. Here are three exemplary Apostles, and indeed the example of all the apostles provides guidance for us in our Christian life and pastoral ministry, especially at this critical juncture in the Middle East and as we are preparing for the Synod of Bishops on the Middle East. Many feel fear and frustration due to the difficulties faced by the Christian society in particular. We need the courage of the apostles and fathers in the faith!

I would like to be a prophet of optimism and spread optimism around me, in my Church and beyond. As shepherds do not we all wish to have optimism? We want to be optimistic. I want to be optimistic about the issues of our existence and our presence, our history, our testimony and our present and future role and mission in the Arab East, the cradle of Christianity, where the little Arab Christian flock can trace its roots back over more than two thousand years of co-operation in the making of history, civilization and culture, industry, philosophy, science, literature, thought and creativity, architecture, business and politics in the Arab world....

There are undeniable reasons for pessimism, but there are also genuine reasons for optimism. And you and I would prefer to be optimistic, so that our optimism may alleviate the pessimism of others who have genuine reasons to be pessimistic.

For me this was my position throughout my priestly service in southern Lebanon, my episcopate in Palestine, and my Patriarchy, especially in Syria and Lebanon, and at present in the Arab world in Arab countries and among Muslim Arab leaders. I have been in constant dialogue with them at all stages of my life and still am, and in my project and plans for encounter and intellectual exchange in Lebanon (as well as the Encounter Centre in Palestine) and in my views expressed in my letters...

Dearly beloved brothers!

In our Synod, we have to prepare for the Synod of Bishops' Special Assembly for the Middle East, which is entitled, "The Catholic Church in the Middle East: Communion and Witness."

You have all studied the guidance document (Lineamenta) and the answers sent in late April or early May. On that basis, the first document issued was redrafted into a valuable new document and His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI handed over to us Patriarchs this working paper (Instrumentum Laboris) when he invited us to meet him during his pilgrimage to Cyprus in the steps of St. Paul (4 to 6 June 2010.) And no doubt you are aware of this new document.

Now we have to prepare to take part in this Synod and we are all invited to participate. We have the right to give a speech during the Conference in Rome (10-24 October 2010.) It may be a long or a short intervention. It is important not to take more than the allocated time specified for each intervention (there will be help in this regard.)

The topics raised in the paper work are not foreign to us, but are the subject of our constant attention, as we see reflected in the letters of the Eastern Catholic Patriarchs since the nineties. My messages and letters (especially those catalogued since 2003) have addressed many of the themes.

I have been considering very carefully the work of our fathers of the Second Vatican Council, and in particular our predecessor the late great Patriarch Maximos IV Sayegh and the bishops who participated in the assembly, including especially Bishops Edelby and Zoghby and Tawil and Nijme and Medawar... We all know that among the principal luminaries of the Second Vatican Council numbering over 2500, there were some 15 outstanding persons, including two Greek Catholics: Patriarch Maximos IV Sayegh and Archbishop Elias Zoghy.

In the Second Vatican Council our fathers spoke from the Eastern point of view, in the deliberations on the Liturgy, the position of the Church in ecumenical dialogue, and with regard to Islam and Judaism.

The working document that will set the agenda for the Synod for the Middle East is of a pastoral, ecclesial and social nature... Just as our fathers and predecessors participated in the Second Vatican Council, there must be adequate preparation for effective participation in the coming Synod. In fact, the topics of this Synod are topics of concern to us all, in our parishes and our countries, and to our eparchies, as they are especially concerned with our existence, our history and witness and our present and future existence in the Arab East, the cradle of Christianity, where this little flock has been a continual and constant companion of the Arab world, in making history and civilization, culture and industry, trade, philosophy and literature, sciences and thought and poetry and creativity , architecture and medicine and politics.

We need everyone to create the subject-matter for an appropriate intervention. We will examine during the Synod how to divide the topics so that we address the largest number of topics for the Synod without simply repeating them.

I have sent a letter to Arab heads of state about the blockade on our children and our Palestinian brothers in Gaza and the participation of our brother, Bishop Hilarion Capucci in the freedom flotilla, and called for Palestinians to unite in order to obtain success in the defense of their just cause and their usurped rights.

I also sent a letter to the kings, princes and presidents briefing them about the Synod for the Middle East, which included this section:

"The aim of this letter is to tell you, your excellencies, that it is essential for you to acquaint yourselves with this document. It deserves your attention, because it concerns your Christian fellow-citizens, whom you already know and the meaning of whose existence and national, political, religious and social role and mission you appreciate.

" I tell you that you have power and duty to guarantee the continuing Christian presence and the future role of Christians and every Christian's security, integrity and confidence in the present and future of his family and livelihood ... All this is up to you! And it depends on our brothers, the Muslim citizens!"

You leaders! We are with you, and we are a support for our Arab countries in good times and bad, at home and abroad. We have been and still are faithful to our homeland throughout its history up to the present and we shall continue to maintain our service and our witness!

Very many distinguished leaders, writers and intellectuals have been keen to commend unequivocally the Christian role, and the importance of co-existence, and the Christian presence alongside Muslim citizens, saying that it is great loss for the Arab world to lose the presence of Christians...

Lebanon

We are holding our Synod in this dear country of Lebanon, the country of dialogue and meeting between all God's children. We consider that consensus on major issues of joint concern is the best way to discover factors for cohesion and unity among the variety of political and religious groups, which are essentially the real wealth of this country and region. We are keen to maintain our structure, our civilization and our presence, and anxious at the same time to maintain our living together and interaction with our Muslim fellow-citizens. Good interaction is a bridge linking the hearts and minds of people.

We are gratified at the promise of a return to fraternal relations between Lebanon and Syria, hoping that loving ties will be increasingly consolidated and strengthened, for the good of the two countries.

Our congratulations go to the Maronite Christian Church, its Patriarch, clergy and faithful people, on the occasion of the beatification of the venerable Brother, Blessed Stephen (Nehme).

Christians outside the administration, means Christians outside the country

We encourage our children to get involved in the armed forces and internal security forces, public security and state security and customs, in order to preserve Lebanon and to maintain our role of being in full partnership and responsibility in managing civil society. We call on the faithful to get involved in the civil service and the public sector, because if we are outside the public sector services, we will be outside the country. We call for equity in all sectors and categories of posts in order to preserve the spirit of national reconciliation.

And we thank always the civil leaders in Arab countries wherever our faithful and eparchies are to be found, stressing that we share the same concerns and issues, and that they are at the service of everyone in the community.

Dearly beloved brothers!

As you know during this Synod we shall hold an election of two new hierarchs or bishops of the Archeparchy of Beirut and Tripoli. Perhaps we can agree to add some names to the list of candidates for the episcopate (épiscopables). You will all appreciate the importance of creating good, holy shepherds for our Church, capable of serving the people of God and the wider community. It is most important that we all should create hierarchs of distinction!

We are pleased to inform you that next year (2011) we shall be celebrating the two hundredth centenary of the founding of these summer Patriarchal Headquarters in Ain Traz. We have begun preparations for this event and we shall bring you the details later.

On this occasion, we will encourage agricultural enterprises to invest in the vast territory of Ain Traz with a view to achieving self-sufficiency in our Church. We shall have especially the inauguration of the Al-Liqa'a Encounter Centre for the dialogue of civilizations, God willing, (please distribute the brochure on it) next spring 2011. We'll hold the first conference in this center after the opening in memory of the late Archbishop Elias Zoghby, one of the luminaries of the International Ecumenical Movement and one of the most distinguished men of the Second Vatican Council, together with our late predecessor, Patriarch Maximos IV Sayegh.

On the other hand I am pleased to inform you that I will be visiting our Greek Catholic children in Latin America in August and September next, in each of our parishes in Brazil as guest of His Grace, Bishop, Fares Maakaroun; the exarchate of parishes in Venezuela as guest of His Grace Bishop George Zuhairaty; in Argentina, we shall be hosted by His Grace Archbishop John Abdou Arbash. On this occasion, we shall undertake a visitation of churches and institutions established by our esteemed brother bishops, rejoice with them and congratulate them, as we celebrate the Seventh Conference of Bishops of the Expansion in Argentina. On this occasion of the most intensive efforts to communicate with our children in other parts of South America. I have been working to communicate with the Latin bishops, especially in northern South America.

We must also find ways to connect with our children in the UAE and the Gulf and Africa and everywhere.

At the beginning of this Synod I am bringing you greetings from about two hundred of our sons and brothers, the priests, who met together on the Day for Priests held in the seminary at Rabweh on 16th. June. This meeting was prepared thanks to the animation committee working with His Grace, our brother Bishop Salim Ghazal. It was a very agreeable meeting, in which a number of reverend bishops took part. We thank God very much for our beloved priests, who are our ambassadors, enabling us to spread our wings over our parishes. Ask the faithful to pray for increased vocations to the priesthood and consecrated orders in the holy Church.

In conclusion, may the Savior bless this Holy Synod and its deliberations and decisions, and our people in Lebanon, (which is hosting our Synod), in Syria and all Arab countries, especially Palestine and Iraq, and in countries of the Diaspora, in Europe and North and South America, Australia and New Zealand...

With the Apostle Paul we commend you, beloved brothers and reverend, esteemed members of our Synod, in the holy language of Saint Paul, saying: "I therefore... beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, with all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all." (Ephesians: 1-6)

Gregorios III

Patriarch of Antioch and all the East,

of Alexandria and of Jerusalem

English language text, prepared from the Arabic: V. Chamberlain

 
Middle East from Space

Meeting of the Eastern Catholic Patriarchs and Major Archbishops with Pope Benedict XVI

Announcement of a Synod for the Middle East

Report from the Patriarchal Secretariat

September 19, 2009

On 18 September, there was a preparatory meeting held in the Vatican Palace between the Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone and the Eastern Catholic Patriarchs and Major Archbishops of Ukraine, Romania and India (of Malankar and Malabar.) Present also were Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, Prefect of the Congregation for Eastern Churches, Archbishop Cyril Vasil S.J., Secretary of the Congregation, and Mgr. Maurizio Malvestiti, Undersecretary of the Congregation. The meeting lasted two hours: an opportunity for the Patriarchs and Archbishops to speak (for seven minutes each) about the problems and issues of their Churches and for them to hear the comments from both Cardinals.

Saturday, 19 the above-mentioned Cardinals, Patriarchs and Major Archbishops went by coach to Castel Gandolfo, the papal summer residence. At 11:15a.m. His Holiness opened the meeting with a short prayer from the Syriac Liturgy, followed by a brief address of greeting. He said, "You have asked several times for a meeting, as a sign of collegiality of the Holy Father with you. You are always in my mind and prayers. In this beautiful, brotherly meeting, I am happy to announce officially my decision to hold a Synod for the Middle East from 10-24 October 2010." The Cardinals each spoke in an introductory way and there was then an opportunity for each of the participants to make a seven-minute presentation to the Holy Father.

It was interesting to see how broad and varied were the issues mentioned by the different Churches and how all of them nevertheless shared certain features: especially in the field of ecclesiology, the jurisdictional question of the diaspora and the Eastern Catholic Churches' relationship with the Holy See and with their sister Orthodox Churches; the emigration problem, relations with Islam and the rise of fundamentalism and the need for peace in the Middle East.

The meeting closed with a short response from the Holy Father: he first emphasized the relationship between people and territory in order to solve the problem of patriarchal jurisdiction in the diaspora. Secondly, he emphasized that though Churches have different rites, their communion with Rome should not require them to lose their identity and rights. Thirdly, ecumenical work encounters real difficulties, especially when baptism is repeated in mixed marriages of Greek Catholics with Orthodox. Fourthly, there are difficulties in dialogue with Islam and Hinduism, but Eastern Churches play an important role in that respect. Fifthly, on the subject of peace in the Holy Land, Pope Benedict stressed how important it is for Europe and the United States to exert real pressure on Israel to make peace.

The meeting closed with prayers, after which Pope Benedict greeted all the participants and received different gifts from them and had his photograph taken with the whole group. The participants were then guests of His Holiness for lunch in the Swiss Hall of the Apostolic Palace. H.B. Patriarch Gregorios III offered sweets from Damascus to His Holiness. All participants then received a commemorative medallion of His Holiness.

Report from the Patriarchal Secretariat

On Sunday, 20 September, the Melkite Patriarch Gregorios took the opportunity to celebrate the Divine Liturgy in Santa Maria in Cosmedin. Taking part were Archbishop Hilarion Capucci, resident in Rome, Archimandrite Mtanios Haddad, Rector of the church and Patriarchal Apocrisary of His Beatitude to the Holy See, Archimandrite Sleiman Abouzeid, former Superior General of the Salvatorian Order and Procurator of the Order in Rome and some Melkite student priests in Rome. From the Congregation for Eastern Churches, there participated also Mgr. Malvestiti, Undersecretary and Mgr. Max Cappabianca O.P., Minuting Secretary to the Congregation. Some one hundred faithful were present, including Melkite parishioners and people sympathetic to the Melkite Church. Afterwards, all clergy and some guests were invited to a convivial lunch in Queen Zenobia restaurant.

V.C.

 
Patriarch Gregory sitting in a chair on a porch

A Report on the Activities of the

Holy Synod of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church

June 1-5, 2009

The Holy Synod opened in Rabweh under the presidency of His Beatitude, Patriarch Gregorios III. Present were some thirty bishops and exarchs from eparchies in Arab countries and other countries throughout the world: Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, the Holy Land, Israel, Egypt and Sudan and Canada, the USA, Mexico, Argentina, Venezuela, Brazil, and Australia and New Zealand, together with some retired bishops.

His Beatitude's opening address focused on Saint Paul and his significance in the life of the Church.

Practical issues for discussion by the Holy Synod included: the question of whether to divide the Eparchy of Beirut into two - in the event, it was decided not to do this – and how to help the Eparchy of Tripoli prepare for the imminent retirement of its bishop.

Other questions concerned: the regulation of the Holy Synod itself with its bylaws as well as that of the Permanent Synod (Synodos Endimousa;) the scope of the work of the General Moderator for the Administration of Justice for the Patriarchate, including his duties and prerogatives; the management of transition within eparchies upon the retirement at seventy-five years of age of their bishops.

In view of the forthcoming Papal Proclamation of the Year of the Priest, to take place on 19 June, the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the death of Saint Jean Marie Vianney, Curé d'Ars, the Synod considered the role of the Seminary of Saint Anna, Rabweh, and appointed a committee to prepare a program of events to highlight the role and mission of the clergy.

The Synod considered the importance of peace, especially for Lebanon , Palestine and Iraq and, meeting on the eve of the elections in Lebanon , prayed for a good outcome for all its people.

V. C.

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