Final Report of the
Synod of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church
Patriarchal Summer Residence, Ain-Traz
June 21- 26, 2010
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:
- The Rt. Rev. Boulos Borkhosh, Metropolitan of Bosra, the Hauran and Jabal Arab
- The Rt. Rev. André Haddad, Archbishop of Furzol, Zahlé and all the Beqaa
- The Rt. Rev. John Adel Elia, Bishop emeritus of Newton (USA)
- The Rt. Rev. Ibrahim Nehmé, Metropolitan emeritus of Homs, Hama and Yabrud
- The Rt. Rev. Georges Riashi, Archbishop and Patriarchal Administrator of Tripoli – Lebanon
- The Rt. Rev. Georges Kwaiter, Archbishop emeritus of Saida and of Deir-el-Kamar
- The Rt. Rev. Yuhanna (John) Assaad Haddad, Metropolitan emeritus of Tyre
- The Rt. Rev. Cyril (Salim) Bustros, Archbishop-Bishop of Newton
- The Rt. Rev. Boutros Mouallem, Archbishop emeritus of Saint John of Acre, Haifa, Nazareth and all Galilee
- The Rt. Rev. Isidore Battikha, Metropolitan of Homs, Hama and Yabroud
- The Rt. Rev. Georges el Murr, Archbishop emeritus of Petra, Philadelphia (Amman) and of all Transjordan
- The Rt. Rev. Jean-Clement Jeanbart, Metropolitan of Aleppo, of Seleucia, of Cyr
- The Rt. Rev. Farès Maakaroun, Archbishop-Bishop of São Paulo (Brazil)
- The Rt. Rev. Georges Kahhalé Zouhairaty, Apostolic Exarch of Venezuela, titular Bishop of Abila, Lysania
- The Rt. Rev. Issam John Darwish, Bishop of Sydney (Australia and New Zealand)
- The Rt. Rev. Joseph Kallas, Metropolitan emeritus and Patriarchal Administrator of Beirut and Jbeil
- The Rt. Rev. Nicolas Sawaf, Archbishop of Lattakieh and Christian Valley – Syria
- The Rt. Rev. Selim Ghazal, titular Archbishop of Edessa and Patriarchal Auxiliary emeritus
- The Rt. Rev. Joseph Absi, Patriarchal Vicar in Damascus and titular Archbishop of Tarsus
- The Rt. Rev. Joseph-Jules Zerey, Patriarchal Vicar in Jerusalem and titular Archbishop of Damietta
- The Rt. Rev. Georges Nicolas Haddad, Archbishop of Paneas and Marjayyoun (Caesarea Philippi)
- The Rt. Rev. Ibrahim Michael Ibrahim, Bishop of Montreal (Canada)
- The Rt. Rev. Elias Rahhal, Archbishop of Baalbek
- The Rt. Rev. Georges Bacouni, Metropolitan of Tyre
- The Rt. Rev. Elias Shakkour, Archbishop of Saint John of Acre, Haifa, Nazareth and all Galilee
- The Rt. Rev. Georges Bakar, Patriarchal Vicar in Egypt and Sudan, titular Archbishop of Pelusium
- The Rt. Rev. Michel Abrass, Patriarchal Auxiliary (Bishop of Curium) and titular Archbishop of Myra
- The Rt. Rev. John Abdou Arbash, Apostolic Exarch in Argentina and titular Bishop of Palmyra
- The Rt. Rev. Elia Beshara Haddad, Archbishop of Saida and Deir-el-Kamar
- The Rt. Rev. Yasser Ayyash, Archbishop of Petra and Philadelphia (Jordan)
- Archimandrite Gabriel Ghanoum, Patriarchal Administrator of the Eparchy of Mexico
- Archimandrite Jean Faraj, Superior General of the Basilian Order of the Most Holy Saviour
- Archimandrite Samaan Abdel-Ahad, Superior General of the Soarite Basilian Order
- Archimandrite Najib Tobji, Superior General of the Aleppine Basilian Order
- Father Elia Aghia, Superior General of the Society of Missionaries of Saint Paul
Absent and excused were the following:
- The Rt. Rev. Hilarion Capucci, titular Archbishop of Caesarea in Palestine and Patriarchal Vicar ad extra of Jerusalem
- The Rt. Rev. Gregory Haddad, titular Archbishop of Adana and Metropolitan emeritus of Beirut and Jbeil
- The Rt. Rev. Boulos Antaki, titular Archbishop of Nubia and Patriarchal Vicar emeritus in Egypt and Sudan
- The Rt. Rev. Spiridon Mattar, Bishop emeritus of São Paulo (Brazil)
- 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.
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:
- 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.
- In 2011, the jubilee of the bicentenary of the Patriarchal Residence of Ain Traz will take place.
- 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.
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.
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.
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.