Message from Lebanon –

From the Patriarchal Residence in Rabweh, near Antelias, Beirut, Lebanon, I wish you a very Happy Thanksgiving Day, overflowing with the blessings of the Lord.

+John A. Elya

Eparch of Newton

I am pleased to send you the following progress report on the situation of the Melkite Patriarchate regarding the resignation of His Beatitude Patriarch Maximos V Hakim, Patriarch of Antioch and All the East, of Alexandria and of Jerusalem. His Beatitude, 92 year old, bedridden since he had a stroke last February, presented his resignation to the Melkite Synod in a letter dated on October 17, signed by him and four witnesses.

After due consultation with His Holiness Pope John Paul II and the Congregation for the Eastern Churches, an exceptional Synod of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church was held at the Patriarchal Residence, Rabweh, Lebanon on Wednesday, November 22, 2000. It was convened and presided by the Patriarchal Administrator, Archbishop John Haddad of Tyre. The Synod was attended by the following Hierarchs who had come from the Middle East, the Americas and Australia:

Elias Zoghby (Emeritus of Baalbek)

Gregory Haddad (Emeritus of Beirut)

Saba Youakim (Emeritus of Amman, Jordan)

Paul Antaki (Patriarchal Vicar in Egypt and Sudan)

Maximos Salloum (Emeritus of Haifa & Galilee)

Michel Hakim (Emeritus of Canada)

Francois Abou-Mokh (Emeritus Patriarchal Vicar in Damascus)

John Mansour (Patriarchal Vicar Auxiliary in Lebanon)

Michel Yatim (Emeritus of Latakieh)

Lutfy Laham (Patriarchal Vicar in Jerusalem)

Boulos Borkhoch (Houran and the Arab Mountain)

Andre Haddad (Zahleh, Fourzol and the Beqaa)

John Adel Elya (the United States of America)

Ibrahim Nehmeh (Homs, Hama and Yabroud)

George Riachi (Tripoli, Lebanon)

Georges Kouaiter (Saida and Deir-el-Kamar)

Cyril Salim Bostros (Baalbek)

Antoine Hayek (Paneas and Gedeidet Marjeyooun)

Pierre Mouallem, Haifa, Nazareth and Galilee)

George El-Murr (Amman, Jordan)

Isidore Battikhah (Patriarchal Vicar in Damascus)

Jean Janbart (Aleppo)

Fares Macarone, Brazil

George Kahale Zuhairaty (Venezuela & Argentina)

Issam Darwich (Australia)

Sleiman Hajjar (Canada)

Joseph Kallas (Beirut & Gebeil)

Nocola Sawwaf, Lataquieh

Divided by their sees or residence, they had come from: Lebanon (12), Syria (7), the Holy Land (3), Egypt (1), the United States (1), Canada (2), Brazil (1) Venezuela (1) and Australia (1).

It is worth mentioning that, among the members attending the Synod, seven were retired bishops. In contrast to some other Bishops’ gatherings such as the National Conference of Catholic Bishop of America (NCCB), and the Consistory of Cardinals, the retired bishops in attendance at the Melkite Synod enjoy full rights of voting and being voted, on a par with all other bishops. this concern is a good illustration of the traditional high esteem and piety in which Easterners hold the wisdom of old age. According to the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches, a bishop must present his resignation from office at the completion of 75 years of age. However nothing is mentioned about the retirement of the Patriarch.

Four bishops were excused from attending the Synod: Archbishop Capucci, former Patriarchal Vicar of Jerusalem and former Apostolic Visitator in Europe; Archbishop Joseph Raya former Archbishop Of Haifa, Nazareth and Galilee, presently residing at Madonna House, Combermere, Ontario, Canada; Bishop Spiridon Matar, retired Bishop of Brazil, and Bishop Nicholas Samra, Auxiliary Bishop of Newton, USA, who had undergone recently a surgical operation.

The following Press Release was issued by the Patriarchate in this regard {signed by the Most Rev. Archbishop Jean Mansour, the Patriarchal Administrator}

The Holy Synod of the Bishops of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church held on November 22, accepted the resignation of His Beatitude Maximos Hakim V, which he had presented to the Synod {by writing, signed by him and by four witnesses,} on October 17, 2000.

On this occasion, the Fathers of the Synod addressed to His Beatitude the following letter: “To His Beatitude Patriarch Maximos V Hakim, The Fathers of the Holy Synod meeting today at the Patriarchal Residence at Rabweh, beg your blessing and your prayer. They express to your Beatitude their gratitude and their appreciation for your great efforts and your valuable endeavors to enhance our Church on all levels and to make it grow spiritually, pastorally and physically, within the traditional area of the Patriarchate and in the Countries of Emigration.

Our Church owes you many memorable favors, which history will write in golden letters On its shining pages, and which your children will remember with great esteem and pride.

We implore long life for your Beatitude and we ask for your good prayers and your paternal blessings, so that we can continue our journey with diligence and perseverance that you and your great predecessors traced for us in the past.

The Synod decided to call for an “elective Synod” {for the election of a new Patriarch} at 10:00 AM, on Monday, November 27.

The Fathers of the Synod ask all their children, clergy, religious and laity, and all their friends, to help them through their prayers to God, so that He will give them the assistance and the Inspiration of His Holy Spirit, in order to elect the person who will be the father, the shepherd and the faithful servant to the Church and the people.”