WHO WE ARE
Who are the Melkites?
For a long time the principle of the superiority of the Roman rite, which had become general during the Middle Ages, prevailed in the West. The Latin tradition was considered the only true Catholic tradition, and this led to a certain fixedness among Catholics: the Latin way is the only way! Events of the succeeding centuries only served to heighten the feeling among Latin Catholics that to be Catholic one had to be Roman. Vatican II put an end to this provincialist view of the Church once and for all. The Church cannot be identified, it stressed, with any one culture, nation, or form of civilization without contradicting that universality which is of the essence of the Gospel. The existence of Eastern Churches as part of the Catholic family, although they have distinct customs and traditions in all areas of Church life, dramatically shows that to be Catholic one does not have to conform to the Roman model. Indeed, the Roman Church, as the Council affirmed, has learned many lessons of late from the East in the fields of liturgy (use of the vernacular, Communion in both kinds, baptism by immersion), of Church order (collegiality, synodal government, the role of the deacon), and spirituality. In a very real sense, the Western Church “needs” a vibrant Eastern Church to complement its understanding of the Christian message.
ECUMENICAL VOCATION OF EASTERN CATHOLICS
By our fidelity to maintaining our patrimony, by our refusal to be assimilated, the Eastern Churches render a most precious service to Rome in still another area of Church life. Latinizing this small number of Easterners would not be a gain for Rome; rather it would block — perhaps forever — a union of the separated Churches of the East and West.
It would be easy then for Orthodoxy to see that union with Rome leads surely to ecclesiastical assimilation. Thus it is for the sake of ecumenism — to create a climate favorable to the union of the Churches — that the Eastern Catholic must remain faithful to his tradition.
This providential vocation which is ours opens to the Church an unlimited perspective for preaching the Gospel to all peoples who, while they accept faith in Christ, must still remain themselves in this vast assembly of believers. From what has been said above, it is easy for us to find our place in America’s pluralistic societies with its varied Churches and religious groups.
In the now famous words of the late Patriarch Maximos IV, “We have, therefore, a two-fold mission to accomplish within the Catholic Church. We must fight to insure that latinism and Catholicism are not synonymous, that Catholicism remains open to every culture, every spirit, and every form of organization compatible with the unity of faith and love.At the same time, by our example, we must enable the Orthodox Church to recognize that a union with the great Church of the West, with the See of Peter, can be achieved without being compelled to give up Orthodoxy or any of the spiritual treasures of the apostolic and patristic East, which is opened toward the future no less to the past.”
Dear faithful, be united to one another in the love of Christ. Form one soul and one heart with your priests and with one another, for it is only by this union in love that God is truly glorified. With these prayers and sentiments, dear faithful, we ask for you and your families the most abundant blessings of our Lord Jesus Christ.
~Archbishop Joseph Tawil, Christmas, 1970