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The Presence of the Maronite Church within the Patriarchal Domain






1. “Confirm, O Lord, our Maronite Church in her faithfulness to the Gospel, that she may continue to bear witness to the legacy of the holy fathers, and forefathers, and the saints; and she may be in this East and in the world, a living sign of the culture of love through encounter and dialogue.”


It is with this prayer that our Maronite Patriarchal Synod expressed one of the most enduring missions of our Maronite Church. Divine Providence has desired this Church to have a genuine presence within the Antiochene domain, desiring her destiny to be embodied in the Arab world so that she may remain loyal to the culture of love through her coming together in dialogue with all the children of this region of the world, particularly with the Muslims. In this vocation of hers, the Maronite Church is in loyal continuity with the teachings of her Lord and God, Jesus Christ, and with her abounding heritage, enriched by her fathers, martyrs, and saints ever since Maron the hermit, her patron and ascendant guide, in whose name she was adorned because he was “an adornment in the choir of Godly saints”[1].


2. Our Church recognizes and proclaims, together with her sisters the Catholic Churches of the East, that “Christians in the East are an integral part of the cultural identity of Muslims, just as Muslims in the East are an integral part of the cultural identity of Christians. Therefore, we are responsible for each other before God and history”[2].


Along with her sisters and partners in the Middle East Council of Churches, our Maronite Church has also addressed “our Muslim fellow citizens to whom we are bound by one national affiliation, one land, one concern, and one destiny to work together on a dialogue of life for the sake of a society that respects diversity, achieves equality, preserves freedoms, and protects human dignity and rights”[3].


This pleasant exchange with Islam and the Muslims in the Arab world is truly at the very core of the mission of our Church and is one of the most prominent signs of our Church’s presence in the Arab East. As our Church pursues this exchange in harmony and integration with her Antiochene sister Churches and with the rest of the Churches of the Middle East, neither apart from them nor at their expense, our Church is aware, along with the other Catholic Churches in the East, that this constitutes “a distinctive and fundamental aspect of the identity of our Church within the universal Church”[4].


3. It is true that the mission of the Maronite Church has presently surpassed her historical patriarchal bounds. Indeed, the Maronite faithful have become spread out over the four corners of the world where they are rooted in social environments totally different from that of the Eastern Arab culture. However, our Maronite Church has been and will continue to be ‘present’ in a distinctive spiritual manner within the historical Antiochene Patriarchal Domain, especially since her presence there has been deeply rooted both religiously and culturally for generations. From the perspective of faith, “presence means for us to be, within the society in which we live, a sign of the presence of God in our world… Presence stands between two opposites, seclusion and dissolution. Both are fatal evils because seclusion will abolish our vocation and absorption will dissipate our identity. Real presence, however, is a guarantee that both [our vocation and our identity will endure][5].


4. The Maronite Church’s deep reflection on the awareness of her calling toward Islam in the Arab East cannot be separated from her concern in looking forward to establishing a fruitful dialogue with our Jewish brethren, who share with us their presence in the oriental milieu, and with everyone of good will outside of the monotheistic faith, for “dialogue with God is dialogue with any person or with any community regardless of the difficulties and impediments”[6]. Therefore, we say to our Jewish brethren, “the Holy Scriptures unite us, so does your participation in Arab civilization in centuries long gone. Accordingly, we… consider that you have a responsibility for reestablishing peace, justice, and stability in our communities… We call upon you to open up to the East, and change your perspective of it, whereby you are able to find your place in it according to new rudiments”[7].


To those of good will, we “reach out… in genuine humanitarian cooperation that shuns falseness and cunning, considering that our Christian faith prompts us not to see an enemy in any man, rather a brother to walk with in dialogue and exchange of expertise for the sake of the common good”[8].



The Role of the Maronite Church in her Relationship with Islam in the Arab World


5. The preliminary epochs of the establishment of our Church in the Antiochene domain date back to the period before Islam, and her patriarchal beginnings date back to the period in which the advent of Islam was approaching. The first person to take this long Maronite/Islamic synchrony into full regard was the Maronite Patriarch Stephen Peter Douaihy in his book Tarikh Al Azmina (The Chronicle of the Times). In the course of presenting the Maronite identity, moving between two poles, namely, loyalty to Maron and loyalty to the Roman See of Peter, Patriarch Douaihy found himself directly concerned with Islamic history without actually being part of it. Moreover, he wrote about Islam and Muslims with total objectivity even though he was aware of the strife that existed at that time between Christianity and Islam. He was also aware of the natural sympathy between the Maronites and the Christian West in those times when no distinction was made between the religious and the temporal.


6. A clear perception of the actual state of Maronite/Islamic relations, as well as the future of that relationship, compels us to make a careful and sincere reading of Maronite/Islamic past history related to the Antiochene East which knew “days of glory and days of misery”[9].  The first aim of this reading is to arrive at “a real cleansing of memories and consciences”[10] by employing self-criticism and making a plea for forgiveness from others wherever there has been any infringement on the dignity of individuals or of groups. This cleansing is being done in order to eliminate all residual hatred that has been carried over from the past and that has been embedded, either in the souls of individuals, or in the collective conscience. Patriarch Douaihy offers an example to follow in our study and our readings through his sober and objective reading of the parts of our Maronite history that involve our relationship with Islamic history.


7. We can extract from the reading of our unstable previous relationships with Muslims only a few of the constants that will help us acquaint our historical memory with both the negatives and the positives, and we do this with the hope of purging our memory. In this delicate and necessary move, we would always want to invoke the aid of the Holy Spirit that we may be faithful to the truth without falling prey to infringing on others or drowning in self-reproach. The fact is that purification of the memory aims at freeing the memory rather than rebuking it. Such purification also serves as a firm basis for making new advances toward building a real peace and towards the promise of renewed obedience to the splendor of truth as well as respect for the dignity and rights of others. Pope John Paul II explained this point when he said: “The Church is certainly not afraid of the truth that emerges from history and is ready to acknowledge mistakes wherever they have been identified, especially when they involve the respect that is owed to individuals and to communities…. The Church entrusts the investigation of the past to patient, honest, and scholarly reconstruction that is free from confessional or ideological prejudices regarding both the accusations brought against the Church and the wrongs that the Church has suffered” [11].


First: The Experience of the Maronite/Islamic History in Light of Historic Constants


8. Throughout history, the Maronite/Islamic relationship has known periods of conflict adorned by periods of remission. The withdrawal of some of the Maronite people from their homes and their fertile plains in Syria Secunda and their moving towards the rugged mountains of Lebanon, in large part, was their flight from a subservient position under the reign of the nascent Islamic rule, in which there was no space for living the Christian faith in complete freedom. It is true that the Islamic Ath-Thimma system (a free non-Muslim under Muslim rule) was relatively tolerant by the standards of its time, except that history, in the long run, proved that it had produced demoralizing, humiliating, and exterminatory reactions on Christians at the religious and social levels.


9. Despite the fact that Maronites had to offer resistance in the face of the Umayyad armies during the Mardaïte period, and before the Maronites had to withdraw to the mountains of Lebanon, the Umayyad era was, to some extent, tolerant of Christians. In contrast to the expulsion of some bishops such as Elias al-Yabrudi and the cutting off of the tongue of the Melkite Patriarch Estephan the Third, history recounts how Caliph Mu’awiya did rebuild the great Church of Edessa at his own expense after it had been leveled by an earthquake. Umayyad caliphs often frequented Maronite monasteries, and some Maronites, such as Theophilus Bin Touma, excelled in both the Umayyad and the Abbassid court. Also, in contrast to the Mnaïtra revolt, the torture of the rebels by the Abbassid ruler Saleh Bin-Ali, and the attempt at expelling them from Mount Lebanon, there emerges the stand of Imam Al Ouzaï of Baalbeck who opposed the governor and distinguished himself by his justice and his boldness. During the Crusaders’ era when affinities between Maronites and the Crusaders were in evidence, a remarkable friendliness surfaced between the Maronites and some of the Muslims who had been cut-off from their groups. This part of history is described as follows by the explorer Ibn Joubair: “It is strange that the Christians in the vicinity of Mount Lebanon, upon noticing some of the cut-off Muslims, brought them food and helped them, saying: ‘They are of those who devoted themselves to God to Whom belongs the highest esteem and majesty; and so, sharing with them is a duty’”[12].


10. During the Mameluke period, the Maronite/Muslim relationship was mostly that of oppression and persecution, especially during the period stretching from 1267 to 1367, which was the century of calamities for Maronites as is shown by how in the year 1283, Ehden, Bkoufa, and Hadath Al-Jubbeh were all destroyed and the Maronites who had taken refuge in the Churches in Hasroun and in Kfarsaroun were massacred.  There were also the massacres of ‘Assi el-Hadath and Kal’at Houka.[13] After the final defeat of the Crusaders, a great number of Maronites had to flee to Cyprus and to Rhodes. Kesrwan was destroyed in 1305 after its inhabitants had been expelled. The Patriarch Gabriel Hjoula was burnt alive near Tylan Mosque in Tripoli in 1367. In contrast to these calamities, as Maronite Patriarch Stephen Peter Douaihy has reported, the Mameluke Sultan Az-Zaher one day showed up in Bsharri incognito as he was disguised as a dervish. The monks in the monastery of Qannoubine welcomed him and treated him hospitably. He admired their demeanor, and granted their monastery a bull on a copper plaque with which he exempted the monastery from paying taxes due to the Prince and gave the monastery of Qannoubine precedence over the surrounding monasteries.


11. During the Ottoman era, Maronite/Islamic relations continued to vacillate. During this long period of Maronite history, Maronites were subject to various terrible relapses into calamities such as the massacres of 1840-1860 that occurred both in Lebanon and in Syria. Also, during the course of World War I, Turkish oppression, along with a famine, contributed to the annihilation of roughly one third of the Maronites. Other Christians such as the Assyrians and Armenians were also suffering terrible slaughters at the hands of some Muslims toward the end of the nineteenth century and at the beginning of the twentieth century. Even though horrific carnage was also occurring related to Muslims being victimized by other Muslims, as when the Turks were killing the Kurds, it remained clear that the ugliness of atrocities against Christians was still creating a deep chasm between the collective consciences of Christians and of Muslims. Then there came the Lebanese wars during 1975-1990. These wars were fraught with woes and deplorable massacres, putting to the test the fate of the Lebanese consensual experiment, where many still hoped for a more successful form of coming together related to Christianity and Islam, both in the Arab East and maybe even in the world at large.


12. Regarding relapses and the cleansing of memories, the Maronite Church has conceded, through the mouth of her chief shepherd His Beatitude Patriarch Nasrallah Boutros Sfeir, that during a recent Lebanese war some of her children did do harm to her Muslim brothers under the stress of fear, hatred, and/or exposure to similar offenses from their Muslim partners. His Beatitude said in 1992, “If our Churches have gone through periods that the whole nation went through, periods in which crises and strife took place, in which we and our children did not perform the witness of love in the best way, and in which hardships intensified for all people, forcing them off the path drawn by their religious teachings; and if fighting broke out between brothers on one side or on the other these things ought to be an incentive for us to return to God, to self, and to our neighbor in true repentance and with acceptable penance in order to correct the walk and straighten the crookedness.” His Beatitude continued by appealing to all Christians and Muslims to “work to purify intentions and cleanse hearts, to undertake massive reconciliation, and to combine efforts to rebuild Man and stone”[14].


13. In consolidation of harmony between Christians and Muslims, it would be reason for satisfaction in our Church for our Church to hear also from the Muslim side a sincere confession of past wrongs committed against their Christian brothers in the Arab World throughout history, and thus complete the purging of the memory among everyone. With an honest Muslim confession, the confessions of our Church will not remain one-sided and will not be misconstrued such as to lead to greater injustices against her sons. Our hope is for our Muslim brothers to become aware that the Maronites in particular, and the Christians in general, are exhausted by the tragedies of persecution that they have had to undergo and they continue to be filled with apostolic courage despite all that they have had to endure.


14. We now return to our historical review by noticing that both the Ottoman and the modern epochs in the East were all marked by a sunny disposition regarding the progress of our Maronite Church. During the Ottoman period there were signs that were beginning to emerge related to there being a great Maronite cultural renaissance, thanks to the openness of our Church toward the Italian renaissance coming via the Maronite College in Rome, which was established by Pope Gregory XIII in 1584. Since our Maronite Church during that time was advancing with great strides toward a gradual voluntary arabization[15], the Maronite College in Rome became a launching place for the first Arab renaissance that was advancing at the hands of the Maronite college students. These students excelled in all the fields of science to the point where the expression, “learned like a Maronite” became common in the West. These students also participated in promoting orientalism in Europe and participated in the compilation of a multi-language Holy Bible that included Syriac and Arabic between the years 1628 and 1645 (Sehyouni, Shalak, Haklani). These students also introduced Arabic and Syriac typefaces into the Medici press in Tuscany (Yaacoub Bin Helaal, 1590 – 1594). They also taught Arabic in the most important European universities, and edited and catalogued oriental manuscripts both in Rome and in Madrid (Hawwa, As-Sem’ani, Al Ghaziri), as well as translating these manuscripts into Latin (As-Sem’ani in his famous book Al Maktaba Assharqiyya, The Oriental Library)[16].


15. After the advent of an Arab renaissance in Europe that continued to be advanced at the hands of Maronites, a similar renaissance began to occur for the Maronites in Mount Lebanon. In 1610 the first printing press in the East arrived at the Maronite monastery of Saint Anthony. The Qozhayya and the Book of Psalms were printed there, both in Syriac and in Arabic. Of note, both printings used Syriac characters because few Maronites at that time were familiar with the Arabic script.[17] The Arabic book printing industry that used the Arabic language and Arabic characters did not develop until 1734, when the first printing press to utilize Arabic characters was set up in the monastery of Saint John the Baptist in Khonshara through the joint efforts of the Jesuit Father Peter Fromage and the Catholic Melchite deacon Abd Alla Az-Zakher. The Lebanese Synod convoked in 1736 called for the spread of free public education, an educational system that included educating girls, which was a pioneer initiative even for Europe. Returning from Rome for that purpose, Maronites established the first school that would be based on a Western pattern in which students could get instruction in history, geography, arithmatic, physics, grammar, logic, philosophy, rhetoric, and in ancient and modern languages, and could study these subjects along with their religious instruction. Maronites also founded the first institution for higher education, which was the school of Ain Warqa (1789) where four languages were taught, namely, Arabic, Syriac, Latin, and Italian. Then a fifth language, French, was added.


16. Even further, Maronites began translating all of the important classical works in theology, philosophy, and religion from Latin into Arabic. Thus, Peter Attoulawi translated most of the Thomistic philosophy, i.e., Aristotle’s philosophy as interpreted by Saint Thomas Aquinas. The Maronite from Aleppo, Abou-l-Mawahib Ya’coub Bin Ne’met Allah Bin Abi Al Ghaith Boutros Ad-Debsi, produced an eloquent Arabic translation of the Holy Bible entitled The Pure Noble Gospel and the Radiant Bright Light and he also produced a translation of The Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis. Youssef Al-Bany made a complete translation of the five-thousand-page commentary on the Holy Bible written by the Dutch Jesuit Cornelius Alapide (Cornelius the Stony), and he also translated many other works including Theresa of Avila’s The Road to Perfection. Of all of these translators, the main Maronite pioneer of the Arab renaissance remains Germanos Farhat, Bishop of Aleppo (1632-1670), for he was the one who introduced Arabic into the Maronite public conscience when he authored the first Arabic grammar book entitled The Study of the Required (Bahth Al Mataleb). In this Arabic grammar book he relied completely on the Holy Gospel. He also wrote a book on Arabic stylistics, many poetical works of religious inspiration, and a book on Christian apologetics. Germanos Farhat was indeed the major advocate of harmony between the Christian faith and Arab culture. Finally, this scholar also played an important role in the translation of the Maronite liturgy from Syriac into Arabic.


17. This far-reaching Maronite cultural renaissance paved the way for the well known Arab World renaissance, which began with Napoleon Bonaparte’s campaign in Egypt in 1798. Maronites, and Christians in general, played a pioneering role in this second phase of the renaissance by introducing Egypt to the field of Arab journalism and to the arts in terms of Arabic theatre, the historical novel, free-verse poetry, and the cinema. Their participation was also evident in the ways in which they launched industries and banks in Egypt, thus also playing a pioneering role in strengthening the Egyptian economy.


18. Thus it is clear that Maronites have contributed decisively to the Arab cultural renaissance and have played a major role in linking the Arab World to modernity. Maronites also have contributed to strengthening the relationship between their Maronite Church and Arab civilization. Then, especially in Lebanon, a series of remarkable social and political revivals began to take place that have left a lasting, positive, and absolute effect on Christian/Muslim relations. After the Maronite ecclesiastical entity was organized on firm foundations, which crystallized with the Lebanese Synod in 1736 and within the Ma’an Emirate, the Maronites in Lebanon acquired a favorable partnership and political entity with the Druze, a political entity that was parallel with that of the ecclesiastical entity.  At the time of the Shehabi Emirate, there began to be a rare departure from the earlier history of Christian/Muslim relations. This change was exemplified by the peaceful conversion of many Sunni, Shiite, and Druze families into Christianity. Thereafter, as a result of better relations and during the Mutasarrifiyya reign, particularly with the creation of the Republic of Greater Lebanon, a civil society was established that was based on public liberties. The society was made up of numerous religious affiliations, thus creating a situation which allowed the Maronite Church to grow along with the other Churches in Lebanon, and to grow within an independence of state authority over Islamic and Christian codes of law. Such a situation was a historic accomplishment within the Arab World. The Maronite Patriarch Elias Boutros El Hoyek played a historic role in the establishment of this model of consensual partnership between Christians and Muslims within the Republic of Greater Lebanon[18]. His famous address still lives on: “I have always worked for peace by words and deeds, and although I am the patriarch of the Maronites, all of the Lebanese have delegated that I petition for the independence of their country. Therefore I am for each one of them, and not just for the Maronites” [19].


19. These series of social, political, and cultural revivals were crowned by the birth of the independent State of Lebanon. This State was established according to a pact of communal living between Lebanon’s Christians and Muslims. The pact was called The National Pact. The highlights of this pact involved complete freedom for individual citizens, and a pluralistic and integral partnership between all of the Lebanese religious communities. Thus, thanks to Lebanon’s consensual and free regime, Lebanon became the firstborn presence of the long-desired interface between Christianity and Islam, not only in the Orient but also in the entire world. This interfacing of Christianity and Islam in Lebanon is what led Pope John Paul II to publicly pronounce before the whole world a wonderful testimony concerning the unique value of Lebanon: Lebanon is more than a country; Lebanon is a mission of freedom and a model of pluralism for the East as well as for the West”[20].


20. With the establishment of a pluralistic and free Lebanon, the Maronites entered a new era in the history of Christians and Muslims, an era that “transcended the confrontational relations between Islam and Christianity that had dated back to more than a thousand years,”[21] a new era that the Maronites had chosen through their determination and their efforts. Moreover, the Maronites adhered to their commitment to a pluralistic and free Lebanon in order to build a model country whose mission is freedom in Truth.


21. This Christian/Muslim partnership model in Lebanon, when it is considered in the absolute, represents a historical turning point in the relations between Christians and Muslims. This model has indeed transformed a Christian/Muslim relationship that previously had been one of tension and inequality, into one of harmony and equality. Our Maronite Church played an essential role in establishing this model and her role shall remain crucial in safeguarding the model so that it does not stumble.


22. The Lebanese partnership model is based on two aspects of partnership between Christians and Muslims, which is on the one hand a partnership in culture and on the other hand a partnership in destiny. Support for a partnership in culture requires a commitment to the centrality of the Arabic language. Support for a partnership in destiny requires a commitment to the finality of the Lebanese homeland.


If we transcend looking at the Lebanese partnership in its narrow, nationalistic, purely Lebanese frame and proceed to look at the partnership in terms of its ultimate purpose, then the aspect of the partnership in terms of how this partnership in culture requires a commitment to the Arabic language, by both Christians and by Muslims, goes far beyond defending the Arabic language against various duplicities with respect to local dialects. More comprehensively, such a partnership in culture is a commitment to constantly update and modernize the Arabic language, which is based on cultural roots that are situated somewhere between the Syriac and the Greek. This requires that we take into consideration the interaction of the Arabic language with all of the living cultural languages that produce modernity in our contemporary world. In other words, this partnership in culture will in fact serve to totally commit Maronites to consolidate Arab culture within both modernity and authenticity.


As for the partnership in destiny aspect of this partnership, we must also consider its ultimate purpose. That purpose implies that the commitment of Christians and Muslims to the finality of the national Lebanese scope goes beyond an outright rejection of those calling for a national Christian homeland or for a national Islamic state; rather it is, in reality, a commitment to a Lebanese homeland that is founded on the concepts of human dignity, on the human rights of its individuals, and on the rights of groups, as has been clearly understood by the human family since the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was issued in 1948 and was ratified by binding international treaties that were inspired by that Declaration. In other words, this partnership consists of the final rejection by Muslims of the “minorities” concept and the forgiving precepts of Ath-Thimma merely tolerated under Islamic law.


23. When we follow up with a study of the constants of past history in Arab countries other than Lebanon, we will realize that Christian/Muslim relations in those other Arab countries have undergone evolution to varying degrees. We will also realize how that evolution in those other Arab countries was different from the evolution that had taken place in Lebanon. The disparity among the countries of the Arab East related to their strengthening Christian/Islamic coexistence is well known across history. The clearest signs of disparity are the fluctuating conditions of Christian minorities in the Arab countries that have Muslim majorities. There are disparities in terms of both the religious and the social conditions, ranging between a condition where freedom of worship is enjoyed without equality in other human rights, to a condition where Christians are prohibited from building a place of worship where they can fulfill their religious obligations toward the Exalted Creator. A final disparity is shown by the condition that resulted in Christians being forced to leave the land where they had taken up residence in an Arab country. Frankness demands that we recognize the existence of such occurrences, as they exist even today. Pope John Paul II himself indicated this when he said: “So many appeals have reached the Apostolic See that denounce the situations in which Christians in particular are subject to measures of flagrant and unjustified discrimination whether it be in the Middle East or in Africa. For example, in some countries where Islam is the prevalent religion, Christians even now are not allowed to have a single place of worship. Elsewhere, Christians cannot take part in political life as is the normal right of citizens, and in yet other places Christians are simply advised to leave. Therefore, I call upon all officials in countries already engaged in the profitable experience of inter-religious dialogue to face this problem seriously and pragmatically. For is it not a question of respect for the conscience of the human individual and for civil peace, and also is it not a question of the credibility of international treaties”[22]?


24. With all of this in mind the Maronite Patriarchal Synod realizes that there is an urgent need for launching a plan for sincere Christian/Muslim dialogue at the regional level in order to uncover the reasons behind the disparity between those Arab countries which do and do not support Christian/Islamic coexistence. This dialogue must take place in order to find ways of working towards an agreeable consolidation of Christian/Islamic coexistence.


25. In contrast to the worrisome aspects of these disparities throughout those Arab countries, it is appropriate for us not to forget the vivid and encouraging milestones in the history of relations between the Maronites and Muslims outside of Lebanon. One such milestone was the famous visit of the Maronite Patriarch Boulos Boutros Mass’ad to the Ottoman Sultan Abd-il-Aziz in Istanbul in 1869. The Patriarch seized the occasion of this meeting to ask for Lebanese Muslims to be exempted from military service just as their Christian compatriots were. The Sultan was impressed by the patriarch’s wisdom and subtlety, and complied with his request[23].


26. Moreover, there exists a solid and historically deep-rooted relationship between the Maronite patriarchate and the Hashemite dynasty in the Kingdom of Jordan. The latter undertook a pleasant initiative of openness toward the former when the dynasty offered the vice patriarchate a piece of land in Amman, on which the Church of Saint Sharbel was built and, next to the Church, a parish hall and a school were built. Also showing a positive relationship is the fact that many Islamic/Arab countries have long shown concern for the Maronites and have welcomed Maronites to work with them, giving the Maronites great hospitality and preference especially in the countries in the Arabian Peninsula. This positive relationship was so much in evidence that it was formerly suggested that the Maronite patriarchate should nominate a permanent official delegate to represent the patriarchate in the Arab states in which there was not a Maronite eparchy. Of note, this situation of having delegates has recently become a reality. A patriarchal delegate has in fact been assigned for the Maronites both in Kuwait and in the Arab Gulf states. Finally, with respect to positive relationships, one should not forget the freedom that is enjoyed by Christians both in Syria and in Iraq in terms of Christians being able to build new places of worship without restriction. Moreover, the Syrian government has granted to the leaders of all Christian denominations a series of inherited rights acquired during the Ottoman epoch; these rights include exemption of Christian places of worship from paying taxes.


27. By reviewing deeply our historical memory, both in terms of the negative and the positive aspects of Christian/Muslim relations in the Arab East, we strengthen the belief of the Maronite Church that the fraternal path between Christians and Muslims is open to their children. The Maronite Church believes that this fraternal path will stretch out as far as their children’s hopes for such a path, and will be as wide-ranging as is the size of the resolve of their children to follow a fraternal path. The history of our region in the Arab East is the best witness and is the best teacher to show that mutual understanding between the two major religions is able to succeed in our Arab Antiochene sphere whenever the intentions are pure and the wills are solidified towards openness and cooperation.



Second: Current Christian/Islamic Relations within the Antiochene Domain from a Maronite Perspective—Concerning the Facts, Requirements, and Obstacles


28. Today we are living within a new historic phase. The direction of this new phase is perpetual openness between peoples, countries, and cultures. This is a reality thanks to all of the modern means of communication that have intertwined the human race, abridged distances, and allowed the free exchange of commodities, ideas, and persons throughout the entire world. On the ecclesiastical level, we are living in times of renewed grace ever since the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965), which was the first ecclesiastical council ever to show openness to Islam and to address Islam in a council’s texts, singling Islam out with expressions of appreciation.


1. New Facts in Contemporary Christian/Islamic Relations within the Antiochene Domain


29. Ever since Vatican II, an official positive perception of Islam and of Muslims became evident within the Catholic Church. The negative image of Islam that had been accentuated over the previous years has now gradually started to fade away. Nostra Acetate is the historical declaration that emanated from Vatican II. It delineates the true nature of the Church’s relationship with non-Christian religions. The third paragraph of Nostra Acetate reads: “Also, the Church regards Muslims with esteem. They adore the one God, living and subsisting in Himself; merciful and all-powerful, the Creator of heaven and earth, the One Who has spoken to men; they take pains to submit wholeheartedly even to His inscrutable decrees.... Though they do not acknowledge Jesus as God they revere him as a prophet. They also honor Mary, his virgin Mother; at times they even call on her with devotion. In addition, they await the day of judgmentthey value the moral life, and they worship God especially through prayer, almsgiving, and fasting. Since over the course of centuries many quarrels and hostilities have arisen between Christians and Muslims, this sacred Synod urges everyone to forget the past and to work sincerely for mutual understanding in order to preserve, as well as to promote, a path of togetherness for the benefit of all mankind in terms of social justice and moral welfare as well as peace and freedom.”[24]


30. Moreover, the Council in its dogmatic constitution, Lumen Gentium, placed Muslims in the forefront of those who believe in the Creator and who worship the One God and stated in the sixteenth paragraph: “The plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator. In the first place amongst these are the Muslims….”[25] Thus, the Church has put Islam in the forefront among monotheistic non-biblical religions; she has also acknowledged the salvation of the Muslim person by Jesus Christ even though the Muslim person does not belong explicitly to the Catholic Church.


31. It is noteworthy to mention that, “The foundation of the Church’s commitment to dialogue (with other religions, among them Islam) is not merely anthropological but primarily theological,” as is stated in an important document issued by the Pontifical Council for Inter-Religious Dialogue and the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples in the year 1991, in a document entitled Dialogue and Good News. This document adds the following: God, in an age-long dialogue, has offered and continues to offer salvation to humankind. In faithfulness to the divine initiative, the Church too must enter into a dialogue of salvation with all men and women[26].


32. Therefore, the Church attaches great importance to dialogue with other religions. She exerts intensive efforts for dialogue through the Pontifical Council for Inter-Religious Dialogue. Also, the Apostolic See has established in 1974 an official committee under the Pontifical Council for Inter-Religious Dialogue with the exclusive task of consolidating religious relations with Muslims. This committee works to establish deep-seated understanding between the two religions on issues of common interest such as peace, justice, freedom, and the reinforcement of human rights. Our Maronite Church is represented in this Council as well as in the committee. The Maronite Church supports the task of consolidating religious relations both by her own testimony and by her long historical experience in weaving good ties with Muslims.


33. As for the Arab East in particular, Pope John Paul II carefully undertook a series of special initiatives towards Muslims. He visited Morocco in 1985, giving eighty-thousand young Muslim Moroccans a historic address that went straight to the heart. Then on February 24, 2000, he visited Al-Azhar in Cairo where he was welcomed with such exceptional hospitality that the two parties decided to dedicate this date to the annual meeting of their respective bodies for dialogue. Then he made his historic visit to the Great Umayyad Mosque in Damascus on May 6, 2001. This was the first mosque ever to be visited by a pope. Prior to these two initiatives, Pope John Paul II had invited representatives of the three major Islamic confessionals in Lebanon to attend, as fraternal observers, the Special Assembly of the Synod of Catholic Bishops for Lebanon that was held in 1995.


34. At the end of that special assembly, Pope John Paul II issued his Apostolic Exhortation, A New Hope for Lebanon, on May 10, 1997, including in that hope an ardent appeal for Christian/Muslim dialogue not just in Lebanon but also in the Arab East. Without a doubt this was a call that was binding on our Maronite Church. His Holiness added in this regard: “While the Catholic Church is open to dialogue and cooperation with Muslims in Lebanon, She also wants to be open to dialogue and cooperation with the Muslims of the other Arab countries.” Accordingly, concerning the Christians of Lebanon, His Holiness emphasized “the need for them to maintain and to strengthen their relation of solidarity with the Arab World… and to institute with the rest of the Christians of the Arab countries a deep and genuine dialogue with Muslim believers,” hoping that “dialogue and cooperation between Christians and Muslims in Lebanon may help to bring about these same steps in other Arab countries”[27].


35. It is clear from the foregoing that Pope John Paul II laid great stress on the Lebanese consensual formula between Christians and Muslims as being a true model for the hoped-for-relations between Christians and Muslims throughout the Antiochene house. Pope John Paul II clearly reiterated that position in the homily that he addressed to the Lebanese people during the celebration of the closing Mass of the Synod for Lebanon in which he said: “We want to declare to the world the importance of Lebanon and the historic mission that it has accomplished throughout the ages. Being a country of numerous religious confessionals, Lebanon has proven that these different confessionals can live together in peace, brotherhood, and cooperation. Lebanon has proven that it is possible to respect the right of every person to have religious freedom, and that all are united in their love for this country, which has matured over the centuries while preserving the spiritual heritage of the fathers, particularly that of the holy monk Maron”[28].


36. In an earlier address His Beatitude Patriarch Nasrallah Boutros Sfeir explained at length the significance of this Papal citation concerning Lebanon’s unique mission. “What characterizes Lebanon,” says His Beatitude, “is that the followers of these two religions enjoy the same rights and perform the same duties.” With regard to religious rights, “... it is commonly known in Lebanon that religious freedom is protected and each one of the seventeen confessionals worships God according to what its own conscience dictates … and there can be one who does not pray, since it is a matter of conscience and there is no coercion in religion”[29]. With regard to civil and political rights, these rights are secured undiminished for every citizen by virtue of the Constitutions. Also, regarding political decisions, a full partnership is maintained between Christian and Islamic communities. The Maronite Church does not allow any compromise regarding this equality in rights and this purity in decision making. As His Beatitude the Patriarch has warned: “If it comes to stand that it is enough for the minority to be provided with work, food, drink, sleep, rest, and entertainment, leaving it to the non-minority to take care of political issues and decisions concerning those persons who are in the minority, this would be a flagrant violation of human rights and dignity and would only be accepted by one who had renounced his right to his own humanity”[30]. Finally, with respect to the dialogue of life, the Lebanese model is based on what His Beatitude has spoken about, “a daily and practical interaction existing in various fields and domains”[31]. This is how there came into existence what is known as the covenant of communal living, which “does not simply consist of living together as neighbors, but… of a distinct Lebanese culture resulting from the mixing of the two cultures, Christian and Islamic, each keeping its own characteristics and distinctive features.” Support for this covenant of communal coexistence and this Lebanese double-natured culture is absolute freedom for all so “that no one party prevails over another which would transform Lebanese society into rulers and subjects, if not even to say oppressor and oppressed.” Freedom is the justification for the existence of the covenant of communal living. Without the first, the second loses its meaning. His Beatitude the Patriarch made a resounding declaration in his most eloquent defense of freedom as being a supreme value that is to be revered by our people and adhered to by our Maronite Church, with freedom being tantamount to being the red line that separates the subsistence of the covenantal communal coexistence from its demise as is shown by His Beatitude’s words: “If the Lebanese were to be placed before the difficult choice of [keeping or losing] communal living and freedom, history indicates that the Lebanese, with Christians in the forefront, [would keep it and they] have never hesitated before this choice, for to them it is a priority and a constant… nor have they found refuge in these mountains for centuries for any reason other than to preserve what to them are two of the values most cherished, namely, their faith in God and the responsible freedom, which when they no longer found it in Lebanon they sought it over every land and under every sky” [32].


37. In addition, it is our duty to note with optimism the increasing openness of Islam to the idea of a refreshing dialogue with Christianity in the East. Also of note is the increasingly parallel acknowledgment of a partnership model that has been shown by the example of the partnership between Christianity and Islam in Lebanon and the hope that such partnerships can succeed in other Arab and even non-Arab societies as well. One of the great deceased Lebanese Muslim imams summarized this pioneering position by saying: “I see that it is the responsibility of the Arabs and the Muslims to encourage the employment of all means that would enable Christianity in the East to regain its full presence, effectiveness, and role in decision making, and in giving direction to history, and for there to be in this regard a full partnership between Christians and Muslims in all their countries and in all their societies”[33]. Another acknowledgment of Lebanon’s partnership model is the assertion made on May 13, 2003 by one of the high-standing incumbent presidents of a noble Islamic state in his historic speech, which was delivered during his visit to Lebanon: “I have given thought to the dialogue of civilizations and of cultures, and I still do, and I have found in Lebanon a striking corroboration of that… and I still do! I have also considered truth and tolerance to be a source of life for every people and I have found in Lebanon a remarkable embodiment of this fact… This country constitutes a principle center for dialogue whose voice resounds throughout the whole region… and I beseech Lebanon… to engage once again in spreading the message of peace, understanding, truth, and justice in all parts of the region and in all the world, and to create favorable conditions for religious, political, cultural, and economic dialogue at the regional level. We consider Lebanon’s solidarity and communal living as a unique example for all the Middle East[34].


38. It is elementary that these fine Islamic appeals that reflect the nobility and wisdom of those who made them should have the attentive ears of our Maronite Church and of all her Antiochene sister Churches. The Maronite Church finds herself directly concerned with these appeals and has a sacred duty in this domain particularly by reason of the position of responsibility that God willed for the Maronite patriarchate to hold given that the Maronite Church is the strongest voice among the Christians in Lebanon, and sometimes even the strongest Christian voice in the Lebanese nation as a whole by virtue of the Church’s occupying an esteemed position in the eyes of all who are among the Christians in the East. Maronite patriarchs have assumed this duty in the past and are still assuming this duty today. The patriarch of the “white Arabism,” Patriarch Boulos Boutros Meouchy, used the title “Lebanon’s Mission in the Arab World” for one of his pastoral letters in which he said: “Today, Lebanon truly senses its strong solidarity with the Arab states not only with respect to their common culture but also, and above all, because of their common destiny. It considers itself a link between East and West, working to unfurl the banner of understanding and brotherhood… and it aspires to turn this wish into tangible realities within its borders. Lebanon also aspires to contribute, with all its strength, to the fulfillment of this same desire in the Arab World”[35].

In the same context and testifying to the role of our Churches in the East, His Beatitude Patriarch Mar Nasrallah Boutros Sfeir adds to this by saying: “If there are some who seek repose in their own isolation, and contentment by living safely and away from any disturbance in some narrow patch of land, surely they will not get this repose, and if Providence has placed us here, where we have been for hundreds of years, it is for a role that He has willed for us to play, namely, the fulfillment of Christian testimony in consolidating communal living… and suffices the pride that our witness should bear, for us and for others, more of such fruits as responsible freedom, justice, love, attachment to spiritual values, respect for human rights, guidance through the light of truth, and sense of dignity, the dignity of the children of God”[36].


39. In short, our Maronite Church is an indivisible part of the Antiochene apostolic patriarchate and therefore, it has rightly been guided by the teachings of the universal Church ever since Vatican II under the direction of her holy patriarchs and particularly since the time of her scholar Maronite Patriarch Stephen Peter Douaihy. This guidance requires that it be firmly established in the minds of our Church’s faithful that they have a major role to fulfill in the East and in their natural environment and original abode, and requires that they take on this role for the sake of good communal living with their Muslim brothers and sisters, as well as, in parallel with this calling, for the sake of strengthening the Christian presence in the Arab East. The foundation of this aspired-to communal living is based on living in the fullness of freedom within the plurality of confessionals, of religions, and of cultures, which has always been the situation in Lebanon across the long epochs of Lebanon’s history. This communal way of life, says Pope John Paul II, has become a source of inspiration both for the East and for the West. Also, this communal way of life will remain a source of inspiration for Lebanon itself as long as this same Lebanon does not disassociate itself from the trust of living the life of freedom in a healthy way within plurality.


2. New Requirements in Contemporary Christian/Muslim Relations within the Antiochene Domain


40. Building Christian/Islamic relations in the Antiochene East on the basis of fraternal dialogue and mutually beneficial coexistence also satisfies the urgent requirements of our Arab societies. We are being called upon to attend to these requirements. It is no wonder that there is such urgency since there are “deep cultural pains”[37] that the Arab East is going through nowadays, as it is part of the Third World. We must scrutinize all of the ramifications with frankness and deliberation in order to define the intertwined elements and isolate the lurking place of obstacles as we work to transcend the obstacles and satisfy the requirements of our Arab societies with wisdom, expertise, and patience.


Our fathers the Catholic Patriarchs of the East have surveyed some aspects of these “deep cultural pains” in their second and third pastoral letters (Easter 1992 and Christmas 1994). Enlightened by those surveys of the fathers, we would like to return to this object of research in some detail, giving updates to them in the light of an increasing deterioration in the living conditions of each Arab person in our region, particularly as it relates to his dignity and individual rights.


41. The first phenomenon to attract attention is the striking religious awakening in our Arab East, which is happening simultaneously with its counterpart in many contemporary human environments. Within this religious awakening though, even with optimism being evident in terms of all that this awakening carries by way of blessed capabilities to renew the spiritual health in today’s world, we should not turn a blind eye towards any glimpse of a semblance of hard handedness, fanaticism, or the disquieting aggressiveness that is marking so much of religious practice especially in the Arab region. If going back to the fundamentals is what is being sought in every religion for the sake of reviving its spiritual wellsprings, this must not result in a return to stringency and rigidity which can change what has been named religious, transforming it and turning it into a fanaticism that distorts both religion and man. This negative trend has unfortunately grown to such an extent that the term “fundamentalism,” as it is understood nowadays, implies a tight narrowness that is contrary to what so many fervent believers want to understand by the name of religion.


42. One of the effects of the fundamentalism that calls itself Islamic in the Arab East is the increase in a total rejection of pluralism whether it be religious, denominational, ethnic, or linguistic. It is no secret to anyone what the implications of this fundamentalist trend are in terms of the dangers both to the fate of Christian congregations and to others in the Arab East. This fundamentalist trend involves a total lack of openness and fraternity among people of different religions, ethnicity, and/or languages as it accentuates their isolation from each other, causing them to withdraw. All of this can only lead to the breeding of ever new fundamentalisms that are parallel to the first in terms of rigidity, seclusion, and hostility.


It is the duty of our Church to remind everyone that the Church rejects any mixing between faith and religious fanaticism. “The difference between the believer and the fanatic is huge: God makes use of the believer whereas the fanatic uses God; the believer worships God whereas the fanatic worships himself, only imagining that he is worshipping God; the believer listens to the words of God but the fanatic distorts them; the believer rises towards the level and the love of God while the fanatic pulls God down to his own level; the believer fears God while the fanatic is a relentless threat to others; the believer glorifies God whereas the fanatic disgraces God and His majesty; the believer performs God’s will but the fanatic puts his own will in place of God’s.… Fanaticism is a form of denial both of God and of man”[38].


43. Along with the spread of fundamentalism, which is a relatively modern phenomenon, there still exist the previous Arab cultural impasses. The first and foremost impasse is an absence of political freedom for Christians in most Arab societies, and in fact, in some of those societies there is a lack of political freedom even for the Muslim population. There also are widespread violations of other human rights including civil, economic, social, and cultural rights - not to mention religious rights. In addition, there especially are violations related to the rights of women and of minorities. Add to these violations the chronic and crucial political problems such as the Palestinian cause, the Iraqi tragedy, the Lebanese question, and other issues that are on-hold. These all have had and will have profound impact on the region’s modern history as they loosen the Arab person from his conscience and from his identity.


In the face of these dangers the Maronite Church along with Pope John Paul II would like to remind everyone that, “Man transcends any social system and is the principal value.”[39] We, along with the Catholic patriarchs of the East, would like to remind everyone that, “The criterion of political and social systems is man… By the word ‘man’ we mean the whole human person both individual and communal.” We also remind that, “Human rights are sacred through the sanctity of God who created man and wanted him to be the focus of all rights and obligations…”[40].


44. Based on the foregoing, and because the rights of individuals and of communities are the other side of God’s rights, the Church sees herself as being entrusted with those rights and with a duty to defend those rights, condemning whoever may violate them. For the same reason, the Maronite Church believes that it is her responsibility, in conjunction with her Antiochene sister Churches, to always remain in continuous dialogue with the followers of Islam in the Arab East so that the two religions may join together in defending these human rights which are the other side of God’s rights. Our Church requests that national leaders realize that in order to make peace a political reality for all nations, the leaders are required to respect the rights of each person and of all people, and also respect the rights of each community and of all communities, and to do this because peace will not prevail except by respecting both the rights of the people and of their communities.


45. An understanding such as this between the two religions is an understanding that involves both religions being advocates for human rights, for peace, and for social justice. This is known in the morals of the Church under the title of Dialogue of Action[41], which is a field of collaboration “for the integral development and liberation of people[42]. The Dialogue of Action, along with the Dialogue of Life[43], the Dialogue of Theological Exchange,[44] and the Dialogue of Religious Experience[45], represent the fundamental forms of the four types of dialogue[46]. There are many examples of joint initiatives that have united the two religions as they confront grave social and political problems. One example was their joint defense of family values at the United Nations’ Conference on Population and Development which was held in Cairo in 1994. Another example is the common statement issued by Al-Azhar and the Vatican, a statement that condemned terrorism subsequent to the events of September 11, 2001.


46. Our Maronite Church continuously promotes all possible levels of dialogue with Muslims with whom the Church has lived in one form or another since the very beginnings of Islam. As a result, our Church has acquired a unique experience in giving Christian witness among her Muslim brothers. Along with the Church’s Muslim brothers and through their help, the Arab civilization has become “the civilization of the face”[47] according to the wonderful expression of the Catholic patriarchs of the East. The expression means that it has become a civilization of “friendly interface, and genuine and direct dialogue” that is sought after both by Christians and Muslims and by others.


Neither the Maronite Church nor her Antiochene sister Churches, whether Catholic or non-Catholic, were lax in promoting at all levels this “civilization of the face” with Muslims, and they did so despite the thorny issues that had to be confronted in order to address the needs resulting from the extremely slow cultural progress that weighed heavily on our Arab societies. From among these subjects, we must mention our absolute rejection of the minority and Ath-Thimma concepts, and our ongoing objective of working diligently along with well-meaning Muslims towards the awareness of discernment - a discernment that is without contradiction between the spiritual and the temporal, the sacred and the profane, or the religious and the political, and a discernment that simultaneously afterwards will work towards an awareness of the necessity of anchoring the definitive values of society on foundations that will link the spiritual with the temporal. This means working together to clarify the precepts of human dignity, freedom, and equality in the light of a truth that is conveyed not by opposite ideologies, rather, a truth that is conveyed by the teachings of the two religions. This means that we must put these precepts into action not on the basis of bygone laws, be they Christian or Islamic; rather, we must put these precepts into action in accord with modern international laws as envisioned by the whole human family in the twentieth century and ratified by the United Nations Organization ever since the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was proclaimed on December 10, 1948.



3. Remaining Impediments in Contemporary Relations between Christians and Muslims in the Antiochene Domain


47. This specific approach leads us to consider the current impediments in Christian/Islamic relations in the Arab East - impediments that we are to confront with wisdom, prudence, and broadmindedness without overlooking the undesirable effects should such impediments persist.


48. By the term “impediments” we do not mean differences between the two religions that are related to dogma such as those concerning the Trinity, the divinity of Christ, his death on the cross, and his resurrection from the dead to secure our salvation, or any difference in perspective concerning God’s relationship with men. All these differences exist in terms of dogma and nobody is turning a blind eye to them. In the words of Pope John Paul II, “The Koran gives the most beautiful Names to God ever uttered by humans. However, [in the Koran] God remains estranged from the world, glorified be His glory, but He is not Emmanuel, God-with-us. Islam is not a redemptive religion. There is no place in it for the cross or the Resurrection. There is reference to Christ but the reference is to Christ as a prophet paving the way for the coming of Mohammad, the seal of all prophets. Mary, the Virgin Mother, is also mentioned. However, the tragedy of redemption is totally absent. Therefore, there is a wide chasm between Christianity and Islam, not just in their theologies but in their anthropologies as well”[48]. Even though these differences related to dogma constitute a very serious obstacle that prevents a total interfacing of the two religions, they are not considered impediments to dialogue between the two religions according to the Church’s considerations; rather, dialogue is a matter for honest theological exchange between them. Dialogue also is for the purification of our faith as Christians in the flames of this Islamic situation that goes down to the very nucleus of our religion. With Christians being at the nucleus, the mystery of the Incarnation and the greatness of Divine Love for man then assume their fair share of honor and testimony in our lives, strengthening our faith in God who made Himself human, emptying Himself, taking the form of a slave, tasting death, raised on the cross, trampling death with death, and redeeming us all for eternal life.


49. The real impediments about which we speak are those impediments that are generated by illusions and prejudgments made against the religion of the other, and by distorted images that remain in men’s minds because of negative residues from the past. These impediments are also due to a severed religious indoctrination - an indoctrination that imprisons the religion of the other in simplified categorizations that then harden to become malignant convictions about the whole group, convictions that are held without scrutiny. This is how collective malice is nourished and becomes an unacceptable form of discrimination whether it is on the ethnic or the religious level. Therefore, one of the major challenges facing friendly Christian/Islamic relations today in our Arab world and in the world at large is finding ways to deal with these simplified categorizations both of Islam and of Christianity, and considering these categorizations both in their structure and in their scope and doing so through honest, objective study in order to confront them effectively regardless of whether these categorizations originated from the inside of these two religions or from outside of them. On several occasions, Pope John Paul II has made it clear that true religious faith contradicts racist positions and practices, and within the scope of true religious faith, those simplified categorizations definitely fall to the wayside.


50. It would be wise to concede that making simplified categorizations of Islam by Christians and vice-versa is a very old impediment. In one sense, the An-Nassrania, a contrived Christian group which flourished in the Arabian Peninsula at the dawn of Islam and which the Muslim Book described in detail, gradually came to be construed in the mind of the Muslim faithful as a group that represented a simplified categorization of what Christianity understood of itself, in itself. We thank God that this simplistic view has receded and has given way to a more objective Islamic perception of true Christianity. The more objective view is thanks to the fruitful dialogue that has recently flourished between these two monotheist religions - a dialogue that has transcended more than fourteen centuries of mistrust, disregard, and strife. We now find an increasing number of Muslims, clerics as well as the learned, embarking on an objective investigation of Christianity in its scriptural, theological, and authentic spiritual origins. This trend along with the mounting interest of Christians in studying Islam objectively and surveying its spiritual wealth is surely a healthy indicator in the course of Christian/Islamic relations.


51. It is only proper to recall the distinguished contributions of Maronite intellectuals and scholars both in the present and in the past who objectively studied the principles of Islam and its spirituality, studying in depth and with clarity. These Maronites have authored valuable works in this field. Even though the early comparative studies by the Maronites from the time of Yohanna-l-Hasrouni to Boutros Ibin Makhlouf, to Germanos Farhat, to Estephan Ward, and to Antoun Shehwan [49] were predominately influenced by the apologetic trends flowing throughout all types of literature in those days, the works of contemporary Maronite intellectuals are characterized by a style that is both scientific and comprehensive. These works are increasingly open to the theological, spiritual, and mystical specificities of Islam and are also aware of its points of similarity with Christianity[50].


52. Based on this positive heritage of objectivity, fairness demands that we warn Christians against the consequence of sliding into the hasty launchings of generalizations concerning contemporary Islam that is being brought forth by the rise in Islamic fundamentalism in the midst of Christians. This type of fundamentalism, particularly in our Arab East, in terms of its acuteness, has now grown to a degree the likes of which contemporary Christianity has never seen. The most dangerous type of generalizations about contemporary Islam is when they fall into the perilous discriminatory equation that appeared with a vengeance after the act of September 11, 2001. This vehement equation in effect made Islam synonymous with “fundamentalism,” then made Islam synonymous with “extremism,” and then made Islam synonymous with “violence.” Moreover, Christians must be careful not to fall into the trap of shrinking all Muslims into one faction that is fanatic in its faith, since doing so would be to disregard the Muslims’ great intellectual and cultural diversity as well as their varied geographic origins. In addition, Christians must not fall into the ultimate of generalizations which is to oversimplify by simply referring to the entire situation as “the clash of civilizations.” Our Maronite Church has firmly resisted any distorted tendencies that feed on simplistic classifications that are hurtful to Islam or to the Muslims.


53. There are also other impediments that contribute to hindering growth in Christian/Islamic relations in the Arab East, and the full responsibility for these other impediments should be shouldered by certain Arab authorities.  The most serious of these hindrances is the way in which Christians are deprived in terms of not being able to freely practice their religious rituals in their own places of worship and also in terms of their not being provided with their own educational centers in which Christians can obtain the appropriate religious education that is required for their Christian formation. In addition, because of their minority status, Christians in some countries are deprived in terms of not being able to enjoy equal rights of citizenship within their own homes. These basic obstacles do not have to be faced by Muslims in non-Arab countries. In this regard, Pope John Paul II says: “In the domain of religious freedom there must be reciprocity, that is, an equal treatment […] Therefore, we can understand the astonishment and the frustration of Christians when they welcome, in Europe for example, the believers of other religions and allow them to practice their rites while they themselves are prevented from practicing any of their Christian rites in countries where these believers constitute the majority and their faith is the religion of the state.”[51] In other documents, Pope John Paul II clarifies the situation when he says: In other regions where Islam is the majority religion one still has to deplore the grave forms of discrimination to which the followers of religions other than Islam fall victim. In one country Christian worship is even totally forbidden and the possession of a Holy Bible is a crime punishable by law.”[52] His Holiness also stresses his opposition to regressive religious policies: “The matter (of mutual understanding between Christians and Muslims) is not devoid of difficulties on the practical level for in countries where fundamentalist trends are in power our human rights and the principle of religious freedom are unfortunately given a one-sided interpretation which results in religious freedom becoming the freedom to impose ‘the right religion’ on all of that country’s citizens. The conditions of Christians in these countries are sometimes extremely tragic. Yet, despite that, the Church’s readiness for dialogue and cooperation remains firm and unshakable, always.”[53]


54. It may be that at the root of this flagrant injustice against Christians lies the different ways in which Islam and Christianity look at the right of religious freedom. In Christianity, being able to enjoy religious freedom is a natural and basic right for all people and this is what the Council’s declaration on religious freedom Dignitatis Humanae (Human Dignity) teaches us. The essence of this right is that all people will be “immune from coercion on the part of individuals, social groups, or any human power - immune in such a way that no one shall be forced to act in a manner contrary to his own beliefs whether privately or publicly, or whether alone or in association with others, within due limits”[54]. According to the Maronite Church, this right remains valid even for those who do not fulfill their duties in seeking and embracing the truth, and this right is valid because it “has its foundation not in the subjective disposition of the person but in his very nature.”[55] Moreover, Pope John Paul II has asserted that, “protecting (this right) is indeed so important that we must even acknowledge the right of individuals to change their religion if doing so were to be the call of their own conscience”[56].


55. However, in Islam, the consequences of apostasy befall any Muslim who changes his religion and embraces another one. At the legal level, this also means that the bonds of marriage of the apostate with his wife are forcibly dissolved and the apostate will also be deprived of any right of inheritance because of the change of his religion. Moreover, the apostate may even be subject to the death penalty[57].


It is true that the Catholic Church does not easily accept that one of her members should sever himself from her by giving up his Christian faith to adopt another and that is why she officially excludes this individual from any ecclesiastical partnership (can.751 and can. 1364).  However, this exclusion does not entail any civil consequence be it related to marriage, to inheritance, or to the right to life. This has been true ever since Vatican II when the right to religious freedom was officially assured for all, free from any religious, ethnic, or linguistic discrimination. That is one of the universal human rights, a right that was ratified by the Declaration of 1948 in its 18th article.


56. Some Muslims object to this view and refuse the universality of this right of religious freedom for the individual while other Muslims do accept this view. The question of the universality of human rights, i.e., their applicability to all people at all times and in all places regardless of their cultural differences, has recently become a major controversial subject between Christians and Muslims. The experience of intensive dialogue between the two parties has proven that it is in fact possible to reach real common ground on this matter, especially when the universality of the right of religious freedom is understood not as contradictory to the particularity of cultures but understood exclusively as a relative perception of human dignity and rights. Pope John Paul II was very clear about this point when he said: “The confirmation of the universality and the indivisibility of rights does not eliminate legitimate cultural and political differences when it comes to practicing personal rights, provided that we respect the basics that were set up by the Universal Declaration [of Human Rights] for all humanity, in all case.”[58].


57. One of the other obstacles that stall finding complete rapprochement between Muslims and Christians is the question of mixed marriages and the different view that each religion has toward the rights of the two parties at the beginning of their marriage, during their married life, and even when their marriage is over. It is well known that Islam does not allow a Muslim woman to marry a Christian man, although it does allow a Muslim man to marry a Christian woman. Even in this latter case, the wife automatically finds herself unable to inherit from her husband because of the differences in their religion. Furthermore, the Christian mother who is married to a Muslim man will face extreme, if not even insurmountable difficulty, in obtaining custody of her children if the marriage were to be dissolved. In Christianity, we do not find legal prohibitions that are similar to the foregoing.


58. It is worth pointing out that the growth of fundamentalism in Islamic religious speeches, both written and spoken, will every now and then become offensive, presenting a distortion of the Christian religion. These offensive and distorting words can cause the Christian faithful to feel disgust and exchange hostilities, and the words can possibly even produce, if only sporadically, similar Christian verbal or written reactions, words that are alien to the religion of love. Our fathers the Catholic Patriarchs of the East have said: “That is why it is inescapable that the religious speech on both sides be developed devoid of sterile arguments…. Therefore, we call upon Christian intellectuals and theologians in our Arab world to develop a new vision that is fair to Islam, without flattery. We also appeal to Christian educational establishments to include Islamic culture in their academic curricula with the help of specialized professors. We also call upon Muslim scholars and upon Islamic educational establishments to make the same effort in order to understand the Christian religion. If, on the one hand, Christians are given the opportunity to listen to what Muslims have to say about their religion, and, on the other hand, for Muslims to hear what Christians have to say about their religion, then there will be true knowledge along with mutual objectivity. This indeed is the mutual knowledge that can tear down the walls that stand between us, creating an appropriate atmosphere for communication and cooperation”[59].


59. Lastly, there is one relatively new obstacle that requires that we pause and contemplate its full dimensions in order to avoid any destructive consequences. This obstacle is the current increase in violence taken in the name of religion in the Arab East and in the whole world. This is an extremely volatile situation that could entirely undermine world peace. That is why His Holiness Pope John Paul II was the first to invite the leaders of all world religions and their representatives, among whom were 30 Muslims, to meet in Assisi, Italy on January 24, 2002. This meeting was in the framework of The Day of Prayer for Peace and was held in order to confront the worldwide explosive issue of increased violence and hatred that were being carried out in the name of religion. On this occasion the guests in attendance issued a historical document called The Decalogue of Assisi for Peace and they undertook to abide by this document. We ought to seek inspiration from these vanguard Assisi principles that were addressed to all religions. These principles can be an inspiration particularly to those of us who are Muslims and Christians. The document is a great charter for religions to help them fulfill their efforts towards building real peace, and it is a wonderful source of inspiration both for each religious authority as well as for all who embrace their religion faithfully. Pope John Paul II sent to all the leaders of the world a letter to which he appended the complete text of the ten principles of Assisi with the hope that “the spirit and commitment of Assisi will lead all people of goodwill to seek truth, justice, freedom, and love, so that every human person may enjoy his inalienable rights and every people enjoy peace”[60].


Third: The Future of Christian/Muslim Relations in their Arab Antiochene Home


60. Based on the present state of Christian/Islamic relations in the Antiochene patriarchal context, it is evident to our Church that Christian/Islamic dialogue, when it is established on truth, frankness that is coupled with love, understanding and mutual respect, and the presumption of the other’s good faith, is the best way to build a culture of love. It is hoped that the path of dialogue will be part of the future culture in order to bring together today’s shattered Arab world. In the words of the Catholic Patriarchs of the East: “Dialogue is, above all, a spiritual attitude,”[61] and we “cannot, by any means, accept others that God puts in our way unless we accept God in our lives first … (therefore), our living together is at the core of our standing before God”[62].


At the core of the mission of the Maronite Syriac Church rooted in the Antiochene sphere is interaction with Muslims in the Arab World in the presence of God. Our mission is also, along with her other Antiochene sister Churches, to develop and consolidate our mission in the service of Man, every man whatever his religion, origin, or affiliation may be, and to do so because Man is “the way for the Church”[63]. The Church aspires through sincere, insightful, and amicable dialogue to establish a new culture in the hearts of all the parties concerned, a culture that has freedom and love as its pillars. That is why the Church seeks to instruct and bring up her sons and daughters in this culture of dialogue, practicing it regularly in all of its forms and practicing with absolute fidelity to our ancient Maronite traditions as well as to the post Vatican II teachings of the Catholic Church.


61. Having dialogues with Muslims, including dialogues about Islam, indeed represents a time of new spiritual graces that will enrich our Christian faith since, according to the teaching of Pope John Paul II, “Dialogue does not originate from tactical concerns or self-interest; rather dialogue is an activity with its own guiding principles, requirements, and dignity.” His Holiness goes on to explain further that, “Other religions constitute a positive challenge for the Church, stimulating her both to discover and to acknowledge the signs of Christ's presence and of the working of the Spirit, as well as to examine more deeply her own identity and to bear witness to the fullness of Revelation, which she has received for the good of all.” Therefore, “Dialogue leads to inner purification and conversion which, if pursued with docility to the Holy Spirit, will be spiritually fruitful”[64].


62. Our Maronite Church has lived this grand dialogue over the years and, along with her Antiochene sister Churches, she has launched out of Lebanon the first cry that is calling for an interface between Christianity and Islam, calling for them over time to embrace, and calling for them to be open to the possibility of their first true kiss. The Church’s firm hope is to succeed in extending this achievement to the whole Antiochene East, an East which today is an Arab World that rises in search of the wellspring of truth that could be a way out of its predicament. In this Antiochene East, the Christians have been coming face-to-face with Muslims ever since Islam began. There are references to Christians in the Book of Islam, in its prophetic Hadiths (tradition), and in its Sufi (mystic) journeys, as well as well as in the debates of its rulers, philosophers, and scholars. Christians were present when the first Muslims appeared and when there were the courts of the two caliphates.  They were present during the time of the Umayyads and of the Abbassids, during the modern Arab renaissance (which Maronites actually helped to launch), and in the independence drive which Christians called for with their Muslim brothers in a joint stand against every colonialist. All of this is evidence for why the Maronites’ qualitative presence will remain deeply rooted and radiant in their Arab homeland, and this is why Maronites will remain faithful to their eastern ancestry despite any increasing dispersal of their children throughout the four corners of the globe as they emigrate to the Countries of Expansion.


63. On the pastoral level and in the domain of educating her priests and seminarians the Maronite Church would like to apply the Vatican II appeal which stated: Let them also be introduced to a knowledge of other religions which are more widespread in individual regions so that they may acknowledge more correctly what truth and goodness these religions in God’s providence possess, and so that they may learn to refute their errors and be able to communicate the full light of truth to those who do not have it.[65] In the same context our Church wishes to develop integral pastoral teaching that will pertain to Islam and to Muslims, a teaching that will, therefore, offer to Christian students an objective explanation about Islam and Islam’s basic elements. The teachings will also offer to Muslim students an objective explanation of Christianity and Christianity’s basic principles. These teachings are all to be included in a clear and accurate guidebook that will be prepared under the supervision of eminent learned and virtuous persons who will be drawn from both religions.


64. Moreover, among her many future responsibilities, our Church perceives a task of grave and great importance. That task is none other than re-launching from Lebanon a theological dialogue between Christianity and Islam, a dialogue launched with openness of mind and flexibility of heart and launched for the sake of mutual growth in the truth. This type of dialogue is currently incomplete, if not totally lacking, except between a few scholars from the two religions. However, as Christians, we must realize that possession of “the entire truth that the Christian person has received through Jesus Christ does not guarantee that he has fully understood this truth. In the final outcome truth is not something we possess; rather, truth is that Someone who should take possession of us through an endless process”[66].


65. Our Maronite Church also perceives that at the base of her calling she is to commit to consolidate as well the other three types of dialogue whenever the occasion presents itself, namely, the Dialogue of Life, the Dialogue of Action, and the Dialogue of Religious Experience. For this purpose, the Patriarchal Council recommends that a permanent committee be formed which would in effect establish contact with the Muslims of the Middle East. This committee should be annexed to the Maronite patriarchate and should activate the numerous ecclesiastical committees related to having Christian/Muslim dialogues. The Patriarchal Council also recommends supporting any dialogue initiative that is being considered between Muslims and Christians, whether the initiative comes through the domain of the Council of Catholic Patriarchs and Bishops in Lebanon, through the Middle East Council of Churches, or through the Arab civil societies. The Council also requests that youth activities, which bring Christians and Muslims together, be given special attention such as establishing twinning schools (making sister schools of a Christian and a Muslim school), or arranging youth activities and training that will encourage Christian/Muslim dialogue such as organizing joint camps and urging educators to disseminate in the souls of the youth the Church’s teaching, a teaching which is open to inter-religious dialogue. Finally, the Council attaches great importance to bringing religious Christians and Muslims together in regular cyclic meetings so they may pray and reflect on finding the means that will secure and instill the culture of love and of peace in the souls of the faithful from both of the religions.


66. It pleases our Maronite Patriarchal Council to present another suggestion that can be applied from within our Lebanese homeland, the implementation of which would be one of the finest signs of the times. This suggestion consists of the coming together of all the spiritual families to request that the Lebanese authorities keep in its present shattered condition one of the damaged buildings in downtown Beirut. There would be a simple memorial plaque placed on that building, bearing the words: “No to war on Lebanese soil, the land of peace and fraternity among religions!” This plaque and the monument of this severely damaged building would become a pilgrimage site, bearing eloquent witness to future generations of what they must avoid in times to come.


67. Both the first and last objective of our Maronite Church still remains that she give witness to Christ and proclaim his Good News of salvation for all people including Muslims. In light of the ecclesiastical teaching and of the divine plan for salvation, “The Church sees no conflict between proclaiming Christ and engaging in inter-religious dialogue… These two elements must maintain both their intimate connection and their distinctiveness; therefore they should not be confused, manipulated, or regarded as identical as though they were interchangeable”[67].


The declaration of Christ’s Slavonic Good News is not intended to coerce or bring anyone into the Christian flock; rather, the declaration is in order to transmit the truth of the gospel so that people can repent before God. The word “repentance,” as used here, has two implications: it either leads to a change of heart, i.e., the turning of the heart towards God, or it has to do with a change in one’s religious affiliation, i.e., embracing Christianity[68]. It is essential for us to be aware of this distinction, for the primordial aim of dialogue is repentance. Even though we admit that change in religious affiliation remains a possibility during dialogue, it is a person’s right to change religious affiliation and this right must be strongly defended as one of the essential elements of religious freedom.


68. Among the most serious of our Maronite Church’s responsibilities for the future, a responsibility that is to be complemented by her Antiochene sister Churches and responsible Muslims, is our striving to promulgate the positive elements of a free partnership model of amicable communal living between Muslims and Christians, i.e., the Lebanese model of communal living, and to promulgate this model throughout the Arab region as we protect this model from stumbling or being lost and ending up remaining only in Lebanon itself. This realm of promoting the positive elements of the Lebanese model is where our humble contribution lies in terms of getting the modern Arab World out of its deep cultural travail and allowing the Arab World to become reconciled with unity-in-diversity, with civil liberties, with the requirements of justice, peace, and human rights including women’s rights, and become reconciled with the respectful handling of minorities in all aspects. In the first round’s concluding statement of our honorable Patriarchal Synod, our Church called herself an “expert in communal living” (# 9) in a similar fashion as the One, Universal, Holy, and Apostolic Church of Christ is, in the words of His Holiness Pope Paul VI, an “expert in humanity.” Our Maronite Church will have earned her title of “expert in communal living” on the day when she succeeds in inscribing in the minds and in the regimes that are present throughout the entire Arab World, all of the positive advantages of the Lebanese Muslim/Christian free consensual model. When this happens all Christians in the Arab World will enjoy each of the basic liberties to which they are entitled; and when the model is put into practice, there will be an end to the tragic decline in the number of Christians in the Arab East as a result of their dismay at not being able to realize their aspirations. Until then, the major questions before all consciences, especially the consciences of the family of Islam, will be: Why does the Arab East not become like the country that is hoped for in Lebanon, becoming more than just a country and instead becoming a place that is a sanctuary for its siblings? Why does each country in the Arab East not also become “a message of freedom and a model of pluralism”[69] for the entire world?   


69. It remains a valuable witness for our Church, in unison with all its Antiochene sister Churches, when the Church frankly declares to the world at large (a world which is confused and bewildered by the repercussions of an Islamic/Christian rapprochement that has been created by the rise of the global village) that an amicable coexistence between Christianity and Islam is possible in the near future despite the current suffering, pains, tears, and bloodshed. Furthermore, our Maronite Church has the obligation to transmit her own experience in the area of good communal living to all of Christianity that finds itself face-to-face with Islam.






70. It is the deep desire of the Maronite Church that Islam be reconciled with Christianity and for Christianity to be reconciled with itself in ecumenism, particularly in the Antiochene domain; and for Islam to be reconciled with itself as well as openly voicing the facts of its belief and settling all the accounts with its own philosophy, with its Sufism, and with the resumption of diligence and pacification among all Islamic sects. The Maronite Church, from her Antiochene position, along with her sister Churches, perceives that an Islam that is reconciled with itself [will become] the best of interlocutors in authenticity, the most precious of allies, the most indispensable of all in the workshop of the struggle for the freedom of religious belief, social justice, human rights, and an amicable coexistence between all races and all cultures as one congregation around peace in all corners of the Arab world.


71. Our Church implores God, praised and exalted, through the intercession of his Virgin Mother, to pour on the Church his divine light so that the Church may remain faithful to her ecumenical perception and to her maternal bond with each Arab person, so that she may guide her sons and daughters to comprehend that aiding Islam to rise above its ordeals and moving towards love is to the advantage of Eastern Christianity and not the opposite. This advantage is because Islam and Christianity have one cultural destiny in the Antiochene East. In this regard, the Catholic Patriarchs of the East have already made the following declaration in their first pastoral letter: “We [and Islam] drink from one cultural heritage that we share and each has contributed in shaping that heritage through their distinctive ingenuity. Our cultural kinship is our historical heritage, which we insist on protecting, developing, consolidating, and activating so that it may be the basis of our communal living and our fraternal cooperation [...] God, exalted be his wisdom, willed us to be together in this part of the world. We accept his will wholeheartedly and hope that his will expands our hearts to encompass everyone however varied their affiliation may be”[70].


72. At the beginning of the third millennium of our Christian history, our Maronite Church prays that the Exalted Creator may make His abundant love a firebrand in our hearts and in the hearts of our Muslim brothers so that we may work together for the benefit of all of humanity, discovering within the depths of our souls the courage, splendor, and joy of love because love is the divine thread with which we weave the hope of shattered hearts and it is the divine alphabet with which we proclaim God’s peace on Earth.








1. Purifying the Memory In Order to Consolidate Communal Living

1. For consolidating communal living between Muslims and Christians in accordance with the Lebanese model, the synod recommends carrying out a careful and frank interpretation of the Maronite/Muslim experience of the past and, in a more general way, the Christian/Muslim experience of the past in Lebanon and in the Middle East, with the interpretation being focused on attaining a real purification of memories and consciences manifest by the exercise of self-criticism, and doing all of this in order to move forward together in the building of a society that is based on the principles of communal living.

1.a.: Maronite universities, in cooperation with the specialized ones, shall contribute to the project of clearing the memory through arriving at a common and objective interpretation of the modern and contemporary history of Lebanon;


1.b.: There shall be a formation of educational seminars and round table dialogues that are focused on this field.


2. True Knowledge and Reciprocal Objectivity

2. For communal living between Christians and Muslims to be based on reciprocal knowledge in truth and love, the synod recommends that Christian educational institutions include Islamic studies in academic programs, with the hope that the Christian religion would get the same attention in Muslim educational institutions.


2. To realize this true knowledge and reciprocal objectivity, the following is recommended:

2.a: Adopt what is procedural at some of the Muslim/Christian university colleges in Lebanon, whereby it is entrusted to every Christian and Muslim the task of introducing their religion so that Christians can hear what Muslims say about themselves and so that Muslims can hear what Christians say about themselves;

2.b: Organize Christian/Islamic youth camps and gatherings at school and university levels;

2.c: Disseminate the letters of the Council of Catholic Patriarchs of the East, especially those related to the Christian presence in the East (1992) and those related to conviviality between Muslims and Christians in the Arab World (1994);

2.d: Take advantage of all forms of the media, especially the visual medias, and do so in a purposeful and well-planned manner in order to serve the aims of realizing true knowledge and reciprocal objectivity.


3. A Christian/Islamic Guide to Foster Dialogue and Conviviality

3. Because the synod is desirous of consolidating conviviality through the dialogue that is repeatedly referred to in the Apostolic Exhortation, A New Hope for Lebanon, the synod recommends that a Christian/Islamic guidebook be prepared, in which the fundamentals of the two religions will be presented in a simple and objective form. The guide will also mention the obstacles that weaken conviviality and show the practical methods to be used to overcome those obstacles. The guide will also feature values that are common between the two religions.

3.a: This mission of preparing a guide will be entrusted to a group of learned and virtuous individuals who are experienced in matters of Christian/Islamic dialogue and who are from Christian and Islamic educational institutions, provided that those institutions are operating in coordination with the National Committee for Christian/Islamic Dialogue as well as in coordination with the Council of Churches of the Middle East;


3.b: Encourage all initiatives that will lead to the accomplishment of Christian/Islamic dialogue.


4. A Christian/Islamic Religious Dialogue Emanating from Lebanon

4. Upon considering the distinctive position of Lebanon, the Mission and looking at the level of Christian/Islamic relations worldwide, the synod recommends consolidating the current religious dialogue between Christianity and Islam that is emanating from Lebanon, and wherever possible. This would help to confirm the Dialogue of Life on deeply rooted foundations.


4.a: Christian universities, especially those that have Christian/Islamic dialogue schools within them, are to foster and organize such dialogue in coordination with Islamic institutions;


4.b: Maronite eparchies and monastic orders are to devote some of their members to specialize in this dialogue.


[1]. Theodoret of Cyrrus, Tareekh Asfia’-al-Laah (Chronicles of the Bosom Friends of God), translated by Archimandrite Adrianus Chaccour 1987, p 145.

[2]. Letter of the Catholic Patriarchs of the East, 2 August 1991.

[3]. Third Pastoral Letter of the Heads of Churches in the East, 21 August 2001, n° 15.

[4]. Together before God – Third Joint Pastoral Letter of the Catholic Patriarchs of the East. Christmas 1994 n° 2.

[5]. Christian Presence in the East - Second Joint Pastoral Letter of the Catholic Patriarchs of the East. Easter 1992 n° 3.

[6]. Christian Presence in the East, # 50.

[7]. Ibidem

[8]. Christian Presence in the East, # 51.

[9]. John Paul II. A New Hope for Lebanon, n° 93.

[10]. John Paul II. A New Hope for Lebanon, n° 97.

[11]. Pope John Paul II. Speech to the faithful, during a general meeting. 1 September 1999. Osservatore Romano English edition. 8 September, 1999 p. 7.

[12]. Ibn Jobair’s Journey. Beirut 1980 p. 259.

[13]. Estephan Doueihy, History of the Times, published by Fr. Ferdinand Tawtal S.J., Beirut 1951 (pp. 145-146).

[14]. Patriarch Mar Nasrallah Boutros Sfeir. His speech at the opening session of the annual regular meeting of the Council of the Catholic Bishops and Patriarchs in Lebanon, 1992.

[15]. The oldest Maronite Arabic references within our reach are Kitab Al Houda , The Book of Guidance ( the Maronite نوموقانون translated into Arabic in the year 1059, the Syriac original of which cannot be traced); the book Al Maqualaat Al-Ashr ( The Ten Essays, a book of Apologetics written in 1089) by Thomas Al Kfartabi, and Idah Al Iman ( Clarification of Faith) by Gabriel Ibn Al Kilai’i ( theological synopsis written as of 1494).

[16]. Fr. Nasser Gemayel, Achievements of the Maronite School Students in Europe, al-Manara # 25 (1984), pp. 235-248.

[17]. Historians commonly agree that the press of Saint Anthony was the first to be introduced into the Orient, but they still disagree on the date of its establishment. Bishop Evodius (Awwad) Assemani stated in his book (Bibliothecae Medicae Laurentianae et Palatinae codicum mss., Orientalium Catalogus, xxx: Orient, p. 411) that the first edition of the Book of Psalms was finished in 1585, and not in 1610, and its content as detailed by him differed from that of the 1610 edition. Semaan Assemani shared this opinion. However, most of the later historians (Schnurr, De Sassie, and Sheikho) were not of this view, being unable to find a copy of the 1585 edition. It is worth noting that the press of Saint Anthony Qozhayya was established despite the decree by Sultan Bayazeed II, issued in 1483, forbidding the use of printed books under peine of death.

[18]. The official request that was presented by Patriarch Hoyek before the Reconciliation Board on 25th October, 1919 was given in the name of all Lebanese, and demanded in their name the indepedence of Lebanon within its historic and natural borders. This document was one of those that were essential in bringing about the Republic of Greater Lebanon within its present frontiers.

[19]. Father Ibrahim Harfouche, Signs of Eternal Providence, The Apostles Publications, 2002, p. 658.

[20]. Pope John Paul II. Letter on the Situation in Lebanon. 7 Sep 1989, p. 47.

[21]. Bishop Anthony Hamid Mourany, Maronite Historical Conscience between the Old and the New, Beirut1981 p. 47.

[22]. Pope John Paul II . Speech in front of the Diplomatic Body accredited to the Apostolic See. 11 January, 1992.

[23]. Chorbishop Youssof Dagher – Maronite Patriarchs. Beirut 1957 p. 104.

[24]. Vatican II Ecumenical Council, Nostra Acetate (In Our Era), n° 3.

[25]. Vatican II Ecumenical Council, Lumen Gentium (Light of the Nations), n° 16.

[26]. Pontifical Council for Inter-Religious Dialogue, Dialogue, Gospel and Directions towards Dialogue between Religions and Evangelization, 1991, n° 38.    

[27]. Pope John Paul II, New Hope for Lebanon, n° 93.

[28]. Pope John Paul II. His homily to the Lebanese people during the closing Mass of the Synod for Lebanon, 11th May 1997.

[29]. Patriarch Mar Nasrallah Boutros Sfeir. His speech at the opening session of the regular annual meeting of the Council of the Catholic Patriarchs and Bishops in Lebanon, 1992.

[30]. Ibid.

[31]. Ibid.

[32]. Ibid.

[33]. Mohammad Mahdi Shams Ad-Din. The Commandments, Dar An-Nahar publication. Beirut p. 50.

[34]. Iranian President Mohammad Khatami, addressing Lebanon, Dar An-Nahar publication. Beirut 2003 pp. 20, 17, 16, 21.

[35]. Patriarch Mar Boulos Boutros Al Meouchy. Lebanon’s Mission in the Arab World. 5th Pastoral Letter after his visit ad liminem, 1959.

[36]. Patriarch Mar Nasrallah Boutros Sfeir. His speech at the opening session during the annual regular meeting of the Council of the Catholic Bishops and Patriarchs in Lebanon, 1992.

[37]. Christian Presence in the East, n° 10.

[38]. Christian Presence in the East, n° 47.

[39]. Pope John Paul II. A New Hope for Lebanon, n° 114.

[40]. Together before God, # 36.

[41]. Pontifical Council for Inter-Religious Dialogue: Dialogue and Proclamation, 1991, n° 42.  

[42]. Ibid, n 42

[43]. The Dialogue of Life, is: “where people strive to live in an open and neighbourly spirit, sharing their joys and sorrows, their human problems and preoccupations.” Ibid, n° 42.

[44]. The Dialogue of Theological Exchange is: “where specialists seek to deepen their understanding of their respective religious heritages, and to appreciate each other's spiritual values.” Ibid, n° 42.

[45]. The Dialogue of Religious Experience is: “where persons, rooted in their own religious traditions, share their spiritual riches, for instance with regard to prayer and contemplation, faith and ways of searching for God or the Absolute.” Ibid, n° 42.

[46]. Pontifical Council for Inter-Religious Dialogue: The Attitude of the Catholic Church towards the Followers of Other Religious Traditions: reflections on Dialogue and Mission, 1984, n° 28-35.

[47]. Together before God, n° 24.

[48]. Pope John Paul II. Passage to Hope, publications of the Episcopal Committee for Information Media in Lebanon, 1994, p. 139.

[49]. See, for example, Nasser Gemayel, Les Echanges culturels entre les Maronites et l’Europe, Beyrouth, 1984, pp. 976-988

[50]. Fr. Joachim Moubarak, (Arabic), Christianity and Islam in Lebanon: Highlights and Contemplations, Beirut,  Lebanese Nadwa Lectures, year 19, Publication 1108, 1965.

    Pantalogie Islamo-Chrétienne, Publication du Cénacle Libanais, Beyrouth, 1972-3

    Recherches sur la Pensée Chrétienne et l’Islam dans les temps modernes et a l’époque contemporaine, Publication de l’Universite Libanaise, Beyrouth, 1977

    Fr. Michel Hayek, (Arabic) Christ in Islam, Catholic Press, Beirut, 1962

    Le mystere d’Ismael, ed. Mame, Paris, 1964

 Nouvelles Approches de l’Islam, Conférences du 6 Mars 1967, Cénacle Libanais, Beyrouth, in Les Conférences du Cénacle, XXIIe années, No. 9-10, 1968

    Les Arabes ou le baptême des larmes, ed. Gallimard, Paris, 1972.

    Kamal Youssef El-Hajj on “Naslamiyyah”, Examples:

    Philosophy of the National Pact (Arabic), Lebanese Order Press, Beirut, 1961.

    In the Realm of the Truth, (Arabic) Publications du Cénacle Libanais, Beirut, 1966.

[51]. Pope John Paul II. Speech in front of the Diplomatic Body accredited to the Apostolic See.12 January 1985.

[52]. Pope John Paul II. Speech in front of the Diplomatic Body accredited to the Apostolic See. 16 January 1999.

[53]. Pope John Paul II, Passage to Hope, publications of the Episcopal Committee for Information Media in Lebanon, 1994, p;141.

[54]. Ecumenical Council Vatican II. Human Dignity. Conciliar statement on religious freedom, n° 2.

[55]. Ibid.

[56]. Pope John Paul II. His speech during the celebration of the Universal Day for Peace, 1 December 1999, n° 5.

[57]. Mahmoud Ayyoub, (Religious Freedom and the Crime of Apostasy in Islam), Islamo-Christian studies, Islamo Christiana 20, 1994 p. 75-91. Sami Awad Ath-Thaib Abou Sahiliah, (The Crime of Apostasy and its effects in Arab and Islamic law), Islamo-Christian studies, Islamo Christiana 20, 1994 p. 93-116.

[58]. Pope John Paul II. His speech during the celebration of the Universal Day for Peace, 1 December 1999, n° 3.

[59]. Together before God, n° 26.

[60]. Pope John Paul II. His Letter to the world leaders, containing The Decalogue of Assisi for Peace, 24 February, 2002.

[61]. Christian Presence in the East, n° 47.

[62]. Together Before God, n° 48.

[63]. Pope John Paul II, The Redeemer of Man, n° 42.

[64]. Pope John Paul II, Redemptoris Missio, n° 56.

[65]. Vatican II Ecumenical Council, The Renewal that everybody wishes for the Church, (Optatam totius) n° 16.

[66]. Dialogue and Gospel, n° 49.

[67]. Pope John Paul II. Redemptoris Missio, n° 55.

[68]. Dialogue and Gospel, n° 49.

[69]. Pope John Paul II, Letter on the Situation in Lebanon, 7 September 1989, n° 6.

[70]. First Pastoral Letter of the Catholic Patriarchs, August 1991.