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The Maronite Church in her Global Expansion




1. During the time between the “Al-Baladi” Synod, which was convoked by the Maronite Church at the monastery of Our Lady of Bkerke in 1856, and the Patriarchal Synod that we convoke today, certain circumstances and transformations have occurred in the experiences of the sons and daughters of our Maronite Church. These changes and situations have caused Maronites to emigrate from Lebanon and from other places in the Middle East, emigrating in such great numbers that they now outnumber those Maronites who reside within the Patriarchal Domain. It is to be noted that, before the Al-Baladi Synod, the entire Maronite population resided within the Patriarchal Domain.


2. At its inception, our Maronite Church was not associated with any particular nationality, despite the fact that it sprang up in a Syriac environment, nor were her sons and daughters fighting for any interest that was linked to any specific land area that belonged exclusively to them. Rather, from the very beginning, the Maronite Church practiced, and continues to practice, conviviality with the rest of the Churches. The Maronite Church was not distinct from the other Churches except in terms of her faith stance, a faith stance that made her an Antiochene Church in full communion with the Catholic Church. Among the Churches, this ability to coexist is what has given her a uniqueness of identity and has given a unique characteristic to her children, one that has been maintained throughout the centuries.


3. In some earlier historical events that go back to the early beginnings of the Church, indications could be seen regarding the apostolic spirit that marks our Maronite Church. Thus, the destiny of her sons and daughters today becomes an extension of that destiny practiced by the fathers and the forefathers, a destiny which to the highest level adheres to a valuable spiritual heritage, mainly, the Maronite openness to their surrounding environment and their maintenance of cultural interactions with that environment. Within the context of this destiny, it is possible to evaluate the mission of Abraham of Cyr who was the disciple of Saint Maron and of his companions, and who came to Lebanon to spread the Holy gospel. This is how the first nucleus of believers, the sons and daughters of the Maronite Church, was formed by combining those who had emigrated from Syria with those who already resided in Lebanon. The Maronite residents joined up with their brethren who had come to them[1]. In this way, we can evaluate the growth in the number of Maronites within Lebanon and within the lands of the Patriarchal Antiochene Domain, i.e., the lands of the vast expanse within the borders of the Arab East. In reference to the modern Maronite expansion and to the problems being experienced because of that expansion, (in terms of how to preserve the identity and unity of the Maronite Church and finding future solutions to these problems), it can be seen that research is required into the meaning given by those first Maronites to the issue of their Maronite Church’s expansion within Lebanon. Research is also required into those Maronites’ ability to confront those expansion issues successfully. Their ability to succeed was acquired through the merits of the Maronite Church’s spiritual and human experience and through the missionary spirit that she had already amassed throughout her history. There was also the Church’s ability to maintain her adherence to her identity while she reconciled it with her creative interaction with her contemporary surrounding environment.


Chapter I: History of the Maronite Expansion


First: The Previous Expansion


4. The first Maronite expansion, involving emigration from northern Syria into Lebanon, was not totally due to a wish to escape from the persecution that Maronites were subjected to due to divisions among Christians within Syria; nor was it totally due to reasons of harassment at the time that resulted from the marching of armies and the turmoil that prevailed during the Arab-Byzantine conflict that followed the Islamic conquest of the area. Rather, it was the fruit of the positive coming-together of the Maronites of Syria with the Maronites of Lebanon. Those Maronites, who at the time resided in Lebanon, had previously accepted the message of the preachers who had come in from the north. The Maronites from each country were simultaneously striving to succeed in their quest for a tranquility that could be found within the mountains and valley regions, regions in which Maronites could find refuge in order to practice religious freedom in a calm and safe setting. Hence, the land of Lebanon was transformed into a sanctuary for the Maronites, a sanctuary that gave them high hopes of being able to live dignified lives, which throughout future years would aid them as they built a new nation for themselves. They would form such a nation by their resolve and by the will of the rest of the Lebanese people in order to guarantee religious freedom for all and enable each person to cooperate with the other as one people.


5. Within this positive atmosphere of cooperation between all Lebanese, the Maronite expansion extended over Lebanese soil, spreading out to the extreme limits of its borders. The result has been that, throughout Lebanon’s modern history, Maronites have congregated in this existential environment, gathering the Maronites and the rest of the spiritual families in Lebanon (the Christians, the Druze, and the Muslims) in a coexistence whereby each group had equal footing.


6. Maronites, accompanied by their monks and their priests, continued their expansion by going out to build monasteries and Churches on new grounds, devoting utmost attention to agriculture and construction, and establishing schools for everyone. It is necessary in this context to laud the conviviality between Muslims and Christians, especially related to the Maronites, who lived together in one village or in one town despite the setbacks and difficulties that conviviality was subjected to because of the recurrent political crises.


7. From Lebanon, the expansion historically began to extend into the surrounding Arab countries. Many Maronite families from Lebanon returned to Syria, more specifically they moved to Aleppo, the regions of Homs, and Latakia, as well as to Damascus or its suburbs. Other Maronite families headed south to Palestine, Jerusalem and Nazareth, or they also moved to Haifa, Jaffa, and to other similar regions. In Egypt this early expansion assumed a distinctive cultural portrait[2] in which the Maronite presence was quite potent. Consequently, Maronite priests and monks were sent to the Maronite communities in Egypt beginning in the 18th century. While in Egypt, the sons and daughters of the Maronite Church merged excellently into both the political and social arenas, becoming well esteemed in the field of journalism, with Maronites founding the most prominent of the Egyptian newspapers. These Maronites strove for their Maronite freedom as well as for the freedom of all the sons and daughters of Egypt, setting both the Maronites and the Egyptians on par with each other in terms of the Maronites’ struggle for freedom. The early days of the Maronite expansion in Cyprus began towards the end of the 13th century and were exemplary. That expansion was one to be emulated in terms of its faithfulness to the Mother Church and to the heritage of the fathers and ancestors, despite the geographical separation between Cyprus and the Mother Church. Therefore, we see that within these early Maronite expansions throughout the patriarchal territory, there were flashes that can light up the future of any new Maronite expansions.


Second: The New Expansion


8. All kinds of circumstances have emerged and opened the doors for Maronites to emigrate overseas to the far corners of the Western Countries. Therefore, great numbers of Maronites began to leave Lebanon and other countries of the Middle East as they headed toward countries that they often knew nothing about except that each of those countries welcomed immigrants from everywhere. Of note, this emigration from one country to another was not a situation specific to Maronites; rather, it was a well-known phenomenon in the history of humanity as people merely seek out a livelihood wherever they could find it. Maronite emigration, however, was slightly different in that it involved interlocking the economic, political, social, religious, and security reasons for emigration.


Thirdly: Reasons Motivating Emigration and Expansion


9. A succession of cruel crises and wars befell the land of Lebanon and forced Maronites and other Lebanese people to emigrate in quest of safety, freedom, and a dignified life. The first huge crisis involved the events of 1860, a crisis that resulted in killing, destruction, and dislodgement, all of which forced many people to emigrate. In addition to that was the fact that Lebanese regions were separated from each other after Mount Lebanon was established independently from the surrounding extremities and severing it from the vast agricultural lands that surrounded it. This also resulted in many people emigrating. However, emigration truly began in full-force following the development of industry in the regions that were then called “the New World.” Maronites in specific, and Lebanese people in general, all headed for Brazil, Argentina, and the United States of America. Later, they would emigrate to Canada for work and earning a living. Other people headed to South Africa and Australia. These nascent waves of emigration lasted until World War I, when a whole new wave multiplied the number of emigrants and widened ever further their worldwide scope of expansion. 


10. World War I and its repercussions were yet another cause for emigration from Lebanon. This War cast a foreboding shadow over the Lebanese people in general, and more specifically those who lived in Mount Lebanon. In this region, one-third of the inhabitants were dying from starvation caused by a supply blockade imposed by the ruling Ottoman authority. Another one-third of the people who resided in Mount Lebanon emigrated, with the remainder third staying behind to revive the cycle of life that later began with the institution of Greater Lebanon.


11. New waves of emigration to the Countries of Expansion resulted from the third huge crisis, a crisis that involved the disastrous events that began taking place on the nation’s land on April 13, 1975. As a result, the number of Lebanese emigrants had reached approximately one-million, with more than half of those emigrants being Maronites. This war emptied the country of many of its citizens including those who had emigrated begrudgingly. Today, a large number of Lebanese citizens are still applying for immigration visas. Many of those citizens have no intention of returning to their homeland.


12. In addition to these three crises, all of which intensified the waves of emigration, a bad economic situation was hanging over Lebanon after the wars. The result was that Lebanon was no longer seen as a producing country with job opportunities[3]. Consequently, a new emigration occurred—this time towards the African and Arab Gulf countries. A large number of Lebanese, with Maronites among them, were applying for jobs in the Arab oil-producing countries as well as in some African countries; and these emigrant numbers were increasing rapidly. These types of emigrations were not meant to be permanent since the emigrants to these countries did not intend to settle down there, nor did they ask their children to settle down there as future local citizens. However, many of these emigrants will likely remain in the countries where they now reside, especially in the more developed and independent countries. Thus, the number of Maronites and Lebanese who reside in Lebanon is continuing to decrease in a frightening manner[4].


13. It has already been proved that emigration is a worldwide phenomenon and almost a natural thing in many circumstances, considering the economy of a specific country may not be able to sustain its entire workforce. Consequently, some people will seek job opportunities outside of their homeland. It is understandable that a certain number of people who seem to be considered as surplus to the workforce of their country will emigrate and seek new opportunities in new countries, while their compatriots who stay behind feel relaxed and satisfied that they themselves have many good opportunities for sustenance. However, it is quite unnatural that multitudes emigrate from their country leaving behind a manpower shortage, especially in fields that require high skills and a high standard of qualifications. This is Lebanon’s situation today. Its sons and daughters are leaving in astoundingly large numbers, especially the educated youth who would have been able to raise Lebanon and rebuild it.


14. In confronting this difficult situation that ails Lebanon, duty calls the sons and daughters of this nation to solidarity in order to put an end to this emigration hemorrhage that threatens to defect the very core of Lebanon’s social fabric. If the first emigration, in the opinion of those emigrants, was considered as being wealth-accumulation period with their subsequent return to their homeland to dwell in its abode, then the need today for a renewal of such an inclination is great. In this way, the emigrants and the Lebanese residents could unify their efforts to move Lebanon toward rescuing stability for its citizens. Lebanese officials have long praised emigration and have acclaimed the epic of worldwide expansion as an object of pride for Lebanon. Nevertheless they have ignored emigrants’ rights and have failed to register their children in the columns of Lebanese citizenry.


15. However, the nation is not to be blamed for these circumstances; nor should be treated negatively. Rather, it is necessary for the Lebanese to come together in order to save their country. Additionally, those emigrants have transitioned into another state of affairs and have started a new life in new lands after they have had to suffer many difficulties in their chosen residence within the Countries of Expansion. The climb up the social ladder in their environment has cost them exhausting effort, the extent of which only they can assess. Fortunately, many Maronites who now reside all over the world have preserved their spiritual and ecclesiastical affiliations even though their national affiliation may have weakened. Thus, the Church may be able more than others to reconnect what was severed between them and the homeland.


Chapter II

The Maronite Expansion and its Development


First: Geography of the Maronite Expansion


16. The Maronites spread under every sky beginning with the second half of the 19th century and it continued for one and a half centuries, until today. They ventured into all five continents, but especially in the Americas, the South and the North. They have encountered difficulties and surprises and they were strangers to the lands where they settled in. However, their faith in God and their attachment to the values of the fathers and forefathers, induced them to hold fast with determination, wherever they settled, and to succeed in their business and their projects.


17. Maronites have settled in South and Latin America in great numbers. Today their numbers are estimated to be in the hundreds of thousands in Argentina, millions in Brazil, and tens of thousands in other countries of Central America[5]. They left Lebanon carrying with them their faith, their attachment to the Church of their fathers and forefathers, and the intercession of the saints to whom they used to pray to in their old villages and towns. However, they left without being accompanied by priests or monks from their Church. So, they went for the churches that were open to them which were Latin, in their entirety. They merged with her sons and daughters and enrolled their children in her schools and a number of them even changed their names to make them easier to pronounce by their new compatriots. Nevertheless, they did not abandon their Maronite Church totally, but were desirous for her to come to them with monks and priests to serve them[6]. They established social clubs for these envoys in each city and capital in their new countries. But, the Maronite churches they built were not many, the opposite of what happened to their brethren in North America, because the number of priests and monks who reached them were not able to serve hundreds of thousands of their sons and daughters dispersed over vast expanses. Add to that the fact that the first emigrations to these countries have not been followed by new waves, even to this day, and most of them turned to Latin parishes, and from their ranks emerged bishops and priests in huge numbers to serve in their sphere. However, the situation in these countries is starting to change with the erection of Maronite eparchies that endeavored to gather up and link again, what has been severed between the Maronites and their mother Church in Lebanon.


18. As for North America, Maronites experienced an evolution different from what happened to their brethren in the southern regions of this continent because the Church in Lebanon responded to their requests as of the beginnings of the 20th century and priests headed that way in abundant numbers. The Latin Church in these countries would welcome them and aid them in establishing their own churches and parishes. However, this does not mean that most Maronites did not join the Latin Church, rather, those joining her are more in number than those registering today in Maronite parishes. Nonetheless, the Maronite Church has come to establish in excess of eighty parishes in the eastern and western parts of the country, and now has two eparchies erected, with one bishop residing in New York on the east coast of the United States and another bishop residing in Los Angeles on its western coast. What has been said about the United States goes for Canada, where Maronite emigration is not very old, and the continuous waves of new immigrants presently number in excess of eighty thousand. Watching over and providing spiritual service is the Eparchy of St. Maron in Montreal along with 14 affiliated parishes in addition to a number of monastic missions.


19. The Maronites had also an old expansion to Australia and South Africa that goes back to the late 19th Century and to the early 20th century. Expansion to Australia has been fed through batches of immigrant families and the youth, continuing up to the present day. Sydney is the city that has the greatest number of Maronites, with numerous parishes and missionary schools run by monks and nuns where the rising generations learn Arabic and French, in addition to English. The Church’s presence in these two countries is old through the merit of the monastic missions that preceded the institution of eparchies[7]. Today, the number of Maronites in South Africa is steady, whereas, in Australia, it is mounting. However, many Maronite emigrants are willing to return to Lebanon if an acceptable and dignified life is secured for them in their motherland.


20. A modern Maronite expansion to Western and Northern Europe, especially France, is noted[8]. However, these and other European countries were not originally a destination for Maronite emigration, but rather they presented them with opportunities for work and education. Had it not been for the latest Lebanese war, this expansion would not have evolved to reach a present figure in excess of a 100,000. As for their ecclesiastical service, it is easy and difficult at the same time, because many of the priests are studying in Europe and are able to serve their brothers who live in its major capitals. However, the difficulty remains, because the Maronite eparchy, which was planned for this continent, never saw the light.


21. There are other regions in the world where Maronites live without seeking to settle down permanently, and these are the African countries in general and some countries in the Arabian Gulf. Service for those emigrants are currently being provided and may be more so in the near future, thanks to the monastic missions that are there and some priests and monks who have arrived or are about to arrive there.


22. This geographic overview of the Maronite expansion outside Lebanon shows the diversity of conditions underlying such expansion. However, a preliminary conclusion indicates that a large segment of Maronites is now living outside Lebanon, and this poses the issue of the future and unity of this Church and the sojourning of her children steadfast in her bosom.


Second: Evolution of Maronite Life in the Expansion up to the Present


23. It has not been difficult for Maronites to reach high social standings in their new circles. They are naturally disposed to adapt themselves and to communicate with others, following the example of their Church ever since her inception. They are very much of the self-made genre, which made them prominent in the world in a distinctive way, in all political, economic and cultural domains. But what is required is that they merge humanly into their Countries of Expansion, while at the same time, preserving their ecclesiastical identity, so they remain flourishing branches tied to their roots.


24. The Maronite Church, on the pattern of the grapevine and the branches (John 15:5), remains one in her entity yet branched out wherever she is present across the globe. Maronite eparchies in the Countries of Expansion have their belonging within the Patriarchal See, which constitutes a factor of unity for this Church in her fidelity to the Maronite, Syriac and Antiochene heritage. This particularity takes its characteristics in time and place, in the light of cultural, social, political and economic variables, and in complete harmony with the constants, which make the Maronite Church one Church in solidarity, ingrained in her spiritual roots where she finds her reason for being. The Patriarchal See, in concord with the Synod of Bishops, confirms the special frameworks that contribute to the dynamic growth and subsistence of the eparchies of the expansion these eparchies in turn confirm their spiritual, historical and canonical unity with all the eparchies around the world, in harmony with the Patriarchal See, the symbol of unity.


25. In general, the Latin Church welcomed the Maronites who came to her land, but the Latin clergy did not know much about Eastern Churches and their history. There were then disparities in the stands of bishops of that Church. Some of them favored embracing the Maronites within their Latin dioceses while others facilitated the spreading of Maronite parishes, contributing to the establishment of their churches. This state remained oscillating between daring and refraining until Vatican II was held, which gathered all Catholic bishops of the world, including bishops of the Countries of Expansion. This Sacred Council helped manifest the reality of the Eastern Churches and their great historical and spiritual value. As a result of this development, after this Council, the bishops of Rome allowed the erection of Maronite eparchies on the very Countries of Expansion. The decision was taken to establish such eparchies, which spread on two continents, America and Australia and the other continents as well. Their number abroad has come to exceed the number of eparchies inside the motherland. The eparchies of Lebanon number 12 eparchies and vicariates, whereas the eparchies of the Middle East outside Lebanon are six eparchies, and the eparchies of the three continents, America, Australia and Europe, now number eight eparchies.


26. These new measures promulgated by the Holy See constituted a major turning point in the history of the Maronite expansion and its future, because the legal presence of the Maronite Church in the world has become recognized, and because she is now able to embrace her children in a direct way. The Maronite Church benefited as well from the spirit of Vatican II, following the example of the Western Churches by translating the Maronite liturgy and the books of the holy sacraments into the languages spoken in her new land. Accordingly, this measure has been vital to the efforts deployed to keep the Maronite youth of the second and third generations in their Church or to motivate them to return to her. Thus, the issue of preserving the old heritage by the merits of the Arabic language alone was resolved, opening new horizons in front of the youth who want to consider themselves as belonging to the new nations that embraced them and belonging by way of faith and spiritual heritage to the Church of their forefathers.



Third: Attempts at Structural Renewal


27. However, such a course requires the Church of the expansion to prepare priests and servants locally, who know in depth the needs of the new generations, who are immersed in their new reality and have no nostalgia for the past that limits their development. The most pressing problem in the Eparchies of the Expansion is the shortage of priests serving the parishes and also a shortage of vocations to the priesthood, even in the United States where a Maronite seminary was established in its capital, Washington, back in 1961, which graduated two bishops and a good number of priests. Local priestly vocations in these countries are still very few, and the Church has until now been relying on Lebanon to offer her vocations according to its ability. In fidelity to history, and in this context a commend must be given to the tremendous efforts expended and the sacrifices made by the advanced party of priests, monks, nuns and laity. They succeeded in building churches and establishing parishes despite the absence of a bishop to shepherd their activities.


Fourth: The Language Used in Rituals


28. The Maronites, like other emigrants, carried their Arabic language with them to the Countries of Expansion. They clung to the language as part of a heritage linking them to the motherland and an identity they refuse to lose. They spoke it at home as well as on family and social occasions. They taught it to their children and were content to hear it along with the Syriac language in church, just as they were accustomed to, in their villages. However, with the passage of time and the succession of generations, the use of Arabic language began to decline among emigrant circles, especially descendants of the second or third generation. It ceased to be spoken and was not understood except by a very few of them. Thus, the Maronite Church found herself before a linguistic problem that was becoming increasingly more complicated year after year. She had to condition herself to the new situation by gradually introducing the local language into the Divine Liturgy and other rituals, while preserving the Arabic language for those who can understand it. Indeed, this is a problem requiring a comprehensive study before bold decisions are taken. Syriac is the language of the Liturgy and a fundamental element that needs to be preserved as much as possible. As for Arabic, it is no more than a local language that must inevitably be replaced outside the boundaries of the Patriarchal Domain by the local language that worshippers are using.


Fifth: Maronites of the Expansion Joining Local Churches


29. There are numerous factors that have combined leading to the integration of the bigger segment of Maronites and their grandchildren into the local Latin Church. It is true that there are dense concentrations of Maronites in some big cities in Canada (Montreal), America (Brooklyn, Los Angeles), Brazil (Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro) or Australia (Sydney, Melbourne). However, the demands of life and of job seeking have propelled Maronite emigrants in all directions, making it very difficult for the Church to provide spiritual services to all of them. Faced with this situation, it was natural for many of them to turn to the nearest Latin Church for the practice of religious rituals. This was facilitated by their conviction that the only difference with the Latin was in terms of the rituals. Moreover, the historical relations between the Maronites of Lebanon and the Western Churches have always been those of love, respect and cooperation. There is another reason for this integration, originating in the desire of Maronite parents to give their children a Christian education. They endeavored to send them to local Catholic schools affiliated with the Latin parishes. With time, they found themselves obliged to belong to these parishes and to contribute financially to them. By doing so they were assured a better social standing in their environment. Their children were being reared in a Latin environment, following her rituals. In this context, it must be pointed out that mixed marriages were on the rise among the new generations.


Sixth: The Problem of Transferring the Maronite Culture


30. The school is an extension of the family and the home in transferring the spiritual and human heritage from generation to generation. Lebanon is more knowledgeable on this subject, where the school is ensured and the Church is watchful to give it the correct guidance. Whereas, such a school is almost non-existent in the Countries of the Expansion, except in some far-off countries like Australia, and some nearer countries, such as Egypt and part of the Arabian Gulf. Where such schools are absent, there is an urgent need to provide books and means of transferring heritage into the hands of students similar to what happened in the United States of America where the Maronite Church was able to compile a series of catechetical books. It is hoped that agreement may be reached with Latin schools in the Countries of Expansion with the aim of transferring and teaching the Eastern heritage and inserting information on the Eastern Churches in the general catechetical curriculum, but this thing requires full-time workers and educational specialists. This issue poses essential challenge that the Maronite Church will be facing across her spread in the Countries of the Expansion. It is summarized in the simultaneous preservation of the unity and diversity of this Church. She will stay united in as much as she is linked to her roots, and in as much as the Church remains in Lebanon, headed by her Patriarch, her primary shepherd, vigilant over all the far-flung communities. Such a challenge requires a new and futuristic insight into the destiny of the immigrants in their new environment and especially in the atmosphere of the new globalization. It also requires a more effective interaction with the Mother Church in order to succeed in her new mission. This is what is needed to be looked into and contemplated upon through envisioning ways to serve the future of the expansion and the future of the Maronite Church everywhere.


Chapter III

The Maronite Expansion and the Challenges of the Future


31. The course of history presents us the issue of Maronite expansion in its three phases that expansion has known and will know as fulfillment of its evolution and its meaning. In the first phase, the expansion was a separation from the homeland and a bitter emigration amidst tragic conditions. In the second phase, the Maronite expansion turned into an individual and a collective epic of struggle for livelihood under difficult circumstances leading to the integration of emigrants into their new circles and countries. As for the third phase that the expansion will come to know, it is a movement of reunion and an organized interconnection with the motherland, not through collective return, but through interacting with it and carrying its mission to the world, a mission of creative coexistence between religions and civilizations.


First: A New Unity for the Maronite Church in Lebanon and in the Expansion


32. The convocation of the current Patriarchal Synod comes at the apex of the Maronite expansion. Consequently, this Synod is witnessing the presence of the spiritual authorities of the expansion for the first time in the history of their Church. It raises the issue of the entire Maronite destiny, and the issue of the unity of this Church with its sons and daughters spread out to every corner of the globe. Maronite unity neither means the guardianship of one church over another, nor that of a community over another, nor does it mean the forcing of one experience on everyone, as if expansion is not actually many distinctive expansions, each with its own characteristics. However, the issue of Maronite unity imposes itself through questioning what is to become of churches of the expansion if they do not correlate in spirituality and in entity with the Patriarchal See in Lebanon. It also imposes itself when asking about the future of the Maronite Church in Lebanon if she fails to correlate with her emigrant children who now constitute the majority. The great mission of the Synod would then be to answer this question and find plans and solutions necessary to consolidate and develop this sought-after unity.


33. The first step on the road to this unity is the regained, organized interconnection between all. It is an interconnection between all the churches of the expansion and the Mother Church and at the head of all is the Patriarch of the whole Maronite Church, symbol of her unity and guarantor of her stability, past, present and future. For the Maronite Church is a Synodal Church, standing on her own, and is in full communion with the Roman Apostolic See. From this perspective, the unity of the destiny of the children of the Maronite Church is manifested through unity in liturgy, prayer and the practice of the Mysteries in all Maronite churches. It is necessary as well that the Maronite Church be aware of her identity in every place, as a Syriac Antiochene Church and that her heritage distinguishes her in the world, cementing her unity on a distinct spiritual and cultural heritage.


34. This new perspective on unity requires special organization with provisions made for its canonical and cultural frameworks to ensure means of achievement. The needs of the Maronites are one, meaning that a deficiency with one must be faced by all. Priestly formation and assuring local vocations have become of such necessity that all of the one Maronite body everywhere needs to worry about. The need is perhaps pressing for an organized system originating from the Patriarchal See for interconnection between home and the expansion, as well as ensuring a creative solidarity among all.


35. Therefore, it is imperative to establish fixed structures and take practical measures in order to face challenges and to achieve Maronite ecclesiastical unity. The Patriarchal Maronite Synod recommends the institution of a Patriarchal Department for Affairs of the Expansion within the General Secretariat in Bkerke; its duties to be specified later and divided into two parts:


·         An administrative, temporal and national section, in which various Maronite institutions may participate in, such as the Maronite League and others…

·         An ecclesiastic section dealing with all issues pertaining to eparchies and to countries of the Maronite expansion, consisting of a full-time functioning and specialized secretariat.


1. Lebanon’s Support of the Expansion


36. Up to the present, Maronites in Lebanon have not given the Maronite expansion the importance it deserves. It is in fact a great, even immense, human and spiritual potential from which both Lebanon and the Maronite Church can benefit. While preliminary statistics indicate that there are more than seven million Maronites spread over all four corners of the earth, they also indicate that about one million of them are canonically bound to the Mother Church and that more than three million have merged with the Latin churches. Is it possible to ignore such a great number and allow them to distance themselves permanently from their Church, or should speedy efforts be expended to retrieve a good portion of them to their Mother Church, among whom are priests and bishops who are well known for their great spiritual and pastoral capacities?


37. Accurate statistics and studies should be carried out in each of the Countries of the Expansion in order to discern the potentials available in each community. New generations should be given sufficient information concerning their original culture and the historical accomplishments of their ancestors in Lebanon. Channels of communication should be opened between them and the motherland, not on the basis of a one-sided benefit from the financial capabilities of emigrants, but on the basis of sharing values and striving to safeguard and elevate them. Introducing Lebanon is a primary condition for creating a current of love for their old country among emigrants. Thus, it is very important to grant those of the expansion their rights including citizenship, property ownership and the right to return[9]. The project of introducing the emigrant youth with their homeland Lebanon through annual visits to the land of their fathers constitutes an essential program in reconnecting the new generations of the expansion with the rising Lebanese generations[10].



2. The Expansion’s Support for Lebanon


38. The strive is underway to get the Maronites of the expansion concerned about the destiny of Lebanon on the bases of extensive scientific, technical and organizational experiences, which the nation may have a deficiency in. The emigrants are required to show interest in the mission of this country, to support its just causes and to contribute to the preservation of its identity and its presence within its region and in the world. Undoubtedly, Maronites of the expansion enjoy a special ability to reconstruct Lebanon. The potential of the Maronite and the Lebanese youth of the expansion is considered to be among the most important social capacities in the region, and has a sizable presence in the world. It is no longer acceptable that the educated and specialized youth of Lebanon should contribute to the building of the countries of the world without being given the opportunity to contribute to the building of their very own country and to propel its economy forward. Registering children of Lebanese descent in the Lebanese census records is a very important and vital issue. It is a right that emigrants should not lose[11].


3. Mutual Support


39. The Maronite Church will not seek to “Lebanize” emigrants as if all their achievements and their involvement in the life of their new Countries of Expansion were of no value. The expansion has become part of the history of this Church. It is an integral part with her spiritual vocation, as God willed it for her. The destiny of this Church was transformed through this expansion into a worldwide destiny, requiring discernment of her future along this basis. However, the Maronite presence in the world still needs the Mother Church in Lebanon in order to confirm its identity. If a Western Maronite is not asked to consider himself as a Lebanese citizen, if he wishes to be an American or a Brazilian, then he cannot remain Maronite without integrating into his Maronite Church in Lebanon and without having an organic bonding with her. Otherwise, we shall have several conceptions of the Maronite identity, unable to survive in a vast cultural and spiritual environment that can assimilate minorities very easily. As for continuous relationship with the Mother Church in Lebanon, all Maronite eparchies return to reconnect with their origin to safeguard the communion among themselves. The Patriarchate is the trunk of the tree, the eparchies in the Countries of Expansion are its flourishing branches, and they are nourished ecclesiastically and humanly from one spring.


40. What is being said about the need of the Maronite churches in the expansion for their Mother Church in Lebanon can also be said about the need of this latter for the churches of the expansion. Ever since her children started to spread out all over the world, she has ended up not being able to see herself without them, because the Church is a Church with all her children, and all of them are her support and her strength. The separation of any member causes damage to the whole body, and equally any solidarity between members gives immunity to the whole body. The Maronite Church, on the existential level, is no longer a private church limited to a certain locality, but has transformed into a Church with an international presence despite the fact that her heritage remains Eastern and Syriac.


41. This new status of which the Maronite Church is well aware of, and also shares it with all the Eastern Churches by way of their similar expansion in every place, calls for reflection on the relations now existing between the different churches in the world, especially those that share in the one faith. The old ecclesiastic principle which appears in the eighth law of the first ecumenical Council at Nicaea (325 A.D.), stipulating that each city should have just one bishop not two, can no longer be applied because the circumstances of its application have changed. Thus, the Catholic Church has perceived that one city may have more than one bishop and not necessarily two, provided that cooperation between them is made effective and organized for the good of all. This is the new world, which is being subjected to new problems, and is trying to contrive new solutions. For the Maronite Church to perform her duty to its fullest, she must assume her responsibilities as one Church that the Lord gave her to spread her presence from Lebanon to the ends of the earth.


42. However, this responsibility will bear fruit if the Patriarchal patronage and jurisdiction extend over the children of the Maronite Church wherever they may be. Thus, their needs may be made known and parishes and eparchies may be established wherever it seems necessary, after the approval of the Roman Apostolic See[12]. The Catholic Church, which recognizes the Patriarchal Churches as independently existing entities, is based on the principle of diversity within unity. These Patriarchal Eastern Churches have their own theology, rituals, heritage, particular law and traditions, as with the Latin Church. Pope John Paul II expressed this fact by saying in his encyclical Ut Unom Sint (That They May Be One): “the Church must breathe with her two lungs” (No. 45). Therefore, the call to widen the scope of the Patriarchal jurisdiction is not in the context of rivalry and of division of authority, but one of preserving the Eastern ecclesiastical authenticity, because the Patriarchal Church is in fact the Mother Church of all Maronite eparchies, east and west. The bond between the Patriarchal Church and the Roman Apostolic See remains solid and deep-rooted because it is authenticated in one ecclesiastic communion, the communion of faith and love. Additionally, our Eastern Churches which are implanted in the midst of the Latin Church are able to interact and be open to the Eastern heritage. They are a model of what the ecumenical movement might lead to in the future by achieving the unity of all Christians within Christ’s one Church, expressing herself in various ecclesiastic heritages.


Second: The Worldwide Mission of the Maronite Church


43. The Maronite Church is an ascetic Church and her people love to pray and are influenced by the piety of the saints. At the same time, she is the Church of extended bridges and the Church of borders where civilizations meet. She united the Aramaeans of the Syrian interior with the Canaanites of the Lebanese coast and mountain, and reconciled the Syriac culture with the Arab culture. She lived the dialogue with Islam in her daily life, and preserved her Eastern identity while in communion with the Roman Church. All this gave her the opportunity to be a bridge between different groups of people. By introducing the Eastern Christian heritage the Maronite Church contributed to the West, and opened the door of dialogue and exchange between the Latin Church, the Maronite Church and the rest of the Eastern Catholic Churches. This special destiny of the Maronite Church gave her members the ability to hold fast to their faith, through steadfastness for the sake of freedom in the mountains of Lebanon. It also gave them the competence to initiate dialogue with all kinds of people, wherever they may be.


44. Would not Divine Providence have prepared for the Maronites today a mission as vast as their expansion assuming a mission of dialogue between religions and cultures with which they coexist? This perspective reinforces the call for unity among Maronites in the world, because they carry one mission, and take a unified stand with respect to the great issues in the world? This perspective on things dictates on the Maronites of the expansion to open up more and more to their ancient culture, as it also dictates upon the Maronites of Lebanon to place their hands in the hands of their brethren in the expansion that they may together perform their common mission to the highest standard.


45. This is the formidable goal that the Maronite Church seeks in these times, in the Patriarchal Domain and in the Countries of Expansion. What remains is to find the proper means so that the Church may bring it to perfect fruition. If this Church is to ponder upon her worldwide vocation through the eyes of faith and reason, then the means will become available through the power of faith and reason. This is what the present Patriarchal Synod recommends, which has proved to be a synod of reunion par excellence, held for the first time between the children of the Mother Maronite Church and the children of the Churches of the Expansion which have matured and are now ready to give the best of fruits.



46. Posing the subject of the Maronite expansion within the agenda of this Synod is one of the signs of the times in the Maronite Church. It found complete acceptance for tackling it among the clergy and the people, residents and emigrants. Undoubtedly, this mutual and new discovery has occurred and is occurring with such intensity and love for the first time in the history of the Maronite Church. The Maronite house, which has endured from emigration for a century and a half has recovered a splendor that has been the yearning for a long time. Behold, the Church is bringing together in her sons and daughters. They all desired the convocation of this Synod and saw in it the beginning of a new unity between them.       

47. For all those who carry the responsibility of the unified Maronite destiny in this vast and diversified world, the road will not be easy after this new turning point. However, the Holy Spirit will inspire everyone in the Maronite Church to accept their vocation as it has surfaced in its present form and to secure the necessary conditions to fulfill it according to the will of the Lord. The canonization of Sharbel, Rafka and Neemetallah as Maronite saints, during the course of the tragic war in Lebanon that preceded the convening of this Synod, will motivate the faithful more to walk the new road that the Lord is opening for them. They will definitely discover that the Lord is the Way and the Companion to the very end and thereafter. Glorified and blessed is His name to the end of the ages!








1. Communion between the Maronites of Lebanon and those of the Countries of the Expansion.

1. In order to foster the spirit of communion and solidarity between the Maronites of Lebanon, the Patriarchal Domain and the Maronites of the Countries of Expansion on the principle of unity in diversity, the Synod recommends:


1.a: That accurate statistics and studies be performed in each of the Countries of Expansion to record the resources existing in each congregation;


1.b: Providing new generations in the Countries of Expansion with sufficient information about their original culture and the history of the struggle of their ancestors in Lebanon and the region in the fields of human dignity and human rights;


1.c: To endeavor, through all available means, to secure, for those in the expansion, their civil rights in Lebanon, and foremost, the right to citizenship. In this very domain, the Synod calls for continued efforts with the appropriate Lebanese authorities so as to register those of Lebanese descent in the personal status records in Lebanon.










1.a: Each of the eparchies of the expansion is to establish a committee to carry out studies and conduct census within its borders.


1.b: Use may be made of the recommendations stated in the texts related to Identity (Text 2), Liturgy (Text 12), and Culture (Text 18).





1.c: Concerning registering children of Lebanese descent, bishops and pastors of the expansion are to adopt the mechanism suggested by the Episcopal Committee for the Expansion.


2. Conveyance of the Eastern Ecclesiastical Heritage to the New Generations.

2. In the absence of Maronite schools in most of the Eparchies of the Expansion which are usually charged with the conveying Eastern Ecclesiastical heritage to new generations, the Synod recommends that these eparchies, in cooperation with other Eastern churches located overseas, in coordination with the local ecclesiastical authorities, endeavor to have basic information about Eastern churches, their liturgy, their patristic heritage and their spirituality inserted into the Catholic catechetical curricula in use in these localities.

2. The Eparchies of the Expansion, in cooperation with those whose specialty it is, and as need dictates, are to prepare a guide of the Eastern Churches and their diverse heritages, to be used side by side with catechetical texts.



3. The Patriarchal Secretariat for the Affairs of the Expansion.

3. In consolidation of the partnership and integration between the Patriarchal See in Lebanon and the Eparchies of the Expansion, the Synod recommends the erection of a Patriarchal department for the affairs of the expansion within the Secretariat General (Refer to the recommendation in Text 5).


4. Annual Pilgrimages by the Youth of the expansion to the Land of the Roots.

4. Desirous of strengthening the bonds between the youth of the expansion and the land of the roots, where the Patriarchate and the abode of the saints are located, the Synod recommends the drafting of an integrated project aimed at acquainting the generations of the youth to their heritage at every level.

4.a: Cooperate in this domain with the Episcopal Committee for Culture and Heritage, with the Maronite League and with Maronite universities.


4.b: Organize annual pilgrimages to Lebanon and the countries of the Patriarchal Domain to reconnect the new generations in the Expansion with the Patriarchal Domain.

5. Expanding the Sphere of Jurisdiction of the Maronite Patriarch.

5. For the safeguarding of the unity of the Maronite Patriarchal Church in the Patriarchal Domain and the Countries of Expansion, and based on the theology of the Patriarchal Church and the principle of unity in diversity within the Catholic Church, the Synod urges the continued search and dialogue with the Roman Apostolic See to eliminate the canonical obstacles that still impedes the expansion of the actual sphere of jurisdiction of the Patriarch over all his sons and daughters wherever they may alight.

5. Since this issue is common to all Eastern Catholic Churches, then it is necessary to continue the efforts undertaken in this context by the Catholic Patriarchs of the East with the Roman authorities.


[1]. Refer to Mukhtasar Tareekh al-Kanisa al-Marounia (An Abridged History of the Maronite Church), by Archbishop Youssef Mahfouz, Chapter 6, pages 30-34.

[2]. Philip Hitti’s Tareekh Lubnan (History of Lebanon), Dar Ath-Thaqafa Publications, Beirut 1985, pages 575-580.

[3]. Refer to D. Boutros Labaki’s study in Al-Lubnaniyoun fi-l-‘Aalam, Qarnun min-al-Hijra (The Lebanese in the World, a Century of Emigration), page 609.

[4]. Elixanaf, Al-Mughtariboun, Tajribat al-Hujra al-Baakira ila Amreeca (Emigrants, the Experiment of Early Emigration to America), translated by D. Fouad Ayoub, Damascus Publications, 1988, pages 89-105.

[5]. Raji ‘Ashqouti’s, Lubnan fi-l-Barazeel (Lebanon in Brazil), Lebanon 1986, page 43. Nabil Harfouch, Al-‘Houdour al-Lubnani fil ‘Aalam (The Lebanese Presence in the World) (Decisions and recommendations from the conferences of the Worldwide Lebanese Cultural Union, 1985-1988), Beirut, 1988.

[6]. Refer to Clark Nolton’s study in the book The Lebanese in the World, a Century of Emigration, page 297.

[7]. For further details on the Maronite presence in Australia, refer to the encyclopedia: Al-Hujra al-Lubnania ila Ostralia (The Lebanese Emigration to Australia), volume 1, by D. Tannous Na’oum ‘Aoun, pages 269-331.

[8]. Refer to a study by Percy Camp in the book The Lebanese in the World, a Century of Emigration, page 693, the beginning of paragraph two.

[9]. Refer to “The Episcopal Committee for the Lebanese Expansion in the World”, Worldwide Expansion Day, May 1995 (Jounieh), Al-Mughtariboun al-Lubnaniyoun wa-j-Jinsiyya al-Lubnaniya (Lebanese Emigrants and the Lebanese Citizenship), Ni’metallah Abi Nasr. The Episcopal Committee for the Lebanese Expansion, Decisions of the Third Annual Conference, July 1996, Al-Intishaar al-Lubnani wa Taaqatihi (The Lebanese Expansion and its Potentials), Aj-Jinsiyya al-Lubnaniya (Lebanese Citizenship), Dr. Doumit Salameh.

[10]. Archbishop Abdo Khalife, Kayfa Nuhhyi fi Bilad al-Ightiraab Turathana ad-Dini (Means of Reviving our Religious Heritage in the Countries of Expansion), The First Worldwide Maronite Conference in Mexico, 23-28 February 1979, Publications of the Episcopal Committee for Media Affairs, 1979, pages 19-35.

[11]. Refer to: The Maronite League, Khutat ‘Amal li-l-Intishaar (The Expansion Work Plan), 30th of May, 2002, Annexes 1-7

The Maronite League, Barnamaj Shahr al-‘Aouda ila-j-Jouthour (Program of the month of “Return to the Roots”), 6-28 July, 2002.

[12]. Refer to the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches, Law No. 148, article 3, and Law No. 177.