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The Youth


 Introduction: A Prophetic Mission in the Heart of the Church


1. The Universal Church considers “the apostolate of the youth” an essential apostolic field, for it sees in it a foundation for the new proclamation of the Gospel for the third millennium. Pope John Paul II has worked tirelessly and gave this apostolate a renewed vigor and vitality in the last quarter of the 20th Century, although it actually emerged with the lay apostolic movements in the beginning of the 20th Century.


2. His Holiness established this particular apostolate on mutual trust between the youth and the Church through courageous and transparent dialogue. The youth are the hope of the Church, and the Church is “their mother and teacher” and the servant of their mission in today’s world.


The young generation, who search for happiness and a meaning for their existence and who desire to acquire knowledge, education and formation, respond generously to the calling of the Church whenever they find true motherly concern and authentic teaching in it. The youth are characterized by truthfulness, frankness and a leaning toward idealism; so, they have words to say to the Church hierarchy and sometimes “harsh remarks” to them as Pope John Paul II said to the youth gathered in Saint Peter’s Square on the occasion of the closing of the Jubilee Year of Redemption in 1984. His Holiness describes the relationship between young people and the Church as “sensitive and difficult,” adding that “it is not easy for adults, members of the previous generation, to accept them.” However, he stressed that they are not “to stop questioning and criticizing, rather, to continue saying everything in trustworthiness.”


 3. In the position of Pope John Paul II on the new initiatives towards young people, and the setting of the pastoral grounds for the mission of the Church toward them, emerges a prophetic dimension, which has worked in the Church for almost a quarter of a century. Our Maronite Church, which is paying attention to the mission of the youth and its prophetic aspect in this Patriarchal Synod, is reaping abundant fruit and reiterating anew its support of the youth, the hope of the future, working with them and helping them grow in the bosom of the Church and conveying her mission, bearing witness in their lives to the evangelical values.


Chapter One: The Youth of the Maronite Church Throughout History


4. The Lebanese Synod openly called for all the shepherds of the Maronite Church to “educate juveniles”[1]. thus, schools were established such as the school of Ain Waraka nicknamed “the mother of the schools in the East.”


These schools were invited to tend to their students “physically and spiritually” by “educating them in the fear of God, His worship, and practicing the sacred liturgies of our Antiochene Maronite rite at a young age…so that they would be guided in holy studies”[2].


This educational apostolate actually contributed to raising the cultural level of the Maronite youth. Consequently, many of them later played a pioneering role in the modern Arab Renaissance since the mid nineteenth century.


5. In addition to this only reference to the Maronite youth in the Maronite synodal texts, there are other indications in literary and historical texts that reveal the interest of the Maronites in their youth. In fact, the Maronites lived in semi-secluded mountain villages. The Maronite youth grew up in closed societies in these villages enjoying a unique familial and rural upbringing.


6. In these semi-isolated villages, and “before the Lebanese Synod, the Maronite Church lived an organized monastic and ascetic lifestyle similar to that of the monasteries”[3]. The Maronites of all groups, including the youth, participated in “religious office prayer services day and night”[4]. This intensive liturgical life became manifest in “practicing the liturgies they had learned from their forefathers”[5], and was an authentic source of their spirituality. They “accurately observed fasting, preferring death over violating the commandment; they had big, generous hearts, and were bold”[6]. This daily school of prayer set a strong framework for educating children and the youth, molding their spiritual and human character and rooting them in the spirituality of their Syriac Antiochene Eastern Maronite Church.


7. An in depth study of the history of the Maronite Church reveals the strong bond between the people and their shepherds to the extent that it is difficult to distinguish between what was religious and what was temporal. “The Patriarch is the lord of this mountain and all the people obeyed him in everything and for the sake of everything. He is their elder and their father, and they are many”[7]. The young, being the majority of this people, lived in the care of these great fathers and interacted with their spiritual and temporal visions. Some were drawn by the spirituality and asceticism of the hermitage, and left the world to live in seclusion in the mountains and valleys. Others established monastic orders, thus monastic life got organized in Mount Lebanon; and some of them enlisted to defend Maronite existence and causes, following their leaders and their elders.


8. With an increase in the number of schools and the spread of education in Mount Lebanon in the early nineteenth century and the openness of the Maronites to European thought as a result of the French revolution and the succeeding liberation movements in Europe, new social traits emerged and reflected on the relationship between the different Maronite social classes. After quite a stable relationship between the “circles of Maronite society"[8], from the thirteenth to the seventeenth century, this relationship witnessed some instability especially after the rise of the laymen’s independence movement in Mount Lebanon. Thus, the nineteenth century was an unstable one, witnessing an increase in secular movements, which were mostly led by young Maronites who were the first to launch a (demanding) independence movement in Keserwan and strove to deepen the notion of an independent Lebanon.


9. In the twentieth century, after the State of Greater Lebanon came to be, the Maronite Church entered a new phase in her relationship with modernity. After “the Lebanese Synod reinforced the Maronite Church in ecclesiastical modernity”[9], the establishment of the State of Greater Lebanon paved the way for the Maronites’ entrance into social, human, economic and political modernity. Thus, agriculture declined making way for new jobs and professions for the youth, enabling them to play social and political roles they could not have played earlier.


Until the end of the eighteenth century, educated Maronites were mostly from the clergy, the graduates of the Maronite School in Rome. However, in the early nineteenth century, a new class of young educated lay Maronites emerged and entered the cultural, scientific, literary, economic, and political arenas. Then, there were the authors, journalists, poets, physicians, engineers, lawyers, founders of political parties, literary societies, and civil non-governmental organizations that left their great mark on Lebanon’s modern history.


10. In the mid forties of the 20th Century, successive European Catholic apostolic movements founded in Europe arrived in Lebanon attracting a large number of memberships from the Maronite youth. Thus, this commitment created a deep understanding of the apostolic role of our youth, precipitating a positive relationship between the Maronite Church and its young members. Finally, came the Lebanese War in which young Maronites played major roles, some positively and some negatively. These roles need to be addressed and studied carefully.



Chapter Two: The Maronite Youth and Faith in Today’s World


1. Calling the Youth to Awareness of the Substance of their Christian Faith


11. Young Maronites are heirs to a deep and strong faith, made manifest in the spiritual traditions that constitute the basis of their faith in today’s world. This faith built first on the person of the Resurrected Jesus Christ, the one who died and rose from the dead, is a faith that the Church is imposing on their consciences anew today, and at every moment. Her mission today is to help them discover Christ the Redeemer, the True Teacher, the Guide, and the Friend and to build a personal relationship with him. Our Maronite youth are invited today to carry this mission of the Church in their walk on the paths of life and to maintain this faith-based heritage alive and efficacious in their daily lives.


12. In fact, the deep relationship with Christ drives young people to search for the meaning of life and to discover God’s plan for them, fully realizing that their lives are not their own to do with as they please, but are gifts from God and the property of all of humanity as well as the society where they live. Believing in Christ and following Him would bring the youth to understand the content of the Christian faith, the commitment to bravely proclaim the word of God in today’s world, and the persevering work to transform the world in the spirit of the Gospel. Thus, they are liberated from hesitation and fear, rushing zealously into public squares to proclaim Christ just as the first apostles did, encountering the pastorally uncommitted youth by devising appropriate means to spread the Good News in their midst.


2. Affiliation of the Youth with the Church


13. Discovering the Living Christ is parallel to discovering the Church. There is no Church without Christ for she is his revealed mystery, and one cannot truly know Christ except through her.


The affiliation of the youth with the Church is accomplished when the Church hierarchy understands their yearning to prove themselves in their environment and society, and thus embraces them with love, hope, and trust. This free embrace facilitates the honest dialogue between the youth and the Church, clarifying the Church’s appreciation and valuation of the potentials of goodness and beauty stored in their deep recesses. “The Church must feel committed to the concerns, interests, openness, and hopes of young people in order to answer their expectations through informing them that the certitude is Christ, the truth is Christ and the love is Christ.” Thus, the Church is seen as the servant of the truth that the youth are searching for, enhancing their trust and materializing their affiliation to her. The belonging to the Church is strengthened when the youth feel that they are her children, servants of her mission, and that their role is prophetic because “Humanity needs the enthusiasm of the young, their love of life and their joy that echoes the authentic joy of God when He created man”.


3. Committed Maronite Youth in Today’s Church


14. After the stormy events of 1975 in Lebanon and the increase in acts of violence, destruction, displacement, and murder, many of our youth were moved to prayer and delved into the Holy Bible and the teachings of the Church in an attempt to take a second look at the meaning of their lives, their apostolic role, and life and eternity. Despite the harshness of tribulations and the acuteness of trials, “a large number of our youth are endowed with honesty, audacity, and commitment”[10]. Most young people are raised within family, school, and pastoral structures providing them with some measure of security and stability. Some enroll in local and international apostolic movements.


15. The apostolic movements in Lebanon are diverse in origin and goals. They employ various methods that deepen young people’s spiritual lives in accordance with different educational programs, prompting them to commit to their faith and to the practice of the apostolic life. These committed youth are the hope of the Church and rightly so. In 1977, the Council of Catholic Patriarchs and Bishops in Lebanon established the Episcopal Committee for the Mission of the Laity, entrusting it with the apostolate of the youth. Thus, the National Youth Committee was established in 1984, and ever since, has been accompanying Pope John Paul II’s journey with the youth. It has also contributed to the founding of youth committees in the Maronite eparchies since 1991, and has become one of the institutions regulating pastoral work with the youth at the level of the Maronite Church in Lebanon. On the other hand, the Church has noticed the absence of a spiritual accompaniment of the youth at universities, and so, in 1979, she inaugurated University Pastoral Ministry movement, which has been providing spiritual space for the youth there. For the committed youth, living the spiritual ambience inside and outside the university, through the activities of University Pastoral Ministry, has contributed to making them apostles in their society and witnesses to Christ.


4. Plagues Threatening the Faith and Values of our Youth


16. If the war has caused some Maronite youth to review the meaning of their lives and faith, it pains the Fathers of this Synod to witness events leading others into direct or indirect contention with God and values. So, they distanced themselves from the Church through ignorance or fear of commitment or a deficiency in spiritual guardianship. This resulted in the shaking of the relationship between the components of the one family, such that constructive dialogue between parents and children, especially the youth, ceased, and parents reneged on their duty to provide sound guardianship and to accompany their children on the path of life. So, a segment of these youth took refuge in trends and novelties they thought would compensate for the loss of the embrace and warmth of the family and would give them an opportunity to express and fulfill themselves in pseudo-liberal environments that led them to deadly slavery. Thus, they were emotionally swept away by cheap emotions and sexual freedom in their quest for pleasure and gratification and the perversion of partnering outside marriage, so much so that the emotional relationship between genders lost its transparency and sincerity, submitting to moodiness, hesitation, unsteadiness and betrayal. Followed by this emotional chaos came inner imbalance drowning some in despicable behavior leading to drug addiction and dependence on drug dealers.


17. These plagues grew, especially within those social groups which claim class superiority over others, living an easy and affluent life conducive in most instances to moral laxity, slipping away from the bonds of high ideals that have graced our societies. It is not surprising for young people living in atmospheres such as these to suffer from identity crises, the tragedy of being lost, a state of isolation from their reality, and estrangement from their values, leading some to despair then suicide.


18. What makes things worse, in this respect, are those masked atheistic currents which have surfaced in the domain of the youth, assuming various forms, and publicized, intentionally or unintentionally, by all kinds of local and international media. In youth circles, these currents are fostering the sects of excessive materialism and degradation, instilling in their conscience a false image of God, masking from them the Truth and their embrace of it. The youth are being subjected to a number of influences promoted by the screens and the networks of electronic communication, instituting the love of vainglorious display, shallowness, artificiality, the epidemic of lying, and the absence of transparency. These indicators are encompassing the world of music and culture, robbing them of beauty and excellence, with immorality overpowering civilized behavior in youth circles.


19. Complaints being circulated at the family, educational, and social levels, are also being circulated at the practical level. The liberal economy, which prevails in all societies, causes the logic of the possession of education and money to overpower the logic of humanity and its values, bearing a decisive effect on the working world. The youth are the most prominent victims of this sweeping current, for after having procured an education and prepared themselves for the grind of the practical world, they come face to face with the obstacle of unemployment. The dwindling employment opportunities and increased unemployment in their ranks lead to conditions of despair and pain that they express in various ways. Some of them veer off toward a strictly materialistic logic for the purpose of securing the temporal bread and butter, while others are grasped by the logic of fast profit and instant success, and they strive for that at whatever price, even at the cost of their values and principles. And so, they enter this compromising world through its ugly gate which robs them of their freedom and their effectiveness as pioneers of change and builders of a better future.


20. What has been said of some of the Lebanese youth and their social sufferance also applies, with some resemblance, to the youth in the Patriarchal Domain. They await solutions for their problems to come from outside and aim for consumerism and materialism as if it were their life goal. On the religious level, the most dangerous threat facing them is the increase of radicalism and their constant concern is worry about the future of life in the countries of the East.


Chapter Three: Challenges Facing the Youth in Today’s World


First: In the Church


21. As the Lebanese war had a marked effect on the political, economic, cultural, and social structures, it also had its effect on the spiritual structure, as it “disfigured the Maronites, Church and people, impairing them almost to the core”[11]. Yet, the Maronite Patriarchate regained its role of late, gathering the youth through her clear stands and her national address. Those youth still see in her “the mother and teacher,” despite shortcomings and inadequacies, demanding from her a more authentic testimony to the Divine Teacher, enquiring as to her trustworthiness toward Him.


The Maronite youth expect from those in authority in their Church to provide them with an opportunity for a personal encounter with Christ and a deeper understanding of the mystery of the Church. However, in the absence of this opportunity, the youth reduce the Church to her institutions which then seem prone to all sorts of suspicion and complaint. This is where the paradox of ecclesiastical belonging is embodied, with the Church being comprehended through its institutional form rather than her theological, sacramental and mystic concepts. Also, the image of the Church-institution sometimes prevails over the image of the Church as a prayer community, bearer of the salvific mystery of Christ.


1. Initiatives and Aspirations


22. There is no doubt that appreciating young people’s initiatives and reinforcing their belonging and enthusiasm to the Church will positively reflect on her life and vitality. There are pioneering initiatives for the pastoral ministry of the youth in the eparchies. This ministry aims to listen to their aspirations, to launch an honest and serious dialogue with them, to accept them as they are, to respect their lifestyle, to nurture the love growing in them, and to exercise authority alongside them through dialogue and service. It must not be remiss in the thoughts of the shepherds that there are still some youth living in anxiety who are being marginalized. Their role and their effective work are eliminated from the arena of the Church, and the suitable ecclesiastical structures are not apportioned to them so that they may fully participate in them.


2. The Youth Appreciates the Authentic Testimony to the Christian Life


23. The conduct of some Maronite Church institutions on the one hand and that of those overseers, on the other, has an effect on the quality of the relationship between the youth and their Church. Whereas the youth are strongly attracted to the authentic teachings whose echoes resonate daily through eloquent teachers from across altars, pulpits and screens, they are shocked by the deep abyss between what is uttered and what is practiced. They suffer from the hemorrhage in meanings, as if what is attributed to the authorities in the public domain is also attributed to some ecclesiastical officials. The youth are apprehensive that they may encounter a Church preoccupied in maintaining external appearances at the expense of the Christian life. The signs of stumbling are there to be found in some ecclesiastical institutions. The prevalent grumbling, though lacking in mercy and objectivity in many an instance, nevertheless embodies a problem that needs to be dealt with, by probing into its reasons and causes, and through the renewal of individuals and structures in accordance with the requirements of the authentic Maronite spirituality.


24. The Maronite youth appreciate all that the Maronite eparchies, orders and others offer in care service and witnessing in their educational, developmental, and medical institutions. However, they do criticize the fact that administrative and commercial aspects in them often prevail over the spiritual and human aspects. For instance, educational institutions provide the youth with the best levels in education and civics, but the logic of some is diverted toward a purely commercial and administrative logic or a specific educational mentality which cares less to the ingrained values and principles. Thus, it does not place Christ as the exemplar for the educator and the student. This causes the youth to react negatively toward the Church.


25. On a different level, Maronite youth know in the depths of their spiritual sense that it is the duty of Maronite institutions to work for one aim. However, news of strife between them, the signs of negative polarization between some of their custodians and the epidemic of individualism cemented in the conduct of some of those in authority, are disturbing. The Maronite youth want radical changes to take place leading to the renewal of their Church, engulfing the depth and not just the form. They do not want a “revolution” but support every “will to reform emanating from true love for the Church”[12], producing for her an opportunity for renewal so that the authentic Christian spirituality reared under her protection may become manifest in her testimony.


26. The Maronite youth desire that the Church accept them as they are, working on their formation. They expect a lot from them as witnesses for the authentic life in Christ, and this witnessing is the best teacher and director, and the youth will excel with the shepherds giving heed and value to their ideas and guiding their initiatives. The youth rejoice when they find shepherds who understand them, love them and become examples for them, deepening their commitment and joining them in solidarity.


3. Longing of the Youth for Unity


27. The Maronite youth in Lebanon interact with many Christians of other Churches, then the concepts of belonging to the Church become entangled. Most of them consider that belonging to Christ is more important than belonging to sects and that Christian unity is necessary; and they think that what is preventing that unity is the conflict of interest between the leaders of each sect. However, a few of them do understand their ecclesiastical belonging as it truly is and realize that “unity is possible in diversity.”


This reality has its positives as well as its negatives. The positives lie in the fact that confessional affiliation is rejected in the ranks of the youth and that they are eager to belong to a Christian framework that is much broader than the borders of their Church. As for the negatives, they are embodied in the fact that most Maronite youth only see their Church from a confessional perspective, and this is a serious matter, since there is a big difference between a sect and a Church. “A sect looks only after the interests of its members, whereas the Church cannot fulfill its mission except in serving Christ”[13]. This is due to the fact that sectarian practices are overpowering Christian testimony.


28. There is another negative aspect to this reality resulting in the consecration of a certain form of pseudo-unity between the Lebanese youth, whereby they become part of a cultural, social, and political Christianity where concepts are muddled and meanings obscured. If the Church does not forestall this reality, it will lead, whether in the short or long haul, to the loss of the meaning and specificity of belonging to the Maronite Church and to the cessation of this belonging at the sectarian limit. This will send Maronites into seclusion and “the Maronites of this country will become part of the minorities seeking refuge in it…whereas, we did not come to this mountain except as hermits and missionaries”[14].


29. If Maronite youth consider the matter of clarifying the Maronite identity as urgent, what is even more important for them is to clarify it in its ecumenical dimension. In fact, ecumenical initiatives boldly embarked upon by the shepherds have found welcoming echoes. Young Maronites feel joy to see their Maronite shepherds cooperating with shepherds of other Christian Churches. They greatly appreciate the erection of common eparchial councils between the Churches in many regions, interacting positively within the common ecclesiastical structures where they gather, such as the National Youth Committee, the National Committee of the Laity in the Eparchies, and the National Committee for Movements. They also yearn for a more efficient parochial work with non-Catholic churches, participating joyously and enthusiastically in the week of prayer for the unity which they hope to realize.



Second: Globalization and its Effects on the Life of the Youth


30. Despite the commitment of many of their groups to the apostolic and spiritual life, Maronite youth in general live, as other youth do, in complex and diverse situations in a changing and unstable vast world without borders, facing the challenges of life. This is the result of globalization, which the youth are surging forcefully and enthusiastically to embrace it through all the varied means of communication. At this level, the danger lies in the absence of the necessary invincibility and supervision, in the ease with which they are swept away behind intellectual, political, and social currents that are part of the “culture of death,” by inciting on the adoption of violence as a means of expression and of change, and pornography as a means of refusing chastity before marriage, and agnosticism or spiritual blindness instead of faith, in the quest to deal with all that is tangible instead of traversing from what is seen to what is unseen.


31. As to the positive in joining globalization, it lies in “openness to other societies and cultures and their interaction with all that is immediate and new, the conveyance of the Gospel in a more sweeping form and to the largest section of the youth through modern means of communication especially satellite television and the internet”[15].


1. Young People and Politics


32. The youth play an important role in the political domain because they provide the link with the heritage of each country propping up the present and the future with energy that is new and innovative. However, work in politics requires preparation, competence and qualifications, since it is a service, simultaneously to society and country. The conditions of the youth differ according to the countries in which they live in and the freedom enjoyed to practice politics.


33. The Maronite youth passed through three phases at least in the past thirty years:


·          The pre-war phase: During this phase, young people were politicized according to their confessional and party affiliations. Universities, in particular, were an exceptional domain where opinions were discussed, blocks were formed, and the elites were groomed to engage in public political life.

·          The war phase (1975 – 1990): During this phase, the youth were divided and were forced back to their sect and fought with one another. They were the fuel of war and had no say in its instigation or in its appeasement. However, the tragedies of the war and its negative effects have driven many to think and search for the truth and to retire from political work, because they did not see in the practice of most politicians what they yearn for in integrity, in rising above and in the spirit of nationalism and reform.

·          The post-war phase: This was the hardest phase on the youth. It deprived them, as well as a large number of citizens, of their freedom, and the practice of their political rights through respect for their constitutional institutions. Many things have come to pain them, especially the appointment of certain political leaders, the exile or the arrest of some, and the dispersion of yet others. They were also cut to the heart when they were labeled as agents and traitors for having defended their country and their freedom, while others were honored for having adjusted to the situation prevalent at the time.


34. In this pressured political atmosphere, Church initiatives at the national level surfaced as a breather for this state of congestion, and the youth found in them an expression of their yearnings and wishes. Among these initiatives, we cite the Synod for Lebanon, which called for the purification of the memory, national reconciliation, dialogue and the preservation of conviviality. Likewise, the stands of the Patriarch and the Synod of Maronite Bishops had their echo at the national level and an effective impact on the souls of the youth. This is further proof that the youth are pioneers of peace and justice and are advocates of freedom and democracy, clinging tenaciously to their independence.


Their role became all the more prominent when they participated massively in the demonstrations calling for independence, sacrificing their tranquility and their academic life for the sake of freedom and sovereignty. Thus, they contributed effectively in lifting the yoke of foreign hegemony from their country. They were also distinguished by their enthusiasm in practicing their electoral rights in the elections that followed. However, they are constantly urged to be more aware of their national role so as not to fall into the trap of narrow confessional and regional seclusion for the sake of preserving Lebanon’s mission.


2. The Economic Crisis and its Effect on the Youth


35. The painful political state of affairs is wearing out economic, social and cultural structures, impeding all attempts at a comprehensive development that ought to be consecrated in the service of society and its sections with all the groups, from which the Lebanese youth must derive benefit. The economic crisis is stifling in this developing country, which is taking on the features of retardation day by day. In Lebanon, where the distribution of wealth is abused and laws are implemented on a discretionary basis, control agencies break down, trust in the national economy is nullified, and projects freeze, the youth hesitate in venturing on marriage and in starting families. It is not unknown what the results are at the moral and demographic levels. As for those of them who are married, they are experiencing difficulty in providing a decent standard of living for themselves and their families, a difficulty which is exposing them to the dangers of familial disintegration and moral delinquency.


In the midst of this painful situation, the initiatives of social institutions, eparchies, and the Maronite orders, whether in the field of housing or on the social and developmental level, come to give hope. Although they are aware that their Church cannot take the place of the state, they do cherish her guardianship over them and their families through financial and moral support at the medical, educational and social institutions.



3. Young People and the Cultural Identity


36. Most of our youth today are suffering from the effects of unmistakable cultural chaos. They are semi-lost in their search for a cultural identity to distinguish them from others. They are susceptible to the waves of the epoch following them and being influenced by them indiscriminately, either in art, fashion, dress code, or in behavior and utterance.


The Maronite youth in Lebanon live “trilingual cultural domains: Arabic, French, and English”[16]. If these domains enrich the culture of some, it may cause others to distance themselves from their Lebanese culture and to renounce it, “in the absence of a unified Lebanese culture”[17]. This is the first step on the journey toward estrangement and emigration.


On the other hand, if “culture sets the grounds for politics and economics,” then the political situation and the economic crisis have a negative influence on the culture of Lebanese youth. Probably, the most cunning of what they face in this sphere is a mix up between education and culture, whereby the number of the educated increases, while the number of the cultured decreases. Most of the Lebanese youth attend university and attain high levels of education but what is noticeable is that their culture is not compatible with their work. Thus, they fall into a cultural vacuum which they seek to fill by way of the media and that offers, on average, quite a shallow and superficial culture.


4. Maronite Young Women


37. Nowadays, Maronite young women are living in the midst of society and are competing with young men at all levels in the professional world, social life, cultural societies, and political activities. After young men had been monopolizing work, economics, culture, and politics, young women have come to secure significant positions in the practical and economic life in the past two decades, and still do. This social transformation has had its effects: flocking to procure education, wading into the battleground of life, and attaining positions and ranks, has established them in modernity and gave them opportunities for growth right along side young men. Plunging into the grind of the practical life, has augmented their contribution in providing a dignified life for the family, but, perhaps, has also entailed a change in the structure and pattern of familial relations. The most prominent challenge facing some of our young women is the waves of liberation, letting loose and material enticements invading our society.


5. The Youth, Coexistence, the Lebanese Identity, and its Arabism


38. Like other Christian youth, Maronite young people are divided into two major currents, in regards to relations with Muslims. The first current sees no use in embarking on dialogue with Muslims, because of the effects of the last war. It may be that the phenomena of “disregarding, the processes of generalizing, from this side or that side, of not developing and energizing mutual trust between the youth, and of not recognizing the other and his right to differ”[18], is behind the reciprocated wariness among the Lebanese youth. This first current sees difficulty in the face of any religious doctrinal dialogue, even a political one, considering the diverging views concerning a good number of fundamental issues.


39. The second current sees that the uniqueness of Lebanon is in its diversity and that is what has made it “more than a country, it is a mission.” This current calls for the transcendence of the wounds of the past and integration in the diverse Lebanese society. This current relies on the national address of the Maronite Patriarchate and that of its Synod of Bishops which represents a distinctive mark at this level. In its shunning of fundamentalism and extremism, in its appeal for coexistence and in calling out in favor of the culture of peace and forgiveness, it urges committed Maronite youth to seriously search for areas of dialogue and to interact with the Muslim youth in Lebanon. In this context, initiatives became numerous and still are[19], as many ecclesiastical institutions have incited the determination of the Christian youth in general, and the Maronite in particular, to embark on dialogue with the Muslim youth. The experience of those working in this field indicates that “there are young people of all categories in Lebanon who are open to the values of common living in a diverse society, who believe that the dialogue of civilizations is a dialogue of life, and who call for the rise of a civil society that gives the opportunity, for all alike, to live the religious and human values”[20].


40. However, these initiatives remain limited, restricted to the cultural elite which cannot enforce its beliefs on all the Maronite youth in what it thinks and believes, and this is what might subject the process of openness to a relapse and may cause the Maronite youth to become enmeshed again in an identity crisis. They do not always seem ready to accept this mission and to live it as a calling, because this exceptional mission-calling requires exceptional preparation in order to comprehend it and to live it. Questions related to the identity of Lebanon and the belonging of the Maronite youth to it must be handled with deliberation and vision. The questions searching for answers are: To which Lebanon do the Maronite youth belong today? Is the Lebanon they belong to is the very same Lebanon that their Church wants them to belong to? It may seem at first glance that the answers to these questions are obvious, but this is not a sure thing.


41. What makes the issue of the Maronite youth belonging to Lebanon more complex is the concept of the Arabism of Lebanon and the role of Lebanon in the Arab world. In one respect, they are unaware that the Maronite Patriarchate has “become a live depository of a unique historical Arab experience,”[21] and they are also in ignorance of the contributions of their grandfathers and fathers to Arab history and heritage; and in another respect, the majority refuses Arabism as a synonym for Islam and what ensues thereof, as it bears on the concept of Lebanon the multi-confessional. If they fancy over this saying, that “the culture of Lebanon is the criticizing conscience of the Arab world”[22]. and accept this role for their nation, they wonder today if the prospects of criticism are possible and available in a complex national and Arab atmosphere.


Chapter Four: The Church and the Youth on the Path of Life


42. The portrayal of the realities expressed in this text might seem turbulent. However, reform is inevitable. This is the wish of the Church: shepherds and youth. Together they face this reality; together they work for change. The youth without shepherds are scattered individuals without a reference. Likewise, if the shepherds do not activate the youth, the Church will find itself “on the road to death.” The shepherds are the teachers and the servants of the youth. The youth are the children and the builders of the Church; responding pours forth vitality and bloom in the people of God and the community of the Kingdom.



First: Spiritual and Human Formation and Guidance of the Youth


1. The Church: Teacher and Servant of the Youth


43. The Church, who needs the youth and their vitality and is convinced of the prophetic dimensions of their mission, must accompany them on the paths of life, forming them so as to help them become authentic witnesses for Christ. The Church cannot fulfill this mission if the formation shepherds do not live a life of witnessing before them, teaching by example, not just by words. This is the fundamental educational axiom. The deep, spiritual and comprehensive human formation is directed at the youth in their entirety and relies on human freedom, contributing to its maturity, training them to discern well, and building their critical logic. Thus, it would help them polish their humanity and assume their prophetic role in today’s world.


44. 2. Practical Steps for Achieving these Goals


·          Preparing priests and counselors able to understand and form the youth in love and truth, being like a spiritual father who accompanies them in the parish, the school, the university, and the apostolic movements.

·          Ensuring the spirituality of education in schools and universities so that it may assume its role in forming an individual who is distinguished, not only in education and knowledge, but also by the endowment of culture, faith, ethics, respect, and acceptance of others as well as commitment to Church and nation.

·          Continuing the development of programs aimed at preparing the youth for marriage in the eparchies and guiding them via officials trained for this task of formation.

·          Continuing the erection of institutes of religious education and faith formation in Maronite eparchies and working toward adopting curricula that address the concerns and aspirations of the youth.

·          Follow up on the subject of modernizing the liturgy taking into consideration life circumstances and being faithful to tradition, and assigning prayers to the youth emanating from their experiences and aspirations.

·          Issuing an annual address from the Maronite Patriarch directed at the youth, spoken in their language, uniting the vision between them and at the same time reminding them of their capacities and capabilities.

·          Publishing a unified booklet on the history of the Maronite Church that portrays the religious and temporal characteristics of the Maronite identity, to be distributed among the Maronite youth, as a formation subject for them.

·          Paying serious attention to the Christian media in accord with the language and needs of the youth.





3. The Youth and the Building of the Civilization of Participation


A. Toward a deeper relationship between the youth and the shepherds


45. The shepherds in Lebanon are invited to continue working with the youth in different fields as confirmation of their conviction that the youth must be shown more interest, deeper love, wider understanding and binding responsibility. The experience of the World Youth Days proves that the getting together of the youth with their shepherds drops the barriers between them and provides them with an opportunity to embark on dialogue; thus, their faith is renewed and the Church is renewed in them. From here stems the following recommendations:

·          Erecting the Patriarchal Committee for the Laity and the Youth with the branching out of eparchial committees.

·          Allowing the youth to participate in parochial councils in an effective manner through intellect, decision making and implementation.

·          Continuing to organize the annual eparchial gatherings for the youth under the patronage and presence of the bishops toward effecting fruitful acquaintance and developing trust between the pastor and his parishioners.

·          Erecting listening and guidance centers in the eparchies as well as in schools.


B. Towards Social Solidarity


46. If poverty is sweeping the country and destitution plagues all sections of society in the core, causing the Maronite youth to emigrate, ought not solidarity be activated and preached, rather than to feign crying over common efforts and preaching individualism? And if the tenuousness of the economic situation leads the youth to despair, shouldn’t we launch ground-breaking initiatives that would restore their hope and show our solidarity with them in love? From here stem the following recommendations:

·              Convincing the Maronite youth to remain in their country through the funding of small developmental projects of limited capital, which will help them become more rooted in their land and safeguard them against falling into trials that lead to despair.

·              Investing the endowed lands (awqaf) of the Church in a scientific manner, so as to allow the Maronite youth to benefit from them in these hard times.

·              Encouraging the Church to adopt developmental and social projects in peripheral areas in order to attract the Maronite youth of these regions, establishing them in their land.

·              Encouraging the youth to participate in voluntary work within organizations, associations and apostolic movements…allowing them to depend on themselves, to exercise solidarity with the other and to serve their society and country, resulting in the building of a committed and responsible generation.


C. For a Deepening of Relations between Residing Youth and those of the Expansion


47. The youth are stepping into the third millennium scattered between Lebanon, the Arab countries and the Countries of Expansion. The number of Maronites living outside Lebanon has become many times more than those living in it. The Maronite Church has accompanied her sons and daughters on the paths of the world since the nineteenth century and has realized the importance of her presence beside them through the erection of missions in the world of the expansion. For enhancing the cementing of relations of the Maronite youth between here and abroad, the following suggestions may be adopted:

·          Organizing a Maronite World Youth Day to be convoked by the Maronite Patriarch, once every three years, with the participation of Maronite youth from Lebanon, the Patriarchal Domain and the Countries of Expansion.

·          Establishing the Maronite World Council in Bkerke, to include, for each country to which Maronites emigrated, a special secretariat general that tracks their status and activates cooperation between the Maronite youth in the Countries of Expansion and those in the homeland.

·          Establishing the Maronite Institute for Pilgrimage to encourage the Maronites of the expansion and their youth in organizing pilgrimages to Lebanon and the countries of Maronite origination in the Patriarchal Domain, and preparing them for such.

·          The dispatching of Maronite youth from Lebanon to the Countries of Expansion to explain the roots of Maronite Tradition and to establish a link with the youth of the expansion.


D. For the Sake of Openness of the Maronite Youth to Ecumenical Work


48. For a number of years, ecumenical work has taken up an important dimension in the life of Christians in Lebanon and the Arab region. For that, the Maronite youth are especially enthusiastic. However, they are in ignorance of its concepts and principles. From here stem the following recommendations:

·          Formation of the Maronite youth on ecumenical concepts, bolstered by a testimonial life from open-minded shepherds with big hearts.

·          Getting acquainted with the other through his heritage, beliefs, and thoughts, through gatherings organized by parishes and apostolic movements.

·          Encouraging the youth, especially in mixed parishes, to undertake initiatives to assemble and get to know each other, activating these meeting such that they may become the dialogue of life.

·          Forming an assembly of Christian youth in which the youth from all Christian confessions in Lebanon may participate.


4. The Youth and Building a Civilization of Peace and Truth


49. If the Church is the ultimate teacher and servant of youth, she is to form them on a peace based on truth, freedom, justice and forgiveness, as the Apostolic Exhortation A New Hope for Lebanon, says.

The Church helps build a civilization of peace and truth through:

·          Instituting formation in schools and at universities focused on the importance of peace and truth.

·          Supporting all projects and associations that contribute in providing an education built on the importance of peace and truth.

·          Making use of the media to explain how peace is lived in everyday life.

·          Presenting an award annually to the ecclesiastical congregation working most effectively to reign peace and preach it.


A. On Cleansing Memories and Purifying Hearts


50. Peace and truth will not be achieved if memories are not cleansed and if hearts are not purified. Cleansing memories does not mean forgetting or pretending to have forgotten the past, but is rather an objective reading of history to draw lessons from it, and purifying hearts from hatred and sediments through recognizing the other and his right to be, accepting him and getting acquainted with him by establishing a dialogue without any preconceptions. Accompanying this walk entails rising above the hurt for the sake of the common good, a deep rooted forgiveness cleansing the heart, testifying to a true Christian stand. To achieve this, the family, the school and the university remain the perfect arena for such a formation, backed by a special apostolate for the war generation, embracing it, understanding it, and making it reassess the past for the sake of a new vision and a fresh start.


The Church aids in cleansing the memory and purifying the conscience through:

·          Supporting research that paves the way toward achieving the cleansing of the memory and purifying of the conscience.

·          Encouraging the establishment of dialogue symposiums at the level of parishes and ecclesiastical congregations in order to achieve this goal.


B. On the Commitment of the Youth to Christian-Muslim Dialogue


51. A cleansed memory and a pure heart lead, little by little, to the shunning of all fanaticism and extremism into a conviction and belief in communal living and a readiness for a constructive dialogue between all the different sons and daughters of the nation. The Church can aid in this respect through:

·          Introducing the Christian youth to the faith, thought, culture, and civilization of others.

·          Forming the youth on the belief that Lebanon is more than a country and on the conviction of the importance of communal living, not just coexistence.

·          Extending support for all the steps taken in this field, such as the exchange that takes place between some schools, those undertaken by some apostolic movements and the camps that encourage the dialogue of life, such as the “United Lebanese Youth” camp, and the UNICEF “Education on Peace” camp. The Church must not be absent whenever such initiatives are enlivened, but rather embrace them urging the youth to join them and strive for more comprehensive initiatives, making use of these experiences so that dialogue may not remain theoretical, but rather becomes truly a dialogue of life.


C. On the Integration of the Youth in National and Political Activities


52. With regard to all the political challenges facing our youth today, the biggest challenge remains educating young Maronites on the true concept of politics as being “leadership and a service for the common good,” prodding them to practice it honestly and ethically, yet be quite removed from narrow politics, in a world predominated by hegemony and corruption.


D. On the Integration of the Youth in their Environment


53. In opposition to the struggle that our youth are enduring in the Countries of Expansion living in between two civilizations, cultures, mentalities and affiliations, their spiritual life remains their plank of salvation in determining their identity, by the testimony of many of them.


This is where the role of the Church and her presence alongside these youth surfaces insistently, helping them maintain their spirituality and strengthening their link to their roots; thus, they integrate without melting in their new society through an active parish that attracts them and creates for them greater opportunities of participation in her life.



5. The Youth and the Cultural and Religious Structure


54. Even though our youth enjoy an abundant share of education, they mostly lack a deep religious education and faith formation. Here comes the role of the Church which has a responsibility to:


·          Maintaining pilgrimage sites, preserving their original character, guarding their sanctity, instilling in them an atmosphere of prayer and piety, and being an intermediary for visitors to get to know the saint who lived there and his spirituality. This would be a passage to deepen the knowledge of the Church, her identity, heritage, and the living of her spirituality.

·          Encouraging and popularizing initiatives aimed at reviving the ecclesiastical tradition and the visiting of historical sites and the stamping of these visits with the imprint of a human encounter, not becoming simply a tourist excursion, but rather a school where they meet with the roots of their faith.

·          Prompting the Maronite youth to come to deeply know all of Lebanon from one end to the other, with its regions, its people, and their customs.

·          Striving in schools, parishes, and the media, to have our youth acquire a Christian Arab culture that would reconcile them with their milieu and to awaken in them a consciousness of belonging to this milieu and their role in it.


Second: The Youth, Young Men and Women, Witnesses and Builders of the Church


55. Confronting the reality of a life of faith and the life of the society, the youth disclosed their remarks and critiques, then demanded and questioned. This is their right. However, the Church, like Christ, looks upon them with hope expecting them to persevere in work and prayer, that they may truly be her sons and daughters, witnesses and builders. She is in dire need for their energy in the service of Christ, for their dynamism, loyalty, desire to grow, and for the blooming of their faith, that they may generously employ their young talents in her service and take up their place in her.


56. The youth are invited to transcend the concept of the Church in its institutional dimension, into the concept of the Church - Mystery and the Church - Communion, developing in them the sense of belonging to her, responding to her initiative, and interacting with her formation, abandoning the stance of the spectator, or the unconcerned, the resigned, the rejecter, or the one who is content in solely criticizing without ceasing to demand, and to follow up, but on condition that there be participation and efficacy. Thus, their affiliation to the Church is transformed from the strictly formal and administrative into an in-depth search for communion with God and the brethrens. They will become effectively committed in parishes, associations, movements, and ecclesiastical communities, and be living branches in the Church. Then, this commitment will transform into a social, political and labor union commitment, because the dilemma of oppression in their milieu and in the world is dependant upon a change instigated by bearers of good will, for they are the builders of the civilization of love, adorned with the spirit of solidarity and participation. Thus, they generously take part in projects of brotherhood and solidarity, returning to the Lord at least some of the talents He has showered upon them.


Who influences the youth more than other committed youth? They are the witnesses of the Gospel in today’s world, and the Church is theirs.






57. The shepherds, servants of the Word and the Mission, look with hope to the youth and expect of them a belonging to the Church that emanates from the depths of their freedom, led by the Spirit. They want them established in their faith, their heritage, and their Church, for the sake of presence and continuity. They do not want them to be satisfied with presence, but rather, they bypass it and make it a bridge leading to a presence and an interaction that the yeast may be in the dough of the world.


If the youth are the builders of the Church, then they are also her prophets:

       Masters of vision, they see truth in a world of falsehood;

       Masters of stands, they utter truth in a world that otherwise holds its tongue;

Masters of boldness, they defend every oppressed and destitute in a world which denies them their rights;

       Masters of sharing in a world of consumerism;

       They choose essence in a world of compromises;

       They live hope in a world that has given up;

They are people of prayer creating around them oases of sanctity and repentance.


The Maronite youth, in the homeland as in the Expansion, are also apostles of the Maronite Church in today’s wide world, carrying and raising high the torch of the rich Maronite heritage.









1. Spiritual and Human Formation of the Youth and Accompanying them.

1.a: The Synod recommends preparing directors capable of accompanying and forming the youth in love and truth, being to them like a spiritual father who accompanies them at the parish, school, university and the apostolic movements.


1.b: Hold prayer services specific to the youth where they recite prayers emanating from their experiences and their aspirations.

1.a: Selecting some priests, monks, nuns and lay people with capabilities, to specialize in pastoral youth activities, with the duty of Seminarians to know the needs of the youth and their world.




1.b: Enlisting the help of the Liturgy Committee and the Youth Committee.


2. The Youth and Building the Culture of Participation.

2.a: Deepening relations between the youth and pastors.






2.b: Encouraging the Maronite youth to remain in their homeland.









2.c: Encouraging the youth of the expansion to return, and helping them assimilate to the work environment and to society through participation of the local Church.


2.d: Fostering the spirit of participation and solidarity among the youth.


2.a: Organize annual eparchial gatherings for the youth under the patronage of the bishop for the sake of fruitful acquaintanceship and building confidence between the pastor and parishioners.


2.b: Cooperating with the Maronite Social Institute and other similar institutes, which encourage individualistic projects and initiatives for funding limited capital small developmental projects aimed at rooting the youth to their land and shielding them from falling into trials of despair.


2.c: A media campaign to incite the youth to do volunteer work from within organizations, associations and apostolic movements.

3. For the Sake of Deepening Relations between the Resident Maronite Youth and those of the Expansion.

3.a: Organize Maronite Youth Days every five years with participants from the Maronite youth of Lebanon, of the Patriarchal Domain and the Countries of the Expansion.




3.b: Encourage and prepare the Maronites of the expansion and their youth to carry out pilgrimages to Lebanon and to the origins of the Maronites in the Patriarchal Domain (Refer to Texts 4 & 8).



3.a: The Maronite Patriarch would publish a pastoral letter that addresses the youth in their language, unites their vision, and at the same time, reminds them of their capabilities, capacities and responsibilities.


3.b: Establish the Maronite Pilgrimage Institute.




4. For the Sake of Committing the Maronite Youth to Ecumenical Work and to the Inter-Religious Dialogue.

4. The Synod recommends encouraging the Maronite youth to commit to ecumenical initiatives and dialogue among religions.

4.a: For ecumenical initiatives (Refer to Text 2).


4.b: Offering support for each step in this domain, such as the exchange taking place between some schools, steps undertaken by some apostolic movements, camps that promote the dialogue of life, such as the camp of “The One Youth of Lebanon”, the UNICEF camp under the slogan of “Educating on Peace”, “The Expectations of the Youth”, and “The Joy of Giving” camps. (Refer to Text 3)



[1]. Al-Majma’ al-Ikleemi (The Regional Synod of 1736), Al-Arz Printing Press, Jounieh, 1900.

[2]. Deed for the establishment of the School of Ain Waraka, Bkerke Archive.

3. Khairallah, Fr. Mounir, Al-Majma’ al-Lubnani wal-Majami’Allati ‘Uqidat Litahdirihi wa Litatbiqihi (The Lebanese Synod and the Lebanese Synods Convoked to Prepare for it and to Apply it), the fourth gathering of the youth in the Maronite Eparchy of Jounieh, 1998.

[4]. Coniard, Fr. Jean-Baptiste, Wasf Mukhtasar li Jabal Lubnan al-Mukaddass wa Sukkanihi al-Mawarina (Brief Description of the Blessed Mount Lebanon and its Maronite Inhabitants), Paris, 1671.

[5]. Ibid.

[6]. Ibid.

[7]. Di Aranda, Fr. Antonio, Ma’loumaat Hakikia ‘an al-Ard al-Muqadassa (Facts on the Holy Land), in Mount Lebanon and the Patriarch and the nation of the Maronites who reside in it, 1563.

[8]. Khalife, Dr. Issam, Abhaath fi Tareekh Lubnan al-Mu’aser (Research in the Modern History of Lebanon), Dar Al-Jabal, Beirut: The Maronite social circles are:

·         People of prayer who are formed from the clergy

·         The political leaders and elite

·         The laymen who worked in agriculture

[9]. Khairallah, Fr. Mounir, Al-Majma’ al-Lubnani wal-Majami’Allati ‘Uqidat Litahdirihi wa Litatbiqihi (The Lebanese Synod and the Lebanese Synods Convoked to Prepare for it and to Apply it), the fourth gathering of the youth in the Maronite Eparchy of Jounieh, 1998.

10. Iskandar, Bishop George, First Congress of the Catholic Patriarchs and Bishops of the Middle East, 1999.

[11]. Moubarak, Fr. Youakim, Al-Maseera al-Majma’ia al-Marounia fi Nitaqai al-Mashriq al-Antaqi wal-Intishaar al-Maskouni (The Maronite Synodal Path in the Antiochene East and the Ecumenical Spread), Al-Manara Magazine, 1st Issue, 1987.

[12]. Closing Statement of the Conference of Young Christian Students held between 29 and 31 of December 1968 at the Christ the King Convent.

[13]. Moubarak, Fr. Yoakim, Al-Maseera al-Majma’ia al-Marounia fi Nitaqai al-Mashriq al-Antaqi wal-Intishaar al-Maskouni (The Maronite Synodal Path in the Antiochene East and the Ecumenical Spread), Al-Manara Magazine, 1st Issue, 1987.

[14]. Ibid.

[15]. Closing Statement of the First Middle East Catholic Youth Conference, held by the Council of Catholic Patriarchs of the Middle East, between the 21st and the 24th of September 2001.

[16]. Mourani, Archbishop Antoine Hamid, Masirati ath Thatiya fi Ittissaliha bil ‘Alam al-‘Arabi (My Journey in the Arab World), lecture held on the 18th of October 2001, within the series of the Maronite League.

[17]. Ibid.

[18]. Series of Christian-Muslim Interaction, Tahaddiat at-Tafahum al-Mutabadall (Challenges of Mutual Understanding), Christian and Muslim Students Face-to-Face, Dar al-Mashriq, 2001.

[19]. Expectations of the Youth held by initiative of the Center of Eastern Studies and Research – the Antonine Order; Christian-Muslim Dialogue workshops at the Center for Christian Muslim Studies at Saint Joseph University; Workshop on Christian-Muslim Dialogue at the Apostolic Laity Council in Lebanon; and the Workshop on Inter-religious Dialogue sponsored by the Association of Moral Empowerment.

[20]. Some of the recommendations and statements of ‘Expectations of the Youth’.

[21]. As-Salibi, Al-Batriarkiya al-Marounia fi Tareekh ash-Sharq al-‘Arabi (The Maronite Patriarchate in the History of the Arab East), ‘Noor wa Hayat’ Magazine, 1975, p. 45.

[22]. Mourani, Archbishop Antoine Hamid, Massirati ath Thatiya fi Ittissaliha bil ‘Alam al-‘Arabi (My Journey in the Arab World), lecture held on the 18th of October 2001, within the series of the Maronite League.