The Parish and the Pastoral Work
1. Since this sacred Synod desires to manifest the Maronite heritage and its spirituality and the development of its constants in a manner which allows the Maronite Church to live her uniqueness and her testimony in the present time, we must touch in this text on the Maronite constants that the parish lived through, and look into their progress in the current situation through the different spheres of pastoral work. In this way, we can probe the steps to follow in the future in developing this endeavor and activate it in accordance with our noble heritage.
Overview of the State of
of the Maronite Parish Affairs
First: In the Past
2. The history and antiquity of the pastoral institution in general date back to the first generations, since they are linked to the presence of a body of believers in a specific place to which the bishop would assign a pastor. Concerning the pastoral organization of the Maronites, we have the oldest witnessing from the Jacobite At-Tallmahri, where he says, “The Chalcedonian Church split in the 8th century in 728 into two independent Churches: the Maronite and the Orthodox. The followers of the Orthodox were the inhabitants of the big cities such as
So, our Maronite society was mostly a rural society. Our fathers preferred living in the remote mountain regions in order to preserve their faith and beliefs and express them freely. As is well known, the rural society is distinct in its close social relationships through the bond of kinship. The village in general is made up of one big family or many intermarried families.
It was also much poorer than the urban society. From this grew the dependence of individuals and families on each other. Families did not use to own all of the necessities of life. This generated among them a sense of solidarity, positive partnership and unity of heart so that they could remain and survive despite the difficult living conditions. The best example of this is expressed in the principle of al-‘Awna (assistance): for the building of a house, the harvesting of a vineyard or even helping the sick…
3. Often times, these social values reflected on pastoral life: the parish church is a meeting place for villagers. In most villages, the village square is the church square. Religious occasions, such as the feasts of the Lord, the feast of the patron saint of the parish, weddings, funerals and others, are opportunities to meet with the whole village. For that reason we see that life around the “church – parish” is one of the foundations of this society, since this church is the reference authority for villagers. Thus, social life intertwined with pastoral life.
This is the background of the Maronite’s interest in building churches (and monasteries), where the church is often close to the houses, not only in distance, but also in its modest architecture: it is the house of God and the house of all the people. However, there are two sides to every coin and we should not just focus on the sunny side of the Maronite’s spiritual and temporal concerns because this has frequently turned into a problem prompted by egoism, favoritism and nepotism.
4. Furthermore, the presence of monasteries and the aggregation around them created a life of communion between believers and the monks, which extended to the liturgical life, prayers, general religious commitments through the liturgical calendar (canonical hours, abstinence, feast days, etc.). This gave a liturgical rhythm to daily life (every time the church or the monastery bells tolled announcing the beginning of the hours, for example, all who could participate would attend and all those who were not able to attend prayed from where they stood on their land). The liturgy, altogether with its richness, simplicity, its hymns, and deep meaning, played a primordial role in guiding the believer toward the spirituality of relying on Divine Providence; and this was the source of ethics in general, social behaviors, and values of sacrifice and testimony.
Undoubtedly, the permanent presence of the priest in the parish sharing with the people their joys, sorrows, celebrations and tasks was due to the fact that the priest was usually a member of the village: he had a house and worked his land. The pastor’s presence among his parishioners greatly influenced his pastoral work, which often revolved around liturgical rites such as administering sacraments, visiting with them and sometimes teaching their children Syriac and Arabic, often in the school “under the oak tree,” in the aim of reviving liturgical ceremonies. The reason was that the pastor was generally more educated than his parishioners; moreover, his religious and social status made him an important authority for the villagers – parishioners.
In the Maronite Synods, we have some pastoral principles which the pastor needs to abide by:
5. When the Synod of Qannoubeen (1580) considers the issue of the sacraments, it touches on the servant of the sacrament, the priest, who is bound by virtue of his office to administer the sacrament. For he is the one who baptizes (C 3, Baptism), “and has the power of absolving and binding by virtue of his office, apportioned to him, for he has been selected to be a pastor of souls in his parish and his church, apportioned to him” (C 3 Confession). As for the Synods held later in Qannoubeen (1596), in Dai’it Moussa (1598) and in Hrash (1644), they came to complement the pastoral dimension of the first Synod of Qannoubeen. They emphasized the necessity of keeping baptismal and marriage records (C 1 Baptism, 14 Marriage, Qannoubeen). They also emphasized that marriage should be celebrated in the presence of the pastor (C 14 Marriage, Qannoubeen). The fathers of the Synod also remind of the need to celebrate Mass for parishioners on Sundays and feast days (C 11, Dai’it Moussa).
6. On the other hand, the Lebanese Synod (1736) assigned an entire chapter to the parish and its servant, and the fathers of the Synod dealt with this issue whenever the need arose in the remaining chapters. In the Third Chapter, entitled “On the Pastor, the Pastor of the Parish, the Periodeut, the Protopresbyter and the Chorbishop” the fathers of the Synod enumerate what the service of the parish entails in duties toward believers: hearing their confessions, offering sacrifice on their behalf, preaching to them, administering the sacraments and being a model of charity toward the poor.
This Synod also recommended that the bishop would allocate adequate wage for the pastor and his assistants, either from the income of the parish or from the parishioners, who are supposed to sufficiently provide to the priests (because this issue was and still is marred by many abnormalities). The fathers stress that the pastor is to have a sufficient provision of books to enable him to carry out his duties toward his parishioners, from counseling, to preaching, to catechesis for children. He is to also provide well-bound record books to register baptisms, marriages and deaths. Priests are to do their best to ensure the cleanliness of the structure, the altars and the sacred furniture in all parish churches, and to be very careful with the sacred oils, baptismal fonts and sacred water font, refreshing it constantly. They are to perform all religious celebrations, from the sacrifice of the Mass to the Divine Office prayers and processions and others…
7. As for the synods held after the Lebanese Synod, they were basically intended to implement the decisions of that Synod. Whatever was new in them cannot be considered a development. However, what is striking in all of these synods is the request to parish priests to catechize all the sons and daughters of their parish, that is, the children and the adults. Whoever does not perform this duty is not considered a true pastor, but rather, a hired hand.
Some of the missionaries who visited
Finally, it is praiseworthy to note that in the villages and cities where Maronites coexist with other confessionals and religions, parishes witnessed an admirable participation from the inhabitants. Before taking up roots in philosophical, theological and political debates, dialogue is, first and foremost, a dialogue of love, rooted in daily life. The Maronites were characterized by their ability to open up to, and participate with, their brothers no matter how big their differences and disparities are.
Second: At the Present Time
8. Today, the Maronite parish is facing a big challenge. The socioeconomic situation has come to greatly affect the demographic-pastoral imbalance between the country side and the city. Urban parishes have become jammed with believers from all the various affiliations, whereas, numerically, rural parishes suffered because the pattern of life became incapable in front of the social life to supply the employment, service, educational, or even the recreational needs of the population. Thus, the traditional parish in the midst of its urban milieu was unable to take care of the people’s religious needs. This promoted the surge of huge discrepancies and differences that affect the pastoral work in general, especially with regard to the centralization of the parish in the countryside or in the city, in the mountains or on the coast, depending on the season.
This challenge created a need for pastoral activity within the different groups of society, especially in the city. Believers who were living the socio-religious values in the “Maronite natural disposition” ceased to do so. Other values poured down on them from every side, most of which were in contradiction to evangelical values, particularly in this era of globalization. That is why some parishes, especially in the cities or large conglomerations, launched initiatives which allowed them to be present among believers. Whereas it was customary before for believers to turn to the parish, today the parish is turning towards believers so as to meet their religious requirements, to be a witness and an apostle of the Church, the Body of Christ: to turn first toward her own children and then toward believers from other confessionals and religions. Of course, there are still many obstacles facing this movement, such as financial, human and administrative difficulties. Some parishes are still at the initial stage while others are moving slowly and yet others are pioneering.
9. As for rural parishes, the imprints of the past still reflect in most instances on its present situation. There is still a lot of confusion between social life and its values and pastoral life and its practices, such as emotional and family affiliation, which may sometimes dominate over the faith and ecclesiastical affiliation. As for the diminished numerical status quo, it bears heavily on pastoral work: such as the quasi-complete absence sometimes of the youth element and that of children. This restricts pastoral work sometimes to the practice of some sacraments, in addition to the shortage of priests which also affects the re-launch of the parish. However, we cannot ignore some of the positive aspects and developments in pastoral work, and they may be many. This affirms the need for every rural parish to have its own private pastoral project.
10. If we desire to shed some light on the level of diversity of pastoral and religious affiliation we would say:
a. If we take a closer look at priests, we find a great discrepancy among them, be it in education, culture, dedication and activity. There are those who are satisfied performing the minimum of obligations: Sunday Mass, baptisms, marriages and funerals. Then, there are those who take care of the parish in a more perfect manner.
b. If we take a closer look at parishioners, we can divide them into three categories:
· Non-Active or Seasonal: they are relatively a sizeable group;
· Active: We cannot determine their percentage. They are the ones who answer the call of the bell, and they are the ones who fill up the church. However, in overwhelming majority, are the ones who attend liturgical celebrations only to fulfill the requirements of the law or as an act of piety and faith; and,
· Committed: They are those who, out of the depth of their faith, accompany the priest and assist him in all his pastoral activities (care of the church, its furniture and cleanliness, activating the community during ceremonies, visiting the needy, Bible studies). There are also those who commit to the various causes of the Church. This group, though small in number, are the yeast in the parish.
Pastoral practices, in most cases, are greater for women and much less for men!
It is also noteworthy to highlight the presence of consecrated men and women who play an active role in the parish: there are some monks who serve parishes as pastors; other consecrated men and women perform a number of pastoral services, such as catechizing, taking care of First Holy Communion and youth activities. Others take care of different institutions such as schools, hospitals, orphanages. Their presence and activities have a visible and positive effect on the parish and on the parishioners.
As for ecumenical pastoral endeavors, they are more dependent on daily life and daily interaction with the others. There is no pastoral work that includes planning and regular follow-up.
The pastoral status quo, humming with activity at times, by merit of the zeal of many of our sons and daughters, is in need sometimes of organization. This status quo is the infrastructure upon which our society is seeking to build a pastoral endeavor that would elevate our parishes on an organized and systematic foundation in order to benefit from all resources available in our Church.
Chapter Two: Pastoral Affiliation
First: Theological Principles
11. The theological norms of pastoral affiliation stem from the very concept of the parish, and therefore, from the “theology of the Church” and from the “communion of love” between members of the one body in Christ, in the image of the Trinitarian communion.
The parish consists of the community of the baptized in a specific area and forms the mystical body of Christ, which gathers with the power of the Holy Spirit in a specific place through its fundamental bond with the local church, that is the eparchy, through its union with the bishop, who represents Christ the head, and through the priest who fulfills his mission in the parish through a complete union and partnership with the bishop of his eparchy.
The Second Vatican Council considers the parish as being: “in some manner they represent the visible Church constituted throughout the world”. It also describes the parish as “the cell of the eparchy” that “offers an obvious example of the apostolate on the community level inasmuch as it brings together the many human differences within its boundaries and merges them into the universality of the Church”.
Parochial affiliation has a solid foundation since the parish is Christ’s Church which is present amidst the homes of people, the family of families, the physical place for participating in the life of the Church, and a cell living the radiance of Christianity. This makes it a means from which the “Church” can take root in a specific place, to be a witness, through the power of the Holy Spirit, to Christ, the risen from among the dead, who will return at the end of time. This deep-rooted conviction comes as a consequence of the intense presence of the Church in a specific geographical community, since it is carrying a live salvific event, merging with it. This event becomes the “memorial” which the parish received from those who lived on its land; living it and passing it on as a sacred tradition to the Church of the future.
The Church is the womb which gives birth to the children of God, especially in the mysteries of Christian initiation. It is, in the first place, a “Eucharistic community” for in it all the faithful people gather to celebrate the Eucharist on Sunday. It is the “Church” linked to a specific geographical location and lives through its members the salvific event “here and now,” especially in the Sacrament of the Eucharist, which makes the Church, so the church, in her celebration of and with God, may make the Eucharist.
The parish is called upon to be an active community initiating the Christian people into the ordinary expression of the liturgical life: it gathers them together in this celebration; it teaches Christ’s saving doctrine; and, it practices the charity of the Lord in good and brotherly deeds.
Second: Recommendations and Future Perspectives
1. Affiliation to the Parish
12. Christians are invited to consolidate their belonging to Christ first, and through Him to the parish community where Christ's sacramental body becomes present in a specific place. It is imperative therefore to give more care to large parishes for two reasons; so priests could render their service based on personal knowledge of the parishioners: "I know my sheep and my sheep know me" (Jn 10/14); and so parishioners could get better acquainted and commit themselves to responding to their parish needs that it may become a vibrant Church tool. To reach this objective, serving such parishes should be entrusted to a group of priests willing to live participatively and to share in the different aspects of parish work.
Let priests endeavor to foster participation of the sons and daughters of the parish in its life, encouraging them to join institutions, organizations and confraternities or to participate in the different activities, celebrations and services in order to nurture their faith through their spiritual journey and to actively participate in pastoral work through the movement or organization they belong to or the activity they are engaging in.
Considering the importance of the spiritual journey, which should be a model of perseverance and continuity, the Synod recommends the necessity of embodying the sense of belonging to the parish through participation in the liturgical celebrations on the part of believers who reside within its borders. The Synod also stresses the importance of receiving the sacred sacraments, especially baptism and matrimony, each in his parish, as expression of the belonging to the One Body and participation in the material life of the parish as means for revival and development.
As for the parishes that include more than one confession, as is the case in the Countries of Expansion, Maronite parishioners are encouraged to frequent their parish so as to develop their affiliation to the Maronite family and to get nourishment from the spirituality which distinguishes their Church. Thus, they will get better acquainted with one another and with their heritage and its liveliness abiding in their souls, which stems from a common history through their martyrs and their saints and through the spirits of their fathers and forefathers.
2. Urban Parishes and Rural Parishes
a. Serving the Rural Parishes
13. Establishing common vicariates or at least common pastoral districts to serve the pastoral community in a specific sector contributes to their continuous renewal. Priests and parishioners committed to pastoral activities in the towns of the district would cooperate in the spirit of ecclesial partnership, providing the service of the sacraments and other needs. It is preferable that newly ordained priests, after preparing them properly for such a mission, be sent to serve in rural areas for two years at the start of their priesthood to cooperate in communal work in these sectors.
b. Serving Urban Parishes
14. Large pastoral conglomerations in the cities and their suburbs bring forth a different pastoral reality with multi-facets and fields. This reality dictates drawing up a comprehensive pastoral plan encompassing the various pastoral groups. These parishes often include a large number of people, making it difficult for the priest to get to know all his parishioners, especially those who have stopped participating in the liturgical celebrations held at the parish church. Since the shepherd cannot be content with the sheep inside the barn only, in caring for the adherers among the parishioners and those joining pastoral groups, rather, he is to reach out to the far out youth and families as well. Let priests in urban parishes operate in accordance with a comprehensive pastoral plan, cooperating in its implementation with their associate priests and committed lay people. In order to minister to the pastoral needs of these large conglomerations, effort must be expended to free the parish priest so that he is able to concentrate fully on his pastoral work. He needs to handle all issues posed at his parish and to deal with them. He is to allocate specific duties to associate priests and assistants to service the three essential assignments of education, sanctification and administration.
Successful and thorough pastoral endeavors must be built on a spirit of cooperation with pastoral institutions and apostolic organizations in order to meet certain urgent needs, such as giving utmost care to provide a deep Christian formation, enkindling the Maronite spirituality and its uniqueness, undertaking a census of parishioners, visiting them, establishing links between them and organizing social work.
c. Cooperation between Rural and Urban Parishes
15. Let eparchies shoulder responsibility for organizing and activating cooperation between rural and urban parishes and small and large parishes. They are also to consolidate the principles of cooperation and interaction between them in the spiritual, apostolic, recreational and cultural fields.
Furthermore, it is entirely appropriate to concentrate on cooperation during the summer season when believers move to rural areas and mountain villages. During that time, eparchies, along with priests, monks and nuns working in schools, and members of apostolic societies, are to undertake some missionary work, organizing camps, theological formation and preparing for the sacraments, through mobile intensive workshops moving from one parish to another.
d. Cooperation between Parishes and Monastic Institutions
16. Since the parish represents the visible Church on earth through its bonds with the eparchy, and since it is the perceptible place where one can participate in the life of the Church, it is the natural place for believers to live their faith and make it grow in Christ through the service of education, sanctification and administration. Pastoral work that emanates from the parish and aimed at the salvation of the human person may be brought to fruition by uniting the efforts of all forces working within the parish. Thus, the Synod calls on parish priests and those responsible for monastic institutions to cooperate in the authentic spirit of ecclesiastical participation. It also urges those responsible for these institutions to be well aware of the value of the parish and to realize that their consecrated life cannot be separated from parish life, which is the Body of Christ. They must place all their capacities in the service of God and souls. They are to spread out to the parishes, to cooperate with their servants, to live the true ecclesiastical partnership. The Synod also urges priests to coordinate their pastoral work with the monastic congregations, in order to benefit from the talents of its members, being aware of the spiritual treasures found among their consecrated, brothers in the priesthood and their partners in the service of souls. They are to open the doors of the parish to them and work together to grow in Christ and reach the fullness of his stature.
Chapter Three: The Perception of the Parish and its Role
First: Theological Foundations
17. The primary role of the parish is represented in the endeavors of the Church and her unity with Christ, the Head. It is the role Christ himself assigned to her, “the mission to proclaim and to spread among all peoples the
The parish is invited to experience with its children what Christ, the Head, had experienced and to live in him and with him, “so that God may be all in all” (1 Cor. 15:28). Christ was sent to earth by God through the anointing of the Holy Spirit to be in his mission, the Priest, Prophet and King. That is why the Church must live by the guidance of the Holy Spirit and stand as servant, in the image of her Lord, “the One Priest” to share with him the priesthood (worship), prophetic (Proclamation) and kingly (service of charity). From here it becomes clear that the parish will be faithful to the essence of her entity when she lives her triple service with Christ, the Priest, the Prophet and the King.
1. The Prophetic Role
18. The holy people of God share also in Christ’s prophetic ministry. They are so, in a special way through the supernatural sense of faith, which is the sense of the whole people, the laity and those in authority, when they hold fast to the faith they received from the saints in one installment, and delve into comprehending it. Thus, they become witnesses to Christ in the midst of this world so that the power of the Gospel may shine in the daily life of the family and society. This prophetic office which the parish undertakes is like a “school of faith” that must be made manifest in the course of preaching and through catechism, the confraternities, ecclesiastical organizations, the school and the family.
That is why the Synod sheds light on the apostolic and missionary role of the parish in the world of today. Because the parish is a living witness of the risen Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit and the unity between its sons and daughters and between it and the other parishes, it has to be “intrinsically but obligatorily” an apostle and a declarer of the faith. This is the criterion – guide for every pastoral endeavor. This is why it is not possible to consider this necessity simply as one of the requirements of pastoral work; rather, it is the central requirement; in other words, the only and the decisive one.
2. The Priestly Role
19. In joining the people of God through faith and baptism, a person becomes a partner in the calling of this new people whom Christ, Our Lord, made “a kingdom, priests for his God and Father” (Rev. 1:6; 5:9-10). The baptized, by regeneration and the anointing of the Holy Spirit, are consecrated to be a spiritual house and a holy priesthood.
This priestly role of the parish is represented in its celebration of Christ, the risen from the dead, through the Church’s salvific sacraments. Therefore, the parish must be the ordinary authentic domain to live these salvific mysteries, living the other prayers also, that they may become the path to holiness and to meeting God the Father through the Son and the Holy Spirit. The parish community in all its members is called to tread the path to holiness that the Spirit may yield forth, in its members, ever increasing fruit, aiding them to present themselves “living sacrifices” to God. All their activities, prayers and apostolic endeavors, their married and family life, their daily occupations, their physical and mental recreation, if lived out in the Spirit of God, and even the hardships of life, if patiently borne, can become “spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:5). These sacrifices, through the celebration of the Eucharist, are joined to the offering of the Lord’s body, to be raised with all reverence to the Father. In this fashion, the laity consecrates the world itself to God, offering an act of worship to God, in every place, through the holiness of their life.
3. The Kingly Role
20. The holy people of God share also in Christ’s kingly office. Christ practices his royal power when he draws everyone to himself through his death and resurrection (John 12:32). Christ is the King of the world and its Lord. He made himself the servant of all, for he did not come “to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mt. 20:28). In Christian tradition, the “kingship” is the “service” of Christ, who has communicated his royal power to “His disciples that they might be constituted in royal freedom and that by true penance and a holy life they might conquer the reign of sin in themselves. Further, he has shared this power so that serving Christ in their fellow men they might, by humility and patience, lead their brethren to that King for whom to serve is to reign”. More specifically, “the Church encompasses with love all who are afflicted with human suffering and in the poor and afflicted sees the image of its poor and suffering Founder”; and the people of God fulfill the “dignity of royalty” when they live in accordance with this calling, which is serving with Christ.
The first Church, since its inception, lived in a spirit of partnership, not only through perseverance in the teachings of the apostles, prayer and the Holy Eucharist, but also through material human activities. Hence, practicing its royal role: “And all who believed were together and had all things in common; and they sold their property and possessions and divide among all according to each one’s need” (Acts 2:44-45). For, “it is more blessed to give than to receive” (20:35), fulfilling the teaching of the Lord Jesus who said, “Truly, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did it for me” (Mt. 25:40).
The kingly role of the parish is manifested in the brotherly participation and partnership between the rich and the poor through tangible initiatives the parish strives to create and activate, and in caring for the sick and those with special needs. It is also manifested in partnership among the parishes through the donation of a percentage contribution specified by the eparchy, and also in common endeavors with other confessionals and religions.
Second: Recommendations and Future Perspectives
1. The Enculturation of Faith and Practicing the Three Theological Roles
21. On the basis of the tri-dimensional service in the life of the parish and in pastoral work, the pastors of the Maronite Church are to devote special attention to the laity and to fructify their role through the enculturation of faith and by nurturing the growth of faith in the baptized through various means, especially with respect to the ecclesiastical dimension. This is so believers, and especially the youth among them, may become more aware of their ecclesiastical and pastoral commitments.
For the sake of encouraging inhabitants to remain in their countryside villages, there are urgent actions to be implemented, such as surveying the educational needs and erecting schools and academic and technical institutes. There is also the need to survey the existential and economic needs as a prelude to land reclamation and its exploitation via modern methods, to process foodstuff, and to institute diverse industrial and economic projects. Hence, Maronite eparchies must cooperate with one another and with other eparchies of sister Churches to establish such types of projects in rural sectors or to strive to have government institutions establish them.
2. Religious Practice
22. The parish plays an important role in reviving such practices which we express as follows:
a. Urging Parishioners to Continually Receive the Sacraments
The sacraments play a primordial role in the life of believers. They aim at providing the baptized Christian with the fruits of the Paschal Mystery through his active participation in the seven sacraments of the Church. It is therefore necessary for the faithful to get prepared properly so their participation in the sacrament may be positive. Parochial endeavors with respect to the sacraments will bear more fruit if it touches believers in a personal manner. There lies the importance of preparing for the Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation with the parents and godparents, encouraging their celebration collectively on certain occasions and the exercise of vigilance that the baptized may grow to attain the mature faith through an appropriate formation, within the large pastoral community as in the small. It is also necessary to activate the Sacrament of Penance in a manner manifesting the forgiveness of God and his love for mankind, the fruit of the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus from among the dead. It is also necessary to encourage the acceptance of this Sacrament and the celebration of the service of the Prayer of Forgiveness in accordance with ecclesiastical laws. As for the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick, it must be made clear that this Sacrament is also for the sick and not only for the dying. It must be celebrated when the proper conditions are met through the participation of members of confraternities or ecclesiastical organizations, in the presence of family members, with the distribution of roles and readings and kindling lights to welcome the Healing Physician and the consoling Spirit. As for the Sacrament of Marriage, some parishes have already begun preparing the engaged couple before entering marriage. This is a pressing necessity considering what we are witnessing today in difficulties facing spouses and families. The priests should never remiss the pressing necessity to accompany them through pastoral activities specific to families, which enable spouses to face the difficulties and problems hindering them.
In addition to activating participation in the sacraments, special care must be given to other liturgical celebrations, from rituals, novenas, to processions, as they are beneficial to all believers and contribute to their spiritual growth. In order to attain the beauty of the celebrations and to organize them to be reverent and prayerful, it is essential to have, in every parish, liturgical animators, who, alongside the priest, have an essential role to play in the life of the parish community.
b. Raising Awareness of the Importance of the Eucharistic Celebration
23. Celebrating the Sacrament of the Eucharist is at the heart of pastoral life. Whereas the community brings about the Eucharist, in return it grows through the action of this Sacrament to become truly the Body of Christ. Therefore, it is a duty to celebrate this holy Sacrament in a manner worthy of care so as to manifest through it the Paschal Mystery for an active participation on the part of believers. Hence, beside the educational part which is built on the Word of God and the promise that this Word carries in achieving salvation in the present time, there must be emphasis in a special way on the act of sanctification fulfilled in the Sacrifice portion, where self and the world and their enlightenment are presented through the power of the Resurrection flowing forth from the salvific sacrifice of Christ itself.
c. Preparing Seriously for the Different Religious Celebrations
24. The parish priest and animators of liturgical work are to take great care in preparing altar servers and the processions and making sure they practice the moves and signs, giving attention to their ecclesiastical attire and their integration with what they are performing. Let them also give attention to preparing the choir, striving to select the appropriate ritual hymns for each celebration without neglecting the effective participation of the community. Let them strive as well to provide the necessary means of adding to the beauty and reverence of the celebration, from the decoration of the church to musical instruments to printed inserts and books, without missing out on billboards.
d. The Homily during Celebrations
25. Let priests address the homily to all categories of people, preparing for it as they should. Homilies must always emanate from the Word of God, which is to be declared with persistence, in and out of season (2 Tim. 4:2). There should be a declaration of the Good News and a fulfillment of the Word of God in the lived reality which touches on the affairs of daily life, such as work issues, the strive to secure the daily bread with its inherent difficulties, differences, speculations and strife in addition to issues of existence, and local and international dilemmas. Priests are to exhort and to include these present-day matters in their sermons in the light of the Word of God and its interpretation according to the spirit of the Gospel. The sermon should not be limited to the Mass but should go beyond it to include celebrations of the other sacraments to help believers get into the Paschal dimension of each sacrament and to help harvest the fruits and grow in the faith.
3. Fostering a Spirit of Cooperation
26. Successful pastoral work is built on the formation of the sons and daughters of the parish, especially the committed ones, on the spirit of solidarity, collaboration and establishing the familial spirit among them. Pastoral social work is to be given special attention, making use of the modern means utilized in organizing lay societies and imparting to it an ecclesiastical spirit. This spirit stems from the priest’s fatherly knowledge of his parishioners and the pattern of brotherly life among the people who share nourishment from the same sacramental banquet. Collaboration in the parish is built on encouraging the well to do among its sons and daughters on fraternal sharing and encouraging the less fortunate to play an effective part in the church and in society. This way, giving will not be a “favor” and taking will not be “begging” but both will rather be a true participation in mutual temporal, spiritual, and cultural giving, leading to the giving of self, seasoned by Christ’s flavor.
Moreover, parishioners are to be encouraged to persevere in building churches wherever there is need and to establish pastoral houses and centers to foster faith and to organize different spiritual, cultural, athletic and social activities.
4. Developing the Missionary and Apostolic Spirit
a. Apostolic Objectives
27. It is a must to set apostolic objectives which constitute important causes for parishioners within the pastoral community derived from the supreme Maronite cause as specified by the Patriarchate for through these objectives and causes lie her constant renewal and flourishing impetus. These objectives are based on meditating on the life of the parish and looking out for its needs and aspirations and listening out to the calls of the Spirit at work in it.
b. Ecumenical Objectives
28. The parish should be open to all non-Catholic parishes and ecclesiastical communities found on its territory or in neighboring ones, by encouraging meetings between the different apostolic movements and organizations. Furthermore, it is to consolidate a spirit of brotherly cooperation with them and participation in endeavors within the limits of mutual respect, planning to nurture faith and love.
c. Dialogue and
29. The parish is to become aware of its role in dialogue which requires significant effort. Therefore, there must be no surrender to the spirit of partisanship and isolation. The parish should work on building bridges with those from other religions living on its territory, being a witness to its steadfastness on the stance of love. Thus, it will be fulfilling its share in easing the airs of convulsion and to face the difficulties existing in our days between religions and cultures.
On a different level, parishioners can activate a humane dialogue with people from other religions and cooperate with them in different fields: charitable organizations, work and educational fields, arriving at concurrence about a mutual sense of faith formed across generations. It is still being nourished from common sources and manifested in common expressions, such as Al-hammdou-lil-Laah (Praise be to God) or Ash-Shoukrou-lil-Laah (Thanks be to God), in religious music, the various architectural, aesthetic and cultural forms and in some paths of life.
As for the missionary role, the parish must strive to carry witnessing and the Good News in its prayer, its way of life and its utterances, exemplified by the written Word: “He laid down his life for us; so we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers” (1 Jn. 3:16), and heeding the call of Christ, “Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15).
The Role of the Parish Priest
First: Theological Foundations
30. The relationship between the priest and parishioners emanates from the concept of stewardship. Therefore, if this concept is specified, the context of stewardship is thus specified; thereof, the role of the parish pastor and his relations with the parishioners will be clarified as well.
God promised his people never to leave them without a shepherd to unite them and guide them, “And I will appoint over you shepherds after my own heart” (Jer. 3:15), “I will appoint shepherds for them who will shepherd them so that they need no longer fear and tremble” (23:4). God fulfilled his promise to his people and to the Church who is experiencing his blessing daily in the person of Jesus Christ the “Good Shepherd” (John 10:11; Heb. 13:20).
1. Stewardship is work in the name of Christ and through the power of the Holy Spirit
31. Christ, the Shepherd, delegated this task to the Apostles and their successors to tend God’s sheep (refer to John 21:15-17; 1 Pt. 5:2). The Church lived this truth after the Resurrection of the Lord from among the dead through the power of the Holy Spirit, who taught her and reminded her of everything and she will live it forever. Then came the Second Vatican Council to confirm this truth: “The office of priests, since it is connected with the Episcopal order, shares in the authority by which Christ builds up, sanctifies and rules his Body. Therefore the priesthood is conferred by that special sacrament; through it priests, by the anointing of the Holy Spirit, are signed with a special character and are conformed to Christ the Priest in such a way that they can act in the person of Christ the Head”.
The priests (shepherds) are, therefore, called upon to be in the midst of the parish community as an extension of the presence of Christ, the only and greatest Shepherd. They are to imitate him and his pattern of life, reflecting somewhat, his image, transparent amidst the flock placed in their charge.
However, stewardship, which in its nature reflects the Christological dimension, cannot be an extension of the work of Christ and cannot bear the yearned-for fruits unless it stands through the power of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit realizes, in the present time, the salvation that Jesus Christ has fulfilled through his resurrection from the dead. The Holy Spirit is the One who guides the work of stewardship toward its ultimate end and also gives the activity of the priest shepherd in the heart of the parish its ultimate meaning.
2. Context of Stewardship
32. The context of stewardship can be summed up in this fact that the shepherd is the servant of the ecclesiastical community.
The service of the pastor stems from Christ, the “Great Shepherd.” The shepherd partakes in the pastoral service of Christ through the “anointing” he received and becomes “the priest minister who is the servant of Christ present in the Church as mystery, communion and mission. In virtue of his participation in the ‘anointing’ and ‘mission’ of Christ, the priest can continue Christ’s prayer, word, sacrifice and salvific action in the Church. In this way, the priest is a servant of the Church as mystery because he actuates the Church’s sacramental signs of the presence of the risen Christ. He is a servant of the Church as communion because, in union with the bishop and closely related to the presbyterate, he builds up the unity of the Church community in the harmony of diverse vocations, charisms and services. Finally, the priest is a servant to the Church-mission because he makes the community a herald and witness of the Gospel”.
33. From here we come to another constant foundation that the priest, in the image of Christ, and the power of the Holy Spirit, is, in his pastoral task, a teacher, a consecrator and an administrator. He serves the parish that it may, in turn, perform its prophetic, priestly and kingly role. For priests “By the power of the sacrament of Orders, in the image of Christ the eternal high Priest (Heb. 5:1-10; 7:24; 9:11-28), they are consecrated to preach the Gospel and shepherd the faithful and to celebrate divine worship, so that they are true priests of the New Testament. Partakers of the function of Christ the sole Mediator (1 Tim. 2:5), on their level of ministry, they announce the divine word to all”.
Furthermore, the relation of the priest with his parishioners should extend beyond external dealings. It is rooted in the Mystery of Christ, the Son, who made manifest to us the fatherhood of the Father and who was both a brother in humanity and a teacher. We have in him as the High Priest, a model and an example of living the priestly relationship. On this, the Second Vatican Council says, “Priests of the New Testament, in virtue of the sacrament of Orders, exercise the most outstanding and necessary office of father and teacher among, and for, the People of God…Priests are brothers among brothers with all those who have been reborn at the baptismal font”.
34. Emanating from this role, priests are hence fathers and their role is to give faith based birth to the sons and daughters of their parish. The priest is rightly called “father” on account of the mission he was entrusted with, in the midst of the community. Priests are also teachers because by being fathers they have to teach their children. However, they must not forget that they are brothers among brothers, walking with “them” to sainthood and being with them through the “presence of love” in the parish. They accompany them always. They visit them; they carry their anguish and remain with them in their spiritual and temporal life. They support them in misfortune and tribulation; they are delighted and are consoled by them.
Second: Recommendations and Future Perspectives
1. The Formation of Priests
35. For parish priests to be able to perform their pastoral duties and reap the hoped for fruits through the power of the Holy Spirit, they must have the appropriate spiritual, cultural, relational and apostolic formation. They must be prepared to perform their numerous tasks and be up to par with new developments in the various fields of pastoral work. Let the responsible in the seminaries and eparchies train priests to live the spirit of the community and learn to accept each other as unique different brothers, united in love. Also, they are to prepare them for organized collective work in a spirit of partnership between priests of the one parish and monastic congregations in the parish. Finally, efforts must be expended to enlighten or train priests for ecumenical and apostolic-missionary work and to cooperate with other religions, provided they do not do so alone, rather, with the sons and daughters of the parish in general, particularly with those of them who are qualified.
2. Distribution of Priests
36. If we consider that the number of priests is still abundant in the Patriarchal Domain, the problem of distributing priests remains linked to personal readiness, education, and availability to perform pastoral work and the kind of activities they undertake. Since the issue of the distribution of priests is related to the state of each parish individually and to the aspirations of the priest and his personal gifts, we stress on the importance of dialogue between the bishop and the priests, on understanding, compliance and filial obedience because appointment and allocation are at the essence of the calling which the priest hears from Christ himself.
In places where there are an abundance of priests, then the service of the parishes of the expansion is to be taken into consideration. Priests must be sent there to serve them on a permanent basis or by taking turns. They must be made duly prepared for this mission so they may serve them starting off from their awareness of the characteristics of the country they are sent to and the mentality of its sons and daughters.
3. Dedication of the Priest to the Service of the Parish
37. Despite the fact that eparchies have varied needs, increased activities and institutions, be they administrative or cultural or educational, serving parishes in our day remains the fundamental role in invigorating the Christian people and reviving their prophetic, educational, and kingly role, in addition to the apostolic-missionary dimension.
To perform this pastoral service, it is mandatory to free the required number of priests to provide the faithful with attention and to take care of them spiritually, pastorally and apostolically. This dedication requires serious preparation so the presence of the priest may be qualitative without neglecting the aspects of priestly pastoral endeavors in schools and institutions.
4. Attention to Vocations
38. Due to the shortage in the number of priests in some regions, especially in the Countries of Expansion, the Synod points out the necessity for priests, monks and nuns to consecrate a sizeable part of their time, in close cooperation with vocations committees in the eparchies, so as to find and care for vocations. They are to accompany the youth in whom they discern signs of vocation and attend to them culturally, socially and spiritually and engage them in certain hands-on pastoral work so they may experience first hand the beauty of the priestly and the consecrated life and hear the persistent calls for vocations.
Let bishops urge priests and officials of apostolic movements and confraternities to pay attention to individuals who show signs pointing to vocations. Then, they would accompany and encourage them personally, and also through their colleagues, that they may seriously consider this matter.
5. Stressing on Visits
39. Despite the increase in pastoral activities, the fathers of the Synod urge priests to leave space in their weekly schedule for visits, seeking especially the sick and the suffering. Pastoral experience and the increasing requests of people have taught us that nothing can replace the simple visit which strengthens the bond of belonging to the parish and the human and spiritual interaction between the priests and the sons and daughters of the parish.
6. Livelihood of Priests
40. It is obvious, after speaking of dedicating time for pastoral duties and the necessity for the priest to be free to fully devote himself to his priestly service, for the Synod to recommend the need for the ecclesiastical authorities, in cooperation with the parishes, to ensure a decent standard of living for priests or fair salary with proper allowances and benefits for each one of them, regardless of the sector they are serving in.
Chapter Five: Pastoral Institutions and Organizations
First: Theological Foundations
41. The Church is the community of believers in Christ who became, through the mysteries of Christian initiation, live members of the only Mystical Body of Christ. Those members receive the divine life of the Father through Christ and participate through the power of the Holy Spirit in reviving this Body and stimulating it.
Since the mission of the Church is not limited to the clergy, but is rather the duty and the right of each baptized, the baptized has to participate in the work of serving this mission firstly in his own parish where he, personally, and the whole Church, are attached to this spot of land. Parishioners have the best occasion to participate in the sanctification of the parish and in the declaration of its faith through the pastoral council and the other councils and apostolic organizations or other activities.
The recommendations of the church councils and the papal encyclicals remind the faithful that they are called on to engage in the apostolate as individuals in the varying circumstances of their life, to establish associations and administer their affairs, on condition that they respect the relations that bond them to the ecclesiastical authority. The Apostolic Exhortation states that “Church communion, already present and at work in the activities of the individual, finds its specific expression in the lay faithful’s working together in groups”.
Second: Recommendations and Future Perspectives
1. Pastoral Council
42. In conformity with the stipulations of the particular law of the Maronite Church, which has established the special by-laws of the pastoral council, and in the spirit of the recommendation which calls for the need to establish pastoral councils within the parish, let the bishops, each in his eparchy, urge parish priests and aid them to establish pastoral councils each in his parish. The aim is to revive pastoral life and to provide opportunities for the sons and daughters of the parish to undertake their mission in a spirit of cooperation in order to activate pastoral work. This council, which is characteristically an advisory body, is to include delegates of organizations and groupings engaged in the pastoral domain and at all levels, beginning with spiritual work and moving on to apostolic and missionary work and then to social work and finally, to financial management. The importance of this council lies in ensuring continuity in pastoral work through the congregation of all pastoral officials in one organization convening to discuss the concerns of the parish with the pastor and to support him in building the ecclesiastical body.
2. Mortmain (waqf) Committee
43. In conformity with the general canon law, let the bishops, each one in his own eparchy, endeavor to activate the work of the mortmain (waqf) committee with an authentic ecclesial spirit which reflects the active ecclesiastical identity before any other affiliation, be it familial or political.
The Synod also recommends that pastoral service occupy center stage on the agenda of this committee through interconnectivity with the pastoral council alongside the different activities and the works of the apostolate. This must be done without neglecting to attend to the needs of the church building, communal worship, providing a decent living standard for the priests and all the ecclesiastical servants, and practicing acts of charity toward the poor.
3. Ecclesiastical Organizations
44. Ecclesiastical organizations or apostolic groups are one of the fruits of the Spirit within the parish because they embrace the young men and women who join them, in accordance with the gifts which distinguish them. These organizations are a priceless treasure because with their numbers and in their diversity they form an element of renewal in our parishes and consolidate the possibility of targeting a wider audience of the parishioners. Since the different kinds of apostolic groups are living cells in the building of the pastoral community, the Synod recommends all concerned not to quench the Spirit, rather to encourage the erection of groups, groupings and organizations in the parishes with a spirit of discernment and under the care and vigilance of the priest, so as to be a place for the growth of faith in a spirit of ecclesial partnership.
The primary objective of such organizations is to deepen the spiritual human commitment. Their members are all invited to receive an in-depth ongoing human and religious formation, thus increasing their love for Christ and the Church. Priests are to be concerned with spiritual accompaniment so that these groupings may be authentic schools of faith. The Synod also recommends striving to deepen pastoral, eparchial and ecclesiastical affiliations by motivating apostolic movements to participate in church activities on the regional, the eparchial and the national levels.
The Synod looks forward to the necessity of establishing living Christian communities in parishes, in a world so often controlled by a material culture leading to a pattern of life distanced from God and to the loss of faith. For this reason, our parishioners are in dire need of a firm declaration and a deep and robust Christian formation. It is in dire need of mature Christians aware of their baptismal identity and of their mission in the Church and the world.
45. The fathers of the Synod realize how important it is for the parish to perform its mission through pastoral activities embracing all sections of society that form the parish. So, besides caring for children and the youth, there must be efforts expended to create a pastoral activity prepared to receive couples and families, and to help them experience that it is truly a homely Church. In her, parents transmit the faith of the ancients to their children. Of course, we should not forget the handicapped and individuals with special needs who must receive distinctive care from the pastors through activities aiding them to blend into the ecclesial body. As for the large organizations whose identity transcend the borders of the parish and the eparchy and follow a spiritual and apostolic path linked to a charism that reaches the universal Church, it must be subject to the discernment of the local ecclesiastical authorities and the authority of the bishop of the eparchy.
In a time that is witnessing an increase in the number of those dissenters from the Church, who limit their commitment to social obligations, and in the face of increased difficulty for the priests to reach them, our parishes need to encourage the associations endowed with the apostolic spirit. Such associations gradually transform the parish into a missionary community carrying the Good News to those far away through the testimony of life and the sign of love and unity that the world of today needs. The formation received within these associations must aim to an effective personal shaping for the members, striving to prepare missionaries from among their sons and daughters ready to be consecrated to propagate the Good News either in the priesthood and monastic life or in the consecrated lay life.
Our Maronite parishes are often abounding in apostolic and ecclesiastic groups and organizations. Therefore, authorities must expend effort to make these organizations bustling with life. The members do not only receive a religious enculturation, but also live a personal faith-filled journey directing them to discover the depths of the meaning of their baptism and to attain a mature faith. This is done through a program based on the Word of God and its fulfillment in their lives.
In order to activate the work of groups and apostolic and ecclesiastical organizations in the parish, it is essential for the pastoral council, in cooperation with the mortmain (waqf) committee, to strive to erect a pastoral center to house apostolic activities and furnish the proper space to provide formation for the members of these associations. Also, the erection of an eparchial apostolic center is one of the pressing necessities in every eparchy, considering the help it can provide to parishes in the field of formation and its programs.
a. The Parish Priest
46. The parish priest should oversee the work of organizations and confraternities. He should provide guidance, directors and direction in all fields, enlisting the help of other priests, monks, nuns or the laity from inside the parish or from outside. It is up to the parish priest to cultivate harmony and coordination between the different associations in the large parishes, and between them and the rest of the faithful. He is the one primarily responsible for unity and the communion of love in the parish.
b. The Role of the Priest in the Organized Associations
47. The priest-guide is to keep watch over the journey of faith within the organized associations and over the cooperation between them. He is not to assume the role of the leader who is in charge of the group, in place of the lay officials. Rather, he is to be present and effective in crystallizing decisions in participation with the officials, without being a member. His presence will help members to fulfill the mission of Christ through their attachment to the Church, which is his living Body. The priest is the guarantor of ecclesiastical authenticity and the partnership. He transforms the parish into a place for the blossoming of ecclesiastical and spiritual gifts, and for the participation between all the various spiritual schools which constitute these institutions. This is his first concern and this is what the community expects of him.
c. Coordination and Promotion
48. No organization is to undertake pastoral work in the parish without the prior consent of the parish priest. Let organizations, and large movements in particular, be present in the life of the parish and its main activities. Let them contribute to them and provide the required services in coordination with the pastoral council. In return, organizations ought to ask the priest to look into their suggestions, leaving them the opportunity to take up initiatives which would derive benefit to them and to the parish.
49. Emanating from the tradition of our Maronite Church and the experience being lived in our present time, the suggestions and recommendations adopted by this Synod aim at helping the faithful in the heart of every parish to discover their principal vocation, so that their belonging to the parish may become a means of belonging to Jesus Christ. In as much as the faithful is linked to Jesus Christ, through the activities of pastoral work in his parish, and in as much as he is nurtured so with the Word of God through his participation in the sacraments and especially the Holy Eucharist, he discovers that his mission is being fulfilled in living love and in witnessing to Christ, especially for those who are in need of such testimony to regain their faith and enter anew into the Church.
Consequently, the Synod points out that it is extremely important for the pastoral community to be an apostolic community by way of its link to the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. Also, it is a missionary community by way of its openness to the world of today, which is in dire need for authentic witnesses to bring forth the New Evangelization, to use the slogan of Pope John Paul II.
Undoubtedly, the diversity of parishes in their geo-demographic reality directs us to admit that the contents of this text, in general, and the principles which were re-presented, must be applied to the reality of every parish. This is to be implemented after delving, studying and discerning matters, through the wise leadership of the shepherds: the bishops and priests, with the help of those laity who are committed to pastoral work.
TEXT RECOMMENDATIONS AND ACTION MECHANISMS
1. Belonging to the Parish.
1. The Synod recommends that priests and laity in the parish cooperate in fostering parish belonging.
1. Encourage Christian formation of parish members and calling them to participate in liturgical celebrations and accept the sacraments in the parish church, especially the Eucharist, Baptism and Marriage, and in supporting the material needs of the parish, and encourage them to join apostolic institutions and organizations and allow them to participate in decision-making and assuming responsibilities.
2. Erecting Common Rectories and Common Pastoral Areas.
2. To consolidate common endeavors among pastoral services, and because of the overlapping among parishes, especially in big cities, or because of the small size of countryside parishes, the Synod recommends organizing pastoral life such that priests can work together within it.
2. Erecting common rectories and common pastoral areas for the service of pastoral congregations in the area.
3. An Integrated Pastoral Plan.
3. The Synod recommends that parish priests and pastoral councils draft an integrated pastoral plan to encompass all pastoral needs, to include the committed in the parish as well as those distant from it.
3. Pastoral councils are to gather talents and allocate duties among priests, monks, nuns and the laity, that all may work as one hand in executing the pastoral plan.
4. Cooperation between Parishes.
4. The Synod recommends that bishops take upon themselves in coordination with their councils to organize cooperation between urban and suburban parishes, big parishes and small parishes, and between resident parishes and those of the expansion; also to establish the bases for cooperation and exchange between them in spiritual, entertainment, educational and financial realms.
4.a.: Dividing eparchies into regions with their priests meeting periodically.
4.b.: Establishing mutual funds between big and small parishes.
4.c.: Establishing twinning between parishes.
5. Preparing the Faithful to Accept the Sacraments with follow up.
5. Considering the importance of the sacraments in the lives of the faithful, the Synod recommends that priests, committed laity and those responsible for formation cooperate to prepare their brethren the faithful to accept the sacraments and abide by them and to provide a follow up.
5. To prepare for the Sacrament of Baptism and Chrism with the parents and the Godparents in special meetings.
- Preparing for the Eucharist and the celebrations of First Communion with a specialized team in the parish through successive meetings throughout the year.
- Activate the Sacrament of Penance and encourage participating in it during pastoral feasts especially through revival of the rite of the Prayer of Forgiveness.
- Reminding the faithful that the Sacrament of Anointing is for the sick and not for the dying only; and to celebrate it with the families.
- Preparing for the Sacrament of Marriage in the pastoral and eparchial centers designed for that, and accompanying the newlywed and families in special meetings or through societies specific to families.
6. Education Regarding the Importance of the Sacrament of the Eucharist.
6. Since the Sacrament of the Eucharist is the spring of pastoral life, and in it the Pascal Mystery is made manifest, the Synod charges priests and the faithful to master its celebration such that it would be a living participation.
6. Preparing the priests and the faithful for this celebration, mastering its rendition, readying the altar servers, dispensing effort on the choir’s performance and specifying its role, providing the necessary means for beautifying the celebration and its reverence, giving attention to church décor, providing the printed material and books, and the appropriate liturgical attire.
7. Preparing the Homily.
7. Because of the importance of the homily in liturgical celebrations, the Synod recommends that priests prepare their sermons very well in cooperation with some of the laity, taking into consideration their pastoral congregation.
7.a: Starting out from the Word of God and timing it, in the light of the current state of affairs and present life matters.
7.b: Making use of magazines and books which explain the Word of God (Example: Hayatana al-Liturji: Our liturgical life)
7.c: Forming a task team for this purpose.
8. Encouraging a Spirit of Solidarity between Parish Members.
8. The Synod recommends that parish priests and their members endeavor at encouraging a spirit of solidarity, especially at the level of social work and the service of charity.
8.a: Forming societies to aid the needy, and to activate existing ones.
8.b: Making use of liturgical seasons such as Christmas and lent, to gather donations.
8.c.: Reviving the old tradition of securing the share of the needy.
8.d.: Endeavor to make peace between feuding parties.
9. Encouraging Parishioners to establish pastoral Facilities and Centers.
9. The Synod charges parish members to work, through the guidance of an eparchial plan to erect pastoral facilities and centers in which to educate about the faith and in which to carry out spiritual, educational, athletic and social activities.
9. Devising an eparchial plan to spread such centers and to execute it in cooperation with endowment (waqf) committees and parish members.
10. Educating Parishioners on their Role of Dialogue in Openness toward other Christians and to non-Christians.
10. The Synod recommends that parish priests and the laity be aware of the necessity of being open to other Christians living in parish areas and the necessity for a compassionate dialogue with members of other religions.
10. Organizing meetings between apostolic movements and organizations during religious occasions, cooperating in charitable endeavors and in the realms of work, education and others.
11. Pastoral Visits.
11. The Synod recommends that priests carry out pastoral visits, considering the importance of relations between pastors and parish members, getting to know them personally and being acquainted with their life situation.
11. Visiting parish members on a periodic basis and at least once a year, with special attention given to the sick, the suffering and the sorrowful.
12. Concern for those with Special Needs.
12. The Synod recommends that priests and parish members give greater attention to those with special needs, considering the importance of their complete integration into the life of the parish.
12. Supplying material, moral and spiritual means, which would facilitate participation of those with special needs in pastoral celebrations and its various activities.
13. Listening to Parishioners.
13. Considering the importance of listening in pastoral service, the Synod recommends that priests be in a listening mode to parish members, near and far.
13. Consecrating special or fixed times within which to receive the faithful and listen to them as they pose their problems and worries.
1. Refer to: Canon 6 of the Council of Gangra (340); Canon 28 of the Council of
3. On councils, refer to: Boutros Fahd, Majmoo’at al-Majami; at-Ta’fia al-Marounia Abra Tareekh (Compendium of Maronite Councils through History), 1975. Also: J. Feghali, Histoire du Droit de l’Eglise Maronite, (History of the Law of the
The state of affairs of our parishes is still good compared to other parishes with similar conditions, especially those in European and Western countries:
a. Priests and clerical vocations are abundant;
b. The problem lies in the distribution and quality of priests, from the point of view of education, time allocated to pastoral work, the kind of activities and tasks they perform in their parishes;
c. Associations and organizations are abundant in all parishes. What remains is the quality of commitment to Christian values and way of life and the type of tasks, and the quality of work and activities, their effectiveness and their conformity with the requirements of contemporary life; and,
d. Attending Mass and participating in it is a sign of entrenched Christian practice in believers.
However, some changes must be instated in our parishes, such as:
· Formation of the parish priest, training him and liberating him from material concerns;
· Formation of the lay person, training him and allowing him to participate in pastoral life through the apportioning of direct responsibilities;
· Dividing and defining large parishes;
· Organized and collective ministry for the priests of one parish;
· New equipment for the parish: religious libraries, cultural centers; and,
· Celebrating religious rituals and practices.
[Conference on Pastoral Work, Ar-Rabita al-Kahnootiya (The Priesthood League), 1992, pp. 57-84].