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Catechesis and Ongoing Christian Adult Formation




1. The ministry of catechesis is one of the fundamental ministries of the Church. Without it, a child cannot grow in faith, an adult cannot request baptism, and a Christian believer cannot live his Christianity in an enlightened manner. This is why the Church has given it special interest since her inception, instituting the order of catechumens for those wishing to join her that they may acquire the truths of the Christian faith and practice living them. After accepting the mysteries of catechism, they comprehend the meanings of its symbols and the grasp of its effects.

The Church remains attentive to provide this ministry in accordance with the commandment of the Lord: “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them … teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Mt 28: 19-20), and is aware of the dangers surrounding her children, “when people will not tolerate sound doctrine but, following their own desires and insatiable curiosity, will accumulate teachers” (2 Tim 4:3), and yield to the enticements of the world. The Church is also well aware that humanity is still fertile soil that accepts the planting of the Word of God, yielding fruit of salvation, provided the sower receives what evangelization requires of divine grace, catechetical competence, devotion and support of the ecclesiastical authorities. That is why she entrusts catechesis to “faithful people who will have the ability to teach others as well” (2 Tim 2:2).

Catechism is not satisfied in simply instructing, rather, it endeavors to mold the catechumen into the likeness of Christ, thinking his thoughts, doing his works and assuming his stands. This is what the Apostle meant when he wrote: “I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel” (1 Cor 4:15), and: “My children, for whom I am, again in labor until Christ be formed in you!” (Gal. 4:19).

2. Since the Maronite Church has persevered in providing the ministry of catechesis to families, parishes, schools, and in her liturgical celebrations, the Synod affords it all the attention and care it deserves. It calls upon officials at all levels to expend unreserved efforts to safeguard this ministry and consolidate it, utilizing all educational and human resources methods available to ensure its development. It also draws the attention of catechists to the liturgical, historical, cultural, iconographic characteristics enjoyed by the Maronite Church that must be highlighted in order for the catechumen to discover himself through them and become more attached to his Church, without becoming isolated; rather, to be open to the Universal Church emanating specifically from this tradition. Authenticity means neither fundamentalism nor sectarianism; it is rather an incentive for ecumenism and acculturation.

Chapter One: Catechism Throughout the History of the Maronite Church

3. Catechism draws its content and fundamentals from the word of God as found in Sacred Scriptures and the apostolic tradition of the Church. The Word is life, and life is ever exuberant, never lethargic. The same can be said about tradition; it is enriching and is enriched through the ages. As for the catechist, he is alive through his teaching methods, flexible style, his lifestyle and his ongoing formation, in so far as he remains loyal to the roots.

Therefore, by recalling the most important historical epochs the Synod sees a benefit for those engaged in the service of catechesis and catechumens, that they may appreciate the merits of those who preserved the faith entrusted to them and endured suffering and sometimes martyrdom for its sake, as well as realize what the ingrained factors have been throughout the ages.

First: The Most Important Historical Periods[1]

1. The Beginnings:

The Maronite Church’s growth revolved around the Monastery of Saint Maron in Northern Syria. For extended periods, monasteries remained a beacon of faith, evangelization and teaching. The Maronite community lived in a monastic milieu organizing its life and work according to the monastic routines of prayers, Divine Liturgies, and devotions. It was a prayerful community that lived the liturgical life, attending to the liturgical calendar and deriving its formation from a life of prayer, feasts, and fasting[2].

2. Periods of Difficulty:

4. In the 7th century, the Maronites had to flee to Mount Lebanon under the yoke of persecution that pursued them persistently for many centuries; blazing at times and dormant at others.

The Crusaders facilitated the adherence of the Maronites to Rome and the West during the 11th and 12th centuries. They gave them the chance to develop their ecclesial and social lives, opening up to the western rites, and wearing western liturgical vestments. It was an opportunity for the Maronites to prove the authenticity of their Catholic faith.

However, this period of hope was soon turned into a period of hardship and tribulation under the reign of the Mamelukes who were able to oust the Crusaders and then dealt vengefully with the Maronites, who endured hardships and yet persevered in the face of persecution.

In the early 16th century, power transferred to the Ottomans, then to the Maan Emirate and then to the Shihabi Emirate. The Maronites enjoyed a new period of freedom and renewed their adherence to Rome. During this particular period, catechesis witnessed a distinguished renaissance due to some effective factors: the Synod, the book, and the school[3].

3. The Council

5. The Council of Trent (1545-1563) is considered a breakthrough in catechesis as understood today. It insisted on offering this service by obliging bishops and priests to organize catechism programs in their eparchies, parishes, and schools, issuing the Roman catechism book, which later became an inspiration for some to write similar books and make them available to the faithful.

The Maronite Church convoked the Qannoubine Synod of 1580 and in turn required that the ministry of catechesis emanating from the Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, the Mysteries, and the commandments, be offered on Sundays and feast days. It obliged bishops to assign priests to catechize children on Sundays in every village and city.

The Lebanese Synod was convoked in 1736. It promulgated laws obliging priests to catechize the faithful on Sundays and feast days in accordance with the teachings of the Catechismus Romanus[4], punishing whoever would not offer this ministry. These laws also required parents to teach their children the true faith. Parents, unable to do so due to ignorance were to send their children to church to be catechized by the priest. This obligation also included school teachers. It obligated the celebrant of baptism to disqualify the Godparent who was in ignorance of Christian doctrine.

Concerning schools, the Synod recommended their establishment in cities, villages, and monasteries insisting that students engage in prayer, recite the Divine Office, serve the Divine Liturgy, and read the New Testament and the Psalms[5].

4. The Book

6. Catechism books spread in the West after the Council of Trent, among them were the Bellarmine Catechism and the Canisius Catechism in its two volumes: the major and the minor, and the Richelieu Catechism, all between 1556 and 1618.

They were translated into Arabic and first printed in Rome and then in Lebanon after the establishment of the Shweir printing press in 1733. The Lebanese Synod recommended using Bellarmine’s book whose simple style and language suited the people’s educational level. All these books used the question-and-answer method to present the doctrines, the Mysteries, and the commandments.

In 1780, Youssef Estefan, bishop of Beirut, wrote and published a catechism book in Arabic. However, the similarities between it and the translated books were numerous.

From that time until the mid-20th century, catechism books used this question-and-answer format. In this respect, we point out that the League of Priests published a catechism book in two volumes.[6] After WW II, the authors worked diligently on publishing catechism books closer to the mindset of the students during their formative years and in conformity with the requirements of modern education. Furthermore, the Maronites in the Countries of Expansion saw the importance of forming their children in the traditions of their Church; some wrote books that deserved their due[7].




5. The School

7. Commensurate with the decision of the Council of Trent, the Maronite College was established in Rome in 1584. This college quickly became famous especially after graduating famous scholars, a source of pride to the Maronite Church and the Universal Church alike[8].

8. In 1690, the Jesuit Fathers first established a school in Zgharta and then in Aintoura in 1707. Since then, western religious orders have come to the East one after the other and established monasteries and schools. The Maronites had the major share among them. Not wanting the opportunity to slip by, they established their own schools, and leading among them was the school of Ain Warka in 1789.

Catholic schools flourished in the 19th and 20th centuries. Christian students of all denominations attended these schools, all receiving the one catechesis, be it Maronite, Latin, or other. There was no difference in these catechism books until the middle of the 20th century.

6. Attempts at Renewal

9. In the second half of the 20th century, educators in the Churches of the West started using new exciting and attractive pedagogical methods of all kinds. Afterwards, whereas catechesis addressed the intellect instructing on doctrinal formulae, proponents of renewal embarked on stirring to life all the capabilities of a student in order to steer it in the direction of Christian conduct. After decades of experimentation, it became clear to them that a life course will not last if it is not built on convictions that are engraved in the memory, affecting the heart and imprinting the conduct. For this reason, most educators support a catechetical method known as the “Road to Emmaus,” a method in four stages: exploring, announcing, grasping and then transforming. Each stage has its own tangible mechanics. Images and sounds have their place in this pedagogical method for they are the mainstay of the language of the day especially the language of children and the youth. Other pedagogues chose methods stemming from the Liturgy.

Educators of the East are paralleling their colleagues in the West with these experimentations, especially since teaching methods of scientific and linguistic subjects have developed. Therefore, it is not acceptable for catechesis alone to remain behind.


Second: The Constants

10. The Synod notes that through generations and historical changes the Maronites have excelled in clinging to the constants which enabled them to remain steadfast and deeply rooted in the true faith. Catechesis in the Maronite Church has its own constants, regardless of how the methods of its execution and regardless of how the language changes:

a.       To safeguard faith and to live it in complete communion with those entrusted in shepherding and serving the Maronite Church and with those attached to the roots of the Church from which they grew and are nurtured. “The Church of the living God is the pillar and foundation of truth” (1 Timothy 3:15).

b.      To derive inspiration from the teachings of the church fathers, especially the Syriac fathers, who have preserved this faith for us, to delve deeply into it, to defend it, and to teach it with earnestness and zealousness, where many have sealed it with their blood. By reading the works of the church fathers at the celebration of the Divine Mysteries, the Church enriches itself with their teachings, guidance, and encouragement.

c.       The Holy Bible and Church traditions were and still are the source of truth and authentic Christian living. Derived from them were the prayers and liturgical readings long heard and memorized by believers. As for today, now that the Holy Bible is within the reach of all, it is worthwhile for Maronites to become well acquainted with it through reading and contemplation. By doing so, it will become “a lamp for their feet, a light for their path” (Psalm 119:105).

d.      Before book printing and after its spread, bishops, priests, and monks endeavored in catechizing believers and directing them in the way of the evangelical virtues by proclaiming the Word and in being witnesses through conduct. This ministry still remains first priority for the Church; it is to this ministry she is dedicated.

e.       The Maronites diligently pursued peace and love with other Christians and cooperation with them, especially in times of trial. Now, that the relationship between them has developed positively, it requires of them mutual openness and ongoing strive for complete unity in Christ.

f.       The Maronites consider their conviviality with the Muslims, from the beginning, an act of Divine Providence. For, amongst them, they witness to Christ and his love, cooperating with them in building a society and a nation, striving for equality in rights and duties, appreciating the common values present in the two religions, “always ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks [them] for a reason for [their] hope” (1 Peter 3:15).

g.      The saints in the Maronite Church form an eloquent living catechesis, a fifth gospel that is being written in each generation’s language and being played by its tunes. They exhort teachers and students to, “Be imitators of [us], as [we] are of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1), provided catechesis does not pause at miracles they performed, but rather, reveal the witness of their evangelical walk which believers can live and become sanctified.

Chapter Two:

Catechesis – Its Status and Expectations

11. Catechesis in the Maronite Church has gone through different stages. The liturgy was the first factor that introduced believers to the truth of Jesus Christ. The family played an essential role in this education. The family would meet every evening to pray when the father narrated to his children the lives of the saints and biblical stories. At “under the oak tree” school, the Psalms were instruction-in-reading texts. The traditional sphere of teaching was the monastery or the parish.

First: Catechesis Today

12. After speaking about the traditional means of catechesis, it is important to describe current living conditions. In general, Catechesis for children is provided at school. It is the prime domain for this education. The role of the family in providing catechism has diminished for several reasons, some of which are: in some instances, the educational level of the children exceeded that of their parents; it became difficult for the parents to hand down their faith to their children. In addition, the many preoccupations and life concerns do not provide parents the necessary time for this task. Let us not forget the negative effects which the long years of war had in weakening religious awareness in many of our families. Furthermore, the media came in to occupy a major part of the activities of children and the family. However, some spiritual or apostolic movements effectively contributed to the formation of children.

13. A development occurred at the level of catechesis for adults with the creation of educational centers for adults. The liturgical life of the faithful contracted to the extent that the laity was satisfied by attending the Divine Liturgy on Sundays and feast days. Consequently, catechesis became limited to those who participated in the liturgy and for some who belonged to spiritual and apostolic movements. There are also a few magazines, and media audio and audiovisual outlets who broadcast Christian educational programs either on a part time or fulltime basis. Some religious orders, eparchies, and universities have organized catechetical programs for the laity.

Some Maronite eparchies in the Countries of Expansion have dedicated time for catechetical gatherings in the sanctuary of their parishes. Some spiritual groups that seek to have their members practice Maronite spirituality were established as well.

Second: Catechizing the People of God

14. In the midst of unforeseen changes, it is essential that those responsible for catechesis accompany the walk of every member of the people of God taking into account age, circumstances, and situations. If schools provide students with catechesis, this does not relieve the parish from performing its role. Schools, with the help of the Episcopal Committee for Catechesis, made good progress in this field. Much more work remains to be done. The situation is different for those we term as “adults.”

15. In the past, adults were, to a great extent, alike. Individualism and personalism did not possess the status it has today. The world of adults of today is distinguished by its remarkable diversity; it is the world of specialization. This reality requires that those responsible for the Christian formation of adults use a wide-range of methods, of contents, of curricula, and of goals in order to achieve the one ultimate goal, which is the proclamation of the Gospel.

Nowadays, the world of adults is given the opportunity to open up to a wide range of cultures and new technology. Every person became multi-cultural seeking to form his own point of view concerning his environment, but with difficulty because of the abundance of data and changes. Undoubtedly, all this affects, positively or negatively, evangelization in today’s world.

In an age of consumerism, materialism and the race toward production rather than deduction, it became difficult to proclaim the Gospel which calls for releasing and for liberating man and the world. We live in a world where a lot is being said of dialogue especially intercultural and inter-religious dialogues with augmentation in disagreements and consequently in conflicts, whereas the Gospel is a call for gathering and for sharing.

Third: Between Inheritance and Heritage

16. Some heirs keep what they inherited unchanged. Others are loyal to the heritage, developing what they have inherited. We are invited to be loyal to our Maronite heritage, not to what we have inherited of customs and traditions.

a.       Ongoing Christian adult formation cannot ignore the reality of diversity in this world. Those entrusted with formation are called to be aware of the sufferings of adults in today’s vast world and in their immediate environment. Therefore, the person responsible for formation should not be satisfied with a limited education; rather he should be well versed in the humanities, such as psychology, sociology, philosophy, and theology.

b.      The different specialties in formation must be taken into consideration. For example, the formation of medical doctors is different in many ways from the formation of others.

c.       Work must be done at the level of unions to provide uninterrupted Christian formation based on the state of affairs of each adult.

d.      Apostolic and spiritual movements provide Christian education to their members without taking into consideration the actual state of affairs of each member, not unless they are specialized movements such as the Working Christian Youth.

e.       While affirming the importance of publishing adult catechism, the Synod stresses the importance of using the media to spread practical Christian thought, and to announce the position of the Church from many contemporary issues, not limiting matters solely to theoretical principles.

f.       Work must be geared to promulgate international and local Church documents so that every adult believer can live his very own reality in the light of the teachings of the Church.

g.      In order to achieve all the above, cooperation between the different Churches is a must. This cooperation will help create an ecumenical spirit and an appropriate ecumenical formation.

17. Through all of this, we must not forget an important fact in our Maronite reality, that our Maronite Church has become a worldwide Church. She is called to form her children in the spirit of dialogue and mutual understanding while safeguarding the Maronite identity.

Our Church is at a crossroads with an abundance of many fortunes and graces, as well as many perils.

18. Our formation on the Maronite identity must take into consideration all what surrounds it. In addition, it must work on reviving an active dialogue for the purpose of building a humanity that accepts plurality and respects the identity of all people.

Our tradition is rich in spiritual and theological experiences. We need to go back to our liturgical texts and the writings of the church fathers in order to extract from them a glossary of Syriac vocabulary (Aljamra, Beit Ghazo, Kiono…). Let us study these words in their contexts in order to draw out of them many ideas and topics. Emanating from there we will write new texts and new rites suitable for today’s world and able to speak to its children, because literal translation lacks the vitality needed to express the genuineness of heritage.

Fourth: Locations of Catechesis and Adult Formation

19. No doubt that the content of catechesis, as content for adult formation, is transmitted through Church Tradition. On the one hand, Tradition safeguards the content of faith, filtering it from impurities. On the other hand, it contributes to delivering it intact to subsequent generations. This affirmation leads us to present the role of certain essential locations where these two dimensions are fulfilled: the dimension of the preservation of the inherited faith, and the dimension of transmitting it devoid of heresies, pure of deviations.

We will not differentiate between the locations of catechesis and those of adult formation, for these locations intertwine and one place could contribute to both simultaneously.

20. The family is the first and primary place to provide the fertile soil for catechesis and adult formation. If a person is the offspring of the environment that affects him, he is then and foremost, the offspring of his family. The Eastern family in general, and the Maronite family in particular, is a conservative family. This is the feeling of the Maronites of the Countries of Expansion and the Maronites of the Patriarchal Domain. Maronite spirituality has imprinted, in a direct way, the families of the children of this Church, with her specific imprint.

When speaking of the role of the family, we touch upon the role of grandparents, parents, siblings, godparents, and relatives… Each has a distinct role toward the other and toward the rest of the members. As for the common role, it is the role of prayer within the family, the role of Christian witnessing and the role of upright conduct. This role that Maronite families are witnessing, presently faces, whether in the Patriarchal Domain or in the Countries of Expansion, a double influence: the authentic life and the life of preservation, on the one hand, and on the other hand, the openness to the external negative changes that could eradicate true spirituality.

The Maronite Patriarchal Synod praises the role of the Maronite family and asks all members of the Maronite Church to be open positively to whatever nurtures Maronite spirituality. The Synod warns of influences that have absolutely nothing to do with Christian authenticity. From another angle, the Synod urges families to reinstate the status of prayer within the family and to widen this circle of prayer to encompass other families, while deepening its content that it may bear the true dimensions of the faith.

21. The parish is the second essential cell for handing down the Deposit of Faith. It is the second but is not less important than the first, which is the family. Each has a special role at the level of catechesis and adult formation. More than one synodal text touched upon the role of the parish and its renewal. We will address the role of the parish in light of the topic we are currently discussing. Pastoral activities are divided into two main parts: activities with the different groups within the parish and activities with the parish as a large community. We can see first in the parish different groups: the children, first communicants, the youth, young adults, the mentally challenged, couples in preparation for marriage, elderly, fraternities, pastoral councils, waqf committees, participants in Bible studies… Each of these groups is an exemplary place for catechesis and adult formation. In this respect, the parish ought to respect the specificities of each group and add to it a particular educational method. Many advantages come from the divisions making up these groups, such as the unity of the intellectual level, similarities in difficulties and in interests. It allows the catechist to manage faith-related topics in a manner suited to his listeners.

As for the other pastoral activity, it is activity at the level of the parish as a whole: ritual celebrations, prayers of the Church, liturgies of the Holy Mysteries… During these activities, the focus becomes the conveyance of the Deposit of Faith through the content of prayers, tunes and hymns, and the selection of readings from Sacred Scriptures and the fathers of the Church, on the one hand, and on the other, through homilies.

22. We can, in the first two locations for catechesis and adult formation, talk about a strictly Maronite dimension. As for the other places, which we will discuss shortly, they are not necessarily Maronite, or at least, attendance is not limited exclusively to Maronites. Leading amongst these locations are educational institutions: academic schools, technical schools, university institutes, colleges…and these educational institutions are not limited to ecclesial administrations. The Synod urges eparchies and parishes, where these institutes are located, to cooperate with their administrations and to research effective ways of providing catechesis and adult formation and other religious services in cooperation with religious education teachers, school and university counselors, and university pastoral work movement… The Synod reminds administrators of these institutions that authentic true education does not begin with the contents of the subjects being taught, but rather in the teaching methods and the spirit with which educators propagate their teaching and by their example. For this reason, the Synod calls upon administrators to watch over the formation of teachers of the different subjects and to choose those who are “well-attested to” as being of good repute, for the sake of sound education at all grades and levels.

23. The Church’s awareness of her role as mother and teacher, and the yearning of believers to delve deeper into the Deposit of their Faith, compelled her to form religious education institutions to provide the children of the Church with proper Christian formation. Many objectives lead believers to enroll in these institutions: cultural, faith based, pastoral, educational... Since these objectives are diverse, it was inevitable that private institutions are formed or a private program be devised for those wishing to become religious education teachers and parish invigorators. This reason also compelled some of the universities to erect faculties of theology or ecclesiastical studies which allow the students to pursue university degrees in this field.

It is noteworthy to point out to the conferences, seminars, and organized by this college or that institute in order to propagate the foundations of the faith, theological sciences, and biblical exegesis, going beyond enrolled students at universities, to the benefit of a greater number of believers.

The Synod, while praising the efforts of eparchies and religious orders in the formation of believers, hopes that quantity would not be at the expense of quality, and that all would work toward stronger cooperation in order to eliminate both wasted efforts and cadres, assuring the unity and effectiveness of efforts.

24. Monks have played an important role in propagating the faith through their monasteries, their schools, and their treks in villages and cities providing educational services, preaching, and preparing children for the solemn communion. This historical fact makes us wonder what role they play nowadays. Monasteries were and still are oases for spiritual formation through providing spiritual guidance and through the participation of believers who flock in for the prayers of the Divine Office. However, this affirmation does not negate the necessity to organize these oases so as to assure the educational and spiritual services hoped for, and perhaps, setting aside certain monasteries to be specifically concerned with formation and spiritual retreats.

25. Advancements in the means of communication at all levels compels us to talk about a “global village.” The Church, which accompanies this progress, sought to make use of these means. The audiovisual, audible, and the written media, the internet and other means of communication were and still are effective means in the hands of the Church to convey the Good News and to strengthen her faithful in their true faith wherever they are.

26. Last but not least, we address two places where people live under special conditions: hospitals and prisons. Aside from the development of medicine and the methods of treatment, some hospitals, especially the ones under ecclesial administration, witness spiritual, educational, and humanitarian activities. In order to choose their doctors, some hospital administrations went beyond reviewing the candidates’ professional files, to selecting those committed to their faith. Some hospitals provide spiritual retreats and the seminars in “bioethics” to their doctors and staff. These activities help the healthcare worker to provide a Christian witness to the sick, the dying, and their families.

As for prisons, they had their share of care from the Church through the office of Prison Pastoral Counseling and other supporting institutions. Through these services, the Church aims not only at providing help in kind, but also a humane and Christian presence for prisoners. In addition, the Church follows up with those who were released and helps them in their rehabilitation so that they reintegrate into the society.


27. In brief, each educated believer learns as much as he is inspired by the teachings of the “teacher” and the teachings of the Church, “mother and teacher.” Based on this certainty, the work of the believer becomes a work of witnessing, of teaching, and of formation. For this reason, it is inevitable that we should introduce education, or the witness to a Christian life, into every location that has a Christian presence in the various fields of work: factories, offices, unions, associations….


Chapter Three: Present Challenges and Future Proposals

28. The soil of today’s world is still fertile, and is invited to produce thirty, sixty, and a hundred folds, provided that we sow in it the seeds of the Lord and his Good News in the best conditions, using the best means and ways. This leads us to contemplate the situation of catechesis and the formation of adults (one of the stages of catechesis) in our Maronite Church today. Let us pause at the most prominent challenges we face and let us suggest some solutions for the sake of a more effective and credible evangelization in the future.

1. At the Intellectual Level

29. a. The openness in the fields of technology and communication has erased the borders which have not yet fallen in the face of human progress. Language, geography and distances do not constitute an obstacle for the person who craves knowledge and openness! This progress, despite all the services it provides to mankind and to Christianity, presents multiple challenges to the Christian. Perhaps, the first challenge is to safeguard, in the midst of this situation, the purity of the faith and the purity of catechesis from the influence of the teachings of other religions, heresies, different ideologies and their sediments. Therefore, the Synod insistently urges Maronites in general, and Maronite educators in particular, to return to the wellspring, the Holy Bible, and the teachings of the Church and the Fathers to draw from them food for their lives and the lives of their students.

30. b. From a different perspective, this wave of openness sweeping the world causes in a person an instinctive desire to return to what he has always known. In this there is a great deal of good, for man discovers that his culture, upbringing and religion are different. However, the challenge is that fear of losing his identity may push the person into isolation, a state of withdrawal, and fundamentalism. Therefore, the Synod calls upon all Maronites to deepen their knowledge of their cultural, social and religious attributes…and to do away with fear.

31. c. Maronites generally tend to acquire higher education and university degrees which give them passports to the working world and to employment. While praising this effort, we point out that it is necessary to couple this cultivation with a deep Christian education, that we may not excel in one field only to be superficial in another! Therefore, the Holy Synod calls upon all the sons and daughters of the Maronite Church to employ all available resources for the sake of a broader Christian education and a deeper faith. The Synod praises all the initiatives whose aim is to participate in deepening Christian and humanistic education, and especially the Antiochene Syriac Maronite culture. It encourages Maronites to benefit from the services of the religious education centers and institutions and the faculties of theology and liturgy.

32. d. Concerning the content of formation and education programs, it is important to focus on how to apply the bestowed faith on the true state of affairs of life, on the social, political, and economic teachings of the Church, and on the teachings of the Church concerning openness toward other religions, and the importance of being committed to dialogue and constructive ecumenical work… It is necessary that our programs be focused on our Maronite tradition and heritage in the fields of sacred art, liturgy and others….

33. e. If our Maronites receive a proper spiritual and Christian education, and they delve deep into the truths of their Christian faith, then they are able to consciously practice what faith invites them to do in terms of worship. They will also be able to develop their conduct in a manner appropriate to the exercise of their faith. Here, we point out the great role our rich and authentic liturgy plays, for it instills in us the knowledge of God and deepens our faith and brings it to maturity. When our faith accompanied by knowledge matures, we abound with love for God with awareness of responsibility and with commitment to the Church.

2. At the Pastoral level:

34. a. For many of our sons and daughters, being a Maronite has become an expression of a social belonging more than being an ecclesial belonging or even being Christian. Many of our people are no longer Christians, neither in faith nor in lifestyle. They carry the name of Maron and Christ on the surface. In reality, they live a divorce between faith and living. Therefore, the Synod calls for soliciting all efforts and employing all resources (parishes, schools, institutions, mass media…) in order to evangelize them with the “new evangelization” and bring them back into the pure Christian faith.

35. b. Catechesis is the responsibility of the Church with all its organizations and institutions, and the parish carries a great load of this responsibility, being an essential link in the educational and formative chain, because it encompasses all age groups and standards. The parish is therefore called through its liturgy, its organizations, its pastoral councils, and all the forces working within it, to provide catechesis to all categories and ages of believers, by the most optimum of methods. For this reason, this Synod urges all priests to take great care in preparing and delivering homilies on Sundays and feast days since homilies are the only source for catechesis for many believers. It also invites them to take great care in providing a distinguished liturgical experience in which the meanings of the Mysteries and their impact are explained, because the celebration of certain Mysteries is a unique occasion to meet some of the believers who do not come to church except for these celebrations. Baptism, First Communion, and Marriage are occasions to meet those who are concerned before conferring the Mystery and preparing them to participate in it.

The eparchy, which is the local church, has a fundamental role in providing education and formation. The challenge is for our eparchies to employ the necessary resources and experts to provide the best conditions conducive to education and formation, such as creating an eparchial committee to care for catechesis, and establishing centers for religious education, being mindful to provide qualified teachers to public and private schools, teachers who are upright in conduct and in faith; and being mindful to dispatch inspired counselors to hospitals, prisons, penitentiaries and others….

36. c. The Spirit, who works in the Church, has called for the founding of lay organizations whose goals are the holiness of their members, the nurturing of their religious education, and the Christianizing of their world. Some of these organizations are parochial, others regional, national, or international. These Christian movements are “a precious treasure for the Church and for Catholicism in Lebanon[9]. However, they need appropriate formation and catechesis, and the challenge is in choosing local and national spiritual directors for these movements. The other challenge is to be constantly vigilant that these “lay organizations may respect the restraints of the Church”[10] and that they may “remain organically connected to their parishes”[11]. Therefore, it is necessary to appoint competent spiritual directors, linked directly to ecclesial authorities, to accompany these lay organizations, to accompany the sick in hospitals, and prisoners in prisons and penitentiaries.

37. d. In Lebanon, radio and televisions stations were established with the permission of the appropriate civil authorities. These stations aim at contributing in strengthening the Christian faith and at educating believers in matters of faith and humanity. Some were established through Church initiatives, while others through private initiatives. For these means to stay true to the witness of the Church and to carry her teachings and no other, the Church endeavors to organize their programs and set principles to govern their activities.

3. At the Educational and Technological Levels:

38. a. Catechesis is “efforts within the Church to make disciples, to help people to believe that Jesus is the Son of God, so that believing they might have life in his name, and to educate and instruct them in this life and thus build up the Body of Christ[12]. The biggest challenge rises from the importance of the mission bestowed upon catechesis. This challenge is for the educators to succeed in providing today’s man a Christian education and forming him a Christian formation, in parishes, schools, institutions found in Lebanon, the Patriarchal Domain, and in the Maronite expansion. Modern pedagogy has made great strides in this field. The catechist must accompany this development in order to provide the best environment for the planting of the Word of God in the hearts of the catechumens. “That is why catechetical activity should be able to be carried out in favorable circumstances of time and place, and should have access to the mass media and suitable equipment…”[13]. Since the pedagogical tools and circumstances alone are not enough for a better and deeper evangelization, formation and training of catechists must be given great importance by the Church that is entrusted with the ministry of teaching. The catechist is called more than other lay people to be knowledgeable in pedagogy, trained to use modern pedagogical means and methods. Most importantly, he must be a believer who witnesses with fidelity and in truth through his life, conduct, and words to the sanctity of the message he conveys. The world today “needs more witnesses than teachers.” “The catechist is more than a teacher: he is a witness to the faith of the Church and an example in ethical life”[14]. “The Church is bidden to offer catechesis her best resources in people and energy, without sparing effort, toil or material means, in order to organize it better and to train qualified personnel. This is no mere human calculation; it is an attitude of faith. And an attitude of faith always has reference to the faithfulness of God, who never fails to respond[15].

39. b. Since there have been many demands to diversify the subjects and make them more comprehensive, the content of catechesis must remain focused on Jesus Christ so that it does not become lessons in ethics, human issues, sociology, psychology, or the like. This criterion assumes that the teachers and those responsible for formation are making sure that they convey the doctrine of Christ and his teachings, and not their teaching or another’s, for Christ is “the Way, the Truth and the Life” (John 14:6).

The Synod brings to mind that the main goal of catechesis is to bring the student to meet Jesus. It is not a mere transmitting of information about him and teaching it; rather this encounter is able to change lives and renew hearts. Therefore, a parochial and liturgical life, in which the prayers, the mysteries, and the rituals all hold a distinctive ranking, is essential that the catechumen may attain conversion of the heart after attaining the conversion of mind and its enlightenment. “Catechesis runs the risk of becoming barren if no community of faith and Christian life takes the catechumen in at a certain stage of his catechesis[16].

40. c. The ministry of catechesis is not the duty of one school, parish, or eparchy… It is an ecclesiastical mission par excellence. Therefore, in an era where the world works hard to gather its strength and streamline its performance for a better return, in all fields and sciences, our Maronite Church is called upon to streamline her performance and efforts in the field of catechesis for a better ministry and more abundant fruit. She is called to solidarity so as to provide catechesis to the Maronite in the expansion as in Lebanon, to the public school as to the private, to the coastal parish as to the mountain parish, to the remote one as to those of the expansion… This is why the Synod encourages the undertaking of a qualitative campaign to promote missionary work in the ranks of priests, monks, nuns and the religious, as well as in the ranks of the laity that the horizons of the Maronites of Lebanon open up to needs of the Maronites in the Countries of Expansion, and “the fields which are strewn with the harvest, for the workers to embark on the harvest.” This vital ministry may require the creation of new structures (eparchies, religious orders, societies…) to provide the ministry of catechesis to the Maronites of the expansion wherever they may be.

41. d. Our world today has become a “global village.” This reality is a cause for pride and urges us to hope for a brighter future for humanity thanks to modern technologies with its past and future contributions in the fields of services and faster communication. “In fact, what is the value of using the means of communication, even the most technologically advanced, made available to us by today’s technologies and studies, if it were not used to convey the gospel of Christ’s death and Resurrection?”[17]. Therefore, we call upon all capable sons and daughters and institutions to develop and advance technologies to diffuse the Good News to all in an appealing manner. We urge everyone to benefit from these technologies and tools for the purpose of consolidating interconnection between Maronites all over the world.


42. Benefiting from catechesis is not limited to the world of children; rather it concerns adults first because for they are the ones responsible for the children, and they are called to change the world from within in order to make it fit as a dwelling place for God and a land for people who live in mutual charity.

The Maronite family, as the Christian family in its entirety, is called to perform her duty in the ministry of catechesis as in the other ministries. No one is to pass the responsibility of teaching upon another, be it bishops, priests, religious, or laity. They are all members of the Mystic Body of Christ and no one can do without the other. “But grace was given to each of us according to the measure of Christ's gift… And he gave some as apostles, others as prophets, others as evangelists, others as pastors and teachers, to equip the holy ones for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:7,11-12).

Everyone helps build the Church through teaching and learning so she may attain the stature of Christ, bear witness to his Salvation in the heart of the world, and glorify the Triune God.






1. Proper selection of Teachers and Exercising Vigilance toward their Catechetical Formation.

1. The Synod calls upon school administrations to be vigilant in choosing teachers attested to for their conduct and virtue, and to provide them with formation regarding the various educational subjects toward the integrity of education at the different levels.

1. The Secretariat General of Catholic Schools in Lebanon are to coordinate with schools to establish catechetical formation seminars for teachers and instructors whose object is to accompany them spiritually.

2. Catechetical Formation for the Laity.

2. The Synod recommends that bishops maintain closer cooperation in the realm of catechetical formation for the laity to avoid scattering resources, cadres and as assurance of the unity and strength of efforts.

2. The bishops and all those concerned are to attend to the unification of curricula at religious education centers, to the selection of qualified teachers and to ask pastors to exercise vigilance over such with the Patriarchal Formation Department and the Episcopal Catechetical Committee.

3. Prison Pastoral Counseling.

3. The Synod recommends that prison pastoral counselors should continue their spiritual and human formation of prisoners and to work with other civil and social institutions to provide material aid to prisoners and follow through with those released.


4. Theological Formation of Catechism Teachers and the Cadres Working in the Parishes.

4. The Synod recommends that Faculties of Theology, the Liturgical Institute and catechetical centers and their institutes, persevere in preparing catechism teachers and the cadres operating in the service of the ecclesiastical and apostolic domains in the parishes and training them on the modern educational methods and the efficacious means of conveying the Word of God to the faithful and encourage them to persevere in their continuous habilitation.

4.a: Requesting eparchies and monastic orders to coordinate among each other in establishing, when needed, centers to train teachers and those in authority in the parishes and at schools, on the use of modern technologies and providing them with the best instructors.


4.b: Requesting eparchies and parish priests to encourage the laity, especially animators in the parishes, fraternities and the apostolic movements to undertake theology classes in the catechetical centers.

5. Catechesis for All.

5. The Synod recommends that all bishops and priests combine efforts to provide catechesis to all Maronites in the parishes and schools.

5. When required, each eparchy is to establish a committee to be concerned with providing catechesis in the parishes and schools, especially public schools.

6. Deriving Benefit from Modern Technologies to Convey the Gospel and Enhance Communication.

6. The Synod calls on our sons and daughters and our institutions to develop and modernize technologies to convey the Gospel.

6. All eparchies and monastic orders are asked to launch Maronite Internet sites, linked together to foster the conveyance of the Gospel and provide a link among Maronites.

7. Catechetical Programs at Schools.

7. The Synod commends the efforts of the special committee formed by the Episcopal Committee for Catechesis in cooperation with the Secretariat General of Catholic Schools to modernize catechetical programs, calling on it to continue expending efforts and to coordinate with the Episcopal Committee on Ecumenism


8. Educational Curricula at Religious Education Centers.

8. The Synod calls for the establishment of a special joint committee between the Maronites of the Patriarchal Domain and those of the expansion working to devise a unified curriculum for the Religious Education Centers that are appropriate to the actual state of Maronites, their needs and expectations.

8. The Episcopal Committee for Catechesis in cooperation with the Patriarchal Department for Eparchies and Monastic Orders, are to form a special committee to devise a unified curriculum:


1- The curriculum is to concentrate on how to apply the principles of faith on actual living conditions and on the social, political and economic teachings of the Church and her openness toward other religions and the importance of committing to dialogue and constructive ecumenical work…


2- The educational curriculum is to concentrate also on our Maronite tradition and heritage in the sacred art and liturgical fields and others...

9. Carry out an Inventory of Audio Visual Means, Develop and Supervise Them.

9. The Synod calls for an inventory of productions on the subjects of teaching and basic formation, to assess it and effect a theological supervision on their contents, and to prepare new productions and audio and digital discs, in addition to Internet sites.

9.a: This mission is to be entrusted to the Episcopal Commission on Catechesis.


9.b: Establish a committee in each country to supervise this formation and these related productions.

10. Formation at Universities.

10. The Synod calls on Maronite universities to introduce Religious Formation as a mandatory subject in its academic curricula.




[1]. Review: Pierre DIB, Histoire des Maronites, Vol. I, Librairie Orientale, Beirut, 2001.

[2]. Refer in this respect to the text “Liturgy and Identity.”

[3]. Review: Michel NAFFAH, De la catéchèse au catéchisme, a thesis submitted at the Catholic University of Lyon, Lyon, 1998.

[4]. This book was drafted by a commission headed by Bishop Charles Borromeo following the request of the Council of Trent. It was published by Pope Pius V in 1566. The aim of this book was to make good the theological shortcomings of the priest and to facilitate the task of preaching and catechizing. It was a source of inspiration to all those who issued catechisms later on.

[5]. Refer to the “Lebanese Synod,” Section I (On Catholic Faith), Chapter II (On Catechesis and Evangelization).

[6]. Father Youssef El Gemayel, Précis of Catechism, League of Priests Press, 1950, two parts.

[7]. For example, the series that was published by the Maronite eparchies in the United States: The Faith of the Mountain Series.

[8]. Refer to the texts on Education and Culture.

[9]. Apostolic Exhortation, A New Hope for Lebanon, paragraph 74.

[10]. Ibid.

[11]. Ibid.

[12].The Apostolic Exhortation, Catechesi Tradendae, Pope John Paul II, 1979, paragraph 1.

[13]. The Apostolic Exhortation, Catechesi Tradendae, Pope John Paul II, 1979, paragraph 14.

[14]. Apostolic Exhortation, A New Hope for Lebanon, paragraph 73.

[15]. Apostolic Exhortation, Catechesi Tradendae, Pope John Paul II, 1979, paragraph 15

16. Apostolic Exhortation, Catechesi Tradendae, Pope John Paul II, 1979, paragraph 24.

[17]. Speech of Pope John Paul II at the International Council for Catechesis, 8th Round, held at Castelgandolfo, p. 4.