The Maronite Church in Today’s World
The present text serves as an introduction to the third file. It establishes its scope and outlines the general issues dealt with in specific texts. These issues are here simply proposed from the perspective of defining the position of the
1. The Church, the Sacrament of the incarnated Christ, is a human and divine reality lived in place and time, encompassing the historical, geographical, social, and cultural dimensions. In his encyclical “On Evangelization in The Modern World,” Pope Paul VI, states that “the Church, present all over the world, would become an abstraction if she did not take body and life precisely through the particular Churches”. Thus, the Church is a presence that expresses herself through cultural patrimonies, certain languages, and a particular human establishment.
The Church would truly become the
Christ the Lord has defined the Christian presence in the world by saying: “you will be my witnesses,” to which the disciples have answered: “and we are his witnesses.”
Pope John Paul II expressed this aspect of life by saying: “The witness of a Christian life is the first and irreplaceable form of mission: Christ, whose mission we continue, is the "witness" par excellence (Rev. 1:5; 3:14) and the model of all Christian witness…. Christians and Christian communities are very much a part of the life of their respective nations and can be a sign of the Gospel in their fidelity to their native land, people and national culture, while always preserving the freedom brought by Christ”.
In the light of this, the presence of the Christian community in the world is not only for its own sake, but to be a living witness to, and the herald of the very mission of its Founder and Master.
2. The Lord Jesus said: “You are in this world, yet not of this world” (John 17:16-19). From this perspective, when we look at the state of Maronite history we see that, horizontally, it is open to a peaceful and healthy life, and at the same time it is vertically and eschatological open to eternity.
3. Like all other Churches, the
These transformations raise a major question for the church on the way to live the principles of the Gospel and witnessing to it in a changing world with rough pathways; then the human being would regain his dignity as he is a primary value and would restore his vocation as he is the image and the likeness of God.
4. The world in which the
5. Based on the above, the first section of the present text defines the world to which the
Chapter One: The World to Which the Maronite Church Belongs and the Transformations It has Undergone
First: The Impact of the World on Maronite History and the Vocation of the
6. The world to which the
1. The Patriarchal Character Common to the Eastern Churches,
2. The Chalcedonian Antiochene Patrimony and the Syriac Spirit,
3. The Ecclesial Communion within the Universal Catholic Church,
4. The Existential Bond to
5. The Commitment to the Arab world,
6. World Expansion.
Second: The Transformations that Took Place in the World where the
7. The features that have characterized the
8. A century and a half of wars and geopolitical transformations in
9. External migration was one of the most significant changes that affected the
10. In addition, the geopolitical changes that took place in the Arab world have negatively affected, and still do affect, the Maronites. The continuous wars in the
11. On the international level, humanity has entered the era of globalization. Thus, the world, thanks to the means of ongoing advanced communication, has become a “global village” of open horizons and borders, of multitudes of cultures and religions; its extremities interconnect and interact; its particularities are interactively and mutually affecting the whole of human society. Today’s world constitutes an interconnected unity.
At the dawn of the third millennium, great ambitions motivate humanity seeking to establish a new world order founded on the protection of human rights, of people, of democracies, and basic public liberties. Even if the ultimate goal were to create a tranquil, relaxed, and open atmosphere that would enable the human family to address its many problems, especially the serious ones in the
One of the characteristics of our world today is people’s awareness of their own uniqueness and authenticity, which “often leads to difficulties in reconciling this awareness with the need for peace and good neighboring, inside the one country, and within the different regions and countries. This causes disputes in human relations and the explosion of the crises often in form of devastating wars”.
All these changes, which usually accompanied international transformations in the post-Cold War period, have often led to wars, violent struggles, and, ultimately, to the phenomenon of international terrorism. The tension between openness to globalization and closed-ness of ethnic individuality threaten to weaken the role of government and democratic political systems, which protect plurality and participation.
The issue of development has become necessary to address, and it mandates human and international solidarity with the poor countries that make up two-thirds of world population. The responsibility for bridging the gap between the developed and the developing countries falls on the whole of humanity through the organization of the United Nations. Moreover, the issue of the environment forcefully imposes itself on the conscience of the earth, of humanity and its destiny, taking into consideration the constant plundering of nature, pollution, chemical radiation which has reached the sky and brought about irregularities in weather patterns, and the increase of the oceans’ water levels.
Chapter Two: The Present Challenges
First: In the World We Live In
12. Today’s world is invited to face the challenges of geopolitical changes, amazing scientific discoveries, and technological progress. Even tough they are important steps in the evolution of humanity, the challenges of technology, cloning, and artificial intelligence are highly controversial, and they touch upon the destiny of human beings. So, how can we restore humanity to man, who was created in the image of God, and who is being increasingly considered, in economic competitiveness, as a mere commodity, investment tool, and human ‘resources’?
Despite the developments in science, technology and information, the world is witnessing a decrease (if not, collapse) of the family, Christian and human values (faith, virtues, sublime traditions, and customs that were handed down from generation to generation). Therefore, man should work to put the technological products at the service of becoming a better person, and not to deplete him of his cultural and religious values which are known and defined by our humanity.
Faith, today, is facing many challenges due to changes in the economic, social, and mass media spheres. On the other hand, we are witnessing a rise in dogmatic fundamentalism, either religious, or national, or ethnic, in public life and in all countries.
The most important challenge to globalization is the damage to moral standards, and cultural distinctions, characteristics of peoples, and the spread of mercantilism and consumerism; the fact is that globalization has led to the turning upside down of priorities in a world that has surrendered to materialism and fundamentalism at the expense of dignity and general principles. Here enters the important role of the mass media (print, visual, and audio), publicity whose scope has expanded and has had direct impact on minds by promoting unfamiliar traditions and practices.
13. The most imminent risks for society, including the East, where the
a. Pornography propagated by the media, the Internet, advertising, and lack of restrictions.
b. Violence, the proliferation of drugs, gambling, and alcoholism.
c. The dysfunction of the family and erosion of family values.
d. Cultural superficiality and the universal mold of “the global culture” versus diversification and mixture of cultures.
e. Religious fundamentalism, which prevents genuine progress with the fear of the inability to keep pace with it.
f. The nature of existing political systems in the Arab East and their obligation to respect the principles of democracy and human rights.
Facing these transformations, the
Second: In the World That Impacted Her Identity
14. A major challenge facing the
In this regard, the
The Church must be faithful to her history and identity without secluding herself. She must incarnate herself in the vast world, without melting or disconnecting from her roots. This is a problematic matter that needs to be handled wisely and bravely.
15. In the framework of safeguarding her ecclesiastic, ritual and liturgical authenticity, her Antiochene vocation and Syriac heritage require that she contribute to the revival of the common heritage which includes the early Patriarchate, including the Greek one (before it transforms into the Byzantine school from one side and Latin school on the other side). Thanks to her Antiochene and Chalcedonian roots, she is capable of playing the role of a mediator in the ecumenical movement between Latin Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy. Now is the time to cleanse the negative residuals of the past from Christian memory and to look towards the future in the Spirit of God, guided by his Gospel and the teachings of his disciples. We have common problems, so, we must have common solutions. “In the East, we are to be Christians together, or not to be”.
16. The union in faith with the Universal Catholic Church entails facing the challenges of the times on common foundations and the return to the teachings of the
The relationship of the
17. The situation may not be easier at the level of the Arab world where the
The Maronite Church must have a clear position on the environment, science, technology, justice, freedom, and peace… in order to contribute to correcting the image of the world on the basis of human rights, civil liberties and man’s constant search for goodness, the collection and preservation of the fruits of man’s intellectual, artistic, and scientific works. These works testify to the fact that man is a creature of God and that he is called to be master of the world under God’s ever-watchful eyes.
Chapter Three: Facing the Challenges
18. In order to face the challenges confronting them, Maronites must restore their mission in today’s world or develop a new one. The
19. In addition to her national role, which is commonly acknowledged throughout history, the
20. In this regard, she is qualified to “revive human, and more particularly, Christian values which serve as the foundation of individuals, families, societies, and nations. She must return to her heritage that is rich in the principles and values that helped our forefathers overcome trials, strengthened their wills, and guided their way toward their good and their peace of conscience”.
21. Christian presence in the
22. In order to confront the different currents of atheism and decadent morality, along with fanatic and fundamentalist movements, the
23. By dwelling on her historic depth, her dynamic spirituality, and her rich and diverse experience through her world expansion, the
The Church reminds us that she serves man through her diverse activities. Her spiritual mission is inseparable from her social one. It aims at building man, in his being and human dignity, based on the fundamental truth that every human being is created in the image of God – and that his dignity is derived from that divine likeness. In a world where man feels lost looking for an identity and a reason for his existence, the
While performing her mission in the world in which she lives and acts as salt and yeast, the Church does not forget that “Christ the Lord is our path to man, and that man, in turn, is the path to the Church”. Accordingly, the Church cooperates with the people in the region and the countries of her presence, and she shares with people their sufferings and aspirations, and defends their rights; she will not remain silent whenever these rights are violated, or whenever a people’s right to live in dignity is taken away. Man’s liberation, his development, and the resistance against injustice, all require on her part to stand up and loudly proclaim the truth.
24. There is no doubt that the Maronite Church, due to her worldwide expansion, has gained a pluralistic dimension that enables her to adapt to the world she lives in, and thus to become a model in the dialogue of civilizations. Thanks to her monastic institutions, apostolic zeal has stamped the early beginnings of the
25. Due to the fact that her unity has remained intact throughout history, and that she shares the Antiochene heritage with the Orthodox Church and her unity to the Roman Catholic Church, the
Moreover, her long experience throughout history in the Middle East and the Arab world have made her a model for dialogue and conviviality with Islam within the same country or for dialogue with our Muslim brothers relying on her unique experience in Lebanon. She is “an expert in dialogue, as the Church is an expert in humanity”.
26. The Church fulfills her mission in being the teacher and guide of peoples. Her task is to protect the human being, preserve his dignity, and defend his rights. Therefore, she has a position in all walks of life, be they educational, cultural, political, social, economic, informational, or other….
All these matters and other fateful issues force the Church in her place of incarnation, to delve into her human heritage and faith to draw solutions and answers that ensure the continuity of her mission. Therefore, she is required to have knowledge and an overview of all the matters, not only from the Lebanese perspective but also from the activities that reach the Countries of Expansion.
27. Since the Church is the educator of individuals and peoples, and since she is a messenger of hope, she has the power to implement comprehensive education and qualitative learning in order to safeguard actively and effectively the Maronite and Christian presence in
28. This cultural task complements the role of the Church in public service and her defense of the principles of political practice. She is capable of setting for her children a moral example in political life based on Catholic values. It aims at improving performance in political practice and reconciling the people, specifically the youth, with the noble concept of politics, that of public service. She constantly reminds us of the Maronite political concepts and constants, such as freedom (whose banner the Maronites have carried in
She is also capable of reviving the interest of Maronites of the expansion to support
29. Moreover, the
30. The primordial condition for richer creativity and greater work in today’s world is to know oneself and to know the strengths and weaknesses of our ecclesiastical body. This is why we must organize the House of Maron to be compatible with the requirements of the times and to modernize Church management and equipment.
The Church is also resorting to cutting edge means and technologies in the media and communication, using a modern and attractive language in performing her mission that is based on the Lord Jesus Christ’s eternal Word.
31. God’s salvific plan, even if unseen to us, is the Divine dimension inherent in the whole of creation, through the development of times and stages, as He governs all and guides all to the final destination, designed from eternity. Throughout our Maronite history, there are great and clear signs of God’s inspiring presence that prove His divine power and providence. Our Church, guided by Him, and inspired and strengthened by the Holy Spirit, is continuing her journey toward a continuous renewal and is enlightening every man’s pathway.
. Pope Paul VI, Apostolic Exhortation “On Evangelization in the Modern World.” 1975, #8.
. John Paul II, Redemptoris Mission, 1990, # 42, 43.
. Council of Catholic Patriarchs of the Middle East, pastoral Letter on “The Christian Presence in the
. Patriarch Nassrallah Boutros Sfeir, Message of Lent, “On Country and Values,” 2004.
. Council of Catholic Patriarchs of the Middle East, pastoral Letter on “The Christian Presence in the