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The Maronite Church and Culture



First: The Importance of Culture


1. It has become prevalent today that the cultural dimension of human life is an essential element in the development of human societies and in their interaction. The Church is quite cognizant of the fact that the human person cannot elevate to the humane level except through culture[1]. The existence of the Christian faith is itself linked to the different cultures, which in turn express it. This is what made His Holiness Pope John Paul II say: “Faith that does not transform into a culture is neither fully acceptable, nor entirely reasonable nor lived trustworthily”[2]. The Second Vatican Council gave this subject all due emphasis to the extent that, in its convocation and message, it was branded as a cultural revolution.


2. This above mentioned Council defines culture as: “everything whereby man develops and perfects his many bodily and spiritual qualities; he strives by his knowledge and his labor, to bring the world itself under his control. He renders social life more human both in the family and the civic community, through improvement of customs and institutions. Throughout the course of time he expresses, communicates and conserves in his works, great spiritual experiences and desires that they might be of advantage to the progress of many, even of the whole human family[3]. Culture, therefore, encompasses all models of conduct, intellect and feeling in a person’s tripartite relationship with nature, humans and God. This also means that culture is not a stagnant thing or an ingrained reference for the ecclesiastical identity that it carries. It is, rather, an ever evolving activity across various centuries and societies. It is thus aiding the human person in constantly elevating himself toward the humanization of self within the domain of his specific cultural community. It is also a force of creativity and excellence which refreshes all of humanity.


Second: The Maronite Church and the Enculturation Movement


3. Our Maronite Church realizes that her interaction with different cultures, across the path of her long history, rendered her mission of living the Good News of Christ and propagating it, as fulfillment in a very unique way. It charted for her a distinctive position in the heart of the universal Church. The Maronite ecclesiastical entity is not detached from the reality of its presence in the world. So we can actually say that the existence of the Maronite Church and her continuity throughout history is a result of this journey of enculturation specific to her, reviving in her an awareness of her distinctive identity. Consequently, the Maronite Church enjoys a special cultural heritage and distinctive ecclesiastical, liturgical, theological, spiritual and organizational traditions[4]. She also contributes to an evolutionary and developmental cultural mission in the service of society with the multiplicity of society’s confessionals and groupings.


4. This interaction between Gospel and culture in the context of a special Church is called today enculturation. She teaches that “Through enculturation the Church makes the Gospel incarnate in different cultures and at the same time introduces peoples, together with their cultures, into her own community. She transmits to them her own values, at the same time taking the good elements that already exist in them and renewing them from within”[5]. In this way, the universal Church is enriched by the merits of enculturation taking place in local churches through new forms of expression and values in the various sectors of Christian life, such as evangelization, worship, theology and charitable endeavors. Thus, she comes to know and to express better the mystery of Christ, all the while being motivated toward continual renewal[6].


5. We must point out here that the enculturation movement within our Maronite Church in particular, and in the Eastern Churches in general, is quite distinct from the rest of the Churches in being inseparable from the first evangelization and the emergence of the Church. It was launched with the beginnings of Christianity without having to pass through another culture foreign to its community. The Christian East, says Pope John Paul II, “has a unique and privileged role as the original setting where the Church was born”[7]. Throughout history, the Eastern Churches have exhibited a distinctive ability to pursue this enculturation movement, presenting it as a model for the rest of the Churches, in successfully living the interaction between the Gospel and human civilizations, between faith and culture[8]. The Second Vatican Council pays a deserved tribute to this ecclesiastical heritage, considering it “the heritage of the universal Church.” It also declares that it is an obligation to preserve it with its effective principles, whether through returning to the roots and reviving the founding tradition, or in encouraging a renewed apostolic movement responding to the requirements of this age and the present cultural sphere of these Churches[9].


Third: The Maronite Enculturation: Past, Present and Future


6. Since culture is an ever evolving dynamic reality, the ecclesiastical enculturation movement has become an on-going process, continually being renewed. In fact, cultural development shows that human nature always towers above it preventing man from becoming a prisoner inside it[10]. Moreover, the elements of openness and universality allow interaction among cultures and thus reciprocal enrichment. However, for openness not to become dissolution of self, the distinctive entity, it became necessary for the enculturation movement to be endowed with a factor unifying it, and an ability to be critical and selective.


7. To know the history of the Maronite cultural path with its different stations and its many epochs, and as it is presented in chapter one of this text, is an essential and fateful matter in the preservation of the unity of our Church and her continuity. This knowledge requires unveiling the Maronite heritage with its sources, origins and its various dimensions, striving to preserve it and invigorate it that it may truly be the witness and preserver of our identity. This is what chapter two of this text propounds. To become deep-rooted in the heritage does not contradict with openness, but contributes to direct it toward its more sublime objective. Authentic enculturation enables faith to have “the power to get to the core of every culture and to purify it, to make it fruitful, to enrich it and to enable it to blossom like the boundless love of Christ”[11]. Similar to all human achievements, culture remains imprinted with man’s sin and his selfishness, divergent from God’s salvific design, in need of what “purifies, strengthens, elevates and ennobles”[12]. In this context, the Apostolic Exhortation A New Hope for Lebanon calls on the Church to be wary of today’s cultures, discerning in them the wheat from the chaff[13]. Consequently, chapter three presents the cultural challenges facing the Maronite Church in our contemporary world and how to contain them and direct their path within the confines of our new ecclesiastical presence in differing cultural spheres. This text ends with a fourth chapter presenting the horizons of the new Maronite cultural endeavors, calling on all the sons and daughters of the Maronite Church, wherever they settle, to commit to the workshop of evangelizing the cultures.


Chapter One


Historical Evolution of the Maronite Church and the Dynamism of Enculturation



First: A Historical Interpretation of the First Millennium


1. The Syriac Dimension


8. The Maronite Church emerged and developed in a cultural sphere predominated by the Aramaic-Syriac character. Despite the diversity of civilizations and the plurality of cultures prevalent in Antioch and its environs during the first Christian centuries, the Maronite community since its emergence was set apart from the Byzantine Roman society. The Maronites, in general, were rural and mountain dwellers. They embraced the faith of the monks of Saint Maron and their doctrine, whether in Syria or in Lebanon. They were distinguished in their culture from the other Christians of the big cities who were stamped with the impress of Greek culture, without that meaning that they were cut off from that culture, which, during the first Christian centuries, was an essential instrument of expressing the Christian faith, especially in the ecumenical councils.


9. The Syriac dimension is especially apparent in the ritual books which constitute an essential reference to the authentic Maronite heritage. This heritage provides a substantive prestige to the Syriac fathers and especially to Saint Ephrem. A teacher of the universal Church, Saint Ephrem, who was not influenced by Greek philosophy, focuses on the status of matter and on the dignity of the human body and of creation in its entirety. He taught that the invisible God, through his divinity which transcends human comprehension, is apparent in all his creatures, because all his creations are in his image, in his likeness, that is, in the image of the Incarnate Son. What are the universe and history except a stage for the meeting of God and humans, recognizing him through everything, and thus they receive Life (John 17:3).


10. Despite the Islamic expansion which came later, and the spread of the Arabic language, the Maronites preserved Syriac language and culture. The Maronites went on using Syriac in their daily life until very recently, and they still use it in their liturgy. They also utilized Karshouni, making use of Syriac characters in writing Arabic. Furthermore, whereas in other Syriac churches their music became tinted with the music of surrounding peoples, the Maronites Church preserved the authentic Syriac melodies. Also, the retention by the Maronites of the Syriac Rabula Gospels compiled in 586, and its preservation for a long period of time, clearly reflects their link and the genuine attachment they have for this culture.


2. The Antiochene Chalcedonian Dimension


11. Undoubtedly, the multiplicity of theological schools during the first Christian centuries, along with the intellectual and theological strife that arose between the Schools of Alexandria and Antioch, reinforced this feeling of distinction among believers based on their different cultural identities. In the Maronites following the Antiochene school of thought, which stresses the human dimension of Christ, and in becoming part of the doctrinal conflict in the aftermath of the Council of Chalcedon (451), strengthened their belief in their religious and cultural specificity and their desire to preserve it.


12. The Chalcedonian doctrine the Maronites clung to and defended, transformed with them into a growing dynamism whereby the individual as well as the community may attain their Christianity in as much as they soar in their humanity. In fact, actual divine participation in human nature enables the human being to participate in the divine nature through realizing his human life in all its dimensions. Asceticism, a characteristic of the spirituality of our Church, is not a renunciation of what life offers in physical and material dimensions, rather, to the contrary, it is the participation of these dimensions in man’s spiritual journey in directing it toward its Creator.


13. Via the merits of the Chalcedonian doctrine, the Maronite became convinced that through his ordinary daily life and his relationship with his fellow human beings and nature, is able to elevate to meet his Lord and Creator, for in God’s union with man, the Creator is united with His creation. As such, the work of the Maronite person on the land became part of his prayer, and an expression of his eagerness to fulfill his encounter with his Savior. So, he transforms rugged mountains into fruitful gardens, and the sound of hymns mingled with that of mattocks[14]. In this context, it is worth mentioning the ancient feast days of the Virgin Mary which had agricultural significance, such as the Feast of Our Lady of Crops (January 15), Feast of Our Lady of the Harvest (May 15), Feast of Our Lady of the Vine (August 15). This dimension is apparent in the Holy Mass when the Priest ends the Prayer of Commemorations by saying: “May Your Holy name be glorified in us and in everything along with the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, and of your living Holy Spirit, now and for ever”[15].



3. The Lebanese Dimension


14. The Christian religion made its way into Lebanon since its inception, centering especially in the coastal cities. It witnessed a new campaign of expansion when the inhabitants of the Lebanese mountain discovered Christianity at the hands of St. Simon the Stylitethrough the merits of the evangelization campaign launched by the disciples of St. Maron headed by Abraham of Cyrrhus. This people preserved their characteristics, rituals and distinctive customs which did not contradict with their new faith. We can say that in the domain of Mount Lebanon, the Canaanite-Phoenician culture was a reference complementing the Aramaic-Syriac dimension in the forming and development of the Maronite culture with all its various dimensions. The many temples which were transformed into churches, some of which are still standing, are a living witness to this cultural interconnection between the different historical epochs[16]. No doubt that the connection of the Maronites with the mountainous land of Lebanon, whether they were indigenous inhabitants or refugees fleeing persecution, and their ongoing interaction with its constants and variables, made them attached to the land in such a way as to constitute sanctification. They made of it the See of their Patriarchate, which is the symbol of their unity and their ecclesiastical specificity. This land has also marked the culture of its children with activity, resolve, generosity, hospitality, and the clinging to freedom.


Second: Interaction with the Arab and Islamic world


1. First Encounter with the Arab Culture


15. The Maronites were able to safeguard their spiritual and cultural landmarks while the region was under Islamic rule, which lasted for more than one thousand years in the region where they were settled, in particular in the Lebanese mountain which provided them with relative safety from the invader’s interference and from his new traditions. This historical epoch witnessed the flourishing of schools specialized in manuscript copying and translation, most famous of which was the St. George School in Bqorqasha, where the Reesh Qurian, one of the most important Maronite manuscripts was written[17].


16. Despite the tensions of the initial phase, the Christians of the region in general did not hesitate, whenever the opportunity arose, to penetrate, rather embrace Arab culture, without reneging on the cultural heritage specific to them. The vast interaction between Arab Culture and Christian intellectuals during the Abbasid era, made them pioneers of what is known as the First Arab Renaissance prevalent between the ninth and eleventh centuries, especially through the endeavor of translating the Greek heritage into Arabic via Syriac[18]. Baghdad, the capital of the Abbasid Empire, was the center of this cultural movement, which may explain why so many scholars moved to that city.


17. Despite the geographical remoteness of the Maronites from the Arab cultural capital at that time, they were not in the margin of that cultural movement. Maronite manuscripts stand as witness to the use by Maronites of Syriac and Arabic script during that epoch. Kitaab Al-Huda (The Book of Guidance)[19], which was translated into Arabic in 1059, is proof of the early adoption by Maronites of the Arabic language and its use in expressing their collective social, spiritual and cultural affairs. Furthermore, the use of the Syriac script in writing Arabic, what is known as Karshouni, expresses this dual desire among the Maronites to preserve their unique heritage and to open up to cultural developments. Perhaps the most eloquent that was said about this subject was expressed by the Eastern Catholic Patriarchs in a statement that concerns all the Christians of the East which also applies to the interaction of our Maronite Church with Arab culture: “The cultural interaction of our Churches never ceased at any time, rather, it maintained its ever-renewing vitality across succeeding generations and historical stages which our region went through. Here, we must point out that the cultural vitality which characterized our Churches after the Islamic Conquest, where the Eastern Churches did not just stand idly by, prisoners of a past gone by; rather they worked hard to express themselves according to the new cultural circumstances. They progressively introduced the Arabic language into the ritual, intellectual and daily life domains. Consequently, our Churches successfully crossed this historical threshold despite all challenges and impediments” [20].


2. Maronites and the Arab Renaissance


18. The essential role that the Maronites have played in the history of Arab culture started in the early seventeenth century with Archbishop Germanos Farhat (1670-1746), Father Boutros at-Toulaawi (1657-1746) and others. They launched initiatives and fundamentals of an all-encompassing Renaissance which preserved Arab culture, reviving it and reinstating its distinctive position in the face of the Turkish cultural onslaught, then prevalent. The commitment of Maronites to the Arabic language and to its revival, have contributed fundamentally in bringing about the Second Arabic Renaissance during the nineteenth century.


3. The Period of Arab Enculturation


19. As a result of this interaction of the Maronite Church with the Arab culture, the latter became one of the elements of our ecclesiastical heritage. Ritual prayers and Church hymns were translated into Arabic. This language was used for writing theological, spiritual and liturgical essays to form the nucleus of a Christian Arab thought that had to be revealed, evolved and manifested as the Apostolic Exhortation, A New Hope for Lebanon, requests through “continued strive to evaluate Christian Arabic writings on the domains of theology, spirituality, the liturgy and culture in general, as they are all treasures that have enriched the Antiochene tradition since the 7th century”[21]. The challenge remains in not allowing this interaction to obliterate the authentic and unique aspect of the Maronite cultural heritage in its historical depth and numerous springs. The Maronite culture is open to Arab culture, yet deeply rooted in the Syriac, Chalcedonian and Lebanese heritages, interacting with the rest of the cultures it encounters in its relationship with the West and its worldwide expansion.


Third: Interaction with the Western World


1. The Unity of Faith with the Christian West


20. The Maronites encountered Western culture early on through the merits of their attachment to the unity of faith with the Roman Catholic Church. The arrival of the Europeans with the Crusades contributed in the opening up of the Maronites to new cultural dimensions in the same Christian faith. There is no doubt that this epoch left a profound effect in the souls of Maronites, and in the milestones of their civilized culture. Accordingly, the Maronites proceeded to consummate a civilization interconnection between their own distinctive Eastern Christian culture and the Western Christian culture. However, this civilization interconnection and cultural interaction did not assume its full dimensions until the start of the 16th century with the establishment of the Maronite School in Rome (1584), and the opening up of Lebanon to the West under the rule of the Ma’an Dynasty, and the arrival of the Catholic missions to the East, which led to the erection of many important schools in the different regions.


2. The Maronite School in Rome


21. Since its foundation, the Maronite School in Rome played a pioneering role in all the various fields, especially in religion and science, and in politics and education. This School brought wealth to East and West through the achievements of the scholars who graduated from it. They contributed to the introduction of the Western cultural heritage to the East, and in inciting Europeans to study the East. The most prominent of the Maronite school banners: Gebrael as-Sahyouni (1577-1648), who became the director of the Department of Eastern Languages at the Royal Institute in Paris; he also introduced the Eastern script to Europe in both calligraphic and printed forms. Youssef as-Sem’aani (1687-1768) was appointed Curator of the Vatican library, and was also commissioned by the Pope to head the Lebanese Synod of the Maronite Church held in 1736 at the Monastery of Our Lady of Louaize. This Synod had a great impact on the cultural life of the Maronite Church, because it recommended the establishment of schools in villages and cities, and obliged parents to send their children to these schools to acquire education. And Youssef Estephan (1729-1793) founded the school of Ain Waraka, which is considered as the mother of all Christian schools in the East.




3. Between Openness and Authenticity


22. Despite the unity in faith with the West, and the Maronite awareness of their need and the need of their Eastern societies of the benefits of the cultural Renaissance and modern western science, they were all the more aware of the hegemonic dangers that this culture might impose on their authentic cultural heritage and identity. Thus, the period extending from the 16th to the 20th century witnessed continuous gravitations between the temptations of modernity and the necessity of preserving authenticity. This also went hand in hand with a similar influence imposed on the rites, rituals and structure of the Maronite Church by the Latin Church, which consequently resulted for a time in the loss of part of the Maronite cultural and spiritual heritage. Yet, on the other hand, the Maronites were able to preserve this heritage and to propagate it through the early introduction of the printing press to Lebanon (1585). Further, their openness to the West and their mastery of its many languages opened to them and to their country a window overlooking modernity and its different cultural influences, including modern science and its technology.





Chapter Two


Maronite Cultural Ingenuity, its Outcome, and its Continuity


First: The Maronite Heritage


1. Heritage as a Collective Memory


23. Heritage represents the cultural product of a people which has accumulated over the years within a constant geographical setting. It consists of material, intellectual and spiritual achievements, the essence of which encompasses all the features of a given people, distinguishing it from other contemporaneous peoples and communities. As such, heritage becomes the cultural identity of civilization communities, since it defines them with their traits and characteristics. Heritage is also the memory of peoples because it testifies, with its numerous landmark achievements, to their historical depth throughout its different stages. It guarantees the survival of a community since it embodies its unity throughout history, its deep-rootedness in its milieu and its awareness of its individuality. Therefore, heritage encompasses all forms of “archeological and cultural possessions”, such as monuments, special architecture, painting, sculpture and music, in addition to books, historical documents, manuscripts and other literary works, customs and popular traditions, as well as shrines, symbols and religious rituals.


2. Lebanon, a Holy Land


24. The enculturation of the Maronite Church in its diverse cultural milieus throughout history has led to the formation of a special Maronite heritage that must necessarily be discovered and preserved. It merits mention that this heritage is deeply rooted in the religious Christian heritage that Lebanon was marked with, making it “a Holy land, a land of sainthood”[22]. This is why, the Apostolic Exhortation, A New Hope for Lebanon, announces that since its beginning, “Christianity has become an essential element of the culture of the region and especially the Lebanese land”[23]. Lebanon is one of the countries of the Holy Bible, whose texts include several mentions of its cedars that were used to build temples for worship, and its men who put forth great effort to build these temples with artistic perfection (1 Kgs 5:15-32). The Holy Bible also includes immortal resonations of Lebanon, which were considered by its interpreters as being praises of the beauty of the Church and the splendor of the Virgin Mary: “Thou art all fair, my love; there is no spot in thee. Come with me from Lebanon, my spouse, come with me from Lebanon.” [Song (Sg.) 4:7-8].


25. Yet, Lebanon’s soil became holy when our Lord treaded on it, touring the environs of Sidon and Tyre, and praised the Canaanite woman because of her great faith (Mt. 15:21-28; and Mk. 7:24-30), bringing to mind the glorious deeds of the Prophets who announced His coming (1 Kgs 17:7-24). The ecclesiastical tradition has left us with plenty of landmarks to express this phase. There is also no way but to study, discover and divulge all the landmarks that remain vague or lost. Furthermore, the first Christian centuries left us highly important ruins, such as the Church of Bishop Paulinus in Tyre, which might just be the first cathedral in the world, whose inaugural and consecration speech was delivered by the famous Church historian Eusebius in the year 314. There are many other churches rich in mosaic[24] and local Christian symbols that date back to this first period of Christianity in Lebanon.


3. Maronite Heritage Landmarks


26. Additional to what was mentioned in Chapter One of this Text concerning the foundations of the Maronite culture and its Syriac, Antiochene and Lebanese dimensions, which are considered indivisible parts of the ecclesiastical heritage in its cultural, spiritual and intellectual dimensions, the Maronite heritage is also manifested in different natural, architectural and artistic landmarks. In this respect, the sacred Qadisha Valley is privileged with an extremely important and distinctive role. This is owing to its natural beauty, its monasteries and hermitages, its gardens and orchards, its frescoes, its continuous monastic and eremitic heritage, its rootedness in the Maronite history, and the fragrance of the sanctity of its people. Thus, this site is worthy of being a place of pilgrimage for all the Maronites in Lebanon, in the East and in the Countries of Expansion, and a symbol for the unity and permanence of their Church[25]. It should be mentioned that UNESCO has declared the Valley part of the international heritage.


27. The numerous patriarchal centers are also considered as fundamental landmarks of the Maronite heritage that should be cared for. We mention in this respect the pilgrimage sites of saints Sharbel, Rafqa and Ni’metallah in their monasteries and villages. Added to this list are a number of old churches[26], most of which were built on the ruins of pagan temples. Therefore, they stand as testimony to the veracity of this saying, “There is no country in the world like this country, where it can be said that people, since the beginning, successively prayed in the very same places of prayer”[27]. In that, is an indication of the implanting of the roots of the Maronite tradition deep in the land of Lebanon.


28. This heritage also includes in its most important landmarks of the frescoes in the Qannoubeen Valley, Behdaidaat and the rock temples[28], and the icon of the Our Lady of Ilije. We must not forget the different religious vestments, the ecclesiastical vessels and furniture, the numerous manuscripts scattered in libraries in and outside Lebanon, especially in the archives of the patriarchal library in Bkerke, and ancient and modern books and works which deal with one aspect or another of the affairs of the Maronite culture. Add to that the cultural products of the Maronite communities in the Countries of Expansion on the intellectual, artistic and architecture levels, expressing in a distinctive way the Maronite cultural identity. This list is by no means exclusive, for a heritage also encompasses many other popular traditions like folk poetry (Zajal) through which Ibn Al-Qala’i was able to spread modern Western culture in an easily accessible manner.


Second: Maronite Art


1. Modern Maronite Artists


29. Art is part of the heritage, and we have previously mentioned some of its impressions. At present, our Church is witnessing a large scale renaissance aimed at reviving Maronite art, whether in music and ecclesiastical hymns, or in plastic art: painting and iconography. During the last quarter of the 20th century, several initiatives were launched in the Maronite Church to translate ritual books, especially the Syriac hymns, with the aim of remaining faithful to the heritage, updating the texts appropriately. This activity has and continues to contribute in bringing to the forefront Maronite tunes deeply rooted in the Syriac heritage.


30. As for plastic art in its contemporary meaning, it emerged progressively with the Maronites in recent centuries. In his recounts of history, Patriarch Doueihy mentions the name of Elias Chidiac Hasrouni who painted the Mar Abda Church in Bikfaya (1587). The 19th century witnessed the birth of the first generation of Maronite painters who studied art in Italy and returned to Lebanon, leaving an abundant number of paintings of saints in the churches[29]. The 20th century witnessed the emergence of the second generation of painters who studied in Paris, again leaving many paintings and sculptures in the Maronite churches[30]. Among those, Saliba Doueihy was the most renowned. He was distinguished by his classical impressionist paintings, which today adorn ad-Diman Patriarchal Church. Through the works of this artist, there emerged a desire to attain a new ideal in ecclesiastical art characterized by an unadulterated distinctive Maronite quality. This trend was clearly embodied in his paintings and stained glass works found in many a Maronite church in the United States. Saliba Doueihy continued with that trend, painting the stained glass of the St. Charbel Church in ‘Annaya following the model he had begun with in the St. John Church in Zgharta.


31. Along with the liturgical renewal movement, other liturgical needs surfaced in the Maronite Church, other than adorning churches with paintings. Thus, it was vital to produce, as in the other Eastern Churches, icons for the ritual calendars to replace those the Maronites derived from the Latin Church. To satisfy this emerging need, several initiatives were also launched, relying on principal Syriac references, such as the Rabula Gospels and tens of gospels that are adorned with ornaments and kept in the libraries of Europe and the monasteries of Eastern and Western Syriac Christians and the Icon of Our Lady of Ilije. Along with the appreciation and encouragement that the Maronite Church affords all those working in this field, she is also abreast of the new trends in art, which suit our contemporaries and help the man of today to elevate toward God.


Third: Preserving Heritage and the Necessity of Reviving it


1. The Living Heritage is Guarantee for the Survival of the Community


32. Heritage is public property. No one has the right to dispense with it as if it were private property. Rather, it is essential to afford it proper care and preserve it through composed scientific means as a service to the community and to humanity at large. Ignoring it or sabotaging it would mean uprooting its community, thus exposing it to the danger of melting away or being alienated from its own historical and cultural environment. In return, caring for heritage provides the fundamentals for steadfastness and continuity in history and society. Preserving and reviving our Maronite heritage calls for several practical initiatives most of which are necessary, even urgent.


2. Urgent Initiatives


33. The process begins by forming a patriarchal organization to be concerned with collecting data, surveying heritage sites and drafting a priority schedule aimed at rescuing and restoring these sites. This state of affairs requires selecting persons to work full-time in this domain. The above mentioned organization is to operate in cooperation with the “Committee on the Cultural Properties of the Church” of the Council of Catholic Patriarchs and Bishops in Lebanon and with similar local and international entities. It is to tackle the matter at hand in the most suitable scientific manner, such as cataloging the manuscripts, establishing specialized libraries, publishing studies exhibiting the characteristics of this heritage in all its intellectual, artistic and architectural aspects, restoring Maronite ruins divulging their spiritual and historical importance and reviving their ecclesiastic role. It is inevitable, as a start, for a Maronite museum to be built, to contain whatever can be collected to represent or express this heritage. It is also required that the aforementioned patriarchal organization lay down scientific standards for the restoration or building of Maronite Churches.


34. Maronite universities have a fundamental role to play in this field with respect to scientific research and the raising of awareness of this cultural wealth and the prodding of future generations to link up through it with the historical depth of their ecclesiastic community. In this context, it is also a must to perform a critical study of the war period in Lebanon in order to cleanse the memory. The path of reconciliation with one’s self and with others requires keeping the historical memory a witness to the error that was perpetrated and the immensity of its consequence on all.


35. Despite difficulties in publishing and marketing a book in many a country, it is extremely important to encourage Maronite writers and authors to publish their studies and research in different languages. This may require the strengthening of existing ecclesiastic publishing houses, and maybe link them to a framework capable of being effectively present on the international scene. This project may proceed, parallel to the erection of a central Maronite library containing a copy of all publications issued by Maronite authors, or by a Maronite publishing house, or by a publishing house having a Maronite interest.


3. Cultural and Religious Tourism


36. Among the means of safeguarding heritage, is also the encouraging of cultural and religious tourism to sites containing a concentrated portion of our ecclesiastical history.[31] There is no choice but to give priority to the sacred Qadisha Valley and all the natural and ecclesiastical landmarks it contains. It is possible to plan different routes passing, for example, by the patriarchal centers, the shrines of Maronite saints, or the ancient Maronite churches. There ought to be emphasis on South Lebanon as a holy land visited by Jesus Christ himself. The sphere of these routes may also be expanded to include regions of Christian and Maronite heritage presence in Syria and Turkey.


37. Encouraging this kind of relationships with the Maronite ecclesiastic and cultural heritage, aims at enabling the Church to establish an office to be concerned with organizing these activities and offering them to the Maronites of the Expansion. This affords them practical facilitations, encouraging them to get to know the roots of their faith and their ecclesiastical identity. This may also provide job opportunities for guides specialized in the Christian heritage capable of providing tourists with a distinguished cultural service linked to a live and sincere testimony to the faith. It is also necessary to encourage the Maronites of the region to join this activity of discovering this Maronite heritage in Lebanon and Syria.


38. Benefit may then be derived from these pilgrimages making them go beyond tourism or personal piety to activate an operation whereby Maronites, in such occasions, would intermingle resulting in the exchange of visits. That would foster the spirit of brotherhood among the children of the one Church. Considering its extreme importance, this matter may become an essential pastoral commitment incorporated in the pastoral program of parish priests, as well as in the programs of eparchies, monastic and ecclesiastical institutions and lay organizations.


Chapter Three:


The Maronite Church

Facing the Cultural Challenges of the Contemporary World



First: Challenges of Modernity


1. Modernity and Secularism


39. Giving attention to heritage cannot veil the necessity of addressing the present with the dimensions and the new cultural challenges it carries. Our world today is a modern world and a globalized one at the same time. Modernity is not only an idea or a theoretical concept, but rather, a civilization phenomenon, the development of which occurred across hundreds of years. “Thus, we are witnesses of the birth of a new humanism[32], a culture that touches upon all the dimensions of human life: science, philosophy, politics, economics, society, religion and the state.


40. In opposing the past, modern man distanced himself from tradition, enabling him to form a new historical, linguistic and explanatory memory, based on subjecting all that is inherited and agreed upon to intellectual and scientific scrutiny. This also led him to separate all the different dimensions of collective and individual existence, to make social life independent from the control of the religious authorities, and to hem religion into the private realm. This is known as “secularization.” As for “laicism”, on the political level, it is the expression of the all encompassing secularization movement contending to limit the ambition of religion for comprehensiveness. This means the separation of religion from the state. The Catholic Church recognizes the legitimacy of the autonomy that culture claims, provided that this does not lead up to a purely earthly outlook upon man, and as such, hostility to religion[33]. The Second Vatican Council confirmed that because of this movement, the social and cultural conditions of man were radically transformed[34], so that modernity is no longer associated with Europe alone, but has spread to all peoples.



2. Modern Maronite Enculturation and its Challenges


41. Openness of the Maronite Church to the West during the last centuries came to place her in direct contact with modernity and its specific cultural course. Regarding this, she took a conciliatory reform position, which is a position refusing to choose between heritage and modernity, but, a position reconciling her Eastern heritage with her containment of modern Western culture. This, however, did not prevent some of her members from maintaining the traditional position, as it did not prevent others from adopting the modern radical position calling for the abandonment of the past and clinging to modern rationalism in all its scientific, technical, dialectical and critical aspects. This inclination manifested itself with a group of them calling for modernism, embracing the materialistic intellect, and relinquishing the fundamental moral and social values and principles inherent in the community.


42. There is no doubt that the youth are the group which interacts more intensely with this new dimension of cultural life. Since they are at the forefront of this enculturation movement, they are able to assume an essential role in fructifying modernity, ecclesiastically. They also suffer from the chasm existing between some traditions, thought and structures within the ecclesiastical body, and, their new and modern human and cultural experiences. This leads some to alienate themselves from the community of believers, not being able to find harmony and balance between their own cultural experience and their spiritual life. Therefore, modernity remains a real challenge facing the Maronite Church, a challenge that cannot be ignored.


3. Liberation from Sectarianism


43. Today, this challenge is apparent to us quite clearly in the issue of sectarianism and its position within the ecclesiastical body. The Catholic Patriarchs of the East have expressed their position on this matter very wisely and concisely, when they said: “Our confessional, throughout our ecclesiastic history, has performed a positive task in preserving the ecclesiastical traditions, and similarly, the fundamental human and national civilization of every one of our Churches. However many negative factors have found their way into the reality of our confessional, mainly due to the shallowness of the faith in general, or due to the pressing social elements that have crammed the proper ecclesiastical concept within the confessional context. This has resulted in the emergence of the sectarian spirit, which are the engendered negatives distorting our ecclesiastical life, principally through isolation and the tainting of relationships with others belonging to another confessional or another religion.”[35] The Patriarchs recognize that the sectarian spirit is a dangerous distortion of the concept of religion, and an outright abrogation of the concept of the Church. It affords attention to the external religious rituals more than their spirit, thus, making of it a prison confining believers in a far away past, foreign to contemporary life, instead of evolving it to become a force of perpetual presence and renewal[36].


44. Radical modernity is not a convenient answer to the crisis that is sectarianism, nor can sectarianism be a true deterrent against unrestrained modernity. Therefore, there is no way for our Maronite Church but to continue its journey of interaction with the requirements of modern culture, a move that may help to free her from the flaws of sectarianism and its residues in word and deed. This demands, on the one hand, liberation from all forms of religious fanaticism and self imposed isolation, and, on the other, promotes openness to a continuous criticism of self. This approach may also help in modernizing the structure and administration within the Church, and in sharing in all responsibilities with a scientific spirit and accordance with the various skills and talents.


4. Freedom is the Basis of Modern Culture and a Maronite Mission


45. Modernity, which subjugates inherited traditions to the critical mentality, is the basis for the progress heaped up in cultural activity. However, the principal condition for that remains freedom; the freedom of the individual in choosing the pattern of his life, his thought, expression and dissemination. Throughout their long history, Maronites were very closely associated with this trait as a fundamental for the human person and his dignity, and a precondition for the authentic presence of culture. They are still carrying this sacred mission in defense of freedom, fighting for its preservation, since it remains a value that is very fragile. They do that not in self defense or for personal gain, but for the sake of all, in their belief that this is an indivisible part of their cultural and spiritual mission. Culture dies in the absence of freedom. All that would remain of it would be external appearance inferior to the level of human dignity. In the following, we will discuss in brief the three threats.


5. Facing Lurking External and Internal Threats to Freedom


46. The first and most obvious threat comes from without. It comes from political, social or economic pressures that may be imposed on Maronites and other citizens through unjust regimes or responsible volitions seeking to dwarf their cultural presence. Consequently, defending freedom must continue, deepen and branch out, in the context of the Maronite cultural movement in the world of today.


47. The second threat comes from one of the negative results accompanying modernity in our present time, and it is consumerism. The growing economic and buying power of the individual, with an increase in commercial and cultural product diversity often provides a deceptive cover up for diminished individual freedom, since the ability of the individual becomes limited to the product which makes him feel obliged to own and not to the correctness of the choice and its significance. Here also, the Maronite Church finds herself in charge of helping her children not to be swept away in this consumerism current, which curtails man’s satisfaction with his purchasing power. She is also urged to contribute in providing a social standard befitting the human person through an upbringing attuned to public awareness, and personal, social and political volitions.


48. As for the third threat, it may come from within, that is, from the pressure exercised on the individual by ecclesiastical, collective or family setups. This pressure, with what it engenders in placing emphasis on inherited traditions and customs, may stand as a barrier in the face of an individual trying to achieve his personal growth within his ecclesiastical and social community, an achievement that does nullify his uniqueness and makes use of the special gifts he is endowed with as a member of the mystical body of Christ. Here too, modernity calls for openness of the Maronite cultural mission toward this essential dimension in the defense of individual freedom, transcending any spirit opposing it at all levels.


Second: Challenges of Globalization


1. The Phenomenon of Globalization and its Cultural Definition


49. Globalization is a phenomenon where economics, politics, modern technology, culture, sociology, and psychology intertwine, and where human affiliation to the whole universe beyond all political borders, is defined. In practice, it augments the link among human societies through the transfer of commodities, capitals, production technologies, individuals, information and cultures. It is in this context that globalization is presented: as a universal phenomenon, a new vision for culture and identity. However, globalization has two aspects: a negative one and a positive one. Globalization is detrimental when it is synonymous with similitude and homogeneity and the control of the law of the market in a way that ignores human culture whose essence is concurrence on ethical values. Also, its utilization is good if what is being apportioned and exchanged is information, knowledge, progress, understanding the other and the partnership of values and wealth. Consequently, the response to this phenomenon does not stand on seclusion and cultural introversion, but on benefiting from all that globalization has to offer, from openness and wealth, to self-evolvement, propagating the Good News and the values on which the Maronite culture stands.




2. The Maronite Church in the Framework of Globalization


50. There are two edges in dealing with the phenomenon of globalization. The first lies in upholding cultural specificity, and, resisting any merger which would eliminate self and rejecting all subordination invalidating free will and the ability to criticize or resist. They both are essential for steadfastness and in clutching to identity. As for the second edge, it is manifested in utilizing globalization as a readily available possibility to secure information and knowledge, to realize progress, to understand the other, and to participate in the dialogue of values and the confluence of cultures.


51. This cultural dialogue is not limited to the sons and daughters of the Maronite Church, but, at the public level, they have to place themselves in its core. As for the Maronite internal level, having spread out into all regions of the globe, associating with and interacting, acculturating within new and diverse cultures, they have to make of dialogue and the exchange of cultural experience, a fundamental factor in preserving their identity and their collective unity.


52. Consequently, it is inevitable that a Maronite organization, giving priority to the youth, be erected to regulate cooperation and exchange at the human resources level, between Maronite eparchies in the Countries of Expansion, on the one hand, and the eparchies of Lebanon and the East, on the other. For the youth or children, this can be through journeying to spend some time (several months or a year) in one of the eparchies or ecclesiastical institutions, and working in one of the available sectors to serve the community. This provides for an opportunity to meet with their brethren and to live an apostolic and important human experience. This cooperation should take place in both directions, between East and West.


Third: The Challenges of the Expansion and Cultural Diversity


1. Living Unity in Diversity


53. The widespread expansion of Maronites in many of the countries of the world has led to the emergence of a new cultural reality. This is a result of the interaction of Maronites, in their identity, behavior and culture, with the reality of the cultures of the new societies they are now living in. This issue created for them and the Church a paradox represented in the ability to retain a certain amount of their Maronite culture in its Syriac Antiochene Lebanese dimension alongside their rightful adoption of their new culture originating from the circumstances of the Countries of the Expansion, well removed from both Antioch and Lebanon. What would be left of the Maronite culture if it were to lose its Antiochene spiritual conscience and its Lebanese dimension?


54. There is in the Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity, issued by the UNESCO, that might help in answering this paradox that is particular to the Maronite Church. This declaration states that human rights are to guarantee the cultural diversity and particularly the rights of minorities. Cultural plurality in a democratic context is the correct political answer to the reality of this cultural diversity. Cultural diversity is the common heritage of humanity and the source of exchange, renewal, and innovation within nations. These principles induced the Maronite Church into believing that the local diversity of national, social and cultural belongings of its children is not a barrier in the achievement of its ecclesiastical and cultural unity, rather, it may very well be a motivation for renewal and innovation. Furthermore, the cleaving of Maronites to their cultural identity is by no means a barrier facing their responsible national commitment and their concord with other citizens in any country. This confirms that it is the right of Maronites, rather, their duty to cleave to their cultural specificity and call for its recognition and respect within the cultural multiplicity, wherever they are to found, whether in Lebanon, the East or in the Countries of Expansion.


2. The Elements of Presence and Cultural Interaction


55. The “emigration press” and “emigration literature” offer an excellent example of the importance of safeguarding cultural specificity within the multiplicity and wealth of reciprocal cultural exchange. A number of authors and writers endeavored to translate and transmit to their new Western societies many of the customs and traditions and stories of the East. An active emigration press emerged in the Countries of Expansion, with the objective of creating a link between the emigrants and the motherland on the one hand and to transfer news and the Eastern culture to the West, on the other. We add to that the activity of translating the liturgical books and much of the Maronite Syriac heritage into many languages. Even though this activity was especially concerned in serving the Maronites of the expansion, it has found attention with non-Maronites who were interested in openness to the Maronite specificity and reap benefit from it for their cultural and spiritual life. In this context, we cannot but acknowledge that the lack of research and study centers and the absence of Maronite seats in Western universities definitely affect the balance of cultural exchange with the Countries of Expansion. Thus, the erection of an international Maronite academy with branches in the different countries with large Maronite communities, linked to university research centers in Lebanon, may be the answer to this urgent need.

3. Cultural Exchange between the Patriarchal Domain and the Expansion


56. The Maronite cultural exchange which encompasses the interconnection and interaction between the Maronites of Lebanon and the Patriarchal Domain, on the one hand, and that of the Maronites of the expansion, on the other, has its special requisites. This means that the Maronite Church is to always keep enriching its sons and daughters in the Countries of Expansion with what Syriac Antiochene Lebanese cultural tradition she has and to be enriched by her sons and daughters in the expansion through cultural and new human experience in their respective countries. She also has to continuously strive to establish a dialogue between both domains, because in this fruitful interconnectivity, there is the strengthening of the relationships of its sons and daughters with her and with each other and the flourishing of the innovative capacities through safeguarding the fruitful diversity of cultures.


57. The question here concerns the role of language in realizing or disintegrating this ecclesiastical unity in its diversity. The Maronites of the East speak Arabic and are in their majority Francophones. As for the Maronites in the Countries of Expansion, there is a multiplicity of languages, most important of which are Portuguese, English and Spanish. Does this lingual disparity represent a stumbling block for interaction and unification? Should there be a choice of a common language for all Maronites? It is necessary primarily to safeguard the Syriac language as an essential reference for the spiritual and liturgical heritage. If there are initiatives to teach Arabic in the Countries of Expansion, they must be encouraged. The Maronite Church, which does not consider definitive linguistic diversity as a hindrance in the performance of its mission and the unity of its sons and daughters, still stresses the importance of mastering languages as means of interconnection and the transfer of knowledge.


Chapter Four:


New horizons for Maronite Cultural Endeavors



First: The Culture of Leisure and Sports and the Environmental Culture


1. Leisure adds to the Humanity of Humans


58. In facing a one-sided, production – profiteering consumerist mentality whereby a person is swept into a whirlpool of continuous toil, the need for rest and for leisure time for contemporary man becomes quite clearly apparent so he may regain his inner peace and joie de vivre. Since the mechanization of work has become quasi-complete nowadays, touching on all domains of life, even agriculture, man has thus lost the opportunity of using his physical faculties and exercising them in a natural way, on the one hand. On the other hand, he distanced himself from the soil and from nature, and his relationship with them dwindled, to go and most often confine himself in a corner of his office next to his electronic contraptions.


59. Confronting this reality linked to the culture of today, the Second Vatican Council urges: “May this leisure be used properly to relax, to fortify the health of soul and body.[37] Through leisure and non-opportunistic activities a human person can express himself as a being, who is not satisfied with just meeting his material needs, but rises above such, yearning to live a creative freedom enabling him to transform the movement of the universe into a symbolic dance declaring his joy with life. Leisure reveals the spiritual dimension of man, who yearns to fully live life, searching for adventure and challenges. He gets stunned beholding art and beauty and attains himself with joy, cheerfulness and festivity, striving always to surpass his experiences and capabilities toward the better.


60. His Holiness Pope John Paul II thanks God for this dimension in human life and especially for sports, because it is his gift to us and a sign of the times, which strengthens basic virtues in young people, such as honesty, perseverance, sharing, solidarity and friendship, and helps to achieve a healthy and harmonious unity between the body and the soul[38]. His Holiness says that sports activities can be “an opportunity for meeting and dialogue…between peoples and to establishing the new civilization of love”[39].


2. Sports and Leisure in Nature: a Path Leading to God


61. It is in the core of Maronite spirituality to consider that the road to sainthood passes first through the complementary and sound relationship of a man with himself, including his physical capabilities and his relationship with nature. This is because the everlasting power of God and his divinity are apparent in all of creation (Rom. 1:20), which also impatiently awaits the manifestation of God’s power to be freed from its slavery to corruption (Rom. 8:19-22). This is why the Maronite Church considers that encouraging sports along with cultural and leisure activities that are linked to nature, are at the core of its Christian mission and distinctive vocation. Outdoor activities take on a special dimension when held in Lebanon, because its nature is an the image of the beauty and glory of God as stated in the Bible (Is. 35:2), as well as it is also a Holy Land visited and stepped upon by Jesus and his disciples. It is also a land of sanctity full of hermitages, monasteries, and places of prayer and worship built and frequented by our Maronite fathers for many centuries.


62. Sports activities can be a danger distancing believers from their spiritual obligations (such as their commitment to the day of the Lord), or forcing them to deviate toward a kind of slavery to the body and its capabilities, separated from its spiritual dimension. They can also be a danger through excessiveness in the spirit of competition and the strive for profit via unhealthy methods such as using stimulants; or to change them into means for material gain subject to the rule of the commercial market. So, instead of sports activities being a danger, the Maronite Church can provide her children and others the opportunity of engaging in sports as a domain of leisure, body building and balancing, to redirect relations with nature and to determine self in its entirety in a sound context enabling them, at the same time, to follow the path of knowing God and loving him.


63. This may necessitate the erection of associations which focus on organizing such activities in the light of this spirituality. This is also achieved through encouraging initiatives in parishes, clubs and apostolic organizations situated in this sphere. Since a relationship with nature was at the core of our Maronite monastic spirituality, there may be for these monastic congregations today a pioneering role in launching this spiritual and apostolic movement with its new dimensions.


3. An Environmental Culture


64. Based on the Maronite history which has witnessed an organic relation with the earth and nature, and in our modern world which is facing fundamental challenges on which the fate of humanity and life in its entirety rests. Examples are: global warming, the puncture of the Ozone layer, pollution caused by overpopulated cities, air pollution, water pollution, nuclear pollution…. The Maronite Church in Lebanon, in the Antiochene Domain, as in the worldwide expansion, is concerned in devising orientation programs and assuming practical positions cooperating through them with organizations of civil society, scout movements and official local and international organizations to preserve a healthy environment and prompting a return to the interaction with nature in peace and authentic respect for life.


Second: The Culture of Dialogue


1. The Theological Bases of Dialogue


65. Pope Paul VI says “Indeed, the whole history of man’s salvation is one long, varied dialogue, which marvelously begins with God and which He prolongs with men in so many different ways[40]. His Holiness concludes that the Church has to launch a dialogue in the world where she lives. As such, “the Church becomes a Word. The Church becomes a mission. The Church becomes a dialogue”[41]. From this perspective, dialogue is not to be considered a specific strategy, it is an existential state linked to the identity of the Church, its vocation and mission. In the opinion of the Catholic Patriarchs of the East, dialogue is “first and foremost a spiritual position”[42] that man assumes when he is before his Lord, and is reflected in his dialogue with himself and with others. Dialogue then becomes “a spirituality transforming us from distancing to encompassing, from refusal to acceptance, from branding to understanding, from defamation to respect, from judging to mercy, from enmity to intimacy, from competition to integration, from repulsion to conjunction, from hostility to fraternity”[43].


66. The culture of dialogue that the Maronites lived and put to use in their Eastern environment stands on these spiritual foundations, and on the principle of openness to the other in all his specificities in society, politics and culture. The culture of dialogue then becomes a source of enrichment for self and the human heritage. Important as it is, dialogue must be more than an instrument, rather, an objective in itself. It is therefore a human and spiritual virtue that the Maronite Church calls for it, teaches it to her sons and daughters and lives it internally and with others on the various levels.


2. The Maronites in Lebanon and the World: A Mission of Dialogue


67. The Apostolic Exhortation insistently urges the Christians of Lebanon “to safeguard and strengthen their solidarity with the Arab world.” It also calls them to “consider their adoption of the Arab culture, to which they have greatly contributed, as a special position in order to establish, along with all the Christians of the Arab countries, a sincere and deep dialogue with the Muslims”[44]. Because of the unique Lebanese experience, Pope John Paul II repeatedly declared that “Lebanon is more than a country; it is a mission of dialogue and coexistence”[45]. This is why His Holiness hopes that the dialogue and cooperation between the Christians and Muslims of Lebanon will help in inviting other countries to follow in their footsteps[46]. Dialogue is essential for the crystallization of the values and concepts that govern socio-politics and for finding elements of congruence around man, citizens, societies, government, history and the universe. The Maronites in the Countries of Expansion participate in this mission through their relationships with other citizens in their respective countries, especially those belonging to other religions, particularly Muslims. In this way the sons and daughters of the Maronite Church may be apostles of openness and dialogue wherever they may be and a live sign of the unity of the human family.


Third: The Culture of Human Rights


1. Our Human Person is Suffering


68. The present Maronite Patriarchal Synod is being held at a very critical juncture that the entire Middle East is passing through. This will certainly have repercussions on the cultural role of the Maronite Church and her relationship with her immediate environment. The Catholic Patriarchs of the East state: “The human person in our region is suffering. Tribulation befell him from every side throughout modern history, to the extent that he is living under the mark of pain and sufferance, treading on the way of agony, carrying his cross. He is suffering in his innermost self and in the circumstances of his daily existence, struggling to improve his situation. He is suffering because of his inner chains or because of what is imposed upon him, or the interference of others in his affairs, or other people’s perspective of him, or because of suppression tactics he is subjected to daily, at home and through outsiders”[47]. Pope John Paul II expresses this pain that the human person in Lebanon still lives, hoping that his cultural and spiritual traditions would be respected, yearning especially for tranquility and prosperity, and an authentic recognition of his fundamental liberties[48].


2. Call for a Prophetic Stance


69. Solidarity of our Maronite Church with the human person, who is suffering and whose rights are being trampled on, whether in Lebanon, in the East, or elsewhere in the world, and extending help to him and freeing him from oppression, is intended to represent a prophetic position transcending the concern of defending our individual and collective rights, its legitimacy and importance. The Catholic Patriarchs of the East state that “liberating man and helping him evolve in a way commensurate with the dignity bestowed on him by God, resisting oppression, from whatever source and regardless of perpetrator, is one aspect of the Mystery of Christ and the Church” [49] (1 Jn. 3:16).


70. In Middle Eastern societies, it is a priority to petition for and defend the rights of women and to endeavor to “strengthen their position in the Church and in society that they may assume their role of building human life”[50]. Children and minors who suffer from all kinds of violations of their rights, whether be it violence at home or in society, or at the level of subjecting them to arduous chores, or depriving them from their right to knowledge and education, expect from us a non-compromising position and a steadfast commitment to their cause. The right to life and freedom remains the basis for all rights, which the Maronite Church will not grow weary in defending. This prophetic position requires our Church to collaborate with local and international organizations working in this domain, striving to insure a scientific formation for her pastors and all her children, appropriate to this mission.


Fourth: The Culture of Communication and Modern Technology


71. The printing press of the Monastery of Saint Anthony Qozhaia, the first in the East (1595), is excellent proof of the positive and rapid interaction of the Maronite Church with technology and modern means and their placement in the service of her mission. Consequently, and to remain faithful to this noble history, she is called upon today to be up to the standard of the cultural revolution made available through the modern means of communication, especially since her sons and daughters are spread out all across the globe and are in dire need of interconnection with each other and with all the cultural circles.


72. This objective may be achieved through various channels. Encouraging and developing initiatives such as the “Maronite network,” linking Maronite eparchies with each other and with the Patriarchate in Bkerke via the internet, and similarly linking Maronite universities and scientific academies, have become inevitable; and there must be no hesitation here. However, this requires equipping and renewing ecclesiastical structures and procuring appropriately qualified persons to realize these projects, encouraging the youth to carry out their role in this respect. Our Church also needs to engage in producing films and Television programs and to construct websites able to articulate her heritage and divulge her identity, thus making herself known to the world. It has become extremely important to provide formation for priests, seminarians and all those working in the different pastoral and ecclesiastical domains that they may utilize all the various means of modern communication efficiently and practically.






Enculturation is Continuous Renewal in the Holy Spirit


73. As the Holy Spirit was present and active in the Mystery of Incarnation from the beginning (Lk. 1:35), accompanying Jesus in his mission of proclaiming the Kingdom of God and bringing it about (Lk. 3:22, 4:18), similarly, he is also present and accompanying the Church in her historical journey in the midst of the world. As the Virgin Mary gave birth to the eternal Word of God by the action of the Holy Spirit, this same Spirit is “fertilizing” the various cultures to become a domain for the manifestation of the Divine presence and the realization of his plan of salvation. The Maronite Church, in her enculturation journey across many historical stages, always strives to be attentive to what the Spirit says (Rv. 2:7) and to discern the signs of the times (Lk. 12:56). This is what makes the relationship of the Maronite Church with culture more than an external event which specifies her position in the world or of her specifying her position from it. Rather, this relationship becomes a vital sphere to testify to the active presence of the Lord in the heart of history, and His salvific work.








1. Unveiling the Maronite Heritage.

1. The Synod recommends expending effort to unveil the Maronite heritage in its origins, rudiments and its various dimensions, and to preserve it and revive it to be the witness, the guarantor and the protector of our identity.

1. The Episcopal Committee for Heritage and Ecclesiastical Goods is to cooperate with Maronite universities to secure information, enumerate heritage milestones and design a timetable concerning what needs to be saved and what needs to be restored. It is to also strive with those responsible to search for lay individuals, priests, monks and nuns willing to dedicate themselves for this endeavor and specialize in this field.

2. Establish a Maronite Research Center.

2. The Synod recommends giving encouragement to the Maronite Research and Study Center, which has been established at the Patriarchate.


3. Erection of a Maronite Museum.

3. The Synod recommends the erection of a Maronite Museum to amass in it all that could represent or express the Maronite heritage.

3. Appointing a special committee to work with Maronite and non-Maronite universities, with eparchies and monastic orders to procure this heritage. A museum is to be erected within every eparchy and monastic order to contain these heritage items as a prelude to the erection of a central Maronite museum.

4. Encouragement of Ecclesial Publishing Houses and the Erection of a Maronite Central Library.

4. The Synod charges the sons and daughters of the Church with giving encouragement to existing ecclesial publishing houses, and encouraging Maronite authors to publish their studies and research through them.



      The Synod also recommends the erection of a Maronite central library to contain a copy of every Maronite work, or of Maronite publishing houses or of interest concerning Maronites.

4.a: Appointing a special committee to include representative of publishing houses and authors, with duties including participation in covering printing and dissemination expenses for the research work and studies that they consider are valuable and important.


4.b: Erecting the library at the Patriarchal See or anywhere else agreed upon (as an example: The Center for Maronite Studies and Research).

5. Encouraging Religious Tourism.

5. The Synod charges bishops, priests and those working in the Tourism sector to encourage religious tourism to places that have a high density of our ecclesial historical sites, such as the Qannoubeen Valley, Patriarchal centers, the Marian Shrines and those of the saints and others, provided the appropriate spiritual atmosphere prevails.

5. Organize these activities and market them through religious tourism offices, such as the office of the Lebanese Monastic Order and the Maronite League, directed toward the Maronites of the expansion and their friends.

6. Encouraging Athletic and Leisure Activities.

6. Since Maronite Spirituality considers that the way to holiness passes first through the healthy and integrated relationship of man with himself, including his bodily capabilities and his relations with nature, the Synod recommends encouraging Athletics and education and leisure activities linked to nature, because it is at the heart of its Christian mission and its distinctive calling.

6. Establishing clubs and associations for the athletic and leisure activities linked to nature.

7. Reviving and Encouraging Maronite Art.

7. Since art is part of heritage, and since our Church is witnessing a renaissance aimed at reviving Maronite art, whether at the level of music and ecclesial hymns or at the level of plastic art and iconography or at the level of ecclesial architecture, folklore and literature, the Synod recommends striving to specify the criteria of Maronite art, and encouraging further the ongoing renaissance, especially in Maronite universities.


7. Coordination with the Ecclesial Art Committee to encourage Maronite artists, to organize roving exhibits around the world, to exchange experience and to support professional Maronite ecclesial art.


[1]. Second Vatican Council Pastoral Constitution: Gaudium et Spes (On the Church in the Modern World), No53.

[2]. Pope John Paul II: handwritten Foundation Letter of the Pontifical Council for Culture, May 20, 1982, Catholic Documents 79, (1982), 604-606.

[3]. Second Vatican Council Pastoral Constitution: Gaudium et Spes (On the Church in the Modern World), No53. Refer also to: Pope John Paul II’s speech at UNESCO (June 2nd, 1980).

[4]. Pope John Paul II Apostolic Exhortation: A New Hope for Lebanon, No. 8. Also: The Code of Canons of Easter Churches, No 28.

[5]. Pope John Paul II Encyclical: Redemptore Missio (On the Permanent Validity of the Church’s Missionary Mandate), No 52.

6. Ibid.

[7]. Pope John Paul II Apostolic Letter: Orientale Lumen (The Light of the East), No 5.

[8]. Second Vatican Council Decree: Orientalium Ecclesiarum (On the Catholic Churches of the Eastern Rite), No 5; and Pope John Paul II Apostolic Letter: Orientale Lumen (The Light of the East), No 28.

[9]. Second Vatican Council Decree: Orientalium Ecclesiarum (On the Catholic Churches of the Eastern Rite), No 5.

[10]. Pope John Paul II Encyclical: Veritatis Splendor (The Splendor of Truth), No 53.

[11]. The Pontifical Council for Culture: Towards a Pastoral Approach to Culture, No 3.

[12]. Pope John Paul II Apostolic Letter: Orientale Lumen (The Light of the East), No 13.

[13]. Pope John Paul II Apostolic Exhortation: A New Hope for Lebanon, No 15.

[14]. Fr. Youhanna Tabet: Insaan ash-Sh-haymi al-Marounia: Mouzari’ wa Tabeeb (The Man of the Maronite Divine Office: Farmer and Doctor), Institute of Liturgy Press, Liturgy and Humanities, 15 (1992), pp 77-140.

[15]. The Divine Liturgy According to the Rite of the Maronite Syriac Antiochene Church: the prayer of commemorations in the Anaphora, Bkerke, 1992, p.609.

[16]. Like the churches of Shamat and Ma’ad and others in the Byblos area.

[17]. Fr. Youhanna Tabet: Reesh Qurian Marouni Qadeem (Reesh Qurian an Ancient Maronite), (1242 A.D.), Kaslik, 1988.

[18]. Father Samir Khalil S.J: Dawr al-Massihiyeen ath-Thaqafi fi-l-‘Aalam al-‘Arabi (1), (The Cultural Role of Christians in the Arab World), (1), Dar el Mashreq, Beirut, 2003.

[19]. We know that Bishop Daoud the Maronite translated Kitaab Al-Huda (The Book of Guidance) that is presumed to be the work of the holy father upon the request of the blessed brother Youssef ar-Raahib the monk, in 1058-9, from Syriac and into Arabic. The book is in two parts: the first part concerns the obligations of men towards God in order to live a perfect Christian life; the second part contains a set of royal decrees and different laws and the ancient legal traditions.

[20]. Council of the Catholic Patriarchs of the East: The Christian Presence in the East: Testimony and Mission, Bkerke, 1992, No 27.

[21]. Pope John Paul II Apostolic Exhortation: A New Hope for Lebanon, No 41.

[22]. Synod of Bishops, Special Assembly for Lebanon, Christ is our Hope: in His soul we are renewed, and together we testify of his love; Lineamenta Vatican, 1993, No 1.

[23]. Pope John Paul II Apostolic Exhortation: A New Hope for Lebanon, Beirut, 1997, No 1.

[24]. Like the churches of Ghineh, Zahrani, Hiram’s Tomb, Jiyeh, Nabatyeh, Niha, Tyre, Beit Mery, Byblos and others.

[25]. To this Valley is added the ‘Ain ar-Raaha Valley in Tannoureen, the Harba Valley in Batroun, and the Monastery of Saint Maron on the banks of the Orontes River.

[26]. Like the churches of Behdaidaat, Ma’ad, Blat and Shamat in Jbeil and Smar Jbeil in Batroun, and Mar Mema, in Ehden.

[27]. E. Renan, Mission de Phénicie, Imprimerie Impériale, Paris, 1864, p. 221.

[28]. The Monastery of the Cross (the Qannoubeen Valley), the Monastery of Saint Simon Stylites (Saqyet al- Khayt), Our Lady of ad-Dirr (Bsharri), Saint Marina Grotto (al-Qalamoun), the Church of Saint Sharbel (Ma’ad), the Church of Mar Saba (Eddeh-Batroun), the Church of Saint Elias (Blat), the church of Our Lady of Qsouba (Jbeil), the Qannoubeen Church and others.

[29]. For example: Daoud al-Qorm (1852-1930), Habib Srour (1860-1939), Ibrahim aj-Jorr and Philip Mourani (1875-1970), Youssef al-Howayek (1883-1962).

[30]. For example: Kaisar Gemayel (1898-1958), Michel Basbous (1921-1981), and Saliba Doueihy (1912-1994).

[31]. Refer to the Pontifical Council for Culture: Towards a Pastoral Approach to Culture, Vatican, 1999, No. 37.

[32]. Second Vatican Council Pastoral Constitution: Gaudium et Spes, (On the Church in the Modern World), No 55.

[33]. Ibid. Issue No 56, No 6.

[34]. Ibid. Issue No 54.

[35]. The Council of Catholic Patriarchs of the East: Sirr al-Kanisa (Mystery of the Church), 1996, No 4.

[36]. Ibid. No 11.

[37]. Second Vatican Council Pastoral Constitution: Gaudium et Spes, (On the Church in the Modern World), No 61.

[38]. John Paul II Homily: Jubilee of Sports People: The Responsibility of Sportsmen in our World. Sermon at the Mass for the Sportsmen Jubilee, on October 29, 2000, No 2, or, Catholic Documents, No 2237, p. 1011-1012.

[39]. Ibid. No 2, or P. 1011.

[40]. Paul VI Encyclical: Ecclesiam Suam (On the Church), No 70, or, Catholic Documents, p. 1080.

[41]. Ibid.

[42]. Council of the Catholic Patriarchs of the East: The Christian Presence in the East: Testimony and Mission, No 47.

[43]. Ibid.

[44]. Pope John Paul II Apostolic Exhortation: A New Hope for Lebanon, Beirut, 1997, No 93.

[45]. John Paul II, a Tele-diffused message to the patriarchs and bishops gathered in Bkerke, Osservatore Romano, 27/05/1990.

[46]. Pope John Paul II Apostolic Exhortation: A New Hope for Lebanon, Beirut, 1997, No 93.

[47]. The Council of the Catholic Patriarchs of the East: The Christian Presence in the East: Testimony and Message, No 53.

[48]. Pope John Paul II Apostolic Exhortation: A New Hope for Lebanon, Beirut, 1997, No 17.

[49]. The Council of the Catholic Patriarchs of the East: The Christian Presence in the East: Testimony and Message, No 55.

[50]. The Council of the Catholic Patriarchs of the East: The Christian Presence in the East: Testimony and Message, No 55.