Maronite Synod 2004
(N.B. These texts ARE the final draft)
Text1 The Church of Hope
1. Synodal work, that is, working together, exchanging opinions, and arriving at encompassing thought and common decisions that can be adhered to by all, has been the core of the Church’s life ever since its inception. This affirms the statement that: “The Church does not operate except through Synods.”
Thus, the present Patriarchal Synod became another one of the turning points in the history of our Church and her life, a history in which many Synods have been convoked—the most famous of which was the Synod of 1736. Before familiarizing yourself with the texts being presented to you in this book, dear reader, we must review the stages over which the works of this Synod have traversed so that you may enter into the core of the synodal thinking and outcome, and, in turn, contribute to its success.
First: The Method of Drafting the Texts and the Stages of the Texts’ Production
2. The subjects of the Synod were specified after a wide range of consultations took place in 1985. These consultations involved participation by the faithful from all groups and standings. The consultations were approved by the Synod of Bishops who charged a committee of some of its members to establish a Secretariat General and to amass around that entity an expanded committee that would accompany its activities. The Secretariat General commissioned subcommittees, one for each subject, which would be charged with preparing the texts in their preliminary form. The texts were then to be submitted to the Synod of Bishops to approve their passage from the preliminary phase to the preparatory phase.
The activities of these committees were halted at the onset of the 1990s with the declaration by Pope John Paul II that he intended to launch a special assembly of the Synod of Bishops to study the situation in
3. In 1997, after the promulgation of the Apostolic Exhortation, A New Hope for Lebanon, the Synodal workshop resumed anew and subcommittees revised the texts which were sent to the eparchies and to the superior generals for their comments. In the light of those incoming comments, the central committee would reread the texts one by one, inject the necessary changes, and then would return them to the designated subcommittees that were composed of experts who would redraft the texts. This endeavor took several years until the texts were ready for the first Synodal round which took place in June of 2003 at the monastery of Our Lady of the Mountain–Fatqa.
Participating in that session presided over by His Beatitude Mar Nasrallah Boutros Sfeir, aside from the bishops, the superior generals, and the mother superiors, were also a number of delegates from the eparchies, universities, and seminaries as well as the experts who had drafted the texts. In attendance were also the delegates from other Churches and from Muslim sects. In all, the participants approached some three-hundred persons which included delegates from the media.
All of the texts were debated and many comments were voiced. Some of the texts even had to be reconsidered in their entirety.
4. The experts made use of the comments and revised the texts. The central committee reread them once again and made the required changes. The texts were made ready for the second synodal round that took place in October of 2004. In this round, each text was individually read within the hearing of all of the Synod members who then voted on them. However, new comments on the texts had been received and these had to be studied in order to approve them wherever necessary.
In September 2005, the third round of the Synod was convened in the restricted presence of bishops, superior generals, mother superiors, and the experts. In this round the bishops voted on the texts and on the suggestions and the resolutions so that they could be given an official ecclesiastical character. Also, during this phase, there was no alternative but to review three of the texts that the Fathers of the Synod had not approved and for which they had asked for amendments. This is what happened. The revisions were carried out and they were then voted on by correspondence.
After this long travail, the texts, the recommendations, and the resolutions are now in your hands, following the approval of His Beatitude the Patriarch and the Synod of Bishops. Therefore, this major effort on the part of hundreds of clerics, monks, nuns, and lay persons is not to be slighted; rather it must be commended, even if it is not totally complete, and thanks must be extended to all who helped to bring this synodal endeavor to this stage.
Second: What is New Concerning the Synod, and How to Deal with the Texts
5. It is noteworthy that this is the first time a Synod has not been satisfied to only present texts; rather this Synod has attached to the texts both the resolutions and the recommendations, and has given the mechanisms to implement these with the follow-up committee so they do not remain mere ink on paper. This has all been done so that the faithful may feel that the texts, the design of the Maronite intellect, are accompanied by works and projects, bringing intellect and work together.
However, the question is being posed: “How do we interact with the synodal texts that are in our hands?”
There are two levels of dealing with the texts:
· There is the level by which the texts are to be embraced, disseminated, and capitalized on so as to forge an integrated Maronite intellect. On this level, it is imperative to read the texts, to delve deeply into their substance on an individual basis, and to present and discuss them at retreats, seminars, and at the gatherings of apostolic and social organizations and movements. Then Maronite culture would spread, aiming at divulging our history and our heritage and working to revive that heritage not for the sake of isolation but rather to discover its richness and its complementarities with other heritages. In this manner, we may form an ecclesial, all-encompassing, authentic and renewed idea that will impel us to a stronger faith and ecclesiastical commitment.
· There is also the level of the implementation of the texts’ recommendations and resolutions. This level requires mobilizing all of the capabilities at the level of the eparchies, the religious orders, and the various organizations so that they may all join in a comprehensive ecclesial project that will start small and then will gradually spread throughout the Church and among individuals, families, and congregations.
This work requires bold and innovative initiatives that are deeply rooted in the Gospel and in the heritage. This work must be embodied in actual reality so that the synodal march may continue and so that all Church members may become more attentive to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit while they are in prayer and in preparation—just as the apostles were around the Virgin and praying in the Upper Room, awaiting the descent of the Holy Spirit upon them at Pentecost.
Third: Is the Synod Work Over?
6. The concluding synodal Mass of June 11, 2006 is not an indication that the synodal workshop is over. Yes, one phase is over, but another phase has just begun. In the first phase the activities were restricted to a limited number of experts and members not exceeding several hundreds. However, in the present phase the invitation is extended to all the faithful to join in this synodal workshop: a workshop of return to the roots, of renewal, and outlook of steadfast hope towards the future, emanating from a present that is filled with Christ in his journey with us and with the support of his Holy Spirit. The workshop may assume various forms: such as synods held at the level of eparchies and religious orders, and as conventions or synods held at the national level of organizations, or other initiatives . . .
7. Indeed our Church laws motivate us to mobilize for this workshop. Canon Law specifies that patriarchal synods are to be convoked every five years in order to examine current situations and to lay out pastoral plans for coping with those situations. Also, the Catholic Church that has celebrated the fortieth anniversary of the promulgation of the documents of Vatican II which concluded its sessions in 1965 reminded us then and still does today that those Council documents have not grown old; rather they remain a good reference that must be resorted to and made use of. Pope Benedict XVI in his discourse on the proper interpretation of Vatican II says: “…Thus, today we can look with gratitude at Vatican II: if we interpret and implement it guided by a right hermeneutic, it can be and can become increasingly powerful for the ever necessary renewal of the Church” (Addressed to the Roman Curia on the 22nd of December, 2005).
It is certain that there is no comparison between the texts of Vatican II that were ratified by the Pope and that were addressed to the universal Church, and the texts of our Synod which have dealt with affairs specific to our
8. We must point out two important facts as we read our Synod’s texts:
· The first fact is that some texts have a predominantly Lebanese character in view of the close relationship that sprang up between the Maronites and the Lebanese entity—an entity to which Maronites contributed in terms of anchoring Lebanon on the principles of freedom and of Christian/Muslim coexistence. This close relationship still stands by way of the national integration role that the Maronite patriarchate has assumed. However, this Lebanese character does not negate the encompassing of the texts in their fundamental principles. Therefore, a person can be enlightened by the texts and apply them while taking into consideration the conditions of each of the Maronite Countries of Expansion.
· The second fact is that the Maronite expansion has given the Synod and the
9. There is need for one last comment: the texts could not find a solution for each problem that was presented. Therefore, there is a continuous pondering upon the problems in order to find solutions that are compatible with evangelical and ecclesiastical principles. This requires working together for the good of the whole body.
We hope that these texts receive the attention that they deserve at all levels. The Secretariat General remains ready to provide whatever service it can, to exchange experiences and to continue research on the topics that need comprehensive tackling.
May 10, 2006
+ Youssef Bechara
Archbishop of Antelias
The Maronite Patriarchate of
We thank God that this Maronite Synod has attained its conclusion. Its three files have been promulgated in print and are now in the hands of the faithful. These texts will contribute to anchoring them in their faith in God and His Holy Church. This is the Maronites’ faith in the Lord Jesus, the Son of God, who was made flesh and dwelt among people and rose to heaven to abide forever at the right hand of his heavenly Father.
These three files encompass twenty-three texts that scrutinize all of the affairs of the
Thoughts of convoking this Synod began surfacing shortly after Vatican II. Some files were then prepared although they fell short of all that was required. Then, the thirty years of the ominous war came to thwart efforts to continue preparing for this Synod. However, the idea remained alive and active. After much prayer and reflection on resuming the effort to convoke this Synod, God granted us success by appointing those responsible for supervising the progress of work. Foremost among these persons was our brother His Excellency Youssef Bechara, Archbishop of Antelias. He laid out the general plan after having conferred on the matter with us and their Excellencies the bishops. Duties were allotted to various intellectuals and writers, clerics and laity, both in
These texts will be translated into French and into English so that they may be in the hands of all Maronites and also in the hands of those others who are interested in religious and ecclesiastical affairs both in
However, the Synod did not end with the modification of the texts and their promulgation. Of note, these texts were never meant to be dead writings; rather they must be living and active and they cannot be as alive and active as the Church wants them to be unless the faithful study them, are satiated in their spirit by them, and apply them to their daily lives so that it will be ever possible to declare: “Today, the Synod has begun.”
We hereby renew our thanks to those who contributed to the composition of the texts or to their revision, including the bishops, priests, monks, nuns, and the laity. More specifically thanks is given to His Excellency Youssef Bechara, Archbishop of Antelias, Secretary General of this Synod, Reverend Father Richard Abi-Saleh, Secretary General of the Conference of Catholic Patriarchs and Bishops, who succeeded at the Secretariat of this Conference, Very Reverend Father Khalil Alwan, Superior General of the Congregation of Maronite Lebanese Missionaries. We also cannot forget to thank the many faithful who contributed generously to the funding for this Synod, a generosity without which it would not have been possible for this Synod to see the light with such rapidity.
In the hope that this Synod will bear the desired fruits in the souls of the faithful, being renewed through the breath of the Holy Spirit, we ask God, the Father, to send Him to us and the face of the earth shall be renewed.
As we thank God with all of you for his munificence for the grace of this Synod which we hope will contribute to the gathering of ranks and hearts in the fear of God and put into practice his command: “Love one another as I have loved you” (John 13:34), we bestow on you, from the depths of the heart, the Apostolic Blessing.
Issued from our Patriarchal See in Bkerke, on the tenth of May, 2006.
Cardinal Nasrallah Boutros Sfeir