Maronite Synod views 'tragedy of emigration' as a 'blessing'
By Rita Boustani
Daily Star staff
Wednesday, October 20, 2004
BEIRUT: The Maronite Patriarchal Synod endorsed a text on Maronites in the Diaspora, asserting that the "tragedy of emigration" will turn into a "blessing" for the Maronite church and community because of the outreach missions and the successes of Maronites abroad.
The second session of the Synod opened on Sunday at Our Lady of the Mount Monastery in Fatqa, Kesrouan, and will conclude on Oct. 27. The first session of the Synod was held in June.
Participants in the Synod include Maronite bishops, priests, monks, fathers superior, mothers superior, lay people, observers from Catholic and non-Catholic churches and Islamic confessions.
Participants have placed the text, which received 78.59 percent of votes, into the file of the Maronite identity as "an essential part of the Maronite Church's presence and message." Voting is computerized and is made
through a machine placed in front of every bishop and diocese representative.
The three-part text praised the success of the Maronites of the diaspora in preserving their identity and establishing missions and parishes wherever they went. It also lauded them for "becoming prominent citizens" in their countries of expatriation, mainly America, Australia, Europe, Arab countries and South Africa.
The text revealed that there are eight Maronite dioceses in the remote disapora, five dioceses in the close diaspora, in addition to 13 dioceses in Lebanon.
It also said that Maronite prayers have been translated into several spoken languages.
The third part of the text focused on interaction between Maronites living in Lebanon and those in the diaspora in order to develop their relations.
"Such unity would be based on their link to the patriarchal seat, the symbol and source of inspiration of that unity," it said.
Participants called for establishing a department at Bkirki to foster the relationship between the Maronites of the diaspora and their mother church, on the spiritual, national, educational and church issues.
After the voting on the text, Sfeir addressed a telegram of congratulations to Pope John Paul II in the name of the Synod on the occasion of the 26th anniversary of his election as pope.
On Monday, the Synod stressed the role of the Maronite church in "inventing a model of free Islamic-Christian coexistence," that is the "Lebanese model," and the attachment of the Maronite church
to the "promotion of its Christian presence in the Arab world, through its solidarity with major human causes."
It called for "purifying" the memory of Islamic-Christian ties from "bad souvenirs."
It stressed the need to form a "global village" and establish dialogue among religions.
Clause 77, related to mixed marriages, did not receive the required majority of votes although the Synod asserted that such marriages could constitute a meeting point between both religions if the couple prioritized openness and overcame complications with wisdom.
The Synod's aim is to discover the Maronite heritage and traditions to consolidate the Maronite identity, perform the required renewal in ecclesiastic life and confirm the unity of the Maronite church.
Cardinal urges Lebanese to pray rosary amid political controversy
BEIRUT, Lebanon (CNS) -- Amid escalating political controversy, Lebanese Cardinal Nasrallah P. Sfeir urged Catholics to pray the rosary and "take refuge" in the Blessed Mother during October, the month
of the rosary. Cardinal Sfeir, patriarch of the Maronite Catholic Church, called the rosary "an anchor of hope in the middle of an agitated ocean." Cardinal Sfeir's remarks were made in October amid political
tensions spurred by the Syrian-backed extension of Lebanese President Emile Lahoud's term. The term was extended in defiance of a Sept. 2. U.N. Security Council resolution calling for elections for a new
Lebanese president and for Syria to withdraw its troops from Lebanon. The extension was maneuvered through a constitutional amendment that Lebanon's Maronite bishops repeatedly have said was
"inconsistently imposed from beyond the borders. ... Ministers and deputies were forced to adopt positions they did not want." Syria's presence in Lebanon dates back to 1976. When the Taif Accord
was signed in 1989, ending Lebanon's civil war, it stipulated that Syrian troops leave within two years.
Maronite synod endorses text on youth issues
By Elie Hourani
Daily Star staff
Friday, October 22, 2004
BEIRUT: The Maronite Synod, which opened Sunday at Our Lady of the Mount Monastery in the Kesrouan town of Fatqa, was marked Thursday by the endorsement of a challenging text regarding Maronite youth.
The text, according to the synod's media committee, "affects a significant cross-section of the younger Maronite generation and addresses some of their troubling concerns, including faith in today's world, belonging
to a church and dealing with some challenges and problems that young Maronites face," including sexual permissiveness and other "aberrations."
The text also deals with the "Lebanese civil war's negative impact on the younger generation, and specifically the Maronite Church, which stood up to the challenges, thanks to Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Butros Sfeir."
The text also discusses the "relations between the younger generation and politics."
It cites the "acute disappointment of young Maronites, who have to live under a nondemocratic regime that "does not consult them in matters affecting them and their future."
The text expressed the "pain felt by young Maronites, who live in a country whose sovereignty and national pride are still violated while its decision-making process is still confiscated (by Syria)."
The text slammed the "irregularities marking the implementation of the military service law," and called for "amending the law so some young people do not have to spend five years of their lives outside the country to escape the service."
The text said that spending so much time abroad often led to permanent emigration.
Participants in the synod endorsed another text dealing with the family. It was carried with a 77.35 percent majority of votes.
Another text, entitled "Relations Between Laymen and the Maronite Church," was carried with a 91.25 percent majority.
A text dealing with possible confrontation between young people and the Maronite Church was put forward for discussion.
Participants said there was "no such confrontation." They stressed that "the country's economic and political problems left their mark on Lebanese young people." This text was carried with an 84.9 percent majority.
The Maronite bishop of Cyprus, Butros Gemayel, who was taking part in the synod, dealt with the topic of the Maronite Liturgy. He spoke about the change in the liturgy since the 16th century.
In a related development, Sfeir took some time off from the synod to inaugurate an exhibition of Maronite icons dating back to the Byzantine era.
Patriarchal Synod puts focus on education, society
By Elie Hourani
Daily Star staff
Saturday, October 23, 2004
BEIRUT: Participants in the sixth day of the Patriarchal Synod discussed issues ranging from technology to the Maronite diaspora to school tuition fees on Friday.
The participants, who met at Our Lady of the Mount monastery in the Kesrouan town of Fatqa, discussed "important texts on education, universities, political, economic and social factors affecting the Maronite church."
The 15th text put forward to the participants explained that "belonging to the Maronite Church entails believing in its Antiochian, Chalcedonian, Assyrian and Lebanese roots as well as the church's partnership with Rome."
Participants in the conference discussed the "changes that have marked the world in which the Maronite church lives."
They concluded that the church had no alternative but to "preserve its unity in Lebanon and specifically abroad" due to the large size of the Lebanese Maronite community living in the four corners of the globe.
They also concluded that the Maronite church had transformed "from a Lebanese church to a world one."
This text was endorsed almost unanimously by participants.
Another text, dealing with the Maronite Church liturgy was similarly endorsed.
A third text, dealing with Christian education, specifically adults, was tackled by vicar Antoine Awkar and sister Jamila Risha.
They agreed education implied more than just giving lessons in theology and morality.
This part of the synod indicated that Christian education took place in various places, including the family, the parish, schools, theological institutions, monasteries and even in prisons.
This part concluded that such an education was not only the responsibility of the Maronite Church in Lebanon and that society had a part to play there as well.
This text was unanimously endorsed by participants.
Another text dealt with the role of the Maronite Church in the public and technical education sectors.
Participants also agreed that the Maronite Church had a civic and civil mission.
The last text called for turning Christian schools into institutions supported by families.
Participants agreed schools should be open to all. Therefore, no student should have to leave any Maronite school because his parents could no longer afford the tuition fees.
Maronite Synod debates meaning of culture
By Elie Hourani
Tuesday, October 26, 2004
BEIRUT: The Maronite Patriarchal Synod has dealt, for its eighth consecutive day, with issues relating not only to Maronites, but to all Lebanese and even non-Lebanese.
A statement issued from the Synod's secretariat said participants debated the church's definition of culture and how to reconcile between openness and specificity. Participants also had a chance to read the first draft of the Synod's final recommendations.
Moreover, the Synod's secretary, Bishop Youssef Beshara, is to hold a news conference Tuesday, during which he is to comment on the progress of the Synod as well as the recommendations so far adopted.
Meanwhile, Farid Khazen, a member of the opposition Qornet Shehwan Gathering, presented a text about relations between the Maronite Church and Lebanese politics, highlighting the past and the modern history of such relations.
He also dealt with "the way the Maronite community has been a political target since the end of the civil war."
He gave two examples of this targeting of the Maronites: through a decree which allowed a large number of non-Lebanese to acquire Lebanese citizenship, and through distorting the image of Lebanese Christians around the world.
Khazen also spoke of important issues affecting everyday Lebanese life, including peaceful coexistence between Christians and Muslims, Lebanese-Syrian relations, relations between Lebanon and the Arab world, relations between Lebanon and the West, and the political importance of the widespread Maronite presence abroad.
Khazen stressed that, after the civil war, the political role of Lebanese Christians in general and Lebanese Maronites in particular has weakened.
Khazen pointed out that the most important issue affecting Maronites was the fact that, since the civil war, they no longer have the same power to bring politicians to account.
Maronite Synod stresses everyone's right to freedom
Christian-Islamic coexistence vital
By Karine Raad
Wednesday, October 27, 2004
Beirut: The Maronite Patriarchal Synod members stressed the importance of promoting Christian-Islamic coexistence to recover Lebanon's freedom, sovereignty and independence on Tuesday.
According to a statement issued Tuesday, the synod plans to play a role in the surrounding Arab region, promoting human rights values like freedom.
"The message of the church can only start after its members renew their vows to respect the bible's values and the church's instructions," said Maronite Archbishop Youssef Beshara in the synod's ninth day.
The synod issued a text on Tuesday, which endorses a social policy "respecting equal human rights and duties, investing in human resources and using available manpower."
According to a statement released Tuesday by the synod's information committee, the Maronite Church adopted this social policy, in the belief that "a fair society is based on the existence and participation of individuals in society."
The members issued the text - the Synod's 20th focusing on the church and its social affairs - after it received 89.69 percent of the members' votes.
The Maronite Church called on clergymen and secularists to consolidate Christian virtues and practice human ethics humbly and objectively. The text asserted that the church will strive to turn its institutions into a role model that preaches Christian and biblical values.
In a bid to activate the church's role in social affairs, the text suggested the creation of an institution for social support whose centers would spread across the country. Agricultural, health and counseling centers should also be created, as well as a research and documentation center for a comprehensive identification of the church's abilities and for accurate statistics.
The Synod also issued a 21st text entitled "The Maronite Church and Economic Issues," which explained the church's position on the economy's correlation to justice, equality and solidarity. According to the text, the church deems "it important for the economic burden to be reduced on citizens with a limited income."
A 22nd text was issued entitled "The Maronite Church and the Media."
In a news conference following the synod, Beshara said that the church was "not afraid to say the truth and criticize itself in a bid to start anew. Consequently, it decided that its texts should be based on lessons taught from former experiences."
The synod is expected to conclude on Wednesday during a mass that will be presided over by Maronite Patriarch Cardinal Nasrallah Butros Sfeir at 6pm in the Saydet al-Jabal Church in Fatqa.
Maronite Synod final statement: No compromise on freedom
By Rita Boustani
Daily Star staff
Thursday, October 28, 2004
FATQA: The Maronite Synod strongly asserted Wednesday that no compromises would be made over freedom, justice and rightful demands and hoped Lebanon would be an example of reconciliation and unity to the whole world.
"There will be no backing down on rightful demands and no compromise on justice, freedom or people's dignity," the Synod said in its final statement issued 10 days after discussions began at the Lady of the Mount Monastery in Fatqa.
The statement, which deno-unced Lebanon's lack of full sovereignty, said "Lebanon does not have full control over its destiny," and warned that the country was still "subject to shocks that are almost killing its independence and freedom of decision."
Maronite Patriarch Cardinal Nasrallah Butros Sfeir, head of the Maronite Church, is known for calling for the recovery of Lebanon's independence and sovereignty, and for rectifying Lebanese-Syrian relations.
The statement denounced that "not all the displaced have returned to their homes and lands, the economy is no longer productive ... its society is burdened with debts, its families are in danger of being dismantled ... on all levels, the ownership of its land is not protected and lands are sold to those who can afford it due to the increasing number of poor people."
The statement strongly urged Lebanese youth to stay in the country and preserve it, saying that "their remaining in that land was a guarantee for Lebanon to remain free."
It asserted the church was struggling with them "to solve their problems of housing and unemployment, and support them in reforming the country and purifying it from corruption, hatred and the prevalence of personal interests."
During past years the Maronite Church built low-cost housing for young poor people aspiring to start a family. The church urged private schools to establish funds that would enable them to educate one in four needy children free of charge, and called on private universities to establish funds that would grant loans and scholarships to worthy students.
The final statement urged Catholics and Orthodox to look for their common Antiochian heritage and live according to it.
It also said that the meeting between Maronites living abroad and those residing here was "the start of a new era of unity among the followers of this church."