Gregorios III: The Melkite Family in Europe under the Spirit’s breath
His Beatitude Gregorios III, Patriarch of Antioch and All the East, of Alexandria and of Jerusalem concluded the first assembly of European Melkites which was held from 1st to 3rd November 2012 in Saint Stephen’s convent at Aubazine in Corrèze (France) owned by the Patriarchate.
If the main theme of the meeting that drew the representatives of the parishes of Paris, Marseilles, Aubazine, Vienna, Brussels, Stockholm, Rome,… without forgetting those who came from Spain or elsewhere was “Being Melkite in Europe: being rooted in Faith and Tradition” the discussions were noteworthy for their continual concern for Melkite Christian identity in the context of secularised societies that leave no room for Christian faith and values. Right from the early meetings the emphasis of each of the presentations made by the parishes was the place held by the Divine Liturgy in parish and community life.
The Divine Liturgy feeds.
The Divine Liturgy teaches.
The Divine Liturgy brings together.
A common point of all Melkite Greek Catholic communities in Europe is territorial dispersal. All priests present - Fr. Charbel Maalouf B.C. (Paris), Fr. Antoine Forget (Marseilles), Fr. Miled Jawich B.S. (Brussels), Fr. Hanna Ghnaim (Vienna), Fr. Ghattas (Stockholm), Fr. Fadi Rahi (representing the parish of Rome), Hieromonk Elisée (Aubazine) - emphasised and repeated that the parish is only rarely the territorial parish of the faithful. It is a personal parish and it is quite common to have parishioners who do not shrink from driving for over an hour to attend the Divine Liturgy.
So the Sunday Divine Liturgy becomes the means of gathering the parishioners who meet after the service over coffee and drinks. Often a picnic snack can bring the faithful together around their pastor.
Gregorios III emphasised the obligation of keeping strictly to the rite and respecting the translations, into English, French and Spanish of the Divine Liturgy, approved by the commission that emerged from the meeting of bishops of the diaspora.
The wide scattering of the faithful was the starting point for one of the main resolutions of the Assembly: drawing up files on parishioners in order to remain in constant contact by mailings, so that, for example, parish leaflets could reach everyone who had not been able to come to the Sunday service.
The second assembly of European Melkites will be held in Paris in 2014 on the theme of “Emigration and Melkite Identity” which follows on naturally from the discussions of the Aubazine assembly. Archimandrite Sharbel Maalouf B.C., priest of Saint Julien-le-Pauvre, was given the responsibility for setting up a committee to follow up on the resolutions of the first assembly and organising that of 2014.