Ain Traz 22 June 2013
On the morning of Monday 17 of June 2013 Patriarch Gregorios III Laham, Patriarch of Antioch and All the East, of Alexandria and Jerusalem, opened the work of the Holy Synod of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church, in the Patriarchal Summer Residence of Ain Traz with a prayer to the Holy Spirit, in the presence of members of the Holy Synod:
H. E. Archbishop Boulos Borkhosh, Metropolitan Emeritus of Bosra, the Hauran and Jabal al-Arab
H.E. Archbishop Andrew Haddad, Archbishop Emeritus of Fourzol, Zahleh and All Beqaa
H.E. Archbishop John Adel Elia, Bishop Emeritus of Newton (United States of America)
H.E. Archbishop Ibrahim Nehmeh, Metropolitan Emeritus of Homs, Hama and Yabrud
H.E. Archbishop Yohanna (John) Haddad, Metropolitan Emeritus of Tyre
H.E. Archbishop Cyril Salim Bustros, Metropolitan of Beirut and Byblos (Jbeil)
H.E. Bishop Nicholas Samra, Bishop of Newton (USA)
H.E. Archbishop Boutros Mouallem, Archbishop Emeritus of Acre, Haifa, Nazareth and All Galilee
Bishop George el-Murr, Archbishop Emeritus of Petra, Philadelphia and All Trans-Jordan
Bishop Emeritus John Jeanbert, Metropolitan of Aleppo, Seleucia and Cyrus
H.E. Archbishop Fares Macaroun, Archbishop-Bishop of São Paulo (Brazil)
H.E. Archbishop George Kahhalé Zouhairaty, Apostolic Exarch of Venezuela, titular Bishop of Abila, Lysania
H.E. Archbishop Issam John Darwish, Archbishop Fourzol, Zahleh and All Beqaa
H.E. Archbishop Nicholas Sawaf, Archbishop of Lattakia and Tartous
H.E. Archbishop Joseph Absi Patriarchal Vicar in Damascus, titular Archbishop of Tarsus
H.E. Archbishop Joseph Jules Zerey, Patriarchal Vicar in Jerusalem
H.E. Archbishop George Haddad, Archbishop of Banias and Marjayoun (Caesarea Phillipi)
H.E. Bishop Ibrahim Ibrahim, Bishop of Canada
H.E. Archbishop Elias Rahal, Archbishop of Baalbek
H.E. Archbishop George Bacouni, Metropolitan of Tyre
H.E. Archbishop Elias Chacour Archbishop of Acre, Haifa, Nazareth and all Galilee
H.E. Archbishop George Bakar, Patriarchal Vicar in Egypt and Sudan, titular Archbishop of Pelusium
H.E. Archbishop Michael Abrass, Patriarchal Assistant in Lebanon, Titular Archbishop of Myra
H.E. Bishop John Abdo Arbash, Apostolic Exarch in Argentina and Metropolitan of Homs, Hama and Yabrud
H.E. Archbishop Elie Beshara Haddad, Archbishop of Sidon and Deir al-Qamar, General Secretary of the Synod
H.E. Archbishop Yasser Ayyash, Archbishop of Petra and Philadelphia and All Jordan
H.E. Bishop Robert Rabbat, Eparch of St. Michael's, Sydney (Australia and New Zealand)
Rev. Archimandrite John Faraj, Superior of the Salvatorian Basilian Order
Rev. Archimandrite Samaan Abdul Ahad, Superior of the Soarite Basilian Order
Rev. Father General Elias Aghia, head of the Society of Paulist Fathers
His Beatitude began his speech by citing St. Paul's Letter to the Ephesians (1: 3-12), and echoing the Apostle's words of consolation to those in distress, and then moved to the tragic circumstances experienced by the Middle East in general and Syria in particular. He appealed to all countries, asking them not to supply weapons to Syria, and but rather support the Second Geneva Conference.
He alluded to three lights: - the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation For the Middle East, the Declaration of 2012-2013 as the Year of Faith and the 2012 Synod on the New Evangelization. He hoped that these lights would illuminate the work of the Synod.
His Beatitude continued to speak, setting out the topics, relating to the management and regulation of the Synod, the training of priests, and election of candidates to the episcopate. He highlighted the need for better organisation of care for Syrians displaced to other Middle Eastern countries.
Following a spiritual retreat held by the Fathers, Father Jonah Obaid preached a sermon about the characteristics of the bishop after the type of Prophet Moses, the most important being God's calling and election to the ministry and good leadership of God's people, enabling him to rise above earthly things and worldly pleasures. Several Fathers then spoke about the theme of this shared retreat in a brotherly atmosphere of spiritual togetherness.
The meeting then began to follow up the work of the Synod, which continued until the morning of Saturday 22/06/2013.
At its conclusion the Fathers issued the following statement:-
1. The Fathers have not lost sight of the worrying spectre of the security situation prevalent in Syria, Lebanon and the whole region, and are especially pained by the violence that sows death and destruction here and there, causing damage to some of our eparchies. So they call on all parties, especially in Syria, to renounce violence and recourse to weapons, and put reconciliation and unselfish national interests above every personal or collective interest, urging the major countries involved in the Syrian crisis to stop the supply of arms and agree on a peaceful solution, allowing the restoration of peace, security and prosperity.
2. The Fathers reported on the situation of their parishes, especially parishes in Syria, which are seriously damaged as a result of the level of bloody events that have been taking place in the country for more than two years now. And they resolved to lend a helping hand to help them cope with the different aspects of the crisis, and committed themselves to setting up for this purpose, "a solidarity committee to develop an action plan and contact sources of assistance." The Fathers appealed to the international community and all competent individuals and institutions to lend a helping hand to displaced persons, who have attained the numbers of millions, many of whom are living in conditions lacking minimal limits of human dignity on more than one level.
3. And in the face of the tragedy, the Fathers call on their children everywhere to pray for an end to this tragedy and crisis, in the certainty that prayer today is virtually the only weapon targeted at salvation. They also ask them to pray for those who have died, and for the return of abductees, especially Archbishop Gregorios Yohanna Ibrahim, Metropolitan Boulos Yazigi, and monks Michael and Isaac, urging their liberation and that of other abductees.
4. We add our voice to the voice of the Pope in his speech on 20 June at the 86th Plenary Assembly of the Reunion of Organisations for Aid to the Oriental Churches (ROACO): "I would like to once again, from the bottom of my heart, appeal to the leaders of nations and international organisations, to believers of every religion, and to all men and women of good will to put an end to all the pain, all the violence, and all religious, cultural, and social discrimination. May the conflict that sows death leave space for the encounter and the reconciliation that bring life. To all those who are suffering I strongly say: 'Never lose hope! The Church is with you, accompanies you, and supports you!' I ask you to do everything possible to alleviate the serious needs of the affected populations, especially in Syria, the people of beloved Syria, and the ever more numerous refugees and displaced persons. St. Ignatius of Antioch addresses the Christians in Rome, saying: "Remember in prayer at the Church of Syria... I repeat to you: remember in your prayers the Church of Syria ... Jesus Christ will watch over it and your charity. I entrust the countless victims to the Lord of Life and implore the Most Holy Mother of God to console all of those in the 'time of great distress'. It is true; what's happening in Syria is a great distress!"
5. In this regard however, the Fathers wished to state their personal, deep thanks to their brother bishops and their children in the expansion for their assistance, donated to their fellow bishops of our stricken eparchies in Syria, and to their children, displaced people, beseeching Christ the Giver of all, to recompense them many times over for their gifts.
6. As far as Lebanon is concerned nowadays, the Fathers expressed their fear for democracy in this country, which has long exemplified the big advantage of democracy, especially in the Arab world. They called for the promulgation of a modern electoral law to establish equality among all citizens, taking into account the rights of everyone, and for speeding up the formation of the government in order to avoid a vacuum.
7. The Fathers then studied amendments made by the Legal Committee to some items of particular law relating to the conduct of the Holy Synod and the ecclesial law courts, and made comments on these amendments, and then endorsed them.
8. The Fathers also studied the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation on the Middle East, "Communion and Witness," and how to offer this guidance so that people in their eparchies and parishes can apply and live by the spirit expressed in it. They made the following recommendations on the subject:
i. To ensure distribution of the guidance to eparchies and parishes for detailed study.
ii. To hold a conference about the guidance involving bishops, priests, monks, nuns and lay-people.
iii. To encourage joint activities with fellow-citizens to consolidate bonds of love and co-operation, based on the principle of citizenship.
iv. To call to repentance, reformation and irreproachable witness at the level of individuals and institutions as a way to convince others honestly of evangelical values.
9. The Fathers also heard a report on the Major Seminary of St. Anna from its Rector Archimandrite Naim Gharbi. The Fathers discussed it and expressed their observations on it and issued a recommendation for the introduction of the topic of "pastoral leadership" to be taught in seminaries.
10. The Fathers elected a list of three candidates for the Eparchy of Argentina so that the Pope can appoint one of the candidates as bishop.
11. The Fathers also elected Archbishop Elie Haddad President of the Patriarchal Appellate Tribunal, Archbishop George Haddad Chief judicial vicar and Archbishops Joseph Absi and George Bacouni Assistant judicial vicars in the Synodal Court, Archbishop Michael Abrass, promoter of justice and Archbishop Elie Haddad, a defender of the bond in the same Synodal Court.
12. Finally, the Fathers expressed the firm hope that God willing, the black cloud will dissipate to reveal a new earth and a new heaven, and God will wipe every tear from our eyes because Jesus promised and his promise does not fail, that he will be with us to the end of the age.