CWN - In a surprise move, Pope Francis has accepted the early resignation of a prominent Melkite Catholic archbishop in Israel.

The Vatican announced on January 27 that the Pontiff had accepted the resignation of Archbishop Elias Chacour of Akka, in northern Israel. The archbishop, a noted advocate of non-violence and reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians, has twice been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. A native Palestinian himself, he was also the first Israeli citizen to be appointed a Catholic bishop.

The announcement of Archbishop Chacour’s resignation was surprising because it came several months before his 75th birthday. The Vatican offered no explanation for the unusual move.

Archbishop Moussa El Hage, who heads the Maronite Archeparchy of Haifa—located in the same region of northern Israel—was named by the Pontiff to serve as apostolic administrator of the Melkite archdiocese until a replacement for Archbishop Chacour is named.

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Joachim and Anna Rejoice

Today the bonds of childlessness are loosed, * for God has heard Joachim and Anna * and He promises manifestly that they, against all hope, would give birth to the Maiden of God * from whom the Uncircumscribed One Himself would be born, becoming man, * and he commanded the Angels to cry out to her: * “Rejoice, O Full of Grace, the Lord is with you!” (Troparion - Tone 4)

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and to the ages of ages. Amen.

Today the whole world celebrates * the conception of Anne which was brought about by God, * for she gave birth to the one who, beyond understanding, * gave birth to the Word. (Kontakion - Tone 4)

Saint Nicholas of Myra

The truth of your deeds has revealed you to your flock, * as a rule of faith, an image of meekness, and a teacher of abstinence. * Therefore, you attained the heights through humility, * and riches through poverty. * O Father and Hierarch Nicholas, * pray to Christ God that our souls may be saved. (Troparion, Tone 4)

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and to the ages of ages. Amen.

In Myra, You were shown to be a servant of the sacred things, O Holy Nicholas, * for, fulfilling the Gospel of Christ, you, O Venerable, laid down your life for your people, * and saved the innocent from death. * Therefore, you were sanctified as a great initiate of the grace of God. (Kontakion, Tone 3)