Last week the Maronite Patriarch and Bishops met in Bkirki for the Synod of Bishops. Below is a translation of the Patriarchs opening address and he had a few interesting things to say.
Speech of the Patriarch Cardinal Mar Bashar Boutros-Raya in the opening of the Synod of the Bishops of the Maronite Church – Bkirki Monday 12 June 2017
My brother Bishops,
- In the spiritual retreat where we spent four days of prayer and meditation under the leadership of its leader, Father Danny Younis, the Regional President of the Jesuit Fathers, we were prepared to enter into the work of the Synod of our Holy Church. The agenda for the Synod is full of subjects that require in-depth consultation and resolution. We put them all under the lights of the Holy Spirit, and the intercession of our Mother, the Mother of the Church and the dominion of the Apostles. First of all, this ecclesiastical work in the Synod of Bishops, which is presided over by the Patriarch in our Church, requires us to be responsible, free of conscience, free of self, of special accounts and of favouritism.
- I would like to extend a cordial greeting to our brothers, the Bishops, who have not been able to participate in the work of this Holy Synod, due to their aging and disease. They accompany us with their prayers, and we also carry them in our prayers, wishing them full health and long life.
Our work deals with the liturgy that nourishes the life of our Church, its sons, daughters and institutions, with the Word of God and the Body of Christ. The Liturgy enters into the deep mystery of the Church, enriches and preserves our heritage and our union with the Church of Heaven and provides their children with salvation.
Our work deals with priestly formation in seminaries, theology colleges, and in the years of priesthood. Priestly formation is a multi-dimensional upbringing.
It begins with the human formation which is the foundation of all priestly formation. Tomorrow’s priest needs to be brought up to love truth and integrity and have respect for every human being. He must be just and have compassion for others. His training must require him to be sincere in his words, so that he may be ready to serve quickly, to understand, forgive and to mature emotionally (I give you shepherds, 43, 44).
This is followed by spiritual formation, which is the most important element in the priestly formation, because it deepens the union with God and creates the constant search for Christ. Then there is pastoral formation. Of course, there is a scientific and theological upbringing. It is necessary to implement the ordinance of priestly ordination approved by our Holy Synod.
We all suffer from the lack of our priesthood in human and spiritual development, which leads to a remarkable decline in the scientific and theological standards. It limits the message and quality of our priesthood. There is a need to consult for the appointment of a new president of the Mar Maroun Gazir Patriarchate and the team of originators after the developments that have taken place.
Among the issues of concern presently are the bibliopolical, theological, doctrinal, and moral teachings in education and the media. In particular, those being promoted without the permission of the ecclesiastical authority. This has led to a questioning from the faithful. Many complaints have come to us. After consultation on this subject at our meetings, we set up a committee that prepared a “pastoral, theological guidance project for correcting education in our church”. Together, we will look at what is most important.
The affairs of the dioceses are then in the patriarchal domain, in the countries of expansion, and in the affairs of Africa and Colombia. We are faced with two needs and we must co-operate together to meet them. These are the need for priests and financial support for poor parishes.
Another difficult issue facing us is the exercise of justice in our courts, which are annulling marriage for psychological reasons in case of any dispute between spouses. Through the establishment of preparatory centres for marriage, the program of the Episcopal Committee for Family and Life is to be implemented. Participation in the entire program will be compulsory. Marriage and family are in our pastoral responsibility. It is not enough to preside over marriage; we must also protect marital and family life. We must accompany and solve problems and avoid the marital break downs.
Particular attention must be given to the welfare of the young people, which is the hope of the Church. We must promote the spirituality of the priests and coordinate between the ecclesiastical authorities and the monastic orders with the Maronites of the expansion.
Together we must face the concern for the future. Lebanon, which is floundering in political, economic, social and security crises, is burdened with two million displaced and refugees. Their numbers are increasing by tens of thousands each year, and are these people are competing with the Lebanese for a living. In Syria, which is the victim of imposed wars, we have three parishes that suffer the consequences of war, destruction, displacement and deprivation of life’s necessities. In Iraq, where its people have fallen victim to terrorism, violence and bombing, the number of Christians is diminishing and their effectiveness in their communities is weakening. We cannot lose sight of the delicate situation in the Gulf countries, the tragedy of the Palestinian cause, the disturbances in the Holy Land and the tragedies of our Coptic brothers in Egypt. But we do not neglect in our prayers any country suffering from wars and conflicts. In all this, we are called upon to express our spiritual and moral closeness to all, to do what we can to carry and defend their cause, and to claim their rights to a safe and dignified life in their homelands.
By relying on the light of the Holy Spirit, the intercession of our Mother, the Virgin Mary, we begin the work of the Holy Synod, hoping that its results will be for the glory of God, the good of our Church and the sanctification of our souls.
(Note this is an unofficial translation of the text from Arabic. The original Arabic text can be found at the Patriarchs website at http://www.bkerki.org)
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