Word Magazine January 1996 Page 4 -6
BY ARCHPRIEST JOSEPH ANTYPAS
On Thursday, October 12, 1995, His Eminence Metropolitan PHILIP (Saliba), Primate of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America, arrived at Beirut International Airport, accompanied by Mr. Ernest Saykaly, the Vice Chairman of the Archdiocesan Board of Trustees, Mr. Nicola Antakli, a member of the Archdiocese Board, and was later joined by The Very Reverend Joseph Antypas, pastor of St. George Church of Troy, Michigan. Metropolitan PHILIP had previously received an invitation to participate in the regular Holy Synod Meeting, from His Beatitude Patriarch IGNATIUS IV. This meeting was to take place at the St. John of Damascus Theological Institute, Balamand, Lebanon, from Monday, October 16 thru Sunday, October 22, 1995.
Prior to the Synodial meetings, His Eminence had the opportunity to visit the President of Lebanon, Elias Hrawi, to whom Metropolitan PHILIP expressed the greetings of all immigrants, Lebanese and Arabic Americans, and commended the President’s balanced leadership for the way he is handling all efforts to bring political stability and economic revivalism to Lebanon. During his stay in Beirut, His Eminence visited with the Prime Minister of Lebanon, Mr. Raffie Hariri. He referred to Mr. Hariri as a great asset to Lebanon and commented on the signs of growth and construction that is booming all over Lebanon.
On Friday, October 13, his Eminence Metropolitan ELIAS (Audi) of Beirut, held a special banquet in honor of His Eminence Metropolitan PHILIP at the Riviera hotel, attended by Orthodox Hierarchs, non-Orthodox religious leaders, politicians, and representatives of the Balamand University. Metropolitan ELIAS reflected on the dynamic leadership of His Eminence Metropolitan PHILIP and on the recent Centennial of the Antiochian presence in North America. He recalled his personal experience in North America as a seminarian, a deacon and as a parish priest, who was inspired by the love, encouragement and support of Metropolitan PHILIP. “Metropolitan PHILIP is a bishop who loves his priests and respects them regardless of any
shortcomings, and he loves his flock like a father loves his children,” Metropolitan ELIAS recalled. Sayidna PHILIP, in response to Metropolitan ELIAS, thanked him for his love, kindness and hospitality and commented again on the growth and progress in the reconstruction of Lebanon. He also affirmed his faith that in the history of salvation nothing is accidental; there will always be a definite “love story” between the Archdiocese of North America and all the other dioceses within the Antiochian Patriarchate. Dr. Elie Salem, President of Balamand University and the former President, Mr. Ghassan Tueni, speaking on behalf of the Board of Trustees of the University, both welcomed Metropolitan PHILIP and thanked him for his great leadership, trust and support of the Balamand University, especially the role the Antiochian Village at Balamand plays as a model of the life of the University of Balamand Campus. They thanked Metropolitan PHILI P for his vision, his love, all his special efforts, especially financial, which enables the University to remain a viable and dynamic institute of higher-learning, a special status; reflecting genuine Orthodox spirituality in the Middle East.
On Sunday, October 15, Metropolitan PHILIP and his delegates attended Divine Liturgy at St. George Cathedral at Amyoun, the capital of the Koura District, with His Eminence Metropolitan ILYAS (Kurban) officiating. Metropolitan PHILIP delivered a “fiery” sermon, recalling his years at the Balamand Seminary. He responded to some pertinent requests to comment on the plight of the Church and its peoples within the Patriarchate of Jerusalem. Following the Divine Liturgy, Metropolitan PHILIP was the guest at Metropolitan ILYAS’S generous and gracious table at the newly built Archdiocesan Headquarters in Tripoli, Lebanon.
During his stay in Lebanon, his Eminence and his delegates were graciously hosted by many prominent political leaders, including Mr. Nasib Lahoud, Mr. John Obeid, Mr. Samir Mokbel, and Mr. Beshara Merhej, former ministers and present parliamentarians. They all wished Sayidna PHILIP a fruitful mission in his pilgrimage to Lebanon and Syria.
The Holy Synod meetings were held at Balamand Theological Institute from Monday, October 16 thru Monday, October 22, 1995. All members of the Holy Synod, with the exception of Metropolitan IGNATIUS of Brazil, were present at the meetings. The issues that were discussed during the meetings included: establishing methodology in planning future Holy Synod meetings, the status of the Church of Jerusalem, ecumenical discussions and other topics concerning the Orthodox youth. This includes some pastoral, educational and academic concerns within the Patriarchate.
On Tuesday, October 17th, Metropolitan ILYAS of Tripoli, held a special banquet in honor of Metropolitan PIIILIP at the La Salinas Resort in North Lebanon, attended by religious, political and military leaders of North Lebanon and representatives of various charitable, social and educational institutions. Also present was the former Prime Minister of Lebanon, Omar Karami. Metropolitan ILYAS commented on Sayidna PHILIP’S contribution to the maintenance and support of the St. John School of Theology and of other institutions, and for his relentless efforts to serve all Arabs in their search for lasting peace and justice. Metropolitan PHILIP eloquently responded to this gesture and thanked His Eminence Metropolitan ILYAS for his kind words and generosity. He also commented on being positive and optimistic about the future, for our next battle is that of peace. We have to become aware of how to confront that battle.
One of the major highlights of Sayidna’s visit was perhaps an evening with the seminarians of the Theological Institute, which was held on Thursday, October 19. Prior to the meeting with the Seminarians, Sayidna PHILIP met with the faculty of Balamand University, with Dr. Elie Salem president. The focus of the meeting with the faculty was discussing the role of Balamand University as an oasis of interaction and dialogue between Christianity and Islam. At the meeting with the Seminarians, Metropolitan PHILIP recalled some 50 years ago his witness as a student and a teacher at Balamand. He urged the seminarians to be committed to their ministry as future leaders of the Church. He shared with the seminarians his pastoral experience as a priest in Cleveland, Ohio, and emphasized love and compassion as the driving factors for the priest to get out of his “ivory tower” and bring Christ to the faithful believers, especially the sinful, oppressed and the heart-broken. He said that the Church is made up of clergy and laity working together for the building up of the Body of Christ. The spiritual emptiness must be overcome by the ministry of the pastor to his flock. Metropolitan PHILIP explained in detail the role of the priest in North America, on Mission and Evangelism in the Antiochian Archdiocese of North America, and on the Task Force that was established by him to discuss the challenges of the 21st Century and how the Church is preparing itself to face these challenges.
Before Sayidna left Lebanon, he visited the head of the Lebanese Parliament, Mr. Nabih Berri. They discussed various political and religious issues, especially the recent discussion that took place in the U.S. Congress concerning South Lebanon and the plight of Jerusalem. He was feted at a banquet hosted by the former Interior Minister, Mr. Beshara Merhej and attended by many notable political and religious leaders. Sayidna’s message to them was one of optimism and hope. He referred to Jerusalem and Lebanon as “twins”, both sharing dreams of peace and harmonious living among the various religions, He called for the hope of establishing a “United Arabic States”, and he urged all the Patriarchs of the East to meet at a Summit to discuss the plight of Jerusalem.
During Sayidna’s visit in Syria and Lebanon with family, friends, religious and political leaders, he was truly treated with love, respect and appreciation of all his time and efforts. He was graciously met and entertained by these many notable people. We cannot forget the special efforts made by Metropolitan ELIAS (Audi) of Beirut and his staff to insure our comfort and to Mr. Adib Kassis of the Middle East Airlines in New York, for the special care and accommodations that they graciously extended to His Eminence and his entourage.
Now our hopes are focused on the continued leadership of Sayidna PHILIP to establish an atmosphere of cooperation and dialogue so he may continue to lead us from “glory to glory”.
As to those who accompanied Metropolitan PHILIP, it was indeed an honor to be able to provide companionship, comfort and support to him on this momentous visit. MAY GOD GRANT HIM MANY YEARS!
Archpriest Joseph E. Antypas is pastor of St. George Church in Troy, MI.
The Word Magazine April 1985 Page 5
SELECTIONS FROM THE WRITINGS OF
THE MOST BLESSED IGNATIUS IV
PATRIARCH OF ANTIOCH AND ALL THE EAST
AN APPEAL TO
THE LEBANESE PEOPLE
I was stunned by the tremendous exodus of people and by the events of massacres that have brought us back to a period we thought was of the past. We beg God that these tragedies may stop at this point and that you will not lose hope in the power of man to accept grace.
The gravity of calamities is not in destruction and arson, because stone can be rebuilt by human beings; but the gravity is in the dispersion of friends, in the shadow of struggle, in imposed poverty, and in the burden of prolonged stay in homes of generous friends or relatives.
Who will give us back, in this large exodus, these faces that were mutilated and hated, to be rebeautified through forgiveness? Who willing bring us back to each other? Has blood become the sole language of Lebanon? Grief is now beyond all descriptions. Stop shedding blood, you butchers! Stop and follow the right path, for how can we dream of returning to our homes if your hearts do not come to us, that all will be purified?
In the days of bliss, we shall have our say in how we can coexist. Blood, exodus, looting, human degradation through destroying their houses, are things that should end immediately, so we may feel that we have entered the beginnings of peace in which hope could appear. With hope we shall take our time in building what can be built together, not to act wildly and ignore the heritage of the various religions.
If a new eagerness to rebuild this great nation appears, we would then be receiving a favour and kindness from God. Before that, we will do our utmost to look after as many as we can of our displaced children, until the storm calms. We will not stop seeking solutions here and there, so that the realities of the Lebanese situation may become less painful and closer to mercy.
With all that, the Lebanese people are suffering and no one blinks an eye, debating what is not subject for debate, i.e. LIFE!
We get used to saying and accepting that countries have interests. We believe that countries are to serve the people — all the people; and what justifies the rising of a state is the triumph of the weak on earth.
Yes, we shout for help of the nations, hoping that they will not just watch the inflictions which we endure but will safely open the roads so we can bury our dead and look for the missing ones. Those whom affliction befell are innocent, redeeming us; but do the innocent have to be sacrificed, era after era, as if this world does not have room for different races, religions or creeds?
I hope that by the time these words reach you, mercy would have started untying the knot. Strengthen yourselves in the grace and the word of our Lord.
JERUSALEM AND THE PALESTINIANS
Justice is a divine spark; it is an intimacy with God which discloses true obedience to the Divine Being. We long for the Creator of Heaven and Earth and always seek his divine propitiation. From the overflowing of his loving kindness we pray for an abundance of blessings upon every man who struggles for and defends the realization of truth and the shunning of falsehood. The current prevalence of falsehood does not diminish our determination, for our faith is as solid as the mountains. In the end, falsehood will be crushed which is its ultimate destiny.
Jerusalem is the foundation of our humanity. What afflicts the Holy City afflicts each and every human being. Our relationship with and commitment to Jerusalem is longstanding. We pray, for she is the city of prayer with which we have an eternal, spiritual, faith relationship. Everyone who believes in the One God worships in her; and it is in Jerusalem that he meets his brother and comes to realize that the Holy City has one spiritual, religious, humane identity which must not be reduced to mere political exploitation.
The Palestinians are the rightful inhabitants of that land. Is it right to treat them as visitors and strangers in their own home? Can they be denied their right to abide in Jerusalem? Jerusalem is Jerusalem only if it is the city and her people — not the city without her people or vice versa. If it were that God tested the Palestinian people by dispersion for some time, it does not mean that the people have lost their connectedness to the land by which they had been sanctified to which they made pilgrimage-
in which they confided their deepest emotions to their God in the very best possible way. Jerusalem belongs to her people and not to racism. Racism in Jerusalem, as everywhere, is a stain on the face of truth and justice! We firmly believe that the Palestinians have a free right to have their own country, statehood and human dignity, because they are not in God’s love less than anyone else. Theirs is a noble cause and we are ready to support all similar movements towards justice and human rights.
In Jerusalem and in Lebanon we seek the face of God. Lebanon is bleeding profusely and suffers from wounds which are much more serious than those which can be healed by sighing and sorrowing. Lebanon looks to its brotherly countries in expectation of the love which will heal its deep wounds. Such fraternal love is essentially immeasurable and limitless.
Today Lebanon seeks Jerusalem in her uniqueness and originality. And today the Holy City seeks Lebanon. They are the two cornerstones for peace in the Arab world.