The Priests and Deacons in the
The Priests and Deacons in the
1. “Every high priest is taken from among men and made their representative before God” (Heb. 5:1).
The priest, like the bishop and the deacon, is an individual called from among the people to serve the people, following in the footsteps of Jesus Christ. God chooses for the priesthood individuals from unique and diverse human and ecclesiastical milieus that mark them with a distinct character and accordingly they are sent to serve the Gospel of Christ.
The essence of the priesthood and the identity of the service of the priesthood stem from the priesthood of Christ, the One and great Priest, and the only mediator between God and human beings. They are both in scriptural and theological basic data participants in the whole Church. However, our
Since our priests are called in the third millennium to serve in the present state of affairs our Church is living in after spreading throughout the countries of the world,
Since it is imperative to reconcile between the requirements of their Church with her current needs and the required service of the priesthood,
As a result, the Synod deemed that a text be apportioned to priests. The text will shed light on the theological constants of our Syriac Antiochene Maronite heritage related to the service of the priesthood and the vocation and formation appropriate to them. Then, it will delineate its past and present practices that they may end up posing futuristic suggestions and aspirations which would contribute to the renewal of priests and, through them, the renewal of the
Chapter I: The Nature of the Priesthood and the Requirements of its Service
First: The Theological Constants in the Nature of the Priesthood and the Identity of the Priesthood of Service in the Syriac Antiochene Maronite Heritage
1. The Meaning of the Term “Priesthood”
2. It is noteworthy to point out that our Syriac Antiochene Maronite heritage distinguishes in the priesthood between two terms, each of which has a specific meaning. The Arabic term “Kahnoot”, or priesthood, is either derived from the Syriac Kohnouto, meaning “sanctification, service of the Divine Liturgy and offering of sacrifices,” or from the Syriac term Kahinouto, meaning “abundance and prosperity”. The Arabic word “Qsousiya” is derived from the Syriac word “Kshishoto” and means “serving God’s people and leading the community”.
The use of the two words together in the liturgical references prove their complementarities in the person who accepts the priesthood, exactly to the likeness of the complementarities in the person of Christ, the only and eternal priest and the source of all priesthood, whether in the Old or the New Testament. This, consequently, calls upon him to live with fidelity the spirituality of his priesthood and to faithfully commit to the requirements of the priestly service.
The Book of Ordination utilizes in the different orders of the Church the Arabic word “Shartounia” and the Syriac “Kheirotonia,” which is taken from the Greek word “Kairotonia” which means the “laying on of hands.” It also uses the word “Syamid” in Arabic, which is taken from the Syriac “Syiom Edo,” which also means the “laying on of hands.”
This “laying on of hands,” which means the calling of the Divine Grace and the invocation of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, grants the priesthood and the episcopate.
2. The Nature of the Priesthood
3. The nature of the priesthood in our Maronite Syriac Antiochene heritage is derived from the Holy Bible and is embodied in our rites and our liturgical books. This is mainly due to the fact that the liturgy, which has always marked the faith of the children of our Church, is a rostrum for learning. Hence, it is the explanation of the holy books through reading, long meditation, prayer and chanting. It revolves around the person of Christ, the only Son of God, in his work of salvation, manifested to his holy people through the action of the Holy Spirit.
Priesthood, according to our understanding, stems from “Jesus our God who is the apostle and the high priest of our confession” (Heb. 3:1). He is the source of all priesthood, whether in the Old or in the New Testament. All the priests who preceded him were similar to him; they were sanctified by him. The priests who came after him were installed by him, and through him they also serve.
4. In the priesthood that was before the advent of Christ, our tradition points to three main axes all stemming from Christ, “the only great Prelate,” and fulfilled in him:
· The priesthood of Adam “whom God has molded since the beginning to sing praise to him and to offer thanks to him in the name of all creatures” and has made him master of the earth and a “priest, a prelate and a king”;
· The priesthood of Melchizedek who was “priest of God Most High” (Gen. 14:18) and “made to resemble the Son of God, he remains a priest forever” (Heb. 7:3);
· The priesthood of Aaron that Moses established for his Jewish people so that they can present offerings to God.
5. As for the priesthood established by the “One and eternal Priest,” Jesus Christ in his person, for the service of the sacerdotal people, which is the Church, it is the Messianic priesthood. It is the priesthood launched by Christ the Son before the ages and fulfilled by him through his incarnation and crucifixion; thus, completing the priesthood of the Old Testament. He is still completing this priesthood while sitting at the right hand of the Father always interceding for us (Heb. 7:25). It is the priesthood that becomes in Christ the “offering” through communion where Christ, the Son of God, who became man, offers his human self as an offering to his Father and as redemption for the salvation of humanity. This is the “true priesthood,” that is, the only one which achieved a genuine and final mediation between God and humans.
It is the very same priesthood that Christ passed on to his bridal Church through the power of the Holy Spirit, and continues in the Church through the apostles and their successors, the bishops, who in turn entrust it to “those who are worthy so that they may serve the Trinity in purity and give themselves totally to it all the days of their lives”. He handed it first to “Simon the chief of the disciples, and at his hands, to the Church until the end of the world”. then to the “disciples and from them to the Church”. The disciples had “deacons, priests and chief priests” who “unworthily accepted the priestly authority”.
3. On the Identity of the Priestly Service
6. Our Lord Jesus Christ “whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world” (Jn. 10:36) “did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matt. 20:28). He united his mysterious body with his priesthood in such a way that all believers become a sacred and kingly priesthood. He then made of them servants that enjoy the power of the sacred priesthood so that they may practice his message of salvation publicly in his name among humans and serve him in teaching, sanctifying and administering.
The priest, through the gift of the Holy Spirit which he receives from the bishop through the ‘laying on of hands’ and through the service he is given, participates in the priesthood of Christ and enters into a special and unique partnership with the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Thus, the Father sends him through the Son to live and work with the power of the Holy Spirit to serve the Church and to bring about salvation to the world. The priest also participates in the mission of the bishop in a way that links him permanently to him, such that he becomes his assistant in the service that he has conferred on him. This is how the priest becomes the keeper of a “gift” he received from the Trinity through the holy Church, “for her construction, her continuity and for the glorification of the Holy Trinity”; and for the spread of the Good News and the service of the altar and the community entrusted to him. Thus, priests become the “children of service,” as they are known by the community, for they are the ones whom “Christ sanctified, adorned, perfected, chose and entrusted them with his divine mysteries and with the treasures of his Kingdom; He also handed them the keys to these treasures so that they may distribute them to the needy”.
4. “The Ministry of the Word” or the Service of the Gospel
7. By the nature of his priesthood, the priest is an entrusted person to the service of the Word and to the proclamation of the Good News of the Kingdom. He unites the people of God first by the word of the living God, which they are entitled to fully receive from the priest; he also gives to everybody the Good News of the Gospel in order to form the people of God and to nourish them in fulfillment of God’s command “Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature” (Mk 16:15). For this reason, the priest centers his service on deeply understanding God’s word so that he can proclaim it and preach it at every occasion. This profound understanding makes of the priest a “master who dedicates his life to the study of the word of God and to handing it purely to the people”. Whenever he openly preaches the Mystery of Christ to the faithful or even to those outside the faith, or when he presents the catechism or explains the doctrines of the Church, he is not preaching his own wisdom, but the wisdom of the word of God.
By doing this, he serves the true, divine message of God “and confirms and preserves the Church” by living, understanding, and bearing witness to the mystery of God’s salvific plan. According to Syriac theology, the Church herself is this divine plan.
5. “The Ministry of Sanctification” or Service of the Altar and the Divine Mysteries
8. The priest is the man of the altar and is the one entrusted with its Divine Mysteries. He serves it, for it is a charge handed over to him by the Church on the day of his ordination. What is noteworthy in the rite of ordination is the close link established between the priest and the altar, such that “he preaches himself on the altar” in the town’s church assigned to him. During the prayer of the ‘laying on of hands,’ the bishop repeatedly lays one hand on the mysteries and one on the head of the chosen one.
The priest is also the middle man, so to speak (mes’oyo). God sets him in his house between Him and his people through the power of the Spirit, which he constantly invokes. He stands in the middle in the name of his Lord and like him, addressing God in the name of the people and the people in the name of God. He adheres to the community he is from and with, as much as he adheres to Christ, the One eternal Priest, whom he incarnates in the middle of the community on which he distributes his Mysteries and the treasures of his kingdom. He is the man of kinship par excellence. He is in the sanctum sanctorum for the sake of the people an intercessor man, and before God, a glorification man. He becomes entrusted with his sanctity and the sanctity of the community. He has consecrated his life to serve the “holy things for the holy.” Hence, he drinks from the holiness of he who is the fountain of holiness, who has befriended him, called him and consecrated him for the service of his people “with perfection, purity and sanctity”.
6. The “Ministry of Administration”, or the Guardianship Service of God’s People
9. The priest is entrusted, “through the grace and mercy of the Only Son”, with the care for his people and the managing of their affairs “following the example of Peter, head of the Apostles”. He heads the community of believers in the name of Christ the head, and to gather in the name of the bishop the people of God and lead them through Christ in the Spirit to God the Father. Through his care and vigilance, he contributes to the building up of the Church, its preservation and consolidation.
He is “the administrator and the shepherd” installed by Christ to “administer his people and tend his uttering sheep”.
He is “warrior for their sake” and “their watchman”, and “the physician who consoles them,” and “the faithful servant” (Mt. 24:45-51), and “the talent trader who will have to give an account” (Mt. 25:14-30).
In addition to caring for all, like his Master, the priest is to care for those whom God has graced with a special love calling them his little brethren, that is, the sinners, the sick, the poor, the prisoners, the oppressed, the castaway and especially the dying so as to strength them through the Lord. He is to also care for families, spouses, the youth and children, providing them with education sufficient for them to reach Christian maturity. He is also to care for those who are alienated from the Church or those whose faith is still new to introduce them to Christ and bring them closer to him.
Second: The Service of Priesthood in the Tradition of the
1. In the Past
10. With us, the priest found it easy to live his priesthood according to the Syriac Antiochene spirituality because he fed from it every day of his liturgical and spiritual life. He “sang the chorus, recited the daily office, celebrated Mass and never left out any particular prayer in the Book of Rituals year round”.
The priest was a part of the town and its inhabitants as he had a home and a family in it. He often was married and worked his land. He was always present in the parish and shared the joys, sorrows, special occasions, and business of the inhabitants. This presence played a great role in the priest’s practice of his service in teaching, sanctification and administration. This is in addition to his religious and social status that makes him an important reference to parishioners whether they were Maronites or non-Maronite Christians or Muslims.
11. In the practice of his pastoral service, the priest found in the texts of the Lebanese Synod, as well as in other synods, what he had to do to be a true shepherd and not a hired hand.
In his teaching service, he is to have enough “books to allow him to fulfill his teaching obligations toward his parishioners, such as guidance, preaching and catechizing to children.” He had to gather the people and the children near the church “below the oak tree” “to teach them the principles of reading and writing in both Syriac and Arabic.” He did this since he often was the most learned person among his parishioners at a time when only a few were able to read and write. He had to “accurately memorize the records (where the baptized, the betrothed, the married and the dead are registered), the books and the title deeds; and he copied books in Syriac and Arabic”.
In his sanctification service, he had to “offer Mass on behalf of his parishioners and to feed them the word of God and to distribute the Sacraments. He would give them Holy Communion, listen to confessions, bless marriages and betrothals, baptize children, anoint the sick with Holy Oil, and celebrate funerals”.
In his administrative service, the priest, “the servant of the parish entrusted with souls, had to come to know his parishioners, and, like a father, care for the poor and destitute, and be available for all other pastoral duties.” In the course of his life, he is to be an “epitome of good deeds”.
As for his livelihood, the Lebanese Synod recommends that “the bishop should provide the priest and his assistants with enough income, either from the income of the ministry or from the money of believers who have to provide priests enough income for their livelihood,” whether they are married or celibate.
12. The deacon also succeeded in his service and in following the footsteps of Christ the Servant. His duties included assisting the priest on the altar and the bishop in the service of love and charity. The Lebanese Synod specifies that the deacon should, “serve the priest at the altar and spread incense in the church and on the people, should read the epistle and the Gospel out loud, should present the sacred bread and wine to the altar, should distribute the Eucharist to the deacons and the lower rank clergy and the people, should baptize in the absence of the bishop and the priest, and after receiving permission from them, should evangelize and preach to the people; and by permission from the bishop should be the treasurer of the Church”.
13. It should be noted that monk-priests used to undertake the mission of pastoral service in the churches of their monasteries or by assisting priests whenever the need arose. However, their service witnessed a development after the monastic reform which took place towards the end of the 17th century and after the promulgation of new laws by monks and monasteries that were confirmed by Pope Clement XII and adopted by the Lebanese Synod. This Synod ordered that “the bishop entrusts monasteries or priest-monks in the service of souls only when there is a dire need for that and when worldly priests are not available”; it also ordered the monks not to distribute sacraments “without the permission of the bishop or the servant of the parish”.
2. In the Present Time
14. Presently, rapid social, economic, cultural and pastoral changes are taking place. Most important of these are:
· Wave of migrations from the mountains to the cities, the adoption of new modes of life, the migration of Maronites to new countries and their adoption of the cultures, traditions and modes of life of these countries;
· The development of social life whereby people became closer to one another and live in a society more open to the multiplicity of sects, religions, cultures, political affiliations, intellectual trends and social conditions;
· Cultural, scientific and technological development and the emergence of the phenomena of secularism, globalization and means of modern communication; the spread of intellectual and ideological trends, sects and heresies.
15. All of these transformations and others have contributed in changing the state of affairs of the parish and also in changing the concept of pastoral service. They impelled our Church, incarnated in the world, to take these changes into consideration and devise new methods to help her read the signs of times through inspiration from the Spirit; and to continue its special mission in serving the Good News and in fulfilling the salvific work of God in the new places she is now to be found in. They also motivated priests to find new dimensions for their tripartite pastoral service through which they can become a live and transparent image of Christ, the Good Shepherd.
16. In the ministry of teaching, we notice today that a good number of priests are no longer content with the formation they have received in the seminary or in the school of theology. They are now searching for furthering their education in human, theological and biblical sciences in order to deepen their spiritual, ecclesiastic, human, and pastoral culture and to cater to the growing needs of their people. Hence, they began to teach and to guide not only through preaching but also through biblical evenings held at homes, meetings of apostolic movements and organizations, schools and all the different chaplaincies. For that, they enlisted the help of monks, nuns, the committed laity and formation instructors in specialized centers. On the other hand, they participated in seminars and spiritual retreats to deepen their relationship with Jesus Christ, the Only and Eternal Priest and the Good Shepherd and to renew their commitment to living the sacraments, especially the Mystery of the Eucharist, and prayer, since they do not have enough time to do that in the pattern of their daily life.
In answer to a deeper spiritual need, some began congregating outside of the monthly eparchial meeting, in priest groups within one sector of the eparchy or they joined local or international priest associations or orders, living their openness to the universal Church.
Our priests today, married or celibate, have become similar in their human, spiritual, intellectual and pastoral capacities and are working in the same social circumstances. However, they are often submerged in pastoral concerns and do not consecrate enough time for ongoing formation or often do not have the necessary material means to buy books and magazines. Since they are asked to bear the responsibility entrusted to them, in faithfulness to their priestly service, the inalienable and basic right of the people of God over them, that is, to benefit from the word of God, the mysteries and the service of love, which are the basic elements that a priest cannot disengage himself from in performing his pastoral mission, it was imperative to provide them with ongoing formation.
17. In the ministry of sanctification, we notice that priests are endeavoring to meet the growing requirements of their parishioners. They celebrate the Holy Eucharist on a daily basis with their people and for their people. We find them in many of the parishes preparing the Mass with the faithful and allowing them to participate in the celebration. Thus, liturgical committees and choirs become active, apostolic movements alternate and active participation is enhanced. As for the remaining sacraments, we find them enlisting the help of the consecrated men and women, and especially the laity, in order to establish specialized committees to undertake the tasks of preparing for the Mysteries of Baptism and Confirmation, for preparing for the celebration of First Communion that are taking place in the parishes nowadays, or for preparing for marriage or for visiting the sick. Yet, this participation does not exempt the priest from bearing full responsibility in following up on believers and bestowing the sacraments despite his busy schedule and limited time.
18. In the ministry of administration, we find that priests are striving to face the new pastoral state of affairs where the size of parishes and the number of parishioners have increased and where priests do not always live in their parishes. Thus, they are devising new ways to get acquainted with their parishioners, listen to them, follow-up on their affairs and watch over them under all circumstances. They work with a missionary spirit providing care for those in need of love, that is, the poor, the marginalized, the oppressed, the unemployed, and those burdened with family, social, and economic problems. They enlist the help of family committees and committees in the service of charity. They also make use of the computer, the internet, the press and the audiovisual media, in order to expand the network of communication with their near, distant, and migrant parishioners, to follow up on their news and to provide them with news about their parish and their fellow parishioners.
19. As for the material life and ensuring a living, we find that most priests have a decent standard of living. This is because believers are still contributing toward the salary of the priest. Some eparchies have begun establishing social cooperative funds to provide health insurance and pension benefits for their elderly priests.
However, because of growing social needs, some priests are concerned. They search for jobs to help them secure a living and provide for their families if they are married. Often they find jobs in the teaching field, which is capable of securing a reasonable salary and a means of engaging in the teaching service. They also prefer teaching in the schools of the eparchy so they may stay in touch with their people and at the same time secure, their health coverage, pension, and the right of enrolling their children in schools at lower tuitions.
20. In the face of this state of affairs, and in the face of the growing needs and the multiplication of tasks undertaken by the priest, some voices are calling for the revival of the diaconate service. The eparchies of the Countries of Expansion, especially in the
This drove Pope John Paul II to encourage the Catholic Patriarchs and Bishops of
21. As for monk-priests, they are still present in abundant numbers and are committed to the pastoral service in the eparchies of the Patriarchal Domain and the eparchies of the Countries of Expansion. They share the responsibilities and concerns of parish priests and provide pastoral service within the monastic community through which they preserve the talents and vows of monastic life.
It is worth noting that many monk-priests serve the parishes, commit to accompanying and guiding the apostolic movements and organizations, especially those concerned with the youth, and manage along with the consecrated different institutions, such as schools, hospitals and orphanages. Thus, they are providing abundant services and are enriching the Church with their special gifts.
If some bishops and servers of parishes are suffering from a crisis in their relationship with monk-priests vis-à-vis the determination of pastoral duties and the implementation of the ecclesiastical decrees ratified by the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches, love remains the strongest and will find solutions within the ecclesiastical institutions.
Third: Future Aspirations and Suggestions for Renewal
1. The Relationship of the Priest with Christ and the Church
22. For the priest to succeed in performing his pastoral service in today’s world, he must realize, first and foremost, that the priesthood of service, which he received upon ordination by the ‘laying on of hands’ of the bishop stems from the priesthood of Christ the “One and Eternal Priest” and the “Good Shepherd” and forms in him a unique quintessential bond that links him to Christ through the bishop and makes him a true image of him and his representative among the people. Within the Church, he continues the prayer of Christ, propagates his Good News, his Sacrifice and his work of salvation through the power and grace of the Holy Spirit.
Hence, the Synod recommends that each priest is to constantly stress his ecclesiastic bond with the bishop and deepen his spiritual union with Christ so that he may be an indication of his presence in his life, his pastoral service, and his spiritual life. Thus, the priest achieves, with the power of the Holy Spirit which he accepted, the salvation that Christ himself accomplished through his death and resurrection.
23. For the priest to follow the example of Christ, he has to live a priesthood of testimony to Christ.
Therefore, the Synod advises him to deepen his spiritual life by persevering in the reading of the Holy Bible, in personal and communal prayer in the parish, especially the prayers of the liturgical calendar, and in meditation and seeking spiritual direction. He should also live the spirituality of the mysteries he bestows and celebrate the Holy Eucharist, his distinctive nourishment on a daily basis. Thus, he will acquire a mature and deep personal experience that will allow him to always live near Christ.
The Synod also advises him to live the virtue of chastity, whether he is celibate or married, in consecrating himself to serve and in offering his life, whole and dignified, to the portion of God’s people he is entrusted with.
As for his social life, the Synod exhorts him to choose a life of poverty, simplicity and austerity away from any form of luxury; not in contempt and shunning of material blessings, but in its liberal use with disinterest. Hence, he will imitate Christ, who became poor although he was rich, and will present a unique testimony that will be greatly esteemed by the people during these daunting times we are living in. Furthermore, he should be adorned with contentment, dignity, generosity and hospitability. He is to conduct himself with propriety and politeness toward people, being peaceful, distancing himself from strife and sectarianism. He is to befriend all, respect all, listen to all and dialogue with all.
2. The Relationship of the Priest with the Bishop and with his Fellow Priests
24. The priest should realize again that he is linked to the bishop through whom he has received the gift of the Holy Spirit and the service of priesthood. He becomes an assistant to the bishop in his tri-dimensional service and his representative in the parish, which the bishop entrusts to him within his local church. Accordingly, he becomes a member of the presbyterate which forms around the bishop and in partnership with him, a strong brotherly union which operates through respect, understanding and collaboration for the building of the body of Christ in the eparchial Church. This necessitates living the apostolic obedience and the filial respect in the hierarchy of the presbyterate.
Thus, the Synod urges priests to live a life of brotherhood and solidarity with one another and urges bishops to search for the necessary means to encourage the spirit of brotherhood and cooperation between priests and the spirit of belonging to the presbyterate, to their
3. The Relationship of the Priest with the Laity and the Consecrated
25. Stemming from the fact that the priest is an extension of the presence of Christ, he is to somehow reflect the image of Christ in a transparent manner amidst the parish entrusted to his care. He is to place himself in a positive and encouraging relationship with lay believers and the consecrated men and women. The priest is to strive to consolidate their special role in the Church and to mobilize for them the whole of his priestly service and pastoral love. In addition, he is to foster a spirit of shared responsibility in the service of the salvific mission of Christ, all the while respecting and encouraging all talents and gifts bestowed by the Spirit on believers.
Hence, the Synod recommends that the priest, who always works to achieve the common good of the Church, encourages apostolic movements and organizations and Christian leagues concerned with religious objectives and to welcome them all. He is to provide them with direction, guidance and counselors, enlisting the help of other priests, monks, nuns, or laity.
To achieve this goal, the Synod calls upon priests to activate pastoral councils and to erect councils where there are none, and to coordinate between them and the waqf committees to ensure the necessary financial means and capabilities for the success of the mission.
4. Devotion to the Service and the Livelihood of the Priest
26. In the face of rising needs and the requirements of the service of the priesthood, the priest is to devote himself to the service entrusted to him by the bishop, whatever it is.
In order for the priest to be completely devoted to this service, he must be provided with the living necessities and social requisites to free him, in as much as that is possible, from the daily material concerns. There are things the priest cannot abandon, such living conditions commensurate with the undertakings of his mission. This must also include social security benefits granted to workers from health insurance to pension and also other benefits. This is one of the inalienable rights of priests confirmed by Jesus Christ in his Gospel and by
Hence, the Synod exhorts Maronite believers in all parishes and Christian congregations to shoulder their moral and material responsibilities and to provide for a befitting and dignified life for priests and deacons, who are needed for the service of their souls. This is to be done in close cooperation with their bishops, as was and is the custom in our Church.
The Synod also calls bishops to establish the “Priest’s Fund” in their eparchies, if they have not yet done so. They are to strive together, and, in cooperation with patriarchal and eparchial institutions, waqf committees and bearers of goodwill from among the sons and daughters of our Church, in order to establish a common fund to provide health insurance and pension for priests.
5. The Priesthood of the Married
27. Across generations, our Church has carried the tradition of maintaining married priests, a tradition dating back to the days of the apostles and still current among all the Easterners. The universal Church has recognized it and has decreed it in the Second Vatican Council and the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches, such that it is bestowing the Mystery of Holy Orders, the rank of priest to married men known for their virtue, knowledge and good management. The Synod perceives it necessary to preserve this tradition. It represents openness to other sister Churches and to other religions that are facing the challenges of the new evangelization. However, this gives some priests a mental, moral and social equilibrium that alleviates their material concerns and aids them in understanding the family and the human conditions of their parishioners.
This does not cause us to be remiss that celibate priests conform to the specificity of our
6. The Permanent Diaconate
28. The bishop, the successor of the Apostles and head of the local Church needs priests like Christ the Shepherd and deacons like Christ the Servant to help him in his episcopal ministry.
Additionally, our Church has begun to gradually reinstate the ministry of the permanent diaconate, not to fill the void resulting from a shortage in the number of priests, but to regain the mission of the evangelical service denoted by the meaning of the word deacon in Syriac, and to regain her special and unique role in the service of the altar and the service of love.
Therefore, the Synod invites bishops to revive the ministry of the permanent diaconate in their eparchies, especially since it caters to many of their needs. It also urges them to work together in devising a special program for those called, finding a center or an institution specifically for their formation. Efforts are to be deployed for the sake of providing a decent standard of living for them, whether married or celibate.
7. Monk-Priests in Pastoral Service
29. In the face of growing pastoral needs in the eparchies of the Patriarchal Domain, as well as those of the Countries of Expansion and the countries where eparchies have not yet been established, and in order to revive a comprehensive pastoral service between eparchial priests and monk-priests and manifest monastic talent in all its capacities in the heart of the Maronite Church, the Synod calls bishops and superiors general of monastic orders to coordinate with one another. They are to double their efforts so that monk-priests would become effectually integrated in the pastoral service of the eparchial Church. The Synod also calls bishops to allow monk-priests working in their eparchies to partake in their teaching, sanctifying and administrative authority and to encourage them to preserve the monastic talent to which they have consecrated their lives for.
This coordination is done through the “Patriarchal Office for Coordination between Bishops and Orders.” On the one hand, this bureau was recently established and is based on being loyal to the requirements of the pastoral service within the presbyterate in the eparchial Church and in the relation to the bishop, its head. On the other hand, the office is based on the reiteration of belonging to the one
8. Distribution of Priests
30. The gift of the priesthood service bestowed upon priests through their ordination ties them to the service or to the parish entrusted to them by the bishop. Yet, this gift remains first and foremost linked to the needs of the Church. As the need arises, the bishop calls in the name of Jesus Christ.
The number of priests is still abundant in our Church, especially in the Patriarchal Domain. However, the problem lies in the distribution of priests according to the priority of need. Also, the number of Maronites is on the rise in the Countries of Expansion and with it the bishops’ requests for priests has increased. Additionally, some bishops in African countries have begun asking for priests who are proficient in Arabic.
Consequently, the Synod urges bishops to cooperate in distributing priests commensurate with the new demands in their eparchies and in the Church as a whole. The Synod also exhorts bishops in the Patriarchal Domain to heed the calls of their brethren in the eparchies of the Countries of Expansion or others and to send them those who are worthy and who are duly prepared to serve in those eparchies.
Chapter II: Selection, Vocation, and Formation in the Ministry of Priesthood
First: Theological Constants
1. The Formula Employed in Selection, Vocation, and in Formation
31. In the tradition of our Church, vocations to the ministry of priesthood, which are different from monastic vocations, mandate that parishioners meet whenever a new spiritual need arises in order to select a suitable person from among them to perform the required ministry of priesthood. This person had to have the necessary qualifications and characteristics acknowledged by everyone, whether he was married or celibate. Then, they would present him to the bishop.
The bishop used to confirm this choice after careful study and examination and would send the selected person, who perhaps had never thought of the priesthood before, or had not presented himself to a virtuous priest, a monastery or to a seminary to receive the proper spiritual, theological and intellectual formation.
Then he would call him in the name of Divine Grace and ordain him a priest through the ‘laying on of hands’ on the altar of the parish that chose him. Through this process, an “engagement” bond is established between the bishop and the priest. The bishop then hands to the priest the sons and daughters present at the ordination ceremony to greet him and begin the journey of engagement, whereby they shoulder the responsibility of providing for him and he assumes the responsibility of serving them in teaching, sanctification and administration.
It is a tradition which dates back to the time of the Apostles and the early Church and is based on constant theological principles.
2. Theological Constants of Selection, Vocation and Formation
a. The Needs of the Church
32. The needs of the Church come first from among the constituents of the vocation to the ministry of priesthood or that of the diaconate. Thus, the need specifies the new service to be filled, and it comes before determining the required qualifications and before calling the suitable servant. The Church cannot institute a ministry if the need does not dictate it. Thus, the need is presented, qualifications defined and then the Christian community is asked to select the suitable person.
b. The Role of the People in Selecting
33. The role of the people or the Christian community is very important in selecting the suitable person for the required service. The community knows the person who possesses the required qualifications and is acknowledged by everyone, and selects him according to the status suitable for it, whether celibate or married.
It “bears the responsibility” of presenting him to the bishop, accompanying him after his ordination, supporting him in his service and providing him with a decent standard of living.
c. The Calling of the Bishop
34. The bishop, successor of the Apostles, takes the decision of accepting the person selected by the people and sends him to receive formation. Then, he calls him in the name of “Divine Grace” during priestly ordination, which takes place in the Eucharist to express to him the calling of God, which is taking place “today” and “now.” He bestows on him the priesthood by the ‘laying on of hands,’ all the while invoking the “Holy Spirit to descend upon him,” making him worthy of the service being consigned to him.
The bishop transfers to the ordained the gift of the Holy Spirit and the Mystery of Holy Orders. Even though the Christian community joined in the Eucharist participates in the invocation of the Holy Spirit, the bishop remains the main servant of the Mystery of Holy Orders and ordination. He is the head of the local Church and her authority in his capacity as the successor of the Apostles and the representative of Christ.
d. The Bond of Engagement
35. Through priestly ordination, performed by the ‘laying on of hands,’ a bond is created between the ordained and the Christian community through the “engagement” to “the altar, the church and the town” in whose name the priest (or deacon) was ordained. Repeating the declaration of the name of the altar, the church and the town ten times during the rite of ordination is to emphasize this bond, necessary for the integrity of the ordination, as stipulated by the canons. It is also necessary so as to charge the parish with the responsibility of providing for its servant.
Second: The Formula for Selection, Calling and Formation in the Practice of the
1. In the Past
36. According to the Kitaab al-Huda (The Book of Guidance), selection for the ministry of the priesthood is performed based on the “trust of priests and the presbyters, and on the consent and approval of the sons and daughters of the parish, after securing their signatures, that there may be no schism among the people, thus, destroying the church”.
Patriarch Douaihy confirms this procedure by saying that “the Church desires that the presentation of the ordained take place at the hands of the parishioners so that they may examine the ordained and call for him”.
In the rite of ordination, the archdeacon or the sponsoring priest presents the elected individual to the bishop in the name of the community of believers who have chosen him and who bear “the consequent responsibility” of presenting him.
In pastoral practice, the semi-general rule is for the people to select the one they see as suitable to serve their ecclesiastical needs in accordance with the required criteria.
37. Regarding the qualifications and the required characteristics, the choice of the people was subject to criteria and conditions set by the canons. The most important among these are:
· Human, scientific and spiritual maturity. This means “the chosen one should be thirty years old” “imitating the Lord our Savior who at the age of thirty revealed himself to the world and began to instruct people. Or, at least “twenty-five years of age so the churches will not be insulted for lack of priests”. He is to be mature in age, experience and administration” “he must be well-instructed in sciences and delve in practicing piety, hoping, with God’s help, to exercise patience toward celibacy and chastity”;
· Good conduct and testimonials from those near and far, that is, “to perform good deeds and steer away from evil ones, to be patient and humble, not short tempered and violent. He should not be an alcoholic and a seeker of petty gains. He should be content, composed, polite, hospitable…and for close acquaintances and people from outside the Church to attest to his good conduct”.
All of the above conditions are laid down relative to what is “required by each and every one who presides over the service of the people and distributes the holy mysteries”.
38. After the people select the suitable person, he is asked to maintain his status since he was chosen based on his qualifications which were previously attested to and because his present state of affairs suits the community and the need for service in it. If he is celibate, he is to remain so consecrating himself to the Lord in the service of churches and humans. If he is married, he is to uphold his married life living in the fear of God and keeping His commandments. This is what the Kitaab al-Huda (The Book of Guidance) orders and what the Lebanese Synod confirms.
In pastoral practice, it was customary for the people along with bishops to select married men to serve the parishes. The reason for that was that the married man had presented evidence of human and Christian maturity in managing his family and was given a guarantee for stability in his town and parish.
b. The Vocation
39. After the people make their choice, the elected person would be presented to the bishop who alone has the right to decide whether to accept or refuse him. Patriarch Douaihy says:
“The fathers (in the synods) decided that those elected by the people are to be presented twice: The first time, at the hands of the people, and the second, by the bishop. However, because superiors, for various reasons, do not know their parishioners, they cannot discern between the superior and the inferior, the worthy and the unworthy. It also happens sometimes that some are afraid of the powerful, others succumb to bribery and others still tend toward nepotism. So, when the elected is presented for the first time by the people, he is accepted and blessed by the bishop, but is ordered to serve elsewhere. This was to prove that the election of the people is ineffective, even if it was good, and that their presentation is unnecessary; rather, what is important is the choice and the satisfaction of the bishop”.
When accepted, the bishop would call him and send him to receive the appropriate formation. Later, he announces the vocation and confirms it during the ordination and in the presence of the community united in the Eucharist while saying, “The Divine grace and the heavenly gift, the grace of Jesus Christ calls and selects with Divine consent and ecclesial precepts, elected through God, the servant of God standing here today, which is a promotion from the order of deacon to the order of the priesthood…Let us pray together and together beseech the Spirit to descend upon him”.
40. As per the principle which says that formation should be suited to the needs of the Church and the status of the people, our
At first, bishops used to send those called to a nearby monastery or to an educated and pious priest where they would receive hasty formation. They were taught “grammar and morphology principles in Syriac and Arabic; then music and the Church’s calendar.” Those “in whom they scrutinized an aptitude for learning, they promoted to the study of advanced sciences: rhetoric, poetic composition, philosophy, surveying, arithmetic, astronomy and other mathematics. They were later taught the principles of canon law the explanation of the Holy Bible, and dogmatic and moral theology especially that which was found appropriate for the reception of the Sacraments and their distribution, including knowledge of the necessary rites and rituals”.
41. When a renewal swept over the Catholic Church in Europe as a result of the Council of Trent (1545-1563), which ordered bishops “to establish schools near cathedrals, bishopric sees and large churches to catechize children and graduate them in Church sciences,” the Maronite Church was granted the establishment of its first seminary in Rome at the hands of Pope Gregory XIII in 1584. This school graduated the officials of the
The fruit of this renaissance was the Lebanese Synod (1736), which tried to apply the principles of the Council of Trent and recommended the establishment of “seminaries in bishopric sees and large monasteries, like our
42. In the beginning of the 19th century, foreign missionaries came into
In the face of this cultural tidal wave, the Maronite patriarchs and bishops worked in the footsteps of Patriarch Estephan, establishing patriarchal and eparchial seminaries for the formation of priests who could compete with the high level of education that existed at that time in
Also, in parallel, Patriarch Boulos Mass’ad (1854–1890) worked on sending seminary students to
43. At the outset of the 20th century, after World War I, most seminaries closed except for the Eastern Seminary in
Voices began to be raised calling for the establishment of a central Maronite seminary aimed at unifying the formation of Maronite clergy and raising their standard. This wish came true with Patriarch Antonios Khoreich, who bought the Monastery of Ghazir from the Jesuit Fathers in 1976 and turned it into a central Maronite Patriarchal Seminary able to accommodate all the Maronite candidates for the priesthood.
2. In the Present Time
a. Vocation and Selection
44. With time, the concept of vocations evolved in our Church due to the following three factors: Firstly, the advent of foreign missionaries to
Vocation came to be understood as a strong, subtle, silent calling from God within the depths of the human soul and a human and concrete expression of the will of God through ecclesiastic authority. In both cases, God is the one who calls. Nevertheless, those who are called must understand that “This voice of the Lord calling, however, is never to be expected as something which in an extraordinary manner will be heard by the ears of the future priest. It is rather to be known and understood in the manner in which the will of God is daily made known to prudent Christians”.
Vocation to the priesthood is part of the Christian vocation based on the free election on the part of the Father. However, it is neither given outside the Church nor without it.
It is a free gift, an endowment at no cost and the one invited is to accept it freely and unconditionally. It “is the history of an inexpressible dialogue between God and human beings, between the love of God who calls and the freedom of individuals who respond lovingly to him. These two indivisible aspects of vocation, God’s gratuitous gift and the responsible freedom of human beings…In effect, grace and freedom are not opposed. On the contrary, grace enlivens and sustains human freedom”.
45. Based on this concept, vocations multiplied and seminaries were filled with students who entered at a young age in order to live in a family atmosphere with dedicated administrators and directors. These students were subject to an extended formation that allowed them to acquire the required spiritual, intellectual and human qualifications. However, those who became priests were scarce since those responsible for the seminaries were strict in choosing students, testing them and seriously investigating their honest intentions, free will and the required qualifications, “even if a deplorable lack of priests should exist, since God will not allow His Church to want for ministers if those who are worthy are promoted”.
The directors of the seminaries are now presenting these students to the bishops after their formation and after checking their qualifications. The decision to accept them lies with the bishops alone, so they may call them, respecting their full freedom, granting them the Mystery of Holy Orders and charging them with the pastoral service suitable to the needs of their eparchies. It was customary for bishops to ordain their priests on the altars of the eparchy and not on the altar of a specific church, for certain pastoral considerations, such as being prepared to comply with the new and growing needs of eparchial service.
46. Concerning living conditions, the students spend several years in the seminary, until the end of their formation and their studies, before choosing the situation in which they will be living their priesthood: in celibacy or in marriage.
The Church took the appropriate decisions and measures to accept, in the patriarchal seminary in Ghazir, those among the clergy who have decided to continue celibate and to provide them with formation to serve the new needs which require more dedication. As for the married clergy, or those who wish to get married and have not made up their minds yet, they are sent to the seminaries of Saint Anthony of
It is worthy to point out that the Patriarchal Vicariate of Sarba started an attempt several years ago to erect center for the formation of permanent deacons.
47. It is worth mentioning that in recent years students began entering the major seminary directly after some missionary experience and a notable human maturity. They are aware of the need of their Church and are committed to her mission through their commitment in the parishes and the numerous apostolic organizations. Some Christian groups, with their priests, families, parishes, apostolic organizations, teachers and educators, are now shouldering the responsibility of caring for, giving attention to and encouraging the young men who are being called by God and accompanying them in order to help them hear His call and answer it with generosity and freedom.
What is striking is that some parishes are still presenting the elected to the bishop according to the traditional methods.
Also, bishops began appointing committees for vocations in their parishes, in order to help them search for persons whom the Church could call and accompany through to priesthood.
48. Our students today are distributed over four seminaries. These are:
· The Maronite Patriarchal Seminary in Ghazir, where students pursue their studies at the Pontifical School of Theology at the University of the Holy Spirit – Kaslik;
· The Seminary of Saint Anthony of
· The Maronite Seminary of Our Lady of Lebanon in Washington for the Eparchies of Saint Maron of Brooklyn and Our Lady of Lebanon of Los Angeles, in the United States of America, where students pursue their studies at the School of Theology at the Catholic University in Washington; and,
· The Seminary of
Even though these seminaries do not suffer from a lack of students, they are facing challenges in choosing proper formation teachers and in instituting proper coordination, firstly, among the seminaries and secondly, between them and the schools and institutions of theology.
49. Undoubtedly, the responsibility of choosing formation teachers for seminaries falls upon the shoulders of bishops, who are to delegate priests endowed with the necessary attributes and qualifications to fill these posts, that is, “priests of exemplary life should be chosen, men with a number of qualities: ‘human and spiritual maturity, pastoral experience, professional competence, stability in their own vocation, a capacity to work with others, serious preparation in those human sciences (psychology especially) which relate to their office, a knowledge of how to work in groups”.
Yet, in undertaking this responsibility, bishops are having to face several hardships in that they are not always able to find qualified individuals to perform this service in their eparchies or they cannot give up qualified individuals due to dire need for them in the eparchies or that those qualified individuals do not wish to perform this service.
50. There is also no doubt that the proliferation of seminaries today and the diversity of formation in them is a source of enrichment for our Church during this phase. Priests are receiving formation for various needs, levels and conditions. However, these schools must cooperate and coordinate with one another drawing up a unified vision and a general curriculum for priestly formation adapted to public laws and ecclesiastic canons and harmonize with situations of time and place, unique to the scattered Maronites and to the Maronite eparchies around the world.
As for the schools and institutes of theology, they follow the programs set by the Catholic Church for philosophical and theological formation. But, they must stress in a special way on what concerns the
The service being rendered for many years now by the Pontifical School of Theology at the University of the Holy Spirit, Kaslik is to be commended for the formation of clerics, priests and monks into an ecclesiastic and communal spirit which prompts them to work together in the one field of service. This does not make us remiss to what other schools are accomplishing in this domain.
It is worth noting that a number of bishops are sending some of their qualified priests to
Third: Future Aspirations and Suggestions for Renewal
51. The traditional formula for selecting in our Church is still valid and the developments under way do not contradict it. Rather, they encourage the preservation of its constants, benefiting from them. Therefore, the Synod advises Maronite believers, wherever they may be, especially in the Countries of Expansion, where needs are numerous in the parishes and ecclesiastical communities, to shoulder their responsibilities in living the testimony of Christ and in catering to the needs of their Church. They must also raise awareness among those qualified to serve in the priesthood or the deaconate, whether married or celibate, young or old, and in selecting them and presenting them to the bishop. Then, they must take responsibility to provide for their livelihood after being ordained to serve them.
Additionally, the Synod encourages Christian communities to present to the permanent diaconate experienced men enjoying qualifications and social stability, who can maintain their career or job, thus, satisfying the urgent needs in our Church.
2. The Bishop and the Vocation
52. The bishop, who is the decision maker concerning vocations, does not know all the members of his eparchy and cannot “distinguish between the worthy and the unworthy” from among those presented to him and has to enlist the help of others.
Therefore, the Synod recommends that bishops appoint vocation committees in their eparchies to help them in awakening vocations, accepting those called, discerning their vocations, and directing them to their proper place and in accordance with the needs of the Church. After that, they are to accompany them on a humanitarian and spiritual journey before their entry into the seminary. During their presence in the seminary they are to cooperate with its administration and counselors. This is how, in the end, these committees can be beneficial in aiding bishops to take the decisions of accepting those called and ordaining them.
3. The Seminary
53. The role of the seminary in our Church depends particularly on providing a vast, deep and suitable formation that is on par with the developments of the age and to graduate pious, educated and shepherd priests. Since formation is divided among seminaries, schools of theology and their institutes, then cooperation between them is a must.
Therefore, the Synod recommends the appointment of a specialized committee made up of rectors of seminaries and deans of schools of theology charged with drawing up the one vision with clear features and a comprehensive integrated plan that would be tantamount to a priestly formation charter in the
As for the students who enter seminaries and have not chosen the state in which they want to live their priesthood and serve in the future and considering the special formation needed for each of the two states, the married and the celibate, the Synod sees no objection in keeping the specialization ratified by the ecclesiastical authority current; that is, to have the Maronite Patriarchal Seminary in Ghazir and the Seminary of Our Lady of Lebanon in Washington D.C. for those who have chosen celibacy, and the seminaries of Saint Anthony of Padua in Karm Saddeh and Saint Augustine in Kafra for those who may decide on marriage.
4. Centers for Special Formation
54. There is a rise in pastoral needs and requisites in our Church and an increasing demand for a special formation for married adults who cannot join the program of the seminaries and the permanent diaconate and missionary priests.
Therefore, the Synod exhorts bishops to expend efforts for the sake of providing a special center with an institutional, human, spiritual and cultural framework suitable for the formation of called adults to the service of the priesthood and the permanent diaconate service, and to provide their wives with formation.
The Synod also exhorts bishops to cooperate in ensuring another institutional framework or a special center concerned with the formation of those called to serve in the Countries of Expansion or in the countries of missionary evangelization, for a formation suited to the requirements and needs of the societies they head toward.
5. Rectors of Seminaries or Centers for Special Formation
55. The success of the educational mission at seminaries or at the centers for special formation is dependent, to a great extent, on the proper selection of qualified educators, on the one hand, and on their close cooperation in a distinctive ecclesiastical community, on the other. Therefore, the Synod calls upon bishops to work with His Beatitude the Patriarch to give prime attention to seminaries and centers for special formation. Also, bishops are called to select formation educators from among competent priests, provide them with specialized training and dedicate them to this service, enlisting the help of lay professionals.
The Synod also calls for fostering coordination between rectors of seminaries and those at schools of theology and their institutes.
6. Priestly Formation
56. Since it is necessary for formation to be on par with the developments of the age, a deep formation with wide horizons is imperative in order to transform our priests into qualified educators for the future generations.
Therefore, the Synod recommends that formation is to stress primarily on the human aspect such that the priest of tomorrow may have a mature personality, enabling him to be “a bridge…for others in their meeting with Jesus Christ”, for he “stands in the middle between God and humans”.
On the spiritual level, the priest of tomorrow is to learn to live a life of permanent filial union with the Father through Jesus Christ in the Holy Spirit, in order to sanctify himself and the people of God entrusted to him, for he is the one empowered with the service of “Holy things for the holy, with perfection, purity and sanctity”.
Then, on the intellectual level, the priest of tomorrow is to acquire a wisdom that attracts him to know God and cling to Him, and a knowledge that will help him in educating his brethren and leading them on the road to salvation. This knowledge will also empower him to learn languages and to adapt the Gospel to several cultures, enabling him to teach his Maronite brethren spread out in the world and belonging to numerous cultures and languages.
On the pastoral level, the priest of tomorrow is to be qualified to participate in the love of Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd, and to serve all people. There must be focus on providing him with an institutionalized formation to aid him in managing his parish wisely, for “he is the trustworthy servant and the wise administrator”.
7. Continuous Formation
57. The ongoing formation of priests is “the natural and absolutely necessary continuation of the process of building priestly personality, which began and developed in the seminary...its aim must be that of promoting a general and integral process of constant growth, deepening each of the aspects of formation human, spiritual, intellectual and pastoral”.
Thus, the Synod exhorts bishops to do what they can to ensure ongoing formation for their priests and deacons consolidating their spiritual and cultural renewal, as well as their pastoral endeavors. Hence, they are to give attention to:
· Establishing an apparatus or a center that allows them to delve into the concept of their vocation and their service and to remain informed of all new developments concerning Church teachings and scientific advancement;
· Finding ways to make available the necessary books, magazines and modern technological means;
· Encouraging priestly meetings and periodical meetings at the level of the eparchy and the Church, especially spiritual retreats; and
· Sending qualified priests to specialize in the fields needed for the eparchy and the Church.
58. Our Church today, at the threshold of the 3rd Millennium, is spread out in all the countries of the world and has become integrated in her civilizations and cultures. Today, she is living in a world where distances have shrunk and people are closer to each other. Religious, intellectual, social and political challenges have mushroomed. The yearning for justice and peace, seeking truth, safeguarding human dignity, the spirit of solidarity, and commitment to the issues of weak and suffering humanity, have intensified. Hence, her needs multiplied, her challenges proliferated and her mission heightened.
Therefore, she cannot but have priests to satisfy her needs and carry her mission everywhere. She needs priests living their priesthood through unity with Christ the Lord, to be his witnesses and a sign of his presence in the world;
Priests who are united to their bishops, and through them, with their
Priests who are educated to teach the future generations the principles of the faith and to live that faith through a commitment to the issues of their generation;
Priests who live their priestly service in all austerity, poverty and giving;
Priests who live the totality of the Gospel and witness to Christ, the Redeemer and the Savior.
We are confident that our priests in the Third Millennium, when called and formed by our Church in accordance with the requisites of her needs and in answer to her call, will be prophets, apostles, and servants of the new evangelization with a Maronite tang. For they have received their trust from their people; and have procured the human, spiritual, intellectual and pastoral formation suitable to face the coming challenges; and they will be shepherds of the people in all their circumstances.
No wonder! They are the priests of Christ, the Eternal Priest, the Great Shepherd, who is the Omnipresent in them, in their Church and in the World.
TEXT RECOMMENDATIONS AND ACTION MECHANISMS
1. Spiritual Life of the Priests.
1. The Synod advises priests to deepen their union with Christ so they may be his witnesses and a sign of his presence in their life, their pastoral service and their spiritual life.
1. Priests are to perform their pastoral service, persevere in reading the Holy Bible, in personal and communal prayer in the parish, especially the prayer of the liturgical cycle, meditation and seeking spiritual direction.
2. The Priests’ Way of Life.
2. The Synod advises priests to cling to a life of poverty, not in contempt and shunning of material blessings, but rather its free usage and renunciation.
2. Priests are to embrace the simple life away from affluent appearances, to give witness to Christ who, he is rich, became poor, and to set aside part of their personal income to aid the needy.
3. Living Brotherhood and Solidarity between Priests.
3. The Synod urges priests to live in brotherhood and solidarity with each other, and urges bishops to live solidarity with their brothers the priests and to foster the spirit of brotherhood and cooperation among the priests and the spirit of belonging to the presbyterate.
3. Consolidate communal living among priests, working together through the building of houses for priests wherever there is need, and increasing spiritual, cultural and fun gatherings, and encouraging priests to join societies for priests.
4. The Relationship of Priests with the Laity and with the Monks and Nuns.
4. Since the priest is a sign of the presence of Christ and has to reflect his image amidst the parish entrusted to his care, the Synod advises priests to position them-selves in a positive and encouraging stance with the lay faithful and with monks and nuns, and to bolster their special role in the Church, enlisting their priestly service and their pastoral love for them.
4.a: Enhancing the spirit of collective responsibility with the laity in the service of Christ’s salvific message with respect for and the fostering of the talents bestowed by the Spirit upon the faithful.
4.b: Consolidating apostolic movements and Christian associations, assuring them direction and guidance, either directly or via the help of other priests or monks and nuns or the laity.
4.c: Arranging common gatherings with monks and nuns.
5. Dedication of Priests to the ministry of the Parish.
5. In order to undertake the required service of the parish, the Synod recommends that the needed number of priests be made available to give attention to and take care of the faithful without neglecting the domains of priestly and pastoral endeavors in schools and institutions.
5. Freeing a priest requires serious preparation, ensuring a decent standard of living so that his presence may be qualitative.
6. Providing a Decent Standard of Living for Priests and Deacons.
6.a: The Synod calls on bishops to arrange for a decent standard of living for priests within their eparchies and the erection of the Priest’s Fund.
6.b: The Synod calls on bishops to cooperate in establishing a common fund to provide medical and retirement insurance for priests.
6.c: The Synod urges the Maronite faithful in all parishes and the Christian congregations to assume their moral and financial responsibilities for the purpose of insuring a decent and dignified standard of living for the priests and deacons.
6.a: This is to be achieved in cooperation with the faithful, the waqf committees and ecclesiastical associations in their eparchies.
6.b: This is to be achieved through the participation of the Patriarchate, the eparchies and the waqf committees, and the contributions of the faithful and the priests themselves, with the appointment of a specialized administration.
6.c: This is to be achieved through the employ of ordinary means, that is, by the faithful contributing monthly or annually, as appropriate for each eparchy and each parish.
7. Consolidating the Diaconate Service
7.a: The Synod urges bishops to consolidate the diaconate service in their eparchies wherever there is need, and to call those who are qualified for it.
7.b: The Synod encourages families, parishes and Christian organizations to present to the bishop those who are qualified for the diaconate service.
7.a: Devise a special program for deacons and their formation in an appropriate way.
7.b: Present men of experience enjoying qualification and social stability.
8. Distribution of Priests.
8. The Synod calls on bishops to cooperate in distributing priests in a manner commensurate with new needs in their eparchies and in the whole Church. It wishes for the bishops of the Patriarchal Domain to heed the call of their brethren in the eparchies of the expansion or elsewhere, and dispatch their way those who are capable and prepared to serve there.
8. To study the status of these needs, the qualifications of the priests, and their distribution in accordance with these needs, cooperating between eparchies for the exchange of priests for limited periods through agreements, twinning or permanent transfers.
9. Attention to Vocations.
9.a: The Synod wishes for priests to give special attention to awakening priestly and monastic vocations and attending to them.
9.b: The Synod recommends that bishops urge priests and those responsible in the apostolic organizations to encourage those endowed with the required qualifications for priestly service and to present them to the bishop.
9.a: Priests are to perform this service primarily through their priestly witness and through their accompaniment of the youth and whomever they discover the vocation in them, a cultural, social and spiritual accompaniment.
9.b: Stressing the importance of responding to God’s calling and accompanying those called by the bishop in their walk toward the priesthood or the diaconate or toward monastic life.
10. Vocations Committees.
10. The Synod recommends that bishops appoint committees for vocations in their eparchies to support them in awakening vocations, receiving those called and discerning their calling, directing them to where they should be, in accordance with the needs of the Church.
10. The committee is to be composed of two or three priests, a monk and a nun and from the laity. The following lies within its duties: drafting a program of enlightenment in parishes and schools to awaken vocations and accompany the called in a human and spiritual walk before they are to join the seminary and after they do, in coordination with its administration and its directors, and after they leave.
11. The Priestly Formation Charter in the
11. The Synod recommends the completion of the drafting of the Priestly Formation Charter in the
11.a: Stressing that students receive the appropriate spiritual, intellectual, human and apostolic formation, preparing them to undertake their numerous duties, accompanying the new fields of pastoral work, preparing them to live the communal spirit and collective work, and the ecumenical apostolic and missionary work, and to cooperate with the various religions.
11.b: Adding to the general curriculum a special program concerning the
12. Affording Seminaries and Formation Centers Prime Importance.
12. The Synod recommends affording seminaries and formation centers prime importance.
12. Selecting formation rectors from among qualified priests providing them with special habitation and freeing them for this service, and enlisting the aid of the specialized from the laity.
13. Continuous Formation for priests.
13. The Synod recommends providing on-going formation to priests and deacons to consolidate their spiritual and cultural renewal and their pastoral work.
13. Benefiting from priestly and periodic encounters at the parish and the Church levels, that it may be a sphere for formation.
– Cooperation with colleges of theology in organizing seminars specialized in following the developments in Church teachings and modern subjects.
– Supplying the necessary books, magazines and modern technical means to various centers that could be available to priests.
– Applying what canon laws have decreed concerning the newly ordained priests and to their continued formation over a period of five years with emphasis on administrative and pastoral skills.
– Applying the laws that sanction the right for a priest to have a sabbatical year for renewal.
14. Specialization of Priests.
14. The Synod recommends the sending of qualified priests to specialize in a field the eparchy or the Church needs.
14. Studying the needs of the eparchy and the Church and selecting those who have scientific qualifications and spiritual and educational capabilities.
. Patriarch Douaihy says, “What the Lord said holds true: “Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom his master has set over his household, to give them their food at the proper time?” (Matt. 24:45). Refer to Patriarch Stephan Douaihy, Manarat al-Aqdass (The Lighthouse of the Holy Mysteries), vol. I, published by Rasheed Ash-Shartouni, Catholic Press, Beirut, 1895, The Third Lighthouse, pp. 201-202.
. Patriarch Stephan Douaihy’s: Sharhh at-Takreesaat w-ash-Shartounia (Explaining Consecrations and the Xerotonia), published by Rasheed Ash-Shartouni, Catholic Press,
. Refer to Patriarch Stephan Douaihy, Sharhh at-Takreesaat w-ash-Shartounia (Explaining Consecrations and Xerotonia), published by Rasheed Ash-Shartouni, Catholic Press,
. Refer to the Prayer of Divine Office, Wednesday night, Sedro of the third stand, and the Sunday of the Priests Mass, in the opening prayers and in the Hoosoyo.
. It is the “natural priesthood”. Refer to the Divine Office, in the Sogito of Friday morning and the sogito of Monday evening. Also, refer to Ash-Shartounia fi Darajat al-Qsousia (Xeirotonia in the Priesthood), in the prayers of the laying on of hands before anointment with the chrism.
. Refer to Ash-Shartounia fi Darajat al-Qsousia (Xeirotonia in the Priesthood), and the Divine Office on the Morning of the Sunday of the Priests, and the Book of the Mass in the last blessing on feast days; and the Book of Letters, the reading of May 15 and July 16.
. Namely, al-Kahnoot at-Tawraati (The Torah Priesthood) for service. Refer to the Ancient Book of the Mass, Incense of Aaron. Also, the book of Ash-Shartounia fi Darajat al-Qsousia (Xeirotonia in the Priesthood), Stronen before Hoosoyo hymn.
. Refer to the Divine Office, the eve of the Sunday of the Priests: opening prayer and the hymn of ‘Am Khalhoon Shmayooneh and Sogito, and the Fashito hymn in the morning.
. Ash-Shartounia fi Darajat al-Qsousia (Xeirotonia in the Priesthood), prayers of the laying of the hands.
. Ibid. Hoosoyo.
. Ibid. the Melody of Stronen.
. Ibid. the Prayer of Chrism.
. Ibid. prayers for the vesting of the new priest with the stole of priesthood.
. Divine Office, in the third rising of Wednesday night and Friday and in the Evening Prayer of the Sunday of the Priests; in the Book of the Mass, the Hoosoyo of the Sunday of the Priests where we read that Christ is the “glorifier of priests. He sanctified them to serve His mysteries full service”, and in the Hoosoyo of the Mass of the Twelve Aposltes.
. Refer to: 1 Timothy 4:11-13; 2 Timothy 4:5; Titus 1:9.
. The Book of the Qurbono: Hoosoyo from the Sunday of the Righteous and the Just.
. The book Ash-Shartounia fi Darajat al-Qsousia (Xeirotonia in the Priesthood), prayers of the laying on of hands.
. Ibid., the prayer of divine grace and the laying on of hands.
. The priest “is set in the middle between God and His people. He accepts the offering of the people and raises his prayers to Heaven. He calls upon the Holy Spirit in private and receives it in public through the bread and the Chalice of Salvation. The sinners, thus, come forth and take the flesh and the blood and are cleansed from their sins”. Divine Office, on the evening of the Sunday of the Renewal of the Church, Mshiho Natirē L’Eedtokh hymn.
. The Book of the Mass, Invitation to Communion.
. The book Ash-Shartounia fi Darajat al-Qsousia (Xeirotonia in the Priesthood), Hoosoyo.
. The Book of Divine Office, Hoosoyo of the Sunday of the Priests.
. The book Ash-Shartounia fi Darajat al-Qsousia (Xeirotonia in the Priesthood), prayers of the laying on of hands; Book of Mass; the Etro prayer in the Sunday of the Renewal of the Church.
. The Funeral of Priests, Kikro hymn.
. The Funeral of Priests, hymn of lal min shoufra; Ash-Shartounia fi Darajat al-Qsousia (Xeirotonia in the Priesthood), in the Hoosoyo, the prayer of ordination, Book of Divine Office, Hoosoyo of the morning of the Sunday of Priests. These two texts of Mathew are the most cited in the Maronite liturgy and in the Syriac liturgy.
. The Lebanese Synod, section III, Ch. 2, item 9. Najm Edition, p. 332.
. We have an accurate description from missionaries and orientalists who depict how priests, deacons and monks practice their pastoral service. For example, Fr. Dandini the Jesuit, Fr. Richard Simon the Jesuit who translated the trip of Fr. Dandini to Mount Lebanon into French (1596-1598), Fr. Oger Roger the Capuchin (17th century), Fr. Sylvester De Saint Anian (17th century), Laurent Darfio, the French Consul (1679-1683), and others. Refer to these texts in: Fr. Youakim Moubarak, Khumassiyat Antakiya – Ab’aad Marounia (The Quintet of Antioch – Maronite Dimensions), part I, vol. II, the Lebanese Seminar,
. Ibid. part III, Ch. III, item 4 & 5. Najm Edition, p. 330.
. Ibid. part III, Ch. III, item 4 & 5. Najm Edition, pp. 332-333.
Also refer to the Synod of Qannoubine 1580 which states on “the servant of the Sacrament, which is the priest who has the right to grant the Sacrament: it is he who baptizes, and he has the power to tie and untie through the gift granted to him, for he was chosen to be the shepherd of souls in his parish and church”. (
J. Feghali, Histoire du Droit de l’Eglise Maronite, T. I, Paris, Letouzey et Ane, 1962, P. 107-135.
. Ibid. part III, Ch. III, item 2. Najm Edition, p. 327.
. Ibid. part III, Ch. III, item 3. Najm Edition, p. 329.
Also in the second section, chapter 14, Najm Press, p. 243, we read, “When ordination bound the clergyman to the authority of the bishop who ordained him and to his power, such as he had no right to do anything related to divinity without prior consent of the bishop. Each clergyman was related to a specific church where he had the right to take decision, serve according to his degree and ensure his livelihood”.
. Part III, Ch. II, item 4. Najm Edition, pp.312-313.
. Bull entitled “The Apostolic Service”, dated March 31, 1732.
. Part IV, Ch. II, Najm Edition, p. 459-499.
. Part IV, Ch. II, item7. Najm Edition, p. 466.
. Ibid. item 8. Najm Edition, pp. 466-467.
. For more details, refer to the text: Parish and Pastoral Work, from the proceedings of this Synod.
. Apostolic Exhortation, A New Hope for
. Refer to Canons 415, 282, and 284.
. Refer to Lk. 9:1-6 and 10:1-9; Gal. 6:6; 1 Cor. 9:11.
. Refer to the Lebanese Synod, part II, Ch. XIV, Canons 12, 31, 32, Najm Edition, pp. 243, 258, 259; the Second Vatican Council Decree: Presbyterorum Ordinis (Decree on the Ministry and Life of Priests), Nos. 17, 20, and 21. Pope John Paul II Apostolic Exhortation: Pastores Dabo Vobis (On the Formation of Priests in the Circumstances of the Present Day), No. 30. Directory on the Ministry and Life of Priests, a document issued by the Congregation for the Clergy on 1/31/1994, No. 67; Apostolic Exhortation: A New Hope for Lebanon, No. 61; Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches, Can. 358, 390, and 1021. Particular Law of the
. The Second
. Canon 373.
. This is how Peter, head of the Apostles, did in selecting the Apostle Matthias (Acts 1:15-26), and the seven assistants (Acts 6:1-6), and this is how the Apostles set Barnabas and Saul apart to work in the Church at
. This is how Peter, head of the Apostles, presented to the brethren the need to select an Apostle “to take the place…from which Judas turned away” (Acts 1:20); and this is how the Twelve presented to the community of the disciple of the need “…the Hellenists complained against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution” (Acts 6:1). In these two instances, Peter and the Twelve specified the required qualifications, and then asked the brethren to select.
. As in 1 Tim. 3:2-6 and 8-13; 1 Ti. 1:6-9.
. As in 1 Tim. 3:7.
. The book Ash-Shartounia fi Darajat al-Qsousia (Xeirotonia in the Priesthood), the prayer of divine grace.
. Ibid. Prayers of the laying on of hands, mentioned five times.
. Ibid. The prayer of divine grace.
. Ibid. The bishop says: “He preaches himself on the altar of the Church of…… in the town of…..where those who have presented him will bear the responsibility”.
. The warning we read in the introduction of Rite of Ordination cites Canon 15 from the Council of Nicaea, “if the place of the service of the priest or the deacon is unknown, then the laying of the hands should not take place, since hands should be laid on in the place where he will fulfill his service.” In the explanation of the Xerotonia, Patriarch Douaihy explains, in canon 6 of the Council of Chalcedone, “no one should be ordained in an absolute manner, neither bishop nor priest nor deacon, nor to any ecclesiastical service, unless he is tied to a city, village, shrine or monastery. The Holy Synod has decreed that his ordination shall be void and he shall be incompetent to serve”. Refer to Patriarch Stephan Douaihy, Sharhh at-Takreesaat w-ash-Shartounia (Explaining Consecrations and the Xerotonia), p. 192.
. The Lebanese Synod, part II, Ch. XIV, item 12, Najm Press, p. 243. This text cites Canon 6 from the Council of Chalcedony. Also, part III, Ch, III, item 1, Najm Press, p. 325.
. Kitaab al-Huda (The Book of Guidance), published by Abbot Boutros Fahed,
. Patriarch Douaihy, Sharhh at-Takreesaat w-ash-Shartounia (Explaining Consecrations and the Xerotonia), p. 211.
. As a Jesuit Father said in 1845: “Here, according to the general rule, the lay is not elevated to the order of priest unless the people present him to the bishop. This rule does not accept any deviation with respect to the priests who undertake the mission of serving souls.”
Refer to: P. Louis-Xavier Abougit, lettre à Mgr. Mislin, Camérier de S.S. Pie IX, in: Recueil de lettres intitulées
. The book Ash-Shartounia fi Darajat al-Qsousia (Xeirotonia in the Priesthood), introduction of ordination.
. Patriarch Douaihy, Sharhh at-Takreesaat w-ash-Shartounia (Explaining Consecrations and the Xerotonia), p. 186. The Lebanese Synod, part II, Ch. XIV, item 26, Najm Edition, p. 256.
. Patriarch Douaihy, Sharhh at-Takreesaat w-ash-Shartounia (Explaining Consecrations and the Xerotonia), p. 186. Cited from Kitaab al-Huda (The Book of Guidance), Fahed, p. 179.
. The Lebanese Synod, ibid. No. 25, Najm Edition, p. 255.
. The book Ash-Shartounia fi Darajat al-Qsousia (Xeirotonia in the Priesthood), warning. He is citing Can. 3 from the Council of Chalcedon, the Letters of St. Paul to Titus 1:5-9 and 1 Tim. 3:2-7.
. Patriarch Douaihy, Sharhh at-Takreesaat w-ash-Shartounia (Explaining Consecrations and the Xerotonia), p. 186.
. The Fahed Edition, pp. 177-178, wherein he recommends, “that priests be of good conduct and free in the houses of God in their bodies and their behaviors so as not to be distracted by their women, children and money. If they were married, they should live their married life by abstaining and obeying the commandments of God.”
. Part II, Ch. XIV, No. 35, Najm Edition, pp 261-262. The fathers of the Synod say, “it is an old tradition and a custom known to all Easterners to have the lower ranks, deacons and subdeacons and priests keep their wives to whom they were wed before taking on a sacred rank; the holy Roman Church did not forbid them to marry but rather supported them. That is why we did not forbid those of lower ranks from getting married, nor did we forbid those of sacred ranks to continue in their marriage prior to ordination, but so as not to intimidate those who intend to maintain celibacy into marrying, rather made to maintain celibacy through incitement and instigation.” Then the Fathers of the Synod add, “A good advice to married clergy,” according to the Apostle Paul (Refer to Part III, No. 15, Najm Edition, pp. 300-301. Paul the Apostle is quoted literally from Ti. 1:7 and 1 Tim. 3:2-12).
. It is enough to read what Fr. Dandini, the Papal Delegate to the Maronites between 1596 and 1598, who wrote: “priests, consequently deacons and sub deacons, can, if they were not monks, get married before ordination. Rather, it seems as if they are compelled to get married for the people to accept them, especially if they are still young. Also. the bishops place odd obstacles I accepting them for ordination unless they enter a monastery or get married.” Jérôme Dandini, Voyage au Mont-Liban, éd. Richard Simon, Paris, Billaine, 1675, pp. 103-104.
. This is what Patriarch Boulos Meouchy reiterated in a preparatory letter to Vatican II, « the method of the mission of the married clergy is a long standing traditional carrying the positive factor of allowing the shepherd to remain near his flock for life. This is the clergy, who through his own stability, helped preserve the faith in the mountain”. Letter to Fr. Robert Clement dated 22 February, 1960, in the Proche Orient Chrétien Magazine, 12 (1962), pp. 123-126.
. Patriarch Douaihy, Sharhh at-Takreesaat w-ash-Shartounia (Explaining Consecrations and the Xerotonia), 210-211.
. The book: Ash-Shartounia fi Darajat al-Qsousia (Xeirotonia in the Priesthood), Decree of Vocation, Selection or the prayer of divine grace.
. The Lebanese Synod, Part IV, Ch. VI, No. 3, Najm Edition, p. 535.
. Council of Trent, session 23, Can. 18, On Reform.
· Conciliorum Oecumenicorum Decreta, Bologna, ed. Istituto per le Scienze religiose, 1973, 3º édition, pp. 750-753, t. x. 1ère Concile;
· MICHEL, les Décrets du Concile de Trente, in: HEFELE – LECLERQ, Histoire des partie, , pp. 501-505.
. The Lebanese Synod, Part IV, Ch. VI, No. 6, Najm Edition, p. 546. The fathers of the Synod ordered that, ”Schools are to be established in cities, villages and large monasteries, and care is to be taken to preserve them”, and they urged ”all those presiding over eparchies, cities, villages, farms and monasteries, groups or individuals, to cooperate on promoting this greatly beneficial work. First, they are to install a teacher where there is none, write down the name of the juveniles who are ready to receive education and order their parents to take them to school, even if they have to drag them” (Ch. 6, No. 1, pp. 529-530).
. It should be noted that Patriarch Youhanna Makhlouf had turned the Monastery of Our Lady of Hawqa in the
. The schools were as follows:
- La Sagesse School – Beirut, founded by Archbishop Youssef ad-Debs, Archbishop of Beirut and the student of Ain Waraqa, in 1875, to educate the Maronite and Catholic youth and to counter the Protestant campaign in Beirut;
- The St. Joseph School – Qornet Shehwan, founded by Archbishop Youssef Geagea, Archbishop of Cyprus, in 1885, aimed at the formation of the clergy of his eparchy; and,
. Founded in
Refer to Bulletin de l’Association de Saint Louis des Maronites (1876-1914).
. It should be noted that many attempts were registered during that time. Most important of which are:
1) Transforming the Monastery of the Jesuit Fathers in Ghazir into a Maronite Seminary administered by them during the time of Patriarch Antoun ‘Arida in 1934;
2) Transforming the School of Ain Waraqa, and afterwards, the School of St. Abda – Harhariya, into a Central Maronite Seminary managed by the Congregation of Maronite Lebanese Missionaries, then by the eparchial priests during the time of Patriarch Antoun Arida, then Patriarch Boulos Meouchy between 1944 and 1965;
3) Opening the Maronite Seminary in Salamanca – Spain and receiving 30 scholarships from the Papal University of Salamanca during the time of Patriarch Antoun Arida in July 1948, under the management of the Congregation of Maronite Lebanese Missionaries; and,
4) Opening the Maronite Seminary of Our Lady of Lebanon in
. The Second
. Ibid. No. 6.
. The Second
. Pope John Paul II Apostolic Exhortation: Pastores Dabo Vobis (On the Formation of Priests in the Circumstances of the Present Day), No. 36.
. Many studies were published in this field, mainly:
* R. Clement, La vie du clergé marié en Orient, in P.O.C., 16(1966), P. 354-378.
* M. Khairallah, La formation du clergé séculier dans l’Eglise Maronite contemporaine, Publications de l’U.A.C., Liban, 1993.
* F. Van der Lugt, L’image du prêtre célibataire dans la communauté maronite libano-Syrienne, Thèse, Lyon II, 1976, 2 Vol.
. Such as the case of the parish of Ehmej in Jbeil, who presented a petition on 23 May, 1967 to Patriarch Boulos Meouchy stating, “We the undersigned, your sons and daughters in Ehmej, from the Patriarchal Eparchy, would like to express our allegiance to your Beatitude person and would like to ask you to accept Youssef Boutros Abboud Hardan to the seminary prepared for late vocations. This stems from our dire need of a parish priest since the virtuous Fathers Boulos El Khoury and Gebrayel Gebrayel can no longer perform their parish duties due to old age.
Since the death of Father Tanios Hardan has left a great void in the spiritual and social fields, we are obliged to fill this void with 2 priests, at least, since the belated performed several parish duties in different places. Since the suggested individual for this noble mission has high ethics, praiseworthy traits, refined politeness, virtue and piety we have known him for since childhood and until this day, considering that he is now 42 years of age, married with 5 children (4 boys and 1 girl), the eldest is 10 years old and the youngest 9 months, and his current education allows him to accede to the holy priesthood.
And, since the family will be provided for during his stay at the seminary and we will shoulder this responsibility without adding any burden to the Patriarchate,
We reiterate our plea for your Eminence to accept him in the seminary”.
Refer to the Archives of Bkerke, Patriarch Meouchy’s drawer.
. Pope John Paul II Apostolic Exhortation: Pastores Dabo Vobis (On the Formation of Priests in the Circumstances of the Present Day), No. 66. Also, refer to The Second Vatican Council Decree: Optatam Totius (Decree On Priestly Training), No. 5.
. It is worth nothing that the Synod of Bishops erected in the year 2000 a committee to draft the Charter of Priestly Training in the
. Pope John Paul II Apostolic Exhortation: Pastores Dabo Vobis (On the Formation of Priests in the Circumstances of the Present Day), No. 43.
. The Book of Divine Office, Prayer of the Evening – Sunday of the Dedication of the Church – Refer to item 8.
. The Book of the Qurbono, Refer to item 8.
. The book Ash-Shartounia fi Darajat al-Qsousia (Xeirotonia in the Priesthood), Book of Divine Office in the Hoosoyo of the morning of the Sunday of the Priests, the Funeral of Priests. Refer to No. 9, above.
. Pope John Paul II Apostolic Exhortation: Pastores Dabo Vobis (On the Formation of Priests in the Circumstances of the Present Day), No. 71.