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The Pastoral and Spiritual Renewal in the Maronite Church

The Patriarchate, the Eparchy, and the Parish




1. Since its birth the Maronite Church experienced a patriarchal system of governance based on the concept of ecclesiastical communion as lived in the local Church. This quasi-restricted meaning of patriarchate prevailed until the seventeenth century because the term “eparchy” in its canonical meaning did not exist prior to that time.


The Maronite Church, however, embarked on a structural renewal experiment when the Lebanese Synod met in 1736. It introduced into the patriarchal structure, according to the recommendations of the Council of Trent, a new principle that required the division of the Patriarchal Domain into independent eparchies, with each eparchy headed by the bishop who resided there and who moved among his people as he enjoyed full jurisdiction over his eparchy.  This 1736 Synod also determined the rights and obligations of the eparchial bishops as well as those of parish pastors. Parish pastors were not even mentioned before the Synod of Qannoubine although it is evident that Maronite pastoral organizations existed before 1580.


Along with the Lebanese Synod introducing the canonical concept of eparchy into the Maronite Church’s structure, it also devoted a full chapter to the parish and its pastor and completed the treatment of both institutions in the other sections of its acts[1].


At a later date the concepts of the “eparchy and parish became more clearly defined with the definition that Vatican II [1962-1965] gave to both of them[2]. Then came the Apostolic Exhortation, A New Hope for Lebanon, which consecrated a full chapter to the renewal of the Church. This indicated that such a renewal was the object of the synod as is evidenced by the title of Chapter Three in the exhortation: “Synod for the Renewal of the Church”[3].


2.  The synod deals with the topic of patriarchal, eparchial, and parochial structures and with the concept of renewal, defining the concept of structure as a reflection of the relationship between competency and responsibility and specifying how delegation and accountability systems will be handled.


Chapter I : The Patriarchate


First: Historical Data


3. The Maronite Church has been able to survive thanks to her attachment to her patriarch as her head and her father, and to the centralizing function that the patriarch exercises. Therefore, it was and is necessary to preserve this function from deteriorating and becoming merely a ceremonial function. The power of the patriarch is an Episcopal, ordinary, proper, customary, and local power over the entire Church within the patriarchal boundaries. He also has personal authority over the children of his Church wherever they may be.


4. Most Eastern Churches enjoy an ancient patriarchal system of governance formally recognized since the fourth century. This patriarchal system was mentioned at the Council of Nicea in 325 a.d. as being a coordinated power with that of the Bishop of Rome. The Council alluded also to the privileges recognized to Antioch: “Let the ancient tradition followed in Egypt, Libya, and the five cities be observed in that the bishop of Alexandria has power over all the provinces; the bishop of Rome enjoys a similar power. In addition, the privileges of Antioch and the other regions must be observed….”[4].


It is evident from this passage that this canon law does not intend to create a new institution; rather, the canon is meant to confirm an ancient Church tradition that preserves the rights of the three great metropolitan sees. Commentators and historians have considered this canon to be a prelude to the patriarchal organization that later granted to these bishoprics a jurisdiction over the eparchies and regions under them. Thus, the city of Antioch, capital of the eparchy of the East, was not a mere administrative, cultural, and military capital but also a religious one, and the see of the bishopric of the East which became, after the Council of Chalcedon (451 A.D.), the see of the Patriarch of Antioch and All the East.”


5. The rights of patriarchs, according to Justinian the First’s (527-565 A.D.) legislation and the 6th canon of the First Council of Constantinople, included the right to convoke local and regional councils, preside over them, supervise their work, and preside over the patriarchal synod. The patriarchal power is part of the Episcopal power and is of the same nature. The Synodal system of government within the patriarchate is based on the concept of ecclesiastical communion as lived in the local Church. In the Patriarchal Church, this Synodal collegiality, along with the effective participation in responsibility that it implies is evident in the Church’s Synod of Bishops.


6. Collegiality was the path followed by the primitive Church since the Council of Jerusalem (49 A.D.).[5] It is defined as the reunion of the bishops of the local Churches in Councils called synods. The word synod, in Greek, means “walking together;” it is translated in Arabic by the word majmaa. Like the Council of Jerusalem walked together, so do the local Churches ever since the second century. These Churches have walked together the path of Christ and have met on different levels to protect their one, single march from straying onto a different path. These Churches convened in regional and ecumenical councils in order to settle doctrinal and common administrative matters. This communion between the Churches began at the bishop’s ordination. They were always performed by the involvement of at least three bishops, some of whom came from the neighboring Churches[6].

It became customary that the bishops of the neighboring Churches would attend the regional councils that were held in Antioch, Rome, Carthage, and other cities. The Council of Nicea decreed that a regional council should be held in each region once every two years[7].


7. As stated above, the bishop is the master of his eparchy: he governs it with godly piety, ordains the priests and the deacons, and serves his eparchy. He may not, however, perform any pastoral activity outside of his eparchy without the authorization of the local bishop. In order to clarify the bishop’s range of authority, the councils that were held in Antioch from 327 A.D. to 341 A.D. clarified the relationship between the local bishop and the rest of the Churches of the region by saying: “The bishop of each region must know that it is the duty of the bishop presiding over the region’s capital (the metropolis) to also take care of the entire region because all those who work in the capital come to the metropolis from everywhere. Consequently, we decided that the metropolitan bishop has a primacy of honor according to the ancient norm confirmed by our fathers [and] that the other bishops will not do anything independently from him except for the work that pertains to the eparchy of each one of them and of the rural region dependent on it.” Moreover, can. 34 of the collection called the Apostolic Constitution which apparently goes back to 381 A.D. prescribes the following: “The bishop must not do anything without the approval of all and the bishops must also recognize the one bishop who is their head and consider him as such and not do anything without consulting him”[8].


8. Ecumenical councils are most expressive of the communion of faith between all local Churches. These councils aim to strengthen the bond of unity between different local Churches. Consequently, collegiality in its regional, ecumenical, or Episcopal form is shining proof of the bond of unity between bishops, of the communion of brotherly love that characterizes their mutual relationships, and of their zeal for the universal mission, i.e., the deposit of the Apostles that guides their actions and inspires their decisions. Thus, each one is responsible for his particular Church and also shares with the rest of the bishops the responsibility for the universal Church, in full union with the Bishop of Rome and with the patriarch[9].


9. The Lebanese Synod held in the monastery of our Lady of Louaize in 1736, introduced reform related to the structure of the Maronite patriarchate that at that time was necessary and it did so in response to new pastoral needs. This Synod established eparchies with canonical entities, with each one being headed by a bishop who was endowed with legitimate jurisdiction and who was compelled within the Patriarchal Domain to reside in his eparchy[10] instead of remaining with the patriarch along with other bishops who were administering their flock in his name, as representatives with delegated power from him. Giving a bishop legitimate jurisdiction resulted in weakening the centralized power of the patriarch. This Synod did not take sufficient measures to preserve the organic unity that would bind the bishops to the patriarch; rather this Synod decreed only a few privileges to the patriarch. Even though those limited privileges would strengthen some of the patriarch’s power, they did so at the expense of brotherly participation in pastoral care[11].


10. The Church’s sacrament of communion is especially revealed in its Synodal work. The Church’s Synodal structure is what leads to the unchanging awareness of the reality that the Church is communion, and it is vital to stress the importance of this Synodal spirit. Therefore, it is not enough that each eparchy be attentive to its own specific tasks and concerns; the eparchy must be also committed to the concerns and aspirations of the other eparchies. Of note, today’s Synodal life of each eparchy and also the solidarity between bishops and patriarch, along with their shared responsibility in the Christian mission within the Patriarchal Domain, are considered to be clear accomplishments. Preserving this Synodal spirit within the patriarchate, as well as in the Countries of Expansion, is the great challenge facing our Church in the future.


Second: The Current Situation


11. The supreme authority of the Maronite Patriarchal Church is composed of the patriarch and the Synod of Bishops, all of whom are competent authorities who are assigned to deal with all Church matters[12], including establishing new eparchies and electing bishops within the Patriarchal Domain[13].


12. The patriarch is an elected bishop, ordained and installed according to the canonical norm as pastor of a specific see, i.e., the Patriarchal See. In this capacity, the patriarch administers his local eparchy with the power derived from his Episcopal ordination with proper, ordinary, and direct jurisdiction. Also in his capacity, as the patriarch of his particular patriarchate, he is the father and the head, exercising true jurisdiction according to Church law and he does so within the Synodal structure and according to the spirit of can. 34 of the Apostolic Constitution[14]. Related to the Patriarchal Church, it is the right of the patriarch to exercise only an executive and administrative power; whereas the legislative power, related to the Patriarchal Church, is the right of the Synod of Bishops. The patriarch is the one who fosters the unity of his Church, preserving this unity, along with the communion of faith and the communion of Church leadership, together with the Apostolic Roman See and the rest of the Churches.


Vatican II took an important step toward understanding the patriarchal Churches and appreciating their heritage and existence by describing them as “a necklace on the neck of the Church.” The Council also acknowledged an obligation to work with the utmost effort to preserve these Churches, and recognized the rights that these patriarchates have had since the first millennium, rights that were established by the earliest ecumenical councils[15].


13. The Maronite patriarchate is today dealing with two different realities that intersect each other. The first reality is the Catholic ecclesial communion in Lebanon within the Patriarchal Domain, including the East, which is represented by the Council of Catholic Patriarchs and Bishops in Lebanon and the East. The second reality relates to the Maronite Expansion worldwide.


The communion on the Lebanese level, and within the Patriarchal Domain, is what drives our Church as well as the other Catholic Churches to collaborate in resolving varied vital issues in a spirit of unity and encourages them to be a symbol for the unity of faith and unity of a society. On the worldwide level, the Maronites who are in the Countries of Expansion are challenged to become more aware of, faithful to, and working toward the actualization of our multidimensional ecclesial identity.


14. The Lebanese experience of our Church’s unity-in-pluralism shows the catholic dimension, in terms of its universality, of the Maronite Church, reminding us that we, as Maronites, are part of the catholic communion and the one Church of Christ. In the Apostolic Exhortation A New Hope for Lebanon, the Catholic Bishops of Lebanon were called for “the establishment of permanent conjunctional structures between Churches and their development, wherever they exist. This should be done at all levels of ecclesial life, under the authority of the Conference of the Catholic Patriarchs and Bishops in Lebanon.” These new structures motivate the persons in charge to consult with each other while respecting their diversity and proper jurisdictions[16]. The new structures call all persons in charge to build the Body of Christ in a truly ecclesial spirit. The synod further stated, “We would like to expand and intensify these mutual consultations and this brotherly cooperation”[17], His Holiness Pope John Paul II has called the Catholic patriarchs and bishops in Lebanon to work toward better organization for the sake of the common good. In turn, in terms of the renewal of Communion structures, Patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir insisted that it was important to establish a communication network between all the Church leaders[18], to redistribute the eparchies according to the needs of the faithful, and to reorganize the patriarchal curia and Episcopal curia[19].


15. One cannot stress enough the importance of patriarchal centralization, the unity of Maronite patriarchal structure in the East and the West, the collaboration that is necessary in order to strengthen the Episcopal collegiality (especially as it has been expressed in the Synod of Bishops), and the need to work harder in order to tighten the bonds of communion between Eastern Catholic Churches on the one hand, and with the Holy See on the other hand. Perhaps the greatest challenge facing the Church today is the fact that a majority of Maronites now reside outside of the Patriarchal Domain, and this reality is a relatively new one. Years ago, in comparison, the Lebanese Synod of 1736 had to consider just Syria and Cyprus related to Maronites living outside of Lebanon because there was no other mission at that time. In fact, at the present time, Maronites have expanded over the entire world and have bishops in several countries. The Maronite Church is being called on to widen her awareness to include these Maronites living in the Countries of Expansion. The Church is being called to seriously and profoundly study this phenomenon by taking into consideration the new data that outlines its geographic, demographic, cultural, and ecclesial dimensions. She must do this in order to organize her mission “for the glory of God and the building up of the Church[20]”. Also, for that same reason, she is being called to work toward developing more accurate and scientific coordination between the Churches of the East and of the West, ensuring that communication and communion between these Churches can continue to realize the structural unity of the Maronite patriarchate - a structural unity that can narrow the gap between the East and the West.


16. Canon law distinguishes between the eparchies within the Patriarchal Domain and those within the Countries of Expansion. The eparchies in the latter countries are attached to the Congregation for the Eastern Churches. Canon law also gave the Holy See the right to appoint bishops for these eparchies in the Countries of Expansion, leaving to the Synod of Bishops of the Maronite Church the right to elect three candidates from whom the Holy Father will select a bishop, or, if necessary, a bishop can be chosen from other candidates. The bishops of the eparchies in the Countries of Expansion are under the jurisdiction of the patriarch in liturgical matters, but they submit their Quinquennial Report to the Apostolic See during their ad limina visit to Rome, and also present a copy of this Report to their patriarch.


The preference of the Eastern patriarchs to extend their jurisdiction over all of the members of their Churches wherever they are located throughout the world, and to do so concerning every issue, continues to occupy the Holy See as it tries to find a fitting and necessary solution in order to preserve the entity and identity of Eastern Churches.


Third: Future Aspirations


17. An ontological communion binds the eparchies to the Patriarchal See. No matter how far apart the Patriarchal See and eparchies are, it is impossible for an eparchy to develop independently from the Patriarchal See, or for a Maronite bishopric to stand separately from the patriarchate and from the Synod of Bishops of the Maronite Church, the guardian of this Church’s unity. Consequently:


·  Need to strengthen the ecclesial bonds of the patriarch and the Patriarchal See based on a profound feeling of belonging to the Church which guarantees the preservation of the Maronite Church’s identity;

·  Continue to have the patriarch visit locations outside of Lebanon. These visits have shown the extent of the attachment of Maronites to their patriarch and to their Church. They are an important means of developing and actualizing the Maronite bonds in order to make them stronger, tighter and more permanent. Therefore, it is necessary to make regular visits, in coordination with the local bishops. Moreover, canon law urges that these visits be undertaken every five years to all eparchies worldwide, as it is evident that the eparchies of the Countries of Expansion are the ones most in need of these visits from their patriarch.


18. The constants of the Maronite identity are embodied through, and the Maronite unity is realized through, the creation of firm structures and the adoption of resolutions that mandate the creation of a Secretariat General in the Patriarchal See headed by the patriarch and with the latter designating a competent bishop or priest who will be able to assume the function of general secretary. Among other tasks, this Secretariat General will establish offices, not mentioned in the canon or particular law, that will target and activate spiritual renewal, clerical reform, teaching, research, culture, education, social and economic growth, ecumenical dialogue (the Antiochene ecumenical work in particular), as well as activate an inter-religious dialogue (in particular, a Christian-Muslim dialogue). This Secretariat General will follow up on the results and decisions of the Maronite Patriarchal Synod and prepare for future synods that must be held every five years according to the prescription of the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches.


19. Since it is the Sacrament of Communion, the Church is made manifest in a distinctive manner in its Synodal work because the Synodal structure is what divulges a constant awareness to the authenticity of the Communion Church. Our bishops have always safeguarded this communion by gathering around their patriarch as their head and their father, bearing with him the burden of their main responsibility, which is the universal Christian mission both within and outside of the Patriarchal Domain. Collegiality within our Maronite Church is a spiritual reality that involves the patriarch as the head and father. By himself the patriarch exercises his authority according to the law along with the Permanent Synod or with the General Synod. Hence, the Maronite Patriarchal Synod urges that the following actions be taken:


  1. Activating the work of the Synod of Bishops by reviving its legislative role and developing its operating methods;


  1. Activating “Synodal life” in each eparchy so that the eparchy can participate more fully in the Maronite Church’s mission and educate the Maronite clergy on dynamic missionary spirituality.


  1. Collaborating on the use of human and material resources, which include:
    • giving brotherly help, coordination and consulting related to the distribution of priests, to liturgical life, and to other similar elements;
    • strengthening the spirituality of communal life on both the devotional and practical levels and giving priority to establishing communion among the bishops;
    • planning in a coordinated way, with those plans being based on the comprehensive and accurate studies of the realities within Maronite parishes; and making a commitment to take action immediately to handle the most important and most urgent matters.

Hence, the patriarchal synod has decided to establish a Patriarchal Office for the purposes of coordinating the exchange of expertise and ideas that will fulfill some of the eparchial common needs, establishing this Office with the help of the eparchies themselves who will also be collaborating with each other to fulfill each other’s needs. Coordination and cooperation generate solidarity of material and human resources and are a sign of humility, friendship, as well as the love of God and of the Church;


  1. Revising the geographic limits of eparchies, particularly in Lebanon, in view of the demographic development, migration from rural to urban areas, and population displacement caused by the many wars in Lebanon. Thus, some eparchies have over-expanded while others have grown smaller, and these changes have created problems in the pastoral ministry[21];


  1. Establishing more eparchies when needed in order to provide better pastoral ministry. The synod, therefore, deems necessary that the Commission of Bkerke be entrusted with this task and that it should be activated;


  1. Fostering regular encounters for the bishops of the Countries of Expansion, including:
    • their meeting with each other, grouping the bishops according to their region or language, similar to the meeting of the Churches of North America, or to the meeting of the Anglophone or Spanophone Churches, with the possibility of holding a periodical convention in one of the Countries of Expansion or having a meeting of the bishops during the time of the bishops’ annual retreat in Lebanon.[22] The bishops could then, either before or after the retreat, meet in order to study the current situation at the time, establishing a common plan of action as well as exchanging concerns, opinions, and expertise;
    • fostering meetings between the local authorities by joining the local Councils of Bishops of the Countries of Expansion and collaborating with them on all matters, noting that the Maronite bishops of the Countries of Expansion are members of the Conference of Catholic Bishops of the countries where they reside[23].


Based on all of the considerations listed above, the Maronite Patriarchal Synod deems that the creation within the Secrétariat Général of a Patriarchal Office for the Countries of Expansion will meet a pressing need[24].



Chapter II: The Eparchy



First: Historical Data

  20. Until the early eighteenth century, the Maronite Church had not yet been divided into “eparchies” with their own residing bishops. The metropolitans and bishops resided in the Patriarch See, or in hermitages and monasteries that were spread over the mountains or even in certain cities like Damascus, Aleppo, and Cyprus. The sole mission of these metropolitans and bishops was to represent the patriarch who delegated them and supplied them with a written patriarchal mandate to visit the parishes.


The concept of a canonical eparchy, introduced in the Maronite Church by the Lebanese Synod of 1736, divided the patriarchal territory into eight eparchies[25]. The synod also defined the rights and obligations of bishops[26], requiring among other things that the bishop reside in his eparchy so that he could be more closely connected to the community of the faithful in order to offer them better ministry.


Vatican II defined an eparchy as “a portion of the people of God which is entrusted to a bishop to be shepherded by him with the cooperation of the presbytery. Thus, by adhering to its pastor and gathered together by him through the gospel and the Eucharist in the Holy Spirit, it constitutes a particular Church in which the one, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church of Christ is truly present and operative”[27].


One of the Council’s major declarations was defining the Church as “God’s people,” and the eparchy as a portion or section of this People of God entrusted to the pastoral care of a bishop who is assisted by priests. Moreover, the Council considers that the bishop receives his authority from Christ. Therefore, the eparchial bishop “governs the eparchy as vicar and legate of Christ.” Christ, then, is the source of Episcopal authority which is “personal, ordinary, and immediate,” according to canon law. This authority stems primarily from the bishop’s ordination[28], but its exercise is ultimately regulated by the supreme authority of the Church.


Second: The Current Reality


21. The Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches, in effect since 1991, organizes the eparchy into a complete institutional structure, defines the rights and obligations of the eparchial bishop, and formulates the framework for the cooperation between bishop, priests, and laity for the service of God’s people.


The institutional structure is composed of persons and councils defined by the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches and internally regulated by the Maronite particular law. These persons and councils assist the bishop in the governance of his eparchy (can. 243 §1), which includes helping him perform the pastoral and apostolic activities, assisting him in organizing his teachings, helping him in his governing and sanctifying ministry and in his administration of the finances, and assisting the bishop in exercising his judicial functions[29].


22. According to can. 243 §2, the persons who compose the eparchial curia and exercise a special function within it are the following:


A.    The protosyncellus: The presence of the protosyncellus is mandatory in the eparchy, because he enjoys, by virtue of his office, an ordinary vicarious power that he exercises on behalf of the bishop, according to the norms of common law and assists the bishop in governing the whole eparchy (can. 245);


B.     The syncelli: The eparchial bishop appoints one or several syncelli and endows them with an authority similar to that of the protosyncellus “but limited to a given section of the eparchy, or to certain kinds of affairs, or for the Christian faithful ascribed to another Church sui iuris,” or for a certain group of persons (can. 246);


C.     The judicial vicar: The judicial vicar is a priest appointed by the eparchial bishop and through whom the eparchial bishop exercises his judicial power, keeping in mind that the eparchial bishop can also exercise this power personally. The eparchial bishop, exercising his power through the judicial vicar and judges, also appoints judges for the first instance tribunal, if one exists (refer to cans. 191 §2 and 1066). Canon law defines the competence of the judicial vicar and his functions in the eparchial first instance tribunal and also defines the procedures to be followed in the distribution of justice, in cooperation with its judges[30].


However, if the eparchy shares with several other eparchies the same first instance tribunal (can. 1067) or shares the same first instance tribunal with various Churches sui iuris (can.  1068), the eparchial bishop, exercising his power through the judicial vicar and judges, cannot validly erect a collegiate eparchial tribunal (can. 1067 §3). Rather he keeps his own tribunal composed of one delegated judge, a promoter of justice, a defender of the bond, and a notary to examine the cases that are of its competence[31].


D.    The chancellor: The chancellor is the official recorder and his function entails registering, notifying, and keeping the acts in the archives of the curia. He is to take special care of the acts, papers, documents, notes, and deeds of the eparchy and those of the cathedral and parochial Churches (can. 261);


E.     The eparchial finance officer: The eparchial finance officer’s presence is mandatory in the curia. On behalf of the eparchial bishop he is to administer the eparchy’s temporal goods, oversee the administration of ecclesiastical goods in parishes throughout the eparchy, and provide for their preservation, safety, and increase. He is also to supply for the negligence of local administrators, and administer the goods that lack an administrator designated by the law (can. 262 §3). He shall collaborate with the eparchial finance council, of which he is a member by virtue of the law (can. 263 §2). Canon law determines the competence of the finance officer and the rules that govern his administration as well as the competence and function of the council;


F.      Other persons: Other people who are also assigned to the eparchial curia include the finance council, eparchial judges, a promoter of justice and defender of the bond, notaries and other persons included by the eparchial bishop to discharge properly the offices of the eparchial curia (can. 243 §2). These offices are enumerated in the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches. Some of these offices are for priests (can. 192 §2), ecumenism (can. 192 §2), vocations to the priesthood (can. 195), catechetical education (can. 196), preparation of the faithful for the reception of the sacraments (can. 197 and 783), promotion of the apostolate of the laity and the apostolic organizations, preservation of ecclesiastical art and heritage (can. 887), and offices for the media (can. 651).


23. The councils and commissions: these are canonical institutions with consultative as well as decisive competence without which the bishop cannot exercise his pastoral, ecclesiastical, executive, administrative, and judicial decisive competence. The Maronite Particular Law established their statutes. These institutions are:


  1. The Presbyteral Council (can. 264 through 270)


A presbyteral council is a body of priests representing the presbyterate surrounding the bishop, and a senate composed of priests from the eparchy assisting the bishop and advising him on eparchial matters[32].


The competence of the presbyteral council, its tasks, and the administrative and pastoral matters requiring its consultation, are defined in the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches and in the statutes.[33] It is noteworthy that the bishop is in no way required to accede to the presbyteral council’s recommendations, even if they are unanimous. Nevertheless, he is morally obliged by it, and should not act contrary to it, especially if it was recommended unanimously, without a reason which in the bishop’s judgment, is overriding (can. 934, §2, 3°). Consequently, the bishop must take the advice of the council’s members during a formal meeting which he has called, and he must not act against their counsel in the matters defined by the law.


B.     The College of Eparchial Consultors (can. 271)


A college of eparchial consultors is a college representing the priests of the eparchy chosen by the eparchial bishop from among the membership of the presbyteral council. It has consultative and decisive functions determined by canon law in various cases, and arranged by the particular law in the statutes.


The eparchial bishop must establish a college of eparchial consultors to ensure the validity and correctness of his administrative acts. In cases determined by canon law, the bishop often needs the consent of the consultors[34], or must listen to their advice[35]. This college of eparchial consultors enjoys a certain canonical power that it exercises during the vacancy of the eparchial see or when the see is impeded[36].


  1. The Pastoral Council (can. 272 through 275)


An eparchial pastoral council is an ecclesial consultative body that assists the eparchial bishop in his ministry, collaborates with him in evangelization, in sanctifying the souls, as well as in the pastoral care of the community of the Christian faithful. This council will initiate pastoral activities in the eparchy, promote or redress them, or propose practical initiatives regarding related issues (can. 272 and 273). Among other things, the council will deal with family and youth, education, social and pastoral activities, statistics and documentation, media and public relations, and planning and projects.


The council is composed of priests, religious men and women, and lay people who represent different categories of people, a variety of apostolic organizations, and also cultural and social associations. Therefore, it is a fine medium for common apostolic work and it is the embodiment of ecclesial communion and the principle of unity, which is embodied in the bishop[37].


24. The institutional structure of the eparchies in the Countries of Expansion has now opened to more interactive and complementary horizons and now has more external and internal dimensions, some of which are:


A. The external dimensions and horizons: These are necessary for the preservation of the Maronite identity in the Countries of Expansion. They are threefold and include:


·      A connection to the patriarchal Church through the Patriarchal See and to the person of the patriarch. This allows the local Churches in the Countries of Expansion to dip into the spiritual, theological, liturgical, and cultural treasures of the patriarchal Mother Church’s heritage. In turn, the Mother Church may offer her experience and commitment to live out her heritage in new societies.

·    A connection to the Catholic Churches through the Apostolic Roman See as the Church of the Countries of Expansion evangelizes all people through the diffusion of the Eastern Maronite, Antiochene Syro-Maronite tradition. This calls for initiatives of cooperation with the local Churches of the Countries of Expansion;

·   A connection to Lebanon, where the Maronites of the Countries of Expansion can find the entity of the Maronite Church, her heritage, history, and organization. Lebanon is the patriarchal residence and the location of the Patriarchal See, of the Maronite saints, of Maronite holy places and monasteries, as well as a place of witness. Such a connection of Maronites in the Countries of Expansion with their spiritual homeland calls for the creation of a formal association that will arrange for seminarians and priests to stay in Lebanon, even if only for a short time, in order to discover their Maronite roots. The association will also arrange cultural trips to Lebanon and to northern Syria for all interested youths. The supposed structure will attempt also to broaden the awareness of Maronites abroad to national Lebanese issues, gather a census of Maronites abroad both in number and in kind, and register those who are born in the Counties of Expansion with diplomatic missions so that they can maintain their original Lebanese nationality.


B. The internal dimensions and horizons: It is true that emigration has its negative aspects. However, given our pastoral responsibility, one cannot disregard the positive aspects of emigration, lest we will not be able to benefit from it as we stand at the doorstep of a new dawn rising on the Maronite Church and on Lebanon. Hence, we must analyze the reality of the exodus from Lebanon and the Middle East in its various dimensions and plan for appropriate pastoral action. We must also examine the causes of the Maronites’ immersion into the local cultures of their Countries of Expansion and into the Roman Church to the point of assimilation and identity loss. This examination exists in order to suppress these causes. We must also answer the request of the Maronites of the Countries of Expansion who wish to both form and build communities of faith and parochial Churches wherever the Maronites are located in the Countries of Expansion. This will allow the Maronites to practice their Maronite Syro-Antiochene rites and transmit their faith to their children, thus becoming true witnesses to Christ in their new milieu, just as their ancestors did.


Third: Future Aspirations


25. In the Apostolic Exhortation, A New Hope for Lebanon, Pope John Paul II urges bishops to sincerely examine their consciences, and renew their commitment through personal repentance in order to sanctify the Christian faithful[38]. This Maronite Patriarchal Synod is yet another occasion for the examination of conscience as well as a permanent renewal for the welfare of the entire Maronite Church.


26. The patriarch has urged the bishops to put into practice the legislation of the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches related to the institutional structure of the eparchy[39]. The bishops responded and many of them did organize the activities of their eparchies, resulting in tangible cooperation among their eparchial priests and effective laity participation in the work of the eparchy. Training general cadres for the eparchial curia at all levels allows the members of the curia to acquire the necessary skills and work with team spirit. The training of general cadres must be done even though each eparchy has unique characteristics distinguishing it from other eparchies, and even though the human resources needed to fulfill this goal may be scarce. Therefore, it is necessary that each bishop take into consideration the characteristics, needs, and capabilities of his particular eparchy in such a way that the decisions made will be appropriate for both the capabilities and needs required to train general cadres for the eparchial curia. Although the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches has been in effect for more than 13 years, certain eparchies have yet to put it into practice.


27. The institutional structure in the eparchy allows the bishop to fulfill his permanent commitment to announce Christ’s gospel for the salvation of the world in the midst of urgent and new needs that call for the participation of all members of God’s people: the priests, the deacons, and all religious men and women who are called to be witnesses in the Church and the world to announce the prominence of God in the life of Christians. Also included is the laity who support and strengthen the shepherds through the laity’s great apostolic potential[40]. Also, through the sacraments of baptism, chrismation, and holy orders, everyone becomes a living sign of Christ as our teacher, priest, shepherd, and as the One Who made us all participate in his priesthood through common and ordained priesthood.


The institutional structure will embody communion in the Church that leads the bishop to adopt a pastoral method that is open to cooperation with all. The institutional structure will enable the bishop to “govern his eparchy using his authority and holy power, his counsel, recommendations, and example”[41]. This communion is in the shape of a circle revolving around the bishop as its central point, and the bishop, out of personal responsibility, makes decisions for the welfare of the Church entrusted to him. The aforementioned living forces constitute this circle’s perimeter[42].


28. This panorama that encompasses both the successes and the loss of opportunities in Lebanon, in the Patriarchal Domain and in the Countries of Expansion, certainly shows that the Maronite Church is a Church of hope and confidence rather than a Church that is mired down in fear and pessimism. Also, if these proposed organizational structures reveal anything at all, it would be the vital need for institutional structures to be established within Maronite eparchies.


29. The Maronite Patriarchal Synod is placing us within a new Pentecost that is calling us to follow the inspiration of the Holy Spirit while facing the great challenge of the “imminence Maronitism in modern times.” The latter requires us to seek out and find all possible ways of faithfully preserving the Maronite identity and transmitting our heritage from one generation to another by expounding it, explaining it, and living by it. For all of these reasons, the need for institutional structures in every eparchy within the patriarchal territory or within the Countries of Expansion becomes obvious at both the pastoral and canonical levels of the Church as mystery, communion, and apostolate.



Chapter III: The Parish



First: Data and Historical Constants


30. “Parishes are the basic cells of the ecclesial body and are portions of God’s people,” representing, in a way, the entire visible Church established throughout the world. “They are the place to be involved in a communal mission, for they host various human groups, regardless of age and social status, which they integrate into the Universal Church[43].


These parish-cells existed in the East since the fourth century AD. It is certain that, in the Maronite Church, they existed before the Synod of Qannoubine of 1580, but were then mostly in the form of family Churches, not organized like the parishes of today. Successive synods, especially the Lebanese Synod of 1736, decreed the erection and development of the parochial institutions by way of determining the function of the pastor and his relationship with his parishioners on the one hand, and his relationship with the eparchial bishop on the other hand. Other parish structures were not mentioned in these synods.


Structures and organizations, however, were not truly established in Maronite parishes before the publication of the documents from Vatican II. These documents encouraged the laity’s involvement in pastoral life through their effective participation in apostolic organizations and parish councils. During the first half of the twentieth century, the Wakf committees might have been the only structure known to the Maronite Church.


31. In the following section we shall review the general situation of the Maronite parish[44], and then we will deal with the current basic parochial structures of the Maronite Church. This is done in order to examine the reality of the parochial structure and make suitable suggestions that would trigger a renewal, a deepening of the parish’s mission, and an adaptation to modern developments thus creating a living witness through the stronger commitment of the Maronites to their faith and to the human cause.



Second: The Parish in General


32. Although spread over a small geographic area, Maronite parishes of the Patriarchal Domain are socially very diverse. Even though urban parishes are different from rural ones, they are still somewhat alike. Villagers who have moved to the city still maintain several rural traditions. Nevertheless, the difference between both types of parishes is more obvious in the present day because the rural lifestyle that was challenged by social progress became unable to fulfill the population’s need for finding work, services, education, and even entertainment. This rapid social change led most of the people to vacate their villages, which shook the foundations of pastoral life and its expression on the one hand, while on the other hand the social changes fueled urban growth. All of these changes left deep marks on all aspects of the Maronites’ lives, notably on their pastoral life. As a result, the traditional urban parish was no longer able to fulfill the religious needs of the people. Therefore, it is necessary that new pastoral activities be created to reach out to the various strata of urban Maronites.


33. Regarding rural parishes, the trend of growing emigration has disrupted the life of the rural parish, not only because of the imbalance that it causes within the original demographic structure and within the original social relations and customs, but also because of what the parishioners who migrated to the city are bringing back with them whenever they return to their villages for the summer or on holidays. They bring the villages new values and new lifestyles that are foreign to the rural milieu and to the quiet rural parishes. This creates confusion in the minds and spirits of the local residents who reject these offensive, imported values. The transfer of Maronites from the mountain areas to the coast areas and then back to the villages greatly impacts not only the newcomers who come back to the village, but also those who receive them into the village. These original parishioners often become the minority in their own parish. Thus, the parish milieu takes on a new dimension that is marked by mutual aversion and heterogeneity since the newcomers have arrived from a wide variety of environments.


34. Regarding urban parishes, it is noteworthy that present day urban Christian faithful choose their own priests. Perhaps we have yet to adequately prepare priests who are capable of serving urban parishes. These modern, large parishes require priests who are able to integrate themselves into their new community, finding new ways to fulfill their mission. Urban parishes have turned into mere service centers where large numbers of Christian faithful come to fulfill their religious duties without knowing the priest, or even each other. Consequently, the urban parish priest becomes (other than in his role of administrating the sacraments) a simple employee having no real relationship with all the parishioners and relating only to the few parishioners who regularly frequent the Church and the rectory.


35. On the other hand, the urban parish has become a geographic territory where the pastor exercises his full jurisdiction primarily over his parishioners but also over non-Maronites and even over non-Christians who regularly seek him out. Therefore, the urban parish is being called on to communicate and collaborate with all of these people within the common framework of dialogue, and the promotion of Christian values and charitable work. Our various parochial territories comprise different groups, religions, monasteries, religious men and women, houses of consecrated and apostolic life, and different teaching and educational environments. In addition, within each parochial territory there are the various movements, associations, and clubs (cultural, artistic, scientific and sportive). Therefore, the parish can no longer be an island unto itself but must strive to build organic relations with each group that exists within its territory and, with the cooperation of all the other parishes in the area, create bridges to overcome their limits...


36. Regarding the parishes in the Countries of Expansion, especially in the larger cities, the situation is somewhat different. After settling into their new residence, Maronites will usually try to find a Maronite Church and a Maronite priest, both of which symbolize for them their affiliation with their Mother Church and their attachment to the land of their ancestors. If Maronites meet Eastern rite Christians who have no parish of their own, they will invite them to frequent their Maronite Church. One notices, therefore, that our Maronite parishes in the Countries of Expansion have become parishes for all Christians and not only for Maronites.


Third: The Wakf Committee [Religious Endowment Committee]


  1. The Present Situation


37. The Wakf committee is a major element of parish administration. The committee strives, along with the priest, to establish a pastoral community in which the Christian faithful can find a space and an atmosphere where they can fully live their faith. A successful relationship between the parish pastor and the Wakf committee has led and is leading to the development and renewal of many parishes. The Wakf committee can, therefore, take credit for the ecclesial and spiritual commitment shown in these parishes by the parishioners’ financial support.


On the other hand, it is regrettable to note how in other parishes the reality is far different in terms of what its Wakf committee members should be doing according to the statutes that regulate them. Within these other parishes, there is family representation, hereditary appointment, cronyism, and political favoritism involved in their quasi-exclusive criteria for appointing the Wakf committee members. Also, the Wakf committee of these other parishes is involved in conflicts with the priests, which sometimes reduces the pastoral work to continuous disputes and divisions whereby the authority of the priest is in conflict with demands that exceed the capabilities of the Wakf. These conflicts result in the laymen’s monopolization of the administration of the goods of the parish at the expense of transparency - a monopolization that lacks a serious commitment to enforce the rules. The Wakf committee’s efforts within these other parishes then become focused solely on fundraising. This absence of spiritual and ecclesial dimensions within the parish, in addition to the current weak sentiment toward eparchial allegiance, will all create new problems that reduce to naught any apostolate or true Christian witness.


  1. Future aspirations


38. Sound ecclesiastical work is predicated on respecting the “statutes of the parishes’ Wakf committees” and on the correct interpretation of the statutes by carefully studying the relevant clauses related to the appointment of the members of the Wakf committees, striving to convince the members to be thoroughly familiar with the content of these statutes, and holding the members accountable for every malfunctioning.


Because the responsibilities and needs of our contemporary parishes are growing and multiplying it is now necessary that these committees be established in a scientific way, starting with sensitizing the membership to their ecclesiastical responsibilities in its various dimensions, and doing this through meetings held in every eparchial department and on general eparchial levels. The follow-up will be provided by the creation of a financial office in the eparchy that is in charge of the scientific verification of the accounts (unifying all the registers) and of the implementation of the statutes and scientific methods in contracting. In addition, the financial office in the eparchy will be in charge of adopting a unified accounting system that shows transparency in the finances and offers helpful data to parish councils upon which they can base their administrative, pastoral, and financial decisions.


39. The parish is a continuously “under construction” project on both the human and physical levels. This calls for establishing a productive administration of the Church property and formulating a chronological, long-term, and progressive plan that will be implemented by a rational and transparent administration. This is to be done while constantly striving to attain the four objectives for which Church goods were acquired, namely: the divine worship, the apostolate, charities, and a decent livelihood for pastors[45].


40. Since the Apostolic Exhortation, A New Hope for Lebanon calls on the youth to participate in pastoral work and calls on the officials to care for these youth, it is recommended that committed, competent, and experienced young people also be chosen to do the Wakf work so that one or more residing members can be integrated into the Wakf committees. It is also recommended that competent women be included in order to promote the role of women at this level.


The success of the Wakf committee requires the formation of a homogeneous committee that is free of dissension between lay members and the laity, or between those people and the priest. In addition, the Wakf committee should realize its goals in order to ensure that the priest has a decent livelihood (a salary, a decent dwelling, and retirement benefits). The committee’s goals also include helping those parishioners who are in need, by reserving a percentage of the parish income for this purpose. Another goal is to make the required payments to the chancery as a contribution to the chancery’s projects, because pastoral work is linked to the eparchy and is ecclesial work par excellence. The Wakf committee should also be represented on the parish council so that its activity may acquire a comprehensive ecclesial dimension.


Fourth: The Parish Council


  1. The Present Situation


41. The idea of having pastoral councils is still in its budding stage, with regard to the number of current parish councils both within and outside of the Countries of Expansion. The reason for this slow growth might be a lack of awareness of the importance and role of the pastoral council, on the part of both the clerics and the laity. The concept of a Church, however, and of the common responsibility of all of its members, in addition to Church law, require the establishment in every parish of such a parish council committee that includes ministers in the spiritual, missionary, and apostolic fields, as well as in the fields of social work and finance. The continuity of pastoral work requires the participation of all officials and committed parishioners in one organization, such as a parish council that can assume, along with the pastor, the parish’s concerns and strive with all of its members to build an ecclesial body.


One of the primary difficulties, however, lies in the interference that might occur between the parish council and the Wakf committee, and in a lack of understanding of their respective roles. In addition, certain problems might arise in the formation of a parish council due to the hegemony of certain families in the parish. These types of problems are caused by a lack of ecclesial and theological spirit when trying to come to an understanding of what a parish is meant to be. As a result of this lack of ecclesial and theological spirit, petty jealousies grow, which block the path of any work or cooperation between members of the same parish. However, in our world, which has become increasingly aware of the importance of teamwork and cooperation, it is imperative to join forces and unify our efforts in a single operating unit that supports the parish priest and assumes with him the parish’s concerns, thus facilitating his pastoral care for the flock. The parish council is, therefore, the committee that can nurture all parish activities in the different areas so that the parishioners complement each other and cooperate together.


42. Consequently, suitable conditions must be created in the parish to facilitate not only the education of the Christian faithful about the equal importance of the role of the laity and of priestly functions, but also that of the ecclesial belonging, the theological significance of the ecclesial body, and the necessity of complementary distribution of functions between parish committees and independent organizations. In this way, they can all give witness in their own way to Christian living and ecclesial work. Moreover, the parish council assists in supervising the pastoral work, organizing it, and accordingly, helping to keep a vital balance between the various departments. Thus, the parish council contributes to the revival of parish life by allowing everyone to cooperate in accomplishing the Church’s mission.


  1.  Future Aspirations


43. The establishment and activation of a parish council is considered to be a priority in order for there to be a renewal of pastoral activity, a continuation of the parish’s development, and a deepening of its dimensions. The implementation of the current statutes, by way of a thorough study of its articles, will mean that when the parish council is appointed it inevitably will ensure the coordination of all of the parish activities.


Since a parish cannot be built on arbitrary decisions, it becomes necessary to formulate a parish plan that is based on fundamental Church principles and on the individual parish’s situation. In addition, the parish renewal plan must show an ecumenical concern and a relational dimension, which includes the non-Christian countrymen who reside within the parish territory.


44. Because of the development and the complexity of pastoral relationships, it is recommended that a parish secretariat be established composed of volunteers or lay employees whose function is to organize the archives and the affairs of the parish, being careful that the parish does not become a stagnant institution bereft of the spiritual and apostolic dimensions which should be its hallmark. This organizational measure might help the priests and guide them toward having greater involvement in the spiritual ministry of the parish.


45. Apostolic movements are at the heart of the parish. The parish council is then to foster and guide these movements both humanly and spiritually, basing their guidance on a methodic plan that takes into consideration the charisma that these organizations have, the new evangelization tools that they use, the age of their members, their eparchial and Church orientations, and the accompanying social and national concerns. The fostering and guidance of these apostolic movements are required in order for there to be an expression of true Christian commitment to all people and to society.


The success of pastoral work is predicated on a joint effort and on true and apostolically productive ecclesial cooperation between various Church communities (religious, educational, cultural, and other communities). This cooperation includes the organizations on the one hand, and the Wakf committee and the non-ecclesial groups that are active in the parish community, on the other.


46. In order to make parishioners more aware of their responsibility in terms of their parish’s growth, especially with the reality of the increasing material needs, a new means of getting financial support should be created such as a “Church-share Project” that would involve both the laity and institutions.


In our rapidly developing world, the parish must also use many new means of communicating with its resident and immigrant parishioners by way of visits, activities, roaming festivals, billboards, websites, emails, and other forms of new technologies.


Since the parish is an institution, it is necessary to establish an accurate census of its residents (with the help of computer experts) so that the individual parish’s decisions will better suit and benefit the pastoral reality as it exists in our contemporary society.






47. The efforts being made toward the renewal of ecclesial structures has a realistic goal of creating a greater and stronger communion in the heart of the local Patriarchal Church. The latter is revealed, par excellence, through Episcopal collegiality and communion with the local Church and the eparchy, because it is “a portion of God’s people” where each, based on the one common Christian vocation, has a gift and plays a role in building up the whole body in which the bishop occupies the first place in serving this unity. A communion is lived in the parish incarnating the Church, and the bishop is represented by the priest.


48. The act of reception is what gave life to the Church, activated it, and then contributed to her presence in the Countries of Expansion, starting with her reception of Christ’s teaching, the gospel and the reception of the inspiration of the Holy Spirit in her Synodal life. The reception of the synod on the patriarchal, eparchial, and parochial levels is but one way to realize the communion essential to the Church. Synodal work cannot, however, be complete without a new Pentecost, i.e., the power of the Holy Spirit who creates the communion. Bereft of the Holy Spirit, the Church turns into an institution that is merely governed by laws. Only the Spirit can enliven the communal structures of the Church, making her a setting for every person’s renewal, so that each person may joyfully lead a committed and spiritual life, giving witness to the ever-risen Christ.






1. The Patriarchate.

1. In view of the new reality exemplified in the spreading out of the Maronite Church, with all that this entails in geographic, demographic, cultural and ecclesiastical dimensions, the Synod recommends an accurate and scientific arrangement which would ensure integration, communion and the bolstering of the structure of the Maronite Patriarchate commensurate with its expansion.

1.a: Organizing the visits of His Beatitude the Patriarch in Lebanon and outside it, and its follow up in coordination with the local bishops (for example, periodic visits every five years).


1.b: Erecting a secretariat general at the Patriarchal See presided over by His Beatitude the Patriarch who would deputize a competent bishop or priest to occupy the position of secretary general.

1.c: In the context of the secretariat general, the erection of the specialized departments that the public and private legal rights have not allowed for, so as to activate spiritual renewal, clerical reform, education, research, culture, civics, social and economical development, and the ecumenical dialogue.

2. The Synodal Episcopal System

2. Because the mystery of the communion Church manifests itself in a distinctive portrait through Synodal work, the Synod stresses on the importance of the Synodal spirit of the Maronite bishops and their rallying around their leader and father the Patriarch to carry with him and with each other the burden of the one responsibility in the framework of the mission within the Patriarchal Domain and outside it.

2.a: Activating the Synodal Episcopal System through the periodic meetings of the bishops, and evolving a methodology of operation of the Synod of Bishops in accordance with regulations laid down expressly for that.


2.b: Solidarity of the eparchial bishops at the level of human and material capabilities:

· Brotherly cooperation, coordination and consultation (distribution of priests, liturgical life…).

· Intensifying the spirituality of communal life between bishops at the spiritual and pastoral levels.

· Joint planning based on profound and accurate studies and on reports as to the reality lived in the parishes, and joint commitment in the more important and pressing matters.

· Erect a mutual fund among eparchies.

2.c: Fostering periodic meetings between the bishops of the Expansion within groupings that take region and language into consideration, with the possibility of holding a conference on a recurrent basis in one of the countries of the Expansion, or a gathering on a regular basis for the bishops of the Expansion on the occasion of the annual bishops’ retreat in Lebanon.


3. Erecting Eparchies and Reconsidering the Boundaries of Some.

3. In view of demographic developments and for a better pastoral service, the Synod recommends the redrawing of the geographical boundaries of eparchies, especially in Lebanon, in addition to the erection of more eparchies in the Patriarchal Domain and the countries of the Expansion, whenever the need arises.

3.a: Activating the existing committee to review the redrawing of the boundaries of eparchies, specifying a chronological timetable for its duties.


3.b: Expanding the authority of the previously mentioned committee to include a study of the needs of the new eparchies, suggesting a review of the matter of boundaries on the one hand, and the erection of new eparchies along with its material and existential requirements on the other.


4. The Institutionalized Structure of the Eparchy.

4. The Synod calls on bishops to continue implementation of what was specified in the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches and in the particular law concerning the institutionalized structure of the eparchy.

4.a: To involve priests, monks and the laity, activating their role in the eparchy.


4.b: Habilitation of the cadres working in the departments of eparchies at all levels and training them, to acquire skills, and in collective work.

4.c: The necessity of each bishop to take into consideration the requirements of his eparchy, its capabilities and needs so that the administrative measures may come appropriate to the capabilities and the needs.

5. Institutionalization of the Financial Administration of the Eparchy.

5. Since responsibilities and needs in the parishes have become great and complex in our days, reality dictates upon us the continued institutionalization of the financial administration at the level of the eparchy.

5.a: Educating on ecclesiastical responsibility in all its dimensions through meetings of the endowment committees at the sectors’ level in the eparchy and at the level of the eparchy in general.


5.b: Evolving the financial department at the bishopric for scientific scrutiny into the endowment accounts, and adopting a unified accounting system ensuring account transparency, and applying laws and scientific fundamentals in the operation of granting concessions for projects and works.

6. Endowment Committee.

  The Waqf

6. The synod asserts that the parish is a continuous construction project, flesh and stone, and this is what requires the endowment administration to be productive and entails chronologic planning beyond the scope of the one committee, temporally, specifying programmed projects whose accomplishment could take years and in stages, and that through logical, transparent and competent administration.

6.a: Reminding endowment committees of the goals for which these ecclesiastical blessings were acquired: Divine worship, missionary works, works of charity, ensuring dignified living for pastors.


6.b: Involving the youth and the women in endowment committees and not restricting membership in the committee to the original people of the town.

6.c: The endowment committee is to be a harmonious team coordinating with the priest, especially in the sphere of the pastoral council.


7. The Parish Council.

7. In fostering the spirit of communion, and considering the branching out of parish needs, the synod recommends the erection of the parish council and its activation in accordance with the precepts of particular law.

7.a: Organizing formation seminars for priests and the laity dealing with team work in the light of the ecclesiastical affiliation.


7.b: The pastor along with his pastoral council, is to crystallize a pastoral project ensuring the continuity of pastoral work built on Church constants and the state of affairs of the parish, with the participation of all those dealing in pastoral affairs at all levels beginning with the spiritual endeavor, on to the missionary and the apostolic, ending up with the social endeavor.

7.c: The parish council is to watch over and embrace apostolic movements as part of a systematic plan, taking into consideration the talents of organizations, new preaching methods, the directions of the eparchy and the Church, and social and national concerns.

7.d: To create new methods of integration between resident parish members and those in the expansion, striving to meet mounting material needs, and to devise new means for financial support (for example, Denier du culte, offering of tithes).

8. The Parish.

8. The synod charges priests to meticulously organize parishes for better service to its sons and daughters.

8. Establishing a secretariat in the parishes, especially the large ones, manned by volunteer lay people or employees. Within its duties is to document the status of the parish, organize its records, perform accurate census of parishioners and other useful domains. (A unified electronic program to consolidate the status of the parishes).


[1]. See The pastor of the parish, p. 324-341; The bishops 8, p. 341-415; The Churches and their properties, p. 443-450, in the Lebanese Synod edited by Bishop Youssef Najm, Jounieh, 1900.

[2]. See the Synodal decrees concerning the pastoral functions of bishops and pastors and their mode of living and the decree concerning the Eastern Catholic Churches that defined the functions of the Eastern Catholic patriarchs in Vatican Council II, Paulist Library ed. 1992.

[3]. See in Apostolic Exhortation New Hope for Lebanon, ed. Episcopal Commission for the Media, Jal-el-Dib, 1997, the following titles: Structural renewal of communion in parishes (p. 65-68); Eparchies (p. 69); Patriarchates (p. 70).

[4]. See Nicée et Constantinople by Ortiz de Urbina, ed. De l’Orante Paris, 1963 p. 201 No 6.

[5]. See Acts 15.

[6]. This way of ordaining bishops was consecrated in the decree of the Council of Nicea that confirmed the ancient tradition in its fourth canon: “The consecration of a bishop concerns all the bishops of the region. Let at least three among them gather to perform it.”

[7]. According to the fifth, canon the first council is to be held before the Lenten season and the second one in the fall.

[8]. See Synodal Union in the Church by bishop Cyrille Salim Bistros in Al-Majallat al-Kahnoutiat, 31st year, 2/2001.

[9]. Vatican II says the following with regard to the function of the bishops in the Church: “The bishops, sharing in the solicitude of all the Churches, exercise their Episcopal function, which they have received by virtue of their Episcopal consecration in communion with the Supreme Pontiff and subject to his authority.” Office of bishops in the Church n. 3, Vatican Council II, ed. A. Flannery, O.P, p. 565. “Each bishop shares with the other bishops the responsibility for the entire Church in compliance with divine ordinance and apostolic responsibility.”

[10]. Lebanese Synod, ed. Bishop Paul Najm, Jounieh, 1900, n. 4, p. 245; and canon 19, p. 374. The term “eparchy” was used by the Synod.

[11]. See Ibid. p. 415-341 and p. 422-443 that deal respectively with the functions of bishops and patriarch.

[12]. Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches, c. 56.

[13]. The power of erecting patriarchal Churches, its restoration, modification and suppression is reserved to the supreme authority according to c. 57 of the Code of Canon of the Eastern Churches par. 1. The same Canon in its 2nd paragraph prescribes that this authority alone has the right to modify the canonically acknowledged or conceded title to each patriarchal Church.

[14]. Code of Canon of the Eastern Churches, c. 150-155.

[15]. See. n. 3, on “The Church,” in Vatican II, op. cit. p. 63. See also the Latin councils that asserted the importance of the patriarchates such as the council of Lateran IV of 1215, in its fifth constitution on “the honour of the patriarchs” and the Council of Ferrara-Florence of 1439 that attempted to preserve all the privileges and rights of Eastern patriarchs. Vatican II dealt with the patriarchal system of governance in two decrees (in Eastern Catholic Churches, and in the ecumenical movement).

[16]. See Apostolic Exhortation New Hope for Lebanon, no. 64, p. 105.

[17]. See Christ, our Hope: with his spirit we will be renewed, together we testify to love. Appeal of the particular meeting of the Synod of Bishops for Lebanon which was held in the Vatican from 26/11 to 14/12/1995; Jal-el-Dib 1996, publications of the Catholic Center for the Media, Jal-el-Dib, 1996, p. 9.

[18]. See, Patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir in his Lenten Letter of 1998 published by the New Kreim Press, Jounieh p. 22, no 1.

[19]. Ibid. p. 22, no 2.

[20]. Maronite Pontifical.

[21]. Apostolic Exhortation New Hope for Lebanon,op. cit., no 69; Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches, c. 127, par. 2.

[22]. Opening Speech of Patriarch Sfeir at the Symposium on the Maronite Church in her universal expansion, Bkerke, March 4, 2004, p.3.

[23]. Ibid.

[24]. Ibid. p. 504.

[25]. Lebanese Synod ed. Bishop Joseph Najm, Jounieh, 1900, p. 341-415.

[26]. Ibid.

[27]. Vatican Council II, Office of Bishops in the Church n. 11, ed. A.Flanhery, op. cit., 1981 p. 569.

[28]. Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches, can. 178.

[29]. See the statement of bishop Bechara al-Rai in Symposium on the Maronite Church in her universal expansion, held at Bkerke, March 4, 2004.

[30]. Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches, c.1086-1090.

[31]. See Statutes of the Unified Maronite Tribunal of First Grade in Lebanon, 1986, art. 4.

[32]. Vatican II, Bishops in the Church: Council of priests and Pastoral Council n. 15, op. cit., p. 600.

[33]. Maronite Particular Law, art 9.

[34]. See actions that require the approval of the Consultors, in Maronite Particular Law, art. 10.

[35]. See actions that require the advice of the Consultors, in Maronite Particular Law, art. 10.

[36]. Maronite Particular Law, art 12-14.

[37]. Maronite Particular Law, p. 84-92.

[38]. Apostolic Exhortation New Hope for Lebanon, n. 69.

[39]. Address by Patriarch Nasrallah Boutros Sfeir, in Symposium on the Maronite Church in her universal expansion, held at Bkerke, March 4, 2004, p.3.

[40]. Shepherds of the flock in Apostolic Exhortation, Op. Cit., n. 74.

[41]. Ibid. n. 27.

[42]. Ibid. n. 44.       

[43]. Apostolic Exhortation A New Hope for Lebanon, Op. Cit., no 66.

[44]. We will not develop this section on the current situation and the creation of renewal tools, because Text no 13 develops this point under “Parish and Pastoral work.”

[45]. Apostolic Exhortation “A New Hope for Lebanon,” Op. Cit., no 104-105.