Join "Maronites of the Whole World" on Facebook.



The Patriarchs and the Bishops




 1. The patriarch and the bishops occupy an important place in our Maronite Church, linked on the one hand to the structure of the Church and the strong relations that have developed between them and the people, and, on the other, to the foundations upon which the Church, in general, was built.


Ecumenical Councils, theological studies, and Episcopal synods have dealt profusely with this subject in every aspect from the theological, pastoral, and spiritual points of view. Returning to these sources will be of great benefit.


In the course of our Patriarchal Synod, out of respect to the method adopted, and in view of the important roles that the patriarchs and bishops play in our work of renewal, which is this synod’s goal, it was necessary that we undertake this subject starting with our Maronite history and heritage throughout the ages so that we may try to foresee the future. Our renewal work is subject to the inspiration of the Spirit of the Lord and to the positions and actions taken by all individuals who agree with the goal of our mission and with the functions entrusted to them. The Maronite liturgical books and ordination rituals have extensively described this matter.



Chapter I: The Patriarch and Bishops in the Maronite Tradition and Heritage


 2. The Maronite Patriarchal Church identity that has been dealt with by this Synod in File I, has put in evidence the central function of the patriarch and his leadership role in the midst of his people, clergy and laity alike. The patriarch and bishops lead a life of prayer, detachment, and austerity. They keep a watchful eye over their flock as they strengthen their beliefs, their worshiping practices, and their purity of conduct. Since pastoral love is the basic characteristic of a bishop we will attempt to discover how this love began by examining the heritage that has been handed down to us, focusing on the liturgical books. For the sake of clarity we will distinguish between the patriarch and the bishop by using the ritual of ordination and the rite of the consecration of the Myron.


First: The Patriarch


1. Choosing the Patriarch and the Patriarch’s Qualifications


3. The ritual for the ordination of the patriarch as it is found in the Bkerke[1] manuscript relates the choosing and electing of the patriarch to the historic relationship of God with His people and the establishment of the Church. In the same way that God chose Abraham, called Moses, and chose the apostles, He also chooses the patriarch with the power of the Holy Spirit. This is obvious at the very onset of the ceremony. The president of the synod will say: “The Holy Spirit calls you to be patriarch, namely, to be father for the heads of the great city of Antioch and for the rest of the juridical territory of the Apostolic See, I mean father for all of us.” The elected candidate will reply: “I obey and accept all the apostolic orders and the holy councils gathered by the Holy Spirit in righteousness, justice, and faithfulness to our Lord Jesus Christ”[2].


 Ritual prayers stress the role of the Holy Spirit who inspired the fathers of the synod to choose one of theirs and not anyone else, invoking Him repeatedly to descend upon him and support him in fulfilling his duties as best as he can, recalling in the readings the instances in which the role of the Holy Spirit became manifest in the early days of the Church: His descent upon the Apostles at Pentecost, the choice of Matthias as successor to Judas and the appointing of deacons.


4. Other biblical passages which mention the qualifications that the candidate must have are then read: Peter calling on the shepherds to be vigilant in watching over the flock with all zeal in accordance with the will of God[3] and Paul’s commandments to Timothy to be faithful, holy and impartial. These qualifications are especially manifest in the prayer of the Sedro that invokes the Holy Spirit to descend on the candidate who “receives the gift of the episcopacy that makes him a good administrator, a vigilant steward, and a good shepherd.” The president of the synod, acting as celebrant, beseeches Christ “to adorn the candidate with holiness, purity, clarity of spirit, good conduct, and humility....”[4].


When the co-celebrant bishops lay their hands on the head of the candidate they ask God to send the Holy Spirit down upon him so that he may “shepherd his flock and seek out the sheep entrusted to him… Grant him what you have granted the apostles of your only Son that he may become the head of heads, glorified…to strengthen your people and the flock that he has inherited from You… Give him the wisdom and knowledge to know what pleases You…and the bonds of charity, judgment and the ability to solve difficult problems and every bond of sin”[5]. “Adorn him with love, knowledge, experience, politeness, perfection, vigor and a pure heart, interceding on behalf of his people”[6].


5. The elected candidate will profess in writing to uphold the true faith before all and promises to abide by the apostolic laws, precepts of the holy councils, and communion with the holy hierarchy that successively have headed the Patriarchal Sees, and submit to the bishop of the Roman See.


This promise will place the patriarch in the apostolic line and ecclesiastical communion. Henceforth, his life will no longer be his; rather it will be the property of the Church. His actions are to be guided by the Gospel which was placed on his head during the ordination ceremony. He will be guided by Christ’s Good Shepherd figure found in the Gospel of St. John. He will read this passage at the end of the ceremony after wearing the vestments and the pontifical insignia, while the celebrant says: “For the glory, honor, and praise of the consubstantial Trinity, and for the peace and building up of the holy Church of God.”


6. The handing down of the pastoral staff to the new patriarch is one of the many symbols that signify that he has become the “father of fathers.” The celebrant will hold the top of this staff and will be followed by the other bishops by order of ordination each of which will hold the staff below the other’s hand. Then the patriarch will be the last to hold it beneath everyone else’s hand. The celebrant will come near to the patriarch and will three times raise his hand over all of the bishops. Then all of the bishops will release the staff leaving the patriarch to be the only one who holds it. During the reading of the passage from St. John’s Gospel all in attendance, clergy and laity, will exclaim: “He is worthy and deserving” and will do so each time that the new patriarch says: “I am the Good Shepherd.” At the conclusion of the ceremony the bishops will give the new patriarch the kiss of peace and the clergy and laity will kiss his hand.


2. Minister of Holy Things


7. The image of the patriarch is revealed in its most beautiful liturgical aspects in the rite of the consecration of the Myron, since the Maronite community, in all its categories, gathers around its head. Patriarch Stephen Douaihy[7] has described the way this rite is celebrated. The patriarch, who is sitting in the apse, offers petitions and prayers to God. He then goes in a procession where he is preceded by the clergy and the people in jubilation and awe. This ritual is given special importance because it is one of the privileges of the patriarch and because the Myron is an essential element of the sacraments and is part of most of the Church’s rituals. “The Church uses it in the baptism of the Christian faithful, in the ordination of priests, in the consecration of churches and altars, baptismal fonts, and sacred vessels”[8].


8. Focusing on the blessing of the Myron has its many connotations. The patriarch, servant of the sacraments, sanctifies his people; he is the first to be entrusted with the rituals of his Church that sanctifies the Christian faithful. By his extensive description of the participation of the people in the ceremony and the rite of consecration of the Myron, with the patriarch going out of the Church to meet the people and then leading them into the Church, Douaihy shows that the headship of the patriarch means, among other things, that he is leading his people in their pilgrimage to the true promised land.


The Myron that is consecrated by the patriarch “is the symbol of the Son of God who destroys sin and defeats the enemy.” The Myron also represents the Holy Spirit, through which the people who have been anointed become “true Christians” and receive the divine gifts. Moreover, the patriarch’s position of sitting in the apse symbolizes the heavenly Father sitting on a throne and being present in the midst of His people. In addition, the consecration of the Myron is a sign of the participation in the priesthood of Christ, the Good Shepherd who lays down his life for the sheep.


3. The Concept of Headship


9. The importance of the Myron is only matched by the unique role that is played by the person who consecrates it. Hence, there are two types of relationships that link it to the faithful: the spiritual relationship that emanates from the Myron, through which they are affiliated to the Patriarchal Church and its head, because he is the head of heads. Also, there is the temporal relationship that made of him a reference for them across their long history. These two relationships complement each other because the bond that links Maronites to the head of their Church is a conscientious one that has developed through the centuries. Therefore, the patriarch became the symbol of unity and an object of love and of respect before he was, or was considered to be, a temporal leader. Thus, the patriarch came to realize that he is the servant of unity and the defender of the community, keeping watch over its affairs, and being vigilant toward its resurgence and progress in all fields.


10. The book on the priesthood attributed to St. John Maron[9] mentions that the patriarch is the father who has authority over his house. He is to examine carefully “the work of the metropolitans and bishops that are under his jurisdiction. If he finds anything improper, let him deal with it as he judges fit, in Christ, because he is the father of all of them and they are his children.”


The book gives a description of the three orders of priesthood: the head of the priesthood (the bishop), the priesthood, and the diaconate. The head of the priesthood includes all the other grades and perfects them. It illuminates like the order of the priesthood, it purifies like the order of the diaconate. But, it perfects all other priestly orders in “administering the sacrament of orders, in consecrating the Myron, in offering the sacrifice, expounding its meaning, and solving its riddles. This is the reason why the patriarch is the head in relation to the others; the first who precedes them in honor and is closer to God through the grace he received and not through the work he has done”[10].



4. The Leader of His People


11. The Book of Guidance, however, attributes a wide range of functions to the patriarch. That book describes the patriarch as the “spiritual, doctrinal, judicial, liturgical, and temporal leader of his people.”[11] Throughout the centuries, a patriarch was considered, a father, a teacher, a head, and an administrator. Moreover, his title of Patriarch of Antioch and the name Peter that he adds to his, gives him apostolic authority. Antioch, the historical origin, became a spiritual symbol after the patriarchate settled in Lebanon, after having moved from one place to another because of persecution. However, in whatever See the patriarch settled in, Mary has always been the patriarch’s patroness.


Patriarch Douaihy describes the function of the patriarch as, “The one who leads his people and speaks for them.” Douaihy’s description reveals a life in which he, as patriarch, bore the responsibility of his Church in all of its stages, from a simple priest to the patriarchal throne. Through it all, he suffered unrelenting pressure, yet he remained faithful to the tradition of his predecessors and to all of the sacrifices that they had made on behalf of their people. He remained faithful to the Maronite tradition so that he could remain faithful to God and attached to the Church. Douaihy summarizes the Maronite tradition in these words that have become the motto of his successors: “Faithfulness to Maron and to the Roman Church.”


It is necessary to mention that the unique role of leader and spokesman for his people that Douaihy attributes to the patriarch is not a privilege, nor is it an honor, nor is it an authority similar to secular authority. Rather the object of the patriarchal authority is the preservation of the unity of the people and the fostering of their spiritual and temporal welfare, which is always threatened by disputes and disagreements that may arise among the people because of passions and self-interest. In order to protect this unity from the threat of division, the Maronite lay leaders such as the Moqqadams were ordained to be sub-deacons in order to keep them closer to the Church hierarchy. However, some sub-deacons did not keep the respect, love, and obedience that were due to their superiors, which was in sharp contrast to the general attitude of the common people.



5. Father of the Religious


12. Another symbol of Church unity is the direct bond that links religious men and women to their patriarch. Even before religious life was organized according to the norms established by the Lebanese Synod of 1736, these consecrated people considered the patriarch to be a father, the head, and highest authority. Before the Synod, the patriarch used to appoint the superiors of certain monasteries[12] and would also impose sanctions against those who violated the rules.


Religious life is a vital element in the life of the Maronite Church according to the ancient Maronite tradition. Bishops were chosen from among religious men who possessed qualities of outstanding piety and love for the Church.



Second: The Bishops


13. The title “head of heads” that is given to the patriarch presupposes the existence of leaders other than the patriarch. These leaders are the bishops who, together with the patriarch, form the Synod of the Maronite Church. In view of the strong bond between the patriarch and the bishops through their lives and duties, it was necessary to go back to the liturgical texts in order to discern what distinguishes the episcopal character of the bishops from that of the patriarch, since the bishops and the patriarch share the same priestly order.



1. The Relationship with the Patriarch


14. Ever since the establishment of the Maronite Patriarchate, the bishops revolved around the patriarch. He would send bishops to visit the parishes and then they would return to the Patriarchal See or to their monastery. Eparchies did not yet exist in their canonical form which specifies its boundaries and bishops were not yet being appointed and elected to administer eparchies directly[13].


The bishops, chosen from among the monks and hermits, would continue to reside in their original monastic community in their capacity as superiors or in the hermitage where they would devote themselves to praying, meditating, and copying manuscripts. However, some bishops resided in large towns such as Ehden and ‘Aqoura. Up until the present time, Maronite bishops would wear a monk’s cowl because they maintained their monk’s attire, which changed later, especially after contact with the West, and the influence of the students of the Maronite College in Rome.


The bishops acted as patriarchal aides. They represented the patriarch in their pastoral activity and in administering the sacraments. Alongside him, they would sign the acts of synods, which were attended by the clergy and leaders of the laity. This arrangement continued up until the Lebanese Synod in 1736, which ordered division of the Patriarchal Domain into eparchies. It mandated that each eparchy is to have a resident bishop who assumes its administration in all aspects.




2. Eparchial Bishops


15. These new developments were to have a positive impact. Pastoral responsibility was now divided among resident bishops who were in contact with their flock, visiting them often and getting to know them. They took care of them and were careful to provide them with necessary services such as teaching, sanctifying and administering as detailed in the Lebanese Synod of 1736 which set the number of eparchies at eight. With this Synod, the image of the bishop took on permanent features at various pastoral, social, educational and political levels. Some bishops established clerical and secular schools to form priests and educate children. Other bishops established silk factories in order to provide job opportunities for their people. Others played a political role with the governor and the sultan in order to protect their faithful. In short, the bishop became both a spiritual as well as a temporal leader, particularly since eparchies encompassed many regions and places in Lebanon, Syria and Cyprus.


16. Despite the positive aspects of this modified status, it was not devoid of some confusion and a change in the concept of the Patriarchal Church. The tie of communion and common responsibility stemming from the Synod of Bishops headed by the patriarch is no longer present as it used to be, despite the flaws and differences which used to arise among the bishops and between them and the patriarch. Each bishop came to enjoy complete independence in the administration of his eparchy, which sometimes led to the weakening of the unity, in spite of the moral, spiritual, ecclesiastical and canonical bonds that continued to bind the bishops to the patriarch, particularly through the synods they held together under the presidency of His Beatitude.


3. Choosing the Bishops


17. The process for choosing bishops in the Maronite Church has gone through various stages: from appointment by the patriarch, to intervention by the prominent laity, who expressed their wishes to the patriarch in favor of this or that priest to be elected by the Synod of Bishops.


Patriarch Moussa al-‘Akkari appointed Milka al-Bqufani bishop as a reward for his efforts and perseverance in transcribing manuscripts and in appreciation for his ascetic life lasting some sixty years. Prominent persons of the laity were also exercising their temporal influence in support of their candidate that he may gain the consent of the patriarch, considering that most bishops used to belong to well-known Maronite families. Sometimes, confronted with refusal, they would resort to persuasion and expressing wishes to attain their objective. This was not unusual because these prominent laymen used to participate in the synods and thus were able to wield a strong influence. Moreover, many Church properties were endowments and donations from their families. This question was raised in several synods until an agreement was reached in 1876, in the Synod of Wata aj-Jawz, for the prominent laity not to interfere in imposing a specific candidate. However, they were given the privilege of proposing three names with the consent of the bishops, that they may select one, without committal on the part of the patriarch for those who do not possess the proper qualifications[14].


What is worthy of mention is the role of the people in both choosing and accepting their leader. People were being polled to give their opinion of the candidate, even though their opinion was not binding, so the poll may not become an election. However, later, things were brought under control and the selection became confined to the Synod of Bishops, who is to elect the competent candidate to fill a vacant position.



4. Criteria for Selection or the Required Qualities


18. The criteria and qualities that a candidate must be endowed with are extracted from two sources: one is in the ritual of ordination, and the other is in the liturgy of the funeral of a bishop. The first is considered as the outset of the episcopacy, while the other, as its crowning.


a. The ordination ritual speaks of the suitability and the competence of the candidate that the community[15] is to attest to. The text cites the canons of the Apostolic Constitution and the canons of the fathers. In them, there is a description from Paul: “The candidate must be irreproachable in everything and without sin … If he is known for his good conduct, let the people, the priests, and bishops meet on holy Sunday. The one who is prominent among them will ask the people and the priests whether the candidate presented by them deserves to be their chief. If they agree, the prominent person repeats the question. If everyone testifies that he deserves to be promoted to the great and perfect position of superior and that he is a man of piety… and has a conduct without blemish… and that all present testify to it without partiality… These must be a consensus for the choice to be accepted….” The ritual goes on to say: “The bishop shall not be ordained without the consent of the metropolitan of the region and of all the bishops. No candidate ought to be given authority in the community unless he is known for his zeal and the fear of God, enjoying a good reputation and capable of managing the affairs of the Church of God.”


b. The ritual focuses on the relation between the person elected, His Holiness the Pope and His Beatitude the Patriarch because it is an apostolic succession that goes back to Christ’s election of the apostles upon whom he built his Church. The Church also prays that the person elected will receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit, which will enable him to accomplish his mission.


In the ordination prayers recited by the patriarch and the assisting bishops over the bishop-elect, there is an appeal made several times to the Holy Spirit to descend upon the bishop-elect and adorn him with virtues, especially with faith, love, strength, and holiness. In the prayers of the direct imposition of hands, the three prayers specify the gifts requested.


In the first prayer this request is made: “Fill him with wisdom and grace, and adorn him with humility and strength, with vigor and serenity. Grant him to be vigilant and patient, instill in him the work of the Holy Spirit…and the gifts of the Holy Spirit for the sake of your people and your Holy Name.”


In the second prayer: “Grant him the grace of knowledge and eloquence that he may preach, counsel and bring back sinners to repentance, attend to orphans and be compassionate to widows, visit the sick, console the sorrowful, assist the needy, encourage strangers, fulfill your apostolic commandments, and walk according to your will….”


In the third prayer, recited by the patriarch and the bishops together: “By the power of your Word, O Lord God… send now your Holy Spirit upon your servant (Name) that he may shepherd the Church and lead her, ordain priests and deacons for her, consecrate altars and Churches, bless the homes, loose and bind, and confirm in the faith your people and the sheep of your flock….”


c. At the end of the prayer that lists in detail the functions of sanctification and administration, the patriarch will say these words while he puts the Episcopal vestments and insignia on the newly ordained bishop: “Beloved brother, your ordination is complete. Put on now the vestments and insignia of your office, not for worldly and vain glory, but for the great glory of God and the building up of the Church.”


These words, that are rich in meaning, define the main objectives of the spirituality of the bishop. The bishop’s objectives are the glorification of God and the building up of the Church, especially within the eparchy that has been newly entrusted to him. For this reason, when the bishops observe the principles and objectives of the mission described in the liturgy of ordination, they find in this observance the main support for their sanctification and for the success of their mission. When the bishops devote their lives to the fulfillment of the duties inherent to their office and follow in the footsteps of the Good Shepherd who called them to this service and who gave them the authority to continue the Good Shepherd’s mission, these bishops naturally will be fulfilling the objectives set up for them which is the building up of the Church and the glorification of God while never seeking the vain glory that might come to seduce them because of their status in society.


19. a. In the funeral liturgy of bishops the prayers center around two essential themes; Christ and the departed bishop. The majority of the prayers are addressed to Christ, who has betrothed the Church, having established within her the active ministers, “endowing them with a divine power for administering, teaching, and sanctifying” (opening prayer). In the third prayer we find the following appeal: “O wise cultivator who planted the holy Church as a chosen vineyard and built it as a tower of faith for all people and established in it the sacraments as an inexhaustible source and surrounded it with the fence of the New Testament, placing it in the hands of workers who will give the harvest in due time. Make … the departed worthy to participate in the joys of the heavenly banquet.”


We find in these prayers a constant link between Christ who is the Priest, Christ who is the wise and true Shepherd and High Priest, and the Church that he loved. Christ wedded and endowed the Church with shepherds who will tend to her. The Church is Christ’s and the shepherds are the Church’s servants. These shepherds will render account to Christ for their stewardship because the Church is the spiritual vineyard where they were called to work.


b. The work of the shepherds, as the prayers describe it, is to illuminate the Church with the divine teaching, expel wolves from it, trade with the talents, maintaining night and day vigilance for the coming of the Lord, administering the sacraments, love of the flock, bearing the cross, providing good pastoral care, and the long struggle… For this, the Church assembled to bid farewell to her shepherd, asks and beseeches Christ to grant him the reward of the good shepherds and the holy apostles, so that he may witness the reality of the sacraments that he administered on earth. Thus, he may enjoy the happiness of paradise and dwell with the Lord who will have mercy on him and join him with the children of light.


c. From the quick overview that has been given above we draw the following conclusions:


  • The bishop is the steward entrusted with the Church of Christ. It is not his property.


  • The features of its pastoral care are obvious from what Christ himself has done through his teaching, administering, and sanctifying.


  • This pastoral care demands vigilance, zeal, love, and the exertion of every effort to secure the spiritual welfare of individuals and communities through their rooting in Christ.


  • The success of pastoral care is predicated by the pastoral love that animates the life and conduct of the bishop as pastor.


  • The pastoral guidance that will be provided by the pastor by way of his life and his conduct is a reflection of Christ the Good Shepherd. This is symbolized by placing the Holy Bible on his head, open to Chapter ten of the Gospel of John (the Good Shepherd). He will read to the faithful after he has received the pontifical insignia. The book Maymar Al-Kahnoot (Treatise on the Priesthood) clarifies: “Those ordained have submitted themselves to Jesus Christ for the rest of their lives”[16].


  • The evangelical images and biblical comparisons that depict the bishop are numerous: He is the shepherd, the spiritual trader, the skilled builder, the sower, the faithful steward, and the salt and the light….


  • The book Maymar Al-Kahnoot gives a thorough explanation of the evangelical images, giving a distinguished role to the bishop as being the one who pastors sinners back to repentance. Moreover, the Treatise gives a lengthy description of the solicitude that the bishop should have for the needy.[17]


  • All this presupposes that the bishop would distance himself from the worldly spirit and refrain from engaging in temporal preoccupations and enticements. He should be concerned with what pleases God through worship, content only with what is necessary for a dignified life, and for the performance of his ministry, placing before his eyes the needs of his flock and expending his attention and love for its sake.


Chapter 2: The Present State of Affairs of the Patriarchal and Episcopal Ministry


 20. The Second Vatican Council focused on the central role of the Pope in the Church and of the episcopal function of the Church. Its decree on the Eastern Catholic Churches reminds us that the patriarchate as an institution has existed in the Church from the earliest times,[18] and that the patriarch is “the bishop to whom jurisdiction over all bishops, archbishops, clergy and people of his own territory or rite,” without prejudice to the primacy of the Roman Pontiff. Therefore, he should be given special honor because he presides over his Church as father and head. Therefore, his rights and privileges, which existed at the time of union between East and West, should be restored. Lastly, the decree states that together with his Synod he is the highest authority for all affairs of the patriarchate.


This text, which recognizes the existence of this right and consecrates it, has remained unapplied with respect to the Churches in the Countries of Expansion, where the jurisdiction of the patriarch has been absented. Additionally, it does not encompass all the dimensions of the distinctive mission that the patriarchs of the East execute, nor the huge role delegated to them by their Church at the religious and civil levels.


First: The Patriarch


1. The Symbol and the Authority


21. With all of her active strength the Maronite Church continues to consider the patriarch as father and head. He has everyone’s respect and the deep affection of the children. The majority of the faithful have recourse to him on important occasions and in difficult adversities. He is the authority when critical decisions are to be taken, the support in times of religious and social need, and the guide on national issues. He shares in the joys and the sorrows of his people, remaining the symbol of unity for Maronites and its assurance, regardless of number or location. Despite their varied opinions and methods, Maronites seek his advice and guidance and his consent, even in their political positions, though diverse and contradictory they may be at times.



2. The One Entrusted with the Heritage


22. The Maronites are proud of their Eastern culture, rich heritage, openness to the pluralistic culture of the West and their steadfastness in the true doctrine of the Catholic faith. The patriarch, who participated in Vatican II with his bishops, was enriched by this participation, thus enriching with it his Church. He benefited the Council from the experience of his Church.


Throughout the centuries, the patriarch and his Maronite people have maintained a distinctive relationship with Rome. This relationship remains one of the fundamental constants not only in doctrine but also in the various ecclesiastical and life fields. While the patriarch is vigilant in leading his people toward the strengthening of relations of the Maronite Church in canon law and communion of love with the Church of Rome, he is desirous of cooperating very closely with the rest of the Eastern Catholic Churches, such that his Church may, in her great apostolic environment, along with her sister Churches, bear a living witness to the one faith and abound in openness with the other Churches. This will lead to the exchange of opinions and experience so that all may hear the voice of Christ, and the evangelic mission of service, love, and justice, so that peace may reach the sons and daughters of the East and to wherever the Maronite Church may expand.


3. The One Concerned for the Nation


23. Throughout the history of their Church, the patriarchs and their Maronite people have maintained their love for the countries in which they were to be found and have cared for every one of the Countries of Expansion where they reside. They faithfully serve these countries, defend them and strive for their development. After the ecclesiastical authority moved to Lebanon, the patriarch became the focus of attention of the Lebanese people. He was appreciated and respected by the rulers and the people, esteeming his wise and unifying role. They refer to him when balances are upset, so he may remind them of the national constants and fundamentals of conviviality, as well as its firmness and evolution. All Christian Churches value the role that the patriarch plays in national issues and value his leadership in chairing the Council of Catholic Patriarchs and Bishops in Lebanon. Moreover, Muslim leaders listen to him with pleasure. They esteem him and value his stands in times of crises and in sensitive national issues because of his elevated position. He enjoys the freedom and courage to always speak the truth; he defends all citizens, not just the sons and daughters of his Church.


Second: The Bishops


24. Maronite texts contained in the liturgical books and the previous Maronite synods focused on the functions entrusted to the patriarch and the bishops and gave an extensive description. These texts concur with the teaching of the universal Church as stated in Vatican II and in recent documents. These functions can be condensed into three types of ministries: teaching, sanctifying, and administering. What is the actual status of this service?


1. The Service of Teaching


25. Bishops exercise their teaching function on three levels: The collective level, when they assemble in the Synod of Bishops or in the Council of Catholic Patriarchs and Bishops, issuing instructions and directives concerning various subjects related to the life of the Christian faithful in its different aspects. The individual level is when they promulgate letters directed at the faithful in their eparchies on certain occasions, or when they preach during their pastoral visits and liturgical celebrations, or when they give talks and lectures. As for the most widely utilized level, it is through what priests provide in preaching, guidance and direction in the parishes they serve, or through catechesis and the evangelic vigils which are held in cooperation with a substantial number of monks, nuns and lay people. Moreover, catechetical committees were created in many eparchies and parishes to provide religious education to students. Also, there is a trend to provide means for the Christian formation of adults in addition to the Religious Education Centers spread out in most eparchies.


It is a well-known fact that the media, in general, and religious media in particular, both have a profound influence in this domain. Therefore, should be used extensively for enculturation and teaching. In addition, vigilance should be exercised to monitor the sound teaching of what is being relayed, making sure they conform to doctrine and ethics. The two documents concerning the media and religious formation have dealt with these subjects. Therefore, there is no need to elaborate on them here.


26. However, concerning bishops in this domain, there is need to concentrate on two points: The first is for them to continue their own enculturation process consecrating enough time for reading so that their speech does not become repetition of past acquired learning. Renewal is a right that the faithful have over them. It lies at the heart of the bishops’ pastoral care, as the faithful expect them to provide nourishment for their faith and illumination for their paths. The second point concerns conforming what they preach to what they do and how they live. Teaching consists of announcing the Good News of the Gospel. The person conveying the Good News should derive benefit from it before the hearer does. Here, we must remember what Pope Paul VI said: “Contemporary man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, or if he listens to teachers, it is because they are witnesses” (Pastors of the Flock, no 28-31). Our liturgical books and the ordination ritual in particular, insist on the life of holiness that the candidate must lead and on the necessity that he be guided by the Spirit of the Lord.



2. The Ministry of Sanctification


27. Bishops are entrusted with the sanctification of the people who are under their charge. They exercise this ministry directly when they celebrate the holy mysteries (sacraments), particularly the mystery of the Eucharist. There, surrounded by the community of believers, the bishops embody Christ’s presence and his work among them through the power of the Holy Spirit or through the ministry of the priests who are entrusted to serve the parishes. They insure the reception and participation of the flock in the mysteries, the revival of the liturgical life, and the spiritual direction. The faithful insist that they will have a priest in charge of their parish, and this is what they request of the bishops.


28. Due to the importance of the liturgy in the lives of the pastors and the parishioners,[19] it is necessary to caution them to prepare for a worthy celebration of the Eucharist so that monotony would not set in, robbing it of its luster and charm. Moreover, care must be exercised to link it to everyday life since it provides spiritual nourishment for both the celebrant and the faithful alike. Whenever it is reduced to mere practices and obligations bereft of its meaning, there would be a slip into what the Holy Bible warned of: “These people honor Me with their lips and their hearts are far from Me” (Is. 29:13 and Mt. 15:8).


29. Therefore, it is the duty of shepherds to give due attention to all celebrations, whether they preside over them or their priests, that the temporal character does not overpower the religious character, transforming them into social gatherings and worldly manifestations with only a semblance of the religious. This requires educating all, so that celebrations may retain their sanctity, thus, avoiding mutilation from whatever source. A lot depends on the role of the bishops and their example, because the liturgy and its celebration are both the most important bond that unites Maronites wherever they are.


30. We refrain from going into further explanations here because the liturgy text itself deals with all its aspects. However, we stress that the means of sanctification will not bring forth fruit unless they are used to unite us with the heavenly Father. He pours forth sanctity on us through the sacraments and life of His Son with the power of the Holy Spirit with whom we were sealed and who has been poured into our hearts, provided we listen to him, are led by him, and work in accordance with his will.


31. We should never forget that the sanctification of the flock depends on our prayers and on our sacrifices and offerings which we present on their behalf. Church law has prescribed that obligation in the wake of the call of Christ our Lord in his priestly prayer, when he said: “And I consecrate myself for them, so that they also may be consecrated in truth” (Jn. 17:19). In addition, the prayers of the canonical hours will repeatedly stress this strong link between the pastor and the flock. Moreover, the prayers we offer on behalf of the people bring us back to God, the source of all holiness.



3. The Ministry of Administration


32. Our rituals call the bishop “the wise administrator”. This service of administration encompasses both administrative and temporal matters, but foremost, refers to spiritual matters. The object of the ministry of administration is to form the community of faith and is for the “building of the Church of God” in the manner in which the ordination ritual describes. For that reason we will be speaking here about only a few elements of the ministry of administration with additional aspects being dealt with in other texts of our Synod. The patriarch and the bishops are desirous to espouse the concerns of their people and stay close to them both in their spiritual lives and in their expectation to earn a decent living. The faithful do not come merely to pose their religious problems but also their temporal hardships. This means that the patriarch and the bishops are responsible for more than just the spiritual welfare of their flock. But, their mission basically is that of the Savior. Therefore, before anything else, the patriarch and the bishops bring Christ’s hope to the world. Thus, the message of Vatican II essentially was a call for the Church to be a source of joy and of hope and to be a shining witness on this earth just as her Divine Founder wanted her to be.



4. Priestly Relations


33. The bishops strive to live the continuous missions of joy and renewal in the synod, where they gather around their patriarch. They hold monthly meetings; they participate along his side in annual retreats and they confer on pastoral, social, and national concerns. They strive to be in close union with the patriarch and in filial submission to him, participating with him in directing the affairs of the Church. At the same time, they are mindful of the demands of pastoral work, which involves preparing competent priests devoted to service, providing them with a decent standard of living to confront all difficulties they may encounter in the course of their lives and mission, which over time have become more complex. Bishops realize that their own missions cannot be complete and successful without the priests, their aides. For this reason, they take care of them out of a deep ecclesial concern and in sharing the load of the mission, not just because laws stipulate so.



5. Pastoral or Priestly Vocations


34. The bishops send candidates who show signs of a priestly vocation to the seminary where they receive formation and education so that they may become zealous priests in the service of the faithful. The eparchy bears the cost of formation of the priests of tomorrow, thus to sponsoring vocations and celebrates a vocations’ week in participation with the universal Church, making all the faithful aware of the importance of vocations. The bishop closely follows the formation of the candidates to the priesthood within his eparchy, because he realizes that on the basis of this formation and personal contact with the seminary and the seminarians, the personality of the candidate will mature, adorned with knowledge and virtue, prepared to establish the best of human relations as soon as his mission commences. Establishing good relationships is the key to a successful apostolate.


Today many bishops are striving to strengthen the missionary spirit in the seminarians, who do not hesitate when sent outside the country, and sometimes outside the spread of the Maronite Church to contribute to the mission of the universal Church. This is done after they have familiarized themselves with the needs of the eparchy and that of the universal Church. The bishops are aware of their own responsibility in administering the mystery of Holy Orders. Hence, they examine candidates to the priesthood very carefully, discerning whether they belong to their eparchy, to another eparchy, or to a religious congregation. They consult with their superiors to have full knowledge of their readiness and worthiness.


6. Relations with Monks and Nuns


35. The bishops consider the presence of monks and nuns in the eparchies as a gift from God, because this presence strengthens religious enculturation and enhances the work of evangelization and the service of charity. In addition, the bishops are aware of all of the positive results that these religious persons will bring to the eparchy as they operate within the educational and health institutions. The bishop’s relationship with these consecrated people is that of Christian love, of profound respect, and of serious collaboration and shared concern for evangelization and its issues.


The bishop will always endeavor to strengthen the bonds of friendship and of love with those who have left everything for the sake of Christ. He is their elder brother and exemplar, whereas, monks and nuns have in their hearts a sincere filial sentiment for their bishop. They strive to coordinate with him in matters involving the apostolate and at times material issues that relate to the eparchy and the work of evangelization. When a misunderstanding arises leading to a dispute, canon law and the standing committee at the Patriarchal See assume the responsibility to resolve the matter[20].


7. The Place of the Laity in the Concerns of the Patriarch and Bishops


36. Vatican II stressed the role of the laity, their effective and responsible participation in the life of the Church according to their capabilities. As a result, the patriarch and the bishops have increased the opportunity for the laity to assume their responsibilities at the level of the eparchy, the parish, organizations and individuals. In this way, each eparchy began to organize the participation of the laity. They established parish councils and activated all kinds of apostolic movements. They also established the Eparchial Council and the Economic Council. Work expanded with the Council of Catholic Patriarchs and Bishops in Lebanon and resulted in the creation of the Episcopal committees for the pastoral life, such as the Committee for the Laity, the Committee for the Family, and the Committee for Education etc… these committees aim to coordinate the work at the level of all the Catholic Churches. The bishops were adamant at establishing centers for the formation of adults so as to deepen Christian spirituality, Church teaching in theology and the liturgy, and become involved in the various pastoral activities and participation in the responsibilities of evangelization. These centers have become an aide from which the laity draw the spirituality of their commitment to Christ and their lives in union with him.


The bishops have strengthened catechesis in Catholic and public schools, attended to the creation of a catechetical committee first for Lebanon and then for the East. Their primary concern is the formation of catechists and to supply them with modern educational means conducive to the mentality of the youth, enabling them to zealously seek out and accept Christian evangelization. Despite this, there are still many things awaiting execution in this domain. Also, the challenges of today in the face of the promulgation of the Gospel and in living it are more than can be counted (Refer to the texts on the Laity, and the Youth).


8. Pastoral Visits


37. Lastly, we point out that the pastoral visits which bishops undertake to parishes in their eparchy allow them to examine the state of their spiritual sons and daughters and to become acquainted with their current needs, their affairs and all aspects of the parish’s life.


During his visit the bishop exercises his teaching, sanctifying, and administrative functions as it gives him the opportunity to personally meet with the active groups in the parish, particularly the councils, committees, sodalities, and apostolate movements. During these numerous meetings the bishop is careful not to forget the handicapped, the sick, and all those who are in need of his support and encouragement. These visits are successful in the measure that they are prepared both by the parish priest and by the one to whom the bishop assigns to this task.



9. The Church of the Countries of Expansion


38. Regarding the Countries of Expansion, other considerations impose themselves on the bishops. These areas are outside the Patriarchal Domain. Their faithful are scattered over vast territories on which the visible unity in the eparchy is absent. This makes it very difficult for bishops to get to know most of their sons and daughters and impossible to meet with them all. Moreover, a great part of the younger generation does not know Lebanon, the East and the roots of the mother Church. The gaps between these youth, the older generation, and the new immigrants have widened.


The other difficulty is the mounting shortage of priests and of the priestly and religious vocations within the Church in the Countries of Expansion. However, the bishops are beginning to face these challenges and difficulties. Hopes are set on cooperation between eparchies and their parishes on the one hand, and on intensifying contacts between them and the Patriarchate on the other (Refer to the text 4: The Maronite Church in Her Global Expansion).



Chapter 3: The Road to Renewal of the Ministry of the Patriarch and of the Bishops



First: The Spirituality of the Patriarch and the Bishops as the outset of their Renewal


1. Yielding to the Spirit


 39. Renewal in the life of the patriarch and the bishops emanates, before all, from the work of the Holy Spirit who constantly renews the face of the earth (Ps. 104:30) and creates everything anew and authentic in the Church. The Spirit guides the Church’s hierarchy to discern the present reality and to foresee the future in light of the constants of the Sacred Scripture, Tradition, and history.


2. Rooted in the Gospel


40. The living memory of the past which calls for fundamental evangelism and Eastern authenticity in order to preserve the identity rooted in the common Antiochene heritage, on the one hand, and the uniqueness of the Maronite Church in her early beginnings, on the other, requires that the patriarch and the bishops consider the Holy Gospel as the source for every renewal in their lives. Therefore, renewal with respect to the shepherds was and still is the imitation, the modeling after and the following in the example of the unique Shepherd, Jesus Christ. He is the Shepherd of shepherds who laid down his life for the sheep on the cross of humiliation on behalf of the sheep, descended to the abode of hell in order to save the children of Adam, and rose from the dead to unite into one those who were dispersed. Christ remains bearing his wounds in a supernatural way because there are other sheep that do not belong to this fold that he must also lead that there may be one flock for one Shepherd (John 10:14-16).


3. Quenching Thirst with the Sacred Scripture


41. The Word of God is the bishop’s treasure that does not dry up and is the place where he finds his strength and consolation for his life. It is impossible for any Maronite bishop not to have a profound knowledge of the Sacred Scripture, as the fathers and the forefathers had, and not to make it a permanent companion in his mission.


Maronite spirituality is rooted in the Sacred Scripture in its two parts, the Old Testament and the New Testament. It is often difficult to separate the liturgical text from that of the Bible just as it is difficult for a Maronite bishop to separate his contemplative life from his active life. Hence, for example, we find that the ancient Maronite manuscripts[21] include the 150 Psalms that the Maronites would recite in their entirety every day divided over the seven hours of the day and night. Moreover, interpretations of the book of Genesis, Exodus, and Leviticus that have been attributed to St. Ephrem have been published. This confirms that our Maronite spirituality, even our entire life, is immersed in the divine revelation.


This revelation is repeatedly expressed in the Trinitarian dimension as written in the prayers of the Divine Office: “With the Father who sent His Son to the world and with the Son who realized our salvation through his death and resurrection and with the Holy Spirit who completed and completes all the mysteries.” This theological division has many echoes in the Divine Liturgy, in the mysteries, in the rituals, and in all that the head does, because He is the foundation of our faith and its Maker, the source of our spirituality and its outcome, the object of our mission, and the only justification for our existence.


4. Remembering the Early History


42. By returning to the Gospel, the patriarch and the bishops remember that the Maronite beginnings were nothing more than a spiritual impetus that drove the founding saint and symbol into the highest mountains of asceticism in order that he might plunge into the depth of his soul, renouncing everything to gain God. The road to the unique and sublime request comes from the divine calling that pastors know. This calling saw the light when they heard, in the morning of life, the words of the Lord: Leave everything and follow me. These words will always be present in their minds and in their spiritual and temporal lives, because they remind them of their personal and unique calling in every place and at all times. The shepherds of the little flock have willingly chosen to gain the kingdom (Lk. 12:32), to bear the cross of their Master (Mt. 10:38), and to follow Him on the rugged path of history, in the thorny reality of their lives.


The shepherds cut themselves off from their familiar surroundings in order to reach their primary goal, on the one hand; on the other, they help their flock as well as all people of good will to reach theirs. All of this is accomplished by relying on God’s grace rather than relying on human wisdom, arming themselves with the fervor of prayer and with the frugality of a life, adorned with unwavering faith in spite of its high cost. For, it has separated them from their families and their fertile land and thrust them into foreign lands, settling in the higher elevations of its mountains, and in the depths of valleys, and in caves, that they may protect the sheep of the flock and the treasure of authentic doctrine.


5. Researching the Source of the Liturgy


43. These formative beginnings were ever etched in memory when the characteristics of the Antiochene Maronite liturgy began emerging and organized to form, along with the treasures of the Syriac heritage it carried, the foundation of Church spirituality and that of her fathers, the shepherds.

The patriarch, the “primary guardian” over the liturgy, along with the bishops, its guards, and those who participate in it, realize that the leader of the community, at every time and place, must always be first “deeply rooted in service” with his predecessors who “held the true faith”. Thus, he becomes a true successor of Peter and the Apostles, upright in opinion and in teaching, as he constantly strives to be adorned in the love of the “Father” of sanctity, always clothed with a unique life, calling him to share the life of Christ the Shepherd, and placing him in perpetual communion with the Spirit.


6. Following in the Footsteps of the Fathers


44. The spiritual life of the patriarch and the bishops imprints their apostolic ministry, and gives it the effective force and momentum needed to face the difficult obstacles. For this reason, the bishops strive to be inspired by the examples of their predecessors that they may continue the march and glean guidance from them.


In the history of our Church, the faith rooted in the Cross[22] is one of the remaining constants across time. For this reason, the first attribute of the prayer of the hierarch in the Church, as it was with the Antiochene fathers, is a prayer of atonement and washing away of sins. Through that, the bishop finds the salvific medicine and the true road to repentance for him and his sons and daughters. Hence, his morning prayers are adorned by, for example, Psalm 51 (Have mercy on me, O God/The Acceptable Sacrifice), and Psalm 63 (O God, You are my God/Trust in God Alone). This latter Psalm, in the words of John Chrysostom: “Invigorates the love of God, awakens the soul, enkindling it with a living fire, filling it with joy and love, then, we can approach God … because, wherever the love of God is, all vices disappear; and wherever the praise of God is, all sins vanish and evil is obliterated”[23].


 If the bishop has anything to bring him closer to God, - as well as his priests, religious and faithful - it is the unceasing weeping for his sins and those of the congregation as he repeats: “Take these two feeble tears and give me Your great forgiveness.” The fathers wept so much that: “the tears running down their cheeks grooved channels”[24]. This personal repentance reminds the bishop that he is the servant of the Mystery of Reconciliation that he, personally, does not delay in accepting as a profound duty, being watchful to distribute it with his priests on the members of the eparchy. Through that he expresses what the fathers were constantly reiterating concerning the Mystery of the Church that is in herself holy, but consists of sinners in constant need of the forgiveness of the Lord.


However, repentance, fasting and mortification are not an end in themselves; rather they are the road to joy, hope and thanksgiving because they first liberate the soul from the yoke of the world to hand it over to the power of the Spirit. Second, they elevate the soul and place it at the door of Paradise where the heavenly Spouse meets her, bringing her into the heavenly chamber of the Father where she will stay with Him forever[25].


7. Monastic Poverty


45. Throughout many centuries there were patriarchs and bishops of monastic affiliation at the head of the Maronite Church. In their ministry, those bishops–monks kept exercising the same mortification, prayers, and fasting that they had practiced in their monasteries, in addition to living the life of poverty, obedience, and chastity. Theodoret was impelled to say that these bishops “change their function but not their state”[26]. However, monastic life was implanted in the life of the community and the community was living on the rhythm of the bells of the monastery.


The life of harmony between the monastery and its environment is reflected today in the spirituality of the closeness of the bishops to their flock, the sharing of responsibility between them and the patriarch and the solidarity between all members of the eparchy and the Church. But, in their personal lives, they never forget their predecessors whose conduct was imbued with a life of holiness within their monasteries. They used to sell their miter and their pectoral crosses in order to feed the hungry and walk barefoot wearing the garments of the poor, as they went about distributing their Mass stipends to the destitute[27].



8. Relying on Mary


46. The patriarch and every Maronite bishop output to consider that which the Lord said to John from the cross: “Behold your mother” (John 19:27), as what he says to each one of them personally as well as to every person in their flock.


Hence, the Marian characteristic of the Maronite Church is evident in her liturgy, in her churches and monasteries, in her texts and rituals, and in the life of each of her children, bishops and saints. Wherever they reside or wherever they may travel, Maronites keep singing hymns to the Virgin, calling her the “Mother of God” and saying that she is their lady, their defender, intercessor and exemplar.


When the bishop takes Mary “into his care” (John 19:27), that is, in all that belongs to him and his eparchy, material or spiritual, he considers this Holy Mother his most precious treasure and his greater wealth because he considers accepting Mary into his life tantamount to accepting Christ into his life. The bishop knows more than anyone else that Christ and Mary have blessed this people in their unique simplicity, sincere heartfelt expressions, and permanent attachment to Christ and His mother.


With Mary, he confronts challenges and how numerous they are. He imitates her deep faith. Like her he enters into God’s salvific plan, relying on this mother whom no one has ever heard that anyone who turned to her for help was left unaided. For this reason, Mary was and continues to be for the bishop a compassionate mother in whose protection he rests, remembering that the Mother of the Church is the best mother to the successors of the apostles, the bishops of the present time.


9. Longing for the Mansion of the Lord


47. The Maronite spirituality, with which the bishop is adorned to confront the present as well as the future, is characterized by an eschatological accent.[28] In spite of the strong attachment that Maronites have to their land and to their homelands, it is heaven that remains the guiding star for them as the last stop along the pilgrimage path. Maronites who have tasted the bitterness of immigration, poverty and displacement have never considered that any land on earth will make them forget the new land that has been promised nor has anything diverted them from the promised heaven. Thus, the bishop understands before others that the true Promised Land is the heavenly Jerusalem. The most important element in this eschatological dimension is the link between the Eucharist and the Resurrection, between communion and eternal life: “I have consumed Your Holy Body. Let not fire consume me.” In this context, there is an inexhaustible wealth enabling the bishop, before anyone else, to live the Christian hope amidst trials and tribulations on a solid and strong foundation emanating from the Mystery of the Eucharist which is the bishop’s daily bread of life, food for the souls of his flock and a pledge of heaven for everyone.


This great hope, firmly rooted in the heart of all Maronites and the jewel of their Church, led several researchers[29] who were studying the Maronite heritage to consider the spirituality of this people as being a spirituality of Great Saturday of the Light, the descent into hell, the vigilance and expectation, and the anticipation of Resurrection Sunday after Good Friday. Thus, Maronites, along with their shepherds, throughout the long night of their tragic history, never tired from weeping with Mary whose tears overflowed her cheeks. Yet, if they have any consolation it is in the image before them of this mother and the body of her dead Son in her bosom before the embrace of the tomb. However, the dawn of the coming Resurrection will rise in the heart of the hopeful Virgin.


10. Fatherly Love


48. In concluding this brief presentation dealing with the spirituality of the Maronite bishop, drawn from the depths of the Syriac Antiochene Church history, we pause lastly at the paternal dimension and pastoral love which is supposed to fill the heart of the shepherd in relation to his sons and daughters and in his relationship with God.


The Lord’s question to Peter: “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” (John 21:15), remains to the bishop the question of a lifetime as well as the question for the present moment.


Just as Jesus loved the Father and translated that love into obedience, an obedience he learned through supplications and suffering (Heb. 5:7-8), in a similar manner, the bishop attempts to imitate the Lord who is the object of his passionate love, making the love of the Father the purpose of his life and the meaning of his existence. He translates this love into service and the giving of self for the sake of the sons and daughters of the eparchy and the Church, because everything in his life is geared toward the building up of the Holy Church through his love[30].


On the one hand, the bishop’s love for his flock is expressed by his concern for them, by his attention to their needs, and by his closeness to them. On the other hand, his love for his flock is expressed by his readiness and humility, by the simplicity of his life and by his self-giving. The bishop shares his love for the flock in communion with the patriarch and with his fellow bishops and in harmony with his flock. Then, the bishop’s mission becomes a stimulus for the flock to press forward in the march toward the kingdom, an encouragement for the hesitating to move forward, and an enticement for individuals and groups to lead fruitful lives. Similarly to Paul, the bishop will continue to be drawn to and captivated by the Second Coming of the gloriously resurrected Christ. The bishop will show both in his personal life and in his apostolic ministry how he has a special zeal for the salvation of the faithful addressing them and living among them with warmth, affection and fervor (1 Thes. 2:7-12).


Second: The Challenges of Time and Space


49. These were some of the features of the spirituality of the Maronite Church that the bishop lives by and from them, he derives his ongoing renewal and his effective weapon in his ministry so that the Church may be able to confront the challenges of the present and the future. The Church accomplishes this by discovering the historical constants and hidden elements of hope in her and in her founder, so that she may overcome the difficulties that obstruct her progress and threaten her existence and continuity.


1. The Tragedies of War and the Disintegration in Lebanon


50. The patriarch and the bishops know the sorry state of the Christian faithful in recent years and the calamities of war they have suffered in Lebanon. There are eparchies whose parishes have been swept by destruction and her people displaced. While other eparchies became overcrowded by newcomers they were never prepared to accommodate and integrate into their normal lives. Add to that the decrease in population due to the war, to emigration and to changes in social conditions and residential patterns. The majority of the sons and daughters of our Church were of rural stock and engaged in occupational crafts, whereas, currently, its majority are a civil and service oriented society. This move from the countryside to the city has indirectly resulted in large pieces of land being transferred to people other than their original owners. What is regrettable is that the Maronites who once were present in all regions of Lebanon, living in harmony with people of other confessions, now find that their role has diminished with the decrease in their numbers and their inability to deepen the concept of conviviality. This conviviality has been one of the prime duties of the Maronite Church throughout history.


2. Melting Away in the Broader Milieu


51. As for the other countries within the Patriarchal Domain, the sons and daughters of the Church have become a minority there and are afraid of melting away and losing identity or particularity. Add to that the rise in fundamentalism which stifles personal liberties, abridges differences, and sometimes replaces dialogue for violence. The fact that our region still remains within the circle of economic, political and scientific retardation, overcomplicates Church matters.


The Maronite Church in the Countries of Expansion is also exposed to accentuated dispersal, as referred to in detail in text 4, The Maronite Church in Her Global Expansion.


3. Internal Dangers[31]


52. Internal dangers stem from the weakening of the feeling of the necessity for unity, collaboration and solidarity, a minimal sense of institutionalization, and the widening of the financial gap between members of one eparchy or between eparchies, or within the Church in general whether it is within her institutions or her other entities. It is also due to the individualistic attitude of persons in authority and an improvisation which often breeds new crises instead of finding solutions for existing ones. However, what worries the patriarch and the bishops is the spread of sects and strange ideas which could disband a community known for its steadfastness and strong coherence.


Moreover, when it comes to religious knowledge, the patriarch and the bishops recognize the widespread frightful ignorance among a great number of their sons and daughters who have little knowledge of Christian doctrine, and this includes graduates from ecclesiastical educational institutions. In addition to this religious ignorance, there is regress in education and the humanities despite very advanced curricula. Perhaps this is due to the modern means of communication which promote specifically money, power, stardom and sexual pleasures, plenty more than it promotes the intellect, civilization, the sciences and religion. The shepherds are also grieving because the values of quick success, ‘cleverness’, the easy life and enticements are overpowering the values of perseverance, seriousness, contentment and chastity.


Third: Marks of Hope


53. The Maronite constants are the starting points of every vision and plan of action in confronting challenges and effect continuous renewal everywhere and at all times. If our predecessors were able to lead the Church through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and their perseverance, than we can do it as well relying on the help of the same Spirit, surrendering to Him and imitating the Great Shepherd (Heb. 13:20) who said, “take courage, I have conquered the world” (John 16:33). We can today protect the little flock from dangers (Luke 12:32) and preserve it until the ship reaches the harbor of joy, bearing salvation and the bread of life to the hungry and the needy.


1. Seeking the Inspiration of the Founder


54. The shepherds will remember, throughout their pilgrimage with their people toward the New Jerusalem, that their Church is, above all, a community which follows Christ renouncing, for His sake, the enticements of the world. Her saintly founder marked her with his ascetic character and she cannot come out of her skin even though the enticements multiply, the institutions prosper and the congregations grow.


2. Strengthening Unity and Communion


55. The shepherds will also remember that the strength of their Church lies in the unity of the people with their patriarch and rallying around him, because he is the father of the family and the superior within the monastery, and he is the leader of the people and their reference.


The bishops together with the patriarch form an episcopal chain whose members carry out the roles of sanctification, teaching and administration. These functions are exercised within the one communion because the basic structure of the Maronite Church is a Synodal structure. For this reason the apostolic ministry in our Maronite Church is distinguished by its collegial character because in the end responsibility is assumed by everyone and, therefore, everyone ought to participate in the decision making.


3. Adherence to the Synodal Spirit


56. The Synodal spirit that is enjoyed by our Church stems from her patriarchal identity, and from the spirituality of collegial apostolate and ecclesial communion. Consequently, the patriarch and the bishops jointly share responsibility and in solidarity must confront challenges, find solutions, and carry the mission of salvation to souls.


The spirit of communion goes beyond just examining circumstantial issues and incidental political matters. It encompasses reviewing problems, sources of anxiety and issues that are of interest to the societies where Maronites reside. Thus, the Church will act according to her inborn character as teacher, sanctifier, and administrator committed to her people, obligated to provide answers to the profound questions which concern them as individuals and communities.


4. Carrying the Word of Salvation through a Living Community


57. The patriarch and the bishops always deliver the word of salvation, consolation, joy, and hope to their people, enabling them to face the difficult situations which confront them with the spirit of working together for the sake of the kingdom, realizing that they are the yeast in the dough and the light on the lamp-stand (Mt. 13:33; and 5:14-16).


The spirit of communion calls for putting our minds together to diagnose the current situation and devise plans and arrangements to prompt each Church institution to do what is required of her. In this way, the Maronite Church with the Synod of Bishops gathered around the patriarch, with the priests, the religious men and women, and all her active groups, becomes a living community that is cognizant of her status. The Church strives with earnest commitment to proclaim the truth with love for the sake of realizing her identity and mission, relying on her Lord and the fortitude of her history, tradition, saints, and people.


5. Strengthening the Ecumenical Spirit


58. Because the Maronite Church is an Antiochene Church, her shepherds cannot but root themselves deeply into the Antiochene spirituality, mindful of the ecumenical spirit. Antiochene unity is not merely the fruit of huge efforts expended at the theological, canonical and pastoral levels; rather, foremost, it is a journey of repentance and conversion, so that the Lord may become manifest in the life of those who love him and believe in him. Moreover, Antiochene unity is the prelude to a unity that encompasses the entire Church, especially in the East, when considering the repercussions of such unity on the Christian presence and the evangelical witness. (Refer to the synod text 2: Identity, Vocation, and Mission of the Maronite Church).


6. Enriched by the Heritage and Enriching It


59. Our rooting within the Antiochene heritage eventually leads to the Syriac heritage, conveyor of the distinctive spirituality of our Church and her rich treasure. This requires devising a plan for a return to the original sources, so that clergy and laity would benefit from the biblical, patristic, liturgical and the spiritual sources. Furthermore, by returning to the roots of the Syriac heritage the faithful enter into the heart of Arab culture to which they contribute with their intellectual creativity. Arab acculturation with the Christian spirit was due to Maronite participation, which worked to create the culture of conviviality with Muslims and a connection to modernity.


Since bishops of the Countries of Expansion have a special role to play in transmitting the Maronite heritage to many cultures and in many languages, they are more qualified than any to employ this heritage in the service of the Church and the culture of encounter between peoples.


7. Conviviality


60. Conviviality is a constant feature in our Maronite history and tradition. It has impelled us to live with different confessions, to form with them one society and one nation. Maintaining the heritage of openness to the East and the West, our sons and daughters were pioneers in preserving, disseminating and enriching Arab culture. Some studied Islam and were prominent in their research of that religion, especially in the West. They explained Islam and brought it closer to the intellect of people of other cultures. Bishops are interested in strengthening the perspective of accord while recognizing the right to diversity and to differ among the confessions which constitute the social fabric. Political consensus remains the bishops’ basic concern and they strive to strengthen it and express it in a variety of frameworks that would allow communities and individuals to secure their full rights. They also strive to find common ground where followers of different religions can meet. Henceforth, they produce intellectual, social and political currents which would strengthen conviviality and evolve its political formula to suit the needs.


8. Steadfastness and Witnessing


61. The shepherds understand that they must work in unison with the faithful so that their presence will be effective, influential, carrying the message of the Gospel par excellence. Thus, they will not be afraid to confront, with prudence and gentleness, challenges whether they come from religious fanaticism, atheism, the easy materialism that is engrossed in licentiousness, or those who disdain moral values and the like. In a similar manner, they are ever vigilant to the danger of sects and heresies and the need to confront them, especially by overseeing earnest and profound religious formation at the level of children, youth, adults, and elderly.


9. Extending Patriarchal Jurisdiction


62. In order to safeguard and consolidate unity between the Churches in the Countries of Expansion and the Patriarchate, it is necessary to recognize the right of the patriarch to enjoy jurisdiction over Maronites wherever they may be. (Refer to the synod text 4: The Maronite Church in Her Global Expansion).


10. A Worldwide Mission


63. The Synod is adamant that the Maronite entity not be confined to a nation or to one kind of nationalism, because it conceives that this Eastern Church has experienced a wide expansion.


This means that the Maronite entity transcends national borders to attain the role of a universal Church. In this role she manifests God’s work in history and in the world. In the words of Patriarch Douaihy, the patriarch and the bishops “extend God’s power over their regions” and over their eparchies basically, leading their people to witness God’s work and purpose everywhere and at all times.


64. We notice anew that the spirit of “the mission to the nations” is distinctive in the Maronite Church. This new dynamic holds pleasant surprises for the future of the Church placing her at the heart of the mission of every Church and of her original identity. It also makes her even more faithful to the last command of the Lord: “Go, and make disciples of all nations” (Mt. 28:19).


For this reason, the patriarch and the bishops encourage the openness of the Church toward this mission launched beyond her customary boundaries. Openness to the “missionary dimension,” and strengthening bonds between the Church in the Patriarchal Domain and that of the expansion, will both crystallize the relationship between the Church in the Patriarchal Domain and that in the Countries of Expansion, giving the Maronite Church a distinguished place on the map of missions.


11. A Unified Vision


65. We can conclude from all the preceding considerations that the role of the patriarch with the Synod of Bishops is the role of one raising the standard of historical data to an inspiring level so that they may act in compliance, building the future of the Church upon it. In these endeavors the patriarch remains the guarantor of Maronite unity both in its structure, order and continuity as it was throughout history. This makes it inevitable for him to strive to assemble under his religious authority all ecclesiastical organizations, from monastic, spiritual and lay. Within this unified vision brought about by the power of faithfulness to St. Maron and to the mission of the universal Church, the Holy Spirit acts through the gifts that he imparts to all his people, patriarch, bishops, priests, monks, nuns, and laity, to enrich them all so that they may enrich their milieu, thus, God is glorified through them.


The strength of the Maronites lies in their faithfulness to their roots and to the sources from which the Maronite entity emanated. According to Patriarch Douaihy, the roots are the source from which comes all that is in the Maronite entity, from vitality to theological and spiritual forces that nourish her mission throughout the world. However, all of these forces remain capabilities calling out to whomever, to embody and expand them. She needs saints, heroes, and scholars to manifest them and update them as a service to the Church.




12. The Universal Does Not Forget the Particular


66. The mission of the universal Church does not mean that she will forget her internal concerns and the first such for the patriarch and the bishops is the transmission and propagation of the Gospel. The new and renewed evangelization, as Pope John Paul II used to call it, requires faith re-formation of the baptized in all areas. The Synodal texts have specified the pastoral domains, the ecclesiastical structures, the sectors, and the institutions as targets for renewal, and have apportioned the youth, the family and the woman with special attention. The fathers of the Synod hope that all efforts would consolidate so that the Synod may bear its fruits. Moreover, they confirm their commitment to engage all efforts to achieve it. Thus, there is a need to draw up an integrated pastoral policy.


13. Drawing of a Pastoral Policy


67. Today’s parish has changed. It has become very large. There is no more a solid relationship between the priest and the faithful. Even the rural parish has sometimes become seasonal, just for the summer. In addition, there is the overwhelming secularism existing in the parishes of the Countries of Expansion, which has started to affect societies in the East in this age of globalization and the Internet. This secularism calls for disengagement between man and God and all that relates to God. The person, who only lives in the framework of the material and the visible life, no longer sees God in it and no longer looks for Him in any life choice he makes.


This is where the need arises for the patriarch and the bishops together, and each in his own eparchy, to formulate a new policy for spreading the Good News. This policy is to be initiated by the bishop who is the head of a living body. He has to ascertain as to the existence of this living body no matter how small it is, working with it for the sake of a new pastoral approach based on:


  • The formation of priests according to the missionary spirit within the parish, to visit homes, neighborhoods and the workplace, and not limiting themselves to current practice;
  • Helping the priest to devote the larger portion of his efforts to re-catechizing parishioners in order that they may live out their faith so that their life may be in harmony with Christian doctrine and morals;
  • Endeavoring to create active and witnessing pastoral groups within the parish to aid the priest in his work, and having a human dimension to embody the Gospel in the local Church;
  • Enabling parish priests and their associates to devote their time solely for the pastoral ministry;
  • Deepening the religious knowledge of adults and families through lectures, formation institutes and religious magazines...
  • Continuing to work with apostolic movements, with youth and children, linking them with active families that have experienced God and are witnessing to His presence in the world.






68. All the reforms that the Church has instituted across time were aimed at getting closer to the Gospel sources. Every community translates this reform by returning to the authentic communal life along the pattern of the early Christians who were diligent to follow the teaching of the apostles, to communal life, to the breaking of bread and to prayers (Acts 2:42). This beautiful image is the origin and goal because every ecclesial life strives to embody the words of John in his first epistle (1 Jn. 1:3-4), which speaks of the communion of the Christian believer with the Father and the Son. This communion is the work of the Holy Spirit on two levels, communion among the Christian faithful themselves and linking them with the communion of the Trinity.


69. The Holy Spirit is the inner teacher of the patriarch and bishops because without the Holy Spirit the role of the hierarchy remains ineffective, God keeps His distance, the Gospel remains a dead letter, the mission, an advertisement, worship, a slavery, authority, a dominion, and the Church, a human institution. But, through the Holy Spirit, the patriarch and the bishops participate with Jesus Christ in his salvific work, devote themselves to the service of the Gospel just like Paul (Rom. 15:16), that all peoples may become an offering to God. Thus, creation gets ready for a new birth and mankind is fortified through the teachings of the hierarchy to fight passions and do good deeds. The Gospel becomes a living force, the Good News, a new Pentecost, and the Church becomes a true communion. Let not the bishops ever forget that they are shepherds following the example of the Good Shepherd and not temporal leaders, even though circumstances may sometimes require them to assume this role. The shepherd guides, directs and gathers until the spirit of unity prevails among his children, urging everyone to invest all capacities and gifts for building up the Church.


70. The Maronite Church, conscious of the central role of the Holy Spirit in her life and in her history, has always given extreme importance to the Mystery of the Holy Myron. For that reason we find it fitting here to redirect our thoughts to the concluding ritual of the consecration of the Myron.


We find in the ritual the following: “The (Patriarch) greets the assembly and seals them with the sign of the cross because they have been anointed with it. After addressing a prayer of thanksgiving to God, he will ascend to the pulpit [(…)] and seal the Myron with the sign of the cross three times while facing each time one of the four corners of the world in imitation of the gesture when the Savior went up the Mount of Olives and, raising his hand, He blessed his disciples ordering them to go out to the four corners of the world and make disciples of all nations and baptize them in the name of the Holy Trinity. Then they will be worthy to enter the heavenly Jerusalem which has three doors open to each one of the four corners of the world”[32].


This is the Maronite Church in its most beautiful image. She came out of the Myron consecrated by her patriarch surrounded by the bishops, the clergy, and the laity, carrying to the world the Gospel of her Christ the Lord and sealed with his cross. This seal, which never left her, is also her “strength and shield against the enemy.” Through this cross the patriarch calls all his children to seal the “four corners of the world.” It will be for them the bridge over which they cross toward the “heavenly Jerusalem[33].








1. The Annual Retreat.

1. Because of the importance of annual retreat in the life of bishops and their pastoral renewal, it was decided to separate Retreat from the Synod.

1. At the beginning of June of each year, a time is to be dedicated for Retreat and another for the Synod.

2. Pontifical Insignia.

2. Simplifying pontifical insignia to harmonize with the evangelical spirit of simplicity.

2. A simple miter can be adopted with Syriac writings and signs, and a metal or wooden staff on top of which stands a globe crowned by a cross, as an example…

3. Pastoral Visits.

3. Considering that pastoral visits provide opportunities to get to know people, enough time must be consecrated for it, so as to get acquainted with the status of the parish.

3. Visits are to range from one day to several, where the shepherd meets with various groups and organizations, inspects all activities and calls on the sick.

4. Sharing Responsibilities.

4. Consolidating the work of lay and clerical institutions and councils.

4. Deliberate on all decisions that are of interest to the eparchy with the appropriate organizations and activate the councils cited by the law.

5. Spiritual Life in the Bishopric.

5. Bishops are to invigorate the spiritual life in their Sees.

5. Common prayers and Masses with the priests of the bishopric if they are present.

6. The Spirit of Poverty and the simple life.

6. Bishops are to adopt a life of simplicity and a spirit of poverty.

6. In addition to the simple life every bishop is to apportion part of what is available for him from income to help the needy and to support the priest’s fund in the eparchy.


[1]. Bkerke manuscript 1 (1670): Kitaab Ar-Risaamaat (Book of Ordination).

[2]. Kitaab ash-Shartounia (The Pontifical Book), Bishop Paul Awad's copy 1915, reproduction of Ash-Shartounia Bkerke, p. 167.

[3]. 1 Pt. 5:1-4.

[4]. Kitaab ash-Shartounia (The Pontifical Book), p. 187.

[5]. Op. cit. pp. 191-192.

[6]. Op. cit. p. 196.

[7]. Ritual of Douaihy Vatican Syriac Manuscript 312 (1683), Chapter 8, 12b.

[8]. Op. cit. pp. 111-112.

[9]. Translated from Syriac by Reverend Youssef Hobeiqa al-Baskintawi, Lebanese monk.

[10]. Op. cit. Chap. 23, pp. 72-73.

[11]. Kitab al-Huda (The Book of Guidance), ed. Abbot Butros Fahd, pp. 201-205.

[12]. The monk Isaiah, from the Kozhayya Monastery, was appointed superior of St. John al-Koozbandou Monastery in Cyprus, as recorded in the Rabboula Gospel.

[13]. Refer to At-Talmahri, Said Ibn Al-Batriq and Al-Mass’oudi: Attanbih Wal Ishraaf. These references appeared in Joseph Ziade’s book: La Hiérarchie Maronite. Sa residence CAL éditeur, 1955, p. 8.

[14]. Refer to Al-Manara (Lighthouse) Magazine, Issue no 1, p. 168.

[15]. See the rite of imposition of hands on bishops and metropolitans in the Ordination Ritual of Bishop Boulos Awad.

[16]. Maymar Al-Kahnoot (Treatise on the Priesthood), p. 75.

[17]. Op. Cit. pp. 104-135.

[18]. Refer to Vatican II Decree: Orientalium Ecclesiarum (Decree on the Catholic Churches of the Eastern Rite), No. 7.

[19]. Refer to the text on the Liturgy.

[20]. Refer to the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches, C 284, 415.

[21]. Refer for example to the manuscript of Florence 1-12 (dated 1318) pp. 86-87.

[22]. Refer to the lecture of Abbot Jean Tabet concerning the spirituality of the patriarch and the bishop: Khasa-iss al-Liturgia al-Antakiya (Characteristics of the Antiochene Liturgy), Monday, March 3rd, 2003; publications of the University of the Holy Spirit, Kaslik. The ideas developed here are inspired by this lecture.

[23]. Op. Cit p. 80.

[24]. Op. Cit p. 89; Father Michel Hayek in his article on the Maronite spirituality adds that there is a tradition that asserts that the tears of repentant ascetics are at the origin of the waters of the Qannoubine Valley. In the Oriental imagination, the tears of repentance are compared to the waters of baptism that wash away sin.

[25]. Refer to Father Michel Hayek’s, Rouhaniyat al-Kanisa al-Marounia (Spirituality of the Maronite Church), in the Dictionnaire de Spiritualité col. 644.

[26]. Refer to Father Michel Hayek’s article on the Maronite Church, Dictionnaire de la Spiritualité col. 639 (on change conditions non de vie).

[27]. Refer to the biography of Patriarch Youssef at-Tayyan by Fr. Farid Habqooq in Sawt ar-Raa’i (Voice of the Shepherd) Magazine, in the issue of November 21st, 2004, p. 48-49, published by the Maronite Eparchy of Tripoli.

[28]. Op. cit. p. 87.

[29]. Jean Tabet, l’Eschatologie dans l’Office Maronite, dans Parole de l’Orient, II/1 (1971) pp. 5-29.

Marcel Hadaya, l’Office Maronite du Samedi Saint, Kaslik, Lebanon 1995.

Michel Hayek, Maronite (Eglise) Dictionnaire de Spiritualité, t. X Beauchesne Paris, 1980, col. 627-644.

L’Abbé Youssef Samya, Maronite au present, Libanica III, Col. Dirigée par Youakim Moubarak, Cariscript.

[30]. Refer to: Apostolic Exhortation Pastores Gregis (On the Bishop, or, Shepherd of the Flock), Pope John Paul II, 2003, Para. 33.

[31]. The previous paragraphs as well as the one following are drawn mainly from the ideas of Father Wakim Moubarak found in his work entitled: Maronites in the present time. It is mentioned earlier L’Abbe’ Youssef Samia, Maronites au present, Libanicus III, Cariscript, 1991.

[32]. Refer to Jean Tabet’s: Madkhall ila Liturgiat al-Batriyark (Introduction to the liturgy of the Patriarch), p. 120.

[33]. Op. cit., p. 122.