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The Maronite Church and Social Issue






1. The Church is the Continuation of the Mystery of Christ’s Incarnation and His Salvific Act for the Sake of Humanity


1.  “In every part of the world, the mission of the Church is based on introducing Christ, the Son of God, and, to proclaim the salvation that God granted to all people.  She has also unceasingly realized, through contemplating her Lord, the perfect Man, that she has a distinctive status in society for the purpose of freeing people from everything that hinders their human and spiritual development, because the ‘Glory of God is the living person.”[1]


The Church, then, in the image of her Lord, is divine and human incarnated in time and space and is deeply rooted in its tangible reality.[2]



2. The Mission of the Church is Man’s Salvation as a “Social Being”


2.  God did not create man as a ‘solitary being’ but wished him to be a ‘social being.’  Social life therefore is not foreign to man: he can only grow and realize his vocation in relation to others….[3]  The relationship with others, as the Lord Jesus said, is based on love: the love of God and the love of neighbor.  The love which is referred to in the Gospel is not just lip service, emotions, pity, or benevolence, but rather love in action, in giving and in justice in a special way.

The Church strives to embody this love on earth among humans, because her mission lies in humanizing this world, people, nature and destinies and in the call to action for the sake of establishing a “Civilization of Love” in this world.  The Church believes that the world is fundamentally the subject of salvation and the dwelling place of grace.  She further believes that the problems and hopes of this world, which Christ has redeemed, are part of her problems and hopes, and there is no escaping them, but rather requires understanding them, and requires participation and effort to find solutions for them.  

All this emanates from the fact that “To carry out such a task, the Church has always had the duty of scrutinizing the signs of the times and of interpreting them in the light of the Gospel.   Thus, in language intelligible to each generation, she can respond to the perennial questions which men ask about this present life and the life to come, and about the relationship of the one to the other.  We must therefore recognize and understand the world in which we live, its explanations, its longings, and its often dramatic characteristics.”[4]





Chapter One:


The Maronite Church and its Social Status throughout History




3.  The Maronite Church developed in an agricultural setting and continued weaving its identity until the turn of the twentieth century within this same environment, deriving her values from it.  Thus, the Maronite became attached to two most important things: a land he cultivated and irrigated for centuries, with his sweat and the blood of his children; and a dwelling to take shelter in with his family.  They are the first things he would possess and the last he would relinquish, defying death throughout history to protect both of them.  The land and its riches are the source of his livelihood and survival.  The Maronite Church has considered the land she owned a sure guarantee for the survival of the Maronites.  History has proven the correctness of this concern when, during World War I, Maronite Orders, for example, mortgaged their property with the French Government in exchange for food to feed the Lebanese.



First: The Social Status in the Middle Ages


4.  The difficult circumstances which the Maronites were nurtured in, because of the state of dislike and wariness which existed between them and their Christian brothers on the one hand, and their being considered people of ath-Thimma within the bounds of the Islamic state, on the other hand, made them a tightly knit society revolving around their Church.  This was under the leadership of a Patriarch who shared with his people their grievances, and how many they were, and their poverty, and how extreme it was, and their agriculture, and how meager its harvest was in harsh mountainous terrains.  In the ocean of this miserable state they lived, surrendering to the will of God and relying on the intercession of the Blessed Virgin, who is the refuge of the Maronites in all their tribulations and tragedies.  This is just as their prayers and supplications indicate, emanating from the depth of the heart, desirous of being rid of poverty, persecution, hunger, plagues, blows, unrest, pillage and harsh death.   All the while, the Church was by their side sharing their happiness and sorrows.  


5.  The Maronites suffered the hardships of displacement from their homeland of origin, in the plains of the Orontes River, and in the direction of Lebanon.  They also suffered from changes in political power and turbulent circumstances resulting from Byzantine conquests and Islamic military repercussions to them.  With the invasions of aj-Jarajima-the-Mardaites and the Munaytira revolution at the dawn of the Abbasid Dynasty, and the continuous changes in the ruling authorities of this Dynasty, the country witnessed jolts which violated man’s dignity, his security and his stability.  All these hardships greatly affected the social and political situation of the Maronites.  Ath-Thimma system tidied the affairs of the Christians and granted them, with the exception of political participation, individual freedom and some rights, such as the right to own movable and immovable assets, to trade, to establish a family, to own a house and to work.  The Law of ath-Thimma maintained the status quo regarding the preservation of churches, monasteries and religious shrines.  Although the Law forbade the construction of new churches, it did allow the Christians to restore existing ones.  The Law also stipulated that Christians must follow a dress code in order to differentiate them from Moslems.  It prohibited the Christians from celebrating their religious ceremonies outside churches, or raising voices, setting conditions that these ceremonies be held at a designated distance away from Moslem assemblies, and it imposed on them the payment of aj-Jiziya taxes.

These requirements were enforced on the Maronites in general, and they were not able to escape them, except for the dress code and the religious ceremonies because they were far from the beholding eyes of the Moslems, being clustered in the mountains.  They benefited from these rights in exchange for placing themselves in ath-Thimma of the Moslems, that is, under their protection.  This legal Islamic environment afforded people under ath-Thimma the right to looking after their health, their education and their culture.


6.  Within this framework, the Maronite Patriarch was both the religious and temporal leader.  There was no clearly defined civil authority alongside him until much later.  He derived his legitimacy from the concept of elections that the Maronites practiced which was quasi popular in its beginnings.  It would come about at the hands of the clergy, community leaders and the people, without the Patriarch being obliged to secure approval from the governing Islamic authority, as was the norm with other Eastern Patriarchs.  The Maronites profited from this reality, and invested it in augmenting their autonomy, whenever circumstances allowed.  When the opportunity was given to the Maronites to re-establish their relationship with Rome, the process of the installation of their Patriarchs by the Apostolic See began, but only after the election had taken place.

The Patriarch was responsible for providing the Islamic authority with a list of names of adults and their holdings for the collection of tribute and land taxes.


7.  Relations within the Maronite Church in the Middle Ages were trouble-free, where all belonged to a familial society, sharing their joys and sorrows.  The multitude of people would generously donate to the Church endowments which Islamic Law permitted.  The very first texts of these endowments are to be found on the pages of an artistic masterpiece, the Rabula Gospel, which was in the possession of the Patriarchal See.

Whereas the Middle Ages were stingy with texts describing the social conditions of the Maronites, an exception to the rule was a text from the year 1475.  It states that the poor Maronite mountaineers underwent all kinds of disdain, beatings, and invasions by the ruling Mameluke authorities because of their inability to pay the heavy taxes levied on them which they had nothing to pay it with.  So, the Patriarch could not but commit to the relinquishing of all the revenues of his churches to satisfy the greed of those tyrants.  This is but a simple example of a series of instances whereby the Maronite Church stood by her flock in times of need.



Second: the Social Status in Modern Times


8.  In modern times, since the days of the Ottomans, the Maronite Church has had the opportunity to expand both in geography and responsibility.  Christians have enjoyed an elevated status.  They built churches, rode horses, bore arms, and stood by the Emir as brothers and advisors during the Ma’an rule and as administrators during the Shehab rule.  Many texts written by the explorers clearly express how the Patriarch and the clergy generally abided alongside their flock, without any social distinction, defending members against persecution perpetrated by the Moslem rulers.


9.  Since the middle of the sixteenth century, the Maronites spread southward to the following districts: Kesrwan, Matn, the highlands, Shouf, Jezzine, and as far South as Mount ‘Amel.  This spread was accompanied politically and socially by the Maronite Patriarchate on one side, and the newly formed religious orders which were established during the tutelage of Patriarch Estephan Ad-Douaihy on the other.  The Maronite Church with all its flanks would carry the banner of the project of a white revolution: economic, cultural, and demographic, thus Christianizing the mountain, land and people.  As a result of this new reality, the Maronite Patriarchate moved to Kesrwan, to the Shouf and even to Jezzine to supervise this expansion and to facilitate the progress of the Maronite peasants there.  Monasteries served as dwelling oases attracting Maronite farmers who brought with them their labor force, their skillful craftsmanship and their love for the land, which they revived and transformed from barren slopes into orchards and fertile gardens.  In a matter of a few years, through their manual labor and the planting partnership agreements, they were able to own this land through the sweat of their brows and not by the sword.  Thus, the small ownership of the farmers and the endowments belonging to the monasteries of the monks, established the Maronites in Lebanon and even beyond.


10.  From the eighteenth century on, the Maronite Church emerged as an organized and highly respected cultural, political, and economic force.  This cultural renaissance came as a result of a cultural awakening which was developing slowly, generation after generation, since the creation of the Maronite College in Rome in 1584, which graduated the cadres of leadership in the Maronite Church.  Certainly, the cultural renaissance meant the renaissance of society encompassing the inherited values, the gradual closeness to the West and the infiltration of new ideas through the education of the youth in the villages.  


11.  The contact with Europe, education, the fortitude of Church authority, the presence of the clergy in every village and town, and the rise of the Maronite political bourgeoisie, all contributed to the creation by Maronites of social reform movements known as the “Commonalty Movements,” in reference to the public who initiated them.  Some of the clergy were involved in these movements because of the discrepancy of taxes that existed between the Maronites and some Moslem denominations.  People enrolled in these organized hierarchical groups calling for new ideas aimed at a new concept for authority based on equality and public, rather than private, interest.  They also requested that the governor be one of their own, and not appointed by the Ottoman Empire.


12.  This new social situation led to the conversion of several non-Christian leaders and to the transformation of the emirate of Mount Lebanon into a Maronite emirate relying on the support of the Maronite clergy.  This social movement crystallized anew in the “Commonalty Movements” against Ibrahim Pasha, the Egyptian, focusing on the idea of opposing foreign rule, emphasizing the spirit of autonomy, and reorganizing the administration of the emirate on the basis of confessional representation headed by a Maronite governor.  Matters evolved and led to the point of revolting against the Maronite feudal lords, and to the clear demand for freedom, equality and the right to self-determination.  That was an inevitable result of the development of ideas and the evolution of popular organizations supported by the Maronite clergy.


13.  Although the bloody confessional wars between 1840 and 1860 cost the lives of tens of thousands of Maronites, they came out of them politically victorious, and their Church more strongly rooted in determining the future of al-Mutasarrifiyya of Mount Lebanon.

With al-Mutasarrifiyya, the Church became the main defender of people’s rights during World War I, dedicating all of its political and economic resources to protect and feed whomever she could. 

After World War I the Maronite Church, headed by Patriarch Elias El- Howayek, called for establishing and confirming the Lebanese entity, creating a center of freedom whose fruits we are still reaping today, in an East that has not yet enjoyed freedom as it should.


14.  When the French Mandate was established, with a positive Maronite acceptance, the Church did not rest on the laurels of that French political Mandate.  Patriarch Antoun ‘Arida was the oasis of Lebanese social demands, the banner of defense for the oppressed against the powers of economic hegemony and monopoly.  Therefore, with him, Bkerke was transformed into a pilgrimage-like location for Moslems as for Christians, for Syrians as for Lebanese.  It became a ground where the interests of the people and entity independence converged.

With the Mandate, the Maronite Church witnessed the birth of social services institutions, from hospitals to retirement homes and other organized-care institutions.  This was precisely what the Church lacked before, despite all the successful social relations it had with her parishes.



Third: The Status of the Maronite Church Today


1.  The Maronite Church in Lebanon


15.  The situation that the Maronite Church is living in Lebanon today resembles, to a great extent, the general social situation, with its stature, problems and basic concerns, being particularly influenced by two essential and comprehensive factors:


·         The factor of changes and influences which arose in today’s world due to the spread of systems of the contemporary technological culture, its values and patterns; and,


·         The factor of the recent War, which shook the foundations of the Lebanese social structure in a quasi-complete and comprehensive way.


16.  The Lebanese society, being part of the international modern society, is influenced by whatever occurs in the world in new radical and important developments and variables.  It also lives the transformations which befall the human society in a general way as a result of human actions and inventions aimed at controlling nature and the universe and their exploitation. 

Suffice only for us to point out the materialistic mentality overshadowing contemporary society, including our Lebanese society and our Christian people, which is a result of the strong affiliation with the “Culture of Consumerism,” and deep-rootedness in the “Consumerism Mentality.”  We have come to consider overabundance and luxuries as existential necessities, and we refrain from judging matters with objectivity.  Instead, we manifest them according to what suits our desires, forgetting that the human person has an absolute priority over material goods.  That is why the Church, being faithful to the teachings of Christ, warns against seeking to own worldly goods and accumulating them as if they are a goal in themselves, thus, they are no longer the means of achieving a dignified life and securing the love of others.  This is what Pope John Paul II stressed on in his Encyclical Sollicitudo rei socialis saying,

“…all the considerable body of resources and potential at man’s disposal is guided by a moral understanding and by an orientation towards the true good of the human race, it easily turns against man to oppress him.

This super-development, which consists in an excessive availability of every kind of material goods for the benefit of certain social groups, easily makes people slaves of ‘possession’ and of immediate gratification, with no other horizon than the multiplication or continual replacement of the things already owned with others still better. This is the so-called civilization of ‘consumption’ or ‘consumerism’, which involves so much ‘throwing-away’ and ‘waste.”[5]


17.  War was the most dangerous and difficult event ever endured by our Lebanese and Christian society, which still suffers from its results and aftermaths.  The recent war has destroyed the political, economic, and social infrastructure.  It even devastated the personal and psychological norms of the individual along with his values and moral systems.  The Maronite Church was also not spared, neither in her children, who became homeless and displaced and their homes and villages were destroyed, nor in her possessions and lands, for many churches and monasteries were completely destroyed and her properties and institutions laid in ruin.


18.  As for the social level, the war has led directly to many problems.  Suffice here to mention the most important ones:  


  • Internal displacement and emigration, with all the resulting negative repercussions of such a situation, on the stability of the individual and the maturing of his personality and its balance, the coherence of the family and the performance of its functions and duties, the separation of the social classes, and the cementing of unacceptable and inhumane living conditions;  


  • The alarming increase in the number of orphans and disabled, with all the psychological, familial and social acclimatization dilemmas, along with the problems of rehabilitation, job opportunities and social integration; and,


  • The problems of the youth and the upcoming generations in general, and especially the risks of juvenile delinquency: Drugs have spread in a frightful manner in several regions and institutions; and prostitution has become a source of livelihood for many, and doors have opened wide for such in some specific neighborhoods, especially those of poor, overpopulated areas; and violence which has become like the daily bread; and easy murder, where human life has become worthless; and theft; and the violation of laws…


19.  Faced with such a situation, the Church finds herself obligated to confront these material and moral problems:


·         Materially, and inspired by her responsibilities toward her people, the Maronite Church has launched benevolent initiatives by placing its lands under investment, or by establishing productive co-operatives, or by undertaking housing projects.  Also, it is essential for the wealthy eparchies to help poor eparchies.


·         Morally, the Church bears the responsibility of defending the human person who yearns ever so for freedom, liberation and truth.  Through that, she is the hope of the suffering downtrodden, the weak and the poor, in the evangelical sense of these terms.  The Church needs to be, and this is what the Maronite Church is striving for, the alerting conscience, the critical intellect, the crying voice, the defender against every oppression and tyranny, and the bearer of the banner of social justice against every exploitation and partiality.



2.  The Maronite Church in the Countries of Expansion


20.  With respect to social issues, every Maronite Church in the Countries of Expansion has its particular social conditions stemming from the various conditions of its society.  However, these churches must also establish relationships with the Mother-Church in Lebanon in order that they may remain attached to their roots and strengthen this interconnection.  Therefore, the action of these churches is on two levels: the level of the Countries of Expansion, and the level of the Mother-Church in Lebanon.

Regarding the Countries of Expansion, every local Maronite Church is to assess its own situation and define the problems faced by its people, so as to utilize the means and capabilities at its disposal and place them in the service of the needy and those with shortages, and to aid them.

Maronite eparchies in these countries are to also cooperate with each other, combining their capabilities and creating joint institutions through which capable eparchies may assist less capable ones.  They are also to participate in the creation of new eparchies in countries where there are Maronites, yet, lacking any Maronite ecclesiastical institution. As for the Mother-Church, Maronites in the Countries of Expansion are to collaborate with their brethren residing in Lebanon, as the residents are to make the Maronites living abroad feel that they effectually belong to the Mother-Church.  This can be achieved through establishing common departments in the Patriarchate as well as in the eparchies abroad, and through the strengthening of the means of communication and the use of modern technology of all types.

Establishing the concept of twinning, in worldwide use, between eparchies, parishes and families, allowing in its diverse and distinctive programs, for each party to serve the needs of the other in a more precise, comprehensive, and objective manner.

Chapter Two:


What Kind of Society does the

Maronite Church Endeavor to Build?


21.  The nature of the society is necessarily related to the type of relationships and institutions upon which the society is based.  Some societies do have organized and developed institutions, but their internal relations are simply legal and organizational.  Consequently, they are far removed from any spiritual and human depth, making of the human person a mere productive worker rather than a being able to build himself and his own entity.  There are also other societies that are built on good human relations of cooperation, solidarity and assistance, but their institutions are impotent, negligent and ineffective, rendering them societies incapable of progress, evolution and improving the quality of life of their members.

The type of society that the Maronite Church defends and wishes to build is one in which its institutions and internal relations are organized and effective in serving the needs of the human person; a society comprised of free, equal and responsible people.  Thus, she may remain faithful to those principles which she lived as constants in dealing with the issues she faced throughout her history; especially that these constants are in accord with the basic principles incorporated in the social teachings of the Church.  The most important of these are:


1.  Solidarity


22.  This solidarity, as Pope John Paul II says, “is not a feeling of vague compassion or shallow distress at the misfortunes of so many people, both near and far.  On the contrary, it is a firm and persevering determination to commit oneself to the common good; that is to say to the good of all and of each individual, because we are all really responsible for all.[6]

The Maronite Church has lived this solidarity principle throughout her history, when the Christians were practicing the “helping hand” system among themselves, in securing their livelihood needs.  She still stresses on this solidarity in all the various documents[7] she publishes and practices throughout her many ecclesiastical institutions, urging them to constantly multiply their efforts.


2.  Justice


23.  Justice does not mean that all people are equal in everything, or that they have to be.   God has created people of all sorts.  Nature is based on this diversity, “for it is impossible to reduce civil society to one dead level.[8]

Justice rather means that all people, in spite of their differences, are equal, in being the children of God, in their human dignity and insofar as they enjoy their basic human rights.  This “Natural Justice” is the creation of God, and absolutely no individual, community or state is entitled to violate or abrogate it.  On the contrary, the obligation of the individual and the state as well as their function is to strive to respect this justice and achieve it.  Then, it would become “Social Justice” for all people, aimed at minimizing differences between individuals, sectors, societies and nations, and providing equal opportunities for all, at all levels.

The Maronite Church adopts these two concepts of Natural Justice and Social Justice, and does not cease to encourage individuals and institutions, ecclesiastical be they or civic, and the state to endeavor to achieve this justice for all, especially for the poor, the needy and the destitute, who have priority, in the mission of the Church.


3. Progress


24.  Justice is not complete unless it is accompanied by the progress of the human person.  Progress is a Christian concept based on economic growth and social development to transcend them to what is loftier and more exalted since it leads him to God’s perfection.


Throughout history the Maronite Church has been a pioneer in developing and advancing its society.  It was the Maronite Church that embarked on spreading education, especially since the founding of the Maronite College in Rome in 1584.  It was the Maronite Church that, during the Lebanese Synod convened in 1736, ratified compulsory and free education for all Maronite children, even girls, and mandated that every parish and monastery establish its own private school.

It was the Maronite Church, through the partnership system, which has spread agricultural endeavors and rendered fertile the rugged terrain of the Lebanese Mountain.  It was the monks in particular who, prior to the people and then with them, worked the land, engaged in livestock husbandry and in silk production…  They also pursued all types of crafts and taught them to the people, from printing to weaving, to carpentry, to pottery, construction and ironwork, etc....


The monastery, in the Maronite concept, is not just a place of prayer, but also a center for worship, labor, education and the cradle of a cultural mission.  The monasteries were the core of important economic and social assemblages where “the Partners” lived in small farms which developed, with time, into large and prosperous villages.  The parish priest was by no means absent from this mission, for he founded the so-called “School Under the Oak Tree.”


25. Based on these Constants, the Church adopts a Social Policy Built on deep and stable goals, most important of which are:


a.       Achieving a social system based on human respect, equality of rights and obligations, cultural and spiritual openness, and stable financial security;


b.      Implementing social justice by providing a befitting standard of decent living for all members of society and enabling each individual to develop his qualifications and capabilities, allowing him to participate, according to his credentials, in building his society and in determining his future;


c.       Investing in people themselves and exploiting all resources available in the human potentials; and,


d.      Enabling the community to profit from natural resources and to increase production without exploiting man, so as to meet the needs of all, especially, the destitute, the poor, the vulnerable, and the non-active, such as the children and the elderly.  All this is done so as to arrive at a just society, which would provide the human person with a dignified life and the opportunity to establish himself.  As far as the Church is concerned, this is a priority, because the human person is “an end and not a means, for he is the fundamental objective of the Church.”


26.  A just Society is based on an existential and organic relationship between the individual and society, which modern societies have translated into rights and obligations.  Hence, if society has a right over the individual and authority over him, the individual also has rights over society so that he may assume his role and fulfill his obligations.  There are no obligations without rights, and there are no rights without obligations.  This is the balance that regulates relations between society and individuals and among the individuals themselves.

Based on this reality, the Church believes that the citizen has fundamental rights over his society: The rights of individuals are obligations of society, and are neither charitable almsgiving bestowed on them nor a favor that may be extended toward them.  Their rights emanate from the essence of the roles and functions that society requires and expects to obtain from them.


27.  From this argumentative relation between rights and obligations emanates the modern outlook on social affairs.  Based on it, the progress of any society is measured, and human dignity is measured in it.  On this basis also, the Maronite Church presents her positions in defense of the fundamental social rights due every individual and community in society. The most important of these rights today are:


28.  The Right to Establish a Family: The very first of these rights is the right to establish a family, which means building the fundamental cell and the first institution from which social life is formed and is embodied in.  Hence, the bonds which join members of the one family, and the families of the one society to each other, are not simply emotional and amicable bonds, but transcend that to become social, political and economic bonds as well.

Consequently, caring for the family to ensure its safety and stability is one of the most important priorities for society to strive for, because every imbalance within the family will definitely reflect on the stability of society, its safety, development and cohesiveness.   Necessarily, whatever rights, assurances and assistance may be provided to the family by society are neither charity nor gifts of benevolence, but duties it has toward the family for what it expects of it in functions and roles, and indeed toward itself for what it desires in stability and evolution.


29.  As for the family in the Lebanese society, it is left to fend for itself, facing alone most of its problems.  Even before the war, Lebanese society, neither through its public institutions nor the private, gave enough or any serious attention to family affairs: There was no effective and sufficient medical insurance; and no work and unemployment insurance; and no retirement schemes; no housing policy and lodging…  Add to that what the war brought in problems for families displaced from their lands and homes, who lost their sustenance and their children.  The war also unsettled the relationship between family members and their children and became exposed to all sorts of social dangers and the various possible perversions.


30.  What is true concerning Lebanese society in general is particularly true concerning the Maronite family, which is clearly suffering from lower birth rates and fewer marriages, increase in emigration, and the weakening of attachment to land and home.  So, where is the Maronite Church if there are no Maronites and no stable and happy Maronite family rooted in its land to secure and strengthen the existence of its society?  Therefore, the Maronite Church encourages the establishment of local movements in parishes and eparchies to care for the family and to organize special seminars for marriage preparation.[9]


31.  The Right to Housing: The home is the natural domain for the development of the human person and the family.  It provides security and stability; he who has no home feels the lack of stability and the lack of attachment to what is permanent.  Consequently, there can be no possible stable and secure society unless the individual is stabilized and well rooted in it.  The home provides intimacy and privacy where the individual actually lives his life in all its dimensions such as marital and parental relations.  At home, members of the family exchange love, giving, and fun and share their concerns and problems.  It is, therefore, the symbol of unity, solidarity and love between them.  

The home is also a shelter and a resting place.  The human person returns to it after the toil of work, the fatigue of the day and the pressure of life, to forget his weariness, rest from his problems and worries.  Thus, at home he can retire, turn to himself, and search deeply within himself about his personal life. 


The Church is well aware of the dimensions of the housing problem and its ramifications in our Lebanese society, where a huge section of its citizens lost their homes and where the majority of the youth are unable to procure a house of their own to establish a family.  Thus, the Church understands the problem of the displaced who, by losing their homes, are as if they have lost all that ties them to their geographic, human, and institutional environment.  Such loss increases in them the propensity toward pessimism, emigration, revolt, and mistrust in any leader.


32.  The greater danger weighs on the family, since scarcity in housing leads to many other dilemmas, the most important of which are:


  1. Delay in the age of marriage and its demographic repercussions;
  2. The failure of a number of marriages, which causes an increase in the number of canceled marriages, emigration and other family problems; and,
  3. An increase in the number of marriages of convenience which are not based on true love and solid understanding.


The Church is not remiss of this pessimistic situation and its foul repercussions on the moral and ethical dimensions: from an increase in premarital sex among singles to sexual relations outside of marriage, to marital unfaithfulness… Further, the situation at the present time may be headed toward an explosion of social renunciation or toward a social revolution.[10]

The Church is also aware of the fact that the housing problem, up until the present time, has been treated partially and erroneously, whether on the level of the state, or that of the private sector.  The private sector is only concerned with the commercial aspect, the aspect of loss and profit, in the absence of necessary legislation, fundamental choices and the housing policy which the government was supposed to lay down and to endeavor to apply and execute.


33.  For these reasons the Church encourages and blesses any action aimed at solving this crucial problem.  She places all her resources for the sake of organizing a common plan of action between public institutions, the private sector, and the ecclesiastical institutions to combine capabilities and potentials in devising a medium and long-term housing policy, implementing it and ensuring its success, emanating from the reality of the housing problem and its technical, economic, social and human complexities.  Through several of its eparchies, monastic and apostolic institutions, the Church took upon herself to execute many housing projects, providing thousands of houses for Christian families and for non-Christian ones at times.


34.  The Right to Work: The importance of work stems from its being the creative activity of every person.  Through work, the human person ensures his livelihood and subsistence on all levels: bodily and materially, he has to work in order to live; psychologically, he has to work in order to be balanced; and morally, he has to work in order to subsist and become stronger.

Work is also a social necessity:  For a society to develop and progress, it must be a society of work, vigor, creativity and productivity.  Work, with what that entails in securing social justice, or from exploitation and the lack of justice among the members of society, its types and classes, is the main and direct reason for the surfacing of extreme social crises and even the surfacing of social conflicts and social revolutions, thus threatening the social structure itself.  The Church has given significant attention to this subject which was, with the family, among the most important issues treated by Church teachings and the papal encyclicals on social issues.”[11]


35.  Being well aware that the dilemma of work is diverse and complicated, the Maronite Church desires to point out its most important data:


  1. The huge flaw in the labor market and the inherent chaos, since it is subject only to the law of supply and demand, and does not take into consideration the actual structure of the labor force in Lebanon nor its quality;


  1. The problem of the widespread unemployment and the competition from foreign workers which result in exacerbating the economic conditions, forcing many institutions to lay off their employees or to cease operations;


  1. The inadequacy of vocational and technical education and the total absence of professional orientation, which drive most of the youth toward a theoretical university education or to specialization in fields in which jobs are hard to come by, while many other sectors suffer the lack of experts; and,


  1. Incompatibility between salaries or incomes and the standard of living in general.  Living standards are not only defined by the amount of income, but by the ability of the individual to secure the essential and basic needs for a dignified life, far from need and thriftiness.  At this level, enter services and securities, which society offers, from free medical care, free education, housing loans and transportation facilities… All of these are, to a great extent, nonexistent or completely ineffective in Lebanon.


That is why the Church insists on a suitable solution to this problem. This requires to treat the economic situation in its entirety through a new system: encompassing the labor market and the labor law; organizing the union activities based on professional and sectarian foundations rather than political considerations; specifying the fair wages based on the actual needs of the people to meet a dignified living standards and reforming all insurance and social services institutions to get them more efficient, realistic and serious.


36.  The Right to Health Care and Medical Service:  Each human being has the absolute right to enjoy good health, free of pain, disease and suffering.  He also has the right to be protected by society from disease caused by natural or environmental pollution, resulting from neglect of public health.  He also has the right to sound medical treatment whenever he is taken ill.   To be considered seriously are the benefits that society earns from those who are responsible and productive in it when they are healthy and strong.  Further, compare that with the potential financial losses to the national economy as a result of an increase in the numbers of those infirmed, of increased diseases and the feigning of illness by workers.

In Lebanon, where less than half of the population benefits from medical insurance, the common person experiencing a major illness usually faces a disaster whereby, in many cases, he is forced to borrow money, to sell his properties and use up his life savings, if he has any.  Moreover, prevention is nonexistent, and diseases are contaminating the air and the water.  That is why diseases are common, especially among children, leading to a high rate of child mortality.

The Church, which owns the most prestigious medical institutions in Lebanon and is directly involved in this situation, is being exploited by some people to distort its mission.  They consider the Church’s medical institutions as purely commercial, aiming only at financial gain. They believe that these institutions are no longer the voice of Christian solidarity and Christian service, and that they no longer witness to the Church as being the “Church of the poor, the needy and the suffering.”

Therefore, the Church will intensify its efforts, with all those who are involved, so that people in Lebanon may enjoy this right in such a way that it safeguards their health and makes them more productive and useful members of society.  The Church is also emphasizing the necessity of tight cooperation between health institutions and the “Eparchial Committee for Health.”


37.  The Right to Education and Culture:  The Maronite Church treats this topic in detail in another document.  However, what is important for her is to affirm that education and culture are basic human rights, especially in a society where the future of the human person, his ambitions and his progress are basically linked to his educational level, to the quality of his expertise and to the breadth of his cultivation.  At this level, the Church points out only two issues:


  • The first is material and is related to the cost of education and its consequences from  injustice and class discrimination in society, from its impact on the size and structure of the family, and from its effect of speeding or retarding the growth of society and its evolution; and,


  • The second is cultural and is related to the decline in the educational and cultural standards in general.  This is what the stumbling in the ratification of the educational curriculum points to. If this decline continues, it will definitely lead our society to a cultural and social retardation, causing us to lose that fundamental characteristic which was our strength, namely education and culture.  This was what enabled us to hold out, then prevail throughout numerous epochs of our history.


The Church, through its numerous institutions in this field, which are its precious treasure, will endeavor, with the participation of the official authorities and the other private institutions concerned, to restore to education and culture their pioneering role.  The Church will also work to provide every individual, poor or rich, with this basic right, because she realizes that the strength of our human person is in quality and not in quantity.   


38.  Based on the necessity of working to provide these rights, the Maronite Church defines her course of action and takes her stands on the various social issues.


39. 1.  On the Level of Values and Morals, the Church is well aware that society will not be able to survive unless it possesses a system of values and a ladder of morals.  To the extent that the system is clear, strong, and respectable, society will become humane, just and balanced.   Therefore:


  • The Maronite Church will not relinquish her role as a moral and ethical authority;  a moral authority securing and protecting the fundamental spiritual, ethical, social and relational values;


  • The Maronite Church will not be “The Church of Silence,” or rather, “The Silent Church,” but the “Church of the Word,” the “Church of the Truth” and the “Church of Prophecy;” she does not compromise with evil, does not fear oppression and does not stand indifferent to tyranny; and,


  • The Maronite Church would not collaborate with people who do not have true and honest morals no matter how prominent their status, position or function may be, nor would deal with those who adopt positions, defend means which exploit the poor, the weak and the needy.  Rather, she will confront them.


40.  2.  On the Level of Individuals, the Maronite Church calls upon her children, both clergy and laity:


  • To deepen within themselves Christian virtues and high morals; to practice impartiality, humility, contentment and the spirit of service; to free themselves of this world’s distractions; and to refrain from flaunting their wealth at a time when most people are living in a state of need and hardship.  In doing so, on the one hand, they will safeguard a deep spirituality, and on the other, they would qualify to live, in moderation, with the requirements of this epoch and its complexities.


  • To commit to their mission, especially the laity, and be as the yeast in the dough to sanctify the world and to make it more unified and just.  As for those who are capable, they are to continue to create projects which would provide job opportunities.  It is fair to point out that many have already provided, and continue to perform such charitable acts.


41.  3.  On the Level of Institutions, the Maronite Church will not spare any effort to make of its institutions a living example of the practice of Christian and evangelical values.  For without this living witness, the sayings and the teachings of the Church would remain wishful thinking, and her endeavors and actions, without any real impact on the souls and on the society.

Therefore, the Church urges a review of the goals of the institutions she possesses and of the method of their operation, especially the ones that serve the people and are in direct contact with them.  Thus, the spirit of social service within these institutions would be renewed; an unadulterated spirit, not based on calculation of the profit and loss, but rather on the depth of the mission of Christian love and on the “Divine Mercy which surpasses the rule of Justice,” as Pope John Paul II put it.[12]


42. 4.  On the Level of Expectations, there are many elements that need to be realized in order to activate the role of the Maronite Church in social affairs, the most important of which are:


  1. Establishing an “Institute for Social Support” with its centers branched throughout the regions according to population density.  Its activities encompass: vocational services, (vocational training and employment agencies…), agricultural centers, health centers, counseling centers (family, legal…), etc.


  1. Instituting a center for research, documentation and statistics to contribute in:


·         Conducting a comprehensive survey of the presence of the Maronite Church, its holdings, its institutions and its members…;


·         Collecting accurate statistics and correct data necessary for every sound and successful planning;


·         Scrutinizing beneficial projects, defining priorities and methods of execution;


·         Coordinating the work of the various Maronite institutions both in Lebanon and abroad for enhanced productivity and greater efficiency.


  1. Creating a mutual fund to collect tithing from all Maronite institutions and from individuals if it is at all possible.  This fund would also receive various donations and invest them in productive projects to ensure a steady income to be utilized for development and advancement and for necessary projects, and in assisting social institutions, apostolic organizations, the needy and the poor.


  1. Updating pastoral ministry to harmonize better with demographic and social changes that have occurred recently, and with the quality of life of Christians who are undergoing great problems, tragedies and sufferings…especially toward activating the role of the laity, enabling them to share effectively in the responsibilities and in decision making, and handing over to them the tasks and actual key positions, just as in the private sector.  This can be implemented, for example, through organizing the departments in the eparchies and making eparchial and pastoral councils actual decision making councils…

43.  The Maronite Church is well aware that, in every society, there are forces which do good and work to build, and forces which destroy, exploit and seek personal gain.  She also realizes that during difficult times, decisive violent crises, calamities and alarming tragedies, there is greater anticipation on the part of her children for a more active role to play in their lives.   And, if the forces of righteousness unite, organize, and assume their responsibilities, then it would be possible first to stop the decline, and secondly, to rebuild, even if it is with difficulty.  For that reason, the Church is seeking to gather these benevolent forces and their frameworks to place them in the service of society and its rebuilding.

Therefore, the Maronite Church will endeavor, even more ardently and effectively, employing all her potentials and capabilities and through all her institutions, to provide her children with increased tranquility and help them lead a better life that they may possess a stronger faith and a deeper commitment.



44.   The Maronite Church believes that her mission is essentially to be a witness to the world of the spirit in a materialistic world; and to the world of love, service and sacrifice, in an opportunistic, egotistical and love-of-self world; and to the world of prayer, contemplation and silence, in a noisy, reveling and ostentatious world…  The mission of the Church, with all her children, is to join the world, living and sharing its problems, and at the same time, to detach herself from it, to witness to another world, the world of Christ, who called us to be in His image and according to His example in love, humility, impartiality, service and holiness.  

The Church neither has an ideal specimen for the society which she seeks to realize, nor a specific system she wishes to confine the human person in.  Rather, she is dynamic and dialectic in her strive to achieve the essential principles which are based on the freedom of the human person and his dignity, and his rights to grow and to establish himself.  This position of the Church emanates from a basic truth that her sole idol is Christ.  There is nothing pulling her back, rather, the person of Christ impels her forward saying, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life,” and she has to walk and follow Him on this road.






1.  Disseminating Church Social Teachings.

1.  Since church social teachings is an essential part of Church Doctrine, and since the formation of the faithful presupposes cognizance of these teachings which aids them in acquiring awareness of their Christian responsibilities in the societies in which they live in, and commitment to serious endeavors to propagate Gospel values in these societies, the Synod recommends to concentrate efforts to propagate Church social teachings through all available means.

1.a.: Support all efforts being expended to propagate these teachings, especially what the “Justice and Love” movement is doing at the level of translating its texts, disseminating them and to make them known.


1.b.: Incorporate these teachings in formation and teaching curricula at universities, institutes, colleges of theology and institutes of religious enculturation, and in catechism curricula in high school classes.


1.c.: Encourage some priests, monks, nuns and lay people to specialize in these teachings that they may convey it to others.


2.  Twinning between Eparchies, Parishes and Families.

2. The Synod recommends adopting the principle of twinning between Maronite eparchies, parishes and families in the countries of the expansion and the Patriarchal Domain so as to achieve consolidation amongst them.

2.a.: Cooperation among eparchies in the Patriarchal Domain and the countries of the expansion to gather capabilities, exchange experience and found common institutions so that capable eparchies may help less capable ones and contribute to the establishment of new ones.


2.b.: Similarly, parishes and families are to establish twinning between those in the Patriarchal Domain and those of the countries of the expansion such that the varied and distinctive programs of each party allow it to perceive the needs of the other party, for reciprocal enrichment.







4. Organizing Syndicate Operations.

4. The Synod recommends organizing syndicate operations based on profession and sector.

4. The “Episcopal Committee for the Service of Charity” calls on syndicate members who are sons and daughters of the Church to meet and form a body, which would bring forth suggestions for organizing syndicate operations based on Church teachings.

5. Cooperation among Health Institutions.

5. The Synod charges custodians of health institutions to effect close cooperation between themselves and with the Episcopal Committee for Pastoral Health to insure hospitalization for every patient in need and to pose all common issues, especially those concerning its relations with the government.

5. Establish a coordination body under the supervision of the Episcopal Committee for Pastoral Health.

6. Calling upon those Capable of Starting Projects which would Create Job Opportunity.

6. The Synod charges her affluent sons and daughters to endeavor to make the world more united in solidarity and more just, and start projects, which would allow the creation of job opportunities.

6. The Episcopal Committee for Social Affairs is entrusted with the task of creating special committees to coordinate with the affluent and with employers and urge them to undertake this mission.

7. Inviting Ecclesiastical Institutions to a Wider Scope of Social Service.

7. The Synod charges custodians of ecclesiastical institutions to endeavor to serve people with an evangelical spirit, being vigilant to maintain continuity and development for these institutions.


8. Support for the Maronite Social Institution.

8. Considering the vital role of the Church in encouraging social mutual assistance, the Synod recommends support to the Maronite Social Institution, to evolve its goals and methods of operation such that it includes funding development and upgrading projects and aiding social institutions and individuals.




[1]. Apostolic Exhortation: A New Hope for Lebanon, No. 100.

[2]. Apostolic Exhortation: A New Hope for Lebanon, No. 20: “The Church, in the image of her Lord, is a ‘divine and human reality linked to time and space historically, geographically, socially, and culturally.  She is deeply-rooted in this tangible reality from which she draws her features and character.’  The image of the ‘body’ simultaneously means that the Church ‘is gathered around Christ, united in Him, in His Body…’”

Second Vatican Council Dogmatic Constitution: Lumen Gentium (On the Church), paragraph 8: “Christ, the one Mediator, established and continually sustains here on earth His holy Church, the community of faith, hope and charity, as an entity with visible delineation through which He communicated truth and grace to all.  But, the society structured with hierarchical organs and the Mystical Body of Christ, are not to be considered as two realities, nor are the visible assembly and the spiritual community, nor the earthly Church and the Church enriched with heavenly things; rather they form one complex reality which coalesces from a divine and a human element.  For this reason, by no weak analogy, it is compared to the mystery of the incarnate Word.  As the assumed nature inseparably united to Him, serves the divine Word as a living organ of salvation, so, in a similar way, does the visible social structure of the Church serve the Spirit of Christ, who vivifies it, in the building up of the body.”

[3]. Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith: Instruction on Christian Freedom and Liberation, 1986, No. 32.

[4]. Second Vatican Council Pastoral Constitution: Gaudium et Spes (On the Church in the Modern World), No. 4.

 5.Pope John Paul II Encyclical: Sollicitudo rei socialis, No. 28.

6. Pope John Paul II Encyclical: Sollicitudo Rei Socialis (The Social Concern of the Church), 1987, Publications of the Episcopal Committee for the Media, No. 38.  Also refer to:

·         Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Instruction on Christian Freedom and Liberation, 1986, No. 32;

·         Pope John Paul II message on the World Day of Peace: Development and Solidarity: Two Keys to Peace, January 1st, 1987; and,

·         Pope Paul VI Encyclical: Populorum Progressio (On the Development of Peoples), 1967.



7. Refer to:

- The call of the Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for Lebanon, 1995, notably the paragraph entitled Third:  Let Us Be Joined in Solidarity for The Service of Our Brethren;”

- Apostolic Exhortation: A New Hope for Lebanon, No. 95;

- Documents of the Council of Catholic Patriarchs and Bishops in Lebanon;

- Messages of the Council of Eastern Catholic Patriarchs, notably for the years 1994 and 1999; and,

- Sermons of His Beatitude, Patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir.

8. Pope Leo XIII Encyclical: Rerum Novarum (On Capital and Labor), 1891, Published by the “Justice and Love” Movement, 1995, No. 17.  His Holiness continues saying: “There naturally exist among mankind manifold differences of the most important kind; people differ in capacity, skill, health, strength; and unequal fortune is a necessary result of unequal conditions.”

9. The Call of the Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for Lebanon, Nos. 25-29.

10. Apostolic Exhortation: A New Hope for Lebanon, Nos. 46 to 49.

11. Refer to:

·         Pope Leo XIII, Rerum Novarum (On Capital and Labor), 1891.

·         Pope John Paul II: Laborem Exercens (On Human Work), 1981.

12. Pope John Paul II Encyclical: Dives in Misericordia (On the Mercy of God), 1980, No. 14.