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The Maronite Church and the Economy




1.  One of the things to come out of the worldview of the monotheistic religions was a distinctive outlook on the economic life; these insights originated from reflection on the nature of God Himself.  God, who granted man the earth and its resources, upon banishing Adam from the Garden of Eden, explained to him the suffering he had to endure in order to secure his daily bread.  This is why the Church’s main concern was to integrate into the heart of her teaching strict moral rules and work ethics aiming at regulating man’s economic and material life bringing it in line with God’s will.  Accordingly, man would be providing for his needs through hard, perseverant and creative work.  That is why the Church openly prohibited all acts of usury and the exploitation of the weak by the strong, and banned, likewise, all kinds of illegal profit making, meaning, by that, unearned profit, which was not produced by man’s toil and productive work.


2.  Here, it is essential to refer to the teachings of Christ on the socioeconomic life.  He constantly showed compassion and attention to the poor and marginalized men and women.  He was also the one who expelled the merchants from the temple.  It is necessary here to recall the teachings of Saint Thomas Aquinas, which were used by the Catholic Church to develop, over the ages, her clear and firm position on economic and social issues.  In fact, modern civilization owes to this philosopher/saint the concept of the common good[1] and other essential ideas he developed on the subject.  It was due to his teachings that the Church started to lend special importance to socioeconomic issues, seeking to establish the common good in society in order to prevent injustice which would lead to depriving man from enjoying the bounty to be shared by all people.  The Church defends personal initiative and private property ownership, placing all economic activities under the principle of the common good, and under a sublime spiritual perspective, which consists of guiding economic development and technological progress towards the service of man and society and not a tool in the hands of few people to exploit others.                        


Chapter One: Reading the Past


First:  Economy at the Heart of Ecclesiastic Concerns


3.  For many centuries, churches have played an important economic, social and cultural role.  Monasteries were centers for preserving and spreading culture, especially after the fall of the Roman Empire; they were also important economic and production centers.  This role was gradually phased out from European communities, especially after the Renaissance and the ascension to power of States and Kingdoms and the spread of education outside the ecclesiastical framework.  In the early stages of the Industrial Revolution, when peasants and farmers migrated to urban areas, due to the deterioration of living conditions in rural areas and in search of industrial jobs in the cities, the Western Churches played a key role in putting moral pressure on factory owners to treat their workers humanely, and to provide them with the minimum standard required to lead a dignified life, in accordance with the teachings of Christ.  The Church also helped workers and the poor in organizing their life through cooperation and solidarity.  It was such efforts that led to the emergence of the cooperative movement in Europe, which played a primary role in improving the situation of the poor and those of limited income, especially among rural communities.  The 19th century in Europe was characterized by the spread of social Christian teachings.  Its basic principles were laid down in the famous 1891 Encyclical Rerum Novarum,[2] by Pope Leo XIII.  These principles were reaffirmed by Pope Pius XI on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of Rerum Novarum, in his Encyclical Quadragesimo Anno.[3] which insisted on the importance of ethics in the realm of economic life.


4.  Pope John XXIII reaffirmed the same principles in 1961, on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of Rerum Novarum, in his Encyclical Mater et Magistra, in which he stated: “‘Economic domination has taken the place of the open market.  Unbridled ambition for domination has succeeded the desire for gain; the whole economic regime has become hard, cruel and relentless in frightful measure.’  As a consequence, even the public authority was becoming the tool of plutocracy, which was thus gaining a stranglehold on the entire world.”[4]

This encyclical can be summed up under two heads.  First he taught what the supreme criterion in economic matters ought not to be.  It must not be the special interests of individuals or groups, nor unregulated competition, economic despotism, national prestige or imperialism, nor any other aim of this sort.  On the contrary, all forms of economic enterprise must be governed by the principles of social justice and charity.

Pope Pius XI enjoins: “The second point which We consider basic in the encyclical is his teaching that man's aim must be to achieve in social justice a national and international juridical order, with its network of public and private institutions, in which all economic activity can be conducted not merely for private gain but also in the interests of the common good.[5]

This encyclical makes reference to that of Pope Pius XII’s broadcasted on the radio on Pentecost Sunday, in 1941, where the great Pontiff claimed for the Church “the indisputable competence” to “decide whether the bases of a given social system are in accord with the unchangeable order which God our Creator and Redeemer has shown us through the Natural Law and Revelation.”  He confirmed the perennial validity and inexhaustible worth of the teaching of Rerum Novarum, and took occasion “to give some further directive moral principles on three fundamental values of social and economic life.  These three fundamental values, which are closely connected one with the other, mutually complementary and dependent, are: the use of material goods, work, and the family.”

“Concerning the use of material goods, (Our Predecessor) Pope Pius XII declared that the right of every man to use these for his own sustenance is prior to every other economic right, even that of private property.  The right to the private possession of material goods is admittedly a natural one; nevertheless, in the objective order established by God, the right to property cannot stand in the way of the axiomatic principle that ‘the goods which were created by God for all men should flow to all alike, according to the principles of justice and charity.’”[6]

5.  Pope John Paul II continued along the same line reaffirming the importance of work, ethics, and the special attention to social concerns by writing three Encyclicals.  The first, Laborem Exercens,[7] issued in 1981, reiterated the value accorded by Christianity to work; the second, Sollicitudo Rei Socialis,[8] issued in 1987, addressed the importance of social concern; while the third, Sollicitudo Centesimus Anni, issued in 1991 on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of Rerum Novarum [9] renews the interest in the proposed matters within the ministry of the modern day concerns.


6.  Eastern Churches played the same role as the Western Churches in economic life.  The Maronite Church, by living an ascetic and hermetic life in the mountains of Lebanon, was one of the prominent Churches in the East and was historically famous for her tight relations with her parishioners and particularly the peasants among them. 


Second: The Historical Role of the Maronite Church on the Educational and Economic Levels


7.  The Maronite Church was historically known for the closeness between her leaders and her laity in addition to her other features in the hermetic tradition prominent in Christianity of the East.  Among the principal factors that contributed in consolidating the pillars of the Maronite Church, since its inception until our present day, was the socioeconomic energy of her followers, led by the clergy.  It is just enough to mention the projects geared towards agricultural production which the Church undertook in the mountains of Lebanon for centuries.  The Maronites were famous in the East for their farming skills; this is what led to their spread throughout Lebanon, from the time they set foot on it, and to the intertwining of economic and subsistence-related interests between them and the other religious communities.


8.  Since the early days, the Church has also laid great stress on spreading education and science among her followers; this fact strengthened the status of the community and its members in the East, for they contributed greatly to the renaissance of the Arabic language.  Their openness to the European civilization, which added to the intensifying efforts of the Church in spreading education and modern science among her children, had a great economic impact in ensuring the progress of the community and the spread of economic and social developments.


9.  It is also useful in this context to recap the great economic role played by the Maronite religious orders in the flourishing of the mountainous regions through the establishment of monasteries throughout the country, and through the organizations and development of the agricultural projects.  The proliferation of granting wakf estates on the part of Maronites has greatly contributed to the development of the monastic movement starting with the 18th century; it has also materialized on the part of the faithful the great trust in the Church and in the Orders, and in the positive economic interaction between the parish and the Church.   In addition to agricultural work, monks practiced different professions such as medicine, law, printing, jewelry and construction.  By such work, they consecrated the value of creative and productive work in society.  Here, we feel obliged to mention what one particular monk once said when asked about his enthusiasm in performing hard and tiring agricultural work all his life, “God did not bestow on me a prolific pen or a fluent tongue in order to glorify Him and to serve my religious order.  Rather, He gave me health, a mattock and agricultural experience, to use them all in glorifying Him, seeking forgiveness for my sins, sanctifying myself, and serving my brethren, servants of the Word!”[10]


10.  The role of the Maronite Church in Lebanon took on greater dimensions due to the openness of Lebanon to Europe in the early 16th century, to the Maronite’s mastery of arts and modern sciences, and to their gradual spread throughout the world from East to West.  It might be useful in this context to note the great role played by Maronite emigrants in the countries of expansion, during the 19th and 20th centuries, in the fields of culture, education and politics, in order to help their wounded country after the turmoil of the 19th century (1840-1860).  What is also worth noting is the contribution of the Church, especially during the mandate of Patriarch Boulos Massaad who supported the peasants in their revolt against the traditional feudal regime that was prominent during that period.  Other Church contributions to be mentioned here are the role she played in alleviating the sufferings resulting from the famine that struck Mount Lebanon during World War I, and the important part played by the Maronite Patriarch Hoyek during the Versailles peace negotiations Conference in Paris after World War I, in 1919.  That position called for the re-annexation of the lands that were severed from Lebanon upon the establishment of the Mutasarrifiyya regime in 1861.  The Maronite Church considered the re-annexation of the Beqa’ Valley and the Akkar plain, two regions characterized by soil fertility and abundance of water resources, extremely imperative so that the Lebanese may lead a dignified life, economically, secure from the threat of famine or economic weakness.


11.  During the French mandate, the Church brandished the banners of socioeconomic equity, especially during the mandate of Patriarch Arida, who publicly supported the rightful demands of tobacco farmers vis-à-vis the local administration of the French owned tobacco company, in addition to other just labor demands.


Third:  Exhortation of Pope Paul VI on Progressio Populorum


12.  The Catholic Church was characterized by major intellectual developments as it diverted its attention toward poverty and social injustice throughout the world, especially in what became known as the Third World.  This new focus was emphasized through the famous 1967 Encyclical entitled Populorum Progressio,[11] following the lead of Vatican II document, Gaudium et Spes.[12]  This particular document, under the leadership of John XXIII, who convoked the Council, focused on the position of the Church with respect to poverty and cultural regress.  The Council confirmed that the Church, as “an expert in humanity” ought to scrutinize the signs of the times and to interpret them in the light of the Gospel.  As the church is aware, of her mission of “service,” a mission distinct from the function of the State, even when she calls to reduce the sharp gap between the people, she remains in these positions faithful to its heritage along the centuries stressing the “universal purpose of goods.”[13]  It is worth noting here that both the Catholic and the Protestant communities, since the Vatican II Council, were experiencing major instability because of the deterioration of social conditions in Latin America, and the rise in liberation movements and in social violence in this continent, known for its commitment to Christianity.  The 60’s and the 70’s witnessed the emergence of the Theology of Liberation that supported the liberation movements in the Third World, especially in Latin America, whose countries were suffering from the hegemony of various oppressive and feudal regimes.  This movement called for the effective contribution of the faithful Christian individual in the movements of liberation against political and social oppressions.


These movements affected the Christian youth whose young Student Associations brandished slogans of social justice and struggle for the liberation of the people from all kinds of internal and external oppression.  The famous declaration of the Christian Student Youth Organization meeting, held in October 1968,[14] at Christ the King Monastery, adopted certain radical positions with respect to issues related to freedom, development, and social justice.


13.  The activities of the members of the Church, since the declaration of Lebanon’s independence, have not been constantly and continuously exploited in order to strengthen the Lebanese nation and to consolidate its socioeconomic foundations.  The Church never did shed light on this rich heritage and on those values of hard, serious and creative work. The truth is that, especially since the Declaration of Independence, there has been no intellectual, cultural or economic documentation and accumulation of, nor is there any knowledge based on, this heritage in order to benefit future generations of Maronites and Lebanese.  Rather, the attaining of independence has caused forgetfulness across this epoch in history, especially of the cultural and economic history of the Maronite Church.  The economic developments that took place after independence caused the Church to give attention, in a fundamental way, to its educational and works of charity roles, leaving the development of socioeconomic issues to the fledgling State and to the Christian economic powers.


14.  Again the Church discovers the need for a fair and just distribution of the fruits of collective work, along with the need to secure for the individual the necessary freedom that would cultivate a sense of responsibility in organizing his work.  At the same time, the Church emphasizes the value of solidarity and the value of freedom, in the respect of justice and truthfulness.  The economic system that respects man cannot do away with freedom for the sake of solidarity, nor with solidarity for the sake of freedom.  It is necessary to secure the respect of these two principles in any economic system.


Church principles do not contradict with the classical fundamentals of economics; some of which are equal opportunities for those in the economic field to have equal access to information and prospects, especially prior to making important decisions and signing binding contracts, or the competition at the time of the production of commodities or the rendering of services.  Some of the permanent teachings of the Church state that the government “must not be thought (of as) a mere guardian of law and of good order, but rather must put forth every effort so that ‘through the entire scheme of laws and institutions . . . both public and individual well-being may develop spontaneously out of the very structure and administration of the State.’”[15]  On a special note, this encyclical reminds us of earlier teachings of the Church: “The role of the government consists in two functions: First, protecting the rights of each individual; second, positive support toward a general prosperity, in order to secure both individual and community a better progress.  This second concern is addressed in Rerum Novarum as follows: “The foremost duty, therefore, of the rulers of the State should be to make sure that the laws and institutions, the general character and administration of the commonwealth, shall be such as of themselves to realize public well-being and private prosperity.” (Rerum Novarum, Para. 32).


“Concerning the way it performs its duties, the government has to avoid finding solutions at the expense of private initiatives, individual or communal, as long as this initiative is capable of proper performance, in line with the principle of delegation” (Rerum Novarum, on the role of the government, pp 111-112).[16]


Fourth:  The Apostolic Exhortation A New Hope for Lebanon and its Economic Message


15.  It is worth noting here that the message addressed by Pope John Paul II on the occasion of the Synod for Lebanon stressed the human and social issues and the necessity of working for implementing social justice in Lebanon.  This Exhortation was in conformity with the views of the Pope vis-à-vis the importance of man’s role in the economic life.


The message of the Pope in his Apostolic Exhortation A New Hope for Lebanon indicates a deep understanding of present day Lebanese economic issues.  The Pope addresses the Lebanese saying, “Like other peoples, because they particularly love their land, the Lebanese are called to safeguard their country, to tirelessly maintain fraternity and to build a just and balanced sociopolitical system that respects individuals and the different trends that make up the country, that they may build together their common habitat.  No one can dodge his moral and civic responsibility that he should lawfully carry out amidst his people.  Furthermore, every public figure, political or religious, and every party must take into account the needs and legitimate aspirations of other groups, rather, the common good of the entire human family.  In fact, action in public life is first and foremost a service responsible for the brothers – all the brothers – such that they use all means to ensure that everybody works in harmony.  All those who accept the obligations of public service in the political, economic and social life, have an imperial duty in respecting certain moral obligations, and are to subordinate their individual or group interests, for the benefit of the nation.  Thus, they become role models to their compatriots, working diligently such that their actions will be for the common good.  This requires transcendence over egoism in order to live in a state of altruism that might even lead to self-abnegation, in order to guide all the people toward happiness through proper management of the public domain.”


16.  The Holy Father adds, “The legal authorities of a nation are to exercise vigilance such that all communities and individuals may enjoy the same rights and be subject to the same obligations according to the principles of fairness, equality and justice.  The governing body, as citizens performing a public service, should exert efforts to walk a straight path distinguished by humility, for the service of their fellow brothers, setting for them examples of honesty and integrity, since moral integrity is one of the indispensable essential elements of communal living.”[17]


In this Exhortation, the Holy Father also talks about “human, personal and collective progress, and about the sense of partnership, of responsibility and of sacrifice.”  He warns that ignoring this matter “can only lead to a profound instability in public relations, by exposing everyone to all kinds of arbitrary treatments, and, on the part of the public, to the inevitable loss of trust in national institutions.”[18]


17.  Thus, the Holy Father invites all Lebanese to “foster and promote in themselves, and particularly in the young generation, ‘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.’  At the same time, it is desirable that an equal sharing of responsibilities is developed in the heart of the nation so that all can invest their talents and their capacities in the service of their brothers, and can feel that they have a specific contribution to give to their country, according to the delegation principle, through their personal creativity, and through the exercise of their spirit of initiative, each of which constitutes a right in itself.”[19]


His Holiness adds, “In this spirit, everyone will promote the value of justice between the individuals and between the generations because iniquities give birth to violence, mistrust and egoism.  At the same time, it is important to provide work to a maximum number of people, in order to avoid the social marginalization of some Lebanese, to avoid the dangerous debasement of their quality of life or their exposure to situations of extreme poverty.  This will cause many to become disinterested in the life of their country, and can lead them to a kind of psychological migration, wherein they feel incapable of participating in the social life and feel as if there is no future in their homeland.”[20]


From what has preceded, it has become very clear that those who are in the field of economics should always take into consideration the quality of human life along with the importance of technical expertise.  They should never lose sight of the fact that economics is in the service of individuals and of human society.



Chapter Two: Reading the Present


First:  Intellectual Economics Trends Since Independence and Transformation of the Lebanese Economy


 18.  After independence, new trends in economic concepts emerged contributing to the severance of the present from the past, from those traditions and principles overbearing on the social realm that call for the establishment of a just and consolidated society.  This new thought is exemplified by the dominating focus on the inevitability that the Lebanese economy be unique, urging to make Lebanon’s economic role specialized in the trade and service sectors as an intermediary between the Arab and the developed countries, rather than the development of the agricultural and industrial sectors.  This is provided that the State does not interfere in the economy, leaving for market mechanisms to control the rudder of economic and social conditions.


19.  During that time all interests and concerns focused on Beirut, confirming it as a service trade center since the 19th century turning Mount Lebanon into a tourist center, and transforming Lebanon and its economy into a City-State, and a trade “republic” following the example of ancient Greek cities or City-State republics such as Venice or Geneva in Italy during the early European Renaissance.  This economic vision was inspired by the ancient Phoenician heritage of the Lebanese coast, and by the postulation of an historic, human, and psychological continuity in social traditions and customs, and in economic perspectives between the ancient past and modern Lebanon.  In order to consolidate this vision, the rich and creative Phoenician heritage, exemplified by its numerous innovations, was simplistically narrowed down to commercial transactions, love of emigration, and trade intermediation at all levels.  Furthermore, some intellectuals and scholars sought to institute modern nationalist ideology based on ancient roots going back to the Phoenician culture, and attempted not to justify a related economic vision, rather than simply emphasizing the Phoenician cultural heritage that for centuries linked the Lebanese with the rest of the world, long before the emergence of Christianity and Islam.  The poets and authors concentrated more on the creative and culturally innovative side of the Phoenician civilization, rather than on its commercial and intermediary “heritage.”


20.  The “Phoenician” vision of the recently independent economic entity was developed by a group of high-profiled businessmen and economists.  This was clearly evident through the economic thoughts and visions that were tackled in the lectures of the Lebanese Symposium that took place in the mid 20th century; the debates and discussions that ensued from it were sometimes of a severe nature.[21]  The economic and political developments in the region helped this vision to succeed and justified the economic functions of the Lebanese entity, and led to the specialization of Lebanon in services and tourism.  Prosperity, however, was limited to Beirut and to Mount Lebanon. 


21.  After the Declaration of Independence, when the new vision of Lebanon’s economic functions emerged, the Maronite Church that had played a prominent role in supporting the social reformation movements in the 19th century and during the French mandate—by adopting pioneering reformative positions—began to somewhat feel as if her historical role in shedding light upon socioeconomic issues had come to an end.


22.  It is true that the Maronite Church preserved her role in the fields of education and works of charity; but the absence of public positions in the midst of the socioeconomic changes and tensions that Lebanon witnessed from the Independence era up to the break out of the major conflict in 1975, created a kind of void that facilitated the rise of confessional tensions and of currents opposing social change or opposing expanding the role of the State into the socioeconomic sphere seeking to ensure equal opportunities.  Such currents seeped into the minds of a group of Maronites.  Other Maronites affiliated themselves with leftist parties promoting socialist policies.  This division led to the creation of high tensions in the political life of the country.  Thus, the Lebanese State became threatened in its existence and its sustainability between those opposing any change in the educational, economic, or business structure of the State, despite of the enormity of the wars and transformations in the Arab world from one side and those calling for overthrowing the system to achieve the total Arab revolution on the other side. The socioeconomic reform that was undertaken by the late president Shehab soon after the events of 1958, and which aimed at reconciling between the citizens of the one country, had served to delay the clash of the socioeconomic disparities in Lebanon.  It is therefore worth making a note of this important attempt at reform.


Second:  Socioeconomic Reforms after the Events of 1958


23.  Lebanon witnessed a period of intensive socioeconomic reforms between 1958-1964 that aimed at modernizing and developing the State’s system in the socioeconomic fields, developing the infrastructure in all the regions, and securing the minimum in equal opportunities among Lebanese.  However, this experiment lacked the needed support of the important political and religious figures of the Maronite community in order to survive and to grow its constructive marks.  It should be noted here that all of the principles of these reformist policies were inspired by the growing concern of the Catholic Church with regard to issues pertaining to social justice in the world, and to the necessity of eradicating poverty and deprivation in the undeveloped regions of the world which have not entered into the path of accelerated development, capability of industrialization, and of providing a comfortable living for all the members of society.  At that time, the State called upon the expertise of a prominent ecclesiastic figure, the late Father Louis Lebret, who played an important role in preparing and drafting the famous Papal encyclical Popularum Progressio, which called for the equal advancement of all peoples.[22]


24.  This reform materialized by studying the situation in all regions, and checking the needs of the poor regions and of the marginalized groups, in order to put in place the socioeconomic policies that would secure continuous development and fair distribution of benefits to all regions and to all socioeconomic sectors.  One of the conclusions of this study was that “it [was] impossible to overcome the obstacles preventing the birth of a civic sense and a genuine national harmony, unless it [was] done progressively.  Otherwise, the other social sectors would not feel that establishing a strong national economy would provide them with enough real benefits.  Accordingly, affluent groups should work toward alleviating the sharp social disparity between them and the less fortunate, and consequently, be prepared to accept certain measures of austerity and not avoid paying their taxes, exerting monumental lavish efforts aimed at developing deprived regions.”  “This way the repulsion existing between some sectors of society, dormant until our present day, will soon disappear allowing the formation of a fraternal society…”


“It is not possible to address the issue of development in Lebanon only on the ground of improving the gross income, but what should be targeted is the building up of the whole gross national product, and reform pertaining to government resources. . ..


“It was inevitable that there should be a sharp contradiction between the true rural Lebanon on the one hand, and Beirut on another; between the authentic rural culture dating back thousands of years, and the skill in deriving benefit and profits through the rapid turnaround of commodities and monetary instruments…”[23]  The aim behind the Shehab reforms was to implement a plan of reconstruction and reform in accordance with this diagnosis, basing it on two main principles, the first being social solidarity, and the second, the building of the state.


On the social level, the Shehab reforms tackled rural poverty and regional imbalance, by tearing down the isolation of remote villages, and by providing running water and electricity.  They also developed the Beirut seaport, established a permanent exposition in Tripoli, built a chain of public schools and dispensaries implemented improvements to the Lebanese University, especially to its scientific branches, created the Green Project for land development, in addition to the creation of the Fruit and Silk Bureaus.  Furthermore, during that period, initial efforts were spent toward founding the National Social Security Fund, seeking to insure a retirement plan and medical insurance for workers and for employees.  A social revival fund was also established; it was designed to offer different types of help to needy families.  The direct taxation system was also improved.  Concerning the building of the government, the most notable achievement during Shehab’s mandate was the founding of the following establishments: the Central Bank for issuing and controlling currency, replacing the Bank of Syria and Lebanon (formerly the Ottoman Bank), the Civil Service Council, the Greater State Inspection Board, in addition to the Beirut Great Project Executive Board.


25.  The mention of these reforms is a prelude to a series of reflections on what may be the future role of the Maronite Church in socioeconomic issues.  The truth is that shortcomings in sectarian and regional economic development, and the absence of equal opportunity for the public, represent the internal Lebanese factors that gave access to certain external forces to abuse and destabilize Lebanon’s security, and to cause things to explode.  Also, the possibility of establishing a stable future for this wounded country lies in the crystallization of the socioeconomic vision on which we can build a strong future for Lebanon, immune to shocks or crises originating from the outside, as was repeatedly expressed during the discussions of the first session of the Synod.  From here stems the elemental role that could be played by the Maronite Church in raising awareness on the importance of socioeconomic issues in building the country of the future, and in disseminating the spirit of solidarity between all its citizens to safeguard it from the winds of religious and sectarian extremism that tore it up in the midst of the regional and international struggles.


Third:  War and Reconstruction


1.  Acts of Violence and Theft Committed by Armed Militias


26.  Before the outbreak of the painful events of 1975, Lebanon was invaded by a wave of severe strikes (tobacco farmers, fishermen, Ghandour Factory workers in Shiyah, beetroot farmers in the Beqa’, etc…).  At that time, the feeling of social injustice intensified within large public sectors of the Christian and Muslim population.  However, during the 20th century, just like in the 19th century, important external factors led to the eruption of the internal situation, and the social struggle for justice and equal opportunities was transformed into a complicated sectarian clash with dangerous regional ramifications.  It is unfortunate and outrageous that the various Lebanese militias that appeared on the Lebanese arena, and fought each other in the name of different national or sectarian slogans, continuously committed acts of pillage against the public and the private domains, leading to the destruction of the foundations of the State, depriving it from its revenues.


2.  Reconstruction


27.  The post-war reconstruction policies overlooked the necessity of reviving the productive capabilities of the country in the agricultural and industrial fields, and aiding the Lebanese to secure competitiveness for their products, especially with the fast-paced scientific, industrial and agricultural developments that had taken place in the Arab world and in the West between 1975 and 1990, and the spread of secularism, necessarily imposing  the application of monumental efforts on society in the economic realm.  Reconstruction policies focused on highly expensive infrastructure projects that were concentrated, again, in Beirut and in Mount Lebanon, and opened the door for chaotic compensation schemes for the displaced that benefited parties loyal to some militia leaders who entered the world of politics with force.  The government also established a costly fiscal policy yoked to exorbitantly high interest rates, the government’s aim of which was to support the Lebanese Pound through controlling the rate of exchange, in the context of establishing a stable monetary policy.  This policy resulted in huge profits for the banking sector, which became the major holder of the national debt.  It is worth noting that some political figures had direct vested interest in this scheme.


28.  In general, as of 1992, the reconstruction period was characterized by the accumulation of economic, financial, and social distortions as a result of inadequate estimation and poor planning.  In their plans, reconstruction policies failed to be inspired by the principles of justice and equitable compensation for losses suffered by the Lebanese throughout the years of strife.  Nor did these policies apply the previous reform principles, originally aimed at providing Lebanon with an all-encompassing, sustained and balanced development, based on a Lebanese cultural heritage rich in reform; rather, it was content to import an economic model similar to those implemented in the rich, oil exporting Arab countries.  


29.  The foregoing facilitated Lebanon’s entry into the era of dealings, speculation and squandering, and the disfiguring of the beauty of its cities and mountains due to a rash wave of chaotic real estate buying and selling.  Compensations were distributed to the displaced through pressure exerted by the militias who considered themselves victorious after the war.  This resulted in the absence of justice in the distribution, and in reality, negated the return of the displaced to their villages.  Christians have greatly suffered from a prolonged delay in receiving their fair share of distributed compensations.  Furthermore, monetary authorities in Lebanon started developing a monetary system based on very high interest rates reaching, in certain years, usurious proportions, despite the reduction in inflation, and improvement in the level of foreign currency reserves.  This allowed some to amass enormous fortunes, hindered productive investment activities and induced a huge debt structure on the treasury as well as the private sector.  Private real property in Beirut’s historical downtown area was usurped from its rightful owners, using legalistic methods that are contrary to constitutional precepts, victimizing for one thing, real property ownership rights.  This resulted in the demolition of hundreds of historical buildings and the loss of a historical and cultural facet of the capital, additional to what befell real estate owners and rightful lean holders, of financial and moral loss.  Currency and monetary operations are tied to the actual economic reality.  So, when severed from it, they leave a negative mark on the balance of the markets, and create negative results with the masses.  Consequently, the Church points to the presence of an important and fundamental ethical defect in this domain.


30.  The consequence of these policies was the building up of a giant debt for the Lebanese Treasury unprecedented in the world, whether in relation to the gross national product (190%), or to the size of Lebanon, the number of its inhabitants, and the lack of natural resources.  The increase in this accumulation of debt, in just a few years from the launch of the reconstruction policies, led to the quasi-total impediment of growth.  An economic, social and financial crisis of multiple dimensions has worsened.  Social discontent and political restlessness led many a citizen to lose trust in the future of the country, and they began selling their property and leaving the country in search of decent living and a stable life.


31.  The Lebanese economic power brokers, Christians included, supported with enthusiasm the reconstruction projects during the first period.  Perhaps that was due to the continuous influence of the old theory on the leading role of Lebanon in commercial and financial intermediation at the regional level.  The reconstruction projects were perceived as a means to restoring Lebanon to its previous position as the most important service center in the region, thus ignoring the enormous progress that took place in the Arab region, and the consequent total change of previous regional economic circumstances that had allowed Lebanon to prosper before the war. 


3.  Position of the Church on the Present Socioeconomic Situations


32.  During this extremely critical stage of the history of our country, the Maronite Church doubled her social work efforts, seeking to raise awareness in the midst of a crisis characterized by the absence of business ethics and of the values of hard work and of productivity, especially with respect to the new political elite from all the religious sects.


The result of the war and the marginalization of Christian political figures, allowed the Maronite Church to regain her old fundamental role in the political and national life of the country.  With the emergence of the numerous problems resulting from the bad implementation of the Taif Accord, on the one hand, and the various negative impact of the reconstruction policies, since 1992, on the other, the Maronite Patriarch began expressing the concerns and the suffering of all the Lebanese people, especially in matters relating to the socioeconomic situation that was worsening year after year, leading to increased emigration among the young generation due to the lack of employment opportunities.  It should be noted here that the Patriarch highlighted in his talks and sermons the tragic socioeconomic situation.  Through the sermons of the Patriarch and the statements of the bishops, the positions of the Maronite Church have become the center of attention for all Lebanese because they shed light on the very urgent reform requirements, the authorities’ insufficient attention to living conditions, the increasing waves of emigration, the mushrooming of corruption, and the irresponsible spending of public funds.


33.  It is worthy of mention that the Maronite Church is exerting various efforts to alleviate the intensity of the economic crisis on her children.  Accordingly, she undertook the following initiatives: building low cost rental apartments, establishing health insurance, and providing financial aid for schooling.  Although many lay Maronite are engaged in works of charity, and are providing help in many fields, the private sector remains not concerned enough in the economic destiny of Lebanon and in the collective efforts to change the direction of the economic, financial, and monetary policies.  In fact, the private sector plays an important and essential role in guiding the State toward putting economic policies back on the right track.  In fact, the Lebanese economic sector has traditionally enjoyed a strong influence on all public administrations and on the ruling political powers.  This influence has greatly increased after the war; businessmen, and in an unparalleled way in the whole world, became heavily involved in the political life, parliamentary and ministerial.  Thus, the private sector bears a heavy burden of responsibility.  It also has to lend an ear to Church authorities, in Rome and Bkerke, concerning the human and moral principles within the guidelines of which economic and social policies must be drawn.


34.  Through his Sunday sermons, which touch upon socioeconomic issues, the Maronite Patriarch constantly calls upon the authorities to work on alleviating the severity of the social crisis, and on fighting the desire in the youth to leave their homeland. The talk of the Patriarch in this regard is always geared towards the benefit of the whole country and all groups of society.  He also highlights the necessity of the State’s intervention in the economy to stop any additional dangerous deterioration.  In fact, some of the available statistics and studies indicate a major drop in the standard of living in Lebanon among the popular classes from all confessions, including the Maronites,[24] especially in the framework of salary and wage freeze since 1996, and the increase of the rate of unemployment, particularly among the youth.[25]


35.  A recent study[26] estimates that “the monthly salary of the Maronite family living in Lebanon, has dropped from an average of LL1,584,000, in 1997,[27] to an average of LL1,124,000, in 2003,[28] a 29% drop over this period.  Moreover, the buying power in Lebanon of a Maronite family with an average income has dropped by 34.3% between 1997 and 2003.  In 2003, only 1.7% of Maronite families living in Lebanon had a monthly salary that reached LL3,000,000 ($2000) and above.  In 2000, the average monthly income for a Maronite family living in Lebanon was LL983,000, which means that, in the year 2000, the monthly income of 50% of these families has dropped below LL983,000, while the general average of monthly income in Lebanon is LL1,246,000.  Consequently, tens of thousands of Maronite families are now living on a monthly income that is below the national average.  A sizeable group of Maronites are engaged in agriculture; however, the monthly income of the worker in this sector has dropped from LL503,000, in 1997, to LL284,000, in 2000.  This is due to the severe crisis that the agricultural sector is facing due to the open door policy which encourages dishonest outside competition to Lebanese crops.”


The same study indicates that the Mount Lebanon region, where Maronites are the overwhelming majority of residents, has the highest unemployment level in Lebanon with 12%, compared with the national average of 9.9%.  Unemployed in this region represent 52% of all the unemployed in Lebanon.  The study further brings to light the miserable socioeconomic conditions endured by Christians, especially Maronites, living in the villages bordering Israel, as confirmed in figures by a study conducted by the research center at the Institute of Social Sciences of the Lebanese University, and by the National Institute for Employment for the year 2002.


Based on these givens, we hereby present the most important fields that we are to turn our attention to in the economic domain based on the spirit of the Apostolic Exhortation and the essence of the sermons of His Beatitude the Patriarch.



Chapter Three:

Future Perspectives and Suggestions



First:  A Balanced Alternative Vision for the Lebanese Economy


1.  Reaffirming the Ecclesiastic Principles and Values in the Socioeconomic Life and Defining Points of Divergence


a)  A Return to the Moral and Ethical Standards of the Socioeconomic Life


36.  The Synod announces that there is a need for bold comments or suggestions on the theme stance in respect to economic and social issues.  This stance should be no less important than the one taken by the Maronite Church, both at home and in the countries of expansion, concerning the necessity of restoring Lebanon’s complete and indivisible sovereignty, by way of freeing it from any imposed subjugation.  Such a decisive position by the Maronite Church, in condemning the financial, economic and social practices that led to the spread of corruption and immorality and to the extreme concentration of wealth in the hands of a few individuals that represent in fact the continuation of the acts of illegal fortune gathering that took place during the war, would have a great positive impact on the general political atmosphere of the country, as well as on citizens; it would also help to generate a unified political vision for the country, and remove from it traditional sectarian components.

37.  This approach is compatible with the Encyclical Quadragesimo Anno (Forty Years): “Certainly the Church was not given the commission to guide men to an only fleeting and perishable happiness but to that which is eternal.  Indeed the Church holds that it is unlawful for her to mix without cause in these temporal concerns.[29]  However, she can in no wise renounce the duty God entrusted to her to interpose her authority, not of course in matters of technique for which she is neither suitably equipped nor endowed by office, but in all things that are connected with the moral law.  For as to these, the deposit of truth that God committed to Us and the grave duty of disseminating and interpreting the whole moral law, and of urging it in season and out of season, bring under and subject to our supreme jurisdiction not only social order but economic activities themselves.”[30] 

During the last decades disappeared, from the Lebanese economic scene, the sense of solidarity and of collectivity, along with the implementation of ethical principles, both of which are in the core of Christianity’s teaching on economics.  We also find in Forty Years: “Even though economics and moral science employs each its own principles in its own sphere, it is, nevertheless, an error to say that the economic and moral orders are so distinct from and alien to each other that the former depends in no way on the latter.

Certainly the laws of economics, as they are termed, being based on the very nature of material things and on the capacities of the human body and mind, determine the limits of what productive human effort cannot, and of what it can attain in the economic field and by what means.

Yet it is reason itself that clearly shows, on the basis of the individual and social nature of things and of men, the purpose which God ordained for all economic life” (Respecting the particularity of each).

“But it is only the moral law which, just as it commands us to seek our supreme and last end in the whole scheme of our activity, so likewise commands us to seek directly in each kind of activity those purposes which we know that nature, or rather God the Author of nature, established for that kind of action, and in orderly relationship to subordinate such immediate purposes to our supreme and last end.  If we faithfully observe this law, then it will follow that the particular purposes, both individual and social, that are sought in the economic field will fall in their proper place in the universal order of purposes, and We, in ascending through them, as it were by steps, shall attain the final end of all things, that is God, to Himself and to us, the supreme and inexhaustible Good.”[31]


38.  It is worth noting here that the economic principles stated in the Ta’if Accord are perfectly compatible with the position of the Church, as has consistently been asserted by His Beatitude the Patriarch in his sermons.  The Accord, whose text, in part, was incorporated into the Constitution, calls for administrative decentralization, for equal development in all Lebanese regions, which is the kind of development that has been lacking in Lebanon during the past one hundred years, as economic activities were concentrated in the capital and in parts of Mount Lebanon, and where the disparity in income, fortune and property ownership among the Lebanese increased greatly.  The monetary and economic policies installed during the war and in subsequent years, were no more than further economic and social distortions, the consequences of which are the weakening of the Lebanese structure, subjecting it further to real estate procurements by non-Lebanese which is affecting economic, social and cultural fabric of the nation. 


39.  Undoubtedly, since independence, Lebanon has been characterized by deterioration in the economic ethics of some in its circles who refuse to submit to the laws of the State and refuse to work for of reasonable profits.  This negative trait in our national life intensified after the war to the extent that corruption, speculation and illegal deals have come to be considered economic and monetary smartness, not lacking any shamelessness in the eyes of many.  For, the dividing line between what is lawful and what is illicit in the economic life gradually faded away in public life and in the private domain.  This is utterly contrary to Christian teachings.


40  What is striking here is that the religious Islamic movements, whether moderate or fundamentalist, in seeking to attract the underprivileged masses to their ranks, often stress in their political and religious speeches, on economic ethics and the necessity of applying Islamic Law (Shari'a) to restrain speculators and those who disrupt the economy through their parasitic and harmful acts.  We must also remember that under the present circumstances, and more than ever before, income disparity in Lebanon, as well as in other Arab countries, has, assumed a tragic form.  This is why it is imperative that all members of society, from all religious confessions and affiliations, should initiate by hoisting the slogan of social solidarity, for building the country of the future, as well as calling for honest economic practices that would enable Lebanon to rise from the tragic condition it is wallowing in.  Hence, the children of the Church are required to uphold this duty of solidarity and to also send out a persistent call to all Lebanese in the countries of expansion who have sizeable material capabilities.[32]


b)  Position vis-à-vis the Taxation System and its Amendment


41.  The taxation system in Lebanon is the most fragile system in the world.  The largest part of its burden falls tragically on the limited income groups because it is based on indirect taxes, and because of tax evasion on the part of the-well-to-do in what little direct taxes they owe.  No country can be built without a fair and effective taxation system in place to collect taxes from every individual according to his income level and wealth, that the State may have the adequate resources to protect limited income groups or those working in low yield economic sectors.  Furthermore, the defense of the country cannot be properly upgraded to match external threats if the taxation system does not provide the necessary income for that.  In our estimation, it is necessary to take a clear stance demanding amendment of the taxation system, and the necessity of having the upper classes accept payment of their income tax dues, regardless of their source, provided the State fights major corruption in its governmental departments through which tax evasion is taking place.


42.  It is noteworthy to mentioning in this context that tragically, the income tax burden is shouldered by the working and producing sectors, that is, workers, employees, the independent professions and industrialists; and this system does not cover those who derive their income from financial investments, or from capital gains in stocks or real estate, except in a marginal way.  This reality points to the hegemony of the powerful private interest group equipped with large capital funds or real estate holdings, over the Lebanese economy.  Such a system impedes the economic growth of the country and the creation of sufficient employment opportunities.


The issue of just taxation and the effectiveness of a tax system, economically speaking, are considered as chronic issues in Lebanon.  They require immediate attention and cannot be overlooked by the Church.


The dream of Lebanon becoming a “free zone” without taxation, without social rules, without economic supervision, is a dream that is opposed to the existence of any state, and of any civil society participating in the advancement of humanity.  This is, in the end, an abdication of the presence of Lebanon and its role as a nation, and is not possible for the Maronite Church to accept it, when she has worked for the past two centuries for Lebanon to be born with all its confessions, an independent state and a society effective in its Arab environment and in human civilization.


c)  The Monetary System and the Public Debt Issue


43.  The Lebanese monetary system, after being reconstituted since 1991, has secured a stable exchange rate in which the Lebanese found gratification, after what befell some in monetary loss in Lebanese Pounds, after the period of fierce competition against the national currency between 1984 and 1992-93.  This new system erected and promoted by the government produce an enormous disparity in the interest rate structure between the interest rate on the Lebanese pound and that on the US dollar, despite the stability in the rate of exchange secured by the monetary authorities.  This led to major economic and financial distortions that benefited some sectors and affiliations at the expense of the national economy.


It is difficult to explain these distortions in the interest rate structure, especially after the decline in inflation, the stabilization in the political and security climate in Lebanon, the building up of hard currency reserves, and the securing of a stable exchange rate continuously by the Central Bank.  These distortions could have been prevented or made less costly to the national economy.  Holders of treasury bonds in high interest Lebanese pounds were realizing large profits.  Whoever converted US dollars into Lebanese pounds depositing them were also realizing enormous profits, taking advantage of the difference in exchange rates between the two currencies, then changing back into dollars, producing colossal gains.  These distortions are largely responsible for the negative mechanism that has been adapted.  They are also responsible for keeping in the pound currency the public debt, which did not exceed two billion dollars in early 1993.  As a result, this public debt soared in the year 2004, to almost nineteen billon dollars.  Moreover, the foreign currency debt exceeded eighteen billion dollars in 2004, while in 1992 it did not even exceed half a billion dollars.  It is worth noting that, during the same period, the total financial deficit resulting from treasury and budget transactions did not exceed 11,763 billion pounds (equivalent to 7.8 billion dollars).  If we were to add this deficit amount to the basic debt amount (i.e. three billion dollars) as of the end of 1992, and consider this whole amount as the basic amount of the debt, we would realize that this basic amount has tripled over this same period.  This increase is due to the 39 billion Pounds in interest payments made by the government (which is equivalent to 26 billion dollars).


Consequently, it is mandatory to give, at the economic level, a greater importance to the currency issue, and to Lebanon’s enormous public debt.  In fact, the socioeconomic rebounding of Lebanon is closely tied to finding proper solutions, and to changing the economic, financial, and currency-related methods which brought serious harm upon society.


d)  The Educational System and the Right of Staying in the Home-Land.


44.  Lebanon is distinguished by its educational system that provided the best modern education and knowledge for its students allowing them to achieve great individual success especially in the countries of expansion.  In fact, private educational institutions were increasingly oriented, in the past, towards preparing Lebanese students to migrating, and providing them with the capacities to adapt to academic standards of major universities in developed countries.


45.  Even if we take into consideration the financial benefits of migration, taking into account emigrants’ remittances to their relatives in the homeland, educational institutions should strive to keep in Lebanon the brains and the human resources formed and trained in the country.   Emigration is not an inevitable phenomenon; it is rather linked to the bad economic management in the country, and to a major lack of creative and honest economic entrepreneurship and job opportunities.  Moreover, the Lebanese private sector does not allocate enough funds for research and development, for the establishment of laboratories, and for providing additional opportunities for its employees and workers to increase their knowledge and know-how.  Furthermore, we do not see in Lebanon, as in developed countries, the close ties between universities and vocational training institutes, companies of the private sector and ministries with technical orientations (agriculture, hydroelectric resources, industry, etc…) that would lead to putting in place a strategy for research and development.  This strategy would aim at improving the quality of local products, protecting the environment and natural resources, preserving national historic monuments, undertaking new productive initiatives (agricultural, industrial, service oriented, medical, etc…) providing every year additional employment opportunities capable of absorbing the number of students graduating from universities and institutes.


46.  For that reason, Lebanon suffers from this brain drain; young people leave to seek proper job opportunities, and to pursue high-standard academic and technical training.  We should work so that the right of staying in one’s homeland becomes a sacred constitutional right.  Furthermore, the private sector, educational institutions and the relevant government administrations, should work hand in hand in order to benefit from our human resources locally, and to prevent the fragmentation of Lebanese families and their dispersal throughout the world, which produces a special psychological state in the Lebanese who are living a special kind of schism between attachment to the homeland and the irresistible tendency toward migration, due to the spread of corruption, the lack of decent employment opportunities, and the atmosphere of deficient sovereignty and political freedom.


e)  Importance of Close Contacts with Emigrant Communities.


47.  It is true that Lebanon’s natural resources are limited, but the Lebanese capacity to generate resources is enormous, especially through emigrant communities and their multi-faceted relations with parents and relatives residing in Lebanon.  It is worth noting here that a great number of Lebanese from all sects have now acquired prominent positions in different fields abroad, contrary to the situation prevailing during the 1950’s when emigrants were mainly from Christian communities.  Another important note here is that the wealth of emigrants has increased astronomically especially due to the oil boom, or to the efforts of the Lebanese in Africa or Latin America.


However, all these positive factors that can be utilized in getting the country out of its tragic economic situation described earlier, will not be converted into a rebuilding power on any respectable level, unless a clear social and economic vision matures, and if economic corruption is eradicated.  It is posing as a barrier against the desire for the homecoming and settling of many a Lebanese immigrant, and the investment of their financial and human capabilities in the rebuilding Lebanon and securing its prosperity.


2.  Towards a Productive Society


48.  Lebanon enjoys important natural characteristics (beauty of nature, important geographical location, the Mediterranean, fertile soil, excess of fresh water).  Lebanon also abounds in the availability of great human resources due to its centuries old openness towards education and knowledge, and to the erection of prominent educational institutions.  The Maronite Church played a distinctive role in this field.  She was a pioneer in introducing modern sciences and education through its schools, printing presses and institutes of higher education.  However, these positive factors are not beneficial to Lebanon, because we carelessly violate our natural resources: (crushing plants, violations on coastal shores and riversides, sand exploiting, squandering and pollution of water resources and absence of proper waste management).  The great efforts on the part of educational institutions training young human talents are not stopping a great number of the latter from emigrating due to the lack of job opportunities compatible with their professional ambition.


49.  Many consider that emigration is an inevitable phenomenon in view of the limited geographical area of Lebanon and the unavailability of raw material.  This is quite a deficient view of matters.  The truth is that we should look at emigration as a costly phenomenon to society because the real reward from the financial burden incurred by spending on educating our migrant children does not benefit Lebanon; it benefits, rather, the countries of emigration.  They are the first beneficiaries from the brain drain phenomenon taking place in Lebanon.  If these brains and human capabilities were kept and put to work in Lebanon, then the revenues accruing to the Lebanese society would be much higher than the amounts remitted by emigrants to their parents at home.


50.  A great number of small countries overcame successfully the constraint of their small geographical size and their lack of raw materials; they were able to develop highly productive economies and are now included in the list of the most developed industrial technology centers in world economy.  This for example is the case with Singapore, Denmark, and Ireland.  It is also the case with the small island of Taiwan.  It was considered one of the poorest countries in the world and its society purely rural.  Today it has become one of the world giants in the electronics industry.  All of these examples clearly illustrate that there is no such thing as inevitability of emigration, and that the small geographical area of the country and its lack in primary or mining resources do not necessarily lead to a continuous emigration of its children.  That is why Lebanon can overcome the highly negative trends in its economic and social situation, and establish a comprehensively productive renaissance based on the skills and competence of its children.  We are currently witnessing these world fascinating abilities flourishing outside Lebanon; but these same abilities are repressed in Lebanon in the absence of a seriously productive environment, especially after the war.  Naturally, in the event the Lebanese become convinced of the necessity of changing the status quo, it will be required of them to undertake reforms additional to the ones stated earlier such as, but not limited to, the following:


a)  Establishing a Comprehensive Support Policy for Productive Activities


51.  The government and Lebanese financing institutions can work on establishing an active support policy that includes every new production activity undertaken outside the traditional service sectors concentrating on trade and tourism in the capital and its environ and on real estate projects for building luxurious apartments or shopping centers.  Among the most important components of a support policy is the establishment of regional investment funds to contribute to capital earmarked for building new production facilities; to offer reasonably accessible loans to local promoters of such projects in each region; to establish industrial and service-orientated zones in every region; and to provide all production facilitations from roads, electricity, telecommunication, partial and temporary exemptions from some fees and taxes.


b)  Continuous Cooperation between the Educational Institutions and the Private Sector to make Lebanon a Center of Supreme Production


52.  The desire for such a renaissance should help motivate us to aim at transforming Lebanon into a center of technical and technological excellence, prominent and famous regionally and worldwide.  In this, Lebanon would be similar to the small countries referred to earlier as models for successful renaissance in production.  



c)  Ensuring Protection of Production Activities


53.  In the framework of this aspiration for a real renaissance, effort should be exerted to protect production activities from any illegal competition originating from foreign products or services, especially in the agricultural and industrial sectors.  In the last ten years, the government has signed agreements with neighboring countries and with the European Union freeing trade exchanges from restrictions.  This was done without taking into consideration the deteriorated state to which these production sectors have reached, and without the Lebanese government taking a firm stand against other countries when they refrain from abiding strictly by the precepts of these trade agreements we have signed with them, thus, the latter party benefits whereas Lebanese production companies go bankrupt causing further loss in job opportunities.


d)  Fighting Corruption in the Relation between the Public and Private Sectors


54.  Corruption should be contended seriously, beyond the bounds of words, through a return to the fundamentals of established business ethics which the Church has been unceasingly declaring through the numerous encyclicals we have presented earlier.  These are principles that converge with the fundamentals of the classical liberal economy which calls for transparency in economic and financial dealings, applying business ethics, barring monopolizing practices, and supplying equal opportunities, so market economy may provide universal prosperity.  Modern economic theories ascertain the necessity of combating corruption in both the public and the private sectors, and in all dealings between them. 


In this context, the interrelationship between the government and the private sector should be a relationship of collaboration and integration based on a continuous dialogue to achieve the aspired for productive renaissance, rather than having individuals from that sector and its institutions vie for special concessions and monopolies from the government to secure easy and huge profits at the expense of the Lebanese consumer and the principles of fair competition.  In this regard, it should be noted that Lebanon with its small size ought not to tolerate the entanglements of private interests with public interests, as has been the case for years, where wealthy businessmen have taken over important political positions in both legislative and executive branches of power.  If this is not recommended in large economies such as that of the United States or Italy, accordingly, when it happens in small economies such as Lebanon, the inevitable result is the outbreak of corruption, bribery and the expensive mixing of the private interests of politicians with that of public interest.


e)  Achieving Administrative Reform


55.  Of the basic components of an all encompassing production renaissance are: a serious administrative and comprehensive reform, the increase of salaries in the public sector in order to thwart corruption and bribery.  Moreover, decentralization should take place by transferring some of the government’s responsibilities in the social and educational domains to municipalities and unions of municipalities, accompanied by the transfer of some of the employees of central Government organs to local bodies, and the training of employees in the different administrations.


f)  The Church’s Initiative to Reform the Distorted Lebanese Economic Course


56.  It goes without saying that such a change in our economic traditions and to attain the desired reform course to reach the goal, will not be easily realized due to the modern historical courses assumed by the Lebanese economy since independence. There is no plausible reason for Lebanon to remain in a state of impotence in the face of the accomplishments of the countries previously mentioned, from progress and resurgence, despite their size and the lack of raw materials.  After this economic review, and in the light of the Church’s economic principles and our Maronite heritage, the Lebanese must move quickly to achieve the ambitions of their forefathers and the ambitions of the youth Lebanese to attain a dignified stable life in their homeland, instead of emigrating searching for work and a dignified existence. 


In this respect, the Lebanese are eager to see a drastic change in the way the country’s economy is being managed.  They are no less eager to keep their children in their homeland, living a decent and secure life. The Maronite Church can play a pioneering role in this endeavor by resorting to her rich worldwide heritage and to her own heritage in economic affairs; this heritage which has contributed splendidly in spreading education and the ethical values of creative work among her children in Lebanon.  This led the Lebanese to attain outstanding living standards long before any other country in the East did.


Second:  Suggestions for Redressing the Lebanese Economy


1.  Communicating and Disseminating the Church’s Position vis-à-vis the Necessity of Economic Reform


57.  The Lebanese have a strong desire to see the Maronite Church take sharp, firm, and clear-cut positions with respect to the many distortions and unethical economic practices, similar to those relating to political matters.  The Church has powerful moral clout that should be used in full, firstly, at the level of its community and other Christians, and, secondly, at the national level.  The Christian individual must be an ethical role model in his economic and financial behavior and not be lured into the web of shady deals and transactions, speculations, waste and corruption that are reigning over major sectors of the economy.  In this context, he becomes a model in the strife against this environment that can only lead to loss of confidence in Lebanon, and consequently continuing to weaken the entity and its resilience in facing the greed that threatens the nation.


58.  Furthermore, The Synod considers that an internal mobilization in the Church is vital so that her goods and resources in the economic and educational fields could serve as a fundamental instrument to ensure the continuity of keeping roots deep in the land of their ancestors, to help them hold on to their agricultural possessions in their rural areas and not to sell their real estate holdings in the cities.  The Lebanese expect from the Church to regain her past role in preserving and safeguarding the essentials of rural life for a dignified existence in the mountains of Lebanon, and in contributing, through the creation of employment opportunities in the cities as well as in rural areas, to bring about the aspired to production renaissance.  On this basis, the following suggestions were drafted.


2.  Suggestion for the Rehabilitation and Mobilization of the Economic Capabilities of the Church


59.  In view of the rich heritage of the Church and of the religious Orders which has made a key contribution to the building of the country’s economy on solid foundations, on ethical values, and on serious persevering work, members of the community consider that the Church has capabilities able to help them stay attached to their country and remain in it, yet provide a decent standard of living through the following measures:


a)  Activating Eparchial Economic Councils


60.  Making use of the properties and the endowed lands of the Church and of the Monastic Orders to contribute in finding employment opportunities and providing an adequate standard of living, especially in rural areas; mobilizing educational institutions and technical and vocational training institutions to survey the status of parishioners and propose projects, initiatives and measures that would improve the standards of living, and stop youth migration outside their region or country.  These councils must carefully and accurately study the socioeconomic conditions in each eparchy; they should also survey the properties of the Church, assess their situation, and search for the ways and means by which these properties can be invested and exploited so as to contribute in creating job opportunities and improving the standard of living.  These councils should also study the potential for cooperation with national labor organizations, with municipalities, and Lebanese and foreign finance institutes, seeking to activate economic life by establishing new economic facilities in the different fields.


b)  Developing and Modernizing the Methods of Managing the Funds and the Properties of the Church and her Institutions


61.  Establishing an advisory finance board at the Patriarchate to monitor the management of Patriarchal and eparchial funds and to coordinate between them, to give advice and guidance on the different methods in managing the Church’s economic assets, seeking to better serve the congregation and the desired economic revival in the country, without infringing on the financial autonomy of eparchies and religious orders.  In order to achieve that, the Patriarchate must necessarily have all information and data on the special condition in every eparchy and the status of all temporal goods and other endowments of the Church and the Monastic institutions, in Lebanon and in the countries of expansion, and the way they are being utilized.  This advisory board is to operate in cooperation with the social and economic council, proposing a method for fair distribution of Church funds among the eparchies, whereby a special mechanism is positioned to equalize the economic capabilities of every eparchy, commensurate with its needs and the size of its population.   


Eparchies, the Patriarchate and the Monastic institutions have exerted inestimable efforts to introduce automation into the endowment administration and its accounting process.  However, it seems there is a great need to apply effective ways and means to secure and optimize returns of these assets, and to instruct in the optimum use of these assets to achieve desired goals, and above all else, to help congregations remain in the homeland and refrain from selling their land.  Given the importance of temporal goods in the life of the Church, it is necessary to conform the management of the assets of the Church and of the Monastic orders, not only in accordance with the requirements of the present economic and social phase in Lebanon, but also according to technologies and the modern precepts being applied in the economic and financial domains, including the erection of new economic establishments that the country and citizens need to provide for a multifaceted development.


c)  Erecting a Council for Socioeconomic Development


62.  Some of the most prominent functions of this Council are the appropriation of financial resources and human capabilities existing in the homeland and among the communities of the expansion, the drafting of plans and projections that would ensure solidarity, dignified living, and, halting the hemorrhage caused by emigration; provided the Council coordinates with the  central organ responsible for the managing of goods at the Patriarchate, and with the economic councils in Lebanon and in the countries of expansion.


This is not a new idea.  It has already been studied by a panel of experts simultaneously with a study covering the possibility of erecting a real estate funding establishment to buy the properties whose owners intend to sell.  Those are the people who have no roots or no family and social connections in the region where these properties are situated, whether these sales are due to dire financial need, or for want of money, or due to losing confidence in their homeland and the desire to emigrate to the countries of expansion.


63.  The project is based on the following principles:


a)      Resorting to active participation between the children of the Church residing in Lebanon and those in countries of expansion in the framework of one council; the aim of which is the taking of decisions leading to solving of problems relating to subsistence, the future, and destiny, of concern to citizens.

b)      Adopting in the bylaws the principle of election and of equitable geographical and professional distribution of candidates participating in this council.

c)      The formation of a futuristic economic vision that would help transform society, making it more productive, and ratifying the principle of developing applied programs and projects within an all-encompassing integral framework, executing it according to a scale of priorities and an annual plan within a five-year or a ten-year plan, providing a common platform that would technically address daily life issues in the sectors of economics, society, health, education, culture and environment, etc…

d)     Incorporating advanced scientific principles in the duties of the proposed council, such as surveys in Lebanon and in the countries of expansion to define the demographic and social web of the Maronites, and establishing a global data bank that embraces the largest compendium of information on matters pertaining to the Church and to her children.

e)      Adopting the principle of continuous media exposure concerning the works of the council, and the cooperation between the council and other religious communities, and relevant government organs.

f)       As for the headquarters of the council, its administrative structure, that is supposed to be established for its proper functioning, and its funding, they are all detailed in the suggestions given in the original proposal.


d)  Necessity of Developing and Modernizing the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches


64.  Promulgated recently, in 1990, the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches including the section related to the management of the “Church’s temporal goods” (Article 23), came at a time when the financial journey of Lebanon had not drifted and caused the excessive indebtedness of the government. Therefore, this fundamental document needs to be adjusted and amended, so that Article 23 would conform to the challenges of the present phase, whereby the eparchial economic councils would be expanded and strengthened.  A concluding note, points, in a clear and complete way, to the goals of the management of the temporal goods of the Church, and the need to incorporate modern methods in this management and to authorize the erection of economic and financial institutions of a developmental nature to provide for the wellbeing of the Church’s children and realize a balanced development in all sectors and regions of the country.






1. Capitalizing on Human Capabilities.

1.a.: The Synod reminds that it is the duty of citizens and for their benefit to stay in their homeland and participate in its development and advancement.  This would offer them better job opportunities.


1.b.: The Synod encourages tapping on human capabilities locally and prevent the scattering of the family throughout the world and persevere in making Lebanon a center of technical and technological superiority, and to benefit from the example of countries which developed their economies despite their limited size and the absence of raw material, establishing a concentrated productive economy such as Singapore, Denmark, Ireland, Sweden and Taiwan…




2. The Policy of Reinforcing Production Activities.

2. The Synod calls on the government and Lebanese finance institutions to employ the policy of support encompassing all new production activities outside the services sectors and real estate projects.  It also calls for providing facilitated loans for small and medium size institutions and provide markets for product disposal.

2.a.: Erecting regional investment funds to participate in the capital of new production installations and offer reasonable conditions for loans to those initiating these activities.


2.b.: Erecting industrial and services zones in every region and provide all production facilitations and partial and temporary exemptions such as social security fees, income tax and the stamp tax.


2.c.: Endeavor to protect production activities from any illegal competition whose origin is foreign products and services, especially in the agricultural and industrial domains. 

3. Equipping Church Economic Capabilities and Investing them.

3. The Synod recommends investing property and the capabilities of the Church in the economic and educational fields as a fundamental medium of preserving the constituents of life, especially the rural.

3.a.: Work with the economic councils in the eparchies and the monastic orders to survey properties and study their status and the methods of investing them.


3.b.: Examine the possibilities of cooperating with domestic work organizations, municipalities and Lebanese and foreign finance organizations to activate economic life.


3.c.: Activate the Supreme Economic Organization and widen its sphere of operation in areas of consultation and brainstorming.




4. The Taxation System.

4. The Synod reminds that the issue of tax justice and the effectiveness of the taxation system are some of the chronic issues in Lebanon and requires dealing with swiftly.

4. The Synod calls for the need of amending the taxation system and the necessity of paying taxes, provided the government undertakes to fight gross corruption in government departments through which tax evasion takes place.

5. Administrative Reform.

5. The Synod calls on the government to accomplish administrative reform, which it calls for under every regime.

5. Adopting the principle of qualification and justice, and reward and punishment.

6. Condemning Transgressions Leading to the Outbreak of Corruption.

6. The Synod deplores monetary, economic and social transgressions, which lead to the spread of corruption, misbehavior and the accumulation of appalling wealth in the hands of a few, and the hands of all those employing illegal methods for amassing such wealth.

6.a.: Fighting corruption through serious means and operating in accordance with the already known economic conduct rules that the Church has not ceased disseminating through her many general directives, and as an example, prohibiting monopolizing activities, assuring equal opportunities, fighting corruption in the public sector and the private sector and any collusion between these two.


6.b.: Working to make the relationship between the government and the private sector a transparent one aiming for constant consultation to achieve the goal of the much desired production renaissance, and to prevent some in the private sector from securing from the government special privileges and concessionary positions assuring easy and huge profits at the expense of the Lebanese consumer and the principle of fair competition.


6.c.: Disseminate Church teachings in this context for the sake of sound behavioral enculturation in economic dealings.



[1].  Negre, Pierre, Essais sur les conceptions economiques de Saint Thomas d’Aquin, (Essays on the economical conceptions according to St. Thomas Aquinas) Aix-en-Provence, Imprimerie universitaire de province, 1927

2.  Rerum Novarum (On Capital and Labor)

3.  Quadragesimo Anno (On Reconstruction of the Social Order)

[4].  Mater et Magistra (On Christianity and Social Progress), …Translated and edited by Fr. Haleem Risha, Harakat Adaala wa Mahabba (Movement for Justice and Charity) Publications, Jbeil, pp. 92-93         

[5].  Ibid, pp. 93-94

[6].  Text note: “This is a very important assertion, because it proves that the natural right to private property comes only second in the context of the common objective of material goods. In another passage of this broadcasted encyclical Pius XII firmly states: Every Human being, in his capacity as a living creature endowed with reason, is entitled by nature to a basic right to “use earth’s material goods.”  Then, it is to be noted that he comes forth clearer than Leo XIII and Pius XI, something also confirmed by John XXIII.  Natural right to private property is not therefore an absolute right, because it is conditioned by the inalienable necessity of a fair distribution of material goods.  This approach leads to a radical change in the concepts related to agriculture and agricultural reform, and categorically opposes the classical concept alleging the right to use our property to excess, without giving any attention to the others: the owner owns for the sake of all, “this is the truth of Christianity which is binding to everybody.” Ibid pp. 95-96.

7.  Laborem Exercens (On Human Work)

8.  Sollicitudo Rei Socialis (On the Social Teaching of the Church)

9.  Centesimus Anni (On the Hundredth Anniversary of Rerum Novarum)

[10].  Father Maroun Karam, The Story of Ownership in the Lebanese Maronite Order, Beirut, 1972, p.200.

[11].  Populorum Progressio (On the Development of Peoples)

12.  Gaudium et Spes (Joys and Hopes : Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World)

13. Refer to Encyclical Sollicitudo Rei Socialis (On the Social Teaching of the Church) #7

[14].  “Notre Eglise en question – un dossier de l’Orient culturel”, Beyrouth, Edition de l’Orient, 1969

[15].  Forty Years, translated and edited by the Lazarist Fr. George Abou Jaoudeh; Movement Justice and Charity Publication, Jbeil, p. 96.

Also, refer to Pope Pius XI’s Encyclical Quadragesimo Anno (On Reconstruction of the Social Order), promulgated May 15, 1931, Para. 25.

[16].  Ibid p. 96

[17].  Apostolic Exhortation, A New Hope for Lebanon, p. 151.

[18].  Ibid, p. 153.

[19].  Ibid, p. 153-154.

[20].  Ibid, p. 155.

[21].  You can refer to these important lectures in the book “The Era of the Lebanese Seminar – Fifty Years of Lectures,” Dar Al Nahar Publishers, Beirut.

[22].  Father Lebret worked within the Ministry of General Planning for four years and implemented an important number of studies and surveys with the help of a team of Lebanese and French experts.  The most prominent of those experts was Father Youhanna Maroun, who founded and managed the Institute of Training for Development; and he was one of the pioneers of developmental thought in Lebanon besides other important figures from the different confessions.

[23].  Mission IRFED- Liban, Besoins et possibilities de development du Liban, (Lebanon : Needs  and Possibilities of the Development of Lebanon) 3 vol., Department of Planning,. 16, Beyrouth, 1961

[24].  “Living Conditions of Households in 1997,” Directorate of Central Statistics and “Map of the Living Conditions in Lebanon,” Ministry of Social Affairs and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in Lebanon; “The Socioeconomic Crisis,” the Socioeconomic Council.

[25].  L’entrée des jeunes Libanais dans la vie active et l’émigration (Entrance of the Lebanese youth in the active life and the immigration), 3 volumes, Beirut: Saint Joseph University, 2002.

[26].   Dr. Ibrahim Maroun, Economic Issues placed before the Maronite Patriarchal Synod.

[27].  A note from the work cited in #19 above: “the estimation of this figure is based on statistical data on family income in Lebanon stated in the study of the office of Central Statistics: “Family Living Conditions in 1997”- Dirasat Ih-sa’iyya, Issue #9, February 1998- p. 68

[28].  A note in the source stated in #19 above: “This figure has been calculated based on the statistical data provided by Reach Mass consisting of field studies on Lebanese family income according to religious confessions (unpublished). The figures on the buying power were based on the inflation indicator report published monthly by the association of Lebanese bankers in its Economic Letter, and on studies by UNICEF and the Office of Central Statistics: “Income الدخل” in ‘Study on the Condition of Children in Lebanon 2000’ (p. 65).”

[29].  Note from Ibrahim Maroun’s cited work: “See Pius XI in Ubi Arcano (23 Dec., 1922), where the Pope states the essential principles for the relationship between economics and the Christian Code of Ethics, confirming, at the same time, their distinctiveness and their interconnection.  This is what has been reaffirmed in the encyclical Forty Years.  (Encyclical Para.41)

[30].  Ibid, pp. 107-108 (Encyclical Para. 42)

[31].  Ibid, pp. 108-109  (Encyclical Para. 43)

[32].  In this context, it is noteworthy to mention the generous initiative of one of the emigrants in 2000, who purchased Treasury bond for five years without interest for the sum of one hundred thousand US dollars in order to contribute in the alleviation of the debt crisis and in the hopes that thousands of well-to-do emigrants will follow suit.  We should also shed light on the important donations received by the Lebanese Treasury (52 billion LBP) as compensation for the damages that befell the electrical infrastructure as a result of the Israeli attack in June 1999.  This only shows the readiness of the Lebanese and their abilities to cater to the needs of their country when they feel that there is an atmosphere of change towards the better.