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The Maronite Church and the Land




1.  The Maronite Synod, while addressing the issue of the land, aims to focus the attention on the primordial importance of the land, calling upon the Maronites to become deeply aware of this fact and to love the land that was the dwelling place of their fathers and forefathers and was bequeathed to us as a material and spiritual heritage.  This heritage through and on which the Maronite identity was formed is threatened today by further dissolution and diminishment due to many factors. This fact exposes the Maronite identity itself to disorder, to the loss of historical and spiritual distinction.  For, if a Maronite were to gain the whole world and lose the land on which his historical identity was formed, he would be losing himself.  Moreover, even if the Maronites were to go out to the ends of the earth, and achieve progress, advancement, prosperity and freedom, and contribute to the development of the lands they live in, they would still need the land which personifies their unique identity and ties them to their deep-rooted history.  It is a history of sainthood and the struggle for survival, of witnessing to the faith and to the human values which developed in them through the experience of a long history.


2.  Hence, we will firstly observe the theological and historical constants that confirm the relation to the land and the necessity of safeguarding it in order to preserve the theological and historical data specific to the Maronite identity.  Then, secondly, we will address the status quo and the apprehension and fear it is generating, seeking to present a feasible strategy for the preservation of the land and for its proper exploitation.  We will thirdly conclude by studying the relationship of the Maronites of the expansion with their new land and the land of origin that they may themselves also contribute to the preservation of this land so it may remain for them a sure reference for their cultural, human and religious uniqueness.



Chapter One:


The Constants



First: Faith and Theology Constants


3.  The fiducial concept of the land is based on data from the Holy Bible and on the conclusions drawn by Christian theology embarking from these data and from the mystery of Divine Incarnation.


4.  The Holy Bible specified symbolically from the start the relationship between man and the land.  Man is the son of the land and was, molded from it. Therefore, it is therefore his mother and to it he shall return.  Man was created to till the land, to exploit it and to rule it, even if it should yield him, because of his disobedience, thorns and spines, and forces him to eat his own bread from his own toil and sweat.[1]


The Holy Bible tells us that God called Abraham to leave his land of Mesopotamia and to come to the land of Canaan. He called him to inherit this land along with his descendents and to worship Him and Him alone without idols.  In this sense, the Holy Bible repeatedly reiterates that God called His people to glorify Him and be sanctified in the land which He has bequeathed to them.[2]  From here, the first dimension in the relationship of individuals and peoples with the land that God has conferred on them is the dimension of sanctity, that is, worshipping God, growing in faith and in humanity, and liberation from every idol and polytheism.


On the other hand, God said to Abraham when He called him, “I will bless you; I will make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.  This means that the divine blessing and the inheritance of the land which was bestowed on Abraham and his descendants were not intended for their sanctification and growth alone, but also that they may become a blessing to them, those others who did not receive this calling, and who were not chosen.  Consequently, the second dimension of the relationship of individuals and peoples with the land God gave them is the dimension of the mission, of enlightenment, and the sharing with others of the divine blessing that they have received, along with the right of the other peoples to this land on a par with the people of the Old Testament.


The first dimension, therefore, is the choice and the inheritance for the sake of sanctity and growth, while the second is the call to embark upon a mission of sharing the blessing with others.


5.  Christian theology asserts that the eternal Son of God, who has fulfilled salvific history with his Incarnation, has shown us the full depth of our relationship with the land when he said, “Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth.”  He, himself, lived meekly and modestly in a land that became with him the land of Divine Incarnation, and with its sanctification, every corner of the earth became sanctified so that the Promised Land was no longer just a specific region of the world.  The Church, rather, became the new Promised Land, the Kingdom of God, where every man could worship God in spirit and truth (John 4:23).  However, the land that has witnessed the salvific events and the initial launching of the Church always has a special and distinctive importance in the eyes of those who believe in Christ.  The same is the case with the land that has witnessed the beginnings of the Maronite Church in the eyes of the Maronites.


With Divine Incarnation, the land gained a salvific value; thus, it should be taken care of, safeguarded and respected, because it is no longer the land of man alone, but, has become the land of the Divine Incarnation.  This theological concept of the land has become carved in the depths of the Maronite spirit as we find out from our liturgical prayers and the writings of our blessed fathers.


Thus, we would like to assert here that the presence of the Church in the East is not a coincidence, but rather, the result of a very precious divine gift that God has granted, for the same two aforementioned purposes.  So, considering that the land, on the part of the Maronites, to be a gift from God, makes them respect this gift and give thanks to the Lord for it.  This land becomes for them an expanse for free dignified living, for giving authentic witnessing to Christ, and for having a sound humane interaction with others.  


6.  In this sense, the faith of the Church remains firm today as well.  The Patriarchs of the East expressed this in their numerous letters, namely, that we have a mission in this Orient which we have no right to relinquish.  It is the mission of passing on the blessing God bestowed on us, to all the peoples of the East.  Pope John Paul II called upon us to join them, to carry their concerns, and to enrich them with what we have.[3]  The Pope’s statement was not merely a desire, but an invitation; rather, a prophecy on the mission of Christians in this age.  As for the brethren who left this land for other lands, notwithstanding the reasons behind their old and recent emigration, they too are blessed in the land they live in.  And, if they live up to this call to sanctification and testimony, they too will be a blessing to their new land and to the people living in it.



Second: Sentimental and Humanitarian Constants


7.  The land, in our Tradition, is not a possession that we dispose of at will.  Rather, it is an inheritance from the fathers and the forefathers.  This inheritance is more like a valuable trust or even “a sacred relic.”


8.  Dealing with this inheritance links us with the Creator as well as with past generations who left their inerasable imprints from their toil and blood.  The relationship which ties us with the land-the-inheritance is a spiritual relationship, and consequently, what the land gives us is much more than the material fruits and harvests.  Through this relationship we confirm our unique identity and interconnect with our history.  Our land is truly a living memory and it is, at the same time, a school that teaches us patience, hope, contentment, modesty, honesty, faithfulness, generosity, giving, perseverance and courage.  Even if some Maronites were forced to leave their land for compelling reasons, however, in their majority they still long for it and cherish the high values it represents.  Accordingly, the Maronite is stamped with this ecclesiastical and spiritual trait which distinguishes him.  The land contributes directly to the humanization of the Maronite man and imprints on him its unique traits and qualities.  Our ties to it cannot be strictly interest oriented, but rather, it is also fundamentally sentimental and humane.


9.  If the pressures and tribulation that the Maronites are being subjected to in their homeland humanitarianly justify the massive emigration of many of them to other countries that would host them and provide them with what they were not provided with in their land, then that deprives them, at the same time, of the sentimental interconnection with their land, their history and civilization, and exposes them to becoming a people with no constants and no roots.  That is why our Church is urging her children at large to strengthen their spiritual ties to the land of their ancestors, and to stay closely connected with its residents encouraging them to preserve their land.



Third:  Historical Constants


1.  The Land: Creator of the Historical, Social and Political Identity


10.  Maronite history became tied to Lebanon, the land and the nation, without them ever having to abjure their geographical origin and their ancient and present expansion from Cyrrhus, Antioch, the banks of the Orontes in northern Syria, to Cyprus, Palestine, Egypt, and to Europe, America, Africa and Australia at disparate historical epochs and as a result of difficult and harsh religious, economic and political circumstances.[4]


But, the historical identity of the Maronites, which cannot be renounced, was first rooted in the Antiochene Domain, especially in Lebanon, where the Maronite Church grew, developed and was firmly established.  The Maronite society was influenced by the environment and by the geography in which it existed, having cultivated and irrigated its land through its own toil and sweat.  The land provided the Maronites with their basic needs for a dignified living.  In it they sought shelter from the drainages of the age and from persecutions.  Thus, they were marked by it and they marked it with their faith, their cultural dynamism, and their openness to the various cultures.


2.  The Land: a Homeland and a Mission


11.  The land is the nation and the entity, and its real worth lies in what it embodies in values, experience, and a civilizational and existential dimension.  The expansion of the Maronites throughout Lebanon, and their coexistence with other confessions springs from their fiducial and apostolic values.  The land was not theirs alone; rather, on it, they came across all those yearning for freedom and for a dignified life.  In this manner, Mount Lebanon was formed and consequently, Lebanon, whose name became linked with the Maronites, an essential element of its historical and political entity.


Lebanon the land was and still is the homeland of interface and the acceptance of the other and the opening up toward him.  It is the homeland of the exchange of life experience and cultural experience with the other, despite their contradictions, even if these contradictions lead to bloody conflicts and fights for existence sometimes.


Every land the Maronites settled in, they considered it their own and interacted with it without forgetting their homeland, especially the land of Lebanon.  In their conscience, the land of Lebanon remains the land of their ancestors, of their saints, and of their Patriarchal authority.


3.  The Land is a National and a Collective Heritage: Preserving it is Preserving the Nation and its Constituent Minorities


12.  The land has a fiducial value for Christians in general and Maronites in particular.  This value stems from their belief in the Incarnation.  Their collective memory is conscious of the importance of the cultural and historical accumulation in their land.  The land, in their view, is a heritage and neither a commodity to be traded nor a possession to be disposed of at will.  From here, their main concern was to transfer intact the land that was entrusted to their care to the coming generations to protect it from dissipation and from being traded: “The LORD forbid, that I should give you my ancestral heritage.[5]  From here originates the principle of al-waqfiyaat, the endowments of families with the Maronites and what is known as the progenic waqf.  Preserving the land is preserving the identity, and preserving the identity is preserving the entity and survival.


4.  The Maronite Church and the Land, Yesterday and Today


13.  The Maronites sanctified the land and were sanctified through it.  They borrowed from it the similes and incorporated them in their prayers.[6]  They even instituted “agricultural” feast days such as the feast day of Our Lady of Al-Zourou’ (Our Lady of Crop Planting) and the feast day of Our Lady of Al-Hasaad (Our Lady of the Harvest).  All Maronites used to work the land, from patriarchs to bishops to monks to lay people.  As far as they were concerned, the land was a school of life, and a spirituality they brought their Maronite youth up on.  The Maronite Church, followed by the feudal lords in Lebanon, adopted the system of partnership in the exploitation of her land and to motivate Maronites, who had no land of their own, to work in the land.  This partnership has historically led to the formation of new villages around monasteries.


14.  The transformation of the Maronite society from a rural agricultural society to an urban commercial, industrial and service-oriented society, despite its advantages, has brought with it negative influences on the morality, spirituality and traditions of the Maronites.  Their concerns changed from providing the basic necessities (a contented farmer is a sultan in disguise) to seeking luxury and comfort even if at the expense of their conscience, integrity and, at times, their human and Christian principles.  


Working on the land, before being a benefit or a sport, is a Christian and spiritual value.  From here sprang the monastic code “pray and work.”


History stands witness that all the ancient monasteries as well as archbishoprics and parish churches all owned awqaaf and real property[7] in which Maronite monks, and oftentimes, bishops toiled alongside believers, partners in work.  After the re-organization of monastic life toward the end of the 17th century, monastic orders turned their attention to the land, and monks became agricultural pioneers, and princes enlisted their help in teaching their subjects to read and write, and to care for the land.


15.  This working-the-land-partnership between monks, priests and sometimes bishops on the one hand and believers on the other, stamped the life of believers with the spiritual dimensions which their clergymen and monks embraced in simplicity and spontaneity.  As with the partnership of work, so was it with the Divine Office prayer, the Eucharist, and worship.  That is why it is necessary to return to the land and to revive the spirit of partnership and unity between the clergy, the monks and believers using modern and advanced methods, while protecting our gain in new values due to our civic openness and to keeping pace with international progress.


Fourth: Environmental Constants


1.  From the Sentimental and Spiritual Points of View


16.  The Maronite loved the land from which he came into existence, irrigating it with his sweat and blood, defending it and caring for it.  He respected it and it respected him back and filled him from its yield.  He also had sympathy for it and he sang its praise.[8] He safeguarded it, because it is, in the first place, part of God’s good work and, secondly, that it may preserve , nourish and safeguard him.  The land is the mother of every living being, “You are dust, and to dust you shall return” (Genesis 3:19), and it is sacred because it holds the remains of the fathers, the forefathers and the saints.


2.  From the Natural and Environmental Points of View


17.  Environment is the milieu in which man lived and is living past, present and future.  In the past, the Maronite knew how to preserve his natural environment without disfiguring it.  He had recourse to the elements of nature in his work, in building his house, and in his way of life and in eating.  However, the Maronite of today, just like the consumer society, is prone to the neglect of nature, and tends to be wasteful and dealing with it selfishly, thinking only of his immediate benefit.


On the other hand, the wave of desertification resulting from deforestation without re-planting, has led Lebanon and the Maronites to lose a rare natural heritage.  Suffice to contemplate the number of cedar trees remaining from the cedars of Lebanon, which the Holy Bible gave praise to, and to see what forest wealth has been lost due to the war and inadvertent fires and arson, and what is being cut down daily, to realize the proportions of the disaster we are facing. 


Furthermore, the ongoing use of non-degradable material coupled with haphazard   waste dumping are factors which lead to a long term scarring of nature, especially since we lack environmental awareness and education in the family and in schools.  Our environment is fundamentally rich and good, and needs to be safeguarded, preserving it from damage.  Our Maronite Church is in voluntary solidarity with numerous international environmental organizations and with national and local associations.  She encourages her sons and daughters to join them and cooperate with them for the sake of preserving a healthy environment.


3.  From the Health Point of View


18.  If man is the son of his environment then the environment has a bearing on the health of man either negatively or positively.  Thus, there is nothing better than respecting nature to preserve one’s health.  There is no doubt that the quality of life of the Maronite of the past was sounder than that of the Maronite of today.  Pollution, resulting from a mechanized and industrialized culture, reflects negatively on the health of man who did not yet fully grasp, as he should, the environmental hazards that threaten him presently and in the future, as a result of his neglect or his selfishness in opting for quick material gain.


4.  From the Aesthetic and Touristic Point of View


19.  The nature of the landscape on which the Maronites lived was beautiful in its diversity.  Orientalists and explorers have many times described it and were thrilled by it.  Suffice, consequently, not to mutilate its beauty (for example, by cutting down trees or by littering), so that it will remain a sound living framework protective of man, enchanting him and attracting tourists.  Despite the environmental neglect this land has been exposed to, it still represents an important center for recently launched environmental tourism.


5.  From the Architectural and Cultural Point of View


20.  The Maronites of centuries past have left behind for us an architectural heritage inspired by their close ties to the land and its natural environment.  This heritage, no matter how simple, represents a priceless cultural wealth.  However, due to modern architecture, old architecture suffered neglect to such a degree that we have almost lost all essential landmarks in our history and our culture.  Accordingly, the Synod Fathers exhort the sons and daughters of their Church and all citizens to restore esteem to cultural architecture.  They also acclaim the recent attempted return to the old data in art and architecture, developing them to interact with requirements of the epoch.


Chapter Two:


The Land: Status and Hope



21.  After highlighting the constants in the first part, we now deal with the status quo and we try to form a future vision so as to limit the negative effects of this reality and develop the positive elements that it may contain.  Perhaps, then, our Church will  make an effective contribution, not only by parading negatives and complaints about our status quo, but also in forming a new perspective of the land corresponding to the fiducial and historical constants, and to adopt a practical plan in order to preserve the land and to better exploit it.  In this way, she will provide future generations with better chances for survival and continuity, and for a sound balanced growth, and a dignified life within the heritage of the fathers and forefathers.


1.  The Status Quo


22.  Our Church contemplates with much apprehension what the present situation on our land has come to, in the countries of the Patriarchal Domain in general, and in Lebanon in particular.  This apprehension is increasing day by day as a result of abandoning the land, year after year, and subjecting it to neglect and sale.  In certain countries, the governing regimes have nationalized private lands and consequently deprived Christians, like others, of their sacred right.  In yet other countries, due to war and displacement, Christians were obliged to stay away from their land.  This drove them, and still does, to abandon it, to neglect it or to sell it, as is the case in Cyprus, Lebanon and Palestine.  If this recent development persists, it will force us to seriously question the future presence of Christians in general in the East and of the Maronites in particular, especially those in Lebanon, the country-mission of free and mutual coexistence, interacting with the others.[9]


23.  Statistics have shown that, during the last thirty years, the Christians of Lebanon have lost a large portion of their lands.  There are regions that have become almost void of an effective Christian presence, and much land has been sold to non-Christians of Lebanese and non-Lebanese origin.  Also, the interest in buying lands in regions known to have been historically Christian regions by non-Christians and foreigners is increasing day by day.  The land is almost turning from a sacred inheritance bequeathed to man by God into a commercial commodity in order to acquire quick gain.  Perhaps the most serious scourge, for the Lebanese in general and the Maronites and Christians in particular, is the migration from the villages to the city in search of employment, work and education, lured by the possibilities of scientific and social growth and by the means of leisure and entertainment available in the city.   This scourge that began spreading in the middle of the 20th century, led to the neglect of lands, the neglect of their exploitation and the adoption of a careless attitude toward its material and moral worth. 


24. The status quo proves that the Maronite is an ambitious and adventurous human being who is passionate about development and progress.  He always ventures into what he believes is useful and beneficial for him even at the cost of being cut off from his environment, history and land.  However, can he not have the one without abandoning the other?  And, is it rational for Maronites to abandon their lands, their culture and the mission entrusted to them by God in this East?  Could the Maronites maintain their distinctive characteristics, if they were to forsake their land and the landmarks of their history?  We believe that the Maronites today still have enough possibilities, distinctive character, and other human means which would allow them to progress, even to be pioneers in the human quest for development, all the while preserving, perhaps, just by preserving their land, values, heritage and mission, without abdicating the new possibilities and progress which they have gained through their engagement in civic society.  For that to take place, it is necessary to have a futuristic vision and a comprehensive developmental strategy.


2.  A Comprehensive, Developmental Strategy for Preserving the Land


25.  This comprehensive developmental strategy emanates from the aforementioned status quo.  The negative factors that led to the neglect, abandonment, and maybe sometimes the sale of the land must be taken into consideration.  The Maronite society transformed very quickly during the second half of the past century from an agricultural society to a service-oriented one.  Today, traditional agriculture is no longer sufficient to keep pace with the progress of education, social development, and global openness.  Instead of caring for the farmer and encouraging him to stay in his natural environment, and rather than assisting him to keep up the process of development while caring for his land, the state has ignored agriculture and the rural regions and has not provided the modern means to facilitate work and increase and diversify production.  Nor has the state helped to find the proper external markets to promote exports.  The farmer has been left alone without any support or guidance or compensation in the event of natural disasters which may wipe out harvests.  This is, considering that the majority of the Lebanese, and among them the Maronites, are small landowners, and therefore, their usual income from agriculture is no longer sufficient to meet the mounting needs, from education, to hospitalization and housing.  Thus, they went about looking for jobs and services which would ensure a steady income with educational and hospitalization benefits.


26.  These facts lead us to the conviction that calling on Maronites to return to care for the land will remain a desire which would find no positive echo, unless it is based on a comprehensive developmental vision or strategy for having agriculture as one of its components.  Development is a collection of mental and social changes which upgrades peoples and impels them to augment their effective Gross National Product in an accrued and continuous manner.  It is also the result of a political thought expressed in social and economic choices followed by long term implementation.  That is why all forces should work together: the state, the Church and institutions, to devise this strategy.  Given the short distances, attention may be given to rural areas without relinquishing special interests in urban areas.


27.  Perhaps the following points may represent the most important issues upon which to focus:


a.       The state must realize the importance of the land and commit to preserving it and to helping farmers make better use of it.  It must also be vigilant to prevent its sale to foreigners through the sound implementation of the law of land ownership by foreigners.[10]  Thus, it would put an end to the chaotic real estate competitions that have marked the last thirty years, which, in some regions, have led to an outrageous land transfer from one confession to another.  This is if the state realizes the importance of conviviality, interaction, and fusion among the Lebanese.


b.      The Church, with her spiritual authority and her prominent lay figures who are responsible for the politics of the nation, is to endeavor to mobilize government administrations, activating them as is required.  She is to undertake all possible initiatives starting from the private property of the Church, in cooperation with the laity, to establish efficient agricultural cooperatives that will encourage farmers and especially the youth to return to their villages and rural areas to exploit their land in a now and efficient manner.  These cooperatives can further evolve the old idea of partnership which was in force between the awqaaf and the monasteries, on one side, and the laity, on the other.  In this regard, the Maronite Church encourages the youth to buy land and houses for themselves in the rural areas, following the principle that each Maronite is to be a landowner.


c.       The state must give direction to local agricultural production and protect it from foreign competition, and to provide the possibility of exporting the surplus to foreign markets.  Otherwise, the farmer would be exposed to despair and neglect of the land in pursuit of service jobs that secure a decent living.


d.      The state and the Church must cooperate to provide rural areas with the necessary educational, health care and service institutions, with the possibility of erecting small factories or vocational workshops so as to provide work opportunities for rural residents.  In this way, these areas will not be emptied of their inhabitants, which would otherwise lead to overcrowded cities and neglected land.


e.       The cooperation between the Church and the state is also necessary so as to amend the laws of al-awqaaf and to simplify real estate procedures, whether to preserve the land or exploit it in more appropriate ways than at present.


f.       The Church must strive, along with foreign institutions such as the European Common Market and the Food and Agriculture Organization, to benefit from international expertise in exploiting the land according to the diversification of climate and environment.  Agricultural rationalization, diversification and the manufacturing of agricultural products, in as much as that is possible, have all become necessities for saving and developing agriculture.


g.      Developing forestation would effectively contribute in preserving a sound environment and would encourage tourism and summer vacationing.  There are green areas which should be preserved and other areas which have become barren and must be forested.  Hence, cooperation between Church and state here is also necessary in order to develop this natural resource and to increase the number of natural reserves and protected forests.  The Church encourages the undertaking of serious initiatives leading to the forestation of Lebanese regions, such as naming new forests after Maronite communities in the Countries of Expansion, or after local associations, organizations, or clubs;


h.      There are numerous areas in Lebanon which may be made use of agriculturally if irrigation water was to be made available.  That is why we ought to benefit from the abundance of rain and snow which God bestows on us throughout the winter season, and from what bursts out of our springs, by erecting dams and ponds to collect these waters and employ them in the service of agriculture.


i.        For the preservation and exploitation of the land, it is important for us to appreciate its worth, so new generations may be raised to love and care for it.  That is why an integrated educational policy ought to be drawn up, starting from the family passing through educational and academic institutions, whether public or private.  This policy should aim at acquainting new generations with the nature of our land and its wealth, at promoting and encouraging successful agricultural expertise, at organizing seminars related to the land and heritage, and the publishing of books and magazines and all channels of knowledge related to nature and rural traditions.  Furthermore, planning agricultural festivals and motivating the youth to participate in them and in the picking and harvest seasons, is one of the most successful methods of creating awareness as to the value and the love of the land.


j.        Presently, and for the purpose of preserving the land and putting a halt to its sale, and maybe, for the sake of purchasing new land, it is indispensable to establish a cooperative fund or a real estate company or a private bank under the supervision of the Maronite Patriarchate funded by the wealthy Christians, and especially the Maronites, in Lebanon and in the Countries of Expansion.  This bank would function, not for profit or investment, but to salvage the real estate that is at risk of being sold, by mortgaging it and lending its owners funds they are in need of.  This bank, if provided with the proper capabilities, would also be able to contribute to the revival of towns and villages, whose inhabitants suffered displacement during the war.  It would help establish pioneering agricultural projects in the various regions.     


Without such intervention, the land will remain liable to be sold, and with the passage of time, the Maronite Church would lose a large portion of what is left of the elements of her survival. 


Chapter Three:


The Land and the Maronites of the Expansion


28.  The Maronites of the expansion, living outside the domain of the Patriarchate of Antioch, share with contemporary man all the dimensions of human life and its values. They are aware of the global problems resulting from industrial progress threatening all the peoples of the earth with pollution, disease, and erosion of the atmosphere that protects our planet from rays and toxic gases.  They are also aware of the importance of the relationship of man with nature and the land, and the necessity of maintaining the safety of agricultural yields, and the effect all that has on the physical and psychological health of man, and its direct repercussions on his spirituality and his own future.  On this level, the Maronites of the expansion come together with their brethren living in the Patriarchal Domain, as well as with all bearers of goodwill, to work in total commitment for the safekeeping of the land and the environment, simply because it is a common global treasure and a public good for all humanity.  Contemporary man becomes more certain, day after day, of the authenticity of his affiliation to a unified world.  Means of communication and the advanced paths of knowledge have contributed in bridging the distance between one continent and another, and in linking the corners of the earth with each other.  All this enabled the man of today to feel the comprehensiveness of the affiliation to the world, and that he is no longer the citizen of one country, but rather, the whole world has become his country.


Due to his presence virtually everywhere, the Maronite, more than anyone else, is experiencing the reality of this globalization in an intuitive way, perhaps more than other people.  However, contemporary man has also begun to feel the importance of cultural and historical affiliation and that the world of today is the heir of this accumulation left behind by previous generations.  Thus, man cannot be uprooted from his historical roots.  Rather, these roots ought to be preserved and the relationship with them consolidated, so that the present may remain in touch with the past, feeding on its wealth, and progressing by maintaining its originality and distinctiveness.  Accordingly, the Maronite Synod addresses all the Maronites in the Countries of Expansion reminding them that they are the bearers of a unique mission emanating from their relationship with their adopted land with their homeland.



First: The Relationship between the Maronites in Countries of Expansion and their Adopted Land


29. The spread of the Maronites today in most regions of the world may be considered as a source of wealth to them and to the world.  The Maronites are bearers of a heritage and spiritual and human values, propagating them and witnessing to them wherever they settle.  The historical experience which the fathers and the forefathers lived through in their relationship with the land, sanctifying it and becoming sanctified through the trustworthy and honest interaction with it, remains carved in the spirits of the sons and daughters even if their living conditions were to change.  Human entity is a result of the accrual of natural data and spiritual experiences passed on by generations, molding with the passage of time the unique character of a people or of a nation.  On the basis of what was mentioned in the first section concerning the Maronites’ fiducial and historical constants, one may say that for the Maronite, wherever he may be found, the mark of these constants will always keep on influencing his mentality and conduct for many generations to come.  The Maronites of the expansion should fully comprehend these constants that their love for their new land in the countries to which they now belong must be sincere and honest.  For it is a land that has hosted them and helped them form a future and a family.  The new land has provided them, in some cases, with what the homeland did not provide their fathers and forefathers with, from an easy life, to leisure, numerous guarantees, and perhaps also fame and fortune.  It is hence their duty, and a right this land has over them, to be faithful to it, to love it and to link their destiny to it, because it embraces them and allows them to achieve their legitimate ambitions and to build a promising future for them and their children.  In this new land, the Maronites express their faith in God according to rites and rituals they inherited from their ancestors, and they stand witness to the fiducial and spiritual dimensions deeply rooted in them.  In this manner, they transfer the wealth of their tradition and faith to the children of this land.  Thus, in this manner, they contribute to their sanctification and their enrichment, and the conveying of the Christian Good News perhaps to other peoples.  They would continue to bear witness before them of the wealth of the Eastern Christian heritage of which they are descendants and to which they belong.



Second: The Relationship of the Maronites of the Expansion with the Homeland


1.  Status Quo


30.  The number of Maronite immigrants is many times greater than the number of Maronites in the homeland.  It is common knowledge that the historical circumstances that drove large numbers of them to leave their land and their homeland were of a force majeure nature due to wars, oppression and economic constraints.  Few were those who decided to emigrate willingly, while many were forced to leave their country in search of work and free dignified living in a faraway land.  News of the sufferings of the first generations in the Countries of Expansion and the dangers and hardships they faced is still vivid in the minds of the grandchildren.  To them, it is a source of pride and boasting.  It also portrays a touching human experience which stirs emotions and reminds them of a past that is worth noting in the modern history of the Maronites.


31.  Those first emigrants left their homeland coerced, not at the hands of parents who loved them, nor running away from a land they were dedicated to serving, but due to harsh and unjust circumstances.  That is why their nostalgia for the homeland remained strong, and also their compassion for their parents, providing them with help whenever means became available.  They raised their children and grandchildren on the love of the homeland and longing for the origin, the seat of their Patriarchate and their saints.  When they were followed by new waves of emigrants, they would welcome them and extend a lending hand that they may spare them a portion of the hardships they themselves endured before them.  It may be said that the process of expansion, from the first half of the 19th century until today, is still ongoing, even if circumstances and reasons have varied. This expansion is still very perceptive of the problems of the countries of origin and compassionate toward their residents.  It is also ready to participate in finding existential solutions for relatives in these countries, but within programmed executable plans.  From here, and without ignoring personal initiatives, it is indispensable to draft a practical plan to encourage immigrants to keep on supporting the countries of origin, and to derive benefit from this support the best way possible in order to preserve the land, to utilize it and to consolidate those living in it.  One is to bear in mind that such a plan must also be beneficial to the immigrants.  It is also necessary to draw attention to the fact that there are many immigrants who have forgotten about their homeland, and no longer have any contact with it or with their relatives.  This number is susceptible to increase year after year in the absence of a practical plan securing contact with them, stirring in them the sentiment of cultural belonging.


2.  The Desirable Plan


32.  Any plan of this sort should be based, first and foremost, on a comprehensive quantitative and qualitative statistical operation.  Hence, a specialized committee must be formed for that purpose.  It must then be followed by permanent and periodic contacts between the Patriarchate and the different Maronite communities in the world, to benefit from the modern means available to ensure such relations.  These relations would inform the Maronites in the world at large of the official position of their Church on different issues, and deliver to them objective reports on the situation in their nations of origin, also inspiring them as to what may be done to help serve these nations, based on the spirit of (cooperation) to which our history attests.


As for the land, there is a wide scope for the participation of immigrants in its preservation and exploitation.  For example, erecting twinning between immigrants and their original home villages or cities according to which developmental projects would be established, whereby immigrants will have the opportunity to contribute and own land or houses.  Immigrants, especially the youth, could be encouraged to come to their countries of origin and spend their long vacations in them with well studied programs intended to enroll them in appropriate agricultural seasons, such as harvest, for example, and to acquaint them with their intellectual, folkloric and ritual heritage, and with the current capabilities available in Maronite universities from which they may derive benefit for themselves or benefit others.  This may also be through common summer camps with the local youth, or through seminars studying possibilities of interconnection between residents and immigrants.


Such projects will inevitably encourage residents and deep root the cultural heritage in immigrants.  Thus the relationship with the homeland will not remain a mere link built on nostalgia and memories only, but rather, gain an actual dimension and deepen the bonds of kinship and friendship with their homeland and with their families therein.


It is only natural that ecclesiastical, monastic, and national institutions and social clubs should participate in organizing cultural tourism for the people living in the countries of expansion to acquaint them with their noble heritage and the beauty and diversity of nature, as well as with the historic and important archeological sites specific to Maronites.




33.  The bond between the Maronite and his land is a sacred and vital one.  It is a bond with the values and with the material, moral, spiritual and ethical heritage.  The land draws the Maronite to his history and his roots and builds for him the landmarks of his identity and his religious and cultural affiliation.  If we have focused on Lebanon, it is not because the other countries of origin are less important, but rather because the Lebanese entity is closely tied to the Maronites. Ever since the emergence of their Church, the Maronites have taken Lebanon as their headquarters.  Then, their Patriarchate moved to it, and still stands solid on its rocks.  Lebanon has become the land of rebirth and of sanctity, and at the same time, the land of Christian witnessing that is open to dialogue and to mutual coexistence with other Christian and non-Christian confessions.  In spite of the many wars waged on it, its land has become the land of free mutual coexistence.  It is the land of the mission nation.  Therefore, it ought to be preserved so that the mission may remain, and that the dialogue between civilizations and religions may have a homeland whose history is mutual coexistence and whose mission is dialogue.


Moreover, the presence of the Maronites in Syria, Palestine, and the other countries of the East, is of great importance.  We must strive with the other churches and also with those belonging to non-Christian religions, especially the Muslims, to strengthen citizenry relationship among citizens so as to preserve and activate the common heritage in the service of dialogue and rapprochement between religions and cultures.








1. Forming and Educating on the Importance of the Land.

1. The Synod recommends rediscovering the importance of the land, crystallizing the values associated with it and safeguarding it.

1.a.: Introduce the new generations to the importance of the land and its wealth through programs, seminars, formation and enlightenment.


1.b.: Reviving agricultural carnivals and festivals and urging the youth to participate in them.


1.c.: Organize the harvest and yield season.


1.d.: Encourage Maronites of the expansion to buy land and houses.


1.e.: Establish twinning between those in the expansion and their original villages.


1.f.: Endeavor to encourage those in the expansion to return to the land of origin as part of prepared programs such as summer camps and religious tourism.


2. An All Encompassing Development Strategy to preserve Land and Water.

2. The Synod recommends that the government, the Church and institutions join forces to come up with an all encompassing development strategy to preserve land and water.

2.a.: The government is to see  that laws about land ownership by foreigners are abided by.


2.b.: The government is to protect local agricultural products from outside competition and assure the capability of exporting the surplus to foreign markets.


2.c.: Erect agricultural cooperatives to encourage farmers to return to the countryside, exploit their land in a good and beneficial way, and guide them to alternative agriculture good for export and for processing.


2.d.: Establishing small factories and vocational shops to provide avenues for work, which would not empty the countryside of its people.





3. Partnership between the Sons and Daughters of the Church.

3. The Synod recommends developing the idea of partnership, which was prevailing of old between eparchies and monastic orders on the one hand, and the laity on the other.

3.a.: The Church is seeking through foreign institutions such as the European Common Market and the Food Agricultural Organization to benefit from international experience in land exploitation with respect to varied climates, environments and new needs.


3.b.: Undertake cooperation with the Supreme Economic Organization of the Maronite Patriarchate for the purpose of presenting ideas and crystallizing initiatives.


3.c.: Coordination is to be achieved through the College of Agriculture at the Holy Spirit University – Kaslik.

4. Protecting the Environment.

4. The Synod charges eparchies and monastic orders with protecting the environment on their lands and endowments and launch an educational campaign on the environment.

4. Specialize personnel in this domain, and establishing eparchial level committees to follow up on this subject and launch educational campaigns on the environment at schools and institutes.

5. Forestation of the Lebanese Regions.

5. The Synod charges Church authorities to take the initiative for the forestation of all Lebanese regions.

5.a.: Strive for the creation of new natural preserves and protecting what is in it.


5.b.: Planting forests to be named after societies, organizations, and local clubs, and after Maronite congregations of the expansion.

6. Water.

6. Water constitutes a natural resource that must be preserved through preventing squandering and pollution, exploiting it scientifically and distributing it fairly.

6. Parents and administrations of schools and universities should be asked to disseminate the necessary enlightenment on the importance of water and the methods of its use to safeguard a healthy environment at the service of every human being.






7. The Sea.

7. The sea with its waters and shores and what wealth it contains is one of the environmental gifts of God. Therefore, we must safeguard it and exploit it in the service of all.

7.a.: The government is to lay down programs to protect the shoreline from pollution and transgressions, contributing with the private sector to consolidate employment through investments in piscatorial wealth to create further job opportunities and provide the products of the sea that the Lebanese market needs.


7.b.: Erect the “College of Marine Sciences.”





[1].  See the first three chapters of Genesis.

[2].  Genesis 12:1-6; Deuteronomy 6:1-2.

[3].  Refer to Pope John Paul II Apostolic Exhortation: A New Hope for Lebanon, No. 93.

[4].  Maronite history has witnessed numerous waves of emigration in quest of the liberty of faith, seeking to live in freedom, dignity and independence. Refer to the Text: The Maronite Church in Her Global Expansion.

[5].  Naboth the Jezreelite to King Ahab in 1 Kings 21:3.

[6].  We cite as an example the fact that communal prayers refer to Christ as “the good farmer who came to root out the weeds which were sown by Satan in the garden of Adam’s descendants.” (Refer to the Sunday Vespers for ordinary time, the second hymnal, the second passage).  Christ Himself is also “the grain of seed that was accepted by Mary in her womb as a fertile soil (Refer to the hymnal of the procession of the offerings during Mass); moreover, almsgiving and the works of mercy are compared to the seeds brought by the farmer who takes them to sow them in the fields, which are the poor and the needy.  So, as the sower carries the seeds and goes to the fields to sow them and does not wait for the fields to come to him, in the same way, the faithful is called upon to go forth to those in need and not wait for them to come to him. (See Bo’ooto of Thursday evening during season of Great Lent).

[7].  Early in its history, the Maronite Church became aware of the importance of al-Waqf in relation to monasteries, parishes, and educational as well as social institutions; accordingly, as soon one was established, it would assign it al-waqf, so as to secure its existential viability, as has been the case with the school of Ain Waraqa, as an example.

[8].  It is striking how in folklore there is an abundance of singing the praise of the land, nature, crop yield and the various harvest seasons.

[9].  We note that the Maronite presence in Lebanon represents an element of fusion and of communal living among other communities, especially those with non-Christian affiliation.  In fact, the Maronite mixes easily with the Druze, the Sunnis, and with the Shiites, thus facilitating the possibility of the living together of these communities.

[10].  Following the numerous interjections of the open Conference of Superiors General in Lebanon, the Lebanese government yielded to their demand to modify the decree issued in 1959 concerning the appropriation of land by foreigners, which became ratified in 1964.  In these interjections, the Superiors General succeeded in limiting the area that may be owned by a foreigner.  They also imposed other restrictions on land ownership by foreigners, and those were ratified by a government decree in 1969.