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Family Tree(membership in each Christian group has grown considerably)

 

Christianity Branches

A simplified diagram of the various branches of Christianity. The purple line shows the Oriental Orthodox Church (also sometimes referred to as the Jacobite Church or the West Syrian Church). The Yellow line Shows the Assyrian Church of the East (also some times called as Nestorian Church or the East Syrian church)

 

Syriac Christian Churches.svg

source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Syriac_Christianity

 

Eastern Catholics World Wide

 

Eastern Catholics in US

 

Emb-
lem

Name

Year United or Legally Established

Rite

Seat

Status

Juris-
dictions

Bishops

Members

Albanian Byzantine Catholic Church

1628

Byzantine

FierAlbania

Eparchy

1

1

3,845

 543px Igreja armênica católica.svg

Armenian Catholic Church

1742

Armenian

BeirutLebanon

Patriarchate

17

15

1,000,000

Belarusian Greek Catholic Church

1596

Byzantine

(Belarus)

Bulgarian Greek Catholic Church

1861

Byzantine

SofiaBulgaria

Eparchy

1

1

10,000

 Chaldean Catholic COA.svg

Chaldean Catholic Church

1552, 1692

East Syrian

BaghdadIraq

Patriarchate

22

17

490,371

 Coptic Sertoth

Coptic Catholic Church

1741

Alexandrian

CairoEgypt

Patriarchate

7

10

163,630

Eritrean Catholic Church[59]

2015

Alexandrian

AsmaraEritrea

Metropolitanate

4

5

155,480[59]

 Ethiopian Catholic Church cross

Ethiopian Catholic Church

1846

Alexandrian

Addis AbabaEthiopia

Metropolitanate

4

4

229,547

Byzantine Catholic Church of Croatia and Serbia[60](p1140)

1611

Byzantine

KriževciCroatia;
Ruski KrsturSerbia

Eparchy

3

4

58,915

Greek Byzantine Catholic Church

1829

Byzantine

AthensGreece

Eparchy

2

1

2,525

Hungarian Greek Catholic Church

1646

Byzantine

NyíregyházaHungary

Metropolitanate

3

2

290,000

Italo-Albanian
Byzantine Catholic Church

1784(independent hierarchy)
(Never separated)

Byzantine

(Southern ItalySicily)

Eparchy

3

2

61,487

Macedonian Greek Catholic Church

2008

Byzantine

SkopjeMacedonia

Exarchate

1

2

15,037

 574px Coat of Arms of the Maronite Patriarchate.svg

Maronite Church

4th c.
(Never separated)

West Syrian

BkerkeLebanon

Patriarchate

25

41

3,290,539

 Melkite Patriarch Gregorios III coat of arms.svg

Melkite Greek Catholic Church

1726

Byzantine

DamascusSyria

Patriarchate

25

30

1,614,604

Romanian Greek Catholic Church

1697

Byzantine

BlajRomania

Major archiepiscopate

6

8

160,000

Russian Greek Catholic Church

1905

Byzantine

NovosibirskRussia

Ruthenian Byzantine Catholic Church

1646

Byzantine

PittsburghUnited States

Metropolitanate(U.S.)

6

7

646,243

Slovak Byzantine Catholic Church

1646

Byzantine

PrešovSlovakia

Metropolitanate

4

5

239,394

 Syriac Catholic Church logo

Syriac Catholic Church

1781

West Syrian

BeirutLebanon

Patriarchate

14

10

158,818

 Malabar Nasrani cross

Syro-Malabar Catholic Church

Apostolic Origin.Never separated[61]]

East Syrian

Ernakulam-AngamalyIndia

Major archiepiscopate

32

58

4,628,591

 Malankara Seal

Syro-Malankara Catholic Church

1930

West Syrian

TrivandrumIndia

Major archiepiscopate

6

8

420,081

 Brasão da Igreja Greco Católica Ucraniana

Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church

1595

Byzantine

KievUkraine

Major archiepiscopate

31

44

4,350,735

Other jurisdictions

Ordinariates

1

-

147,600

Total

23

8

214

255

18,775,421

 Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eastern_Catholic_Churches

 

 

Welcome To St Joseph Maronite Catholic Church

stjospehs

On the mountains of Lebanon, in this mystical land, in these deep valleys, among these white mountains,in the land of honey and milk, in the nation of the Cedar and the Alphabet, in the Phoenician land, there the Maronite Church, the smallest of all the churches, has grown like a mustard seed and became a tree,so that several churches and denominations have come to be sheltered in its branches. The history of the Maronites was sealed by persecution and martyrdom for the sake of Faith, Freedom, and Independence.


Who are the Maronites? What is the Maronite Church?
The Maronites are those Christians who gathered around a monastery called Bet Moroon or the House of Maron built in 452 on the Orontes River, after the Council of Chalcedon and the request of Pope Leo. Those Christians who defended their faith in Jesus Christ, human and divine, were called Maronites after a hermit priest, St. Maron, who was a great saint in that region of Syria.

St. Maron
St. Maron lived on the mountains of Cyrrhus, near Antioch, in the 4th century AD, in the open air. God bestowed on him the gift of healing, which made his fame spread in the entire region. St. Maron died around the year 410 AD. His disciples continued his mission. Abraham the hermit, the apostle of Lebanon, converted the Phoenician inhabitants of the mountains of Lebanon. Jebbet Bsharre and Mnaytra adopted Christianity. The Phoenician pagans became Maronite Christians.

Bet Moroon
In 451, the fathers of the Church held a meeting at the Council of Chalcedon. They clarified the teaching of the Church concerning the person of Jesus Christ. They proclaimed that Jesus Christ was both human and divine. The Maronites strongly defended the Council of Chalcedon, which made the Monophysites their bitter enemies. Pope Leo requested to build a monastery for the disciples of St. Maron on the Orontes River. The monastery was called Bet Moroon. The conflict between the Maronites and the Monophysites led to a strong persecution that left 350 martyrs and many refugees in 517. The Maronites informed Pope Hormizdes about their struggle for the sake of faith and their martyrs. The pope of Rome sent them a letter to strengthen the Maronites describing the Maronite martyrs as soldiers of Jesus Christ and members of his Living Body.

St. John Maron
Around 685, the Maronites appointed a Patriarch, St. John Maron, who became the first Patriarch on the Maronite Church, which made the Byzantine Emperor furious about that. The appointing of the Patriarch was a very important event in the history of the Maronites, which led to another persecution that left 500 martyrs. The monastery of Bet Moroon was damaged. Many Maronites left their lands in Syria and joined their brethren in the mountains of Lebanon. In the valleys of Lebanon, the Maronite Church began to grow.


 

The Mountains of Lebanon
In 936, the monastery of Bet Moroon and other Maronite monasteries were completely destroyed in Syria. That persecution was aimed at Christians. They were persecuted for the sake of Jesus Christ. The Maronites and their Patriarch had to take a very difficult decision: to leave the rich plains of Syria and take the mountains of Lebanon as a refuge. The Aramaic/ Syriac Maronites joined the Phoenician Maronites and the Mardaites in Lebanon. Protected by the mountains of Lebanon, the Maronites and their Patriarch were organizing their Church away from persecution.

The Crusades
For 350 years, the Maronites have been isolated in the valleys and mountains of Lebanon until the beginning of the crusades. When the Crusaders invaded the East, they were surprised when they found out about the existence of the Maronites. The Pope of Rome himself was astonished. During the Crusades Period, the Maronites succeeded in building relationships with France (especially after the visit of St Louis, King of France) and the Pope of Rome.

The Mamlooks
At the end of the crusades and after the defeat of the Crusaders, the Maronites were attacked by the Mamlooks. Between 1268 and 1283, persecution began with the Mamlooks, who attacked the strongholds of the Maronites sowing destruction in Ehden, Bsharre, Hadath El-Jibbet, Meifook, and other villages. They captured the Maronite Patriarch and sent him to his death. Between 1291 and 1305, the Mamlooks destroyed Kesrwan and the Maronites were forbidden to enter it. The Maronites had to learn how to survive and to protect their freedom. But in 1357, they became divided against themselves: The Maronites of Byblos-Batroun against those of Bsharre. Consequently, the Mamlooks invaded Byblos and Batroun, destroying their villages, and burning their Patriarch alive in 1367. Many people escaped to Cyprus. The Maronites lost their freedom. Because of the many disasters that happened in the world in that period of time (13th- 16th century), especially in the Middle East, the Pope of Rome, Leo X described the Maronite Church as a rose among thorns, an impregnable rock in the sea, unshaken by the waves and fury of the thundering tempest.

The Ottomans Independence
In 1516, the Ottomans defeated the Mamlooks. The Maronites were granted protection by France. They expanded in Lebanon and mixed with other minorities. The Maronites built churches, founded religious orders, formed schools, and cultivated arid lands. The valleys and the mountains were filled with monks and hermits. Many families converted to Christianity, joined the Maronite Church, and participated in the table of the Lord. But between 1845 and 1860, hatred was incited by the Ottomans, who worked so hard to break the Maronites spirit of independence. Dozens of villages, churches, and monasteries were
completely destroyed. Thousands were martyred or displaced, and many immigrated. The persecution returned between 1914 and 1918, when the Ottomans blocked the roads to the mountains of Lebanon causing a human disaster. Tens of thousands of people died of famine and diseases, and thousands immigrated. After the First World War, Lebanon was liberated from the Ottomans. France, Lebanon's compassionate mother, entered the mountains of Lebanon. The Maronite Patriarch left for Paris. He arrived on October 25th, 1919. He requested the recognition of Lebanon as an independent country. On September 1st, 1920, General Gouraud proclaimed the State of Greater Lebanon in the presence of the Maronite Patriarch. In 1943, Lebanon won its independence.

Persecution & Diaspora
Peace did not last too long. Between 1975 and 1990, Lebanon experienced a destructive war. Tens of thousands died in wars, and thousands immigrated. The Pope of Rome supported the Maronites through his prayers. The Maronites defended their country with great courage, but in 1990, they divided against themselves, fighting each other. Consequently, their enemies invaded them, bombarding their cities and villages, sending their leaders into exile, and putting others in jail. The Maronites lost their independence and hundreds of thousands left the mountains of Lebanon and immigrated. Freedom became threatened. But God did not abandon his people. He consoled the Maronites, giving them three saints: St. Sharbel, St. Rafqa, and St. Nimatullah Hardini. In 1997, the Pope of Rome, John Paul II visited Lebanon to give hope to the Lebanese people and particularly to the Maronites. He said, "Lebanon is more than a country, it is a message". Due to the severe persecution of the Church in Lebanon (especially the Maronite Church), many were scattered throughout the world, which made the Church grow outside Lebanon. That’s how the Early Church grew outside Jerusalem. The Maronite Church became international. She does not only include Phoenician Maronites, Aramaic/Syriac Maronites, Mardaites, Arab Maronites, but also American Maronites, European Maronites, Brazilian Maronites, Australian Maronites, etc. On September 2, 2004, France and the USA sought a new UN resolution asking Lebanon's neighbors to withdraw their soldiers and respect Lebanon's sovereignty.

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Saint Maron, What it Means to be Maronite, and the Mission of Lebanon

The 25th letter of His Eminence and Beatitudemar maroun

Nasrallah Peter Cardinal SFEIR
Patriarch of Antioch and All the East

to

His children the Maronite clergy and lay faithful

On the Occasion of the 1600th Jubilee of the passing of Saint Maron
Lent  2010

Introduction
As the year 2010 coincides with the passing of one thousand six hundred years since the death of Saint Maron the hermit, priest, and father of our Maronite Church described as “the gilding in the choir of the divine saints,”(1) we decided, with the synod of our bishops, to declare this year as a Jubilee Year starting on the 9th of February, 2010 the feast day of our father Saint Maron and ending on the 2nd of March 2011, the feast day of Saint John Maron the first Patriarch, under the title of “Saint Maron – a testimony of faith and a spiritual journey of a people.”

This Jubilee Year aims to pray, think, repent, go back into history, meditate on it, learn lessons, revive and relive our Maronite faith that will allow us to draw a new strategy for our Church in the third millennium.

By celebrating the Jubilee, our Maronite Church responds to three themes: Time as the dimension for God, Jubilee as a year consecrated to the Lord and his Saints, and the recent Maronite Patriarchal Assembly and Synod as one stage among others within the history of our Church, “because the Church lives only as a Synod.” (2)

Time in Christianity is the work of God in the act of incarnation. It came about by the entrance of God, via incarnation, into the history of men. Eternity penetrated time: “Is there an achievement greater than that?” This confirms “that time in Christianity occupies a primary place.”(4) It also confirms that Christianity is a religion rooted in history, as Teilhard de Chardin put it “God met the world through the Person of Jesus Christ.” From the relation of God with time the notion of sanctifying time was generated; (5) hence all time is consecrated to God: days, weeks, and years, because Jesus Christ is the Master of time, and “He is the same yesterday, today, and forever”. (Hebrews 13:8)

The celebration of jubilee years began in the Old Testament and continues through Church history. The Jubilee Year is the year of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is a year of equality, justice, pardon, reconciliation and repentance; a year of special graces for individuals and communities; a year of charity and joy, not only internal joy, but also the joy that shines in outside.” (6)

The Maronite Patriarchal Assembly as well as the Synod of Bishops for Lebanon, reflect the role of divine providence in preparing for the Jubilee of Saint Maron to the point where one could say that the Assembly and the Synod were in fact the introduction to this Jubilee.

It is hence a very important Jubilee, not only for Maronites, but also for Christians and non-Christians in Lebanon, the Middle East, and throughout the world to consider the position of Maronites in the course of the universal Church and their role throughout 1600 years of history.

Hereafter, if the Maronite Patriarchal Assembly and Synod is considered the “Pentecost of the Maronite Church,” then the celebration of the Jubilee of one thousand six hundred years since the death of Saint Maron could be considered “a new springtime for Maronite life.” In both cases “each Jubilee in Church history is arranged by divine providence” (7) as properly said by His Holiness Pope John Paul II.

Three chapters characterize this Jubilee:  
First: What does Saint Maron represent to us today?
Second: What does being Maronite mean to us?
Third: What relationship exists between being Maronite and loving Lebanon, the land and the hope?

First: Saint Maron, holiness, the saint, and the Church!
1. The Maronite Church is proud to belong to Saint Maron her patron and guide. Holiness first of all is a quality of God and is of God; it is the essential characteristic of the Creator. Each time human nature yearns to participate in the divine life, it gets closer and closer to the holiness of God. By doing so, Jesus Christ was the first among the saints, and all who are baptized in His name are considered touched by His divinity; they are therefore among the saints. This was the description given the first Christian community and which determined its spiritual identity.

2. Holiness is a spiritual relationship between the human being and the Holy God most venerated. Identifying holiness is the beginning of recognizing the saints through the history of the Church. In theological dictionaries, only God is most holy, because holiness is an expression of His power and the perfection of His being. Holiness also implies persons, things, and places that are considered holy. God is Holy in himself, while the human being is called to holiness.

According to Vatican II, all people are called to holiness by their belonging to the Church; and by sharing in the holiness of the Church they become sanctified by the sanctity poured upon the Church through Jesus the Savior. At the onset, the martyrs who incarnated spiritual bravery as they faced persecution and injustice were called saints; in later stages, the Church determined the principles, basis and conditions necessary to proclaim someone a saint.

3. The path to holiness is not determined by time and place.  It is determined by the dynamic relationship between God and man.  Seeing God and enjoying the salvation in the company of the righteous and saints is the final aim of every believer. This path however, is full of difficulties. There is a great struggle between body and soul in order to reach what is called by theologians “belonging to God not to one’s own self,” and practicing the “prayer of the heart” not “the prayer of the lips.” Thus the believer advances in his person and in the practice of his daily life, and sacrifices things of the body to liberate the soul and attain the ideal phase of religion, an absolute love of God and a deep faith in Jesus Christ.

4. Living Christian virtues in ways that surpass human potential to the degree of heroism, leads God to grant the saint characteristics and powers to make miracles. Such holiness raises its possessor to the rank of patron who opens the way for people to accept the grace of God.  The patron becomes a beacon in the darkness.  In the middle of a tempest the patron enlightens suffering souls that they can find their way in their journey toward God. All saints live in the deepest and most solid faith that remains limitlessly radiant even after they are gone. It is a faith that can only be revealed, rooted, and continuously renewed by a very strong and simultaneous relationship with God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ. “It is, in fact, that deep-rooted faith that formed the foundation of the Maronite Church.”

5. The historical period in which Saint Maron lived in Northern Syria, and before him Saint Anthony the Great in Egypt, that is, between the third and the fifth centuries, was a period of great transformation in the life of the Church as Christianity became the religion of both Roman and Byzantine empires, East and West. At that time Theodoret of Cyrrhus wrote in his History of the Selected people of God: “Maron was the first to plant the garden of solitary life in the region” (8) through a spiritual adventure launched by Saint Anthony and lived out by Saint Maron, and which is summarized by the fact that some believing souls found themselves unable to reach perfection within society, either because society was pagan or because it was Christian only in appearance; so they decided to leave the world so they could meet God directly, out in the open. This is the true meaning of the experience of ascetical and monastic lives which spread at that time and was for centuries the typical example of consecrated life. This group intended to have a complete break with the world of impurity, and to incarnate Christian holiness in a chosen few of very enthusiastic and devoted people who were able to carry the Gospel message in its original purity. Thus the hermit or monk living his deep faith in God through asceticism and contemplation, such as Saint Maron, became the defender of faith and the revealer of the greatness of Christianity on one hand, and a living confirmation that the human being for whom God became man through Jesus Christ carries values that are more important than life itself. In this context, and within this vision, the metaphysical or altruistic philosophy of Saint Maron and his disciples, hermits and monks, was elaborated during the fifth century.

6. This altruistic dimension, founded on a personal talent, gave Saint Maron the power to generate an extraordinary spiritual state at the foundation of an atypical Church, outside the usual way of founding churches. Our Church was not built after a name of a See or Apostle, but rather took its identity from the radiance of a man and a monastery: the Maronite Church, a Church of asceticism and adoration attached from the beginning to a solitary man, not a man of rank or a Church leader. With the canonization of Sharbel, Rafka and Hardini, the Maronite Church has returned to its own self, its history extended through the ages, to its roots, and to its initial identity with Saint Maron: A Church of hermits and saints!  Indeed, the first trait in the identity of this Church goes back to the uniqueness of the founder and the cornerstone. Saint Maron, a prophetic evangelist in the Pauline sense, who, by his vivid faith, his outstanding virtues, his ideal life style, his prophetic preaching, and his radiant commitment in his environment was able to set the spiritual tone for a Church who came to bear his name unlike any other churches. He became the head of a Church attributed to him. This exceptional merit to Saint Maron, which granted him the status of a spiritual leader in Northern Syria, then in Lebanon, is due to the biblical roots embodied in his practice of three kinds of heroic virtues:

♣Apostolic Heroism in guiding the nonbelievers of Syria’s country side, building churches over their temples, beginning at the mountain of Saint Simon the Stylite, guiding souls and preaching the Word.
♣Spiritual Heroism expressed an attachment to Christian ideals to the point of living martyrdom after the example of Christ with regard to physical sacrifice: living in the open or on a pillar so he could express yearning for the celestial homeland and get nearer to God, opening up to heaven and freeing himself from earthly things. He did so after the example of Christ who was crucified and left out in the open.
♣Human Heroism where faith and humanity meet at the service of God’s people, physically and spiritually; with the power of miracles, Saint Maron achieved, inspired and was assisted by the Holy Spirit in his capacity as a priest not only a hermit.

This radical three-dimensional heroism imposed itself on the socio-religious history of his era and afterwards made him a founding power in Church and community.  He became a man of new beginnings!  This explains the meaning of the controversy which broke out over where to bury him at that time; it also explains the continuity of his memorial through time and our celebration of his one thousand six hundredth year Jubilee today.

Second:   Maronite Identity, Conscience and Personal Calling
7. We can define Maronite identity as a Christian spiritual and cultural renewal movement launched by Saint Maron to personify man’s absolute desire to unite to God, his absolute yearning for freedom, and his biblical role in serving and developing his environment. This movement sees in ascetic life a direct rise to God, in the Council of Chalcedon (451) the expression of faith about the nature of Jesus, and in Lebanon a promised land and a stronghold for human freedom.

8. Talking about “Maronite identity” is wider than talking about the Maronite Church since it implies multiple and various Maronite manifestations that may only enter partially within the contextual framework of the Maronite Church. Maronites have gone through five consecutive stages, from the individual Saint Maron, to a group called the Maronites, to an organized collection called the “House of Maron," then to an organized community, then to a community with two faces: spiritual and ecclesiastical which is the Maronite Church and social which is the Maronite Community. Thus Maronite identity has climbed to the level of the collective conscience of the community or what one of the historians described this way: “Maronites can be considered an autonomous people endowed with ethnic characteristics, one rite, and an old history.  They lived for centuries in an enclosed geographic area, spoke a particular language (Syriac) which still has some traces in their religious books. They preserved much history of the near east, and in addition, an independent political history and life that was transformed in their memory into a national legend. Through it all, the Maronite Church, most stable and steady in organizing the history of the Maronite people, played an important role in preserving and developing the idea of a nation and calling for its adoption.” (9)

A scientific approach to the history of the Maronites confirms that this Maronite ideology is the focal point of the history of the Maronite community in its double dimension both religious and social, because it serves its interests, reflects its thoughts and aspirations, controls its practices, sets its goals, explains its status past and present, projects its vision into the future, highlights strategies to reach announced objectives, and makes up the basic criterion that allows one to measure its efficacy historically as well as its relation with others. Throughout history the Maronite community has confirmed its faith in two complementary and integral things that serve as a basis for this ideology and as an expression for the Lebanese cause: spiritual struggle to free the human being, and Lebanon–freedom as a symbol of this freedom which concerns, not only Maronites, but also the whole fabric of the Lebanese family in all its communities!

9. Maronite identity departs from this main source to the Maronite conscience. It is a conscience that was shaped throughout history particularly during times of crisis  Maronites encountered and continue to experience. Patriarch Douaihy summarizes this historical conscience as follows: “a history of a community, possessing a unique religious structure, living in a largely threatening environment at every historical turn, and a people who rise up to defend themselves.”(10) To gain a true understanding, this conscience needs a “founding event for Maronite history,” Bishop Hamid Mourani writes. “Regardless whether the Maronite migration happened only once or in different stages, what is important is that Maronites place at the basis of their history the fact of fleeing persecution and searching for freedom and independence. The conscience of each Maronite is born from this implication which remains the explanatory principle of all Maronite historical events.” Furthermore, the dimension of faith gives meaning to Maronite history. The faith lived out by the hermit Maron became the inner strength of a people’s history. “As for the successive migrations from Syria, the Maronites gave them one meaning, that is, giving up land, wealth, and comfort in Syria toward a poor land where anxiety and austerity prevail, so they could preserve their faith and remain attached to their freedom ... This event is not a simple historical fact among others... it is the beginning of a new history, the history of the Maronites.” (11)

10. The Maronite finds his or her true meaning in Maronite identity. The second chapter of the Maronite Patriarchal Assembly (2006) treats the topic “The identity of the Maronite Church, its vocation and mission.”  We see in it:

1) “a Syriac Antiochene Church with a special liturgical patrimony;
2) A Chalcedonian Church;
3) a Patriarchal Church with an ascetic and monastic characteristic;
4)  a Church in communion with the Apostolic See of Rome;
5)  a Church incarnated in its Lebanese and eastern environment; and
6) a Church existing in countries of expansion.”

In addition to these elements of belonging, the impact of the Maronite Church has been revealed in the facts that:

  1. its founder was a man, Saint Maron;
  2. it was not founded on ethnic, racial, geographic, or on an autocratic basis;
  3. its particularity comes from in its capacity to move from its beginnings in a monastery to the establishment of a nation;
  4. and also from contemplating God inside the monastery and on a pillar, to contemplating Him on the mountain top, and in its ability to join the limited (monastery of Maron and the stylite asceticism) to the universal (the world and the horizontal line) and this is due to its Catholic faith, its expansion all over the world, and its cultural expressions in the various languages of the world.

Thereafter, thanks to the combination of the six elements of belonging of the Maronite Church and the four elements of her identity, it is evident that the Maronite community has reached a distinctive stage of self fulfilment, a cultural and historical identity that has its own life, components, and characteristics, a matter which allowed the Maronite Church to have its pioneering and central role in bringing to the forefront the Lebanese mission and in shaping the Pact that materialized the mission.

Maronite identity is not the same as Lebanese identity.  It is a principal component of the latter, but Lebanese identity is made up of several identities, namely those of the different religious communities. Lebanon is the synthesis of various and diverse identities living harmoniously by a Pact of a common life, granting Lebanon its particularity and making her an exception in the Arab world with her democratic liberal system which allows for personal and collective freedom, adopts democracy, and respects human dignity. Thus, the Lebanese are fortunate that neither totalitarian nor ideological forces, nor national or religious fundamentalists have arrived to govern Lebanon. It is the duty of every conscious Lebanese to struggle against such a tragedy from happening to their country.

Third: Maronite identity, the Land and Lebanon:  The Pact
11. Maronite prosperity, represented by the worldwide expansion, and in the diverse cultural fields throughout the continents, could have disintegrated the Maronite personality itself “if there were not a center of gravity prepared to secure the unity and tenacity of the Maronites, this center is Lebanon.”(12) Actually, the historical aim of Maronite Patriarchs in moving their See all over Lebanon, from Kfarhay to Yanouh to Elige to Kannoubin to Bkerki, in addition to all the security requirements, was to consolidate and bless this indissoluble marriage based on love between the Maronites and the land of Lebanon.”(13)  Yes, Maronites wrote their first real history, not in books of paper, but in the book of its land making of it a land of giving, adoration, and defending one’s self. “This is the main expression of the independence of the Maronites and the sole horizon for their life.”(14) The first Maronite “time” was a vertical time that is the time of the Lebanese-Maronite land in its natural geographical borders. That is why Maronites have tied their land to heaven, introduced it into their faith, and given it a characteristic of holiness. The land of Lebanon became the horizon and the departing point for Maronites, which means there is a coherent association between the land of Lebanon and the history of the Maronites.

12. The Lebanese land is “a heritage through which the historical Maronite identity was constituted,” and whatever they do in the world, Maronites remain in need of the landthat incarnates their own identity and keeps them attached to their admirable history, the history of holiness, a struggle to survive, and bearing witness to faith and human values.(15) Maronite history has been attached to Lebanon as a land and as a state, the land that takes its worth from its experienced values and civilized existence. The name of Lebanon was tied to the Maronites as “an integral part of its historical and political being; and wherever the Maronite moved, settled, and interacted within new countries, they never forgot the land of origin, the land of Lebanon, which remains in their conscience the land of their ancestors and saints and the symbol of their unity, the Patriarchate.” (16) Also, “preserving the land means safeguarding the identity, and safeguarding the identity means preserving entity and insuring perpetuity."(17)

13.The Apostolic Exhortation for Lebanon describes Lebanon as the “cradle of a great culture, one of the lighthouses of the Mediterranean; none could ignore the name of Byblos to indicate the beginnings of the alphabet.” In Lebanon Christianity became “an essential element in the culture of the region, and its diverse communities have become a fortune of singularity, and yet at the same time, an obstacle... nonetheless, its renewal is a common task.” (18) Christians in general and Maronites specifically have worked to realize two correlative objectives throughout their history:
♣establishing Lebanon the state and the entity, safeguarding her, and confirming her perpetuity;
♣confirming their Christian presence in Lebanon and playing a major and efficient role within Lebanese society.

As long as the nation has two dimensions, presence in space and continuity in time, her land is “a mother, who rich or poor, has to be loved.” This is the nurturing land which stores treasures of history after having witnessed historical events, accompanied generations, impressed all who were born in her and embraced them in their old age, so that the successor can tell the predecessor the history he accomplished in his life.(19) Therefore “those who abandon their land by selling it, especially to non Lebanese, abuse the purity of their country and particularly of those who are resting in its earth awaiting the hope of a happy resurrection.” (20)

14.In spite of our attachment to Lebanon, the holy land and the symbol of Maronite history, Lebanon, who confirms this and justifies it religiously, philosophically, and historically, remains after all “a Pact for a Mission.”

“Lebanon has no right to exist haphazardly, she either has a mission for humanity in the East and the world or she ceases to exist.” (21)  This is her historical calling, and that is the meaning of what his Holiness Pope John Paul II described when he said that “Lebanon is more than a country, it is a mission”. This pact among Lebanese communities is in essence an act of will and an act of freedom at the same time. It is the incarnation of spiritual interactive values. It is a matter of development and promotion of the Lebanese/Arab/Eastern person, not merely a bilateral settlement as some people imagine! It is Lebanon the experiment, the risk, the bet, not only with regard to its land, but also and especially with regard to the human mission that our distinctive existence poses and which has no similar venture has taken place in the world. “Lebanon is not a pact between Muslims and Christians but a pact among civilized minorities revitalized in human communities.” (22)

15.The Pact is an act of confidence in the Lebanese mission, drafted and adopted by the Lebanese communities when they fled here, led by the Maronite community who lost everything except for its spiritual patrimony which was always safeguarded. Since their settlement in Lebanon, these communities realized that they came to protect this patrimony. In this way the Pact became part of their inner consciousness, so that every minority coming to this land agreed to it before it was shaped in a written agreement or even in a non-written way during the independence phase. Because it is an expression of faith, truth, and honor, “such a pact should not be written, because its sole guarantee is belief in God and the trust in the human person.”(23)  This mission represents the greatest challenge to all totalitarian, racial, fundamentalist, and radical autocratic regimes of the region; this challenge drove such ideologues to declare their hostility to our mission and our existence as a people, entity, state, and a political regime. The hostility continues! This challenge places on all of us a historical responsibility to protect and save the pact of communal life among all Lebanese communities, so that it remains as it began, an act of will and of freedom at the same time.

Conclusion
Saint Maron gave to our Church, our people, and our nation one main component and justification not only to have a mission but to be an integral part of this mission as Lebanese. It may be sufficient to point out that it is a human, cultural, and theological mission materialized in the pact among the Lebanese, and became, in its diversity, richness and scope, “the greatest human initiative known in the world.” The pact among the Lebanese has three faces: the first looks at the human being, the second into history, and the third toward God. In this way, the pact has transformed Lebanon from a refuge into a stronghold, and from a composite of exiles into a country, since she became a country of minorities as persons and a country of majorities as civilizations. Lebanon became the best of the East and the elder heir of the eastern fortune.

As for the theological meaning of Lebanon, it poses the issue of relation among religions, their dialogue, and their interactivity, particularly the meeting and dialogue between Christianity and Islam.  This Lebanon, symbol, model, laboratory, and country of interactive values through the Pact, will fall from its height if the Pact turns from its essence and becomes a mere composite of conflicting interests, negotiations, and bargaining, put simply, compromises.  Then confessional fundamentalism, as the most dangerous conspiracy against the mission of Lebanon, will destroy the openness and dialogue and replace them with isolation, mercantilism, and feudality.

Our existence is indeed based on the Pact and justified by it, and the Pact is an interchange, an act of loyalty and trust. In doing so, we confirm ourselves without having to take anyone else’s assurance. The security of Lebanon is to have confidence in itself as a pact for a mission, one of the most honourable missions of the century, because it is the mission of human, theological, and geographical specificity. In this geographically flat east, unified culturally, and similar politically and authoritatively, Lebanon is an exception at all levels: a mountainous areas far from being desert as geography, pluralist in culture, diverse in religion, and democratic in politics. Lebanon is pluralistic in everything, and that is what makes her unique and forms her added value as well as the reason of her existence.

For over fifteen centuries, the people of Lebanon and her land have been the axis around which the destiny of the Maronites revolves.  Even though Maronite identity was not born in Lebanon, and even though the majority of Maronites currently live outside of Lebanon in countries throughout the world, this fact changes nothing from the truth present in the heart, mind, and conscience of each Maronite, or is supposed to be so. Their real country, as willed by Saint Maron, is first of all a spiritual one, and the Maronite mission is a freedom project, with Lebanon as its symbol. The Maronite project resembles the project of all Lebanese: liberation of the human person.  This is a project raised at the meeting point of three continents to determine the destiny of all the East: the destiny of its tormented, its distressed, its marginalized and its persecuted in their freedom, where their hopes and expectations for freedom and the land of refuge have met in the country of the cedars.

With Saint Maron and the Maronites, and with all the spiritual families who came to Lebanon consecutively and who confirm the legitimacy of Lebanon, the entity, which was realized before its political borders were drawn, “Lebanon is the only country in the world that made from its very existence a mission for which it existed and will exist or cease to exist, without which there is no need for its existence and with it its existence becomes an international need.”  Yes the perfume of Saint Maron’s holiness was and will remain the living yeast and the exquisite scent for the continued and renewed springtime of Maronites through history!

For this Jubilee Year to help give its hoped for fruits, we have appointed a Central Committee chaired by his Excellency Bishop Boulos Emile Saade with the membership of their Excellencies, Bishop Youssef Anis Abi Aad, Bishop Semaan Atallah, and Bishop Youssef Mahfouz; and with Monsignor Mounir Khairallah as Secretary General, Father Karam Rizk to represent the Maronite Lebanese Order, Father Abdo Antoun for the Maronite Mariamite Order, Father Sarkis El Tabar for the Antonine Maronite Order, Father Marwan Tabet for the Association of Lebanese Missionaries, Father Nasser Gemayel, Father Hani Matar, Mother Dominique El Halabi, Sister George Marie Azar for Consecrated Women Religious, Doctor Nabil Khalife, Doctor Antoine El-Khoury Harb, and Doctor Antoine Saad. We asked this committee to make all necessary arrangements to accompany celebrations and religious, spiritual, cultural, and social activities inspired by the Holy Spirit, in walking in the footsteps of Saint Maron and in transmitting the Gospel message, and witnessing to Christ.

We invite all our Maronite children - eparchies, parishes, religious orders, universities, schools, Church and civil institutions and associations, groups, clubs, and leagues - to celebrate this Jubilee Year in conformity with the plan drawn by the Central Committee and what corresponds to the status of each in terms of presence, circumstances, and testimony in their respective countries, urging them to communicate the Good News of the Gospel with the ascetic flavor of Saint Maron.

We invite you all to organize religious celebrations, processions, ceremonies,   and cultural and social activities, and to organize pilgrimage visits to holy Maronite places and patriarchal sites. We designated the sites in which absolution is granted during this Jubilee Year as follows: Monastery of Saint John Maron Kferhay, Monastery of Our Lady of Elige, Monastery of Our Lady of Kannoubine, Monastery of Our Lady of Bkerke, and the Site of Saint Maron in Brad near Aleppo, Syria.

Hoping that God will answer us through the intercession of our Father, Saint   Maron, and all our saints we offer Him this prayer:

Lord God,
you called your chosen one, Saint Maron,
to the monastic life,
perfected him in divine virtues,
and guided him along the difficult road
to the heavenly kingdom.

During this jubilee year, commemorating 1600 years
since the death of your chosen one, Saint Maron,
when he was called to the house of your heavenly Father;
We ask you, through his intercession,
to immerse us in your love that we may
walk in your path, heed your commandments,
and follow in his footsteps.
May his holy example resonate throughout our lives.
With your love, may we achieve that final destination
reached by our father, Saint Maron,
and carry your Gospel throughout the world.
Through his intercession, may we attain
the glory of the resurrection and everlasting life in you.  
Glory and thanks are due to you, to your blessed Father,
and to your living Holy Spirit, now and for ever.               
Amen.

(1)  Theodoret of Cyrrhus,  History of the Selected People of God,  Paulist Printing Press    1987. P.145
(2)  The Maronite Patriarchal Synod Texts and Recommendations, preamble, paragraph 1
(3)  John Paul II: The Coming of the Third Millennium, 1994, paragraph 9
(4)  John Paul II: Toward a New Millennium 2001, paragraph 5
(5)  John Paul II: The Coming of the Third Millennium, paragraph 10
(6)  Same reference, paragraph 16
(7)  The Coming of the Third Millennium, paragraph 17
(8)  Theodoret of Cyrrhus, History of the Selected People of God
(9)  Elia Harik, The Political Transformation in the History of the Modern Lebanon,         El Ahliye Publishing, 1982, Page 990.
(10) Antoine Hamid Mourani, “The Lebanese Chapters” Issue Number 5, 1981, page 50
(11) Antoine Hamid Mourani, “A Speech in the International Maronite Congress” in  Kaslik, Lebanon February 1979
(12) Texts of the Maronite Synod, second chapter, paragraph 5
(13) Father Michel Hayek “The Maronite Church and the Land” in French, The Maronite Congress, 1981
(14) Antoine Hamid Mourani, mentioned above
(15) The Maronite Synod: The Maronite Church and the Land, paragraph 10
(16) Same source, paragraph 11
(17) Same source, paragraph 12
(18) New Hope for Lebanon, paragraph 1
(19) Patriarch Nasrallah Peter Sfeir in his twenty second encyclical message 2007
     Love of the Nation, page 11
(20) Same source page 10
(21) Father Michel Hayek, Jesus, Lebanon, and Palestine – Conferences of Saint George Cathedral –Beirut 1973, Page 51.
(22) Father Michel Hayek, Christ, Lebanon, and Palestine page 70
(23) The same source page 77

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