- The Christians living here are an essential part of the land. They suffer the pain every person suffers; they work as messengers of peace to stop the perpetration of injustice against the oppressed. They follow the teaching of the Gospel that says love is at the basis of human relations. The official positions expressed by the spiritual leaders of the various churches highlight these beliefs, and the mission fulfilled by the two kidnapped bishops is further proof of this orientation.
- The Christians in this part of the East are deeply saddened by what their country is going through, namely the violence that is dividing the sons of the same country and endangering civilians who conduct their lives in peace. Kidnapping is a terrible expression of this violence, and it is to be condemned without hesitation as it threatens the lives of unarmed individuals. We appeal to the kidnappers to respect the life of the two kidnapped brothers, and we call on everyone to put an end to all the acts that allow or create confessional and sectarian schisms among the sons of the same country.
- We understand the preoccupation of the Christians following this event. We call on them to be patient, to adhere to the teachings of their faith, and to rely on God whose strength lies also in our weakness. We believe that to remain in our land, and to do all that is possible to make it a land of love and coexistence, is a powerful tool in its defense. We are also aware that all citizens from all confessions are suffering the same pain due to the violence, and we pray that the Lord may strengthen them and console them in their difficulties. Together with them we raise our voices and reject all sorts of violence that tears our country and makes our hearts bleed.
- In this painful situation, we call on the world to work to end the Syrian crisis, so that it may go back to being a garden of love, security and peaceful coexistence. Political strife should not be resolved at the expense of the men and women of this region.
- We also call all the churches in the world to stand fast in the face of what is happening and provide a witness to the power of love in this world. It is necessary to take steps that attest to the fact that they reject the violence to which the populations of these lands are being subjected today.
- We take the opportunity to call on our brothers of all Islamic confessions to work together, ones with another, to demonstrate that we refuse to consider man as a product that can be bought or sold, a shield to be used in war, a political or financial good of exchange.
- We address the kidnappers and tell them that those whom they kidnapped are messengers of peace in this world, as witnessed by their religious and social missions. We appeal to them to deal with this painful episode peacefully, as violence is useful only to the enemies of our nation.
- Finally, we pray the Lord in these blessed feasts that this tragedy may end, that peace may prevail in the hearts of all, and so that the country may enjoy the peace and prosperity it deserves.
Syria plunges into the third anniversary of a crisis that tears the
1) A COUNTRY THAT FLOWS:
The scene is very painful, we talk about a very heavy toll: 80,000 dead; 850,000 students without schools, four million refugees, and economic destruction estimated at $ 260 billion not to mention the flight of the capitals, the closing of the factories and the devaluation of the local currency:
The value of the American Dollar increased from 45 Syrian Pounds in 2011 to 121 Syrian Pounds at this time, one can imagine the impact on inflation and the collapse of purchasing power. Military and officials are the last ones who continue to receive a salary at the end of the month. Others live in poverty and in shortage of everything. The family is dispersed at 5a.m., to queue in front of the bakery, grocery store, gas station, and sometimes under fire and bombing.. What anguish!!!
2) GENERATOR OF VIOLENCE:
The biggest nightmare is the abduction of people for ransoms … The “sharpshooter” is the bugbear who kills to block roads and routes between neighborhoods and cities, and woe to anyone who dares to pass. We cannot count the number of victims, death becomes the daily bread. Undertakers are the only ones hiring.
This socio-economic fragility is a breeding ground empowering the war and feeding the violence… Thus prolonging the fighting and shrinking the chances of peace.
3) PASTORAL DISCOURAGMENT:
This continued situation of insecurity weakens significantly the pastoral life. The murder of two priests and the kidnaping of four others plant the fear in the heart of a clergyman who moves less and no longer wears his clerical garb … The number of faithful is declining continuously. A parish which had 30 baptisms in 2011, records only three baptisms in 2012. How to fight to maintain the morale and stay on the road? … It takes a lot of your prayers with us to the Good Shepherd for these devoted servants…
What would the Church be without priests?
4) A DIALOG TO DECODE:
The Syrian people express little and mastered the language of silence, a difficult language that needs to be decoded permanently … one must guess … A smile does not necessarily express joy or satisfactions … Sufferings are repressed for fear of being misinterpreted … The same speech echoed by all does not necessarily mean personal opinion, words can mean the opposite … In my seventh year in Damascus, I am still a novice and unable to easily grasp the merits of ideas. Often I’m wrong and I wipe unexpected failures even amongst colleagues … I still have a lot to learn about this beloved flock, that the Lord has entrusted me.
5) A GOOD SAMARITAN:
This discreet and not very talkative people, bathes in the misery and seeks a “Good Samaritan” who is silent and heals without asking questions, who takes action without trying to study and understand a complex situation… The heavy bleeding of a sick, injured, abandoned and lonely person is waiting for this outstretched hand and charitable heart that does not include religious and political affiliations, and does not poses too many questions. The small discreet and silent local church is the reflecting image of her followers, and cannot live her testimony except in the vocation of the Good Samaritan.
A church that is present, reaching out to different brothers in need and suffering, regardless of their color and religion. This silent and free charity is the only evangelical philosophy that can build the future Syria. The future of Eastern Christians is based on that biblical challenge … Given the intensity of the violence and “every man for himself”
Do we have the time to assume that duty? “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road…?” Luke 24: 32. To win this bet, our eyes turn towards the empty tomb…
+ Samir NASSAR
Maronite Archbishop of Damascus
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:
What a surprise! What a joy! The Holy Spirit knows how to help guide us, and never leave us orphans. The past few weeks the Church has shined brightly, even with age old ceremonies, she knows how to live her calling with love and serenity, and how to carefully and respectfully choose a leader in the footsteps of Saint Peter.
The popes that I remember, John XXIII, Paul VI, John Paul I, John Paul II, Benedict XVI, and now Francis, are all so very different in personality, in leadership style and in thinking, yet they are all the same in that they are all faithful and obedient to Christ and His Church. What an inspiration to all of us. We can truly be ourselves, yet at the same time, be faithful.
It was a particular joy for me to see Pope Francis with his hands at his side looking out at the 150,000 plus people in Saint Peter’s Square. All I could imagine was that here was a man that realized he does not have to impress anyone, all he needs to do is to be faithful to his calling and obedient to the Holy Spirit. This in itself is enough to inspire all of us. Let us pray for Pope Francis, the Universal Church, and the world that we too be truly ourselves, and at the same time faithful and obedient to our heavenlycall.
Sincerely yours in Christ,
+Gregory John Mansour
Dear Friends of the Christian, Muslim and Jewish Faiths,
The civil war in Syria has sadly cast this beautiful country under a shadow in front of the eyes of the world. So many good people suffer and they ask for help. We wish we could do more, but one of the ways we can help is to pray. Religious leaders and faithful from various Christian, Islamic, and Jewish traditions share a common calling: we all pray. Because we do pray, we can also be peace makers, and can come together, beyond our differences and pray.
For this reason and more, we cordially invite you to join Christian, Muslim, and Jewish leaders at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Lebanon (corner of Remsen and Henry Streets) at 109 Remsen Street, Brooklyn, NY 11201 on Tuesday evening, April 2, 2013, from 7:30 to 8:30 PM for a special prayer service for Syria and peace in the Middle East. There will be no speeches or political statements.
A light reception will follow in the Cathedral Hall. Parking is available on the street around the Cathedral or at Manhattan Boro Parking Garage, 40 Clinton Street (between Pierpont Street and Clark Street). The Cathedral is a block and a half from there.
I hope you can join us for the evening prayer and for light refreshments.
+ Gregory J. Mansour
Bishop of the Eparchy Saint Maron, and
Secretary of CAMECT
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
I awoke this morning, as all of you did, to the surprise news of the Holy Father’s renunciation of the Petrine Ministry in the Church, to which he was elected by the College of Cardinals eight years ago. I cannot think of the Church without him at the helm. Nor could I have thought eight years ago of the Church without Blessed John Paul II. We live in Christian hope.
Pope Benedict spoke of the Church as a ship, and the one who serves at the helm, the Pope, serves in Peter, the fisherman’s, place. He needs strength of soul and body to do so. Moreover, the Pope said, even though there is suffering and prayer associated with the Petrine ministry, in the modern day a Pope needs much strength to carry the Church’s mission well. Pope Benedict examined his conscience many times, and he said he came to a certainty that this is his time to “let go”. This is bold, loving and wise.
Notice that the Pope does not “resign”. Patriarchs and Bishops resign, because they send in their resignation to the Pope. But the Pope “lets go”, he used the word “renounce”, which is the word we also embrace during Lent, to renounce whatever does not lead us or those we serve to be closer to God. What an act of humility and love for the Church!
The Holy Father asked all of us once again to entrust the Church to the True Shepherd, Jesus Christ, and he asked the Blessed Mother to intercede for the Church’s Cardinal electors, so that by the Holy Spirit they may elect a worthy successor. The Holy Father asked God and us to forgive his shortcomings, and pledged to live the rest of his life in devoted service to the church through prayer.
Wow, what a witness to faith in God, and in his Church! The Holy Father’s talk to the Cardinals, a beautiful talk given in Latin, so we know that this was quite freely and soberly thought and prayed out, can be read here. I hope everyone will read it.
May God bless Pope Benedict the man, the Christian, the Bishop, the Pope, and the faithful “Servant of the Servants of God”, and bless the Church, the ship of Peter, as she continues to live and preach the Good News of Jesus Christ.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Much has been said about the recent “compromise” to the HHS mandate. Here is a superb reflection by Archbishop Charles Chaput. It is well worth reading.
Dear Married Couples of the Cathedral of Our Lady of Lebanon:
Many times I have thought that I might have been happier married. No, I am not second guessing my vocation! For over thirty years I have been fairly content, but the thought does cross my mind, and the answer is always the same: It takes a great deal of selflessness to be married, and I am not sure I have “what it takes!”
With all kidding aside, I am serious. To be married takes a special spirit of humility, self sacrifice, willingness to forgive, courage to share and to put the other person first. These qualities, I believe, are a direct path to heaven, and although I hope I have at least some of them, you as married couples could not survive happily unless you practiced all these virtues every day.
So I thank God for you; and I thank God for Monsignor James who has gathered you together. What a great idea to take one evening aside in the parish to enrich our marriages and to strengthen the place where God so happily dwells – the hearts of two people who have become one. May the prayers and love of Saints Joseph and Mary be with you.
Sincerely yours in Christ,
+Gregory John Mansour
Bishop Gregory Mansour, Bishop of the Eparchy of Saint Maron of Brooklyn, received the following poignant testimonials from His Excellency Archbishop Samir Nassar, Maronite Bishop of Damascus, Syria.In the Footsteps of the Holy Family
It is not uncommon these days to see Palestinian families wandering the streets of Damascus [Syria] … Parents carrying their children, followed by older children holding hands, some bags and parcels.
Tears in the eyes of women, anger in the eyes of men, the sadness of children’s eyes … These Palestinian refugees have not been spared by the fire of the Syrian crisis …Thousands have fled their camps where they have been living since 1948. A second exodus emerges. Some have managed to reach the Palestinian camps in Lebanon; others are turning in circles, looking to be hosted by any Syrian family as an act of charity despite their poor and fragile situation.
A family of seven children came to the neighbor, who is a concierge of a home, looking for a quiet corner for the mother to breast-feed her baby of ten days. Everyone leaves the tiny room to allow her and her baby some privacy. For a while the little room of the concierge resembled the Manger of Bethlehem … Always in the footsteps of the Holy Family
A Magi King
At a time when everyone is leaving the city, the new Greek Orthodox Patriarch, His Beatitude Youhanna X, arrives in Damascus on December 20, 2012, the Feast of St. Ignatius of Antioch. He is having a simple and modest reception, due to the actual events. The sounds of bells meet with the explosion of shells. Two contradictory languages. The first is a call to prayer and love, the second sows death and hatred.
His Beatitude, elected on Monday, December 17, 2012, in Lebanon, hurries to be in the middle of his people living in turmoil for the last twenty-two months confirming their faith, their mission, their identity and their testimony, and calling on Christmas Eve for forgiveness, reconciliation and dialogue as the only instruments of peace in a country torn by violence. [He is a] wise man with a gift of his master: Forgiveness.
The Smile of Wissam
Wissam, three years old, is living with a blood cancer (leukemia). He comes to the church every evening at 6 p.m. when he is not under the effect of chemcotherapy. He distributes and collects the songs sheets, giving with his small and innocent hands and his seductive smile the gesture of peace to the faithful scattered throughout the vast cathedral. He throws his hat that hides a bald head, carries a candle for the reading of the Gospel and for Communion, distributes holy cards at the end of the Mass
Wissam must be on a long-term chemo treatment. The hospital fears its closure due to the fighting around it, and the shortage of medical personnel who are leaving Syria, and the shortages of heating oil and medications. All the faithful are living a nightmare with the family of this little angel. Wissam looks to the Crib where the Divine Child lays smiling at him. On this long Syrian night, the Stars shine and praise the Lord.
+ Samir NASSAR
Maronite Archbishop of Damascus
17 December 2012 Prot. No. 856/1/12
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:
In the midst of a troubled world so much in need of peace, forgiveness and love may we once again open our hearts to the God who comes to “dwell among us” (John 1:14). Never again may there be “no room at the inn” (Luke 2:7). Never again may he “come to his own and his own receive him not.” (John 1:11) Instead may we welcome him, a little child, and thus receive along with “those who did receive him to become children of God” (John:1:13).
This Christmas falls just after the tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut, and in the midst of the Year of Faith. Thus we are challenged to deepen our appreciation for the God who comes to us as a little child, even in the midst of a sometimes hostile and unfriendly world.
Our Morning Prayer for the Divine Office for Sunday of the Birth of John the Baptist describes this coming of God in our midst:
O God, naturally hidden and inaccessible to the human spirit, you willed to form our world after that of the angels and spirits and created two worlds from nothing. By your power you made the angels; by your strength you established the earth, giving it to us as a paradise of perfect beauty. After the fall, you put the hope of salvation into our hearts. By the light of your natural law and the Mosaic law, you led us on the way of life; in the fullness of time you enlightened us with the brilliant light of your gospel, a beacon for all ties and for all living creatures.
May each of us ask the naturally hidden God to lead us once again, in the fullness of time, and prepare our hearts and the hearts of all people of good will, to become a Bethlehem where he would be welcomed and born anew. Merry Christmas.
Sincerely yours in Christ,
+Gregory John Mansour