October 21, 2011
Bishop Stephen Hector,
Chorbishop Michael, Father James and all beloved priests here present,
Parishioners and Friends of the Cathedral of Our Lady of Lebanon and Visiting Parishes
Ambassador Chedid, Ambassador Salam, Mr Antoine Azzam, Ms Caroline Ziade,
Civic dignitaries and invited guests
Journalists from Lebanon and the United States,
Faithful people of God and friends.
I have come to the United States at the invitation of Bishops Robert Shaheen and Gregory Mansour. Thanks to their untiring efforts they have built upon the good foundation laid by the late Archbishop Francis M. Zayek along with Bishops John Chedid and Stephen Hector Doueihi. By God’s grace we now have two eparchies in the United States, both with solid foundations and looking forward to a bright future.
I want to recognize our parish in Brooklyn. It is the Cathedral and Mother Church of the Eparchy. Since 1890 when the first Maronite priest in America, Father Peter Korkemaz, was sent by the Maronite Patriarch Youhanna El Hage, this community in New York has served like a loving mother who opens wide her arms to welcome at the seashore all her children. Newcomers from Lebanon, Syria, and the Middle East came with little more than their faith in God and a desire for a new beginning. The Church served to guide and help them.
I also congratulate you on your attachment to the Patriarchal See in Lebanon and to the needs of your brothers and sisters there. You have been mindful and generous and I know will continue to be so.
These are important days for Lebanon. Lebanon has come a long way, but we still hope and pray for a permanent resolution of some difficult problems. At the same time we now have major regional challenges that we hope and pray will be resolved peacefully in favor of greater human rights for every citizen, Muslim and Christian alike. We condemn all acts of violence and we pray for peace.
The late Pope John Paul II has called Lebanon “more than a country, a message.” Lebanon is proud of its cultural and religious heritage and holds in respect the contributions offered by each of its religious communities. These communities, despite differences of opinions and political positions, try to live in “communion and love.” This is the message that the world today needs so badly and that our little country proudly offers.
It is in the name of this “communion and love” that I come to you today. It is the same love for which our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ came into this world, and for which he lived and died on the cross. It is a love worthy to give our lives for, and which motivates our every action.
It is a special joy to be with you this evening for the Second Annual Eparchial Benefit Dinner. Last year your honored guest was the Archbishop of New York, His Excellency, the Most Reverend Timothy Dolan. This year you have asked me to share with you in these efforts, and I am so very happy to do so.
Bishop Gregory, the generosity and support of the Eparchy for our needs in Lebanon is well known, and for this we are grateful. You have helped Telelumiere, the Catholic Schools of Lebanon, different orphanages, charitable associations and churches of Lebanon. For this we are grateful. Nonetheless, we also know that a Bishop must also focus charitable giving at home, and this is what you are doing with this Benefit Dinner. You seek to set the Eparchy on a more secure financial foundation so as to insure that your seminarians, your new missions, your retired priests, and your much needed Cathedral renovations can be supported. For this you have my full support.
My faithful people, friends of Lebanon and the United States, stand firm in your faith with courage and determination. Hold on to your Lebanese roots, your identity and belonging. Make every effort to keep your citizenship if possible. Register your marriages and children as Lebanese. Stand firm and rely on God, for He will not abandon us.
Pray for the good of your Church in Lebanon, and in this great country of the United States of America. The Church is worth living and worth dying for. Saint Maron, pray for us; Our Lady of Lebanon, pray for us. May God be with you always.
(Reprinted with permission.)