Developments to the Archdiocese of Lebanon’s pastoral, administrative and educational programs have progressed following a month-long episcopal visit by His Beatitude Mar Meelis Zaia AM, the Metropolitan of Australia, New Zealand and Lebanon.
His Beatitude, who bears the burden of responsibility for the Archdiocese of Lebanon, took part in a wide variety of activities, lectures, programs and meetings with national dignitaries and sister churches during his visit from 15 January to 10 February 2011.
Following up on the humanitarian situations of Iraqi refugees, His Beatitude met with a group of Iraqi families displaced in Beirut, on 20 January. Listening to the causes of their displacement from home, His Beatitude also learnt of their current conditions in Lebanon and the difficulties they face, both in the legal status of residence or employment and the high cost of housing and living.
Material support for humanitarian programs were provided in the distribution of subsidies of food, blankets and stoves, and exempting students of tuition fees at the School of St. George, in addition to contributing to the medical expenses of many. The program also includes training courses in the area of language and computer technology.
As part of this concern in the situations of Iraqi refugees, His Beatitude included a short visit to London, United Kingdom, accompanied by the Archimandrite Emmanuel Youkhana to meet some humanitarian organisations interested in the situations of the Church in the homeland and the needs of Christians in Iraq and the refugees in Lebanon.
On the Archdiocese’s administration matters, discussions took place on liturgical and pastoral programs as well as further education of the clergy during His Beatitude’s meeting with priests and brother deacons in the diocese. A 2011 work plan was agreed on including courses, workshops and lectures for the development of information and the clergy’s qualifications to prepare them for other seminary degrees.
His Beatitude met with Mar Zarzis church choir, where he discussed the needs of the choir in order to achieve the development of their performance and presence of ceremonial music, where a musical specialist will soon direct the choir.
In regards to administrative bodies, sons of the diocese will be elected to develop the plan of action and perform institutional work for all parishes within the diocese. Governing bodies were chosen for Beth Khannia Parish in Ashrafieh and St. George Parish in Bouchrieh.
His Beatitude met with and congratulated the heads of the governing bodies, thanking them for their zeal and their preparations for the work and sacrifice for the church and her children. He also provided them paternalistic advice for the service of the Church and her sons.
The distribution of AUA aid
His Beatitude participated in the distribution of aid from the Assyrian Universal Alliance Foundation to about 80 students in various stages of study.
This aid is part of the aid program provided by the Assyrian Universal Alliance Foundation in the United States to Iraqi refugees in Lebanon and Syria and to the Assyrians. The students are supervised by Miss Juliana Jawaro.
Giving a speech at the meeting, His Beatitude said the distribution of aid was pleasing, and extended his gratitude to the donors, institutions and individuals.
Mar Zarzis Assyrian School
A school that was founded in 1969 by His Beatitude the late Mar Narsai D’Baz, Metropolitan of Lebanon, Syria, and Europe, been refurbished and now possesses technical equipment such as computers and display screens, etc. His Beatitude Mar Meelis visited the school at the commencement of the current academic year, on 17 January, touring the property, meeting management and speaking to students about their situations and needs.
Memorial year for the departure of His Beatitude Mar Narsai D’Baz
The first anniversary of the passing of His Beatitude, the late Mar Narsai D’Baz, was commemorated by His Beatitude Mar Meelis during Holy Mass on 6 February, 2011. The service, in Saint George Church, Beirut, was attended by priests of the diocese and large crowds of faithful.
His Beatitude Mar Meelis spoke about the virtues of the late Mar Narsai, his pivotal role in the great and tender years of pastoral service to parish level and his elevation to priest, bishop and ultimately patriarchal vicar. Prayers were made asking the Lord Almighty to give His Beatitude Mar Narsai eternal life in His heavenly kingdom, and pledging to work on the development of the parish clergy and the faithful spiritually, educationally, socially and institutionally.
A lecture at the Saint Joseph University
At the invitation of the Faculty of Religions, Saint Joseph University, Beirut, His Beatitude gave a lecture on 8 February on the history of the Assyrian Church of the East and her apostolic faith. Highlighting the faith’s beliefs and its history of divisions, His Beatitude explained the extensive challenges faced by the Church today, especially in the countries of the motherland, and by its faithful in exile.
The lecture will soon be posted on the Archdiocese site (www.assyrianchurch.org.au) and its sister sites.
Meetings and visits
His Beatitude Mar George Saliba, Archbishop of Mount Lebanon for the Syrian Orthodox Church and accompanying priests met with His Beatitude Mar Meelis at the Assyrian Church of the East’s diocesan headquarters in Beirut on Thursday evening, 20 January, where topics on the agenda included identity and joint national and ecclesiastical heritage between the two churches and their common responsibility towards the people of the two Churches.
The Patriarch returned a visit to the Archbishop of Mount Lebanon for the Syrian Orthodox Church on 1 February to again meet Bishop Saliba.
His Beatitude Archbishop Michel Qasarji, Diocese of Chaldeans in Beirut, received His Beatitude Mar Meelis on 3 February. The dialogue during the meeting turned to church relations that reflect the spirit and Christian values of the Assyrian Church of the East, and the common responsibility of the Church towards the suffering of their children at home. It is imperative, it was said, that other churches take further joint action based on respect for church authorities and their decisions away from the adoption of individual interests and positions.
Father Emmanuel Youkhana Etron Kulyana, from the Iraqi Embassy in Beirut, also visited His Beatitude Mar Meelis. Discussions included the conditions of Iraq’s people and the nation itself, and in particular co-existence based on justice and equity. Both parties agreed the protection of Iraqi Christians was of most importance. Promoting participation in building Iraq’s future was possible through reassuring Iraqis about their future at home, which belonged to their ancestors. The Iraqi Embassy in Beirut made contributions towards alleviating the suffering and needs of Iraqi refugees in Lebanon and expressed the readiness of the Embassy to cooperate with the Metropolitan in this area.
His Beatitude Mar Meelis also met with Prof. Martin Tamke, Dean of the Faculty of Theology at the University of Göttingen, Germanny, and a number of professors and students of German universities interested in the Assyrian Church of the East on Sunday, 30 January.
The meeting aimed to exchange views and form an agreement to work together with the Assyrian Church of the East’s Australian Archdiocese to achieve a plan of action towards launching the first of the University’s specialised studies. The university professor has a special interest in the Church of the East’s history and legacy.
His Beatitude visited the office of the Mayor of Metn district on 1 February 1 to congratulate him on his responsibility as President of the Municipal Council, and thanking him on the contributions of Metn Municipality in terms of the needs of the Archdiocese, the school and the church which is located in the municipality.
Representing the Assyrian Church of the East in Lebanon, His Beatitude visited St Maron in the Church of Saint Maron in Beirut, where Bishop Boulos Matar led the liturgy for the feast of the Maronite Church on 9 February. The Mass was attended by Lebanese President Michel Suleiman and House Speaker, who sent an emissary because he was out of Lebanon, and Prime Minister Sheikh Saad al-Hariri in addition to the heads of the various communities and large numbers of deputies and ministers.
On 18 January, His Beatitude met with Mr. Michel Bsous Secretary-General of the Bible Society, in talks concerning the big role of the Association in spreading the word of the Lord delivering bibles to various churches and peoples in various languages and tools, and employing modern techniques in preaching the word of the Lord.
His Beatitude also met with the delegation representing the Association of Land of God, which is committed to the establishment of the largest cross light in the world in the channel Bakic Lebanon, which has a height of 73.8 meters (representing one tenth the height of Mount Calvary). The Association welcomed the Patriarch and explained the initiative and their meanings and implications of Christianity in terms of the fact that the cross is actually a symbol of unification of all the churches. His Beatitude expressed his happiness for the church to support the program.[nggallery id=363]