The faithful of the Assyrian Church of the East in Melbourne were this weekend blessed by the Episcopal Sojourn of His Beatitude Mar Meelis Zaia AM, Metropolitan of the Assyrian Church of the East for the Archdiocese of Australia, New Zealand and Lebanon. His Beatitude visited Melbourne to assess the condition of the church and provide direction and stewardship to its faithful.
His Beatitude arrived in Melbourne on Friday 27 August 2010, and gave leadership to a series of meetings with the parish priests and various committees. In these meetings, the Metropolitan discussed numerous points of importance to the parish faithful and laid out concrete measures for the ongoing success of the parish.
Sunday 29 August 2010, marking the First Sunday of Elijah in the ecclesial calendar, saw His Beatitude consecrate the Eucharistic Liturgy in the St. George Church located in Reservoir. Hundreds of faithful packed the small church, which was purchased in 1979, to take part in the service. In his sermon, His Beatitude exhorted the faithful to be in constant prayer and asserted the importance of humility, good works and mutual respect in the spiritual life of every Christian. His Beatitude was assisted during the service by Rev. Gewargis Toma and Rev. Hurmizd Gewargis, priests of the St. George Church, and more than ten deacons.
Following the Eucharistic Liturgy, the faithful gathered at Ishtar Reception Center for a breakfast held in the Metropolitan’s honour.
In his keynote address, His Beatitude provided an extensive overview of his recent travels abroad and the internal condition of the Archdiocese. These trips included a visit to India in January this year, where His Beatitude participated in the 13th Holy Synod of the Assyrian Church of the East (during the Patriarchate of His Holiness Mar Dinkha IV, Catholicos Patriarch). Nine prelates, as well as His Holiness the Catholicos Patriarch, participated in the Holy Synod where two bishops were consecrated for the 50,000-strong Archdiocese of India. His Beatitude discussed the success of this trip and the historical importance of the Archdiocese of India in the Assyrian Church of the East universally. It is noteworthy that His Beatitude was presented with the gift of a beautiful cross by an Indian member of the Melbourne parish as a token of love towards the shepherd of the Archdiocese. His Beatitude also discussed two recent trips to Lebanon, following the passing away in the Lord of His Beatitude the late Mar Narsai DeBaz Metropolitan. As a result of both trips, a number of administrative measures were implemented to assist the Diocese of Lebanon. In particular, His Beatitude highlighted moves to increase humanitarian services available to Assyrians and other Christians residing in Lebanon, many of whom are refugees and experience harsh financial and living conditions. It was noted that ongoing support is necessary for the Assyrian communities residing in both Lebanon and Syria who are most often in need of fiscal support from abroad.
Discussing the condition of the Melbourne parish in depth, the Metropolitan informed of a strategic plan for the future of the parish, including the construction of a larger church at the Ishtar Reception Center site, and facilities for a permanent Sunday school and offices. Construction of the church and school is to commence in coming months. Numerous other services, including the formation of a full-time primary school and childcare center, were also discussed, with studies currently being undertaken to assess the likelihood of these ventures coming to fruition in the near future. English-language sacramental services will also commence before the end of 2010, in a move to make church services more accessible to young people who may have difficulty in understanding the Assyrian language. The English-language Eucharistic Liturgy and other services have proven to be highly successful in Sydney, with the formation of the groundbreaking Ss. Peter and Paul Parish marking an important point in the history of the Assyrian Church of the East.
His Beatitude, who will be departing for New Zealand soon, expressed his desire to see all Assyrians in Melbourne continue to assist the growth and success of the parish and praised their commitment to the most holy church of their forefathers. His Beatitude imparted his Episcopal blessings on all those in attendance and they in-turn will pray that Almighty God continues to keep our beloved Metropolitan in good health and spirit and bless him ceaselessly.[nggallery id=54]