Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Al-Akhbar: Plan for "Civil Commission" Removed from Holy Synod's Agenda

From today's al-Akhbar. Arabic original here.

Orthodox "Uprising" Scuttles Civil Commission

The plan for founding the General Civil Commission for Greek Orthodox in Lebanon was removed from the agenda of the Holy Synod in Balamand after objections to it from members of the community in Lebanon and Syria, since standing guard was "the Holy Spirit who stands as a bulwark against money and power," according to sources opposed to it.

by Joanna Azar

Balamand-- The plan to establish the "General Civil Commission for Greek Orthodox in Lebanon" was not included in the agenda of the Holy Synod of Antioch which began its sessions yesterday at the Saint John of Damascus Theological Institute at Balamand with the attendance of His Beatitude Patriarch Ignatius IV of Antioch and All the East and the metropolitans of Syria, Lebanon, and the countries of the diaspora.

The plan, which met opposition from the Orthodox Pastoral Gathering and the Orthodox Youth Movement stirred up general opinion within the community in Lebanon and Syria, while sources at the Monastery of Our Lady of Balamand described it as "a set of ideas that were presented to Patriarch Hazim but which did not originate with him."

Al-Akhbar has learned that the idea of establishing the commission was proposed to Hazim by an advisory committee that he had previously formed but that it was removed from circulation on account of the confusion it had stirred up ever since it was announced. It has been replaced during the Synod's sessions with a study of "meaty" issues such as the See of Antioch's relations with the Vatican and relations with the other Orthodox churches, especially in Istanbul, in addition to internal matters.

The Orthodox Pastoral Gathering and the Orthodox Youth Movement expressed their pleasure with the plan's absense from the Synod's table. Sources with them credited it to "the Holy Spirit who does not err and who  stands as a bulwark against money and power". Hazim commented on the plan to establish the commission saying, "I have my own personal advisory committee. I meet with it when I come to Lebanon. It advises me about the current situation and what has happened during my absence. We continually meet with those who have a connection to the Orthodox in the state." He addressed the politicians saying, "We do not want to take the place of any politician. You are completely free in your politics and whatever your individual politics arrive at, you must look to what the law gives us. We want our share with honor and dignity and this does not mean that I demand a commission for me." In his capacity as patriarch, Hazim welcomed all the organizations and concerned parties in the community who wish to speak. He added, "we listen to all people and we do not say that we are with one against the other."

In addition to Hazim who came from his residence in Damascus, fifteen metropolitans participated, in addition to the patriarchal vicar, dean of the theological institute, and abbot of the Monastery of Our Lady of Balamand Bishop Ghattas Hazim and the patriarchal representative in Moscow Archbishop Niphon Saikaly, while the metropolitans of Aleppo and Europe were absent.

Regarding the plan for an electoral law that was put forward by the Orthodox Gathering, he said, "We do not have any laws that we announce.  We listen to all who have laws and examine them. Until today, we are not signing off on any law. To those who put forward a law, we say, 'God give you strength,' since we are not a legal commission."

Metropolitan Georges Khodr of Jbeil and Batroun made it clear to al-Akhbar before the opening of the sessions "that there is no special importance to this meeting of the Synod. Rather, it is one of two meetings that the patriarch and the metropolitans hold annually. As for the agenda that was distributed to the metropolitans, it is provisional at the beginning, before it is approved at the first session." According to Metropolitan Khodr, the Synod's work focuses on the relations between the See of Antioch and the other sees, churches, and patriarchates, as well as taking up internal issues that the metropolitans bring to the table for examination.

It should be mentioned that the Synod did not meet in June because of the situation in Syria and so it meets for the first time this year. Its work finishes tomorrow or the next day and then it will issue recommendations.

Prior to the commencement of the Synod's work, Patriarch Hazim touched upon the Christians' situation , pointing out that, "Not all Christians are among those subject to injury, damage, harm, and soforth. All we know is one thing, that since the beginning of the events in Syria until today, those Christians who are from among us or who have a relationship to us, we see them in their towns and villages and they are not harmed and are not targeted for harm." He mentioned that, "the tragedy exists among Christians apart from the Orthodox, and this is the true picture. If the proportion of Orthodox among those who have died and whose houses have been destroyed is very small, as is the proportion among those who have fled to other places. It is not correct to say that we have been targeted. In Damascus, our twelve churches have not been subject to any damage and we as a patriarchate remain there and our priests are there. All believers perform their religious practices without fear or terror."

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