Catholic Patriarchs Of The East Stance about Recent Events

Translated from Arabic by
Father Raed Awad Abusahlia
Chancelor of the Catholic Church of Jerusalem
Nov. 5, 2001

Many were surprised that some of those who claim to be Christians participated with the Jews in their feast of Succot. We have seen, on TV screens and in the streets of Jerusalem, hundreds of them carrying the Israeli flag, claiming to be “The Christian Embassy”. Therefore, to avoid any confusion, we would like to give an explanation. Those people do represent neither Christianity nor Christians. They are in no way related to the official local Christian Churches or linked to the Palestinian Arab Christians. They do not represent the official Catholic, Greek Orthodox and Protestant Churches of the world, but they are groups that claim Christianity and are an American Dollar importation. They would better call themselves “The Zionist Embassy” as they hide behind Christianity to provide support to the Jewish concept of the “Chosen People of God” and the Promised Land basing their views on the Old Testament and not on the Gospel (New Testament). Therefore, we explicitly declare that they do not belong to us and that we have no links to them or to their views. They would better return to their own countries.

However, if you wish to learn the true Christian stance about the recent events, I will guide you to the source and to the latest documents issued by the Council of the Catholic Patriarchs of the East.

In fact, the Council of the Patriarchs of the East convened its 11th conference between the 23rd and 27th of September, 2001 at the Seat of the Syrian Catholic Patriarch in the Convent of our “Lady of Rescue” in Lebanon.  It was hosted by Patriarch Mar Ignatius Butros Abdel Ahad, Syrian Catholic Patriarch of Antioch, and with the participation of their Beatitudes the Patriarchs: Cardinal Mar Nasrallah Butros Sfeir, Maronite Patriarch of Antioch and the East; Cardinal Stephanos II Ghattas, Catholic Copt Patriarch of Alexandria; Gregorius III Lahham, Greek Catholic Melkite Patriarch of Antioch, the East, Alexandria and Jerusalem; Mar Raphael I Bidawid, Chaldean Patriarch of Babylon; Michel Sabbah, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem; His excellency bishop Jean Tirouz, representing His Beatitude Catholicos Narsis Butros IXX, Patriarch of the Armenian Catholics.

The conference, basically, discussed the question of the young in the Church and Ecumenical affairs as well during the joint meeting between the Council and their Beatitudes the Patriarchs of the Orthodox Churches: Patriarch Agnatius IV Hazim; Patriarch Zakka I Iwas; Catholicos Aram I Keshishian; and the bishops: Elias Odeh, George Khader, Kigham Khatcherian, Athanasios Afram Barsoum, Boulos Mattar and Yousef Kallas. They have discussed the situation that prevails in the world and in our area. We can summarise their stance in the following two aspects:

The world situation after the attack on America: They have all expressed their deep concern over the events and their fears of deterioration. They declared their stance as follows:
1)     We vehemently denounce this horrendous event that killed thousands of innocent victims. We share in the pain of the injured, pray for the victims and ask God not to have a recurrence of this action the world over.

2)     We call for quietness, wisdom and responsibility in dealing with this event so that the reaction would not lead to endless circles of violence that would benefit no one but cause pain to everyone. We add our voice to that of His Holiness Pope John Paul II, who called for reacting, not with the spirit of retaliation but with that of “Justice and Peace.”

3)     The proper means to deal with this perilous situation is to tackle the real problems that the world faces, especially those faced by the weak and the poor nations particularly in the Middle East. Therefore, there must be a just and fair solution for the Palestinian problem to avoid further bloodshed, catastrophes and death. Here we should make a distinction between terror and legitimate national resistance to occupation.

4)     We caution everybody, under these painful and severe conditions, against hasty actions, iniquities, provoking statements, preconceptions and maligning particular quarters such as the Arabs and the Moslems. Such an attitude could only feed the spirit of enmity and hatred. Today, more than ever, we are in need of a cultural and civilized dialogue and not a confrontation. No doubt the different religions could play a positive role in this domain. While in this realm, we would like to confirm that the Christians and the Moslems of the East live side by side in harmony and affection. The existing confrontation is not one between religions and cultures, as some media chooses to propagate, but it is the result of global circumstances, which should be appropriately tackled. This is a big responsibility over everybody’s shoulders in particular that of the United Nations Organization, it being the competent body.

5)     We would like to draw the attention that globalisation carried numerous negative aspects that led to despair and frustration in many nations especially those of the third world, who strive under poverty, sickness, ignorance and backwardness as they also do suffer from organised terrorism practiced by some states and from the collective insensitivity of the industrial world. It is time for the entire world to concentrate its efforts on these negative aspects and face them up so the poor would not increase in poverty and the backward in ignorance.

The situation in the Arab countries, particularly in Palestine and in Iraq: They looked at the Arab countries, which are experiencing difficult conditions and suffer the neglect, slackening and oppression of the international community. This drove them to moan in anger, and out of frustration and despair. They also indicated that it is time for the international community to properly tackle the problems from which these states suffer in service of their people and of justice and peace, in the region and the entire world. They have distinctly expressed their position on Palestine and Iraq:
1)     Ending Occupation in Palestine: the Palestinian people continue to suffer from the severest and fiercest conditions, and are subjected to unbearable oppression and insult in all its shapes and forms. The Palestinian problem attained the moment of truth and it is incumbent upon the world to stand up for it with a spirit of Justice and Peace. In our region, there will be no peace nor stability or security without giving the Palestinian people their inalienable and legal rights in their independent state with Jerusalem as its capital. To circumvent or deny these rights will only increase the circle of violence and death. The Palestinian people suffered for a long time, as Pope John Paul II said during his visit to Bethlehem and it is time we should put an end to these sufferings. Therefore, we call for a stop to violence and to lay new foundations for the peace process, which will secure a peace based on justice and international legality, one that will bring stability and security for all concerned. Justice is the road to peace and just peace is the real road to security.

2)     Ending the siege of Iraq: The living conditions in Iraq worsen by the day because of the oppressive siege whose victims are the innocents, especially the children. Every year we call, as many others do, for lifting the siege to enable the Iraqi people start rebuilding and to join forces with the international community through their participation in laying down the grounds for a better world. But these repeated calls do not find a lending ear and oppression continues with all its calamities over the Iraqi people, who are hurt in all aspects of their lives.

The Patriarchs terminated their statement with a call to all Arab countries, in these strenuous times, to work for the welfare of their citizens, to respect their dignity and their spiritual and financial progress in order for them to assume their place and position in the country’s march and to support the role of the youngsters so that they can participate in building their countries, their societies and bring to them stability.

This is the voice of the true shepherds that we have wished to convey to you as it appeared in the closing statement of the Catholic Patriarchs of the East Council and their brethren, the Orthodox in order to confirm to everybody that “we are all one and share the same problems in the East” and that the Christians are a genuine indivisible part of their countries and their societies, and they share in its pains and aspirations for advancement and progress.