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Monday, October 24, 2016
Letter from Archbishop of Galilee
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¬†Beloved Friends, A year has passed since I became the Melkite Catholic Archbishop of Akko, Haifa, Nazareth and all Galilee. Practically, I am, by the grace of God, Archbishop of all Israel (excluding the Occupied Territories). My pastoral responsibility concerns directly the largest Christian community of the Holy Land and the major part of my time is spent visiting the parishes and praying with the communities. We are almost 70% of all the Christians of Israel. The diocese spreads all over Galilee in forty towns and villages, and local communities vary in size from 120 up to 15,000 persons. I spent forty years learning how to be a good parish priest and as soon as I became accustomed to this, the Church called me to serve as Archbishop. It is a far more complicated and complex task. I am learning how to become a good pastor for the pastors of the communities. It seems that I will spend all my time learning, making mistakes and adjusting, discovering the hidden potential, and responding to the urgent need for drastic reforms inside the church. The time in Ibillin is over, nonetheless my responsibility for Ibillin and for Mar Elias continues since both are part of the diocese. MEEI has to start acting independently from their Abuna. I am not worried about the future of the Institution. We have the main components to keep MEEI distinguished and flying the flag of reconciliation and sharing. The directors are comfortably mature to take over the responsibilities without having to refer to the old Abuna. The parents and students are seriously caring for the reputation and well being of their institution. Our friends the Pilgrims of Ibillin and the Elijah Trust are proactive and deeply motivated with their generosity. There are some problems at each level of the institution's life, but I am confident that together we can overcome most obstacles and problems. Of immediate concern is how we are facing a wave of negative globalization resulting in frustrations and inclination to violence both verbal and physical. We cannot isolate our student body from the social environment, from local and international situations of poverty and wars. The numerous TV stations broadcast so much violence and here in the Middle East there is so much despair. We try to protect this oasis of peace and friendship on campus. Considering the diversity of backgrounds of our students, so far our situation is among the best in the country. Increasingly we are encountering many more cases of real poverty among our families. Parents have a hard time paying for their children's educational expenses: transportation, stationery and books. The situation is desperate for many parents who struggle to pay the (symbolic) fees of 100 or 150 shekels ($US25 to 37). To our deepest regret some parents have withdrawn their children from MEEI to send them to schools with much lower standards. MEEI fees represent one third of the amount required from any private school in the country. Life is becoming more difficult, more expensive and jobs much less available. The school buildings are becoming older and some are much outmoded. Some facilities, like the library which serves our 1300 high school students as well as the growing college and university, have become too small. Indeed after 25 years a new evaluation and overall plan for renewal is of prime importance if MEEI is to keep up with the growing needs of such a large school. At the same time the Israeli Ministry of Education has become much less generous and far more demanding than in the past. MEEI directors intend to keep up with the new requirements. However, the main building constructed in 1982 needs a drastic restoration and greatly increased numbers of students require many more classrooms, space for labs and for extra-curricular activities. We urge our people, and especially the parents of the students, to contribute whenever they can to the expenses of the Institution. We urge our friends from all over to be more generous and continue their commitment. It is there around the school desks that peace is to be built. It is the young generation who will soon be the decision making authority. Education is the most powerful tool for peace or for war. Education together and learning to respect and appreciate the diversity of affiliation and of belonging is the most powerful instrument to create peace and justice. We wish to build more and more schools, one school in each community. The existing schools have been playing and are still playing a role of moderation and of generous tolerance. I constantly invite our people to go beyond the simple practice of tolerance towards a genuine welcoming acceptance of the other as a brother or sister, to practice trust more than suspicion, to discover the good in human beings rather than to look for the evil. For forty days we lived the time of Great Lent. As Archbishop I created a special program to visit all the parishes of the diocese at least once to celebrate prayers and renewal of spiritual life. Now in our diocese we are living the celebrations of Resurrection. Our Church was and is still Christ's home and this Church ≠ the Church of Galilee - was the encounter point for the One risen from death and His believers among them our fathers and grand fathers. Galilee is no longer Galilee of the nations, but is Galilee of the risen Christ. He is not there in his tomb- He left it empty. He is risen as he said before and he is preceding them to Galilee. You will see him there. Galilee is ours and the One risen from the dead is our Man from Nazareth. Our grandfathers believed, relying on the evidence of those who lived with Christ; those who accompanied and followed Him to the Cross, then to the grave and finally the resurrection. We just experienced a day that has taken our attention and time for weeks. Indeed on Saturday 14 April 2007, we celebrated very officially for the first time the Day of the Sick and Elderly. It was a day of transfiguration for the whole Melkite diocese as well as for all the other Christian denominations. We wish you had been with us to thank God for the joy; for the hope and for the humility that, literary, hundreds of patients and elderly people have given us. We were not less than 2500 persons at MEEI, but we have forgotten the fatigue and exhaustion and we are grateful for the blessing that this day brought us. Al Masih qam! Ha kan qam! The Lord is risen! He is truly risen! Abuna Elias Chacour PO Box 102, Ibillin 30012, Galilee, Israel ∑ Ph +972 (0)4 8432 105 ∑ Email:
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