Speech by Patriarch John X at the Closing of the…
Speech by Patriarch John X at the Closing of the Holy Antiochian Synodal Meetings
Balamand October 10, 2021
I am pleased to address our beloved Lebanon after the Holy Antiochian Orthodox Synod, the meeting in which we dealt with matters regarding the Antiochian Orthodox Church in the East and the countries of diaspora. Lebanon occupies a special place in the heart of the Church due to the significant cultural role it has achieved. This role has been threatened by the emergence of recent events resulting in a hotbed of poverty, despair, and institutional collapse.
I speak about Lebanon today with an unquantifiable love and affinity generally reserved for those borne here. My sentiments proceed from the depths of my heart, and from the spiritual realities bequeathed to us, manifest in the traditions and historicity of our Church. I speak of Lebanon, and I say that Lebanon is unique. I speak of Lebanon as the axis of the East and our authenticity in this land is the consequence of our firmly established roots and longevity. We come from this land and we constitute its blood and veins. Dare I say our blood composites the very streams that flow throughout this region: they mark our identity and being.
From my position as the Patriarch of the Orthodox Church, I address my beloved parish in Lebanon and hence, the entirety of the Lebanese people. Orthodoxy, in Its truest and most comprehensive self, entails amongst other things, communication with the other, particularly with our Muslim brethren. We have lived together as citizens and our historical relations have been characterized by mutual respect for each other’s faith, coexistence, and prospective plans for the future. This mutual respect and clarity of vision remains unwavering, interminable, and resolute.
We are a major component in the East. We adopt the basic principle of equal citizenship. We are not beholden to labels or monikers like “majority” or “minority” for the sole reason that principles of true citizenship are fixed and never subject to fluctuation or dissolution.
We consider Lebanon as a single unified ship, whose survival is predicated upon the concerted efforts of all its inhabitants, from all spectrums of life. Being passengers of one boat means that our fate is the same. On this occasion, we raise our voices in order to preserve Lebanon as a country of citizenship and coexistence. We appeal to the brotherly Arab countries and the international community to preserve the stability of this country and to support all efforts consistent with the aforementioned objectives. Lebanon must benefit from territorial integrity and continuity including but not limited to full rights to possession of its oil and all its natural resources. All the Lebanese people have the right to parliamentary representation. We appreciate the government's decision regarding prospective parliamentary elections in a timely fashion and for initiating the reform process the Lebanese people eagerly await.
We trust the people of Lebanon and consider that Lebanon is, first and foremost, the responsibility of the Lebanese people, especially politically, administratively, economically, and financially. We trust the ability of the Lebanese to govern themselves. No one else has the right to dictate or interfere in Lebanon’s domestic affairs. In the East, since the era of the consuls, our history is characterized by persistent external interference in internal affairs, including those of Lebanon. The impetus of this interference by various nations has been the realization of their respective interests’ at the expense of the unity of our people, institutions, and collective vision.
We want our dear Lebanon to be a free, independent, and effectual state in the Arab world, a pioneer in cultural and civilizational development, neither isolated from this development nor secluded in it. Lebanon has a mission in the East and, as a site for dialogue and rapprochement, Lebanon has a vital and continuous role to play in fostering Christian-Islamic dialogue and relations. Emergent in the modern era as a sincere gesture of civility and regional progress, Lebanon has demonstrated initiative to these ends stemming from self-confidence, historical authenticity, and from the great awakening of the role of reason in managing citizens’ affairs. The intended consequence is the realization of a peaceful and harmonious society. Affording and preserving services that citizens deserve, consistent with the declarations of Human Rights Watch, has become the ideal model for us in the Arab world.
In achieving the model that the Lebanese youth yearn for, we have to scrutinize Lebanon, challenge its presuppositions, subject it to self-criticism, and reveal its weaknesses in order to rectify them. Objectivity in dealing with public affairs and emergent methodologies, whether in politics, administration, the economy, financial situations, and especially in social affairs are prevalent and require considerable courage, effort, and persistence to start again after the catastrophe that has befallen the East. The path of modern history beckons and requires us to confront the various challenges with a unifying spirit that unites humanity.
The questions prevalent in the collective conscience of the Lebanese people which require answers and resolution in order to realize a model and exemplary Lebanon, one where there is no escape from self-review and positive self-criticism, are:
What is the reason for this great institutional collapse?
What are the reasons for the failures to form a government?
What happened to priorities, as private interests surpass the public interest?
What happened to the moral law that transcends all laws?
What about democratic rules in building a modern state?
Why has Lebanon so perilously abandoned its role in the region and the world?
These are some of the questions that we must address. There is no doubt that the Lebanese people will inevitably address these very questions.
I take the occasion to stress the ten principles in the preamble to the constitution. These principles are the basic principles from which we proceed in the self-criticism that we seek. These are the principles that the Lebanese have unanimously agreed after lengthy dialogue and difficult paths in the past century. We shall not address urgent matters except on the basis of these principles, as means of determined action rather than superfluous and empty words in speeches which has all too often characterized the past. In this case, I remind you of the first point:
“Lebanon is a sovereign, free, independent homeland, a final homeland for all its citizens, united by its territory, its people, and institutions, within the constitutionally and internationally stipulated borders.” This principle is no less important than the other nine principles, which the Lebanese regard as pillars of the Lebanese societal and spiritual temple. These principles must be disseminated and taught in all Lebanese institutes such that they are prioritized consistent with the establishment the modern Lebanese state.
We define and envisage The State as unitary and democratic based on pluralism and diversity. It is perceived as the strongest and the best to ensure a cohesive and harmonious society.
And if we, the Orthodox, are a sect, our sect is non-sectarian as to be discriminatory, and we regret that our self-perception has been disparaged and negatively received resulting in inequity in our representation in official administrations.
We endeavor, as participants in the system, to the restoration of our rights until we become a highly developed civil state. The Lebanese youth have already expressed a revolutionary spirit consistent with this objective, a fervor and determination present in their collective conscience and imagination ultimately wishing the best for their dearly beloved country.
Now that the government has been formed after a long, arduous, and problematic ordeal that has undermined Lebanon’s position amongst the ranks of countries and has brought it to the precipice, a solution may be found amongst those committed to reverting back to the radiant and illustrious values of the East based on the universal principles of justice, equality, and transcendent morals.
Our region in the East is more than mere land; It is site of heavenly missions and the land of the Incarnation. We, as Antiochians, are the Church of the Incarnation, and the Church of the tangible and living presence that shines as a living testimony. It is an active presence that transcends mere numbers and quantities but rather encapsulates and engenders uniqueness, role, and mission. We, along with others, are responsible to remove from the East, the antiquated and anachronistic museum of history, the dust of times that inhibits temporal transcendence. Rather, we are entrusted with the message of our Redeemer and His presence among us and through us which is not confined to structures or stone.
In the era of prophecy, the prophets held the rulers accountable and castigated them for errors. Today, in the era of democracy and human rights, everyone is culpable and deterred from deliberate malfeasance through private institutions and free media. The Lord, I am convinced, will rejoice when we abolish the pervious wall that separates individuals and peoples through the rhetorical use of “I and you” and “we and you”.
Whoever reads the Bible knows that Lebanon has always been in the minds of the prophets, whether for the beauty of its land, the greatness of its cedars, or the solidity of its people. Lebanon was eulogized by the Bible more than seventy times, especially in the book of Psalms, as if the writer of the Psalms, had stood atop the Cedar Mountain, facing the Qannoubine Valley, the Valley of Holiness. It is no wonder that poets praised it as "a piece of heaven on earth" due to its moderate climate, sea, rivers, mountains, and forests, and scenic beauty.
I conclude by reminding you that our land in this East has touched the feet of the apostles and reflected, two thousand years ago, the echo of the angels’ hymn: “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
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