Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Melkite Church in "open rebellion"

Beirut (AsiaNews) - The Greek-Catholic synod due to have taken place two days ago lacked a quorum, with the absence of 10 bishops. They accuse the Patriarch of having bankrupted the Church patrimony. The faithful are scandalized. The Congregation for Eastern Churches pushes for dialogue.

The Greek-Catholic Patriarch Gregory III Laham announced last night that he will not resign from his patriarchal seat on the back of pressure from some rebel bishops who boycotted the synod which was to have opened two days ago on 20 June in Aïn Trez (Mount Lebanon), the summer seat of the patriarchate. He also confirmed that the annual Church synod will be held around October.

Out of 22 bishops in office, only 10 attended the meeting which requires the participation of at least 12 for validity. The absent bishops who have joined forces against the patriarch and boycotted the synod, are considered "in open rebellion."

Of the prelates boycotting the synod, the best known is the Archbishop of Beirut, Msgr. Cyrille Bustros (77 years). He and others call for the resignation of Patriarch Gregory III (83 years), claiming he has squandered the wealth of the Greek-catholic Church. The patriarch defended himself defining the allegations as "misleading".

Months ago, the coalition of bishops sent a letter to the Congregation of Eastern Churches laying the same claims, but the Congregation, led by Cardinal Leonardo Sandri gave no credence to their complaint, responding it could not act as a referee in this dispute, demanding the bishops participate in the Synod and recalling that no one can force a patriarch to resign. Gregory III, for his part, urged the bishops who are hostile to him to voice their criticism “transparently and with charity during the synod”. Unfortunately, their absence at the opening of the meeting shows their preference for a showdown.
"Open rebellion"

Last night, returning to the events of the last two days, and concerned about the feelings of his community shocked by the allegations, the patriarch issued a second statement in which he states that he will not resign under pressure. Harshly condemning the dissenting bishops, Gregory III emphasizes that their absence from the synod is a "case of open rebellion" that contradicts the provisions of Canon Law of the Eastern Churches (104).

The Patriarch also states that the Congregation of Eastern Churches has been clear on the issue of his function, noting that "the patriarchal seat is considered vacant only if the patriarch's death or renunciation of his office" (n. 126) and in no another case.

In the statement, Gregory III says: "I consider the boycott of the work of the synod on the part of some bishops as an act of open ecclesiastical rebellion against patriarchal authority and that of the Congregation of the Eastern Churches (Rome), as well as against a clear provision of canon law ... Demanding the unconditional resignation of the patriarch is irresponsible conduct, not ecclesial and illegal, and has caused a wave of anger, protests, doubts and perplexity among the faithful. This very serious situation has prompted us to publish this explanatory statement, out of the concern for protecting the conscience and feelings of our children, clergy and laity, as well as the dignity of our Church, at all levels ... I shall not resign, and not I give in to illegal and deceptive pressures. I will remain at the service of my Church. "

The patriarch has also stated that the suspended synod could be held in October and encouraged some mediation to make the meeting possible.


  1. Well, having "bankrupted the Church patrimony" sounds quite enigmatical. Are there more details what this conflict is really about?

    1. Patrimony here is in the literal sense of money and real estate.

    2. A comment by Filipe YTOL to the post "Gregory III to 'rebel' Melkite bishops" (leading off with the same AsiaNews article as above) on The Byzantine Forum ( )

      Meanwhile, a friend from Australia sent me this, which he got from a local Melkite aquaintance...

      "The patriarchate has little money left because it has given it away to relieve the refugees, having had all its infrastructure and assets ruined in the war - beyond the control of the patriarch. Indeed he has been the one to raise money abroad to keep things afloat and to give more aid to the people. contacts here tell me that the ten who have stayed away and now turned on their Father have done little to help or raise money, and blame him for not putting the interests of the church first. The implication of corruption is disgusting. Even worse is a catholic news agency peddling one side's spite. Satan must be exultant. I do not approve of censorship and believe in free speech. But there must be press standards to adhere to if a media outlet is going to call itself Catholic. Gregorios has enemies in Rome for not playing a suitably subordinate role. for the sake of their survival and true to the doctrine of communion. It's a matter of life and death whether the Eastern Churches are supported, respected and materially aided"

  2. When I first read the story my thoughts were "Sounds like a mini-pope. I can't be judged by you mere members of the synod." Where is the accountability of the Primate to the Synod? I hope it is true that the money has been spent for the sake of the refugees since i like the Patriarch and the Melkites.

    1. I think the implication is that the bishops could depose him if they joined the synod and could get enough of the other bishops to back their cause. That is the legal way to do things. That is how living Popes and Patriarchs have always been deposed. Remember, Chalcedon led to the deposing of Nestorius and the Sixth Council led to the deposing of the Antiochian patriarch (as well as the anathematizing of a dead Roman pope).

      By immediately going to Rome and wanting the bureaucrats to interfere, the bishops are playing like Pius IX is still pope. By not getting involved (as of the time I am writing this), it shows that Rome is at least attempting to restore tradition and treat the Eastern Catholics like equal brothers.

      As for the contested issue, I do not have the information to judge one way of the other.

    2. But does the code of Eastern Catholic law allow for a patriarch or major archbishop to be deposed? I agree they should not haven tried an end run with Rome.

    3. I am not sure... I think that realistically if the synod were to turn entirely against a patriarch, he would most likely resign.

      In light of the Chaldean liturgical controversies, I've been hoping for something like that to happen with that Church.