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.
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.