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A Pastoral message on the Apostolic visit of His Grace, Archbishop Georges Bacouni, 14 December 2023

A Pastoral message to all the Clergy and the Faithful of the Holy Eparchy.

The Apostolic Journey of His Grace Archbishop Georges Bacouni, the Melkite Metropolitan of Beirut and Jbeil, to Australia and New Zealand.


Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ, Peace be with you.


I must first offer a sincere apology to all those who had made preparations for the November visit to Australia and New Zealand by His Beatitude, Patriarch Youssef Absi, and which were not fulfilled. However, thanks to the unstinting efforts of our clergy and faithful much was achieved, and many positive outcomes realised.


As you are aware, the year 2024 will mark the three hundredth anniversary of an ecumenical journey which began by the restoration of full communion between Melkite Antioch and the Church of Rome.


It was intended that following the opening celebrations (now adjourned) at the Patriarchal Cathedral in Damascus, on 11 November, His Beatitude Patriarch Youssef would make an apostolic journey to Australia and New Zealand to visit our Melkite Community and to inaugurate our local celebrations.


Unfortunately, the ongoing disturbances in the Middle East, and especially in the Holy Land, made it necessary for His Beatitude to remain at hand for our Melkite Community in the region. You will recall that the pastoral visit His Beatitude had planned to make in 2020 was postponed because of the Covid19 pandemic. With these two disappointments weighing heavily upon his heart, His Beatitude was determined that our planned celebrations would go ahead.


For this reason, His Beatitude asked Archbishop Georges Bacouni, the Metropolitan of Beirut and Jbeil to make the apostolic journey, visit our Melkite Community, and to be present at any tercentenary events. The reception offered to His Grace, and the genuine respect and affection accorded to him during his visit were truly worthy of one representing the Patriarch.


His Grace, Archbishop Georges, arrived in Australia on 20 November 2023 and remained with us for 17 days. During that time, His Grace visited Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, 

Auckland (NZ) and Sydney.


As with all official visits, it is simply not possible to report on every activity in which His Grace was involved. Suffice it to say that there were times when even those much younger than His Grace found it difficult to keep up with him.


During his all too brief stay, His Grace was able to meet with the clergy in each place and with many of the Melkite faithful. At every encounter with our Melkite community, His Grace conveyed His Beatitude's greetings and assured every one of the Patriarch's best wishes. He listened attentively to the many accounts of migrant life in a newly adopted homeland, and he shared with all he met his impressions of the current developments in the Middle East.


His Grace expressed his gratitude to our community in Australia and New Zealand for the ongoing prayerful and monetary support of those in great need in the Middle East, including the help so quickly offered to his own Archeparchy following the explosion at the Port of Beirut in 2020.


His Grace encouraged our clergy and faithful to remain proud of their Melkite Catholic heritage; to keep their ecclesiastical tradition alive in their hearts, and to be always enthusiastic in sharing it with the younger generation and their fellow citizens.


His Grace met with both Roman Catholic and other religious leaders and civic authorities. He took these opportunities to explain the current difficult situation in the Holy Land and the surrounding region. He highlighted the problems faced by the Christian population, and while thanking them all for their generous humanitarian efforts, he urged them to continue to support efforts for a lasting and just peace throughout the affected areas.


Archbishop Georges had a full itinerary which also included addressing a number of gatherings organised by the pontifical organisation "Aid to the Church in Need" (ACN) which supports Christian communities which are in great need, oppressed or persecuted for the sake of their faith. The ACN was a co-sponsor of His Grace's visit.


The visit of His Grace, Archbishop Georges, was undoubtedly a great success. His presence amongst us was a reminder of our links with the Mother Church at Antioch, "Where the disciples were first called Christians." (Acts 11:26).


His Grace came to Australia on his very first visit. He left us with a great affection for this Great South Land and every person he met from whatever community. We can be certain that he will assure His Beatitude of our love and filial devotion. It is our fervent hope that this first visit by Archbishop Georges will be followed by another in the near future, insha'allah.


His Grace left us on Wednesday, 6 December, and we have received word that he has arrived safely in Beirut. It was truly a blessing to have His Grace with us, and vivid memories of his visit will be long remained.


With every best wish,


Robert Rabbat, DD


Melkite Catholic Eparch of Australia, New Zealand and All Oceania.

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