Australasian-Middle East Christian Apostolic Churches
His Eminence and Beatitude Mar Bechara Boutros Cardinal Rai, Maronite Patriarch of Antioch and All the East.
The early Spanish and Portuguese cartographers believed that there was a great land mass in the southern hemisphere. Eventually this mysterious land became known as The Great South Land of the Holy Spirit.
It is my great pleasure to welcome Your Beatitude to this Great South Land, and I do so on behalf of the AMEC - the Australasian-Middle East Christian Apostolic Churches. Founded some two decades ago, AMEC provides a means of cooperation and mutual support, thus strengthening our communities in their witness to the Gospel in this Land to which the Good Lord has brought us.
The occasion of Your Beatitude’s apostolic journey is of course the fiftieth anniversary of the establishment of the Holy Eparchy of St Maroun in Australia, and which now includes also New Zealand and Oceania. The present celebration is indeed an appropriate time to recall the eparchs, priests and deacons, monastic brothers and sisters, who have faithfully served the eparchy; and also to remember with much thanksgiving the clergy who cared for the Maronite faithful throughout Australia in the decades before the eparchy was founded.
And we should never forget the countless Maronite Faithful who in many and varied ways laboured for the building up of their Church and Community in this country. May their memory be eternal!
There is not a day that passes without some unhappy news comes to us from the Middle East. The media report wars and rumours of wars, civil unrest and natural disaster. We are especially grateful that in the midst of all this, Your Beatitude is able to be with us.
Your Beatitude enjoys an undisputed reputation as a peacemaker, and we cannot but recall the words of the Prophet Isaiah, “How beautiful upon the mountains are the footsteps of the messenger of peace who proclaims good news.” (52:7)
In diverse places across the region and throughout sub-Saharan Africa, Christian communities are under immense pressure, and often direct and violent persecution. It cannot be denied that Lebanon, a modern pluralist democratic state is a beacon for the entire Middle East. The forces of hatred and envy are ever at work to extinguish that Light. However, we must remain determined that Lebanon continues as a secure sovereign state, not simply for our own purposes, but for peace in the world…. for as Lebanon goes so goes the Middle East, and as the Middle East goes so goes the world.
Your Beatitude, it has been said that there is no place on God’s earth where there are no Lebanese. Here in Australia, men and women of Lebanese descent are to be found in every profession and trade, and at every level of civil and political life. These Lebanese communities have indeed flourished. However, as Australian as they are, they preserve an abiding love for their ancestral homelands – and even at so great a distance, they do what they can to be of assistance to those lands that first heard the Gospel.
Catholics and Orthodox Lebanese do not see themselves as exiles but rather they rejoice in the prophecy of the Kingly Psalmist, “Their voice has gone out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.” (Ps 19:4)
We must note also that recently His Grace Archbishop Antoine-Charbel Tarabay celebrated the tenth anniversary of his episcopal ordination. Your Beatitude, AMEC has found always in Sayedna Tarabay, a constant support, and an unfailing companion. May the Lord grant him many years.
Your Beatitude, this is your second apostolic journey to the Great South Land of the Holy Spirit. A decade or so has passed since your first journey, please do not wait too long for the third.
May the Lord Jesus Christ grant you, and those travelling with you, a safe and pleasant journey.
✠ Robert Rabbat, DD
Melkite Catholic Church Chaldean Catholic Church
Maronite Catholic Church Antiochian Orthodox Church Syriac Orthodox Church Ancient Church of the East
Coptic Orthodox Church, VIC Coptic Orthodox Church, NSW
Armenian Apostolic Church Armenian Catholic Church
Syrian Catholic Church Coptic Catholic Church
Tuesday 19 September 2023, at Beit Maroun, Strathfield, NSW.