ASIA/SYRIA - The "road map" of Father Jacques Mourad, Archbishop of Homs

Tuesday, 7 March 2023 middle east   oriental churches   bishops   islam   dialogue   monasticism  

Cécile Massie/Fides

by Father Jihad Youssef
monk of the Community of Deir Mar Musa

Homs (Agenzia Fides) - These are peculiar days for Christians in Syria and also for us of the monastic community of Deir Mar Musa. Our brother, the monk Jacques Mourad, born in Aleppo, has just been ordained Syriac Catholic Archbishop of the Archieparchy of Homs, to which the titles of Hama and Nabk are linked.
In his speech during the liturgy of consecration, celebrated on Friday, March 3 in the Syriac Catholic Cathedral of Homs, and then in his first homily as Archbishop, Jacques Mourad traced, so to speak, a sort of "road map" for the Archdiocese and I would say, for the Church in Syria, with hints and references that are worth repeating.

At the end of his episcopal ordination, and after thanking the ecclesiastical and civil authorities present, the new Archbishop Mōr Youlian Yagop (Jacques) Mourad began his address by greeting men and women "believers, people of the living God, Christians and Muslims". He then recalled "with much gratitude to the one who prepared the way for me and who was my father and my guide, the Jesuit monk Paolo Dall'Oglio, witness and martyr of the Church, who followed Christ to the end, by offering himself to the example of his Master Jesus.
Father Paolo - continued the new Bishop - founded a community great in its testimony, though small in number, which lives in the Church at the Deir Mar Musa Monastery in the desert". He then thanked his and our monastic community "for the sacrifice of one of its members for the noblest purpose, that is, the service of the people of God".
Bishop Jacques then addressed the Ecumenical Council of Bishops of Homs. "I am the least of you, he told them, and I am ready to share with you all that is for the good of souls, the consolation of the people and the glory of God". The new Bishop presented himself "above all as the spiritual father of each one of you, and this means that I am present, available and close. The door of the bishopric will always be open for anyone who loves God".
After his ordination, presided over by the Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignace Youssif III Younan, the new Bishop Jacques, who became Ordinary of the archeparchy which formerly bore the name of Haemesa, celebrated his first Mass as Bishop on Sunday, March 5, again in the Syriac Catholic cathedral of Homs, dedicated to the Holy Spirit. "Please" said the new Bishop, recognizing his limits "help me with frankness and sharing, each one as he can, to bring our eparchy to reach the measure of the fullness of Christ". After quoting Pope Francis, Father Jacques - as he prefers to be called - confirmed communion with other Catholic dioceses and openness to sister Churches, Orthodox and Protestant, in the unity of the ecclesial family in Christ. "I feel that the divine economy that leads the Church, guides and consoles her - continued the new Bishop - has caused the Church herself to choose me in a monastic community to which God has entrusted a particular charism of openness and harmony with Muslims. A community that has recognized and followed God's intention, who wants our Syriac Church to be a daughter of this land, a land that has also welcomed Islam and in which they have hitherto walked and lived together, in joy and in difficulty".
Finally, after so much resistance and misunderstanding regarding the vocation of our monastic community, the particular charism of Father Paolo Dall'Oglio is welcomed, recognized and proclaimed as a precious gift in the Eastern Syriac Church.
Father Jacques, in his first Episcopal homily, also underlined that the Bishop's mission is to be a prophet, witness and servant of Christian hope, especially in these times of emergency. He said he wanted to be the bishop of those who are far away and marginalized, nurturing "hope in Jesus, the good shepherd who seeks the lost sheep", in collaboration with the priests and through them. The new Bishop then dwelt several times on significant passages from the Second Vatican Council and rom the magisterium of Pope Francis, announcing his intention to collaborate with everyone, priests and lay people in the diocese, also through parish councils and a diocesan council. He then underlined that his pastoral priorities will include attention to young people, women and catechism. In order to be able to proclaim the Gospel, the new Bishop said he was ready "to listen to every charism given to people". Regarding vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life, the Archbishop recalled the urgency of "working together to improve the formation of both lay people and priests, so that the laity can recognize and assume their role in the construction of the Church and also contribute to the growth of seminarians who are worthy and capable of becoming priests who love God and man".
The Archbishop, Father Jacques, concluded his homily in the same way he had begun it, asking for help: "You know that the responsibility placed on my shoulders is not easy for me, that I am a weak servant, and that I would not be able to carry it alone. I entrust myself above all to the grace of God who guides and cares for the Church of Christ, to my brother priests and to my fellow pilgrims , to your prayers and your support, each according to his charisms and talents". The last words of his homily were a quote from Pope Francis: "A bishop does not work for himself, but for his flock and for the common good". (Agenzia Fides, 7/3/2023)