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Thursday, April 24, 2014

In a time of contradictions and conflicts, when discords and differences are at their peak, Meeting is a must. “That is why we chose the word Meeting,” affirmed His Beatitude, the Patriarch in an interview. “We wanted it to be open to all the dimensions of human beings’ encounter with God, with their brothers and sisters, with society, nation, politics, economics and everything.”

Meeting has been an idea of His Beatitude, Patriarch Gregorios III from the beginning of his clerical mission. It is an idea that he has transformed into effective work in several centres across Palestine, Lebanon, Syria and Egypt, reflecting the ancient traditions of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church as a Church without borders.

Atop one of the Metn Hills at the heart of green Mount Lebanon, lies the new Meeting Centre. It is located within the patriarchal compound that also comprises the patriarchal school and a church still under construction.

After a series of meetings and reunions held by Father Michel Sabee, a visit to the Sultanate of Oman was arranged for His Beatitude, Patriarch Gregorios III, heading a delegation from the Melkite Greek Catholic Church, to meet personally with His Majesty, Sultan Qaboos bin Said al Said, and a number of religious representatives and officials.  The main aim of this meeting was to discuss the ideas behind the international Meeting Centre for dialogue of civilisations in Lebanon. “Our visit to Oman was very fruitful and we had a very interesting meeting there with the Sultan. He responded with great keenness and very generously said to us, ‘I am with you, to plant and bring this idea to fruition,’” continued the Patriarch.

This idea is incarnate in a centre founded on Melkite Greek Catholic Church principles, starting with regard to its deep historical roots in Christian unity, then openness to others and finally, its membership of Arab civilisation and society.

Architect Elie Abou Hala designed the new centre and supervised its construction and interior furnishings. Officials from the Sultanate of Oman and its embassy in Lebanon, headed by His Highness Sayyid HaithambinTariq al Said, Minister of Heritage and Culture in the Sultanate of Oman, followed the work’s progress from its earliest stages.

The three-dimensional architectural model of the building was designed along traditional lines, with details inspired by traditional features. Its interior design also takes into consideration ongoing and future technical challenges likely to be encountered. It is an architectural dialogue reflecting tradition and modernity in perfect harmony with its mission: the dialogue of civilisations.

The Meeting Centre comprises a Melkite library, church museum for the Melkite tradition, centre for Christian-Muslim research, theatre, conference room, reception hall, and furnished rooms to accommodate fifty persons. It is a centre whose objectives go beyond egoism and conflict to reach creative human solidarity. Its motto is, “Building bridges in a divided world.”

In conclusion, His Beatitude says, “This is my gift from and to our Church, society, country and all Arab countries, to our Christian and Muslim brothers and sisters and to all those among them who are seeking to meet each other. As an Arabic saying goes, ‘two mountains cannot meet, only two humans can meet.’”