Abandonment of Patriarchal Service
“Lo, I come to do thy will, O God.” (Hebrews 10: 9)
Patriarchal Headquarters, Rabweh
6 May 2017
Abandonment of Patriarchal Service is the culmination of my Catholic Christian, monastic and humanitarian life’s work: a period during which the Holy Saviour has bestowed his blessings on me.
On November 29, 2000, I was elected patriarch, so am now in the seventeenth year of my service at the Patriarchate, having completed many projects with the grace of the Saviour and thanks to the generosity and love of friends, especially German ones.
In January 2011, during a private spiritual retreat in Cairo, I wrote down a spiritual prayer and concluded, "I hope to resign from my patriarchal service in due time after seven to ten years.” Then, in the retreat for Damascus priests in Seidnaya in June 2011, I wrote a spiritual meditation saying, "I hope to give up my patriarchal service in either 2014 or 2015, when I am aged 83 or 84 or at most 85." God is behind the intention.
Years passed and because of the failure, for known reasons, to convene the Synod of June 2016, I decided to give up my patriarchal service for the good of the Church. I wrote a letter to that effect to the Congregation for Eastern Churches on 20 June, 2016. We were later able to hold a Synod between 21 and 23 February, 2017. We reached a beautiful ecclesial accord.
On the other hand and for the sake of the Church, which I loved so much, I placed my resignation at the disposition of His Holiness the Pope.
I looked back at my diary as I mentioned above in this statement, and found that the Spirit had guided me on a straight path. I saw that it was time for implementing what I wrote in 2011 and am ready to relinquish my patriarchal service by the age of 85, i.e. 15 December 2017.
This is my decision before the Redeemer and my monastic, priestly, ascetic and patriarchal conscience.
I have written four letters to His Holiness the Pope to explain my reasons, especially the need to live as we stated in the Agreed Synodal Statement (February 23 2017), to live in an atmosphere of companionship and love in June 2017. I explained in these letters the way I proposed to announce my resignation, asking His Holiness to enable this renunciation of office to take place in such a way as to preserve the patriarch’s dignity, preserve the dignity of the Eastern Churches and respect for Eastern traditions, as well as respect for other Eastern Catholic Patriarchs, for Eastern Orthodox Patriarchs of all Churches and for ecumenical dialogue.
The transition from one era to the next is an agreed order of things that was decided upon in February 2017. But coordination on the details of the mode and mechanism of transition has not been properly followed. I will continue to communicate with His Holiness the Pope and with the Congregation for Eastern Churches, to find a suitable outcome to this transition. We will remain in touch in this spirit of love and understanding, for the good of our Church, unity and future, for the glory of God and the welfare of souls.
I conclude by thanking “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ” (Ephesians 1: 3). I also conclude with a phrase from my 2011 meditation on resignation, "`Love never fails!´ Thank you, Jesus, thank you, Mary, and let us commend ourselves and each other, and all our life unto Christ our God.“
Rabweh, 6 May 2017
Patriarch of Antioch and All the East,
Of Alexandria and of Jerusalem
Of the Melkite Greek Catholics