The following is the first message of our newly elected father in Christ, His Eminence Metropolitan Joseph. It was delivered last week at the Parish Life Conference in San Francisco, CA.
“In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit: one God. AMEN.
Beloved in Christ, glory be to God.
I thank all of you for your love and for your sincere commitment in the faith. I thank God for my safety to here. I just arrived this afternoon from Lebanon, and I am bringing with me the love of our holy fathers, Patriarch John X and the holy synod and all the hierarchs. We met together over the past few days. It was not [an] easy journey. Nothing is done by accident, but, believe [it] or not, the Holy Spirit was working hard, whether I am the one who was elected or someone else.
You know, we have politics in the Church—ugly politics, I would say. We have differences, we have human… things, complications, but, before anything else, we have to think of the Holy Spirit who is leading the Church. I assure you that our patriarch, for a number of nights, he didn’t have any sleep. He was receiving bishops, even after midnight, most of the night. On Wednesday we finished the session of the holy synod during that time, and I left, and I drove one hour back to Beirut, and, thank God because it is Ramadan, so there is no traffic! So it took me just one hour. So I got into the hotel in Beirut, because I had some meetings there. I received a telephone call telling me to go back to Balamand again, the same. I tried not to go back. I tried to be negative. I tried to be smart and convincing, not to go back, but it didn’t work. So I got into the car and [went] back, the same.
All what happened [was] because of this Archdiocese. You know, there is no fight over the Archdiocese, but there is a big fight for the Archdiocese. This Archdiocese is like one of many, many archdioceses we have, but this Archdiocese is unique and is different in many ways. So now, the Holy Spirit brought us to this moment. Now, we don’t have to think of politics and what happened and all what I’m trying to share with you today, but the beginning has started right now. Thank you for your love, thank you for your patience, thank you for your endurance, thank you for your prayers and tears as well. But there is no reason to have any fear. Forget me; forget about me. The Holy Spirit, as I said, is leading this Archdiocese, is leading this Church. In Lebanon, in Syria, now war: to be or not to be. At any moment, many, many Christians getting killed every single moment. And you know now what’s happening in Iraq, and between Iraq and Syria, might… a new Islamic state might arise all of a sudden and rule that area: Jordan, Iraq, Syria, and wherever. So the Church is at stake. The Church is in serious danger. The whole Middle East is in danger. We don’t have to forget this.
Now we have to focus on our one thing. Of course, I have a list of priorities for you. Now I am in charge of all of you, how to lead you to the kingdom of heaven. So to lead, to lead you—and I’ve been working with you here for around 20 years—now I have to go back, like to cover many areas. I have to work with many clergy; I have to work with many organizations; and this week I have to leave back to New Jersey, and from New Jersey to the Antiochian Village for the Symposium, to meet more [of] our hierarchs, to meet more clergy and more people there. So it is not one person. All of us—clergy and laity, laity and clergy—so the Archdiocese is not the Metropolitan by himself. The Archdiocese is all of us, and we have to believe in this, and we have to have faith about that. So from this moment, from this Parish Life Conference…
Here, between parentheses, I have to tell you something that many members of the holy synod asked me to stay another two weeks there, because it’s not right, like someone to be elected and disappear, so many people are waiting for him. But I said, “I have committed to our people and our clergy in the Parish Life Conference and the Clergy Symposium,” so that’s why I took the first plane and came here. So I might go back, very soon, back for ceremonial whatever-you-call-it. But the people, this Archdiocese, and the clergy and the laity, according to me, is more important.
So from this moment we have to work together. Imagine: we don’t have a monastery in our Archdiocese. A “sort of” monastery here or there, but now we have to build a monastic life….and when I say “monastic life,” I don’t mean the place, the building: the bricks and the stones. I mean a real monastic life. And since I was a little boy, what I heard from our holy father, the holy man, Patriarch Elias IV at that time, after his visit to the United States, he visited everywhere for three months, and he went back to visit us in Balamand in the monastery there, and we asked him… We thought he’s going to give us a lecture about the power and the wealth and the—you name it—and he said it in one sentence. He said, “In the United States, they have everything, but they need monasteries.” And this is a… I consider it as an order and a command and advice. Something struck me at that moment, and I didn’t know that one day I’m going to be here in this Archdiocese, but now I am here in the Archdiocese, and I will build… more than one monastery. More than one.
We don’t have a center, together, like here. Why do we have to from one hotel to another? We have Antiochian Village back east. We need another one here. To bring all the families together. To bring all the clergy together. To bring, especially, the young people together, under the umbrella of the Church. We don’t need to go from one hotel to another. We don’t need to imitate what’s happening around us in this world. We need to have our own identity, our own atmosphere.
So we have a lot to do. We have a lot to do, but one person cannot do everything by himself. When our late Metropolitan of blessed memory, Metropolitan Philip, when he worked for 48 years, the time was different; things were different. So now we have many churches. We have [plenty] of gifts among our clergy and among our people, so we need to use all the gifts.
On the plane from Lebanon to here, I was trying to imagine some future plan. I was, like, writing down my notes, my thoughts, my everything. That is the beginning. So I need to visit, I need to meet with our people, with our clergy everywhere, with our hierarchs, in order to have a picture, a big, huge picture for the future of this Archdiocese. So this needs a lot of prayer and a lot of support from everyone, so we need to be serious, beloved in Christ. No place for fear in our life. Christ and fear won’t be together. Christ took away all the fear from us, so the more we trust him, the more we put our faith—we have faith—in him, he will lead us and the Holy Spirit won’t leave us alone.
So let us build this Archdiocese on a solid foundation. The foundation is love, faith, and commitment. We don’t need hakki, we don’t need lectures, we don’t need words, we don’t need promises, we don’t need to waste time in talking. Politics and gossips—there is no room for that. There is no time for that. So let us work. Now the work has begun at this moment. Let us express it now in this Parish Life Conference. We can build towers, we can build walls and stones and everything, but if there is no love and if there is no faith, everything we build will be empty, will remain empty. So we need to fill our life with love and faith and commitment. We need to fill the Church with love, faith, and sincere commitment. We don’t have to fear each other or [have] fear of each other, so we have to trust each other; we have to embrace one another in order to accomplish all this.
Now the teaching. I am sorry that I missed this afternoon, but Fr. Irenei is a good speaker, and he has a good knowledge, and his teaching is outstanding, as I heard him speak before. So now I need all of us—you and I—to be in the teaching and in the services. This is the meaning of a Parish Life Conference. Parish Life Conference used to be summer vacation, but here we are not for summer vacation. We are serious in every word we are saying, because every word we are teaching in a Parish Life Conference could be a good reason, a good start for [the] salvation of someone. So we are spreading the good seeds of faith, and we need to be ready to receive this seed and that seed and all the seeds. We need to be fruitful. We need to be ready to make fruits.
So, again, beloved in Christ, we have a lot to do, and may God have mercy on us, on me. Please let us open a new page, a new chapter, and build this Archdiocese and continue to build this Archdiocese as our late Metropolitan Philip worked hard for 48 years and others who helped him, those who have passed away and those who are still with us. Therefore, let us be part of all this big group: those who built and helped building this Archdiocese. Let us be part of that.
And thank you again and again for your love and your commitment. Please pray for me. When we say, “For our father, Metropolitan…” so let us pray for this person, to be a good shepherd, a good leader, a godly father. Once upon a time, a priest who is here, a priest said to me after a convention, he said to me, with tears—“We need a father.” And I’ll do everything I can to be that good father and good shepherd. Thank you.”