Most Rev. Joseph Khouri
Eparch for Maronites in Canada

Synod of Bishops

In the Midst of Migratory Movements, the Bishop, Sacrament of Unity within the Diversity of Cultures and Ecclesial Traditions

Emigration toward the West by the faithful of Oriental Churches stemming from the Middle-East is the cause of much suffering by families that are divided, as well as for societies that are impoverished by many departures, and for the Oriental Churches themselves who find their Christian witnessing in their respective territories thereby enfeebled.

The Bishops of the Oriental Churches in the territories of immigration are preoccupied with this attrition, they who accompany the sons and daughters of the Oriental Churches into their adoptive countries. Not only are they anxious that their faithful will received services from priests from their own nations but also, and primarily, they hope that their Oriental Churches of the Diaspora may continue to govern themselves according to their particular disciplines, thus preserving their ecclesiastical and religious patrimony, considered as a patrimony of the entire Church of Christ.

Indeed, they suggest that the phenomenon of migration may be considered a fortuitous occasion for the entire Church to be enriched by the particular Oriental patrimony. Immigrants from the Churches of the Orient come with little material belongings but with a rich spiritual and religious heritage that may be enriching for the Western Churches. In fact these difficult times may be just the occasion for an exchange of spiritual gifts between the Churches of the East and of the West.
In the country of immigration the Bishop who is pastor of faithful coming from Oriental Churches in the homeland has the duty to foster communion in that portion of God’s People entrusted to his care and one can discern three dimensions of this communion. There is communion with one’s Patriarch and one’s Synod; communion with the local Episcopal Conference and the Churches of the country of welcome; lastly there is communion with the entire Church through communion with the See of Peter.

This triple communion corresponds to a triple missionary challenge for the Churches of the Diaspora: there is mission in the service of the faithful who have emigrated and through whom links are maintained with brothers and sisters still living in the homeland and thereby with the Oriental Church of origin; there is mission in the form of evangelical witness in coordination with the works of mission and evangelisation undertaken by the local Churches of the territory in question; and there is mission in the fruitful encounter between Churches of the East and West providing the occasion for exchange of spiritual gifts.

Thus the current conjuncture requires new forms of communication between the Eastern and Western Churches. That is why I propose the formation of a task force to examine the question of communion between Churches of the Orient and of the West in a manner leading to the clarification of existing relations between the Churches of the Diaspora and the Churches existing in the historical territories as well as between Churches established in the countries of immigration. Thus the Bishop, in the midst of migratory movements, may become a sacrament of unity and a sign of hope in the diversity of cultures and ecclesiastical traditions.

October 9, 2001