Gregory III Laham, Patriarch of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church, has resigned. During his patriarchate he became notorious for calling the Melkite Greek Catholic Church the “Church of Islam,” as is noted in the article below. He also claimed that Islamic jihad attacks against Middle Eastern Christians were a “Zionist conspiracy against Islam,” and exclaimed that “no one defends Islam like Arab Christians.”
That was certainly true of himself, but Gregory III Laham was not alone: the close relationship between some Middle Eastern Catholic bishops, including Melkites, to the “Palestinian” jihadis and other Muslims in the Middle East should be an embarrassment to the entire Catholic Church, but of course it isn’t. Melkite Archbishop Hilarion Capucci, who died on January 1, 2017, was such a stooge for the “Palestinians” that he was known as the “Chaplain of the PLO.”
I have personally never encountered such rabid Jew-hatred as I did in the Melkite Greek Catholic Church and from other Middle Eastern IslamoChristians, including prelates: when one Melkite bishop was asked why he objected to my collaborations with Pamela Geller, he explained simply, “She’s a Jew,” and that was a good enough explanation for the assembled clergy. While Christians in Muslim countries are being slaughtered, exiled, subjugated, and/or forced to convert in numbers never before seen in history, all by Muslims acting in the name of Islam and in accord with its teachings, these hate-filled clerical dhimmis carry water for their killers and rail against Jews and Israel, where Christians live as full citizens.
In the end, Patriarch Gregory was forced to resign not for his apologetics for jihad or fanatical Jew-hatred, but because of his high-handedness and mismanagement. His pro-jihad stance and Jew-hatred are widely shared in the Melkite Church, and likely will be by his eventual successor.
“Leave them; they are blind guides. And if a blind man leads a blind man, both will fall into a pit.” (Matthew 15:14)
“The Gregory-era, Patriarch of the ‘Church of Islam’, comes to an end,” by Gianni Valente, La Stampa, May 8, 2017 (thanks to Robert):
In the end, Patriarch Gregory III Laham pulled out. He is no longer the Primate of the Greek-Melkite Catholic Church. His somewhat troubled exit ultimately confirming his impulsive attitude. It also reveals factors – often removed – of the “inner” malaise that today crosses many Christian Middle Eastern communities.
Patriarch vs. Synod
On Saturday May 6, the Vatican Press issued Pope Francis’ letter in which he informs Gregory III of having accepted the Patriarch’s renunciation of the patriarchal assignment, a request submitted to Pope Bergoglio by the Patriarch at a recent hearing. In the letter, Francis considers the Patriarch of Antioch’s decision as opportune and necessary “for the good of the Greco-Melkite Church.” In the papal letter it is intentionally stated that the renunciation of the 85-years-old Patriarch has taken place “spontaneously”, and includes many customary thanks to Gregoire called a “zealous servant of the People of God”, “for keeping the attention of the international community focused on the tragedy of Syria”
Actually, the resignation of the Patriarch is the outcome of the clash developed in recent years between the Patriarch and an ever-widening majority of Melkite Bishops. According to local sources, it was the Melkite synod to pressure the Patriarch into signing the letter of renunciation on February 23. However, at the time the Patriarch had given the impression he wanted to freeze the process triggered by his signature. According to an official statement issued by the Patriarchate in early March, Gregory III would have remained in office, and was actually preparing to launch new projects.”
The “Church of Islam”
Gregory III has always been little accustomed to ecclesial prudence. When he was Vicar of Jerusalem, and his name was Loufti Laham, his pro-Palestinian intervention (he also recently joined the hunger strike of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons) and criticisms of Western military interventions against Saddam’s Iraq Hussein aroused considerable discussion. “We are the Church of Islam,” he would say, baffling theorists of an alleged clash between the “Christian” West and the Muslim Ummah. Elected Patriarch in 2000, he remarked, as a Christian born in Syria, that “Islam is our environment, the context in which we live and with which we are historically supportive”, to the extent that “When I hear a verse of the Koran, for me it is not something strange, it is an expression of the civilization to which I belong. In his view, “After September 11, there is a plot to eliminate all the Christian minorities from the Arabic world” as “Our simple existence ruins the equations whereby Arabs can’t be other than Moslems, and Christians but be westerners.”
Ever since the Syrian conflict broke out, Gregory III has been suspicious of the “Arab Spring” matrix, proposing himself as a leader of the highest Christian hierarchs more in accordance with the scenario-interpretation proposed by the Syrian regime. As early as summer 2012, he denounced an ongoing campaign against bishops and Patriarchs of the Syrian Churches, accused by several parts of submission and connivance towards the regime. “The freedom of the shepherds,” Gregory said at that time “was guaranteed everywhere and it still is up to today, both in their behavior and in their public and private statements … We will not allow anyone to speak on our behalf or on behalf of Christians in Syria, to manipulate our statements or to charge us with accusation of any kind.” With the same strength, he then went on supporting reconciliation initiatives such as those sponsored by the inter-confessional movement Mussalaha, which insurgents saw as facade operations in support of the regime.
The roots of the crisis
The disagreement between the retired Patriarch and much of the Melkite Synod did not emerge from political issues. Even the most disapproving Melkite bishop almost fully share the Patriarch’s geo-political reading of the Syrian tragedy. And among those bishops, no one believes Assad can be excluded from negotiations on the future of Syria. The root of the clash between the Patriarch and Melkite Bishops lies in Gregory’s management of the Church, which many considered autocratic, as he would take decisions without confronting with anyone and without taking account of the synod dynamics….
Many Melkite bishops were eagerly awaiting the resignation of Patriarch Laham, but did not seem to be equally concordant with the choice of his successor. During the vacancy, Jean Clément Jeanbart, Aleppo’s Melkhite Bishop, who will convene the Synod for the new Patriarch within two months, will administer the Melkite Church. Potential candidates to the Patriarchy of Antioch are several: among them, Jeanbart himself, Damascus Vicar Joseph Absi and the 78-year-old Cyril Salim Bustros, Melkite Archbishop of Beirut and Jbeil. The new Patriarch, whoever he is, will face the suffering and discomfort conditions of the Christian communities in the Middle East, which the media usually fails to record. Spiritual and pastoral emergencies that cannot be solved with electoral campaigns and fundraising organized by some Western agencies.