“NEVER give up hope” is a key message Australia’s Melkite leader wants Brisbane’s Lebanese and Syrian Catholics to hold on to as the people of the Middle East continue to face terror and war.
Melkite Eparch of Australia and New Zealand Bishop Robert Rabbat visited St Clement’s Melkite Catholic parish in South Brisbane last weekend for its 90th anniversary and to celebrate the feast of St Clement.
He also blessed young parishioner Phillip Eid as a sub-deacon during Mass on Saturday evening.
Speaking before the Mass, Bishop Rabbat said he was there as the parishioners’ “spiritual father” to wish them “hopefully a blessed and happy Christmas at a time when we know well, sadly, many of their relatives and their homeland nations are seeing all these challenges and going through dire times”.
“So we’re telling them that you should not give up hope,” he said.
“Jesus Christ also came at a time when, based on what we learn in history, the Romans were not an easy nation to deal with, and they really did create a lot of problems for the Jews of that time, oppressing them.
“So even Jesus Christ was born in times like that but, because of that, we should not lose hope.
“He came to give us hope, to remind us of who we are.
“At the same time we are blessed to be in a nation like Australia which opened its arms to all the migrants and refugees who came from the Middle East, embracing them, and now is willing to help as much as they can.”
Bishop Rabbat wanted to remind the parish it was “now carrying the task of how we can also help those who are in the Middle East by giving them hope, because we should not also give in to the sad events and to what Evil is trying to sadly perpetrate”.
Brisbane Archbishop Mark Coleridge and Eparch of the Chaldean Diocese of St Thomas the Apostle of Australia and New Zealand Archbishop Amel Nona attended the Mass.
Bishop Rabbat said the blessing of Mr Eid as a sub-deacon was a sign of hope.
“We sometimes have a kind of, not dark, but a little bit of a pessimistic outlook at the future whereby we say, ‘Where are the young people who seems to be more spiritual?’ or maybe people no longer feel that the Church listens to their voice or offers them something,” he said.
“Well, here we’re telling them, through God’s grace, that, ‘No, here is a young man who has taken the time, listened to God’s call, guided by, no doubt, the prayers of the community and the guidance of his priest, and he’s saying yes to God’.”
Preaching the homily, Archbishop Coleridge referred to the Melkite people’s history of suffering greatly.
“I know the chaos of the Middle East now, and what it’s doing to communities like yours and like the Church of Archbishop Nona,” he said.
“Christians in the Middle East are being devastated, and it’s yet another dreadful episode in a whole history of suffering.
“We gather all of that history into this moment tonight and we bring it to the altar of Christ’s sacrifice – Where else can we take it? – in the belief that even that wound, that shocking wound, of what’s going on in the Middle East can somehow, by the power of God, become a fountain of life – that your communities in the Middle East can be raised from the tomb, yet again, as you have been in the past.”
By Peter Bugden