The Patriarchal Head of the Greek Melkite Catholic Church
Patriarch of the cities of Antioch, Alexandria and Jerusalem, of Cilicia, Syria, Iberia, Arabia Mesopotamia, Pentapolis, Ethiopia, of all of Egypt and the entire East, Father of Fathers, Pastor of Pastors, Bishop of Bishops, the Thirteenth of the Holy Apostles
"I Love you when you bow in your bow in your mosque, kneel in your temple, pray in your church. For you and I are the sons of one religion, the spirit"
South Florida Sun-Sentinel
Original South Florida Sun-Sentinel article: Head of Melkite faith speaks on Middle East conflict
His Beatitude Patriarch Gregorius III explained during a recent visit to Boca Raton.
'I grew up with Muslim neighbors,' said the leader of 1.5 million Melkites in the Middle East and elsewhere. 'And when a neighbor didn't have enough milk, my mother would take their children to her own breast. We are brothers in milk!'
The warm sentiments may sound strange to American ears, he agreed at the national convention that drew 1,000 Melkites to the Boca Raton Resort last weekend. Especially with the wave of violence by Islamic fundamentalists in the last two years - in Gaza and Lebanon as well as Iraq.
'With the rise of fundamentalism, you're tempted to avoid other people, to criticize and judge them,' the patriarch said. 'But they're the people I've lived with for many years. If some are under the influence of fundamentalism, I have to help free them with my values.'
Harmony between Christians and Muslims is a theme Gregorius, 73, has often sounded.
In 1962 he founded Al-Wahdah - Unity in the Faith , the first ecumenical magazine published in Arabic. He has also promoted dialogue with the Antiochian Orthodox Church, based in Damascus like his own.
The patriarch acknowledged that Christians have dwindled drastically in the Middle East - from a quarter of the population in 1900 to less than 6 percent. The main exception is Lebanon, still nearly 40 percent Christian.
But he disagreed vigorously with reports of systematic persecution against Christians in the region. He said instead that believers are caught up in fighting between Israel and its Palestinian foes.
One example was the recent looting and desecration of a Christian school after the takeover of Gaza by Hamas. Gregorius insisted the incident was 'a reaction of hatred at anyone thought to be associated with Americans. We're victims of bigger differences, swept along like a tsunami.'
He said politics, not religion, is the aim of terrorists. 'There is an exploitation of Muslims for politics. Most [fundamentalists] know little of Islam. They're simply brainwashed.
'And I beg my dear brothers and sisters in the West not to believe it when you hear that it's all about persecution.'
To counteract extremists, he said Muslims and Christians must proclaim common values like justice, charity and monotheism. He said interfaith dialogue groups have begun, and more are needed.
Even after the battle in Lebanon last year between Israel and Hezbollah, Christians and Muslims joined to help refugees, he said. 'We built a bridge of help.'
Europe and the United States should also invest more in peace than war, Gregorius said. He even recommended that the United States, Europe and Russia jointly impose an end to the conflict.
'If they all got together and declared peace in Israel and Palestine, there would be no war. There has been enough death in Iraq and Palestine and Lebanon.
'We pray for peace in America, and for peace to come from America.'
Furthermore, in December 2005:
Thursday, December 1, 2005
Patriarch Gregorios III calls for peace and religious unity
By Rula Samain
AMMAN — His Beatitude Gregorios III, Patriarch of Antioch, of all Egypt and the entire East, headed the Roman Catholic Cathedral Mass here Tuesday evening, condemning the Nov. 9 suicide attacks as “criminal and inhuman acts.”
The patriarch, who is in the Kingdom to take part in the Eastern Catholic Patriarch annual meeting scheduled for Friday, started his sermon by praising the Kingdom as a country where Christians and Muslims have always enjoyed peaceful coexistence.
“We take pride in this religious country that we all worship one God, “ he said, while warning against those who seek to sow sedition and hatred.
He said the bombings in three Amman hotels were “criminal and inhuman” and against “all cultural and religious values,” while voicing his solidarity with the Kingdom.
The attacks left 60 people dead and around a hundred injured.
During his sermon, the patriarch paid tribute to the “Amman Message,” describing it as a message of tolerance and humanity and a herald of a new future for a developed and prosperous Jordan. “It [Amman Message] is an exemplary one for the entire Arab world,” he said.
The Amman Message, issued in November 2004 and translated into several world languages, spells out Jordan's understanding of Islam as a religion that rejects violence and promotes dialogue and constructive interaction with other cultures.
The patriarch said followers of Islam and Christianity should demonstrate the values of their religions, promote religious understanding, tolerance and freedom.
“Our belief in Christ the Lord calls for the unity of not only Christians but also Muslims to face the new challenges,” he said.
“We should oppose this conspiracy by standing together,” he added.
The patriarch also urged for a final solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and for peace in Iraq.
Gregorios III, who is the head of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church, finished his sermon by praying to God to bestow peace on His people and the world.
The Eastern Catholic patriarchs, Chief of the Royal Court Salem Turk, Muslim scholars, and other officials attended the mass.
The Amman Message: (official website of the Amman Message)
The Amman Message
The Amman Message started as a detailed statement released the eve of the 27th of Ramadan 1425 AH / 9th November 2004 CE by H.M. King Abdullah II bin Al-Hussein in Amman, Jordan. It sought to declare what Islam is and what it is not, and what actions represent it and what actions do not. Its goal was to clarify to the modern world the true nature of Islam and the nature of true Islam.
In order to give this statement more religious authority, H.M. King Abdullah II then sent the following three questions to 24 of the most senior religious scholars from all around the world representing all the branches and schools of Islam: (1) Who is a Muslim? (2) Is it permissible to declare someone an apostate (takfir)? (3) Who has the right to undertake issuing fatwas (legal rulings)?
Based on the fatwas provided by these great scholars (who included the Shaykh Al-Azhar; Ayatollah Sistani and Sheikh Qaradawi), in July 2005 CE, H.M. King Abdullah II convened an international Islamic conference of 200 of the world's leading Islamic scholars 'Ulama) from 50 countries. In Amman, the scholars unanimously issued a ruling on three fundamental issues (which became known as the 'Three Points of the Amman Message'):
- They specifically recognized the validity of all 8 Mathhabs (legal schools) of Sunni, Shi'a and Ibadhi Islam; of traditional Islamic Theology (Ash'arism); of Islamic Mysticism (Sufism), and of true Salafi thought, and came to a precise definition of who is a Muslim.
- Based upon this definition they forbade takfir (declarations of apostasy) between Muslims.
- Based upon the Mathahib they set forth the subjective and objective preconditions for the issuing of fatwas, thereby exposing ignorant and illegitimate edicts in the name of Islam.
These Three Points were then unanimously adopted by the Islamic World's political and temporal leaderships at the Organization of the Islamic Conference summit at Mecca in December 2005. And over a period of one year from July 2005 to July 2006, the Three Points were also unanimously adopted by six other international Islamic scholarly assemblies, culminating with the International Islamic Fiqh Academy of Jeddah, in July 2006. In total, over 500 leading Muslim scholars worldwide—as can be seen on this website [click here to see the entire list]—unanimously endorsed the Amman Message and its Three Points.
This amounts to a historical, universal and unanimous religious and political consensus (ijma') of the Ummah (nation) of Islam in our day, and a consolidation of traditional, orthodox Islam. The significance of this is: (1) that it is the first time in over a thousand years that the Ummah has formally and specifically come to such a pluralistic mutual inter-recognition; and (2) that such a recognition is religiously legally binding on Muslims since the Prophet (may peace and blessings be upon him) said: My Ummah will not agree upon an error (Ibn Majah, Sunan, Kitab al-Fitan, Hadith no.4085).
This is good news not only for Muslims, for whom it provides a basis for unity and a solution to infighting, but also for non-Muslims. For the safeguarding of the legal methodologies of Islam (the Mathahib) necessarily means inherently preserving traditional Islam's internal 'checks and balances'. It thus assures balanced Islamic solutions for essential issues like human rights; women's rights; freedom of religion; legitimate jihad; good citizenship of Muslims in non-Muslim countries, and just and democratic government. It also exposes the illegitimate opinions of radical fundamentalists and terrorists from the point of view of true Islam. As George Yeo, the Foreign Minister of Singapore, declared in the 60th Session of the U.N. General Assembly (about the Amman Message): "Without this clarification, the war against terrorism would be much harder to fight."
Finally, whilst this by the Grace of God is a historical achievement, it will clearly remain only principial unless it is put into practice everywhere. For this reason, H.M. King Abdullah II is now seeking to implement it, God willing, through various pragmatic measures, including (1) inter-Islamic treaties; (2) national and international legislation using the Three Points of the Amman Message to define Islam and forbid takfir; (3) the use of publishing and the multi-media in all their aspects to spread the Amman Message; (4) instituting the teaching of the Amman Message in school curricula and university courses worldwide; and (5) making it part of the training of mosque Imams and making it included in their sermons.
God says in the Holy Qur'an says:
There is no good in much of their secret conferences save (in) whosoever enjoineth charity and fairness and peace-making among the people and whoso doeth that, seeking the good pleasure of God, We shall bestow on him a vast reward. (Al-Nisa, 4:114).