Clergy Meeting on Sept. 24, 2012
Greek Catholic Church – Bethlehem
Nineteen clergy from different church denominations attended the Sabeel meeting held at the Greek Catholic Church in Bethlehem. We began the meeting with a Bible Study on Luke 5:1-11 given by Fr. Yacoub Abu Saada from the Melkite Church. As he reflected on the text, he highlighted the need for clergy to seek help from the lay people and those who are sometimes more qualified on the simple matters of our daily lives. Verses 6 and 7 of the Luke passage describe a catch of fish that was so plentiful that the disciples had to call for help. Fr. Yacoub compared this with the many things in which we need the lay people’s input and help. A very good discussion followed the presentation.
At this important meeting, Sabeel invited His Beatitude Patriarch Micheal Sabbah to speak about a “Christian position” towards the many recent attacks on Christians and their property. Following from this, he was also asked to inform participants about the agreement between the Vatican and the State of Israel regarding taxation of church properties, including those in East Jerusalem.
His Beatitude opened the discussion by imploring us Christians to keep our faith alive, to be humble and honest, and to always practice love among us. He cautioned that our congregations would realize if we do not practice true Christian love – that it would be reflected in interdenominational conflict within the various Churches.
Referring to the numerous desecrations and vandalism recently enacted by Israeli extremists towards Christian holy places, His Beatitude highlighted the importance of having a unified Christian voice to condemn these abuses and work towards stopping them. His Beatitude encouraged the clergy to love each other well and to spread the love to the congregations through their actions and leadership. History has torn us apart, and we have become very tired; love alone can now overcome all the differences and divisions. Within the Patriarchates, we face administrative challenges and misunderstandings in the congregation that stem from hierarchical structure. We must calm people’s fears and concerns by working together – both ecumenically and within our own church bodies.
Finally, His Beatitude discussed with the clergy a controversial taxation agreement being discussed between the Vatican and the state of Israel. The agreement, if signed, would allow for the taxation of the properties of all churches, even those in east Jerusalem, beginning in December. His Beatitude spoke about the pros and cons as he gave the explanation, and the Clergy raised their concerns. Then, Mr. Yusef Daher, coordinator for the National Coalition of Christian Organization in Palestine, shared with the clergy that the reaction of the CROs and local community to this agreement was similarly one of consternation because of how this step would affirm the legitimacy of occupation. The coalition thus crafted a letter that was sent to the Vatican expressing the local Christian community’s concerns on this issue. It stated that allowing this taxation in Jerusalem is a line that should not be crossed and that the Vatican should be aware of such.
At the meeting’s conclusion, everyone shared a nice lunch together.