The Maronite Church in Mission in the Middle East

Sister Micheline Mansour
August 20, 2021

Who are the Christians of the Middle East?

There are seven Churches, each with a long history and unique liturgical traditions and cultures, that constitute the Catholic Church in the Middle East. Each of these churches is in full communion with Rome, but six of the Eastern tradition are sui juris, or autonomous, and have their own patriarchs.

The profile of youth catechesis in the Middle East

The Catholic Church attaches immense importance and prominence to the pastoral care of young people, since they constitute a vital framework for mission and new evangelisation through the Gospel. Based on the recommendations of the Maronite Patriarchal Synod, the Youth Ministry Office aims to pay special attention to the pastoral care of the Lebanese Maronite youth, located in the patriarchal area and in the countries of the diaspora.

Who is the Maronite Church?

The Maronite Church has its origins in a community formed around Saint Maroun, a monk of the 4th century who led an ascetic life. The Maronites were fervent defenders of the decrees of the Council of Chalcedon, and thus received papal recognition in the year 518 AD. There is a strong tradition among the Maronites that their Church has never been separated from the Holy See since its foundation in the 4th century. The Patriarch of Antioch of the Maronites resides in Bkerke, Lebanon. The Maronite Catholic Church has a strong presence in Lebanon, with smaller communities in Syria, Jordan, Cyprus and the Holy Lands. However, just over half of its members have emigrated from the Middle East to countries such as Argentina, Brazil, Australia, France, Mexico, Canada and the United States.

The profile of catechesis in the Arab world

Since the Arab Spring, our beloved East has turned into a winter full of war, violence and displacement, in face of the project to empty the East of its Christians. The Church therefore tries in various ways to support young people, helping them to be deeply rooted in the faith, and more attached to their land and their Christian identity in the East; the cradle of Christianity and the cradle of the civilisation of love. It does this precisely through the books YOUCAT and DOCAT, which support, in a simple and practical way, the faith of the young people of the East and give them a tool to witness to Christ in the midst of the madness of hatred and wars in Lebanon, Iraq, Syria, Palestine, Egypt and Jordan...

This is why we have sent the YOUCAT book to Sudan with catechumens, as well as to Qatar and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The YOUCAT ARABIC Foundation will certainly send 3000 copies of the DOCAT book to Egypt on the occasion Pope Francis’ visit. Then, the DOCAT application was launched in Lebanon in the presence of 8,000 young men and women, during the day of prayer with the Jesus My Joy Youth Gathering, on 21st May 2017. Subsequently, the DOCAT book was introduced in Catholic education in Catholic schools, with the approval of the directors of Catholic schools in Lebanon.

In the end, we cannot ignore the current situation in Lebanon and the enormous suffering that is causing our youth to despair and suffocating the people. During the economic crisis that is ravaging the land of the cedars and after the giant explosion in the port of Beirut on August 4th, 2020, which tore the heart out of the capital, the church is trying to play a supportive role towards the impoverished families, the desperate youth and the torn people. We, as missionaries, are working to strengthen the faith and to encourage people to overcome this crisis and to cling more and more to the land of Saint Charbel, Rafka, Hardini and others.

There is no doubt that the new evangelisation requires us to use new technology in all circumstances. Therefore, we ask the Lord to send us His Spirit to make us more creative in order to have the courage to spread the Gospel and to be true witnesses of the victorious Jesus Christ. ∎