Under the patronage and presidency of His Beatitude Patriarch Cardinal Mar Bechara Boutros Al-Rai, Maronite Patriarch of Antioch and all the East, the Middle East Council of Churches concluded the “Season of Creation” 2022. An Ecumenical Prayer service entitled “Listen to the Voice of Creation” was hosted by the Maronite Church at the Church of the Patriarchal Edifice in Bkerke, Lebanon, on the eve of the Feast of Saint Francis of Assisi, on Monday 3 October 2022.
The celebration included the Ecumenical Prayer service from the “Season of Creation” 2022 booklet, translated by MECC into Arabic for the second consecutive year. Participants recited, each in turn, the prayer, with a trembling heart and one soul. The service also included hymns and music glorifying and praising the Creator. It was performed by members of the Kousan Male Choir - Hamazkayin Choir, the Panayia Melkite Choir, and Pastorale Universitaire Choir. In addition, youth from many groups presented trees and fruits which were blessed in front of the altar as a symbol of God the Creator's gifts to His creation.
His Beatitude Patriarch Raphaël Bedros XXI Minassian delivered a message for the occasion and said, “It is a wonderful day and a precious opportunity, especially for the Christian family, to think, meditate and listen to the voice of creation. It is an occasion that sorrows hope among us and invites us to work together without discrimination and bias among all religions. We are the children of God, Children of one Creator, and we do not have the right to discriminate other children from the same family… In the morning Prayer in our Armenian rite, we recite some psalms, including the 148 Psalm, which praises and glorifies God in His creation.
He added, "Where are we from these Prayers which we recite with generosity and humility, amidst our selfishness and greed, fighting against nature and all creatures and beings? Where are we in terms of human fellowship and fraternity with the suffering and exploited creation? Where are we today and the creation is the victim of wars around the earth and in the name of the Creator against His creation?
He continued, "Countries are suffering from hunger and poverty, and are excessively rich. People are being killed and abused, and others are taking advantage of this situation to increase their richness and profits. I am sorry for losing human values today and forgetting our loving and merciful Creator. I am sorry for our spiritual illnesses, and I am even sorry for the wars which are killing humanity... on the land chosen by the Lord as the Garden of Eden, on which he lived incarnate by the Holy Spirit.”
He concluded, "We have ears and we do not hear, eyes and we do not see the danger surrounding us. Even if we notice the danger, we would have participated in the ruin, destruction, violence and abuse. Today I return to Your house, O Lord, and ask You to take me as a prodigal son. I feel regret for what I have done in thought, word, deed, and neglect. I return to You with hope asking for Your mercy. I ask You also to open my eyes with the grace of your Holy Spirit, so that I may see the truth and dedicate myself to serve You in this life."
In his turn, the Secretary General Dr. Michel Abs thanked the Maronite Church and His Beatitude Patriarch Al-Rai for the generous hospitality and constant support. He also thanked everyone who contributed to the success of this event, which has become an annual awareness and prayer season.
He said, “The season of creation is the voice of the Church in the face of those who are abusing the environment, underestimating its safety, and harming it, either because of indifference and irresponsibility or because of complete ignorance of nature...or both... and both causes are combative. The Church, which glorifies and thanks the Creator for His gifts every moment, cannot be silent and should react to end violence against the Creator’s creation, the life structure made by God as our home, source of our livelihood, which is essential for our continuity.”
He added, "The church is the voice of the human conscience, in this field and many others, as it plays the role the truth and justice’s guarantor. We, in MECC, work in the name of the Churches, which are also, each one in turn, doing the necessary work within this context. But the harm affecting the environment is not only caused by industry, although it is the main source of the environment abuse. People are harming the environment through many ways... The challenge is big and our capabilities in the Council are limited, but we are doing what we can do, so maybe we can be a good example for all parts of the society.”
As for the “Creation Season” celebrations, he said, “We organized the celebrations last year at the local Lebanese level, and it was the first experience with successful results. Then we held this year’s celebrations at a regional level - with religious awareness, of course - in many countries of the region and it was under the slogan of the “Burning Bush”. The increase of fires in the world, which is an indication of a suffering environment, will have negative consequences affecting humanity. As for the coming year, our celebrations will reach all the countries including the MECC member Churches.”
He continued, "This event, as all the MECC tasks, is the result of joint efforts in which the Council's departments participated, as well as other Church institutions. Therefore, gratitude and praise must be expressed to everyone who contributed to the achievement and success of this work."
At the end, a fire was lit at the outer courtyard of the Patriarchal Edifice as a symbol of the “Season of Creation” slogan for this year, which is the "Burning Bush". Then, participants gathered and shared the fruits in an eastern Ecumenical and fraternal atmosphere.
Participants were His Beatitude Patriarch Raphaël Bedros XXI Minassian, Patriarch of the Armenian Catholic Church of Cilicia, and MECC President for the Catholic Family, His Beatitude Mor Ignatius Youssef III Younan, Syriac Catholic Patriarch of Antioch, His Eminence Bishop Daniel Kourieh, representing His Holiness Patriarch Mor Ignatius Aphrem II, Patriarch of Antioch and All the East and Supreme Head of the Universal Syriac Orthodox Church, and Reverend Georges Mrad, representing the National Evangelical Synod of Syria and Lebanon (NESSL). Participants were also Bishops from different Church families, apostolic and educational associations, fathers, nuns, monks and seminarians.
As well as, attendees were the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in Lebanon, represented by Mr. Alaa Kaoud, representatives of the “Danmission” organization, MECC partner in the "Season of Creation", and the International Environmental association “A Rocha”, Director General of the Lebanese Civil Defense General Raymond Khattar, heading a delegation of civil defense volunteers, Father Abdo Abou Kassem, Director of the Catholic Information Center, with a delegation of journalists, Father Tony Khadra, Head of the Labora organization and the International Catholic Union of the Press– Lebanon, the Secretary General of Catholic Schools, Father Youssef Nasr, the Episcopal Committee “Justice and Peace” in Lebanon, Sheikh Judge Fawzi Dagher, scouts and guides of Lebanon from group St Joseph Antoura School, Keserwan, young women and men from youth and civic associations, parties and committees concerned with the environment issue, mayors and environmental activists.