(Vatican Radio) Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, Prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, on Saturday elevated the Church of Saint Anne in Los Angeles to the level of Co-cathedral of the Catholic Eparchy of Newton of the Greek Melkites.
Bishop Nicholas Samra, the Eparch of Newton, was present at the celebration, as well as the Archbishop of Los Angeles, Jose Gomez.
In his message during the Liturgy, Cardinal Sandri recalled the suffering and persecution of Christians in the Middle East, likening it to California’s Northridge Earthquake of 1994, which damaged the Church of St. Anne in Los Angeles.
He said “It seems that for too many years your motherland, the Middle East, has been shaken to its foundations by an earthquake which seems, not only never to end, but actually to increase its intensity from day to day. It carries with it sorrow and suffering, especially for the littlest and poorest, among whom are many of our brothers and sisters in the faith.”
Please find below Cardinal Sandri's full message:
Message of Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, Prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, during the Divine Liturgy on the occasion of the erecting of the Co-cathedral of the Eparchy of Newton of the Greek Melkites, Church of Saint Anne, Los Angeles,
Saturday, 1 August, 2015
Your Excellency Msgr. Samra,
Your Excellencies,Msgr. Gomez, Msgr. Zaidan,
Your Grace the Syriac Orthodox Metropolite,
Reverend Father Fouad, Rector of the Church,
Reverend priests, sisters and brothers in the Lord!
We have heard the homily of Bishop Nicolas which helps us to live fully this Divine Liturgy, by which is rendered effective the decision of the Holy Father Francis to elevate this Church to co-cathedral of the Eparchy of Newton of the Greek Melkites.
1. Our thoughts and prayers go first of all to Pope Francis, who from the very beginning of his pontificate has wished to show his closeness to the Eastern Catholic Churches and to their pastors and faithful, as they face great sufferings in the motherland and throughout the Middle East. We recall also the Patriarch Gregory III, who has guided the Melkite Church for so many years.
2. To the eyes of a disinterested spectator this solemn act that we are performing and the decision itself of the Holy Father to comply with the request made by your Bishop, could seem to indicate that you are a dispersed Church: parishes spread throughout the country, two cathedrals three thousand miles apart from each other. This external fact must, rather, constitute a genuine vocation for each one of you, for your priests, and most of all for your dear Bishop Nicolas, who stands among you as the image of the Good Shepherd. This call is to witness to the entire world and especially to this society of the United States, which has welcomed you and of which you are now an integral part, that Christ, by giving his life for us, has torn down every wall of separation, has overcome every distance, as the Apostle Paul affirms. Christ does not allow his people to wander aimlessly through history, but he gathers them continually into the unity of the one Spirit, through the binding force of peace. And we wish to assume a specific responsibility today: let each one of us, in his own heart, before God, in his family, workplace and other areas of daily life, make some gesture of unity and reconciliation. Let each one of us strive to bring back what is dispersed, beginning with the poor and the suffering, the sick and the hopeless, or with the young, who too often feel “robbed of hope” in the difficult context of the contemporary world.
3. I am very pleased that today’s celebration occurs only a few days after the fiftieth anniversary of the consecration of this Church, on the 25th of July 1965. This happy coincidence invites us to recall, with thanksgiving and praise of the Lord, the history of this community and this eparchy. As the walls of the Church were anointed with oil fifty years ago, so each of us has received the anointing of holy Baptism. We have been marked with the seal of the Spirit, and we have become the holy temple of God. May the Lord grant us to live each day in the awareness of this gift which we have received.
4. The very walls of this temple also tell the story of the damage caused by the Northridge Earthquake of 1994, which necessitated a long and meticulous work of restoration. This work succeeded in making the beauty of this Church shine forth again, thanks to the efforts and generosity of many. If we carry this reflection to our own days, it seems that for too many years your motherland, the Middle East, has been shaken to its foundations by an earthquake which seems, not only never to end, but actually to increase its intensity from day to day. It carries with it sorrow and suffering, especially for the littlest and poorest, among whom are many of our brothers and sisters in the faith. Before history and before the judgment seat of God many will have to answer: all those who have not done enough to prevent these inhuman sufferings, regardless of their particular religious affiliation, be they combatants or political leaders. As believers, however, we are certain that history is in the hands of God, who does not forget any of his children. In consequence, the forces which cause the suffering in the Middle East are not eternal and must come be overcome. If we will have conserved the precious treasure of our Christian faith, if we will have refused to permit the crushing or erasing of our dignity as human creatures, then, we are certain that even from the greatest ruins we can rebuild a homeland and a garden of hope, justice and liberty.
5. Let the shield of your Eparchy be for us a guide: in its interior, in a symbolic manner, it contains the affirmation of the foundation on which we fix our life, which can neither waver or be destroyed: Christ, the Sun of justice, who rises from the East and fills us with his joyful light. About him, one sings in the beautiful prayer of the Byzantine Vespers fos ilaron, and about her who carried him in her womb and gave him to the world, the Mother of God, Mary Most Holy.
As citizens of the United States, who have not forgotten your own origin and provenance, nor also your belonging to the Melkite Church, you can, I am sure, offer a great contribution. Here, as in your homeland, whatever is ruined can be rebuilt, thus beginning to heal and console the deep wounds of the heart in so many of our brothers and sisters, victims of the bloody conflicts in Syria and Iraq. Amen.
(Devin Sean Watkins)