Watch the Ordination and Enthronement of a New Melkite Bishop
‘We cannot dumb down our Christianity,’ says Bishop François. ‘We cannot accommodate to the culture. Young people see through that.’
On Oct. 12, the faithful gathered in the Co-Cathedral of St. Anne in Los Angeles to celebrate the episcopal ordination of Father François Beyrouti as the sixth Eparch of Newton for the Melkite Catholic Church in the United States. The Liturgy was a historic event for the Melkite Catholic Church in the U.S. Bishop François was elected bishop by the Synod of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church and his election was approved by Pope Francis in late August. The new bishop succeeds Bishop Nicholas Samra after his 11 years of service as the Eparch of Newton.
Bishop François was born in Lebanon and raised in British Columbia, Canada. He completed studies at the Sheptytsky Institute for Eastern Christian Studies at St. Paul University and earned his Ph.D. at the University of Ottawa and Th.D. at St. Paul University, with his thesis on Origen of Alexandria’s commentary on the Gospel of St. John. His academic work specialized in Biblical Studies, which would serve his pastoral ministry as a professor and pastor. For his episcopal motto he chose the phrase, “Becoming disciples, making disciples.”
The Hierarchical Divine Liturgy was celebrated by Patriarch Youssef Absi, with Metropolitan Borys Gudziak (Ukrainian Catholic Archbishop of Philadelphia) and Bishop Nicholas Samra as co-consecrators. Also in attendance were numerous clergy from the various Eastern Catholic Churches, as well as Latin-Rite Catholic clergy.
Metropolitan Borys Gudziak said of Bishop François:
It is a great privilege and honor to participate in the consecration of bishop-elect François Beyrouti as the sixth Eparchial Bishop of Newton for Melkite Greek Catholics in the United States. For the Melkites of the U.S., this is a great gift because Father François has been endowed by the Lord with many charisms and talents, and he will continue and develop the dedicated work of His Excellency Bishop Nicholas Samra.
Our relationship with Father François goes back three decades. I know him as a man of grace and nobility, and it is a thrill for me personally to pray with the people of God of the Melkite Church in the United States for its fruitful ministry under the guidance of a new eparch.
The fact that a Ukrainian Catholic bishop is invited to participate as a co-consecrator is a beautiful sign of our communion in Christ. I cherish this gesture profoundly. My words to bishop François are Axios! Eis polla eti, Despota!
Additionally, on Oct. 19, Bishop François was solemnly enthroned at Annunciation Melkite Catholic Cathedral in West Roxbury, Massachusetts. The Divine Liturgy of Enthronement was attended by Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston, Bishop Philipos Mar Stephanos (St. Mary, Queen of Peace Syro-Malankara Catholic Eparchy of the U.S. and Canada), and local clergy of the Orthodox Churches.
I had a chance to meet with Bishop François via Zoom to discuss his background and his plans for the Eparchy of Newton. Our conversation was wide-reaching; below is a summary of several of the bishop’s thoughts. Overall, we had a very enjoyable dialogue and I got a clear sense that the primary approach of Sayidna (the traditional Melkite title for a bishop, meaning “Our Master”) is to present the Gospel of Jesus Christ in its fullness. If we “water down the Gospel,” Sayidna lamented, “we’re failing to show that the Gospel is life-changing, and more than that, life-saving!”
Could you tell me a bit about your vocation journey? Did you always want to be a priest?
My family decided to leave Lebanon in 1976. It was a time of great violence. Our home had been bombed and our family robbed. My parents decided that it was enough and we sought to immigrate. We put in our papers to Canada and Australia. Ultimately, we decided on Canada because my father had already visited there and he had a friend in Canada. I take you back to this time because it was the faith of our family, lived out through this difficult situation, which left a lasting impression on me. The practice of our faith, regular church attendance, and prayer at home was always a part of my life and I thank God and my family for such an example.
When we got settled in Canada, I attended Catholic schools. From a young age, I wanted to be a priest but it was difficult to be open about it because my peers would tease me. As I went through school, my career path deviated. I felt the need to be successful, to make a name for myself. I was attracted to business, real estate and the hospitality industry for such reasons. I did gain some material success in the workforce. However, as I earned more money and amassed more possessions, I felt absolutely empty. I mean, I was a faithful Melkite Catholic. I was going to church and praying daily, but there was a deep emptiness in my life. However, when I thought about the priesthood, I was overcome with an inexplicable peace and joy. I had an experience of God drawing me toward his Light and the “light” at the end of that tunnel was the priesthood. With some hesitancy, I resolved to attend the seminary for one year. My resolve was overcome by God’s grace pointing me all the way through the seminary. I attended a seminary in British Columbia run by the Benedictines. They were very respectful of my Eastern Catholic heritage and did all they could to introduce me to the great Eastern spiritual tradition and to our Liturgy.
I also had a great experience at a summer intensive program sponsored by the Sheptytsky Institute at Mount Tabor Monastery in Northern California. Praying with the monks and being exposed to the width and breadth of our Eastern tradition left a lasting impact on me. There is so much in our tradition that has benefited the universal Catholic Church. The Liturgy, the Ecumenical Councils, (my field) Biblical Studies, iconography, monasticism and systematic theology, all grew out of the East. So much of my vocation was fueled by a deepening awareness of the richness of our patrimony and, as bishop, I want to nourish people with our rich Eastern Christian patrimony. We carry that patrimony, we do not own it. It is meant to be shared. When you enter a Melkite Catholic Church and feel fed there, it does not matter if you’re Middle Eastern or not. If Christ is feeding you there, you’re home. So much of my priestly ministry involved nourishing people’s faith through our rich tradition and I thank God for that!
What are your thoughts on the youth of our Church and vocations? What role do they play in the future of our Church?
First, we have to understand as a Church, that our young people are immersed in a culture that is Western. Our heritage stems from the Middle East, but our young people are not attached to the culture and language of their grandparents. That being said, I am all for liturgical services in any language, as long as there is a real pastoral need. We preach in a language. We don’t preach a language. What we need to do is communicate to our young people that we have a patrimony that is beautiful and relevant to the modern world. Its relevance is precisely in that it brings joy. A joy beyond all understanding!
Our culture has become so joyless. Our isolation during COVID-19 and the explosion of social media has not helped. There is a real danger in excessive social media, as it creates facades of relationships and personal meaning but it can never deliver. Real relationships are formed in the family, and most especially with the parish family. If we are going to present the richness of our Church, our churches need to offer more than the Sunday Divine Liturgy. The canonical hours in the Christian East are intimately tied into the Sunday Liturgy, but our people rarely see a Sunday morning Orthros or Vespers during the week. We need to gather together as a community and pray together. This is where the East shines and this is where relationships in Christ are formed.
It is from our parishes that organic vocations to the various ministries of our Church grow. It’s as simple as this — if you have a strong and vibrant parish, you’ll foster strong and vibrant vocations. The parish is where we all live out our first vocational call, the call that we all receive at our baptism. From there our souls are nourished by regular prayer, catechesis and a variety of parish ministries. This is what I had in mind in choosing my episcopal motto “Becoming disciples, making disciples.” We ourselves need to be disciples of Jesus first, before we can call others to discipleship. It’s from this that all the ministries of our Church will flow. God is constantly calling people to ministry in the Church, he’s not asleep. We will never have a shortage of vocations if we create the listening environment of discipleship so that the called can answer.
Back to our youth … our young people are undersold. They have a tremendous hunger for God. Of course, the culture gives them unsatisfying substitutes. Nothing can fill the void in the human heart except Christ! That hunger that our young people feel can only be fed by the fullness of the Gospel message. Again, we cannot dumb down our Christianity. We cannot accommodate to the culture. Young people see through that. The Church in her teaching, and especially in her moral life, have a robust and life-giving message to offer. When we offer that to our young people in its fullness and without apology, we offer them something beautiful and joy-filled!
Since your ordination to the episcopacy is there something that the Holy Spirit has put on your heart that you’d like to share with our readers?
I’ve been thinking about the encounter with the Lord on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35). There is such a beautiful catechetical model that is revealed to us in this post-Resurrectional encounter. First, we have to walk with Jesus (discipleship), and in that walk with him we come to understand the Scriptures. Then our eyes are opened in the celebration of the Eucharist. The Divine Liturgy is not commonplace, it is our weekly encounter with the Eucharistic Lord and through this encounter our vision becomes ever clearer. From the Eucharist, the disciples are sent to proclaim the message that Christ is Risen! We’re told that the disciples joyfully went out to proclaim this good news and they were found praising God in the Temple day and night.
Emmaus gives us a model to follow, especially in regard to prayer. Many have asked me if I have a list of priorities for the diocese. My first priority is to pray. We have to pray together! We have to have an Emmaus encounter first, before we can set priorities together. Prayer allows us to do the work of the Church. If prayer is not primary, then all the apostolic work we do is without the power of the Spirit that comes to us through prayer. I desire that our Church prays together. That our priests pray together and that, as our Divine Liturgy says, “We set aside all earthly cares.” It’s only when this happens that we can go about the work of proclaiming the Gospel with great power for the building up of Christ’s Church.
As I begin my ministry as bishop, please pray for me and pray for our Melkite Catholic Church in the U.S.!
EWTN will air the video of Bishop François’ enthronement on Monday, Nov. 14 at 3pm Eastern. You can find more information about Bishop François and the Melkite Greek Catholic Church in the U.S. at Melkite.org. You can also view several of Bishop François’ recent interviews here:
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