Envisioning a Formula 
for  Living Together in Lebanon   
In Light of the Apostolic Exhortation

Antoine Najm
Christian intellectual and political researcher

This article is based upon a lecture given at the Cultural Religious Center of Our Lady of Victory-Nesbayh, Ghosta, Lebanon, on November 26, 1997. It is concerned almost exclusively with the Apostolic Exhortation's position on living together in Lebanon -- or co-existence as it is referred to in Lebanese society. To clarify that position, the article analyzes the differences between the terms pluralism/diversity and living together/conviviality. It also examines the Exhortation's view on Lebanon, its mission and the role of the Lebanese Christian community in Lebanon and the region. Finally, the article concludes that Lebanon's formula for living together, as envisioned by the Exhortation, calls for a form of federalism designed to accommodate the specific character and needs of Lebanon's communities.


On June 12, 1991, His Holiness John Paul II announced in the presence of the four Catholic Patriarchs of Lebanon (the Maronite, the Melkite or Greek Catholic, the Armenian Catholic and the Syrian Catholic) the call to convene a Synod of Bishops for Lebanon. The Synod for Lebanon was a personal initiative of the Pope. His Holiness desired the participation of the Universal Church in helping Lebanon spiritually, socially and politically to correct the errors of the war, overcome its tragedies, heal its wounds and rebuild inter-Lebanese co-existence on a solid and profound humane foundation (32 Hours 1997: 17; Journal 1996: 8 French).

Since the beginning of his pontificate, Pope John Paul II has worked tirelessly to help Lebanon. Conscious of the multiple and complex aspects of the situation in Lebanon, John Paul II decided to place all the moral and spiritual resources of the Catholic Church in the service of the Christians of Lebanon. Guided by the teachings of Our Lord, the Christians of Lebanon would look at the future with confidence and courage, devise a way to interact with each other in an ecumenical spirit and envision a peaceful formula of living with their compatriots, the Muslims (32 Hours 1997: 17).

The Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for Lebanon was formed under the presidency of the Pontiff. Msgr. Jean Schotte was appointed Secretary-General of the Bishop's Synod in Rome and Msgr. Béchara Raï was appointed the Local Coordinator in Lebanon. Cardinal Roger Etchégaray and Msgr. Schotte, along with other emissaries, arrived in Lebanon on September 12, 1991 to visit the Patriarchs and Bishops and meet with men and women of the various religious orders, as well as with lay people in the community. This visit was intended to explain the Pope's aims and profound thoughts in regard to the Synod and to solicit recommendations to be presented to the Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops (Najm 1993: 3).

In October 1991, Catholics around the world were invited to answer individually or in groups two questions: (1) What are your expectations of the Synod; and (2) What are the points which the Synod should address? The response to this invitation was overwhelming, especially from lay individuals and organizations. These responses became part of the Synod working file which helped to develop the lineamenta (the main outlines).

The Theme For The Synod

The Pope chose the following theme for the Synod:

"Christ is our hope: Renewed by His Spirit, together, we witness His love" 
(Journal 1996: 30-31 French).

The participants in the Synod, who were invited by the Pope, were the four Patriarchs of the Eastern Catholic Churches which are members of the A.P.E.C.L.: all the Archbishops and ordinary and titular Bishops of Lebanon; the Superiors General of the religious orders founded and still present in Lebanon; Bishops of the Copts, Armenians, Melkites, Chaldeans and Latins from Jerusalem, Canada, Iraq, Argentina, Cyprus, Rome, Lebanon, Egypt, New York, Jordan, Brazil, Syria, and France; six delegates of the Orthodox and Protestant Churches of Lebanon; three Moslem delegates representing the Sunni, Shiite and Druze communities; 17 experts, 24 priests, monks and lay listeners and 9 Cardinals who are officials in the governmental, administrative and judicial organization of the Holy See (Journal 1996: 9-17 French).

Under the paternal leadership of John Paul II, the Synod's work proceeded and led to the Apostolic Exhortation and the drafting of 46 proposals and other documents for discussion. The Synod culminated in the Pope's visit to Lebanon on May 10 and 11, 1997, where the Apostolic Exhortation was signed and presented to the Lebanese people and their ecclesiastical and civil authorities.

The Apostolic Exhortation consists of six chapters related to the following themes:

   I.The actual situation of the Catholic Church in Lebanon;

   II.Christ as the hope of the Church;

  III.The Synod: The Renewal of the Church;

  IV.The Communion of all the Churches;

  V.Inter-religious Dialogue; and

  VI.The Church in the Service of Society

In the most crucial moments of Lebanon's present existence, Divine Providence inspired the Apostolic Exhortation as the "New Hope for Lebanon" and as the impetus that will guide Lebanon in the 21st century.

The value of the Exhortation lies not only in its recognized importance but also in what it implies, reveals and inspires, particularly if we have a deep understanding of its content, terminology and clarity of expression.

How Does the Apostolic Exhortation Define Lebanon?

Lebanon is a vital element for Catholic existence in the Middle East because, according to the Apostolic Exhortation (hereinafter Exhortation), "the destiny of the Catholics is profoundly bound to Lebanon's destiny and its particular mission" (Exhortation 1997: 10).

Geographic Lebanon, according to the Exhortation, comprises the existing state with its internationally recognized boundaries. It is a Lebanon threatened by occupation in the south and by the presence of non-Lebanese armed forces on its territory (Exhortation 1997: 26).

Lebanon's human capacity is composed of several communities, which are "at the same time its fortune and its uniqueness" (Exhortation 1997: 4). The Exhortation states that "because it is composed of several different communities, Lebanon is regarded by our contemporaries as an exemplary land. In fact, today as yesterday, these [communities] are called to live together on the same land --people different on the cultural and religious levels-- in order to build a nation of dialogue, of conviviality, and to cooperate in [matters of] common good" (Exhortation 1997: 186-197).

In the Exhortation, the cultural value of Lebanon lies in being "the cradle of an ancient culture and one of the Mediterranean's beacons." The Exhortation states that "no one could ignore the name of Byblos, which reminds us of the origins of the alphabet" (Exhortation 1997: 3). In his address to the Patriarchs and Bishops of the Catholic Church on May 1, 1984, the Pope confirmed that Lebanon has a "valuable cultural worth" and that Lebanon is "more than a country: Lebanon is a message and an example for the East as well as for the West." His Holiness considers that "Lebanon's historical message" is a "message of freedom," of democracy, and that it is "a land of dialogue and conviviality among diverse religions and cultures" (Al Khoutout 1993: 77 Arabic). His Holiness also reiterated the same idea during the opening of the Synod, saying, "Lebanon, this small country, is larger than its size in what it represents in terms of values. Lebanon is grand in its history, comprehensiveness, esteem and message" (Journal 1996: 280 Arabic).

Therefore, Lebanon represents the sum of its geographic position, its human capacity and its cultural value, with all three attributes organically intertwined. These three intertwined attributes lie at the core of the Pontiff's deep concern for Lebanon. It is from this base that the Pontiff resolutely objects to any division of Lebanon and categorically rejects any partial or total occupation or annexation of Lebanon by any state. The Pope in his Exhortation demands that "Lebanon regain its full independence, total sovereignty and unambiguous freedom" (Exhortation 1977: 189).

How Does The Apostolic Exhortation Define Living Together?

The Exhortation document envisions a new formula for living together in Lebanon, which indicates that the existing formula does not conform with the Exhortation's requirements and expectations for a 'New Hope for Lebanon' and consequently does not serve the ideal aspirations for Lebanon.

In carefully reading and examining the Exhortation, it becomes obvious that every time it cites the issues of dialogue, patriotism, politics, society and the like, it calls for the establishment of new conditions and new structures. In this respect, the pivotal idea of the Exhortation is to arrive at a proposed national-political structure based on living together in a harmoniously interactive manner.

However, if the Lebanese people, i.e. the holders of Lebanese nationality, believe that they form a homogeneous society, is there need to discuss the issue of living together?

Yes, there is a need. The reality is that Lebanon's society is not a homogeneous one. It is a heterogeneous society, which has been and still is incompatible in social identity. The Exhortation acknowledges that Lebanon's society is a heterogeneous society, i.e., plural. More than once, the Pope used various terms and expressions to emphasis the plurality of the Lebanese society in his Exhortation. For example, the Pope invites the Lebanese "to know each other in a better way and to accord full agreement to pluralism" (Exhortation 1997: 148). He uses the expression "communities and individuals" (Exhortation 1997: 181) and also notes the "differences and particularities" (Exhortation 1997: 188). He also expresses the hope that the end of the armed conflicts means "the end of the wars between the various particularities" (Exhortation 1997: 158).

Understanding the Terminology Related to the Issue

Some of the terms related to the issue -- such as pluralism and diversity, co-existence, living together and conviviality -- are often interchangeable in common use. Their use in the exhortation, however, calls for clarification of the true meaning of each, as intended by His Holiness and the Synod.

'Pluralism' Vs.'Diversity'

There is a need to understand the distinction between the two terms 'pluralism' and 'diversity' and the two expressions 'living together' and 'conviviality' cited in the original French text of the Exhortation. Many Lebanese objected to the use of the term 'pluralism', which was used in "the Message of the Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for Lebanon," and asked that it be replaced with the term 'diversity'. Although the term 'pluralism' caused worry because it was misinterpreted, the authority responsible for "the Message" yielded to the will of the opposition and began propagating use of the second term, 'diversity', perhaps believing that 'pluralism' and 'diversity' could be used synonymously.

However, the prefix 'pluri' from the Latin origin 'plures' means 'plural', while 'diverse' and 'varied' are derived from 'diversus'. The French version of both the Exhortation and the Message was extremely accurate in the use of each term, but the Arabic version alternately used both terms.

Dr. Henri Kremona, in defining the terms 'diversity' and 'pluralism', stated: Diversity is quite different from pluralism. According to the Apostolic Exhortation, diversity is mentioned in the framework of diversity of spiritual heritage, in which its different components remain committed to five spiritual matters: one faith, the spirit of co-operation, repentance, hope and internal renewal. In this sense, the Apostolic Exhortation appeals to the diverse Patriarchal Churches to institute 'a new mentality' confirming the unity of the churches…. Diversity supposes a fundamental unity on the level of spiritual commitment, which exists in the dogma of belief…. Unity in diversity is a spiritual reality that must always be incarnated as a truth. As for the unity in pluralism, it remains a difficult task, because it tries to unify elements that are fundamentally and dogmatically different and spiritually separate…. Unity in the Church is realized through 'spiritual diversity,' and unity in the nation is realized through 'religious pluralism' (Kremona 1997: 15).

The Imam Sheikh Mohammed Mehdi Shamseddin, who previously had categorically opposed the use of the term 'pluralism', then seemed to change his position. He announced in an interposition [introduction of a remark or opinion during a debate or conversation] at the Beirut Book Fair, just before the publication release of the Message, that 'either we believe in dialogue, which inwardly encompasses an acknowledgement of pluralism. Or we can pretend that we are not pluralist or diverse, and thus we have no need for dialogue' (Shamseddin 1994: 48).

The Exhortation speaks in its introduction about the different 'confessions' in Lebanon whose 'historical roots are of a religious nature' (Exhortation 1997: 5). These religious roots are the roots of 'Lebanon's national identity and politics' (Exhortation 1997: 5). This makes the connection between religious pluralism and cultural pluralism a totally organic one. In this regard, the Message stated that 'our country has its own specificity. It is the fruit of its own history; it is inter-communal. It is our formula for conviviality and respect for the cultural identity of each of our communities. Each religion, because it is incarnated, manifests itself culturally. Therefore, our religious belonging, whether Christian or Muslim, has necessarily a sociological and communal dimension; it shapes our family, social and spiritual life' (Message 1996: 11 French).

Many of the texts in the Exhortation talk about cultural presence and its distinctiveness, as well as about connecting culture with religion. In its discussion about 'the life of fraternity and solidarity,' the Exhortation considers it to be based upon the affirmation that each person has the right to his own role in the social, political and cultural life without compromising fidelity toward his spiritual and cultural tradition (Exhortation 1997: 153).

The Exhortation and the Message, in their position and in their definition of the term 'culture', are compatible with that of UNESCO in its communiqué in Mexico in 1982. The communiqué stated that 'Culture is a series of distinctive characteristics, spiritual, material and intellectual, which describes a society or a social group. It encompasses, in addition to arts and literature, formulas of living and the fundamental rights of the human being, as well as value systems, traditions and beliefs' (Journal, 1996: 66 French). In this sense, the term 'culture' surpasses its pure meaning and embodies the living group characteristics of a particular societal identity.

Accordingly, the pluralist culture in our society is not defined by the skin color of the Lebanese or in their appearance, or their language, or their origin or their race. It is rather a religious-cultural pluralism reflected in the group's concepts, views, values and formulas of living. It leads even to "a difference in education, traditions and behaviors," as stated in the statement of the Islamic Legal Council on December 4, 1996.

'Living Together' And 'Coexistence' Vs. 'Conviviality'

The Exhortation in its French text uses 'vivre-ensemble' (living together), 'la vie commune' (common life) and 'convivialité' (conviviality) to describe Christian-Muslim existence. Each of the terms, 'le vivre-ensemble,' 'un vivre ensemble' and 'vie commune' were mentioned once (Exhortation, 1997: p.145-148), while 'convivialité' was used eight times (Exhortation, 1997: pp. 23, 81, 144,146, 146, 147,149, 187).

Only the expression 'vivre-ensemble' means 'living together' or al Ta'ayush, as it is commonly held in the minds of the Lebanese and in their literature. 'Co-existence' has been in common use in Lebanon since independence and during and after the war. 'Coexistence' in the Lebanese jargon implies 'conviviality,' although it does not carry this meaning in dictionaries and encyclopedias.

As for the term 'convivialité', it is borrowed from the English language. 'Conviviality' is translated by the dictionary 'Al-Manhal' to mean: "to share the pleasure of eating and drinking together." It has recently been included in the French dictionaries, where it is defined as good relations, forgiveness, affection and exchange among people, individuals and communities. Therefore, the term 'conviviality,' as used in the Exhortation document, means much more than 'living together.'

'Living together' may be limited to cohabitation, being neighborly and to frequenting and interacting among people without the existence of cooperation, collaboration, harmony, affection and conviviality. 'Living together' may be governed by collision, as it has been in Lebanon during periods of crisis.

In other words, 'living together' may be overshadowed by a basic sense of passive reality, of being in the same neighborhood without effectively living together. This is not bad, but it is not sufficient. This might lead to a confrontational situation. 'Conviviality,' on the other hand, elevates common living to a level of sociability and affection. 'Conviviality' as viewed in the Exhortation, is what should govern people's relations, whoever they are, wherever they may be and however they may differ.

Is 'Conviviality' Possible In Lebanon?

The Exhortation provides a positive, convincing and definitive answer to the possibility of 'conviviality' in Lebanon. Yes, certainly, says the Apostolic Exhortation to 'conviviality' in Lebanon.

The Catholic Church sees the Islamic-Christian 'living together' as divine will in the sense of being neighborly, cohabiting, interacting with people. In its pastoral letter, the Council of the Eastern Catholic Patriarchs declared in 1992 that 'God in His wisdom wanted us [Christians and Muslims] to live together in this land of the world and we do accept His will with tolerance (Al Khoutout 1993: 82).

The attitude of conviviality is embedded in the cerebrum of the Exhortation. Christians always pray to the Father with obedience, saying: 'Thy will be done.' Only in light of this attitude can the Exhortation be understood.

Many Lebanese are afraid of accepting the 'divine will' of conviviality, although it is clear that this is the only obvious choice. They endure 'living together' as a fact and as their inevitable destiny -- they believe they cannot escape it, if they truly want to live on this land and bequeath it to their children and their descendants.

They are aware, however, that their interest lies in more effectively and harmoniously assuming the responsibilities of living together. It is only in this way that the insistent request of the Pope to transform 'living together' or 'co-existence' into 'conviviality' can become a reality. These Lebanese agree with the Exhortation in admitting 'the different communities are at the same time a wealth, a uniqueness and a difficulty for the country' (Exhortation 1997: 4).

How To Attain 'Conviviality'?

The Exhortation is aware that intention by itself is not enough to attain 'conviviality', although it is a fundamental requirement. Real 'conviviality' requires the existence of suitable circumstances, conditions, systems, regulations, and institutions, without which it cannot exist. Once these requirements materialize, 'conviviality' can take shape.

In the Exhortation, His Holiness lists the five most important conditions for 'conviviality' to be realized: fidelity to cultural pluralism, rejection of secularization, true dialogue, common destiny and a just social and political system.

Fidelity To Cultural Pluralism

The Lebanese are called upon to be faithful to their history and the continuity of their cultural and religious pluralism (Message 1996: 24). 'Conviviality' does not cause pluralism to melt away or become diffused, which in turn leads to the loss of identity, culture and character of each group.

Rejection Of Secularization

The Lebanese and the countries of the region are called upon to reject secularization (Exhortation 1997: 24). In a secular system, society in its various aspects tends to organize itself in the absence of God. This means that the values of authority, legislation, justice and even life itself derive their criteria from 'the world' and not from the Eminent One.

In his exhortation to the 'Lay People Believers in Jesus' in 1988, the Pope warned against secularization, regarding it as one aspect of religious indifference and widespread atheism. Secularization according to the New Catholic Encyclopedia is 'a social and cultural process by which non-religious beliefs, practices, and institutions replace religious ones….' The government becomes a secular one and imposes overt or covert restrictions on religion and religious activities.

Laicism is considered today as a system which places the government in a neutral position in regard to the belief of citizens, allowing them to live their beliefs the way they want and allows the religious institutions to perform all its duties. It also allows for the establishment of religious schools and schools which belong to the diverse religious sects. His Holiness Pope Pius XII considered laicism as a fundamental principle in the Catholic Doctrine. It is therefore misleading and confusing to equate the word laicism with secularization.

Some Lebanese unwisely refuse the Exhortation's attitude towards 'secularization,' considering that 'living together' and /or conviviality cannot happen except by severing the umbilical cord of religion's right to guide and advise people. They also call for confining the concerns of the religious leaders to the houses of worship. They promote the secularization of various pieces of legislation and give absolute priority to nationalism over any other affiliation.

True Dialogue

The Pope calls in his Exhortation for a true dialogue which 'respects the sensibility of individuals and various communities' (Exhortation 1998: 144-147). He further notes that 'the Muslim-Christian dialogue aims in the first place at promoting living together between Christians and Muslims in a spirit of openness and collaboration, which is indispensable for each person in order to flourish and determine choices dictated by conscience' (Exhortation 1998: 147-148).

The Pope connects 'the essential conditions for a true dialogue' (Exhortation 1998: 145) with having the Lebanese know each other better and 'fully accept pluralism' (Exhortation 1998: 148). With this, the Pontiff acknowledges that avowing pluralism is the door to all solutions and without which solutions remain unattainable. (See also Najm 1993: 55.)

Common Destiny

According to the Exhortation, Lebanon is an integral part of the Arab world, and the same destiny links Christians and Muslims to Lebanon and to the other countries of the region (Exhortation 1998: 148). The Pope insists that the Christians of Lebanon maintain and strengthen their ties of solidarity with the Arab world (Exhortation 1998: 149). He also calls upon the Christians to 'consider their further involvement in Arab culture' (Exhortation 1998: 149). He culminates his call by stating that "the Muslim-Christian dialogue and collaboration in Lebanon can help that in other countries in applying the same approach" (Exhortation 1998: 149-150).

The Christians of Lebanon have always been open to dialogue. They have also always been part of the Arab world and have invariably contributed to Arab culture. There was never a dispute between the Christians and Muslims on such matters. The dispute has always been and will remain what is called 'the Arabization of Lebanon' (Aroobat in the Lebanese jargon). The Arabists, whether Christian or Muslim, aspire to one of two objectives in Arabization: a) either to annex Lebanon to what is called 'The Greater Arab Nation', or b) to establish an Islamic or quasi-Islamic system in Lebanon. The Christians and the Exhortation reject both these aspirations.

A Just Social And Political System

The Pope asks the Lebanese people to 'edify a just and equitable social and political system which respects the individuals and all the currents that form Lebanon in order to build their common home together' (Exhortation 1997: 150). The Pope would not have called for the establishment of 'a just and equitable social and political system' if the current existing system were effective. The system is inappropriate, because since independence it has not succeeded in preventing the occurrence of protracted severe crises, the last of which culminated in the 1975 outbreak of war.

For optimum results, conviviality should come to life, become incarnate, within a political system. An un-incarnated conviviality remains sweet rhetoric, which does not become part of the conscience of people and remains a delusion. In working toward establishing such a political system, the respect of 'all the currents' is essential. These currents are the inclinations and the desires of the Lebanese communities rooted in their cultural formation.

The correlation between 'the social and political system' and 'all the currents' and the realization of 'complete acceptance of pluralism' form the symbol, which unties the knot in the Lebanese dilemma over a future political system. Otherwise, each group will fail to consider the needs and the legitimate aspirations of the other (Exhortation 1997: 150).

The Pope hopes that 'an equitable sharing of responsibilities will develop in the heart of the nation' (Exhortation 1997: 152). His Holiness believes that "the legitimate authorities have a duty to assure that all communities and individuals enjoy the same rights and are subject to the same obligations according to the principles of equity, equality and justice" (Exhortation 1998: 181).

This is another confirmation of the importance of conviviality in a political system. We notice that the Pope tirelessly repeats the term 'communities', in order that no one will suppose that the Lebanese population is only composed of individuals. He reiterates that unity is the responsibility of each individual and each cultural and religious group (Exhortation, 1998: p. 188).

Which Political System Would Embody Conviviality?

In its repeated use of the following terms and expression, the Exhortation outlines the elements required to assure a political system that would embody conviviality.

In which formula or pact would the following expressions, terms and sentences take on a meaningful life together?

Living together or co-existence;

Respect of every confession, fidelity of the Lebanese to their history and adherence to their plural cultural and religious heritage;

Building a nation of dialogue;

Lebanon's historical roots are of religious nature and are the base of its national identity and politics;

Elevate living together to a higher level -- to conviviality;

Acceptance of pluralism;

Teaching a just and equitable social and political system which respects individuals and all tendencies;

Equitable sharing of responsibilities;

Assuring that all communities and individuals enjoy the same rights and are subject to the same obligations;

Freedom of education and schooling;

Guarantee freedoms and rights of the individual; and

Religious freedom.

The above requirements lead us to envision the Lebanese State as a composed entity and its political system as a consensual democracy. The Synod of Bishops explicitly stated that the desired system be based upon a 'consensual democracy' (Message 1996: 12).

At the Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for Lebanon, Reverend Jean Ducruet, President Emeritus of Saint Joseph University in Beirut, who played an important role in the final editing of the Message of the Synod, made clear the meaning of 'consensual democracy.'

He believes that strengthening national unity requires a firmly established political system in which all confessions share in the making of national decisions and in which no one confession can impose on the nation what is not acceptable to the tradition of the other confessions. This system cannot function at the mercy of the ideology of the majority. Numerical majority is not compatible with consensual democracy. It can only be conceivable in a country without fundamental diversity. Consensual democracy necessitates a coalition government and a mutual veto on decisions that are seen as contrary to the vital interests of any of the communities. Official posts should be distributed in a manner by which no one group will dominate positions of responsibility by virtue of its power and number. This system requires the self-autonomy of some departments, such as the departments of personal status, which would remain the prerogatives of the various groups (Slim 1997: 69; Message 1996: 65-66 French).

Composed in this manner, the state and a system of consensual democracy constitute so-called federalism. In other words and based on the Exhortation, the formula of living together or coexistence in Lebanon is a federal concept. It is a federalism which is tailored to Lebanon's body and answers to its needs -- it is accepted willingly and is not forcibly imposed.

Although the Exhortation tackles the issue of federalism, it does not enter into its details. The Exhortation believes that the Church should not 'directly enroll in political life' because, in fact, it cannot offer 'technical solutions.' It does not propose economic and political systems or programs. It does not show preference to any of them, provided that the dignity of man is respected and promulgated and that the Church is given the necessary space to accomplish its ministry in the world (Exhortation 1997: 112).

Federalism, as it is known, is a form of government which gives citizens freedom in all its dimensions and establishes among them a true and absolute equality. It is the closest system to a direct democracy. Federalism is of many types and offers numerous formulas in response to the specific needs of any country desiring it. Federalism is implemented in many countries across the five continents. It is even implemented in homogeneous societies, such as in Austria, despite the common religion and language. Its land is relatively very small as well.

Reading The Indicators -- Hope Or Illusion

If there are positive indications about the Exhortation, then we can be optimistic because it means that the Lebanese agree to establish the desired system; and if they don't agree, we can only be pessimistic and lost in an ocean of illusion.

These are positive indicators: If the hearts are transformed, so will the structures be. As the Exhortation claimed "the changes of structures are contingent upon changes in the hearts" (Exhortation 1997: 153).

If we begin to train our consciences in the direction of peace, reconciliation and concord, we can move ahead to the new future. The Exhortation tells us that 'reconciliation is the starting point of hope to a new future for Lebanon' (Exhortation 1997: 158).

If we believe in our obligation to forgive and cleanse our memory, we then begin with a new spirit. As the Exhortation advises us, "the [Lebanese] people and their governing authorities are called upon to make courageous and prophetic steps of forgiveness and memory cleansing" (Exhortation 1997: p 179).

If extremism retreats and rights are granted and guaranteed to each person, then anxiety and suspicion will disappear, a new path of tranquility will be opened. The Exhortation clearly stated that 'the awakening of various forms of extremism is deeply worrying and can only render disservice to the country's unity, slow down the new momentum and disrupt conviviality between all the components of society (Exhortation 1997: 23).

If we are prepared with humble hearts to accept the guidance of the Spirit, we can walk in the path that the Lord has laid out for us. As it was evoked in the Exhortation: "Let the Spirit guide you in the will of God, Who will continue in you what He had already begun" (Exhortation 1997: 190).


1. From a Greek word Synodos: distance traveled together (Webster's Encyclopedic Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language, New York (1989). An assembly of ecclesiastics, priests, religious, lay persons and other church delegates convoked pursuant to the law of the Church, for the discussion and decision of affairs affecting the life and mission of the Church. Persons taking part in a synod have consultative status; the Bishop(s) alone is the legislator(s), with power to authorize synodal decrees. See Catholic Word Book, New Haven (1973)

2. Lineamenta: The Main Outlines (Al Khoutout al 'Arida).

3. Assemblée des Patriarches et Evêques Catholiques au Liban (A.P.E.C.L.) [Council of Catholic Patriarchs and Bishops of Lebanon]

4. For definitions of secularization, please consult Catholic WordBook, Catholic Information Services, 1973, pp. 38-39; and New Catholic Encyclopedia, 1967, 38-39.

5. Documentation Catholique, No. 1275, Rome, April 13, 1958, 456.

6. Laicism in Arabic is Al 'Almanat, while Secularism is Al Douniyawiat.  For further information about Laicism, please consult Christifideles laïci (Lay People Believers in Jesus), by H. H. John Paul II, Vatican, 1987. For Secularism, please consult New Catholic Encyclopedia, 1967, 36-38.

7. Nationalism is almost a religion which considers that 'the nation' is made an end in itself. For further reading on Nationalism vs. Patriotism consult Hilaire Belloc in Survivals And New Arrivals: The Old and New Enemies of the Catholic Church, New York, 1929. Re-typeset and republished in 1992 by TAN Books and Publishers, Inc.


Al Khoutout al 'Arida, The Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for Lebanon, Vatican (1993).

Catéchisme de l'Eglise Catholique, NAME-Librairie Editrice Vaticane, Paris (1992)

Documentation Catholique, No. 1275, Rome, April 13, 1958

John Paul II, Pope, Exhortation Apostolique Post-Synodale: Une Espérance

Nouvelle pour le Liban, Centre Catholique d'Information, Liban (1997)

John Paul II, Pope, Christifideles laïci (Lay People Believers in Jesus), Vatican (1987)

Journal du Synode des Evêques pour le Liban: Documents, Positions,

Prospective, Centre d'Etudes et de Recherches Pastorales, Paris (1996)

Kremona, H. Al Irshad al Rasouly Raja Jadid Li Lubnan… Part II, Al-Raiyat, October (1997), pp. 14-17.

Message de l'Assemblée Spéciale pour le Liban du Synode des Evêques: Le

Christ est Notre Espérance: Renouvelés par Son Esprit, Solidaires, Nous

Témoignons de Son Amour, Centre Catholique d'Information, 2ème Edition, Liban (1996)

Shameddin, M. H. Ikhtibar 'Anakeed al Ghadab…, Al-Marqab, Fall (1997), pp. 13-54.

Najm, A. et al, Ajwibat 'ala As'ilat Sinodos al Asakifat, Lebanon (1993)

Najm, A. Tasawor Li Namat 'Aysh Mushtarak Enteelaqan men al Irashad al Rasouly, Lebanon (1997)

Slim, S. Synodos al Katholic men Ajl Lubnan…, Al-Marqab, Fall (1997), pp. 55-76.

| Back to Issue | Copyright | Next |