In memoriam for His Eminence Metropolitan Archbishop Paul Saliba

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Patriarch JOHN X of Antioch and All the East announces the repose of His Eminence Metropolitan PAUL (Saliba) of Australia, New Zealand and the Philippines. He fell asleep in the Lord on the morning of July 1, 2017, at the age of 77.

 

Tribute

Christ is risen! Indeed He is risen!

In memory of our Beloved Hierarch, Brother, Father-in-Christ and Chief-Shepherd, His Eminence, the Metropolitan Archbishop, Paul Saliba of Thrice Blessed Memory, under whose omophorion The Good Shepherd was founded and continually blessed, and who reposed on 1 July 2017.

I am eternally grateful to His Eminence for my priestly ministry and for his blessing to use the English language exclusively in all our services at The Good Shepherd.

A funeral service was conducted for him at St. George's Cathedral, Sydney, on 10 July 2017, which was also his birthday in 1939.

I was privileged to attend the funeral and burial with most of the priests and many of the faithful of the Antiochian Archdiocese of Australia, New Zealand and the Philippines.

May his memory be eternal.

— Fr. Geoff, Parish Priest

 

In remembrance

Portraits of Archbishop Paul set to traditional music (3 mins).

 

Life Sketch

His Eminence Metropolitan JOSEPH fondly recalls Metropolitan PAUL as a gifted administrator over the decades they knew each other, both in the Middle East and North America. Like Sayidna JOSEPH, Sayidna PAUL received whole congregations from different Christian denominations, especially in the Philippines in recent years, into Holy Orthodoxy.

Metropolitan PAUL was born in Bsarma El-Koura in North Lebanon on July 10, 1939. Initially he studied at the village school. He then completed his primary education at Al Eslah Orthodox School in Amyoun El-Koura. He continued his theological education in Greece.

In Lebanon, then-Deacon Paul served under Metropolitan THEODOSIUS Abourjeili (later Patriarch THEODOSIUS VI) of Tyre and Sidon, and Metropolitan ELIAS Kurban of Tripoli, both of thrice-blessed memory. As a young clergyman, he served as a teacher in local Orthodox Christian schools, as well as Balamand Seminary and Monastery, as a member of the Spiritual Court, and as Secretary to Tripoli’s Archdiocesan Board.

In September of 1968, by then a priest, Fr. Paul left Lebanon for the United States. Metropolitan PHILIP of thrice-blessed memory assigned him to Saint Ilyan Church in Brownsville, and later to St. George Church in New Kensington, Pennsylvania. Fr. Paul served there for nine years, during which time he restored the attendance of the faithful and strengthened the infrastructure of the Sunday School, choir and youth.

In 1979, Metropolitan PHILIP appointed Fr. Paul as Pastor of St. George Church of Washington, D.C. In his new parish he worked hard to unify the congregation and to arrest desertion from the Church. He made sure that all debts were paid, and revived the church associations. Fr. Paul noticed an alarming increase in the number of alcohol and drug addicts in Washington, and he started a ministry to treat them.

On October 5, 1999, the Holy Synod of Antioch elected Fr. Paul as the new Metropolitan Archbishop for Australia and New Zealand. He was consecrated five days later at the Patriarchal Cathedral of the Dormition (al-Mariamieh) in Damascus, Syria. Metropolitan PAUL joined his new flock that next month, where he built new churches and reorganized communities for the rest of his life.

Sayidna JOSEPH asked Sayidna JOHN to represent him and our Archdiocese for the funeral services in Australia. Bishop JOHN was very impressed with the love and cooperation that he witnessed between the clergy and laity in Australia. The Church in Australia is on firm ground and Metropolitan PAUL has served faithfully and effectively. 

On behalf of the bishops, clergy, Board of Trustees, the organizations and all of the faithful of this Archdiocese, His Eminence Metropolitan JOSEPH offers to His Beatitude, the Holy Synod of Antioch and the Archdiocese of Australia our love, prayers and condolences.

 

Funeral service

Recorded at St. George Cathedral, Sydney, 10 July 2017 (1hr 25m).

 

Eulogy

First, I convey the love, prayers and condolences of our Father in Christ, His Beatitude JOHN X, Patriarch of Antioch and All the East, to the priests and faithful of this blessed Archdiocese. I also convey the condolences of the Hierarchs of the Holy Synod of Antioch, as well as my brothers, His Eminence Metropolitan ELIAS of Sidon and Tire and Dependencies, presiding over this service, and His Grace JOHN, Bishop of Worcester and New England of the Antiochian Archdiocese of New York and All North America, concelebrating with him. All together, we join you in the prayer for the eternal rest and blessed memory of our brother and concelebrant in Christ, our beloved Chief Shepherd, His Eminence Metropolitan PAUL.

I stand in awe before you in this cathedral, in which I served sixteen years ago, and to which I return today because of a previous invitation of this beloved father, brother, and pastor to participate in a clergy symposium and youth retreat of this Archdiocese. Nevertheless, I find myself standing among you in order to entrust, together, to the presence of the Lord, him who served this Archdiocese with dedication and self-sacrifice for eighteen years.

Three elements met together in the person of our beloved hierarch, which showed him to be a wise captain of the ship of the Church, and an experienced pastor of the faithful members of this Archdiocese. First, he had experience as a priest in our Antiochian Archdiocese of New York and All North America, as well as in a culture and civilization different from his origins in Lebanon and his theological study in Greece. This had a great impact on his approach to the needs and aspirations of those in his diocese, something that he manifested on the pastoral level, in the planning and the running of things.

Second, he had a spirit of evangelism, manifested in his love for the other and self-sacrifice, along with his desire to “go above and beyond the call of duty,” communicating with those who are near or far. Thus, he embraced the Orthodox of Lebanese, Syrian, Iraqi, Palestinian and Jordanian origins, as well as the Australians. Although he began to minister to this Archdiocese at the age of 60, he did not hesitate to travel throughout the Archdiocese; his desire to “go beyond” and communicate made him answer the call of the Philippines, which is eight and a half hours from the Archbishopric. This is the longest flying distance in any Antiochian diocese! This was his spirit of evangelism, one that sacrifices itself for those whom one loves, and seeks to hand over the deposit of the apostolic faith to those hungry and thirsty for Christ’s righteousness.

Third, his will, determination and perseverance meant that this spirit of evangelism continues to flow out in service, and instills in his collaborators the fire of divine zeal and determination. His determination not only helped keep the torch of inspiration constantly lit, but it made it multiply and increase. This is what we observe in the faithful of this archdiocese, both at the parish level and with the Board of Trustees. He was able to capitalize on opportunities and talents and push them forward.

Thus, his experience, love and determination formed the triangle on which Metropolitan PAUL based and built his apostolic ministry. All this is reflected in the great concerns to which he dedicated his life. First, there was Christian education and preparation of the priesthood. Despite its old roots, the Archdiocese remained youthful, because of new refugees and converts. This shepherd paid great attention to the fact that this diocese produces pious servants of the Holy Altar, capable of serving their flock. He spared no effort to set up a theological seminary which would spread the knowledge of faith in the souls of the laity, as well as train those who determined to devote themselves to the priesthood.

Second, he believed in educating children and embracing young people through Sunday schools and the establishment of youth teams in parishes. He worked to provide teachers for Sunday school and to inspire initiative among the youth, so that they could feed their spirit with their service for their church and their neighbor. He saw the future of the church in them, and he worked hard to make their foundations solid. For them, he achieved what I call the crown of his ministry and hardship, that is, the acquisition of the “Antiochian Village” [in Australia], which hosted retreats for all kinds of parish groups and church members, developing among them all the spirit of love and brotherhood and sacrificial service. This was part of his broader interest in the family, in newly married couples, and in the role of women in the Church and in ladies’ committees.

Third, he mobilized many co-workers in parish councils and on the Board of Trustees. With his talents for organization and planning, they carried out together the responsibility for the growth of parishes and churches. This included providing a decent life for the priests, the infrastructure and facilities necessary for church services and activities, and projects of economic interest, so that the diaconia might be made in a fitting and orderly way (1 Corinthians 14:40). Thus, we see the projects of building churches, their halls and facilities, classrooms, and many other things.

All this was possible, historically and spiritually, thanks to St. Joseph the Damascene, the priest of the Mariamieh Cathedral in Damascus. In fact, today the Antiochian Church commemorates him as he was martyred in the massacres of Damascus in 1860 with thousands of his companions, sanctifying the soil of their homeland that Christ irrigated with His Blood prior to them. Since then, many Lebanese and Syrians took the path of instilling their church and faith in the new lands where they settled. This Archdiocese is a living testimony to this faith based on the grace of the Holy Spirit, which is active in the body of the Church, the clergy and the laity alike, in the sacraments and the divine Word. It is the Church of God in every sense of the word, carrying the grace of eternal life. Over time, what was a patriarchal Vicariate became a Metropolis, and consequently our hierarch, instituted by the grace of the Spirit to minister to this Archdiocese, carried the title: His Eminence Metropolitan PAUL of Australia, New Zealand and the Philippines.

Like any bishop, he carried the cross of commitment with courage and joy. He carried on his shoulders, without hesitation or fear, the concerns of his Archdiocese, the concerns of his Antiochian Church and of Orthodoxy in general, in addition to everything related to the Lebanese and Syrian communities. He worked with the Christian and Islamic religious authorities, keen to pay attention to everything related to the affairs of this community at home and abroad. Moreover, he worked with the members of the Assembly of Orthodox Bishops in Australia in order to witness boldly to the unity of the Orthodox Church.

Now I wonder before you: What teaching of his patron, Saint Paul, really inspired our Chief Shepherd in his ministry? Could it be the following verse that comes to my mind?

I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead . . . I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.
— Philippians 3:13; 12

Now, his face is covered with the veil that covered the Holy Gifts, and he waits to stand in the presence of the Lord, the only one Who has the answer to my bewilderment. From now on, our prayer goes up for the one who labored with patience and carried the flame of faith with joy, because we are fully aware that “we have sinned and we have lost the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).

Let us, therefore, raise our praise, in the same manner we raise the Holy Gifts, and let us raise our prayer in the same manner in which the fragrance of incense is lifted up, for the sake of the eternal rest of our beloved hierarch. Together, let us thank God for His gift, which we have experienced in the person of this committed, responsible and loving father, brother and pastor. I, personally, have something for which I want to thank our hierarch: my ministry in this Cathedral and Archdiocese in 2001 helped me to stay firm in the ministry of the Archdiocese of Argentina as a high priest since 2006.

This is something due, first, to him, and secondarily to all of you. Here are all of you, the members of this Archdiocese, gathered as one body. Here is Metropolitan PAUL lying in front of you, while he entrusts to you this Church with its needs and aspirations. He invites you to live this present divine visitation as a call for all to mature in vision and service, so that one may be for all, and all be for one, individually, and at the parochial and archdiocesan levels. Let each one prefer the necessity of the other instead of his own (Galatians 6:2), as one church, “which the Lord bought with his own blood” (Acts 20:28).

The Church of Antioch today and always accompanies you by its prayer. We are brothers, and you are dear to us and very much beloved, even if large distances separate us, or the circumstances and difficulties are different. We all pray with you and say, 

O Lord, give the rest to our brother and concelebrant in Christ,
His Eminence, Metropolitan PAUL,
where the righteous are resting,
and give him eternal life and great mercy!
May his memory be eternal!

 

Sources

Eulogy by His Eminence, Metropolitan Silouan of Buenos Aires and all Argentina. Delivered at St. George's Cathedral, Sydney, Australia, Monday, July 10, 2017.

Eulogy and Life Sketch first appeared in the September 2017 edition of "The Word", the North American Antiochian Archdiocese's official magazine.