New Maronite Patriarch Visits Our Lady of Lebanon Cathedral Elevates Father Root to Monsignor

Patriarch Rai elevates Fr. James Root of Our Lady of Lebanon Cathedral to the role of Monsignor, and presents Fr. Root with a facia, the red sash of his new office. Witnessing the moment are Eparchy Bishop Gregory Mansour, and seminarians. Photo by Francesca Norsen Tate.

By Francesca Norsen Tate

Worshipers and diplomats filled the sanctuary of Our Lady of Lebanon Cathedral on Sunday for the first visit of the Maronite Patriarch, His Beatitude Bechara Peter Rai.

Patriarch Rai, who was elected and enthroned in March, was concluding a three-week visit in the United States. He presided at the Divine Office.

During his homily (with Archbishop Paul Sayah, Patriarchal Vicar, translating from Arabic), Patriarch Rai spoke the need for Christians to be faithful stewards, investing their talents wisely. (In Christ’s time, talents were also forms of currency.) He also spoke of Lebanon’s role as a model for peace and religious unity.

The Patriarch then surprised the entire congregation — especially the Rector of Our Lady of Lebanon Cathedral, Father James Root. He announced the elevation of the beloved priest to Monsignor; and the congregation burst into an extended standing ovation. Fr. Jim was then presented with a facia — a monsignor’s sash.

Fr. Jim explained in an email after the liturgy that the role of Monsignor in the Maronite Rite is different from that in the Roman (Latin) rite. “First of all I will be ordained to this rank. I am not a Papal Chamberlain as most of the Roman Monsignors are. My proper title will be Periodeut.”

The bishops preside at the Offertory in the Maronite Rite liturgy: Left to right: Stephen H. Doueihi, Bishop Emeritus of the Eparchy of St. Maron; Archbishop Paul Sayah, Patriarchal Vicar; His Beatitude Bechara Peter Rai, Patriarch of Antioch and all the East; Gregory J. Mansour, Bishop of the Eparchy of St. Maron; Monsignor James A. Root. Rector of Our Lady of Lebanon Cathedral. Photo by Francesca Norsen Tate.

A full delegation of bishops and clergy from the Maronite Catholic Rite, Roman Catholic Rite and Eastern Orthodox traditions were present for Patriarch Rai’s visit. Among them were: Metropolitan Philip Saliba, Primate of the Antiochian Orthodox Church of America; Retired Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus Joseph Sullivan of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn; Archbishop Cyril Ephrem Karim of the Syriac Orthodox Church, Retired Bishop Batakian of the Armenian Catholics; The Apostolic Nuncio to the UN, Archbishop Francis Chullikatt; and Bishop Antoun, Antiochian Orthodox Church. Also in attendance were several diplomats: The Lebanese Ambassador of the Permanent Mission to the UN, Ambassador Nawaf Salam, and his wife, Sahar Baassiri Salam; the Consul General of Lebanon in NY, the Honorable Antoine Azzam, and his wife, Danielle.

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Iqra Mosque Hosts Interfaith Group from Plymouth Church

Pictured are: Rev. Al Bunis from Plymouth (left) Imam Khalil Abdur-Rashid of the Iqra Mosque and Megan Putney, Program Director of the Muslim Consultative Network of New York, who helped organize the exchange dinner. MCN hopes to organize more such community exchanges between other mosques and churches in NY. Photo by Wendy Reitmeier.

Editor’s Note: Wendy Reitmeier, Plymouth member and chair of Plymouth Church’s Interfaith Connections Group, contributed the following story about being hosted at the Iqra Mosque in Midwood.

The Plymouth Church Interfaith Connections group was invited by Imam Khalil and about 40 members of the Iqra Mosque to attend their monthly community dinner, and we were greeted with great warmth and friendliness.

The dinner was on Saturday, Oct. 15 at the Iqra Mosque at 1885 McDonald Ave in Midwood. Fourteen Plymouth folks attended. After a delicious buffet dinner, members of the two groups had informal discussion to get acquainted. Then Rev. Al Bunis [Assistant Minister at Plymouth] and Imam Khalil each spoke briefly about the importance of interfaith exchange and the teaching of openness in each tradition. The Imam presented a gift to Plymouth — a decorative plaque with the name “Allah” in beautiful calligraphy. There were questions and answers and more discussion. On behalf of Plymouth, Rev. Bunis expressed the desire that members of the mosque would come to Plymouth for a similar dinner and exchange to further the acquaintance.

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Feiler’s Book Tackles ‘Arab Spring’ Uprisings As Democracy Spreads

“Can freedom, an idea that started in the Middle East, finally come home to save the Middle East? Prolific Brooklyn Heights author Bruce Feiler asks this question in his latest book, Generation Freedom: The Middle East Uprisings and the Remaking of the Modern World.

The answer rests on how one defines the boundaries of the Middle East. Based on the news of the past week, the answer to Feiler’s question seems to expand the “yes” to Arab North Africa. Last week, news broke that Libyan dictator Muammar el-Qaddafi had been killed during a siege. And over the past weekend, Tunisians filled polling places to vote on the leaders who will draft a constitution and shape a democracy in their country.

“Tunisians showed the world how to make a peaceful revolution without icons, without ideology, and now we are going to show the world how we can build a real democracy,” Moncef Marzouki, founder of a liberal political party and a former dissident exile, told the New York Times for a story published on Monday. “The whole Arab world is watching,” he said.

Libya, Tunisia and Egypt are three of the North African nations that Feiler discusses in Generation Freedom. His focus, though, is on the start of Arab Spring — in particular the January 25 popular uprisings — that led to Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak’s fall after three decades in power.

Feiler is an engaging writer with an entertaining style. His previous books, Abraham, Where God Was Born and Walking the Bible, are bestsellers. He points out that the ancient Israelite prophet Moses, who helped lead his people from slavery in Egypt towards freedom, was more deeply revered by America’s founding fathers than he was in his own time! Feiler is also a brave author — his 2010 Council of Dads discusses his battle with cancer.

And Generation Freedom courageously tackles a subject matter that some Americans would deem controversial — a connection between the September 11, 2001 terror attacks, the Arab Spring revolts against dictators, and the capture and killing of Osama bin Laden.

Written and published after the May 2 death of bin Laden, Generation Freedom weaves together Feiler’s own experiences interviewing and even marching with the organizers at Liberation Square, and talking with Arabs of all ages and professions who were involved with and harmed during the uprisings. He points out several times, often through the voices of those he interviewed, that Islam and freedom are indeed compatible.

Feiler also seeks to dispel the notion perpetuated in the news media that Arab Spring was largely sectarian violence — that is, Muslims against Christians.

He describes early in the book (page 5) how “huge throngs of Christians locked their arms and formed a massive human chain around the Muslims to create a sacred space for them to pray. Earlier, during a Christian mass on the same spot, Muslims had done the same thing for Christians.” And, he continues, Muslims and Christians banded together to protect a synagogue from the melee. “Three faiths,” he writes. “Three spontaneous armies of defense. A visual manifestation of an evolving Middle East.”

Feiler describes an encounter with a Muslim English teacher who tells him, “Islam teaches us to protect Christians.” He told Feiler of the circumstances that led to a village’s siege on the Church of the Two Martyrs in Soul. Thanks to a cooperative effort, massive rebuilding had already started in the week after the church was burned. The man said the revolution (against the dictators) “‘was for Muslims and Christians together. We are united.’”

Feiler asks later in his book, “Who Are “Generation Freedom? What do they believe? How will they change the world?”

Finding a co-relation between baby boom periods and political uprisings, especially in regions and situations of when the prospects for good jobs and financial prospects seem dim, Feiler synopsizes Generation Freedom with four catch-words: “Plentiful, Pinched, Plugged-in, Proactive.” He also lays out the debate surrounding popular phrases that arose around Arab Spring: “Facebook Revolution,” “Twitter Effect”: “Can technology create freedom? Or was the revolution going to happen, and Facebook, as indispensable as ever, just a tool?”

Generation Freedom (publisher: Harper Perennials), is a thin, paperback volume at 146 pages plus Prologue and ancillary materials. It moves quickly, but the reader may want to pause often to reflect. Generation Freedom is an excellent guide to the populist events so far of 2011 — both in the world and the United States.

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Halloween Organ Concert Features Video Presentation

Halloween comes to First Presbyterian Church — in the form of haunting organ works. Organists Wil Smith and Meg Wilhoite, and video artist Nathan Selikoff present “A Night of Spooky Classics,” a family-friendly evening of organ works from favorite dearly-departed classical composers. (Some works by living composers will also be played.) As part of the concert, live video will projected onto the organ pipes and back wall of the sanctuary. Attendees are invited to embrace the spine-chilling sound of the organ in First Presbyterian’s beautiful, possibly-haunted, gothic sanctuary on Friday, October 28, at 7 p.m. $5 suggested donation per person.

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