galilee green 298.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
The Vatican and the Synod of the Greek Catholic Patriarchate of Antioch, who met Wednesday in Beirut, appointed Father Elias Chacour archbishop of the Galilee.
The appointment makes Chacour, the dynamic head of an educational empire with 4,000 students in the Galilee town of Ibillin, the most senior cleric of the Greek Catholic Church in the Holy Land, with a flock of about 55,000, the single largest Christian community in Israel.
"I plan to work for reconciliation and dialogue among the three religions of the Holy Land," Chacour told The Jerusalem Post. "I hope to be a moderating voice in the conflict that has spilled too much blood."
According to the Mar Elias Educational Institutions Web site, Chacour was born November 29, 1939 in the village of Biram in Upper Galilee in Arab Palestine.
At age eight, Chacour experienced what the Web site describes as the "the tragedy of his people." Referring to the 1948 War of Independence, the site states that Chacour was "evicted, along with his whole village, by the Israeli authorities and became a deportee and a refugee in his own country."
Chacour's jurisdiction will include all Greek Catholic communities from Hadera northward, including Zibda, a town near Jenin.
Archmandrite Matanios Hadad currently is filling the position of archbishop of Jerusalem, which is responsible for Greek Catholic communities to the south of Hadera.
Greek Catholic communities in the Holy Land are still divided according to the borders established by the Ottoman empire, said Wadie Abunassar, director of the International Center for Consultations.
The archbishop of the Galilee position has been vacant since 2002, when Father Boutrous Mualem stepped down at 75, the retirement age for Church clerics. Until now, local Greek Catholic church officials have been unable to decide on a replacement for Mualem.
In the interim, the Vatican appointed George Hadad as apostalic administer.
The Greek Catholic, or Melkite Church, which was created in the 17th century, is unionized with the worldwide Catholic Church. But unlike the Roman Catholic Church, headed in Israel by Patriarch Michel Sabbah, the Melkites retained Greek liturgy and their own synod of bishops, which lends them a certain degree of autonomy from the Vatican.
Daniel Rossing, director of the Jerusalem Center for Jewish-Christian Relations, said that Chacour has worked for peace and coexistence among the various religious groups of the Galilee.
"Chacour is a dynamic individual who has built a tremendous educational complex and is in the process of establishing an Israeli Arab university.
"He has traveled and lectured extensively in the Christian world and is the author of several books on Christians in the Galilee."