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Official inauguration of Liqaa Centre enlarge

10 - 05 - 2011

Official inauguration of Liqaa Centre

On Tuesday, 10 May 2011, in Rabweh (Lebanon), Patriarch Gregorios III of Antioch and All the East, of Alexandria and of Jerusalem for the Melkite Greek Catholic Church, inaugurated "in the name of Christ the Saviour, risen from the dead," the Liqaa International Centre for Dialogue, in the presence of the President of the Lebanese Republic, General Michel Sleiman and Sheikh Abdullah Bin Muhammad As-Salemi, Minister of the Awqaf and Religious Affairs of the Sultanate of Oman.
Many distinguished figures, both civil and religious, accepted the Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarch’s invitation.  Present were the Grand Mufti of the Lebanese Republic, Sheikh Muhammad Rashid Qabbani, Sheikh Akl of the Unitarian Druze community, Sheikh Naym Hassan, the Apostolic Nuncio to Lebanon, Archbishop Gabriele Giordano Caccia, representatives of the other Catholic Patriarchs of Lebanon, Pastor Selim Sahyouni, President of the Supreme Council of Evangelical Churches in Lebanon and Syria, as well as many Melkite Greek Catholic, Maronite and Orthodox bishops, not to mention the superiors general and mothers general of the main Lebanese religious orders.
Also present were Ministers Michel Pharaon, Tarek Mitri, Selim Wardeh and Hassan Mneimneh, as well as Members of Parliament Hagop Pakradounian, Michel Moussa, Ghassan Moukheiber, Marwan Fares, and Tony Abou Khater, military leaders, heads of university and leading representatives of the judiciary.
The international community was very well represented by some 29 Western and Arab ambassadors and the Sultanate of Oman by a delegation led by the Secretary-General of the Sultan Qaboos Centre for Islamic Culture, Mr. Habib Bin Mohammed Al-Riyami.
The ceremony was introduced and presented by Father Michel Sabee. The Apostolic Nuncio read a letter from Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, Prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches. Then Mr. Habib Bin Muhammad Al-Riyami gave a speech for the occasion, and H. B. Gregorios III gave a speech too.
At the end of the ceremony, the Patriarch, the President and the Omani Minister unveiled the commemorative plaque of the event, then together cut the ribbon to the entrance to the Centre’s main hall, where a cocktail was offered to all the attendees.

Speech of His Beatitude Patriarch Gregorios III at the Inauguration of the Liqaa Meeting Centre
Rabweh, Lebanon - 10 May 2011

In the name of Christ the Saviour, risen from the dead, we are inaugurating the Liqaa Meeting Centre for the dialogue of civilisations beside the Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarchate in Rabweh.
We are inaugurating this Liqaa Meeting Centre in your presence and under your patronage, Your Excellency, General Michel Sleiman, President of the Lebanese Republic. Your presence is the sign of your love for the Melkite Greek Catholic Church and of the very special concern you have for the spiritual and social values of dialogue in Lebanon, and your appreciation of the goals that the Liqaa Centre seeks to realise, as a place for the expression and development of those values.

The Liqaa Centre has taken as its object to be a local and international centre for dialogue between people in their religion, faith, civilisation, culture, industry, politics, thought, vision, outlook and perspectives of their whole life.

Though born today, it is in the very old, traditional line of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church, which has always been considered as a Church without borders, that makes every possible effort to build bridges in a divided world, through dialogue without frontiers – a religious, cultural dialogue that embraces the whole of civilisation.
Meeting has always been an object of very special concern to me. We were one of the first founders of the Al-Liqa Center in Jerusalem in 1983, together with its longstanding current Director, Dr. Geries Khoury, one of our faithful from Upper Galilee. We founded it together with a select group of Palestinian Christian and Muslim thinkers, university teachers. I was head of its board of trustees until my election as Patriarch in 2000. Palestine’s Al-Liqa Center remains to this day its dialogue centre par excellence.
We chose the term Liqaa, wishing to express through this the essential goal of this institution: that of meeting, in the absolute sense. We call men and women to meet, without determining the aim or objective of the meeting. The meeting takes place within the bounds of human perspectives, whatever their scope or range.
Liqaa is a centre for meeting between God and man, through faith, religion and belief. It is a religious meeting, of Christian, Muslim and Jewish faith, and moreover, of meeting with all sorts of convictions, even outside those of church, synagogue or mosque. It is an encounter in the vast sanctuary or temple of the world, a meeting of people with one another in the world which is both God’s and man’s; limited by neither time nor place, nor confined to an East-West theme, nor to the civilisation and culture of our Eastern Arab world, nor to the cultural and intellectual ambiance of the Mediterranean basin nor even that of Europe and the West. In fact our Middle East was and still remains the road to the Far East. The world is the purview for our Liqaa Centre, which will be an open academic centre and a global platform. It is an intellectual, academic centre of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church in Arab countries, emigration countries and throughout the whole world and through this Church, a platform for everyone.

Allow me, Your Excellency, President of the Lebanese Republic, to say with pride that the Liqaa Centre is at the service of your thought and vision. In fact, it was you who launched the idea that Lebanon is the centre of meeting and dialogue of civilisations, from the highest global platform at the United Nations. In fact this Liqaa Centre is at the service of your congresses for implementation of your guidelines and for your dialogue programmes. Furthermore, we place the Liqaa Centre at the service of Lebanon’s mission, which is itself the mission. In fact we can say that Lebanon itself is essentially and entirely a dialogue centre for the Arab world and for the whole world.

Your Excellency, President of the Republic, ladies and gentleman, my brothers and sisters, this great association, this Liqaa Centre, would not have seen the light of day, without the generosity of a great person, who has a broad, humane vision, a man of immense horizons, with an enlightened mind and large heart, engaged in dialogue and government, a wise leader, open to his people and citizens and to the Arab world and indeed the whole world: I mean the great Sultan Qaboos, Sultan of Oman, may God, in his protection and concern, preserve him.

It is thanks to the generosity of His Majesty and his hand, heart and mind that this Liqaa Centre was able to be built. Moreover a unique project has been realised in this way, a joint project between the Sultanate of Oman and the Melkite Greek Catholic Church. It is a project of charity, of love, that links the Patriarchate to the Sultanate of Oman, and the Patriarch and the Sultan. It is a project built through the stones of that love. The stone building was completed with God’s blessing and the generosity of the Sultan’s gift. There still remains the joint project between the Patriarchate and the Sultanate and its representatives, a continuation through the Liqaa Centre’s projects, congresses, perspectives, spirituality and vision. This link between the Patriarchate and the Sultanate will be recorded in letters of gold in the registers of the Patriarchate’s history and the memories of its generations to come. Here too, prayers and invocations will be continually raised in the church of Our Lady of the Annunciation, the Virgin Mary whom, as the Qur’an says 1 , “God chose and purified, chosen above all women of the nations.” The Virgin Mary, our Lady of the Annunciation, who is the patron of this new church that overlooks the Liqaa Centre and that will be inaugurated very soon, will be the protector of His Majesty, the Sultan, his collaborators and all his people. She will bless him and all those who have worked and will continue to work in this centre, and all those who will benefit from the services of this centre.

The church of Our Lady of the Annunciation that we shall soon be inaugurating is linked to the mission of this Liqaa Centre. Indeed, the Feast of the Annunciation to the Virgin Mary was declared a national religious holiday for the whole of Lebanon and for all Lebanese citizens, both Christian and Muslim. It is a feast of dialogue, and in its Greek expression evangelismos, an announcement of beautiful, joyful news.
So from this Church of the Annunciation and this Liqaa Centre will be continually propagated pleasant news to people, to every person in the whole world, both in Lebanon and in the Sultanate of Oman. The venerable Qur’an says, “We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know each other,” 2and Saint John, the Beloved Disciple and Evangelist says, “The Word was made flesh and dwelt (set up his tent)among us 3,” and in these two venerated verses we find a summary of the Liqaa Centre’s programme – a programme of politics, culture, industry and sociology.
God, may his name be praised, founded the first liqaa centre by creating man in his image and likeness, and by becoming incarnate he called the world, its people, humanity to meeting with him and his love. He called them to love and he made this love the condition for following him and the foundation of his commandments and the holy teachings of his Gospel. In fact, he said, “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another. 4”

“For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, somaking peace. 5 ”

I would like to give hearty thanks to the basic team who accompanied the realisation of this unique dream: bringing this dream to the attention of His Majesty, Sultan Qaboos, preparing the architectural plans and following all the stages of its realisation. This team comprises: Rev. Dr. Michel Sabee, Head of our Patriarchal College in Beirut, who was the contact messenger, bringing this dream of the Patriarch to His Majesty the Sultan; then there is the Patriarchate’s Economos, Rev. Economos Elie Shatawi, who undertook the supervision of the project on the spot; the architect, Mr. Elie Abou Hala and his wife Rosi, who expended all their experience, art, enthusiasm and faithfulness to make this Centre our Patriarchate’s finest realisation. Our thanks also go to the engineers and workers who have worked generously, for the excellent quality of their work. We give our blessing to the centre’s leadership team who will be working for the centre’s aims. We wish them success! May the bountiful Saviour amply reward them!
Your Excellency, President of the Republic, my brothers and sisters, here is your centre, ready to welcome you and to host your activities. We hope that you will support this centre by all means, spiritual and material, at your disposal and through your thoughts and proposals, and also by finding sponsors for its congresses and activities. So the Liqaa Centre will be able to realise those projects through the blessing of the Saviour and through your work and fellowship.

To you all, my friendship and blessing,

Gregorios III
Patriarch of Antioch and All the East,
of Alexandria and of Jerusalem

Translation from French: V. Chamberlain

Word of H.E. President of the Lebanese Republic General Michel Sleiman as written on the golden book
(arabic text - Please refer to the arabic page)

Letter of H.Em. Leonardo Cardinal Sandri,
Prefect of the congregation for oriental churches
read by H.E.
Mgr Gabriele Gaccia,
apostolic nuncio for Lebanon
(text in French)

Il m’est très agréable de vous exprimer mes meilleurs vœux pour l’inauguration du Centre International de Rencontre Al-Liqa’a, prévue le 10 mai prochain en présence de représentants des communautés chrétiennes, des différentes religions et de la vie publique.
Dans un monde signé par les divisions et par le manque d’un vrai dialogue, il est plus que jamais nécessaire d’ouvrir ces espaces de rencontre et de promouvoir la mutuelle compréhension, par l’étude, la formation et des activités culturelles. Le christ a détruit « la barrière qui les séparait, supprimant en sa chair la haine » (Ephésiens 2,14), et c’est Lui qui nous appelle à tisser ces liens au-delà des frontières.
Dans l’espoir que le centre International de Rencontre Al’Liqa’a prenne vie et qu’il soit vraiment un lieu d’inspiration, je Vous assure de mes  ferventes prières pour que le Seigneur bénisse cette œuvre
Veuillez agréer, Béatitude, l’expression de mes sentiments cordiaux et tout dévoués dans le Christ
Leonardo Card. Sandri

Speech of Mr. Habib Mohammad Al Riyami, Head of the "Kabous Centre for Culture"
(Arabic text - please refer to the arabic page)

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