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Elias Chacour (born 1939) is the Archbishop of Galilee of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church. He is also a noted author and peace activist keen to promote reconciliation between Arabs and Israelis.

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Biography and Education

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Elias Michael Chacour was born November 29, 1939 in the village of Kafr Bir'im in Upper Galilee in the British Mandate of Palestine to an Arab Christian family, members of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church. At the age of eight he was evicted along with his whole village of Biram by Zionist forces and became a deportee and a refugee but remained in the region. [Elias Chacour (1984). "Blood Brothers" (PDF). Chosen Books. http://web.archive.org/web/20051108220240/http://twelvedaystojerusalem.org/chacour/pdf/BloodBrothers.pdf. Retrieved 2008-05-04.  ] Because he remained in his homeland, he was granted Israeli citizenship when the state was created in 1948.

Completing his schooling in Nazareth, he studied theology at St. Sulpice Seminary in Paris, returning home in 1965. He was ordained a priest by Archbishop George Selim Hakim of Akko, Haifa, Nazareth and all Galilee, who became Patriarch Maximos V two years later after the death of Patriarch Maximos IV Sayegh who was called "The Lion of the Council" (Vatican II). He later studied the Torah and Talmud at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem as well as Aramaic and Syriac, becoming the first Arab to gain a higher degree there. He was also a friend of the charismatic and controversial second Archbishop of Akko, Haifa, Nazareth and all Galilee, Joseph-Marie Raya. Chacour is vice president of the Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center.[1]

Teaching and Peace Advocacy

Chacour came to the village of Ibillin in the Galilee as a young priest in 1965. This village was the birthplace of the most recent saint of the Melkite Church, Blessed Miriam Bawardy, a Discalced Carmelite mystic of the nineteenth century responsible for the Carmel of Saint David's Tower in Bethlehem who was beatified by Pope John-Paul II on November 13, 1983. The young Father Elias, seeing the lack of educational opportunities for Arab youth beyond the 8th grade, set about creating a school open to all local children, regardless of religious affiliation.[2]

In the early 1980s, on an empty hillside now known as the Mount of Light (Jebel an-Nour), a classroom building was begun. The newly formed high school moved from temporary quarters in the community center to the new building as soon as it was ready. The original high school has expanded considerably and now includes a primary school and a community college. The Mar Elias Educational Institutions now have 4,500 students, serving "boys and girls, Moslem, Christian, and Druze." [3]

An advocate of non-violence, Chacour travels often between the Middle East and other countries around the world. In addition, many visitors, fact-finding missions, and pilgrims have come to Ibillin. He has received several international peace awards.On March 10, 1994, Father Chacour received the prestigious World Methodist Peace Award awarded annually by the World Methodist Council. On Feb 19, 2001, it was announced he was to receive the Niwano Peace Prize which he travelled to Japan to receive.

Writings and Speeches

Chacour is the author of two best selling books, Blood Brothers and We Belong to the Land. Blood Brothers covers his childhood growing up in the town of Biram, his development into a young man, and his early years as a priest in Ibillin. This book has been translated into 28 languages. (The first six chapters of Blood Brothers can be downloaded here (the Nov 08, 2005 link).

His second book, We Belong to the Land, recounts his work in the development of Mar Elias Educational Institutions, from humble beginnings to major schools for educating Palestinian young people and for helping to bring about reconciliation in a land of strife. This book has been translated into 11 languages.

Chacour currently serves as Archbishop of Akko, Haifa, Nazareth and all Galilee. The main city of his diocese is Haifa, the great city of northern Israel. He was consecrated a bishop in the church of Saint Elias in Ibillin and his enthronement in the Haifa Cathedral was broadcast by the Melkite Ecumenical television station "Noursat" which originates in Beirut, Lebanon. Since his installation as bishop then he has already visited the United States twice in 2006.

In 2001, Chacour gave an address at commencement at Emory University, in Atlanta, Georgia where he accepted an honarary degree.[2] . An excerpt from his speech:

You who live in the United States, if you are pro-Israel, on behalf of the Palestinian children I call unto you: give further friendship to Israel. They need your friendship. But stop interpreting that friendship as an automatic antipathy against me, the Palestinian who is paying the bill for what others have done against my beloved Jewish brothers and sisters in the Holocaust and Auschwitz and elsewhere.

And if you have been enlightened enough to take the side of the Palestinians -- oh, bless your hearts -- take our sides, because for once you will be on the right side, right? But if taking our side would mean to become one-sided against my Jewish brothers and sisters, back up. We do not need such friendship. We need one more common friend. We do not need one more enemy, for God's sake.

From Father Elias Chacour on February 9, 2006 regarding becoming Archbishop of Galilee:

The Lord has made for me great things because His Name is holy and His power is manifested in our weakness; so that people see our deeds and glorify our Father in Heaven.

With all joy and faith I have the pleasure to announce to all among you, brothers and sisters who have played an important role in my life during the past forty two years of my priesthood, with your friendship, with your encouragement and with your financial help as well, that I have been chosen by the Holy Synod of the Melkite Catholic Church to be the Archbishop of Galilee. I was notified officially on 7th February and did not want to wait to share the good news and the meaning of my new responsibility for the Melkite Church in Akko, Haifa, Nazareth and all of Israel.

I did not dream of this responsibility and this great honor. My dreams were different. At sixty-five years of age my ambition was to dedicate the rest of my life to prayer, reading and writing, but like Paul on the way to Damascus the Lord seems to tell me that he is the one in control. My answer is, "Here I am Lord. I am your servant to continue the ministry of reconciliation and to proclaim more forcefully the Good News about the Empty Tomb and the Risen Lord." No doubt my first reaction was tears of awe, of joy and of gratitude.

I extend in my prayer and in my friendship a very warm greeting of peace and justice to all my brothers and sisters, Moslems, Jews and Druze, on behalf of you and myself – we who have been baptized in the name of Christ.

More detailed news we will provide whenever available concerning the installation and related changes in my life.

I would rely on your prayers and continued friendship and support.

Peace be to you all

References

  1. ^ [www.sabeel.org/old/news/newsltr7/index.htm]
  2. ^ [1]
  3. ^ Mar Elias Educational Institutions: Our History and Dreams

See also

External links


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