The first anniversary of Bishop Robert Rabbat as the 3rd Melkite Catholic Eparch of Australia and NZ
“The past must be life-giving and life-directing; it must be something from which we learn and from which we take direction”: Bishop Rabbat
(Translation of this article appears in Arabic section)
Sydney – M. E. Times Int’l: The Melkite Catholic Welfare Association held a gala dinner on the occasion of the first anniversary of the installation of The Most reverend Robert Rabbat as the third Melkite Catholic Eparch of Australia and New Zealand.
The ceremony was attended by ministers and MPs, members and directors of the Eparchy Council and association, as well as media and members of the community.
Also the ceremony attended by The Hon. Chris Bowen MP Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, The Hon. Philip Ruddock MP, H.E George Bitar Ghanem, The Lebanese Consul General in Sydney, The Hon. Jean Ajaka a member of the Legislative Council, Mar Malatius Melki Bishop of Syriac community, Father Antoine Tarabay, The Hector of St Charbel Monastery,The Chairman of the Community Relations Commission Stepan Kerkyasharian, Joe Rizk The Managing Director of the Arab Bank Australia and James Wakim, The Managing Director of Beirut Hellenic Bank.
Father Antoine Tarabay blesses the food and all the participants.
The ceremony concluded when Bishop Rabbat cuts the cake prepared specially for the occasion.
Then Michael Rizk the master of ceremony began program welcoming all guests and said: "The Church has once again been blessed with the presence of a leader who has the best interests of our Church at heart. We thank God for his blessing and know that you will continue to work to produce constructive results for the benefit of our community and the wellbeing of this great nation, Australia."
Excerpts of Frank Chahoud’s speech
"The present bishop, His Grace Robert. is is familiar with both the Middle East and the contemporary West; he speaks the "cultural language" of
both… and by that I mean he is at home in the religious and secular environments of both worlds.
He said: we have a formidable bishop with a deep spirituality, a love of our liturgical tradition and a strong pastoral sense.
The old Church of St Michael at Waterloo … and many of you will remember it. As the original centre of our Melkite Community it figures in many community stories which tell of the arrival any number of early migrants from the Middle East. From 1895, the year of its dedication, numerous new settlers found at that church, a refuge, help with accommodation, assistance with a job.
In our earliest churches every Middle Eastern Christian found a welcome and a spiritual home. In Brisbane, the late Father Alexios Malouf was an esteemed friend of the small local Muslim community.
We proudly carry on the work of our forebears who assisted those in need and so often in ways that governments then did not see as their responstbility.
Today, Melkite Welfare provides new settlers - and often those not so new - with classes to gain job enhancing skills, acquire or improve English language capabilities. We teach craft, computer literacy, employment interview procedures, to name but a few."
we speak of the old St Michael's that was built not only with the generosity of the successful, and with donations by others outside our community. Every brick in that building, every stone, speaks of the faith and courage of our people simple people, migrant people, people with open hands and open hearts.
If our community in Australia has a sacred site it is this place ... it is the old St Michael's.
Excerpts of Hon. Chris Bowen’s speech
"A great deal has happened in the year which has passed since we all gathered to farewell Bishop Darwish and to welcome Bishop Robert. You should all know that Bishop Robert could have become a renowned mathematician or a distinguished chemist or scientist, having qualified in those fields.
Instead however, he chose to be of service to God and to his community. While this may have been a loss to the sciences, it is to the great benefit of the Melkite community and the wider general community here in Australia.
It has been an absolute pleasure to work with Bishop Robert during the past year A year in which we have tried to help with difficult issues facing the world. In a few weeks’ time I shall be making my first visit to Lebanon. I will be calling on the Patriach HE Gregory Laham and shall be telling him what a wonderful Bishop we have here in Robert and what a pleasure it is working with him. It is an honour to celebrate the year that we have had with Bishop Robert and I look forward to many more years with the community and many more years of service from this wonderful man we have in our Australian community."
Excerpts of Hon. Philip Ruddock’s speech
"It is interesting how buildings can change. My first link with this Church is that my Father was a Junior Manager here back in the 1950’s when it was a factory. Over time, I have found it most rewarding to work with such a community-minded and responsive welfare organisation as the Melkite Catholic Welfare Association has become. I have seen the approach which your Church has taken in bringing together here in Australia, people of different backgrounds and religions within Christendom. Your leadership has been responsive to problems which may arise and I think it is appropriate to say, ‘thank you.’
Your Excellency, you stepped into very great shoes but your history, your education, your leadership experiences in the USA, and your personal understanding of religious media all blend to provide you with exceptional skills and leadership ability. You have acquitted yourself extremely well during your first year of service, bringing your special rapport to the Church for which we are all most grateful."
Excerpts of Bishop Rabbat’s Speech
"In the Old Testament, the original jubilee was only celebrated each one hundred years. After a time, this was reduced to every fifty years and then every twenty-five. This year, a very. very important person in Britain is celebrating her diamond jubilee.
So I wonder. where in the order of jubilees, commemorations and thanksgivings "that" places me … a newcomer of but one year.
I was asked today. "What differences have you noticed between the U.S. and Australia? Well, there are always a certain things about a new country that are difficult to put into words … I think the people are more laid back, as they say, - so there seems to be less rush. Australia was less affected by the Global Financial Crisis – so Australians still have a great confidence in the future … the sky for them is still the limit. One little thing I note is that the neighbourhoods are more uniform than in suburban America… Oh, and of course, like the English, Aussies can't spell.
In summary, one thing I have certainly learned is that Australia is not simply America with kangaroos.
However. I also discovered similarities. and the similarities that struck me were in the history and life of our Melkite Catholic Church and Community.
Melkite migration to Australia began more or less at the same time as migration to America. Our first church was also established in the 1890's.
I easily recognise in your history the same self-giving, heroic efforts and generosity that have typified the American Melkite experience- and in these things I feel very much at home.
The past becomes a way of maintaining our communal identity. In the remembrance of the past we feel a certain connectedness with those who went before us and to whom we owe so much.
The past must be life-giving and life-directing; it must be something from which we learn and from which we take direction - otherwise, a past recalled simply for its own sake can become a deadening entity, giving little and preventing much. We do well to take the advice of Khalil Gibran. "And let today embrace the past with remembrance, and the future with longing."
I am convinced that the Melkite Catholic Church in Australia, and, the Australian Melkite Community., has a bright future.
With several contemporary Eastern theologians Catholic and Orthodox - I believe that whatever our communities, as migrants, have had to face, our being scattered to the four corners of the earth has been part of God's Providential plan for the Church Universal.
It is for us now to share with our western brethren the priceless treasures we have preserved at so great a cost the riches of our Eastern theology and spirituality, our liturgy, our iconography and sacred music. Let us respond to that call. Let us be faithful to this new task given to us from Above.
As Australian Melkites We are part of the Australian Community and we must be prepared to help bind up the wounds of our society in the most effective way available
to us… and we must be at the service of our neighbours of every faith community and those of no faith."
Hon. Chris Bowen MP Minister for Immigration and Citizenship
Hon. Philip Ruddock MP
LtoR: Hon. Chris Bowen, George Bitar Ghanem the Lebanese
Consul, Hon. Philip Ruddock MP and Fr. Antoine Tarabay
Stephan Kerkyasharian and Frank Chahoud
LtoR: Joe Khattar, Bishop Robert Rabbat,
Bishop Mar Malatious Melki and Shaide Khattar
Joe Rizk with wife Maureen and Elie Sawma
LtoR: Anwar Harb, Stephan Kerkyasharian,
Joe Khoury and Seid Michael
LtoR: Yola Wakim, James Wakim, Karl Asfour and wife
Hon. Chris Bowen MP and Bishop Robert Rabbat
LtoR: Seid Mickael, Joe Khoury, Michael Rizk and
Hon. Philip Ruddock MP
LtoR: Ahlam Harb, Shaide Khattar and husband Joe Khattar
LtoR: Mrs Rizk, Dr. Mustapha Alameddine with wife and other guest