Fr John Salter writes:
His Beatitude Patriarch Gregorios III, Melkite Greek Catholic of Antioch and All The East, of Alexandria and of Jerusalem, the Bishops of the Holy Synod of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church, His Grace Elias Rahal, Archbishop of Baalbeck, the Clergy and Faithful of the Eparchy of Baalbeck, His Grace Bishop Youseff Joel Zraiy, Patriarchal Vicar for Egypt and the Sudan, the Clergy and Faithful of the Patriarchate of Alexandria, the Zoghby Family and their relatives here and abroad regret to record the passing to the Lord, of His Grace Archbishop Elias Zoghby, on Wednesday, 16th January 2008.
My memories of Archbishop Elias Zoghby go back to my visit to the Melkite seminary in Harissa above Beirut during the Conference of Middle Eastern Patriarchs in communion with the Holy See. In the common room over coffee after the second meeting I witnessed Archbishop Elias's extreme displeasure that the Orthodox hierarchy were not taking part, except for some guests attending the opening Divine Liturgy in the Maronite Basilica next door. 'This is pure Uniatism,' complained His Grace. To look at his life one sees why he was so upset.
Elias Zoghby was born in Cairo on 9th January 1912 and was ordained to the priesthood at the Melkite seminary of St. Anne in Jerusalem on 20th July 1936. In 1951 he was made an Archimandrite and was appointed Patriarchal pro-Vicar in Alexandria. Here he was pursued and threatened with arrest by the Public Prosecutor of Alexandria, for having prevented the execution of a sentence of the Sharia Tribunal in favour of a renegade Catholic spouse. In August 1954 the Patriarchal Synod elected him Archbishop-Patriarchal Vicar General for Egypt and The Sudan, but a year later he was imprisoned by the Nasser regime for having publicly denounced and refused the project of the Law of Personal Statute which was unfavourable to Christians. But his role as a gadfly also extended to what he thought unfair in Church affairs and he intervened eleven times at the Second Vatican Council; one of these interventions favoured an innocent spouse definitively abandoned by the other. His argument deeply moved Pope Paul VI.
When His Beatitude Maximos IV Saigh Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarch, accepted a Cardinal's hat from the the Pope, Archbishop Elias resigned immediately in protest. An Eastern Patriarch, in his view, ought not to accept a Latin position that was of a lower rank. He thought this was utter Latinization for a Patriarch to become a Cardinal of the Holy Roman Church. It was later changed for Eastern Patriarchs to “Cardinal of Holy Church”. This did not pacify Elias Zoghby. Despite his resignation he was elected Archbishop of Baalbeck in August 1968.
In the mid-1970s he was the author of a ground-breaking document, that of the Project of Double Communion, which, was presented to the Patriarchal Synod in 1975, which sought to re-establish communion within the fractured Patriarchate of Antioch, that is between the Melkites and the Antiochian Byzantine Orthodox, while maintaining full communion with Rome within the limits recognized in the first millennium of the Christian era. Twenty-one years later in 1996 the Project was again presented to the Melkite Patriarchal Synod which unanimously approved of its propositions, whilst Rome and the Greek Orthodox Synod of Antioch voiced some reservations, there was an enthusiastic welcome to the project in ecumenical circles.
In 1982 Archbishop Elias was kidnapped by the Pro-Iranian Lebanese integrists. He voluntarily retired in 1988 aged 76.
Archbishop Elias Zoghby wrote a considerable number of books and articles among them are the following, which are invaluable to those seeking unity between the Eastern Churches and the Latin West and the problems which face the so-called Uniate Churches.
- St. Matthieu, lu par un Eveque d`Orient, 2 volumes, from Francois Xavier de Guibert, 3, Rue Jean Francois, Gerbillon, Paris 6e, France.
- Tous Schismatiques, English translation: We are All Schismatics, Educational Services, Diocese of Newton, 19 Dartmouth St., West Newton, MA 02165, 1997.
- Le Credo de l`Amour, Poems
- Pour Vivre Notre Foi, Poems. Libraires des PP.Paulists, Jounieh and Beirut (Rue de Liban)
- Memoires. Un Eveque peu commode, dit-on
- Pensees et Maximes
- Une Experience de Vie en Christ (Italian translation: Fede Senza Paura, Edizioni Dehoniane, Bologna,1997)
- Quand la Tendresse divine se fait Mere: Josephine Masri
- Orthodoxe Uni, oui! Uniate non! Brochure. (English translation: Orthodox in Union? Yes Uniate No! Eastern Churches Journal, Vol 2 (1995), No 3, pp.11-28)
- A Voice from the Byzantine East, Educational Services, Newton, as above
- The Desire for Christian Unity, article in The Easterrn Churches and Catholic Unity, Herder/Palm Publishers, Montreal 1963, pp 91-98. In the same book a further article by Elias Zhogby, Christian Unity Involves the Whole Church
- Uniatism and Ecumenism, undated pamphlet, printed by C. Thomas & Co