‘Being Disciples, Making Disciples’ in the Melkite Church

Raising awareness of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church in the United States is a priority for newly ordained Bishop François Beyrouti, the sixth bishop of the Melkite Greek Catholic Eparchy of Newton.

“We want to make sure the Melkite Church is not seen as a hidden part of U.S. culture and society or the academic world,” said Bishop Beyrouti, who visited CNEWA’s headquarters in New York City on 21 November. He was accompanied by Father Antoine Rizk, pastor of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church of the Virgin Mary in Brooklyn.

This visit followed Bishop Beyrouti’s participation at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Fall Plenary Assembly in Baltimore from 14 to 17 November. Before traveling to New York, he was interviewed by Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, archbishop of New York, as a guest on his podcast, “Conversation with Cardinal Dolan.”

Bishop Beyrouti first came to know of CNEWA as a seminarian by way of Catholic Near East magazine, now ONE. An article titled “The Melkite Messenger,” published in 1990, about the Melkite patriarch at the time, Maximus V, and then Bishop Nicholas Samra of Newton encouraged him in his priestly vocation.    

“In that article, Bishop Nicholas was saying how … we would need at least 10 more priests to start 10 more parishes. As a young seminarian, that really struck me and motivated me to really keep going and be faithful to my calling,” Bishop Beyrouti recalled.

The Eparchy of Newton’s some 50 parishes are located across the country, from Seattle to Miami. In the month since his ordination, Bishop Beyrouti has visited parishes in Michigan, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Virginia and New York, with an upcoming visit to Connecticut, before flying to California.

“The challenges are the distances, but the blessings, I think, are that our Melkite parishes are like a snapshot of American society because we’re found in all sorts of [places]. They’re not necessarily one per state, but we’re literally spread out across the whole country,” he said.

With a widespread and diverse base of believers, the church is adapting to fit the needs of its people — an approach he discussed in a recent ONE article, A Place to Call Home.

Bishop Beyrouti is concerned with simultaneously preserving church tradition and engaging across cultural and language barriers as he serves a mix of new immigrants, as well as those who were raised Melkite in the U.S. and those who learned of the Church of Antioch through academic research or parish outreach. This includes offering worship in a combination of Arabic and English; some parishes are exclusively Arabic- or English-speaking and others use both languages.

“We worship in a language; we don’t worship a language,” he said. “Our focus is our spiritual tradition, and the language is like the messenger, or the means, of it.”

The Melkite Greek Catholic Church originated in the Middle East and remains historically, culturally and spiritually engaged with Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel and Palestine. In addition to the coordination of aid in places experiencing social and political crises, the Melkite Church works to inform the Roman Catholic Church in the U.S. of these situations.  

Bishop Beyrouti’s episcopal motto is “Becoming Disciples, Making Disciples.”

“You don’t just become a disciple one time in your life. It’s an ongoing thing,” said Bishop Beyrouti, explaining the meaning of his motto. It is also the primary purpose of a parish, he added.

He explained that “it” includes the commitment to celebrate the Divine Liturgy, to keep an active prayer life, to reflect on Scripture and to continue to learn through reading Eastern Christian sources.

“Making disciples … has to be not only open in principle but has to be actively engaged in evangelization and spreading the Good News of Christ to everybody.”

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