His Beatitude Youssef I Absi visits the ITI

On December 3, 2019, the ITI community had the great honor of welcoming the Melkite Greek Patriarch of Antioch and all of the Orient, His Beatitude Youssef Absi, S. M. S. P. to our campus. The Primate of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church (MGCC), headquartered in Damascus, Syria, was accompanied on his trip to Austria by His Excellency Robert Rabbat (bishop of the Melkite Greek Catholic Eparchy in Sydney), his Secretary Fr. Agapios Haddad, and Fr. Hanna Ghoneim, who is in charge of the Melkite community in Austria. Fr. Dr. Stephan J. Koster, the General Secretary of Catolica Uno also joined the distinguished guests.

In the words of Fr. Yuriy Kolasa, the Vicar General for the faithful of the Eastern Catholic Churches in Austria, it was a historical day in the life of the ITI. By welcoming the Patriarch of Antioch, the city where, according to the Eastern Christian tradition, Saint Peter the Apostle founded the Church and was its first Patriarch and where “the disciples were for the first time called Christians” (Acts 11:26), the ITI was able to get in touch with the heritage and origins of ancient Christianity.  Being in full communion with the Holy See and the Pope of Rome, the Melkite Greek Catholic Church serves as a bridge between the Roman Catholic Church and the Greek Orthodox Church of Antioch.

The pastoral visitation of the MGCC delegation was marked by the witness of the difficult situation of Christians in the Middle East. The Melkite Church is currently suffering the deep pain of losing their faithful due to the persecution and genocide of Christians in Iraq and Syria, leading to a constant stream of refugees fleeing their countries. The number of faithful in the Church is rapidly decreasing, and those who are forced to emigrate to other parts of the world find it difficult to keep their faith and remain present in the womb of their Church. The Patriarch reaffirmed that what is needed is help for the Christians from the Middle East to remain in or return to their ancestral homelands, to the place where Christianity was born and where St. Paul, on his way to Damascus to imprison the first Christians, was converted by the light of Christ.                                                                                        

The highlight of the visit was when the Melkite Church delegation joined ITI students, faculty, and staff in praying the Akathist Hymn to the Most Holy Theotokos. After the veneration of the icon of the Virgin Mary and the final apostolic blessing of the Patriarch, which was beautifully sung in Arabic, His Beatitude Youssef I appealed to the whole ITI family to pray for the faithful and countries entrusted to his service by the Almighty God.

The ITI will hold onto warm memories of Patriarch Youssef I’s visit with the beautiful triptych with the Theotokos and the Child Jesus, which His Beatitude presented to the ITI through the hands of its Rector, Dr. Christiaan Alting von Geusau.