Address of His Excellency Bishop Antoine-Charbel Tarabay Interfaith Gathering for the Feast of the Annunciation

Tuesday 24 March 2015
St Charbel’s Multi-Purpose Hall

Your Excellencies my Brother Bishops and Sheikhs,
Your Excellency Mr George Bitar Ghanem, Consul-General of Lebanon in Sydney, 
Honourable Ministers and Members of the Parliament of New South Wales,
Members of Local Councils,
Representatives of Community Organisations, 
Superiors and Members of Religious Orders,
Reverend Members of the Clergy,      
Dear Maronite Sisters of the Holy Family,      
Representatives of the Media,      
Distinguished Guests,       
Brothers and Sisters,      

It is my greatest pleasure to welcome you tonight at this special interfaith gathering to celebrate together the Feast of the Annunciation to Our Lady the Virgin Mary.

The Church celebrates the Annunciation to Mary nine months before the birth of the Child Jesus, in order to show that the conception of Christ takes place nine months before his birth, in conformity with the laws of nature. Today, we remember the day of the conception of Christ as it was announced to Mary, the Virgin of Nazareth, the daughter of Joachim and Anne. This annunciation to Mary was accomplished through an Angel, the Archangel Gabriel, who spoke in the name of God. 

On this day, a new Covenant began between God and man, a Covenant founded on the union of the divine and human natures in the Person of Christ. This Covenant would not have been possible without Our Lady who so willingly said Yes to God’s will. Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman writes:  "… man is God, and God is man… in Mary they meet, and [that] in this sense Mary is the centre of all things." (Mary: The Virgin Mary in the Life and Writings of John Henry Newman, p.282).

When faith is crowned with dialogue, the statement: "May it be done to me according to Thy word" takes a new meaning.  It takes us to the Way of the Truth, but also reveals to us the one God of heaven and earth.  
God calls us and speaks with us today, here at this particular place and in this moment. He sends his angel to say to each one of us: "Peace be upon you, O full of grace, the Lord is with thee, blessed are you among the people, and blessed are the fruits that you will carry to all people the fruits of encounter, dialogue, respect, peace and human dignity.” Are we conscious of our calling and mission, especially today as to work together as Christians and Muslims, to promote these values and to enhance the culture of love and peace against hatred, terrorism and death? 
Dear friends, 
Once again, I welcome you all. Your presence here is a testament to your conviction that dialogue is key to building stronger communities. Your presence also affirms your belief that our religions, whether Christian or Muslim, should be tools of love, peace and harmony. Our Lady, the Virgin Mary, whom we all venerate as the mother of Jesus and believe that she is pure and immaculate, having conceived of the Holy Spirit, unites us all today and every day.  

Our sincere gratitude goes to all of you for your attendance especially Archbishop Prowse who came all the way from Canberra to be with us. Thank you to St Charbel’s Monastery and Community for hosting this gathering and especially to its Father Superior Joseph Sleiman, for his support. I would also like to thank the Maronite Centre for Research and Studies who has organised tonight’s event, and in particular, Reverend Fr Tony Moussa, Dr John Tarabay, and Mrs Pauline Dib. Also a special thanks to Fr Patrick McInerey and Fr Brian Vale from the Columban Mission Institute.

May the Most Blessed Virgin Mary keep us all united and bring us closer to one another and help us to believe even more strongly in the Omnipotence of God!



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