The presbyteral ordination of Fr. George Haddad, presided by His Eminence Mons. Yussef Matta, archbishop of St John of Acre, Haifa, Nazareth and the whole of Galilee for the Melkite Greek Catholics, was celebrated on Friday 28th April at the church of Our Lady of the Visitatin in Zababdeh (Jenin), following the Melkite Greek Catholic liturgy.
H.E. Mons. Ephrem Semaan, Syriac Catholic Bishop of Jerusalem, Mons. Giacinto-Boulos Marcuzzo, Emeritus Auxiliary Bishop of Jerusalem, the Custos of the Holy Land, fr. Francesco Patton, the Vicar of the Holy Land, fr. Ibrahim Faltas, a large group of Franciscans and many faithful and family members of the new priest who came to Zababdeh for this important event in the West Bank, were also present at the celebration.
Fr. George is from Jenin, a town in the north of Galilee: however, the celebration took place in the village of Zababdeh where there is still a lively community of Christians, thanks to the presence of the parish church and of the school built by the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem in 1883, which fr. George attended.
The Melkite Greek Church, to which the family of fr. George belongs, is a Catholic Church of the Byzantine rite, therefore part of the Church of Rome, but with its own canon law and oriental liturgy: considered the heir of Syriac Christianity and very widespread in the villages in the northern part of Galilee. Its linguistic component allows this Christian definition to be distinguished from the other Oriental Christians, as alongside Greek, Arabic is the official language.
The solemn celebration of the Melkite Greek rite was full of symbols and singing, which accompanied and spaced out the various phases of the liturgy.
Fr. George’s emotion was palpable, especially in the central moments of the celebration, i.e. during the Presbyteral Ordination: after circling the altar three times, fr. George kneeled in front of the archbishop, placing his head on the altar, around which the concelebrants were standing. Mons. Matta placed the priestly stole and the golden cross on his head as he pronounced the consecratory prayer. Fr. George then took off his deacon’s vestments. The solemn rite came to an end with the dressing divided into three parts, each of which was preceded by the word "Axios!" ("he is worthy") repeated by all the people of God.
Fr. George – visibly moved – wanted to thank his parents, his siblings and his “adoptive” family during his studies in Italy, “because through concrete and simple examples of life they taught me that the Gospel is not only to be listened to, but it is an announcement to live and bear witness in everyday life.” “I would like to thank above all the friars of the communities I spent time with on my journey: Bethlehem, Montefalco, La Verna, Ein Karem and St Saviour,” fr. George continued. “They shared with me part of the path, making our life the privileged place chosen by the Lord to reveal his love and recognize his marvels.”
The Custos of the Holy Land, fr. Francesco Patton, then took the floor to thank the Melkite archbishop and all those present. “It is a great joy to have taken part in the priestly ordination of fr. George, to whom I would like to address the words that St Francis says to priests: “When you celebrate the Eucharist, you must not worry about anything else except His presence and what you are celebrating.” We always have to look at the humility of God and imitate the humility of Jesus.”
As a souvenir of the ordination, fr. George Haddad chose the image of the figure of St Joseph, distributed to all the faithful present at the end of the celebration: “May St Joseph teach me the value of fatherhood to be the guardian of the gifts that the Most Holy Trinity has granted me and will grant me.”