Adonis Diaries

The Red Bishop: Abbot Gregory

Posted on: March 5, 2010

The Red Bishop: Abbot Gregory; (Mar. 6, 2010)

The 86 years old Greek Catholic Bishop Gregory Haddad gave this interview, from his rest home in Hadath, to Nicole Tohmeh of the Lebanese daily Al Nahar.

Born in 1924 at Souk El Gharb in Mount Lebanon, Nakhleh Amin Haddad became Bishop of Beirut and sworn the vow of poverty in his appearance and his life style, an attitude that angered main stream bishops of all Christian denominations, on the ground that this Red Bishop is not holding up to his position of “Excellency”.

Iindeed, Bishop Haddad demanded that he be called not even father but abbot or brother Gregory. Why?

Jesus admonished his disciples to refrain accepting masters on earth; thus, since bishops are considered masters and leaders in Lebanon, then the Red Bishop would have none of the tittles to “Your Excellency”

In room 115 at the “Lady (Virgin Mary) House” in the town of Haddath, a suburb of Beirut, Abbot Gregory is in full capacity of mind and hear:; osteoporosis is the culprit for being bed ridden.

Abbot Hadad resumes his activities as usual, meeting activists and intellectuals, reading, and following up on news.  Abbot Gregory instituted the “Social movement” in 1961, which requested of its members to avoid joining political parties, to shun confessionals and isolationist tendencies and to stick to non-violence principles.

The movement grew to 20 branches all over Lebanon from all confessions and professionals; it coordinates activities with other social movements such as Caritas, Imam Mossa Sadr institution, the Middle East Council of Churches, dispensaries, and clubs that are spreading literac. Its budget is about $3 millions and has good contacts with the European Union.

The main figures of the movement meet with Abbot Gregory once a month and discuss programs; this year program is establishing technical schools for children over 12 of age.

For 50 years now, the “Social movement” gathered data on social problems, such as manpower, dispensaries, health, safety, and job opening. It cooperated with Father Lebre who was assigned by late President Fouad Chehab the task of studying and planning Lebanon’s needs for development; President Chehab asked the social movement to aid in health matters.

The Red Bishop says:

Civil marriage is still holy if the two partners have the faith, even if not conducted by the clergy. Secularism is not anathema to religious belief or lack of respect for the clergy as it was practiced during the French Revolution.  Modern secularism proclaims independence between faith and society activities; an individual should be free in his belief system.  You may work within society and be atheist. You can hold your ground without usurping or suppressing your neighbor’s belief system.  There is multiplicity of cults and they are mushrooming fast around the world but this should not be a problem; there is this saying “What make most noise in a caldron are the bones”.

There is no absolute truth. Secularism means total neutrality with respect to individual systems of beliefs.  Lebanon made a step forward last year by erasing “religious status” on the ID. Religious hierarchy and political leaders in Lebanon are against a secular State because it is not to their advantages politically and their power base. It is not your religion that recognizes your humanity and dignity in society.

Thus, when the overwhelming individuals start to have confidence in their intrinsic human rights, secularism will set roots.  Islam didn’t start as a religion combining earthly and spiritual powers: it is the succeeding leaders that found it convenient to combine the two powers.  The Koran says: “You have your religion and I have mine”; thus, religion is different from faith.  Man is God on earth.

The communist party worked a lot with the “Social Movement” and they coordinated activities during the civil war.  Abbot Gregory was labeled “The Red Bishop” and lambasted as leftist and Palestinian lover in order to discredit the movement and its secular demands and activities for a modern and equitable Lebanon.

Abbot Gregory said “Those who fought me didn’t do it out of malice; crossing to secular mentality from confessional political base is hard and requires a change in life thinking and behavior to comprehend its benefits”

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March 2010

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