We have agreed with Catholic Churches on the level of the Patriarchs of the East that the First Communion must not be celebrated in schools but in parishes. The Orthodox side suggested this idea and the Catholic Patriarchs accepted it. We all knew that this decision won’t be easy for schools that hang on to their independence; however, we were told that Catholic schools accept the decision.

Nonetheless, the news that I hear from our region show that some of these schools are asking our Orthodox students to get permission from their parents to have the First Communion “in the parish”, i.e. in the closest catholic parish to them. This way, these institutes would appear that they obeyed the order of their authorities by cancelling the First Communion at school, but they actually took the kids to the parish.  The apparent part of the decision is preserved; however, there is a violation in the spirit of this decision because what we wanted in our agreement with the Catholic authorities is for boys and girls to have communion in their Orthodox parish if they were Orthodox. We don’t only refuse the expression “First Communion” because we take communion with Baptism, but also refuse the participation in the sacraments with non-Orthodox Churches.

I will not remind you today that the decision not to participate is mutual in our Church and theirs, but it often occurs that a Catholic priest acts leniently with his Church’s orders and does what he wants. We are more committed to the orders of the spiritual authority. The basis in Christianity is that a right doctrine is a condition for a person to have communion. In this sense, when a person leaves a doctrine and adopts another one, he won’t be your partner in faith and consequently not a partner in the Holy Grail. A united grail is an image that expresses a united faith.

We could go back and elaborate on the issue if we had to. However, I wish to say a couple of things today: First, that it’s a pity that some school administrations are escaping from the decisions of the Patriarchs. Second, is that I feel wrathful that some parents ask the priest of the Orthodox parish to permit their child to have communion in a Catholic parish as if they have never read this bulletin in which we wrote numerously and as if they didn’t understand that our Church – and not the parents – takes the decisions in religious issues. We have warned schools not to deal with parents this way but to deal with us through their Catholic spiritual authorities.

I also feel sad when some parents feel that their child must feel happy with his friends by doing what they do. Why don’t they tell their child: “You have your Church, and you already had communion in it a month or a year ago… when you got baptized”? How do you accept to have a “First Communion” and it is not your “first”?

I want parents to understand that we have an identity and authenticity and that we show it without being shy. We do not contend anyone for his doctrinal belonging. But why is this disturbance for Orthodoxy? If the school administration’s excuse is either their ignorance of our position or their aware refusal for our position, what would our excuse be for all this approach towards Christian brothers that we love, respect and have dialogue with? However, the conditions of unity between us are not complete yet, and consequently we don’t have the ability to meet together at the Lord’s Table.

Our Church has transparency and loves all Christians. If a person knows that he is a real son of his Church, he would say what it says and act as it wants him to act for the salvation of his soul and for recognizing God through recognizing the truth.

Translated by Mark Najjar

Original Text: “أوّل قربانة» أيضًا وأيضًا” –Raiati 8- 20.02.2000