Martin C. Barry
Political leaders from three levels of government joined members of Laval’s Syriac Catholic community at St. Ephrem Church on Cartier Blvd. on Feb. 27 for a religious service marking the enthronement of Monsignor Paulos Antoine Nassif as the new Apostolic Exarch for Canada with his official seat in Laval.
A papal appointment
On Jan. 7, it was announced in Rome that His Holiness Pope Francis had created an Apostolic Exarchate for Syro-Catholics in Canada and that the Pope had appointed Reverend Father Nassif (who was previously Rector of the Patriarchal Seminary of Charfet in Lebanon) as Apostolic Exarch.
The ceremony was presided by His Beatitude Patriarch Ignatius Joseph III Younan, Patriarch of Antioch and all the East in the Syriac Catholic Church. The event, which was attended by Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister Stéphane Dion, several local Liberal MPs and members of Laval city council, was followed by a banquet that evening at the Centre communautaire syriaque on Edouard-Montpetit St. in Laval.
Will work with refugees
Referring to Mgr. Nassif during a gathering recently, Vimy Liberal MP Eva Nassif called him “a member of the family and we are proud to have him here.” (A member of Nassif’s riding office staff later confirmed that the two are distantly related.) She said “he will be responsible for dossiers involving refugees in Laval” with the assistance of St. Ephrem Church.
Born in Biakout, Metn, Lebanon in 1969, the son of the late Geryes Nehmatalla Nassif and Antoinette Youssef Beylouni, Mgr. Nassif was ordained into full priesthood by Patriarch Mar Ignace Antoun II Hayek in 1992. According to a brochure distributed during the ceremony, a “strong tendency towards the monastic life” led Mgr. Nassif to Naples, Italy to gain religious experience with the Franciscans.
Promoted a Bishop
At a Holy Synod of the Syriac Catholic Church held in Rome in 2014, a request for a new Exarchate in Canada, separate from the United States eparchy, was made to Pope Francis, and a suggestion was offered that it should be Fr. Antoine Nassif. Patriarch Ignatius Joseph III Younan promoted Mgr. Nassif to a Bishop on Jan. 23 in the Annunciation Cathedral in Beirut. The new Bishop has chosen as his motto the words of the apostle Saint Paul: “Charity endures all things,” and he has taken the name of Paul as patron.
Prayers for Middle-East peace
During the service in the church, prayers were said and wishes expressed in readings “for peace and security in the wounded Middle-East. May God put a term to wars and conflicts that still bleed hearts and destroy the humanity. May love and brotherhood reign over hatred. May all people live in reciprocal respect rejecting violence and murder and abide by justice and right behavior.”
During a key moment of the ceremony, senior members of the Syriac Catholic clergy raised Mgr. Nassif several feet off the ground in an upholstered chair, symbolizing his elevation and enthronement as a new Apostolic Exarch.