We are saddened by the passing away of the holy archbishop, and dean of all Greek Melkite Catholic bishops, Paul Antaki in Cairo, Egypt. Our consolation is that he will now intercede before Christ in heaven for everyone and especially for the suffering ones on Earth and in Purgatory. Paul Antaki was a great example for me personally and for many other people of several generations especially in his deep commitment to the Church, living spirituality, commitment to the young adults, vocations to the priesthood, and extreme humility coupled with extraordinary capacity for self-sacrifice which he practiced unceasingly. I recall his letters to me since I arrived in Canada which he signed as Fr. Paul Antaki and his constant encouragement. I do not know much about the iron person Paul Antaki who managed to earn the respect and love of everyone I know he knew. But this is what little I know: After serving as a priest director of the Patriarchal College, he worked tirelessly in the parishes of Alexandria and Cairo. At the young age of 42, he was elevated to the ranks of bishops by the synod headed by Patriarch Maximus V in 1968 to be General Patriarchal Vicar on the See of Alexandria, Egypt and Sudan. Many pastoral visits to the parishes in all of Egypt and Sudan followed his installation. In 1971, I requested my first meeting with him in which it became apparent to me that this man was truly a man of ecumenical breadth and commitment to dialogue with the Orthodox Churches. He was enthusiastic about the youth and actively managed their activities in the Melkite parishes in Egypt and Sudan. I worked under his direction in the Catholic Apostolic movements and conferences held from 1972 which brought together some highly intellectual Catholics and the Catholic youth. In January 1978, he inaugurated the first youth meeting with the Patriarch and soon asked me to lead the new Supreme Council of Melkite Youth (university and older) in Egypt which I served for one year. Three times he called me to the priesthood and three times I declined, but he never gave up on the youth. In 1984 he accepted to be my guest for a few days when he visited Toronto, Canada. Archbishop Antaki visited Toronto again in 1990, celebrated Mass at our home, and at St. Luke Roman Catholic Church (used at the time by Melkite Catholics in Toronto.) As always, his presence meant a special occasion to my family and to the many other friends who knew him.
In 2002, Archbishop Paul Antaki resigned as Patriarchal Vicar in Cairo due to reaching the age of 75 but remained a spiritual director for many people and was followed by Archbishop Joseph Jules Zerey who is today the General Patriarchal Vicar on the See of Jerusalem. When the choir director Joseph Homsy passed away, I informed him of the sad news and he immediately contacted the Homsy families with condolences. Many other stories come to mind about how this man of God implanted a great spiritual plant in Egypt, but I will leave them to another post. To the Greek Melkite Catholic Church together with all its bishops, priests, orders and faithful all over the world, the passing away of Paul Antaki is a moment for celebration and not for sending condolences since I believe heaven is now celebrating the arrival of this humble servant. I am confident that Paul Antaki will be elevated to the ranks of the blessed as John Paul the Great. As he is a great Christian, I wish, therefore, to call him Paul Antaki the Great!