Wednesday, January 4, 2012
I am unable to forget the man who inspired generations by his example. Paul Antaki who passed away a week ago is the man. His practice of virtues to a heroic level include humility, discernment of the spirits, and self-sacrifice. Many of the people who knew him recounted how he spoke of himself as Fr. Paul Antaki when he was already a bishop. He never made a public appearance for self-promotion - a lesson for other bishops. He always sat among others, not above them. I recall that Paul Antaki is the one who, by the grace of God, introduced me to my new life with my partner for life my wife. As I knew her through activities in the Supreme Council of the Melkite Youth in Egypt, I cannot forget that he was the inspiration and creator of the Council and the instrumental agent of God who through such activities brought many men and women to marriage in the Church. He blessed our engagement in 1979 and on April 25, 1982, he presided over our wedding at St. Cyril in Heliopolis. Before immigrating to Canada, Archbishop Paul Antaki encouraged us with the words: May your departure to Canada be a seed of renewal in the life of Christians in the land of Canada. He knew about the secular atmosphere that was becoming anti-Christian in Canada. In his discernment, he gave us powerful advice hardly matched by other spiritual leaders. He encouraged and worked himself in retreats with young adults to prepare them for their vocations. His work was fruitful in the many souls he sent to sacramental marriage and to sacramental priesthood. Of a high class socially, he never condescended but on the contrary appreciated what is good and positive in everyone and everything. Moderate in his outlook, he moved people who knew him to serious active life tempered by moderation for the glory of God whom he loved. In my work under his guidance, I can testify to his active work with lay movements in the Catholic Church and to his spirit of moderating openness with commitment to Tradition. If I can ascribe St. Augustine's words "Be moderate in everything except in love" to anyone's work, it is to Paul Antaki's.
His self-sacrifice has been attested to by many witnesses. Among them, we count my brother Dr. Samir Farahat, FRCP (ENT) who took him to other specialists for his hurting knee. When asked by doctors about how many times does he climb stairs a day, his response was: 30 times. Samir asked him why? The archbishop replied that he visited many parishioners everyday which required him to climb up many stairs! On the ecumenical front, Archbishop Antaki was always receptive of dialogue. In 1971, he invited Archbishop Paul Minas of the Antiochine Greek Orthodox Church to give a lecture in the Patriarchal residence that I attended. In 1972, when Patriarch Shenouda III Pope of the Coptic Orthodox Church declared that he will not tire until there is one Church in Egypt, Archbishop Paul Antaki responded in his homily at St. Cyril's Church saying "Our hearts danced when we heard these words"! May Paul Antaki be a star in heaven as he was on earth leading the Pilgrim Church to Christ!