40th Day Tribute from the Saliba Family
Tribute to Metropolitan Philip delivered during the 40th Day Trisagion Service at Saint Nicholas Antiochian Orthodox Church, San Francisco CA, by Ghada Saliba-Malouf
In the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, One God, Amen.
Reverend Clergy, Fellow Parishioners of St. Nicholas Church, Esteemed Guests,
Philip Saliba's service for the glory of God began at the age of 14 when he accompanied his father on a visit to Patriarch Alexander Tahan, at the monastery of Dayr Mar Elias, from his village of Abou Mizan, in the mountains of Lebanon, with a basket of grapes in hand.
The vision for his fruitful ministry as the Metropolitan of New York and all of North America was laid out in his ordination speech in 1966, at the age of 36, some years later in the same monastery where he notably proclaimed:
"The Bishop's authority is neither autocratic nor arbitrary nor absolute; it is an authority based on love and service." Quoting Mark 9:35 he declared, "If anyone desires to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all."
For the next 48 years Metropolitan Philip, or Ami Al Mutran, as we fondly referred to him, would set about to faithfully and tirelessly serve his flock and achieve the essence of his vision on leadership in serving our God Protected archdiocese.
He was a visionary with many dreams and many notable and extraordinary achievements. Much has been written about his accomplishments:
• An incredible administrator who oversaw the growth of our archdiocese from 66 churches to 275 plus churches and missions today;
• The purchase and construction of the Antiochian Village, a camp for our beloved youth, a heritage center and museum;
• The establishment of the Order of St Ignatius;
• The Food for Hungry People Program;
• The creation of numerous departments fostering the spiritual and social growth of our archdiocese;
• He grew and promoted the role of women in the church;
• He nurtured and fostered the growth of our youth through many organizations including SOYO and Teen Soyo.
He was a deeply spiritual man who anchored every undertaking in the teachings of the faith and our rich Orthodox heritage. Hailed as the dean of American Orthodoxy, he sought unity with other Orthodox jurisdictions and accepted thousands of Protestants to the Orthodox faith when no other jurisdiction was willing to take a chance on their conversion. He simply said to them "Welcome home. Welcome home to Orthodoxy America."
He was a committed humanitarian who helped feed the hungry, shelter and clothes refugees and educate those seeking knowledge and learning.
He was a charismatic and powerful communicator who inspired others to action. He was a man of principle and strong conviction, unwavering in his beliefs. He promoted unity and goodwill by appealing to others with a common purpose and leading by example.
He was a citizen of the world, an Arab by birth, as he often said, but an American by choice. He quoted the words of Thomas Jefferson, John Kennedy and Robert Frost in his sermons and speeches as easily as he did the works of Khalil Gibran, Elia Abou Madi and Nizar Qabbani. He mastered the English language and maintained his Arabic language skills, speaking both with great eloquence and appeal. On my visits with him he would quiz my Arabic skills by asking me to read out loud to him from Arabic newspapers. He would then of course gently note that there was room for improvement.
He elevated the profile of the Arab American community to the highest ranks of American government meeting with every American President since President Dwight Eisenhower. The focus of these meetings was always the suffering of our people, especially in Palestine. He would ask hard-hitting questions about American Foreign policy and spoke of the indignity of displacement and the oppression suffered under occupation.
He did not waiver in his pursuit of justice for our community always speaking courageously, without fear of retribution and in the face of the censorship and intimidation suffered by those who dare to speak about Arab causes. He did so because he firmly believed, ours is a just cause.
In a memorable communication only a few months before his death, he declined a Christmas party invitation to the White House from President Obama stating: "Mr. President I do not have the peace of Christmas because there is no peace either in Lebanon or in Syria. I do not have the peace of Christmas while two of my brother archbishops are still in captivity and twelve of our Orthodox nuns were abducted from the convent of St. Thekla of Maaloula, Syria. "
Uncle Philip, we bid you farewell knowing firmly that you are with the angels vigilantly praying for your faithful flock. We pray that your beautiful legacy endureth forever.
I thank you all for joining us today and on behalf of our family I want to extend heartfelt thanks for the outpouring of love and support that we have felt from so many across this archdiocese, as we mourn his great loss.
Special thanks to Father George Baalbaki who travelled to New York to be with us at the funeral services and to Father Gregory and Khouriyeh Mary Ofiesh who joined us at the Antiochian Village, his final resting place.
Thank you for keeping him and us in your prayers. May his memory be eternal.