Speech of His Beatitude Patriarch John X Russia
Speech of His Beatitude
Patriarch John X
Russia, December 2017
Your Holiness Kirill,
Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia
Your Holinesses and Beatitudes,
Antioch, the Church where the disciples were first called Christians, embraces on this most blessed day Holy Russia, celebrating the first centennial of the local Moscow Council. This Council restored the Patriarchate to the Russian Church, and re-launched the conciliar work, after an interruption that lasted for three centuries. As Antioch shares today the joy of the Russian Church, She asks the supplications of St. Tikhon the Confessor, chosen as patriarch by the Holy Spirit through the election of the local Synod members, to shepherd this Church and lead Her in times of atheism and persecution. The Church of Antioch remembers the contributions of the Russian Church at the turn of the last century, and the support She gave to the Antiochians. In order to help them get settled in their land, She provided them with education and secured free medical care to the poor. She also recalls with great gratitude the favor of the Russian Church in the development of clergy formation, and in the construction of Antiochian churches and institutions. She particularly appreciates the great role of Patriarch Tikhon in establishing the Antiochian Archdiocese of America. Patriarch Tikhon consecrated the first bishop on the American soil, St. Raphael, Bishop of Brooklyn, an Antiochian who studied in Constantinople and Russia. Bishop Raphael shepherded the Orthodox faithful in the American continent, and particularly the Arabic speaking believers.
Similarly, Antioch evokes today the living relationship that links Her with the Russian Church. This relationship began with St. Michael of Syria, and continued with Patriarch Joachim, who contributed to the election of Patriarch Job as the first Patriarch of the Russian Church. The relationship was deepened with Patriarch Gregorius IV, who visited the Russian Church and presided over the tercentenary celebration of the Romanov Dynasty, during which he consecrated a bishop, who later on became Patriarch Alexy I. Neither the difficulties of history nor the cruelty of persecution suffered by the Russian Church were able to affect this deep fraternal relationship. Patriarch Alexandros III participated in the local Synod meeting that elected Patriarch Alexy I. Patriarch Theodosius VI also participated in the golden jubilee of this Russian Patriarch. The Antiochian Church was praying continuously for Russia throughout the persecution that befell the Russian people, and remained convinced that Christ is deeply rooted in Russia, and no one could eradicate Him from this land. During their visit to Moscow in 1972, Patriarch Elias IV and his accompanying delegation expressed to the Antiochians and the world that, "Nothing is more embedded in Russia than Christ... And that Christ having baptized the people of Russia continues His same work to this day... And that the Lord will not be concealed in the soul for long, and that this clandestine spiritual life will be disclosed in words, arts, and literature.”Patriarch Ignatius IV rejoiced for his participation in the celebration of the millennium of the baptism of Russia, saying that, "A thousand years of prayer represents today a majestic spiritual edifice that connects the earth with heaven, and glorifies the Creator of the universe and of man."
Your Holinesses and Beatitudes,
Russia has gone through "a dark and long night,” as the Patriarch St. Tikhon had sensed upon his election in 1917. However, the prayers of the Russian people, rising like incense, along with the torments of confessors, the blood of martyrs, the fidelity of grandparents, parents, fathers and mothers to their Orthodox faith, and their daring efforts to transfer this faith to their children and be a witness to Christ in the times of atheism, all these rolled away the stone from the tomb, in which communism tried to put Christ. Consequently, the Russians "who came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb" (Revelation 7:14 -KJV), proved to the whole world, through their sacrifices and pain, that "societies cannot be built independently of God." Patriarch Alexy II was correct when he stressed that, "It is not a social order, a state or a nation that God created to last forever, but God created humans to last forever.”Today, we must pay great attention to the attempts of separating our societies from God and from the Church. These attempts aim to destroy human freedom and dignity, enslave humans in the service of consumer society, or divide the one Church into rival, ethnic churches.
The Orthodox Patriarchates have always endured the tragedies that befell their people throughout history. Since the beginning of the last century, our pain has taken on many different designations. Some of us have suffered from ethnic cleansing and expulsion from our land and from the land of our forefathers. Some others have suffered from the conflict of nationalisms and civilizations, and others from atheism. Nevertheless, the countries that make up the Church of Antioch still suffer from the rivalry of others on their land, this rivalry that is renewed from time to time, taking on various facets. From the early seventies, Lebanon has first suffered from the scourge of the wars of others on its soil, and now it seems that the interest of the world's giants is to make it fall again in the abyss of conflict. Syria continues to suffer from the destructive war unleashed on it by a savage terrorism imported from abroad with the money of foreigners. This terrorism has destroyed buildings, killed human beings, and made the citizens of this country either displaced or emigrants. The same is true of Iraq, where successive wars have contributed to the decline in the number of Christians in the country.
I will not dwell on the bitter reality of the Syrian people, especially what they are going through these days. You know this reality through the media that continue to broadcast the news of the atrocities committed by the terrorists against this peaceful people. This people greatly suffer under the weight of the economic siege imposed on them, which is as cruel as the genocide and ethnic cleansing crimes practiced by the terrorists. Perhaps the decline of terrorism, which we are witnessing after the Russian forces have thankfully engaged in fighting it, and the emergence of hope for a peaceful solution, require us as one Orthodox Church to cooperate and make every effort to maintain the unity of Syria, support the return of the Syrian Christians to their land, rebuild what was destroyed from churches and monasteries, secure job opportunities. It also requires from us to provide the basic needs for a decent standard of living, by supplying food, medicine and education for those suffering brothers, so that Christ remains present in Syria.
Your Holiness Patriarch Kirill,
The dark night of the Antiochian Church was initiated by the kidnapping of Archbishops Paul (Yazigi) and Youhanna (Ibrahim), just as the dark night of the Russian Church began with the martyrdom of Archpriest John (Kochurov). The kidnappers thought that by abducting the Archbishop, they would terrorize the Church and kidnap Her voice. But the voice of the Antiochian Church, the voice of truth, is still piercingly heard, calling for justice, peace and dignity for the Syrian people. The Antiochian Church did not skimp on offering lay martyrs, as well as hieromartyrs such as Father Fadi (Haddad) and Father Bassil (Nassar). The blood of these martyrs, mixed with the sighs of the kidnapped people, the tears of the mothers, and the prayers of the faithful, all these together will establish the future of Syria and reveal the glory of the Christians in it and in all places of the Antiochian presence.
We highly esteem the role Your Holiness have undertaken in standing by your brothers in the Church of Antioch. We appreciate in you this apostolic spirit which you planted and cultivated in the hearts of your people, who stood with all their might alongside their brothers in the Church of Antioch. We appreciate your positions about the crisis in our country, and your noble empathy, persistent efforts and humanitarian assistance, which have been a continuation and a culmination of the historical and authentic Russian-Antiochian relationship.
Also, we highly appreciate Russia's efforts to eradicate terrorism, advance the peace process in Syria, and preserve the stability of Lebanon. We thank in particular His Excellency President Vladimir Putin and all his assistants. We highly appreciate the contributions of the Russian Federation, its army, leadership, and people, in defending our land, supporting the efforts to make the logic of dialogue prevail, consolidating Christians and other citizens in their land, by helping reestablish peace and finding a peaceful political solution to what is happening in our region.
Most Noble Brother,
Nothing compares to the joy of Antioch today, as She participates in this beautiful celebration which was founded by the martyrs and confessors who contributed to the local Moscow Council in 1917, whose work is valuable to all Orthodoxy. Today, as we ask the intercession of these for Russia and its Church, for Antioch and for the return of Her abducted children, and for the restoration of peace in Her lands, we also pray that, as Orthodox Church, we may be able to face together, with unity of both heart and determination, the new challenges experienced by our Churches and the contemporary social issues.
The "resurgence of holy Russia is a gift from heaven" to our world today. May God grant us, through the prayers and intercession of the new martyrs, confessors, ascetics, and shepherds, whose fame in the course of the years of persecution spread in Russia and throughout the Orthodox world, to bear witness to the joy of His Resurrection.
1- See the Article “Christ in Russia” in Annahar Weekly Supplement, Sunday, February 6, 1972.
2- The Speech of Patriarch Ignatius IV in the book “The Millennium of the Baptism of Rus.”
3- This was mentioned in the speech of Patriarch Tikhon of All Russia upon his enthronement in 1917.
4- The expression is taken from the speech of His Holiness Kirill in Romania (November 2017), entitled
“The Witness to the Orthodox Faith During the era of Atheism”
5- See the Αnnahar Newspaper, October 5, 1991.
6- See the article on Holy Russia by Metropolitan George (Khodre) in Annahar Newspaper,
29 December 2007.