Statement Issued by the Holy Antiochian Synod
Statement Issued by the Holy Antiochian Synod
The Fourth Ordinary Session of the Holy Synod of Antioch was held on October 7th, 2014. His Beatitude Patriarch John X presided over the meeting, with the participation of Their Eminences, the Metropolitans: Spyridon (Archdiocese of Zahleh and dependencies), George (Archdiocese of Mount Lebanon and dependencies), Youhanna (Archdiocese of Lattakia and dependencies), Elias (Archdiocese of Beirut and dependencies), Elia (Archdiocese of Hama and dependencies), Elias (Archdiocese of Tyre, Sidon and dependencies), Saba (Archdiocese of Houran and All Jabal Al Arab), George (Archdiocese of Homs and dependencies), Silouan (Archdiocese of Buenos Aires and all Argentina), Basilos (Archdiocese of Akkar and dependencies), Ephrem (Archdiocese of Tripoli, El- Koura and dependencies), Ignatius (Archdiocese of France, Western and Southern Europe) and Isaac (Archdiocese of Germany and Central Europe).
Also, in attendance were His Grace Bishop Ephrem (Maalouli) the Patriarchal Vicar and Secretary to the Holy Synod, and Economos Fr. George Dimas the Record-Keeper of the Holy Synod.
Excused were Their Eminencies, the Metropolitans Antonio (Archdiocese of Mexico, Venezuela and dependencies), Sergios (Archdiocese of Chile), Damaskinos (Archdiocese of Brazil and dependencies), and Paul (Archdiocese of Australia and New Zealand). His Eminence Metropolitan Paul (Yazigi) Aleppo was also present in the prayers and invocations of the Synod Fathers, despite his absence due to His abduction.
His Beatitude informed the Fathers concerning his pastoral visit to Wadi an-Nasara and Safita as well as its surroundings in the Archdiocese of Akkar. There he had the opportunity to meet his sons and daughters in Christ and learn about their aspirations, sorrows and spiritual needs. His Beatitude expressed his profound happiness and pride in his sons and daughters who are witnesses to the Risen Christ overcoming death in this region of the world. These also pass on the faith from generation to generation with loyalty to their heritage and openness to the future, deep-rooted in this earth, and with their commitment to the values of the Gospel. His Beatitude thanked His Eminence Metropolitan Basilios (Akkar) and the bishops as well as the priests for their loyal service to their spiritual children in this region and he also thanked all the faithful, who had worked so hard for the success of this trip. This had made it possible for their Father in God to meet his sons and daughters in an atmosphere of love, friendliness and simplicity.
The Fathers discussed the results of the Catholic-Orthodox dialogue which took place in Jordan last September. They stressed the importance of serious and hard work to eliminate all the barriers standing in the way of the dialogue so that the unity all desire might grow through a spirit of relational love. This expresses the hope of the Christian World that the Lord’s Prayer that “they may be one” might be implemented.
The Fathers took note of the work of the Preparatory Committee of the Great Orthodox Council, which met in the Orthodox Centre in Chambésy (Switzerland) at the beginning of October 2014. They were briefed about the work-paper that was written by this committee about the relationship between the Orthodox Churches with the rest of the Christian World. In this respect, the Fathers expressed their wish that the preparatory work should be made more effective for a united Orthodox witness in a world which is thirsty for a word of life.
The Synod was also informed about the recommendations that were given by the committee charged with the review of the Antiochian Conference which took place in June 2014. His Beatitude was asked in a decision by the Synod to establish a special committee that would formulate a medium term strategy, taking into consideration the recommendations that could be implemented according to the Antiochian priorities, and the availability of human and financial resources, but to take notice of all those obstacles that might stand in the way of implementing such recommendations in order to avoid them. As soon as the strategic plan is ready, it must be sent to the Dioceses to obtain their feedback. In its final version, it must be again reviewed at the following Synod meeting to decide what further steps should be taken.
The sorrow of the little children of Jesus was not absent to the Fathers of the Synod, so they discussed the work which is being done by the Patriarchate to ease the burden of these evil times on a needy people. The Fathers commended the efforts expended in this field, and blessed the people who had offered them, thanking also the generous donors helping the people to live under such hardships. They appealed to their spiritual children to support each other in order to ease the burden of these hard days, as the commandment says: “Carry each other’s burdens“(Gal 6:2). For this need, the Fathers of the Holy Synod decided to conduct a Church survey and gather statistics in all the Dioceses of the Antiochian See in the homeland and diaspora to develop better care for their spiritual children and to communicate intensively with them.
The Fathers discussed the situations of the Dioceses, especially the vacant Diocese of Baghdad and Kuwait, electing His Excellence Bishop Gattas (Hazim) as Metropolitan of these cities and their regions. They also elected Archimandrite Gregorios (Khoury Abdullah) auxiliary bishop to His Beatitude with the title “Bishop of the Emirates” and Archimandrite Qais (Sadeq) also auxiliary bishop to His Beatitude with the title “Bishop of Arzrum.”
With great grief and sadness, the Fathers contemplated the lack of clarity surrounding the case of the kidnapped Metropolitans John (Ibrahim) and Paul (Yazigi) over one and a half years, while the world remains silent and blind concerning this righteous humanitarian issue. In this regard the Fathers appealed to the International and Arabic communities to work with diligence in order to discover the position of all kidnapped bishops, priests, the military and civilians.
The Fathers debated the continuing tragedies inflicted on the East aimed at destoying its social structure, obliterating its ancient civilization and enslaving its people in violence, fear, poverty and ignorance. They stressed the fact that Christians are sons and daughters of this East, builders of its civilization; they are not guests or aliens within it. They confirmed that Christians would continue to be present in it as witnesses for Christ, because they believe that God is embracing all people and is able to rescue them from the historical trials which they are now passing through.
The Fathers also reminded their spiritual children that Christ, who was risen from the dead, trampling down death by His death was the only true Protector of their lives. They appealed to them not to respond to the crisis by attacking their land with the logic of sectarianism or minority interest. This crisis is not a confrontation between religions, but between the interests of the great powers on this earth which use religion as an instrument to achieve their ends, whereas in fact they themselves are disassociated from any religion.
The Fathers affirmed that an effective Christian presence in this East continues to be an open presence with Muslims through a joint struggle with them towards freedom, peace, true citizenship, dignity for all people and their growth. It is a presence which refuses extremism and terror; a presence deeply rooted in this earth with its dust mixed with the blood of its sincere children and also supplied with the blood of the Saints who have lived in this region. The Fathers extolled the positions lately expressed by wise Muslims and asked them to formulate a clear teaching which recognized the freedom of religion.
The Fathers prayed for Syria and Lebanon and called upon the international community to work diligently in order to achieve peace in Syria for the sake of its people who pay a high price for the demands of sectarian interests, killing, terror, and takfir. They called upon the deputies of the Lebanese State to elect a President who would care for the good functioning of the constitutional work within it. They prayed that the language of peace might replace the language of confrontation in Iraq, Egypt, Palestine, and in each part of this East.
The Antiochian presence in the Western world was not absent in the mind of the Fathers, who expressed their esteemed respect towards the Antiochians living abroad for their vivid and continuous witness, which has its roots in their homelands, and also particularly for their help for their brothers and sisters in the East, considering their critical and crucial circumstances. The Fathers commended the one spirit which unites all peoples, and the constructive work in which the spiritual, humanitarian and civilizing fullness is being manifested between them.