Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Final Communiqué from the Recent Meeting of the Holy Synod

This is my own translation and has zero official weight, so don't parse the words too closely. The Arabic original is here. An unofficial French translation is here.

The 45th regular session of the Holy Synod of the Church of Antioch was held in Damascus between October 6th and 8th presided over by His Beatitude patriarch Ignatius IV and with the participation of their eminences the reverend fathers belonging to the Holy Synod of Antioch. Metropolitan Phillip Saliba (North America) was absent.

During this session, the metropolitan who was elected for the archdiocese of Tripoli and Koura, archimandrite Ephrem (Kyriakos), presented himself and was congratulated by the members of the Synod, who congratulated the archdiocese for his selection. Then, welcoming him in the name of the members of the Synod, His Beatitude addressed him and said:

“I know Sayyidna Ephrem in his service and his engagement. He is a brilliant man and a true monk. A monk can live as a monk wherever he wants, but he does not make a monastery of the diocese. The diocese requires a total giving away of the self. This bishop-elect is not a stranger to us. When we met today, I reminded him about when he stood up at the general meeting of the dioceses in 1993 when he spoke words the likes of which are rarely heard. I ask all of your prayers for the wellbeing of this elected brother and for the wellbeing of this archdiocese. His presence among us adds gifts and blessings upon the gifts and blessings in this Synod. I ask the Lord to grant a long life to Sayyidna Ephrem and the future will say and will confirm how the true consecrated ones are.”

The metropolitan-elect responded: “I thank you, Your Beatitude, and I thank Your Eminences the fathers because you have put this trust in my person. I hope to be able to bear this responsibility with the help of the Lord and your prayers. I say that I am weak like every human being, a vessel of clay, and I confess before you that I have loved the Lord and this Church and that I am ready to shed my blood for her.”

At the beginning of the session, their Eminences the fathers of the Synod addressed two letters to their Excellencies the presidents of the Republic of Syria and the Republic of Lebanon in which they affirmed to the two presidents the Church of Antioch’s support for the efforts made in the interest of the wellbeing of the two countries and they asked the Lord to make them strong so that they can continue to support the sons of the two countries.

This session was characterized by discussions between the fathers of the Synod about the pastoral aspect of service to the Church from every angle. They insisted upon priests in the parishes being the bearers of the teachings of the Church as well as the decrees of the Holy Synod to each home so that prayer be tied to service and so that our people may feel that they are loved and that they are borne in fervent and constant remembrance in the liturgical and sacramental prayer of their pastors. This also requires that the service of the pastors speak to current reality and current reality is in space and time, which change. Just like pastoral criteria, criteria of behavior, which cannot be removed from current reality, so that effective action be well-established in current reality, so too pastoring is the affirmation of the Incarnation of the Lord in His Church and in human history.

First of all, the Synod decided to elevate bishop Niphon (Saykali), the patriarchal vicar to the Church of Moscow, to the rank of archbishop.

Then, their eminences the fathers of the Synod studied the pastoral situation in the Sanjak (province) of Alexandretta [on Turkish territory] and learned about the pastoral efforts expended there. They decided to elaborate a plan of action with the necessary human and financial resources so that the people will feel that they are at the heart of the concerns of the Church of Antioch.

Then, the Holy Synod spent a long time on the topic of exchange between neighboring dioceses and on the importance of coordination with regard to questions of regional importance and that require a common approach. They decided to hold when necessary local meetings of the metropolitans of these dioceses in order to coordinate and to take advantage of different expertise. This is both in the dioceses of in the home countries and in the diaspora.
Given that communication is considered a priority in our current reality, communications, both in their pedagogical and their informative aspects, were an important area of discussion. The fathers learned about a project for an electronic newsletter for the patriarchate that will include spiritual topics and news from all of the dioceses of the patriarchate. They decided that it will be weekly and that it will have correspondents from the dioceses. They also decided to rely on experts to elaborate a comprehensive communications program that will use audio-visual media to serve missionary work.

Because where the bishop is, there is the Church and where the Church is, there is the bishop, and because the bishop as head of the priests and as pastor is an event in the life of the Church, and because the current reality of the Antiochian dioceses in the homeland and in the countries of the diaspora has evolved, the Holy Synod delegated to one of its members to prepare a study about the evolution of the episcopacy within the Orthodox Church from theological, canonical, and historical points of view so that the role of a bishop who is not a metropolitan and his position within the Church of today will be determined.

Because the people of our Church deserve that the service of their pastors within the parish be well-ordered and in order to give a proper form to the service, the Synod decided to put into place a pastoral guide for the priests that will be adopted by all the priests of the See of Antioch in their services. This is for an annotation of the Small Euchologion, especially the services of Baptism and Marriage.

The Holy Synod examined the question of the relations between the sister Orthodox churches and heard and report about the conclusions of the meetings of the Orthodox churches in Chambésy, Switzerland in preparation for the Great and Holy pan-Orthodox Council. They also heard a report about Catholic-Orthodox dialogue and affirmed, while raising up prayer, the desire of the Orthodox Church that communion of love and unity between churches be realized in Jesus Christ.

The Synod did not finish its work without reserving a large amount of time for the Saint John of Damascus Institute at Balamand, to study its conditions. They affirm that while this institute has an academic nature, because it is the place where Antiochian pastors are raise and their clerical, churchly sense is developed and they are prepared mystery of the washing of feet, it is a place of permanent prayer where knowledge rises up to the Spirit of Wisdom and Understanding. On this basis, the synodal commission presided by His Beatitude keeps watch that this goal is always brought to the attention of theology students.

In conclusion, the fathers of the Synod affirm to their children that, by the power of the Lord, they keep watch over the flock as faithful shepherds and they ask them to be strengthened and to stand firm and to not allow despair or sorrow or the cares of life and difficulties to dwell in their hearts because the Lord does not abandon the ship that is battered by waves in the middle of the storm without His peace. He is at the center of the Church, preserving His children from the Evil One though His All-Holy Spirit, until the end of days.


Unknown said...


این متن هم خیلی عالی و زیبا بود
از قبلی بهتر فهمیدم

DNY said...

Any word as to which member was given the task of preparing the study on the episcopate? I pray his family name is not Saliba. Met. +George of Mount Lebanon would have been a good choice.

Samn! said...

Well, there doesn't seem to have been an announcement of who was given the task............ Certainly +Georges is the only member of the Holy Synod to have articulated a clear ecclesiology, both in the article translated below and in many other places.... I don't think that his influence will be missed by the report no matter who writes it. It's likely worth reading +Georges' most recent article with a mind to understanding possible visions of how the bishops relate to their metropolitan in the same way the that metropolitans relate to the patriarch, which is a decision of the Synod that I don't think will be changed...