Monday, August 23, 2010

Final Report from the Holy Synod

The Arabic original can be found here. As always, this translation is my own and is not official. An unofficial French translation has also been released here.

Final report of the 46th Regular Session of the Holy Synod of Antioch, taking place in the Monastery of St. Christopher, between the 17th and the 20th of August 2010 under the leadership of His Beatitude Ignatius IV.

On Tuesday August 17, 2010 the regular session of the Holy Synod of Antioch was held, lasting until Friday August 20, 2010, under the leadership of His Beatitude Ignatius IV (Hazim) and in the presence of the Fathers of the Synod of Antioch, the metropolitans of the nation and the emmigration. They studied an agenda related to pastoral and ecclesial matters and adopted appropriate decisions related to them.

First, the Synod listened to a detailed presentation by Dr. Elie Salem, president of Balamand University. During it, he explained how the university is developing on the academic and administrative levels. At the end of the presentation, the Fathers thanked Dr. Salem for what he undertakes with the working team at the university and they affirmed the necessity that the university continue fulfilling its role showing the Church's mission of service to all the children of the nation.

This was followed by a presentation by Dr. Georges Nahas, dean of the St. John of Damascus Theological Institute, which covered academic, spiritual, and administrative aspects, especially the new education program and modern and accepted methodologies. He likewise indicated the development of the master's program and the bachelor's in religious studies, and the fathers affirmed the necessity of connecting theological knowledge with pastoral experience so that the priest can bear the image of Christ the Good Shepherd into the world. They also formed a synodal committee to assist the patriarch in overseeing the affairs of the institute.

Pastoral care was a significant concern at this session, and on the second day the Fathers approved of a text prepared by Metropolitan Georges (Khodr) for a pastoral guide for priests to rely on in carrying out their pastoral, apostolic, and sacramental service. The guide contains texts reflecting the pastoral reality that priests live today. This guide, which covers a variety of topics in a simple style, treats in detail situations every priest faces. The guide pays close attention to the steadfastness of Antiochian tradition and reflects modernity. It calls for reliance on the principles of performing the sacraments in the Church while it pays close attention to the circumstances of pastoral practice in all other matters.

After that, the Fathers considered the status of youth work in the See of Antioch, and agreed to clarify the role of the clergy and laity in receiving all the gifts of the Holy Spirit for the sake of unity and peace in the Church. This relationship is based on the fatherhood of the bishop and his assistants and on the sonship of the faithful within the one Church.

With this goal in mind, His Beatitude commissioned the Holy Synod to form a committee under his leadership for the organization of pastoral and educational work on the level of the entire patriarchate.

The Holy Synod hopes that God will inspire all with the purposes of the Lord in the cooperation of all His children, so that love and respect will prevail in the establishment of normal relations between all the members of the Holy Church. The Synod is confident of a renewal of spiritual life for all and it remains clear that the responsibility of Christian education for everyone is the responsibility of the bishop and his leadership, along with the participation of those who have competencies for helping him in this.

The Fathers then listened to a report by Metropolitan Philip (Saliba), Metropolitan of the Archdiocese of North America about the status of the Archdiocese and aspects of apostolic and pastoral work there, indicating the development of the Archdiocese in all fields.

On the third day, in light of a study prepared by Metropolitan Basil (Mansour) about the historical status of the bishop in the Orthodox Church, and after long and detailed discussions, the Fathers affirmed that the bishops of the Archdiocese of North America are auxiliary bishops (asaqifa musa3idun) assigned to dioceses and entrusted by the Metropolitan of the Archdiocese to dioceses. They are subordinate to their spiritual point of reference, the metropolitan of the Archdiocese, who has general authority over the whole Archdiocese.

The Holy Synod then listened to reports about pastoral work in the Archdioceses of Central and Western Europe, Mexico, and Argentina. They praised the work being undertaken there and asked the bishops of these archdioceses to continue their work for the Good of the Church and her development. On the basis of the widening of the work of the Archdiocese of Central and Western Europe into the countries of Scandinavia, the decided to change the name of the archdiocese to "the Archdiocese of Europe".

On the fourth day, the Fathers listened to reports about the preparatory meeting for the general Orthodox council which took place in Chambesy- Geneva and also to reports about the meetings of the Orthodox Churches which took place in the countries of the diaspora and especially in North, Central, and South America. They raised up prayers that the mutual Orthodox work might bear fruits to the glory of Jesus Christ and the good of the Church.

After that, they went on to study the topic of Orthodox-Catholic dialogue and the stages it has reached. They affirmed the desire and effort of the Church of Antioch for the realization of the greatest possible closeness between the two churches, especially on the levels of daily witness and service to the weak. They formed a new Antiochian committee to pursue this dialogue.

Finally, they listened to a report from His Eminence Boulos (Yaziji) about the status of plans for Orthodox media and they asked His Eminence to continue work on the next stage.

The session did not end without the Fathers affirming that the the pastors of the Church are from beginning to end shepherds of the People of God, who suffers the difficulties of life and hard circumstances, and that they continue to be watchful in bearing these children of who thirst for the Word of God in the first of their paternal priorities, supplicating God to bless this good flock and its worship, and to increase upon it grace and blessings.

After the end of the meeting, His Beatitude sent a letter to the President of the Republic, Dr. Bashar al-Asad, the text of which follows:

Honorable Dr. Bashar Hafez al-Asad, President of the Syrian Arab Republic

After the best prayers for your preservation,
We lift up greetings and prayers for your honorable position on the occasion of the session of the Holy Synod of Antioch in Seidnayya. Their Eminences, the members of the Synod join me in doing this.

I express my great gratitude to you for this meeting which expresses your love for our Church and your regard for it as the national church par excellence. This makes us even more confident of our deeply-rooted existence in this country so dear to our hearts, Syria.

We repeat our prayer to God, may He be exalted, for your continual health and success.

Ignatius IV, Patriarch of Antioch and all the East

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