Monday, October 31, 2011

Communiqué from the Holy Synod of Antioch's Fall Session

This translation is in no way official. The official Arabic version can be found here.

At the invitation and under the guidance of His Beatitude Patriarch Ignatius IV, the Antiochian Orthodox Synod held its regular session in the patriarchal residence at the Monastery of Our Lady of Balamand from the 25th to the 27th of October. Present at the meeting were metropolitans: Spiridon (Khoury) of Zahleh and Baalbek, Georges (Khodr) of Jbeil, Batroun, and their dependencies, Youhanna (Mansour) of Lattakia, Elias (Audi) of Beirut, Iliya (Saliba) of Hamah, Elias (Kfoury) of Tyre, Sidon, and Marjayoun, Antonius (Chadraoui) of Mexico, Damaskinos (Mansour) of Sao Paulo and Brazil, Saba (Esber) of Bosra, Jebel al-Arab, and Hawran, Georges (Abu Zakhem) of Homs, Boulos (Yazigi) of Aleppo and Alexandretta, Silouan (Mousa) of Argentina, Youhanna (Yazigi) of Europe, Basil (Mansour) of Akkar, Ephrem (Kyriakos) of Tripoli and al-Koura, Archbishop Niphon (Saikali) patriarchal representative to the Patriarchate of Moscow, Bishop Ghattas (Hazim) abbot of the Patriarchal Monastery of Our Lady of Balamand and dean of the St. John of Damascus Theological Institute, and Economos Georges Dimas, the Synod’s secretary.

The current session of the Holy Synod was held in delicate circumstances, which the countries of the Patriarchate of Antioch and the Arab Middle East are experiencing, especially Syria and Lebanon, where the Orthodox are the majority of Christians.

The meeting began with a word of welcome from His Beatitude, in which he emphasized the importance of the unity of the Antiochian Orthodox Church in Lebanon, Syria, the Middle East, and the diaspora and the priority of working to provide satisfactory responses to her children who, along with their partners in citizenship, face many problems and challenges, as His Beatitude laid out in the intensive meetings which he held in Lebanon regarding the organization of the Orthodox community so that it can take its due place in centers of political and administrative decision-making.

Starting from the basis of a single, faith-based approach to the effective Christian presence and the genuine witness of Christians, the Synod is concerned to emphasize the role of the Church in her capacity as a conscience for all the faithful and so it continuously calls to mind what God wills for the good of humanity. The Church cannot stand with her hands tied regarding the oppression and discrimination that peoples and groups are facing.

Starting from the basis of the Orthodox Church having been present in these countries since the spread of the Christian gospel and on the basis of the proactive role that the Orthodox have taken across the ages in the revival of their country as a nation and a civilization, the fathers call on their children to participate actively in forging effective solutions for exiting the crisis and embarking on the path of flourishing and their nations’ advancement.

The fathers of the Holy Synod examined the phenomenon of political changes which are sweeping the region, asking God to inspire those responsible for the fate of the countries of the region to take the right decisions to lessen the citizens’ pains, to ease their life’s circumstances, and to ensure a flourishing future for their children. In this regard, the Synod emphasized:

1. Work in faith and hope for the sake of bringing peace, social justice, and the building of a civil state on the basis of equality of rights and responsibilities for all under a single law to which all children of the nation submit without exception.

2. That the children of the Orthodox community hold on to their homes through Church- and social-solidarity between the flocks of the nation and the emigration.

The Synod likewise studied internal issues, including:

1.  The internal statutes of the See of Antioch: They emphasized that these statutes must take inspiration from the unity of the people, which is enclosed in secrets around its pastors, so that they can offer service pleasing to God. They called attention to the importance of applying these statutes, the basic purpose of which is to ensure opportunities for the faithful’s partnership together, each according to the gifts he has been given. Through this it is possible for all to participate in planning the work of the Church, being involved in it, and bearing responsibilities.

2. The pastoral situation and the necessity of reforming it: The technical developments which the world is witnessing make it necessary for the Church to adopt new positions with regard to pastoral questions that transcend habitual forms and adopt advanced means for helping the faithful to ensure an honorable life and to employ their abilities in general life. In this context, the establishment of productive enterprises is one of the ways to root children of the community. It is likewise possible for educational and social institutions, those existing and those yet to be founded, to ensure, by securing opportunities for work, spaces in which the Church can bear witness to the particularity of her service to the world and her love for it.

3. The state of church media: Media must play a central and important role in solidifying interaction and cooperation between the Church and the world. In order for media to be interactive, it must leave space open for communication in order to determine the reality of the situation and the ideas and proposals that today’s society is producing concerning everyone’s future. Likewise, church media has an interest in building bridges of communication within the single nation and between the societies of the different nations that make up the Antiochian sphere. Likewise, the fathers of the Synod emphasized the universal role of church media and the importance of the Church’s taking initiative in responding to the needs of the flock and of society.
In closing, the Synod expressed its hope that the leaders and peoples of the Arab Middle East will work together to ensure stability, freedom, and a promising future for this region as well as its hope that the Orthodox community will play an effective role in this.

Published by the secretariat of the Holy Synod of Antioch
Monastery of Our Lady of Balamand, October 27, 2011

My own comment:  For the sake of effective church media and the strengthening of bonds between the Antiochian Church in the Middle East and abroad, it would be nice if official English versions of statements like this were published. It would also be nice if a representative of the Archdiocese of North America went to meetings of the Synod....


The Anti-Gnostic said...

Why did they meet in Balamand and not Damascus?

Samn! said...

The past few meetings of the Holy Synod have been in Balamand. I gather that it's better facilities than in Damascus, but it's also definitely easier for people coming in from international flights (Sao Paulo, Buenos Aires, and Mexico City....), and may be easier for everyone involved-- His Beatitude lately spends a lot of time there and there are slightly more metropolitanates in Lebanon than in Syria. Plus, Lebanese sectarian politics are a bit more malleable through overt actions of the Synod than Syrian politics are...

Anonymous said...

I think the number of metropolitanates in Syria and Lebanon is equal, 6 in each country.
Syria: 1. Damascus., 2. Aleppo, 3. Lattakia, 4. Homs, 5. Hama, 6. Bosra, Hauran and Jabal al-Arab
Lebanon: 1. Mount Lebanon, 2. Beirut, 3. Tripoli, 4. Akkar, 5. Tyre and Sidon, 5. Zahle and the Bekaa

Jon Marc said...

Are communiques at least published in French?

Samn! said...


Yeah, you're right... I can't count.

Jon Marc,

Not regularly. But unofficial and semi-official versions most important news make it into French more often than English.