Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Patriarch Ignatius Interviewed on the First Day of the Holy Synod's Meeting

The Arabic original is in today's an-Nahar here.

Yesterday morning the work of the Greek Orthodox Holy Synod of Antioch began in its second regular session [of the year] at the Saint John of Damascus Theological Institute at Balamand under the leadership of His Beatitude Patriarch Ignatius IV and with the attendence of the metropolitans: of Zahleh and Baalbek Spiridon Khory, of Jbeil and Batroun Georges Khodr, of Lattakia Youhanna Mansour, of Hama Elia Saliba, of Beirut Elias Audi, of Tyre and Sidon Elias Kfoury, of Brazil Damaskinos Mansour, of Homs Georges Abou Zakhm, of Chile Sergius Abed, of Australia, New Zealand, and the Philipines Paul Saliba, of Mexico Antonius Chadraoui, of Hauran and Jebel el-Arab Saba Esber, of Akkar Basilios Mansour, of Argentina Silouan Mousa, of Tripoli and Koura Ephrem Kyriakos, the patriarchal vicar and dean of the theological institute and abbot of the Patriarchal Monastery of Our Lady of Balamand bishop Ghattas Hazim, and the patriarchal representative in Moscow Niphon Saikaly.

On the sidelines of the meetings, which will take place over a number of days, Patriarch Ignatius had a meeting with journalists in which he expressed his hope that the situations in Syria and Lebanon will end for the best, as well as his hope for peace for all peoples.

In responsse to a question about Christians facing persecution in Syria, he said, "Not all Christians are among those subject to injury, damage, harm, and soforth. All we know is one thing, that since the beginning of the events in Syria until today, those Christians who are from among us or who have a relationship to us, we see them in their towns and villages and they are not harmed and are not targeted for harm. The tragedy exists among Christians apart from the Orthodox, and this is the true picture. If the proportion of Orthodox among those who have died and whose houses have been destroyed is very small, as is the proportion among those who have fled to other places. It is not correct to say that we have been targeted. In Damascus, our twelve churches have not been subject to any damage and we as a patriarchate remain there and our priests are there. All believers perform their religious practices without fear or terror."

He added, "Brothers of ours in our community have been afflicted, even our Muslim brothers because the issue is between one group of Muslims and another, not with the Christians. The doors of our schools are open and have not been locked for a minute in Damascus. Even now they remain so. We do no one wrong, the wars are more against the non-Christian community. If there are individual attacks, they do not exceed five or ten percent of Christians."

Regarding the "Civil Commission" that is to be discussed at the meeting, he said, "An advisory committee has been formed to keep me abreast of developments and to guide me toward the current situation. It is attached to me personally. When I met with the committee, all of them have a connection to the Orthodox Church in the state, I affirmed that we will not take the place of any politician, since you as politicians are free in your politics. What I am concerned to say is that whatever you individual politics arrive at, you need to meet together and to look into what the law has given us. Do not neglect it. We desire our share  in the state with honor and dignity. This does not mean that I am demanding a commission for me. I am prepared to listen to all commissions in the community, whatever their name is, and so we are not taking anyone's place."

Regarding the Orthodox plan for elections, he stressed, "We do not have [plans for] laws that we announce. We listen we listen to everyone who has [plans for] laws and we examine them. Even today, we do not expect any law at all. When someone presents a law to us, we say, 'God give you strenth,' since we are not a legal commission."

Finally, he called attention to the fact that, "the commission's policy is to require the state to give the community its share, like the other communities. What we are asking is that the service of this share be the best it can be, so that we may serve the country in the best way."

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