Arabic original, published yesterday by Syrian state news, here.
His Beatitude John X Yazigi, Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch and all the East said, “We are messengers of peace and love. This is the mission with which we have been entrusted, to bear witness to truth and life.”
At the press conference today before the start of the work of the Holy Synod of Antioch at the patriarchal Monastery of Our Lady of Balamand, Yazigi added, “The Synod will examine the issue of the two bishops, Metropolitan Youhanna Ibrahim of the Syriac Orthodox in Aleppo and Metropolitan Boulos Yazigi of the Greek Orthodox in Aleppo and Iskanderun, who we continuously pray will be with us soon. This and all issues will be studied in peace and calm for the good of the Church, her children, our people, and the role that they undertake among them… We pray and work for the stability of our country and for the spread of peace and truth in every place in the world… We will examine what is happening in Lebanon and Syria.”
Yazigi indicated that “there will be coordination and study of all the issues that enter into practical aspects of this framework, in order to implement the vision to which we aspire… since there must be mechanisms for implementation, we will study everything that is good for our people, for our country, and for our region, especially the Middle East, which is in our hearts.”
Again about the kidnapping of the two bishops, Yazigi said, “We hope and anticipate that [their release] will be achieved… but there is nothing final about the matter… Next Saturday at the Monastery of Our Lady of Balamand, we will hold prayers which we hope will be prayers of thanks for the presence of the two bishops, with a public invitation from the two Orthodox Churches of Antioch, Antiochian and Syriac. Patriarch Zakka will participate personally, along with all the Christian churches and our Muslim brothers, with whom we make up one family, sharing the same joys and sorrows.”
Yazigi added, “We have decided to hold this prayer as a call to all people… to the kidnappers, to the international community, to all who do good, so that the bishops and all those kidnapped will be released. We do not want any person to be harmed, but rather for peace to spread in the entire world.”
“We are following this issue closely at every level, no matter what the circumstances. However, up to now there has been no communication with the kidnappers and we have not heard a word from the kidnapping group. We are in communication with all international parties. We are following the issue and we hope for the best. We shall continue to hope.”
Regarding the results of his visit to Turkey, Yazigi said, “We are in communication with all international parties, as I mentioned previously. They have all responded that they do not want harm to come to the bishops and that they are making efforts for their return, as we hope.”
Regarding fears about the Christian presence in Lebanon and Syria and emigration and arrangements made to prevent this, Yazigi assured that “we have no fear about the Christian presence… No doubt, the circumstances that the region is going through are difficult and oppressive and cannot be ignored. They make it incumbent on us, children of faith and courage, to stand firm in this land where we are present, bearing the message into the world without fear.”
He added, “When we gather together, the Church is present with all her children, since the fathers bear the worries of their flock and their people. The Synod’s session is in order to study the issues of our people, to examine their concerns from every angle: the Church and her presence in society, and especially the circumstances in these countries.”
Yazigi affirmed the importance of the Christian role in the region, especially in these troubled circumstances, which are witnessing a trend towards sectarianism and extremism, saying, “There must be people or voices that call for rationality and moderation, which is what we constantly call for… Christianity, Islam, and spiritual leaders have a fundamental role in calling for love.”
Yazigi sent greetings in the name of the Antiochian Church and particularly the Holy Synod to the orphaned sons of Aleppo who have lost their fathers, metropolitans Yazigi and Ibrahim, who oversaw their flocks and sought to bear the pain and suffering of our children, relieving the needy by offering them humanitarian assistance.”
He said, “We as the Antiochian Church provide aid and do quite some work on this level, because the suffering of the poor, the homeless, and the needy is present in our hearts and we cannot avert our eyes from it… Providing aid is a great challenge before us and this matter will be studied in order to arrive at the best ways to make it effective.”
Yesterday Yazigi held prayers for the release of the kidnapped bishops, Youhanna Ibrahim and Boulos Yazigi at the hands of armed terrorist groups last April outside Aleppo.