Monday, June 3, 2013

Patriarch John X's Visit to Istanbul

These are my own, unofficial translations. Arabic original here and here, with pictures.

Press Release

The first day of Patriarch John X's Visit to the Orthdox Ecumenical Patriarchate in Istanbul, June 1, 2013

Saturday, June 1, 2013, John X (Yazigi), Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch and All the East began his official visit to His Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew in Istanbul. This, the first visit, comes in the context of the visits to the heads of the local Orthodox churches that Patriarch John is making after his election according to custom and following the order of the Orthodox sees.

The first part of the day began at 9:30 AM when His Beatitude John X and his accompanying delegation arrived at the residence of the Ecumenical Patriarch in Fener, Istanbul, where a large crowd of bishops, priests, deacons and the faithful were waiting to welcome him. They all then entered the Cathedral of Saint George, where His Beatitude presided at prayers of thanksgiving. He then went with his accompanying delegation to the throne-room in the Ecumenical Patriarch's residence, where he was received according to custom by His Holiness the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, surrounded by the members of the Holy Ecumenical Synod, bishops dependent on the Ecumenical Patriarchate, and a great number of Orthodox faithful who had come from various regions, especially from the region of Antioch. After exchanging welcoming speeches, the two delegations left for the island of Chalki, to visit Holy Trinity Monastery and the Ecumenical Patriarchate's theological institute. The monastery's abbot and dean of the theological institute, Metropolitan Elpidoros of Bursa welcomed them. After a welcoming speech by the dean of the institute, Patriarch John in his speech expressed his hope that this distinguished institute would once more open its doors and realize the hoped-for collaboration with the Saint John of Damascus Theological Institute in Balamand, Lebanon and thus renew its well-known history of contributions for the entire Orthodox world. The closing speech was by His Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew. There followed a welcoming reception and an agape table in honor of His Beatitude Patriarch John.

In the evening, His Holiness the Ecumenical Patriarch held a dinner at his home in Istanbul in honor of His Beatitude Patriarch John and his accompanying delegation.

Press Release

The Second Day of Patriarch John X's Visit to the Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarchate in Istanbul, June 2, 2013

The first part of the second day of Patriarch John X (Yazigi)'s visit to His Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholemew began in the morning with participation in the divine liturgy celebrated by the two patriarchs in the Cathedral of Saint George, at the patriarchal residence in Istanbul. Bishops, priests, and deacons participated with the two patriarchs and members of the Antiochian delegation and a large number of faithful. At the end of the liturgy, the two patriarchs exchanged words about the visit and its meaning, confirming the strength of bonds of communion and cooperation between the two churches, based on historical, fraternal relations that have joined the See of Antioch and the See of Constantinople since the dawn of Christianity. They emphasized the necessity of cementing cooperation and the bonds between them for the service of the Church and relations between the Orthodox churches and for developing Christian witness in the world today.

In his speech, His Beatitude Patriarch John turned at length to Antiochian contributions to the life of the Catholic Church through great fathers who were a source of great spiritual and theological radiance, emphasizing that despite the enormous difficulties and tragedies that have affected his church, she will once more revive the legacy of all these fathers. He also pointed to her role of mediator and voice for unity, peace, tolerance, and acceptance of the other that the Antiochian Orthodox Church has played across history. His Beatitude likewise emphasized the many issues facing the entire Orthodox Church in the world today, affirming the necessity of interchange and constant consultation on matters of mutual concern, in agreement with "the spirit of the Gospel and not the spirit of this world." Regarding the issue of the conflict with the See of Jerusalem, which claims to have canonical authority over Qatar and the region of the Arab Gulf, in explicit contradiction of canons and history, His Beatitude confirmed that the spirit of love and communion must reign in fraternal relations in the Church without compromising the truth, as he requested His Holiness the Ecumenical Patriarch to work to "return things to their proper state as quickly as possible."

Regarding preparation for the Great and Holy Council of all the autocephalous Orthodox churches, His Beatitude the Patriarch requested that it not be limited to relations with the non-Orthodox and the world and issues pertaining to centers of authority in the Church, emphasizing the necessity of working to expand the council's agenda "because the world awaits a prophetic voice from the Orthodox Church that will contribute to bringing meaning back to its existence." His Beatitude likewise emphasized the importance of communications and regular gatherings between the leaders of the Orthodox churches in order to discuss issues that hinder the witness of the Orthodox Church in the world today, warning of "worsening racist thinking" in the Church, which contradicts the decisions of the Council of 1872. He also emphasized the importance of the Church's unity as a necessary element of  Christian witness in the world today, saying that "there need to be prophetic words and deeds that affect the people of God and return hope to them that unity between Christians will be realized in the foreseeable future." He likewise mentioned the importance of bolstering relations with Muslims and of contemplating a future of coexistence between religions, emphasizing the necessity of a peaceful solution in Syria and combating extremism, once more calling on everyone in the international community to release the two bishops of Aleppo, Boulos Yazigi and Youhanna Ibrahim who were kidnapped on April 22.

The second day was also distinguished by the irenic and fraternal discussions that took place during the evening at the residence of the Ecumenical Patriarch between the two patriarchs and the delegations accompanying them, where many topics of mutual concern to the two churches were discussed, as well as others pertaining to relations between the Orthodox churches, especially the issue of Qatar. The necessity of mutual support during this sensitive and critical period that is sweeping the region was affirmed, as well as the necessity to expend every effort to achieve the release of the two bishops kidnapped in Aleppo.

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