Monday, May 5, 2014

John X's Press Conference before Leaving for Bahrain and the Emirates

Arabic original, published Thursday, May 1, here.

Yazigi off to Bahrain and the Emirates

This afternoon, Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch and All the East, John X Yazigi left Beirut for Bahrain on a visit that will last around two weeks covering Bahrein and the United Arab Emirates during which he will meet with members of his flock and on the 10th of this month he will place the cornerstone for a church in the Emirates.

Present to see him off at the airport was Minister of Media Ramzi Jureij, representing the President of the Republic Gen. Michel Sleiman, and the abbot of Balamand Monastery, Bishop Ghattas Hazim. Yazigi was accompanied by the Metropolitan of Germany and Central Europe, Ishaq Barakat, the patriarchal vicar Bishop Ephrem Maalouli, Vice-President of Balamand University, Dr. Michel Najjar, Dr. Walid Moubayed, and a delegation of clergy and members of the press.

At the airport, Yazigi said, "It is a visit to inspect all of our children in these countries. We are one family, and so it is important to undertake this trip to examine their conditions and to pray with them. On the program for the visit, on May 10, the cornerstone will be placed for a new church. On this occasion, from Beirut, we send them all love and every paschal greeting. We say to them: Christ is risen! And we hope to meet with our children there, with whom we hope to remain in constant contact. This is very important for the building up of our country and our nations. It is very important that our children scattered in various parts of the world remain in contact  with their people, their villages and their countries so that we may all contribute to building up our beloved country."

Asked, "To what degree does building new churches in the Gulf countries contribute to strengthening the Christian presence in the Middle East?" he responded, "Naturally, this is something that very much strengthens the Christian presence and we thank God that we now have churches in all regions. This establishes and strengthens us and our ties. It also indicates that for our children who have left the countries of the Middle East in general-- and Lebanon, Syria and Iraq in particular-- for Europe, America and the Arabian Gulf, the first thing we seek is to practice our religious principles and to  have a church and priests who take care of weddings, baptisms, the Eucharist and prayer, since they were brought up in their countries on this tradition and these values that they are not prepared to abandon. These links contribute to strengthening the ties between families and between them and the nation."

Asked, "You will necessarily bring up the issue of the kidnapping of the bishops with those whom you meet. Are there specific parties through which contact can be made to discover their fate, at the very least?" He replied, "We regret that the issue of the bishops' kidnapping and even its story is shrouded in total darkness. We regret even more that this darkness is regional and international, as though the earth opened up and swallowed the bishops and there is no one left in the world-- not even the great nations great and small-- can know their location. However, despite this we are constantly following this issue and we hope that the efforts that are being made with all parties will lead to the hoped-for desire as soon as possible."

Asked, "How do you view what is happening regarding presidential elections in Lebanon? Are you afraid that there will be a political vacuum?" He replied, "We add our voice to the voices of all those who love this country and we by no means want to arrive at any point at what we call a constitutional vacuum, especially in this context since the president of the republic is the top of the pyramid. We have hope, even at the last minute, even thing falter at times, that the elections will happen and that a president will be elected for the republic at the appointed time. This will be for the good of Lebanon and its stability, so that all its children may be well and live in stability, as it should be."

Asked, "You recently visited Maaloula and made an appeal to its residents to return there. Do you believe that it will be easy for this to happen, along with the rebuilding of the churches and monasteries that were largely destroyed?" He replied, "Nothing is easy in this world, but we always remain with faith, hope, perseverance and strength. We prove that we are men, and men do not falter under any difficulty. Naturally, it is not easy but nevertheless we meet every challenge. We want all our children, Muslims, Christians, and those of every community to not have to depart from their homes and for there to be the appropriate circumstances for every family to return to its home, villages and cities. God-willing and according to circumstances, we hope that all our children-- in Maaloula specifically and in all regions-- will return to their villages and cities and life will return as we knew it in Syria, Lebanon and all this region, so that we may live together and also rebuild the country together."

In closing, Yazigi thanked the President of the Republic, Ge. Michel Sleiman for sending the minister of media to represent him at the airport, wishing him "well-being, stability and peace for Lebanon, Syria and all the world and that there may be peace is the hearts of all."

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