Saturday, June 28, 2014

Lebanese Press on the Opening of the Antiochian Conference

The official English version of  closing statement of the conference can be read here. Below is a sampling from the Lebanese press about the ecumenical gathering that opened the conference. A full video of it, all in Arabic, can be seen here.

From as-Safir, here.

Yazigi: Religious Difference is not a Reason for Division

by Fadia Daaboul

Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch and All the East John X Yazigi and Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai called for "dialogue, unity, peace and the election of a president for the Republic."

During the opening of the Antiochian conference "Antiochian Unity: Dimensions and Exigencies" held at Zakhem Auditorium in Balamand University, Yazigi also criticized the international community "which is deaf to the kidnapping and violation of holy places that happening in our countries."

In addition to Rai, participating in the conference were: Syriac Orthodox Patriarch Ignatius Ephrem II Karim, Greek Catholic Patriarch Gregorios III Lahham, Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignatius Yousuf III Younan, and Armenian Catholic Patriarch Nerses Boutros XIX.

Likewise present were papal nuncio Gabriele Caccia, Father Rouweiss Urashlimi representing Pope Tawdoros, Rev Salim Sahyun, and bishops of the See of Antioch in addition to politicians including Deputy Speaker Farid Makari, Deputy Prime Minister Samir Moqbel, Ministers Ramzi Jureij and Elias Bou Saab, president of Balamand University Elie Salem, and former deputy prime miniesters Issam Fares (represented by Gen William Majli), Michel Sassine, Gen Issam Abou Jamra, and current and former members of parliament. Also present were advisor to the president of Syria Collette Khoury and members of the Syrian parliament Maria Saadeh, Maher Qawarma, and Hissan Risha, Russian ambassador to Lebanon Aleksandr Zasypkin, Greek ambassador Catherine Boura, judges, general managers, abbots of monasteries, deans and professors of Balamand University, and Lebanese and Syrian personalities.

The meeting was begun by Dr Marlene Kanaan who was followed by Dr Georges Nahhas. Then Armenian Catholic Patriarch Narses gave a speech in which he called for a return to the spirit of Antioch that is not the monopoly of any one group.

Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignatius Younan criticized western countries for their role in feeding hatred.

Patriarch Gregorios Lahham stated that Antioch created a culture of mediation.

Syriac Orthodox Patriarch Ignatius Ephrem II expressed his hope that full communion would be realized in the single body and chalice. He mentioned the kidnapped metropolitans Yazigi and Ibrahim and his hope for their speedy return.

Patriarch Beshara Rai said, "We are before the great challenge of working seriously for peace and justice through dialogue and mutual understanding, far removed from the language of war, violence, kidnapping and terror. This is our responsibility first of all, especially in Lebanon, to strengthen coexistence and tightening the bonds of unity that are guarunteed by electing a capable and inclusive president." He demanded that parliament elect him "the day before tomorrow". He stated that "electing a president is needed for brotherhood between the Sunnis and the Shiis in order to put a stop to the dangers of war around Iraq and Syria" and that "Our mission is to strengthen the culture of living together and to condemn together fundamentalisms that distort religion."

Patriarch Yazigi said that the conference presents a picture of Antiochian unity "and our unity is not a dream but a reality that we want to strengthen." He pointed out that "Our unity never means insularity, contraction or distancing ourselves from elements of our society and from our Muslim brothers with whom we share more than brotherhood." He remarked that "difference in religion is not a reason for division, since religion belongs to God and the nation belongs to all. But as regards those takfiri movements that we hear about here and their, leave them to be judged by history."

He added, "Our heart beats with prayer for peace in Syria especially. Our hearts are wrenched with pain for every martyr who falls as a victim of terror, takfirism and violence, paying dearly for rhetorical slogans that have brought turmoil. We raise our voice high in international forums that are deaf to the kidnapping, plunder of holy places, and the importation of previously unknown barbarism that is happening in our country. The international community and all forums have until now remained deaf to  the issue of those kidnapped in Syria, including our brothers Metropolitans Youhanna and Boulos. We come together and say that will will bury all these in the soil of our land and we will remain in this land, whether they like it or not."

He also called on Lebanese leaders to always keep in their minds and hearts that they have been entrusted with the lives of those who elected them and chose them primarily for the stability of this country. He added, "When we talk today about unity, we pray that all in Lebanon will be as one hand in the face of those who justify for themselves to toy with people's security. Thus we call on all parties to adopt the language of dialogue and consensus in order to fill the vacancy in the presidency."

From an-Nahar, here.

The Opening of the Antiochian Conference, with General Christian Participation

Yesterday at Balamand University the activities of the Antiochian Unity Conference began with a general celebration of all the parts of the Antiochian Church, east and west, overshadowed by thought about Christians' reality, the suffering they are subjected to in the Middle East, and their insistence on coexistence, moderation, and openness to all peoples of the region. Orthodox Patriarch John X and Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai focused especially on the importance of electing a president for the Republic "the day before tomorrow" in a clear message to politicians regarding the most prominent and unique Christian position in the Middle East and within Antioch.

The work of the conference began with speeches by six patriarchs representing the Maronite, Orthodox, Armenian Catholics, Melkite Cathoic, and Syriac Orthodox and Catholic Churches in front of a large crowd including Deputy Speaker Farid Makari, Deputy Prime Minister Samir Moqbel, ministers and current and former members of parliament, the papal nuncio, clergymen and representatives of the Orthodox dioceses in Lebanon, Syria and the diaspora, some of them westerners who joined the Antiochian Orthodox Church.

The Maronite Patriarch Cardinal Mar Beshara Boutros Rai called for "strengthening coexistence and tightening the bonds of unity that are guarunteed by electing a capable and inclusive president". He called on parliament to "elect the president the day before tomorrow" and said that the Orthodox Church is a "sister", emphasizing that the Antiochian spiritual, theological and liturgical heritage is a heritage shared by the churches that make up the Antiochian family. He called for the "continuation of active Christian presence in our Middle Eastern world and our Arab nations" and reminded Christians that they have been living in this region for two thousand year, laying the foundations of its cultures and realizing revival within them at every level and that they stand before a great challenge in rebuilding unity between the constituent parts of their nations on the basis of diversity in unity and serious work for peace and justice through dialogue and mutual understanding, far removed from the language of war, violence, kidnapping and terror.

Rai strongly denounced "any delay, postponement or procrastination in electing the president", holding those causing the delay "responsible before history." He opined that "electing a president is needed for brotherhood between the Sunnis and the Shiis in order to put a stop to the dangers of war around Iraq and Syria."

Rai stressed that "the Antiochian churches have inherited opennes and inclusiveness in the Arab world. They have resisted all isolation and closing in on themselves  because the Christian faith calls for living with others who are different." He pointed to the dialogue with "our Muslim brothers, having lived it with them, in its sweet and bitter aspects, for 1400 years. Our mission is to strengthen the culture of living together on the basis of mutual knowledge and respect, being nourished by our particular values, traditions and heritage and sharing together in the life of our nations according to the laws of citizenship. Our mission is to condemn together fundamentalisms that distort religion and atheistic secularism that is hostile to God, His teachings and His commandments. Our mission is to build every day a culture of moderation, cooperation and defense of human rights, especially freedom of worship and belief, opinion and expression."

In closing, Patriarch John X gave a speech in which he talked about the need to express "unity of faith" and the need for members of the Church to be concerned about the state of their nations and to be prepared to play a fundamental and critical role in preparing the future, whether in the homeland or the diaspora. He stated that, "The Orthodox Church, which is present in all the Arab countries, is responsible, along with the people of these lands, for the dignified life of their people and also for the conduct of public life."

He explained that the conference will study some of the issues that highlight Antiochian unity, given the capabilities of modern communications and rapid travel from one place to another and  the developing state of the Church and demographic data. It will arrive at some practical solutions through projects to be implemented in the dioceses in a spirit of unity as well as at the level of the Patriarchate in a spirit of complementarity  and by researching focal points with clear goals to be submitted to the Holy Synod, so that they might help formulate a road map."

The conference's program includes laying the cornerstone for the Balamand hospital at six o'clock and closes on Saturday with the reading of the closing statement. Liturgy will be celebrated on Sunday morning at ten o'clock for the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul.

From L'Orient-Le Jour in French, here.

Ecumenical "Antiochian Conference" at Balamand: Taking Stock and Manifesting Unity

With the aim of demonstrating the power of Christian unity and confirming the attachment of the Christians of the Arab world to their land, an "Antiochian Conference" was inaugurated yesterday at Balamand University.

The conference, an absolute first in the history of the eastern churches, brings together six churches with Antiochian roots in the person of their patriarchs: the Greek Orthodox Church, at whose initiative it is being held, with Patriarch John X; the Maronite Church, with Patriarch Beshara Rai; the Armenian Catholic Church, with Patriarch Nerses Bedros; the Syriac Catholic Church, with patriarch Ignatius Younan; the Greek Catholic Church, with Patriarch Gregory III; and finally the Syriac Catholic Church, with Patriarch Ignatius Ephrem II.

It is a major event on account of the image that it projects. It certainly gives a role and a greater regional scope for the Greek Orthodox Church and in particular for Patriarch John X, who is taking the initiative for it. Even so, his ecumenical and theological objectives remain limited, according to observers, insofar as he only holds part of the desireable means for unity. It will especially serve to take stock of the Christian presence in the Middle East in light of the often-dramatic events that are unfolding there, not to mention the forced exoduses and migratory flux that are emptying some regions of their Christian populations and the major causes in the Arab world at the root of that hemorrhage.

But no concrete measure is expected apart from a recovered solidarity, affirmed or reaffirmed in the face of the dangers menacing the Christian presence.

In their inaugural speeches, the patriarchs in attendance reaffirmed this solidarity tied to a common Antiochian ecclesial source, as well as the desire for unity and openness toward Islam.

More bold, or perhaps more visionary, than the others, the Syriac Catholic patriarch proposed to his counterparts the unification of calendars-- thus the date of the feast of Easter, emphatically demanded by the Christian people-- as well as intercommunion.

No comments: