Sunday, June 18, 2017

The Meeting of the Holy Synod of Antioch, June 9, 2017

This English translation is unofficial. Official Arabic and Spanish versions are on the Patriarchate's Facebook page.

Communiqué from the Holy Synod of Antioch
Balamand, June 9, 2017

The Holy Synod of Antioch met under the presidency of His Beatitude Patriarch John X Yazigi in its seventh regular session from June 6 to 9 at Balamand with the attendance of the following metropolitans:

Elias (Beirut), Elias (Sidon), Damaskinos (Sao Paulo and all Brazil), Saba (Hawran and Jabal al-Arab), Paul (Australia and New Zealand), George (Homs), Siluan (Buenos Aires and all Argentina), Basil (Akkar), Ephrem (Tripoli and al-Koura), Ignatius (France and Western and Southern Europe), Isaac (Germany and Central Europe), Joseph (New York and all North America), Ghattas (Baghdad and Kuwait), Silouan (the British Isles and Ireland), Antonius (Zahleh and Baalbek).

Ephrem Maalouli, secretary of the Holy Synod, and Economos George Dimas, clerk of the Holy Synod also attended.

Regretting their absences were Metropolitans John (Lattakia), Antonio (Mexico, Venezuela, Central America and the Caribbean), Sergio (Santiago and all Chile), and Georges (Mount Lebanon). Metropolitan Paul (Aleppo and Alexandretta), absent due to his captivity, was present in the prayers and supplications of the fathers of the synod.

The fathers of the synod prayed for the repose of the soul of Metropolitan Elia Saliba, of thrice blessed memory, who departed on April 1, 2017, asking God to number his soul with the spirits of the righteous and to accept his long service for the Church of Christ. They then examined the situation in the vacant Archdiocese of Hama on the basis of a report prepared by Patriarchal Vicar Nicholas Baalbeki. The fathers of the synod thanked the patriarchal vicar and took note of the names proposed by the archdiocesan conference of clergy and laity that was held in Hama on May 27, 2017. It included the following names: Bishop Nicholas Baalbeki, Bishop Athanasius Fahd, Bishop Elia Tohme, Bishop Ephrem Maalouli, Bishop Constantine Kayyal, and Archimandrite Mousa al-Khassi, which appear on the list of candidates for the episcopate agreed upon by the Holy Synod. After that, the synod nominated three clergymen from the aforementioned list of candidates and the metropolitans went to the patriarchal residence and elected Bishop Nicholas Baalbeki as metropolitan of Hama and its dependencies.

The fathers of the synod welcomed several of their children who hold public office and listened to four presentations offered by the Deputy Prime Minister Ghassan Hasbani, the former ministers Tarek Mitri and Nicholas Nahas, member of parliament Ghassan Mukhaybar, and a number of specialists who informed them about the details of ongoing events, and the political, economic and social challenges facing the Middle East and its Christians in particular.

They weighed the ideas and proposals in these presentations that aim to strengthen the Orthodox presence and make an active Orthodox witness. They stressed the importance of these meetings and their role in determining a united Antiochian approach to the issues and challenges at hand.

The fathers of the synod examined the situation of the dioceses in the homeland and the diaspora, reviewing the achievements of the past year and the challenges facing these dioceses on various pastoral, spiritual, developmental and social levels. They expressed their joy at their children's active participation in the Church, their commitment to her affairs, and their loyalty to the values of the Gospel. They invited them to deepen their commitment and to translate their faith into action in the various sectors of life where they are called to witness. The fathers particularly valued the active commitment of the dioceses of the diaspora on three continents-- Europe, America and Australia-- to their brothers who have been displaced and their embracing them in their parishes. They thanked them for their love and solidarity with their brothers in the homeland and their support for the relief work that the Patriarchate is undertaking.

The fathers examined the state of spiritual courts in Syria and Lebanon and decided to continue the dialogue about this in order to put forward a vision of how to develop spiritual courts on the basis of accumulated experience so that these courts will become more effective and transparent.

The fathers of the synod adopted the special report about developments in the Orthodox world during the past year since the "Council of Crete" and about the work of the episcopal assemblies in the diaspora which takes into account the role of Antioch at the level of the witness of the universal Orthodox Church in recent years.

The fathers also reviewed a number of reports about ecumenical activity, the Orthodox-Catholic dialogue, and the work of the Middle Eastern Council of Churches. They reiterated the importance of dialogue with the Christian world and Antioch's open role in this dialogue, with the goal of overcoming the difficulties facing a united Christian witness in today's world which is undergoing rapid and radical changes that require a shared Christian position stemming from the Gospel and the common tradition that brings Christians together.

The fathers did not cease contemplating the difficulties suffered by their children as a result of the wars and economic crises occurring in the countries in which they live. They reviewed in particular the work of the Patriarchate's Department of Development and Assistance which is active throughout Syria as the arm of the Patriarchate in the service of love. They thanked those working in this department, those supervising it and its donors. In light of the worsening economic and living situation, the fathers appealed to all to support this work of solidarity and to support this vital program which shines a candle in the suffocating darkness of this crisis in which a large number of our children are under pressure in various aspects of their lives including housing, healthcare, food, education and others. The fathers examined the state of theological education in the See of Antioch and the role played by the Saint John of Damascus Institute of Theology in this field. They stressed the importance f this institute as a nursery for preparing pastors and as an institute that serves Antiochian unity and prepares priests in the Antiochian Church.

In the context of the current session of the Holy Synod, the fathers of the synod sent His Eminence Metropolitan Ephrem Kyriakos (Tripoli) and His Eminence Antonius al-Soury (Zahleh) to His Eminence Metropolitan Georges Khodr (Jubayl and Batroun) to convey the love and prayers of the patriarch and the fathers of the synod for His Eminence and to study the situation of the Archdiocese of Jubayl and Batroun and and their dependencies the possibility of taking specific decisions and actions in their regard.

The fathers were informed about the visit that His Beatitude the Patriarch made to the Archdiocese of Aleppo after the end of the battle to liberate the city. They reiterated their denunciation of the destructive war in which the people of Syria are suffering and which has continued to cause enormous human and material losses and has led to the fragmentation of Syrian society and thousands of dead, wounded and disappeared, just as it has sent forth waves of refugees the like of which the world has never seen. The fathers warned about the blockade and economic sanctions imposed on the Syrian people which have harmed everyone but have most affected the working classes and the poor, who have grown poorer and more miserable and are now unable to secure their livelihood and the most basic requirements of housing, healthcare and education. In this regard, the fathers urge the international community to lift the sanctions imposed on the Syrian people and to work to put a stop to the terrorism, violence, forced expulsion and fragmentation, to work earnestly to establish a ceasefire and to restore civil peace. The Syrian people were not born to be firewood in the struggles of the powers of this world, nor for killing, displacement and emigration, but rather to live in freedom and dignity and to bear witness to the values of tolerance and coexistence as they have done over the course of their history.

The fathers of the synod urged the good people of this world to work to uncover the fate of those who are missing and have been kidnapped and to free them, among them the bishops of Aleppo Paul (Yazigi) and Yuhanna (Ibrahim) whose abduction has become a bewildering mystery shrouded in systematic international silence but whose presence in their dioceses, their churches, and the living conscience of the world remains stronger and more powerful than their absence.

The fathers of the synod welcomed Lebanon's return to its active position in the world after the election of the President of the Republic, the formation of a government and the return of legislative activity in parliament. They stressed the importance of respecting the national covenant and the constitution in adopting an appropriate law for elections that will guarantee sound representation for all sectors and elements of Lebanese society and will strengthen their coexistence and partnership in the nation, transcending the boundaries of the religious communities.

The fathers blessed all the steps intended to fight corruption and put and end to the waste of public money as an essential starting point for lifting oppression from citizens and for every reform in the Lebanese state which has continued to suffer the consequences of rampant corruption. They renewed their call to activate the work of the organs of monitoring, accountability and the judiciary and to free them from the power of the influential and to restore Lebanese citizens' trust in the institutions of the state.

The fathers look forward to a Lebanese system based on citizenship and actual and perfect equality between all elements of the Lebanese people. However, in light of the current system, they express their rejection of the deprivation and marginalization of their children in the administrations of the state and public service. They express their dissatisfaction with the excessive exclusion of Orthodox from positions contrary to established custom.

The fathers of the synod follow with great unease the wars taking place in Iraq, Yemen and other Arab countries, where the people of these countries live in a state of fear and anxiety about their fate, as well as poverty and need. They asked God to have mercy on the peoples of the Arab region and all the peoples of the world and to cause them to enjoy security, people, tranquility and a life of dignity. The fathers also condemned the crimes to which Christians have recently been subjected in Egypt and all the efforts to terrorize them, expel them, and tear them from their land. They appreciated the positions taken by various strata of Egyptian society condemning these barbaric attacks. The fathers contemplated the continued suffering of the Palestinian people and condemned Israeli authorities' efforts to maintain Israelis' domination over the Palestinian people. They welcomed the international positions taken condemning these policies and practices as apartheid and racist. The fathers likewise condemned all forms of terrorism, extremism, and suicidal terrorist operations that have affected many parts of the world and they called on concerted international effort to combat terrorism.

The fathers listened to a study about sainthood and saints in today's world and they mentioned, with the commemoration of All Saints' Day close in their minds, they noted the importance of having a sense of the meaning of sainthood in our own days. They also reviewed some of Antioch's experience in honoring the saints. The fathers encouraged their children to follow the paths of holiness in every aspect of their life. They likewise noted the importance of those Antiochian saints who have gone before in the past and present, emphasizing the importance of the Christian vocation, "as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, 'Be holy, for I am holy'" (1 Peter 1:15-15).

The fathers concluded by sending the apostolic blessing to all their Antiochian children scattered in every part of the inhabited world.

1 comment:

Elias Nasser said...

Thank you Dr Noble for the translation of these important communiques for the benefit of the English speaking Antiochian Orthodox faithful.