Sunday, December 9, 2018

Patriarch Ignatius IV on Antiochian Identity

Arabic original here, with thanks to Jad Ganem.

Antiochian Identity

In his response to those who think that "If we speak as Orthodox, then we must be like each other," Patriarch Ignatius IV of thrice-blessed memory rejects the opinion that all the world's Orthodox must say the same thing about everything and stresses that Orthodoxy as a faith is one, but the Orthodox are not one. He sharply criticizes those who "believe that if you are different from them, you are not Orthodox enough," regarding this as "evidence that they themselves are not Orthodox enough. People are different and each expresses the one faith in a different way." He pauses on Antiochian identity and opines,

"From the age of the Apostles, Antioch was a bastion of Christians' encounter with peoples of different origins. Our church grew using the Greek language for a long time in an Aramaic and Syriac, then Arabic cultural environment. This multicultural context, alongside the fact that we have never been the church of a state or an empire, helped to form our identity, which is characterized by our deep conviction that the Gospel stands above every racial barrier and our unshaking attachment to Orthodoxy which, with its deep respect for the special gifts of every culture, should not discriminate between Greek, Russian and Arab, but rather just the opposite: it should believe that "Christ is all in all" (Colossians 3:11). Our identity is a loving openness toward the other churches and denominations, in constantly-renewed hope that we are working as servants of reconciliation. Due to historical contingencies, we have become 'the Church of the Arabs'. We have learned to always live face-to-face with believers of other religions and especially with Muslims. Although we have a long list of martyrs, we have chosen by our own free and resolute will to coexist and engage in profound dialogue without hatred, without compromises and without fear. On numerous occasions, when we were confronted with the spirituality of the Crusades and holy war, we chose firmly and without hesitation to commit to the spirit of the Cross. Our mission today is to continue to bear witness to all who speak Arabic in the Antiochian space and the western world, just as our vocation is to perfect this witness through full communion with the other concerned Orthodox Churches and cooperation with all."

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