Sunday, 3 November 2013

Statement by the Secretariat of Holy Synod of Antioch Balamand 17th October 2013

The Holy Synod of Antioch held its second session from October 15th through 17th, 2013.
His Beatitude Patriarch JOHN X presided over the meeting, with the participation of their
Eminences, the Metropolitans and Fathers of the Holy Synod of Antioch: Spyridon of Zahleh
and its dependencies; George of Jbeil, Batroun and their dependencies; Yuhanna of Lattakia
and its dependencies; Elias of Beirut and its dependencies; Iliya of Hama and its
dependencies; Elias of Tyre, Sidon; and their dependencies, Damaskinos of Sao Paulo and
Brazil, Saba of Hawran and all Jebel al-Arab; George of Homs and its dependencies; Antonio
of Mexico and Venezuela and their dependencies; Sergio of Chile; Silouan of Argentina;
Basilios of Akkar and its dependencies; and Ephrem of Tripoli, al-Koura, and their
dependencies. His Grace Bishop Ephrem (Maalouli), Patriarchal Vicar and Secretary of the
Holy Synod, and Economos Georges Dimas, Record-keeper of the Synod, also participated
in the meeting. Their Eminences Metropolitans: Philip of New York and North America, Paul of Australia and New Zealand and Constantine of Baghdad and Kuwait and their
dependencies gave their regrets for not being able to attend. Metropolitan Boulos (Yazigi)
of Aleppo and Alexandretta and their dependencies was present in the prayers and
invocations of the Synod Fathers, despite his absence caused by his captivity.
After prayer and calling upon the grace of the Holy Spirit, His Beatitude opened the meeting
by hoping that the Lord God may shower His blessings upon all the participants, so that
they may rightly divide the Word of God’s Truth to the believers and to all those who are
thirsting for hope. His Beatitude gave an account concerning the pastoral visits he made to
the Archdioceses of Lattakia, and to the city of Tartous in the Archdiocese of Akkar, and to
the German section of the Archdiocese of Europe. He had the opportunity to meet the
faithful, their pastors, and the various archdiocesan committees. His Beatitude expressed
the joy which he felt upon seeing the believers abiding on the rock of faith and living in the
love of the Church and Her Master. His Beatitude thanked the Archbishops of these
archdioceses for their wise and loving care towards their parishioners. He emphasized the
importance of giving continuous care to our good people, through love, thoughtfulness, and
vision for their growth in Christ, and steadfastness in their Church and land, and their
continuous witness to Jesus Christ wherever they reside. Also, His Beatitude briefed the
members of the Holy Synod about his recent visit to the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan to
participate in the conference on: “The Challenges facing the Arab Christians,” and to meet
His Majesty Abdullah II, the King of Jordan. In his meetings, His Beatitude expressed the
position of the Church of Antioch concerning the events that are taking place in the region,
stressing the need to work for peace, freedom and human dignity of the Arab people, and
indicating how Christians are well rooted in their homelands, their commitment to their
countries’ causes, and how they have interacted with their Muslim brothers throughout
history. Also, His Beatitude briefed the Synod members on his visit to the Vatican, where he
met His Holiness Pope Francis I, and participated in the conference organized by St. Egidio
Community on the theme: "Courage and Hope, Religions and Cultures in Dialogue," where
the position of Antioch regarding the issues raised was clearly presented, particularly the
suffering of the Syrian people and the role of the Christian witness in the Middle East. The
visit was an opportunity to review the prospects for cooperation between the Catholic and
Orthodox Churches, in order to make more effective the witness of Christians in the Middle
East and in the world today, for the dignity and nobility of human beings, and to
consolidate the values of freedom, justice and peace in the world.
The Synod Fathers reviewed as well the reports submitted by the delegations that
participated in the one thousand and twenty fifth anniversary of the Baptism of Russia and
the one thousand and seven hundredth commemoration of the Decree of Milan. The
Fathers congratulated the Russian and Serbian Churches, lifting up the prayers to God to
send them His many graces and embrace their parishioners with His Light, Peace and Love.
The Synod Fathers discussed some issues of concern for the universal Orthodox Church.
They stressed the need for continued coordination between all Orthodox Churches in order
to promote the Orthodox presence in the world and for a living testimony of Christ for
contemporary man. In this regard, the Fathers stressed the need for cooperation between the Orthodox Churches to show the unity of the Church of Christ in a more effective way,
and to facilitate the meeting of the Great and Holy Orthodox Synod.
The Fathers discussed the crisis caused by the election of the Church of Jerusalem an
Archbishop on Qatar. They sadly contemplated the persistence of the Patriarchate of
Jerusalem’s violation, in spite of all the initiatives and mediations conducted by the
Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Government of the Hellenic Republic in order to resolve
this crisis in accordance with the ecclesiastical laws and in a peaceful spirit. The Synod
Fathers reiterated their desire to give priority to the peaceful solution over other solutions.
However, they stressed the need to find a solution to this crisis in no less than two months
from today’s date. They delegated His Beatitude, in the event of lack of response from the
Church of Jerusalem to the rightful demand of the Church of Antioch, to remove the
aforementioned violation on its canonical territory, to take all necessary measures including
severing of communion with the Patriarchate of Jerusalem. The Synod also decided to
suspend the Church of Antioch’s participation in all the Assemblies of Canonical Orthodox
Bishops abroad (in the Diaspora) until the removal of the violation of the Patriarchate of
The Synod Fathers discussed the state of the Archdiocese of Europe which became vacant
with the election of His Beatitude to the See of Antioch. They recognized that this
Archdiocese had a growing number of parishes, a widespread territory, a multiplicity of
languages used within its territory, and the increasing number of parishioners. All these
factors require the reconsideration of its territorial boundaries in order to have an effective
pastoral care. They decided to establish three new Archdioceses and a Patriarchal Vicariate
in Europe as follows: the Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese of France, Western and
Southern Europe; the Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese of Germany and Central Europe;
the Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese of British Isles and Ireland; the Antiochian Orthodox
Vicariate of Sweden and Scandinavian countries. They elected the following Metropolitans:
Ignatius (Al Houshi), Metropolitan of the Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese of France,
Western and Southern Europe; and Isaac (Barakat), Metropolitan of the Antiochian
Orthodox Archdiocese of Germany and Central Europe. They also delegated the Patriarch to
appoint a Patriarchal Vicar over the Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese of British Isles and
Ireland, until a Metropolitan is elected.
The Synod Fathers listened to a report about the St John of Damascus Institute of Theology
presented by Deacon Porphyrios Georgi, the Institute of Theology Dean. Deacon Porphyrios
gave a presentation about the current progress of the Institute, its vision and mission. The
Fathers thanked the Dean for his presentation and blessed his efforts, giving him their
proposals for further growth.
The Synod Fathers looked into the suffering of Syria and its people because of the violence
plaguing the homeland, destroying the country and causing the killing and displacement of
its people. They stressed that the language of violence and murder is a language alien to
the traditions of the Syrian people who aspire to live in freedom and dignity in their own
land, under one state, in which everyone is involved in upholding and in consolidating the values of democracy, freedom, justice and coexistence based on respect for others
regardless of differences, and the need to follow the logic of dialogue and a peaceful
solution to overcome all the crises. The Synod Fathers appealed to their parishioners to
abide in the hope “that does not fail," and by the evangelical values, which calls on them to
renounce violence and respect the image of God in every person, wipe away the tears from
the face of all the sufferers in the earth, and remain in their own lands, and not give it up in
whatever hard circumstances they encounter, because the Lord wants them as witnesses in
their homelands. They implored them not to give away their land to solve the current
material problems, because this land is mixed with the soil of saints. This land will remain
throughout time their only refuge. They encouraged them to intensify their prayers for
peace in Syria and in the whole world, and the collaboration among them to mitigate the
impact of the crisis, especially on the neediest among them.
In this area, the Synod Fathers send their gratitude to the churches and organizations,
associations and individuals for their cooperation with the Patriarchate for the relief of the
needy brothers. Also the Fathers thanked their parishioners who responded to the call of
the Patriarchate and gave generously to support the relief work in the Patriarchate, through
their offerings on the occasion of the Day of Solidarity of Antioch in order to support the
relief work set by the Holy Synod on September 15, 2013. The Fathers remembered their
parishioners in the city of Aleppo, which misses its Metropolitans, and asked them to
remain firm in hope, because the ashes of various trials will not conceal the face of the ever
Beloved One. The Fathers addressed the international community, hoping that it would
turn to the pain of the Syrian people and their agonies, and halt the fuelling of war, and
contribute to the consolidation of the values of peace, justice, and democracy, and invest in
rebuilding what has been destroyed and develop the potential of the Syrian people, rather
than invest in iron and fire. The Synod Fathers urged the international organizations and
non-governmental organizations, and all bodies concerned about the displaced, to secure
the essential necessities of life for those on the doors of winter, so that they might spend
their time and live in dignity while awaiting upon their return to their towns and villages.
The Synod Fathers reiterated their condemnation of the terrorist operations that affect
peaceful citizens and the destruction which does not exclude places of worship, in addition
to historical and cultural monuments witnessing to the nobility of the Syrian civilization.
They sadly pointed out the vagueness surrounding the issue of the kidnapped bishops, Paul
Yazigi and John Ibrahim. They called on the Arab and international communities to assume
their responsibilities in this regard to establish the truth and to uncover the fate of both
bishops and all kidnapped people and ensure their safe return to their families and loved
ones. The Synod Fathers prayed for the divine mercy on the souls of the innocent martyrs
who died during this devastating war, especially the priests who died while soothing the
wounds of their parishioners.
The Synod Fathers turned to Lebanon, and its citizens who are suffering from a severe
economic crisis and a deep concern over their fate as a result of the persistent state of the
disabling of Lebanese governmental institutions. They appealed to all parties and officials to
carry out their responsibilities in order to save Lebanon and the advance of its citizens. They
encouraged them to maintain the values of democracy, freedom, and the devolution of
power that has long characterized Lebanon, and called them to fortify Lebanon and spare it the risks encompassing it from every direction by getting over their narrow interests and
overcoming their current differences and returning to dialogue in a spirit of openness and
reconciliation, and national and historic responsibility, through forming a national unity
government that is able to ward off risks and maintain stability in order to avoid falling into
the vacuum and preserve civil peace. The Synod Fathers discussed the state of national
activities undertaken by their parishioners in Lebanon, stressing respect for their political
diversity and reminding at the same time that the Church, although not dictating to her
parishioners uniform political positions, yet nonetheless committed through the Holy Synod
and its head, the Patriarch, the official authority that expresses the position of the
Orthodox Church in all that clarifies, by the light of the Gospel, the way forward for Her
parishioners in their commitment to the affairs of their homelands.
Suffering Iraq did not go unnoticed in the concerns of the Holy Synod Fathers, as well as
wounded Palestine. We should pray that the Lord God confirm Iraq and Palestine and all
the Arab countries on the road to stability and peace. They stressed the need to find a just
and comprehensive solution to the legitimate Palestinian issue. The Synod Fathers asked
their parishioners to face the challenges posed by their societies and our contemporary
age, in order to test it against the light of the values of the Gospel. They also asked them to
work for political, social and economic peace, wherever they are, and to renounce
sectarianism and abhorrent racism in all its forms, and to coexist in a sincere way with their
co-citizens, and to work for human dignity and freedom, and to stop the bloodshed and
commitment to the affairs of the suffering on earth with whom Christ united Himself.
The Synod Fathers concluded their session by reminding their parishioners of the words of
St. Paul to the Corinthians: "Put things in order, listen to my appeal, agree with one another,
live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you” (2 Corinthians 13:11).