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An Open Letter to President Obama Regarding the Situation in Syria

His Eminence Metropolitan Philip writes:

September 6, 2013

President Barack Obama, The White House, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, DC

Dear Mr. President:

We write to you with a heavy heart having heard the recent news of the attack on the ancient Christian city of Maaloula, Syria by the rebel forces.  This city houses one of the oldest and most important monasteries, the Monastery of St. Thekla, which is considered a holy place by both Christians and Muslims.

This attack by the rebel forces, who are supported by the U.S. government,  is an unspeakable act of terror, and speaks volumes to the viciousness of those rebel forces who seek to overthrow the Syrian government.  Apparently there is nothing that is sacred to these people, and it is very disturbing that these same people are being supported by our government.

Mr. President, we appeal to your humanity, and compassion for people to halt consideration of any U.S military action against the Syrian government.  This would be a deadly and costly action, and nothing can be gained by it.  If indeed chemical weapons have been used (and this is still to be determined by the UN inspectors who recently returned from Syria), there is no compelling evidence which points to the use of these weapons by the Syrian government.  On the contrary, there is some compelling evidence that the rebel forces had both the means and the will to launch such a heinous attack against innocent people, Christians and Muslims alike, who are all the children of God.

May our Lord and God guide you to find a peaceful solution which relies on negotiation and not bombs.

Sincerely

+Metropolitan PHILIP Saliba

Metropolitan Philip Urges Faithful to Contact Congress on Syria Vote

His Eminence Metropolitan Philip writes:

Beloved Hierarchs, Clergy and Faithful of our God-Protected Archdiocese:

Greetings to you and your families as we begin a new ecclesiastical year. I pray you had a pleasant summer. I write to you today as our president and United States Congress contemplate military action against Syria. As those of us with deep roots in that land already know, more bombs and destabilization of the country will only lead to further bloodshed and devastation. In my opinion, based on a lifetime of knowledge in that area of the world, it serves neither the interest of the United States, nor the Syrian people (or the people of the Middle East at large for that matter) to bomb and further destabilize the country. Extremists groups such as Al-Kaeda are waiting in the wings to prey on any weakness in the Syrian government and infrastructure. The results of such a bombing would be yet another step in the extermination of our Christian presence in the Middle East, a presence that dates to the dawn of Christianity. Our Church has already suffered greatly and has new martyrs waiting to be glorified –we do not need any more!

Therefore, I urge all of you during the next few days to contact your respective senators and congress people to urge them to vote NO to any unilateral military action by the United States. Time is of the essence so please distribute this email to everyone you know as quickly as possible and share this message on your Facebook and other mass media sites.

Antiochian Day of Solidarity Scheduled for September 15, 2013

Pastoral Letter

On the Occasion of the Antiochian Day of Solidarity Scheduled for September 15, 2013

In Support of Humanitarian and Relief Work

By the mercy of God John X Patriarch of Antioch and All the East

Giving is the Criterion of our Belonging to the Reign of God “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me” (Matt. 25: 40)

The Holy Antiochian Synod has set the 15th of September of this year as a day of solidarity for all local and international parishes in order to support the humanitarian and relief work, which the Patriarchate of Antioch and the All the East has undertaken in the collaboration of national, governmental, ecclesiastic, and civil entities. The amount of pain and suffering endured by our sons and brothers in Syria until today is beyond any description. Moreover, the available resources are limited and can only cover a small part of the basic and essential needs of life, such as food, water, clothing, medicine, medical treatment, and shelter.

Resolution Objecting to the Uncanonical Interference of the Patriarchate Of Jerusalem in the Canonical Jurisdiction Of Antioch

WHEREAS, the hierarchs, clergy and faithful of this God-protected Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese of North America have met as the General Assembly at the 51st Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocesan Convention at Houston, Texas;

AND WHEREAS, on May 4, 2013, the Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem, without consultation, without notice and without any approval of any kind, unilaterally usurped the historical, canonical and legitimate jurisdiction of the Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch, when his Beatitude THEOPHILOS, III, Patriarch of Jerusalem and of All Palestine, consecrated the Archimandrite, Father Makarios, to the rank of Archbishop to serve the Holy Church in Qatar;

AND WHEREAS, the Holy See of Antioch, since the early Christian Period, has always had a long-standing presence in the region of Arabia, including Qatar and all Arabia and what is now known as the Gulf of Arabia;

AND WHEREAS, according to the Eighth Session of the Holy Ecumenical Synod held in Chalcedon in the year A.D. 451, the proper jurisdiction of the Holy See of Antioch was established and it was declared that "the See of the Great City of Antioch, that of St. Peter, should have the two Phoenicias and Arabia, while the See of Jerusalem should have the three Palestines" and that this decision was in fact bi-laterally agreed to by both Patriarchs, Juvenal of Jerusalem and Maximos of Antioch, and it was further declared that this jurisdictional settlement was to remain in place "for all time to come";

AND WHEREAS, in continuation of the long-standing Antiochian presence in Mesopotamia and Arabia, in 1969, the Holy Synod of Antioch, elected and installed Archbishop CONSTANTINE (Papastephanou) as Metropolitan of Baghdad, Kuwait and its Dependencies, who has since been exerting all efforts to organize and minister his archdiocese and since his installation as Metropolitan has established 11 parishes throughout his jurisdiction;

Resolution Honoring Metropolitan Philip (Saliba) For His 65 Years of Service in the Ministry

WHEREAS, the hierarchs, clergy and faithful of this God-protected Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese of North America have met as the General Assembly at the 51st Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocesan Convention here in Houston, Texas;

AND WHEREAS, during the past several days we have all joined together in true Christian fellowship, with love, respect and unity and in so doing we have reflected on the past, on the present and on the future of our Archdiocese;

AND WHEREAS, we acknowledge that our beloved Father in Christ, his Eminence, Metropolitan PHILIP, who served this Archdiocese as a Deacon in Detroit, Michigan; who served as a Priest in Cleveland, Ohio, and who has been serving as our beloved Metropolitan of all North America, has committed his whole life to the Ministry for the past 65 years;

AND WHEREAS, it is self-evident, that over the past 47 of his 65 years of service, and as Metropolitan of all North America, the fruits of his labor of love, have indeed proven to be fruitful and bountiful in so many respects;

AND WHEREAS, it is self-evident, that as a result of his love, wisdom, vision and life long commitment to this Archdiocese, we have witnessed such achievements and milestones that were once thought of as dreams: to name a few, The Order of Saint Ignatius, the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Women, The Fellowship of Saint John the Divine, The Society of Orthodox Youth and every department, commission and committee that forms a part of this Archdiocese;

Resolution Welcoming Metropolitan Silouan (Muci)

WHEREAS, the hierarchs, clergy and faithful of this God-protected, Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese of North America have met as the General Assembly at the 51st Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocesan Convention and are honored to have with us our beloved Antiochian Metropolitan SILOUAN (Muci) of Argentina;

AND WHEREAS, the General Assembly wished to express its love and affection for its sister and brother Antiochian Orthodox Christians in Argentina and its willingness to work together with them to the glory of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ;

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the General Assembly of this 51st Archdiocese Convention, welcomes with warm Christian love the beloved Metropolitan SILOUAN (Muci) of Argentina. May God grant you many years!

Resolution Welcoming Metropolitan Paul (Saliba)

WHEREAS, the hierarchs, clergy and faithful of this God-protected, Self-Ruled Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese of North America have met as the General Assembly at the 51st Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocesan Convention and are honored to have with us our beloved Antiochian Metropolitan PAUL (Saliba) of Australia, New Zealand and the Philippines, who served faithfully as a priest in this Archdiocese;

AND WHEREAS, the General Assembly wished to express again its love and affection for its sister and brother Antiochian Orthodox Christians in Australia, New Zealand and the Philippines and its willingness to work together with them to the glory of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ;

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the General Assembly of this 51st Archiocesan Convention, welcomes with warm Christian love the beloved Metropolitan PAUL (Saliba) of Australia, New Zealand and the Philippines. May God grant you many years!

Resolution Welcoming Bishop Luka (Khoury)

WHEREAS, the hierarchs, clergy and faithful of this God-protected, Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese of North America have met as the General Assembly at the 51st Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocesan Convention and are honored to have with us our beloved Antiochian Bishop LUKA of the Patriarchate of Antioch;

AND WHEREAS, the General Assembly wished to express its love and affection for its sister and brother Antiochian Orthodox Christians in Syria and its willingness to work together with them to the glory of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ;

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the General Assembly of this 51st Archdiocese Convention, welcomes with warm Christian love the beloved Bishop LUKA (Khoury) of the Patriarchate of Syria. May God grant you many years!

Resolution Welcoming Myriam Shwayri and Commending the Al-Kafaat Rehabilitation and Skill Center

WHEREAS, the hierarchs, clergy and faithful of this God-protected Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese of North America have met as the General Assembly at the 51st Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocesan Convention and are honored to have with us Myriam Shwayri, Director of Public Relations for the Al-Kafaat Rehabilitation & Skill Center;

AND WHEREAS, the Al-Kafaat Rehabilitation & Skill Center is unique in the work it has and continues to perform to assist and aid disabled children without discrimination and has assisted and continues to assist and serve thousands of children with disabilities, regardless of religious or political affiliation, to the glory of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, Who has said "Inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me" (Matt 25:40);

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the General Assembly of this 51st Archdiocesan Convention, welcomes with warm Christian love Myriam Shwayri and commends the Al-Kafaat Rehabilitation & Skill Center for the work it has and continues to do for the glory of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. May Almighty God grant you many years!

Resolution of Appreciation for the Host Parish

WHEREAS, St. George Antiochian Orthodox Church of Houston, Texas, has graciously hosted the 51st Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocesan Convention;

AND WHEREAS, the Pastor, Rev. Fr. James Shadid, the Assistant Pastors, Rev. Fr. Symeon Kees and Rev. Fr. Christopher Eid, Rev. Deacon Joseph Carter, the Convention Chairpersons Michael Araj and Robert Macey, the entire Convention Committee, the Parish Council and all the faithful have not spared any effort to assure the success of this Convention and to provide for the utmost enjoyment and spirituality of the delegates and guests;

NOW THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that this 51st Archdiocesan Convention, duly assembled at Houston, Texas, from July 21-28, 2013, extends to them by acclamation its heartfelt thanks and appreciation for an outstanding and extraordinary convention.

Photo Gallery Tells Houston Convention Story

A photo gallery of the 51st Antiochian Archdiocese Convention, hosted by Fr. James Shadid and the parish of St. George Orthodox Christian Church in Houston, TX, is available on Antiochian.org. In addition to the biannual General Assembly meetings, liturgical celebrations, exhibits, youth activities, and department meetings were held at Houston's largest hotel, the Americas Hilton.

Special events emphasized the uniquely Southern character of this year's gathering. Families enjoyed a Country Western Dinner and Dance on Thursday evening. On Friday night convention goers attended the Mardi Gras Masquerade Dinner/Dance and the Grand Banquet and Hafli on Saturday night. In the week's culmination, His Eminence Metropolitan Philip presided over the Hierarchical Divine Liturgy on Sunday, with all eight Auxiliary Bishops of the Antiochian Archdiocese assisting.

See the photos here. Our thanks to the dedicated Houston Convention organizers for providing this photography.

Resolution to Oppose the Recent United States Supreme Court Decision That Held the "Defense of Marriage Act" Unconstitutional

WHEREAS, on June 26, 2013 the United States Supreme Court, in the case entitled “United States v. Windsor”, following much controversy, ruled that the law known as the “Defense of Marriage Act”, (“DOMA”) was unconstitutional.  The Supreme Court case of Windsor invalidated Section 3 of the “Defense of Marriage Act”, which defines marriage in all federal statutes as the union of one man and one woman.  By invalidating Section 3, of “DOMA” the Court in Windsor now permits all federal agencies to redefine marriage to include unions of two people of the same sex. 

WHEREAS, the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America, under the direct leadership of his Eminence, Metropolitan PHILIP (Saliba), and the Archdiocesan Synod, continues to shepherd its faithful members throughout all of North America, and as such, are deeply concerned about the recent developments regarding “same sex marriage”.

WHEREAS, the Holy Orthodox Church recognizing marriage to be a Sacramental Union teaches that marriage and sexuality, which are firmly grounded in Holy Scripture; Two thousand years of church tradition; and canon law, holds that marriage consists in the conjugal union of a man and a woman and that authentic marriage is blessed by Almighty God as a Holy Sacrament of the Church.

WHEREAS, The Holy Scripture attests that God created man and woman in His own image and likeness (Genesis 1:27-31), that those called to do so might enjoy a conjugal union that ideally leads to procreation.  While not every marriage is blessed with the birth of children, every such union exists to create of a man and a woman a new reality of “one flesh” This can only be achieved in a relationship between individuals of opposite gender.  “God made them male and female...So they are no longer two but one flesh” ( Mark 10:6-8).

Resolution Appealing to the United States Government to Broker Lasting Peace Based Upon Fairness in Syria

WHEREAS, the Country of Syria has been victimized by a ravaging War over the past  two and a half years;

AND WHEREAS on April 22, 2013 two Orthodox Archbishops were abducted in the suburbs of Aleppo and their whereabouts continues to remain a mystery not having received any information from their abductors;

AND WHEREAS, in the recent past, members of the clergy have been murdered and houses of worship decimated and destroyed by armed militants opposing the government of Syria;

AND WHEREAS, many citizens of Syria have demanded civil liberties, democratic values and economic stability;

AND WHEREAS, as a result of this illegitimate war countless lives have been lost and more than two million Syrian citizens have been forced to flee their homes and reduced to the status of refugees and are now seeking refuge in Lebanon, Jordan and other parts of the world; there has been billions of dollars in property damage and the country of Syria, a cradle of the beginning of civilization, now lies in ruins;

AND WHEREAS, foreign countries have been meddling in the affairs of Syria and thousands of foreign militants have come to Syria bringing pillage, death and destruction;

Houston Convention Continues with General Assembly

General Assembly, 2013General Assembly, 2013On Thursday, July 25, the General Assembly was convened by His Eminence Metropolitan Philip at the 51st Antiochian Archdiocese Convention being hosted by St. George Church in Houston, Texas. The Assembly was graced by the welcome presence of His Eminence Metropolitan Paul of Australia, and His Eminence Metropolitan Silouan of Argentina. The meeting opened at 10:30, and it was announced that a quorum of delegates was present. Much productive business was accomplished, and many reports and videos were presented.

(See below for updates from the conclusion of the Assembly.)

Information on Financial Transactions to Aid Syrians

The Archdiocese has received the following authoritative information:

"Executive Order 13528, signed by President Barack Obama on 17 August 2011, includes an exemption under General License No. 6 authorizing U.S. registered financial institutions the ability to transfer funds to individuals in Syria. Attached is a copy of General License No. 6 signed by the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC). As parishioners encounter challenges in transferring funds, they may provide this documentation to their financial institution or call OFAC's hotline (202) 622-2480. It is important to have all relevant information on the intended transaction, including the names of the financial institutions in the U.S. and Syria."

Faith and Internet Safety Resource Launches

The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese reports:

The Communications Department of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America (GOA) have launched www.faithandsafety.org, a resource for adults to help children safely navigate online. The website and complementary social media channels (Twitter and Facebook) address safe use of the Internet, mobile devices and other technology, emphasizing the positive use of technology to support children's faith.

Clone of Virtual Tour: St. Nicholas Cathedral

The Brooklyn Cathedral on a beautiful spring dayThe Brooklyn Cathedral on a beautiful spring daySt. Nicholas Antiochian Orthodox Cathedral in Brooklyn, New York, is the mother cathedral and seat of His Eminence Metropolitan Philip. It is also the first community established by St. Raphael of Brooklyn.

The history of the Archdiocese and of St. Nicholas Cathedral of Brooklyn are one and the same. St. Nicholas Cathedral is the oldest continuous church in the Archdiocese and its only Mother Cathedral. Its long and illustrious history unfolded through the love, devotion and sacrifices of a venerable hierarchy, greatly respected priests and deacons, and holy people of God who have served and continue to serve.

The present Dean of the Cathedral is the Very Rev. Fr. Thomas P. Zain, who also serves as Vicar-General of the Archdiocese. Recently, Fr. Thomas oversaw the creation of this virtual tour, with the intent of sharing the beauties of the historic "Mother Cathedral" with the faithful.

Address of His Beatitude John X, Patriarch of Antioch and all the East, at the Phanar

Address of His Beatitude John X, Patriarch of Antioch and all the East at the Phanar, Constantinople, Sunday, June 2, 2013

Your All Holiness and Beatitude, Patriarch of Constantinople - the New Rome, and Ecumenical Patriarch, Most Beloved Brother in Christ our God and our Concelebrant, Kyrios Kyrios Bartholomew.

We embrace you with joy and address your All Holiness with brotherly love, together with the Metropolitans, Bishops and the respectful clergy and the people.

Christ is risen!

I come to you today from Antioch where the followers of our Lord were first called Christians; from Antioch which gathered under her wings men whose faith and stature were acknowledged by all Christians; from Antioch in which the chiefs of the apostles, Peter and Paul, preached, together with St. Ignatius of Antioch, the martyr who enriched the universal Church with his theology rooted in the Gospel of St. John; from Antioch where St. John Chrysostom started his mission and carried a spiritual heritage to Constantinople where some of his relics were brought back to this Church after they were taken away by the Franks; from Antioch in which flourished St. Ephrem and St. Isaac the Syrian who Christianised Syrian thought and left to the world the best of what could be written in spirituality and asceticism.

Greek Orthodox Archdiocese Calls for Protection of Ecumenical Patriarch

Archbishop Demetrios of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America has issued the following release:

NEW YORK – In response to the reports in Turkish and world media about an assassination plot against His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, Archbishop Demetrios of America today wrote to President Obama urging him to exercise his good offices to ensure the safety of His All Holiness. 

Noting the continuing crisis in Aleppo, Syria, where the Greek Orthodox and Syriac Orthodox Hierarchs remain missing, kidnapped by terrorists, the Archbishop asked the President to protect His All Holiness, as the 1,700 year presence of the Ecumenical Patriarch in Constantinople (modern-day Istanbul) is the highest Christian presence of a Christian leader in a Muslim country.

US Congress Prepares Letter to Prioritize Release of Abducted Archbishops

Charles Ajalat writes on May 13:

The following needs just a minute or two of your time to help obtain the release of the two bishops who were kidnapped three weeks ago in Syria while on a humanitarian mission. One of the bishops is Metropolitan Paul (Yazigi), brother of our Antiochian Patriarch, John X. The other is the Syriac Archbishop Youhanna (Ibrahim). Six prominent members of Congress are already spearheading this effort, and yesterday sent a Dear Colleague letter to their remaining 429 colleagues to join as co-signers of the letter they are sending to the Secretary of State later this week (with a copy to Ambassador Ford), asking the Representatives to commit to their signing by this Friday noon. I have been working with the Congressional Representatives and they have asked me to contact you for needed help.

Support for Abducted Syrian Hierarchs

Republished May 10: The Archdiocese encourages all of her members to show their continuing support for kidnapped archbishops Paul and John of Aleppo, first and foremost through heartfelt prayer. We also encourage people to sign and promote the online petition available here at the website of the White House, calling for United States government action on behalf of the abducted metropolitans. Please use the petition at this link.

Support and attention for Archbishop Paul and Archbishop John continues to grow. The Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of North and Central America has published their joint letter to US Secretary of State John Kerry here. The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese has published Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew's call for the release of the archbishops. The Russian Orthodox Church has published several statements, including the patriarchal message from Patriarch Kirill to Patriarch John X available here, along with the list of documents available below. Pope Francis of the Roman Catholic Church prayed for the release of the metropolitans, as announced here. The Archdiocese is grateful for these and all other ongoing efforts for the sake of Archbishop Paul and Archbishop John, and all our brothers and sisters suffering in the region.

Paschal Letter of His Beatitude John X, Patriarch of Antioch and All the East

His Beatitude Patriarch John X, Pascha 2013His Beatitude Patriarch John X, Pascha 2013The Patriarchate of Antioch has released the following Paschal Letter in a range of languages. Please see the attached PDF files at the end of the letter for the greeting in other languages. Christ is risen!

Paschal Letter 2013 

With the Mercy of God John Xth Patriarch of Antioch and all the East

To all our beloved in the Lord the children of the Antiochian See, clergy and laypersons,

On the great day of Resurrection, on which Christ rose and raised us with Him, it pleases me to remember with you the meanings of Resurrection and to explain some of its aspects.

The resurrection of the Lord is the resurrection of each one of us. In the resurrection the power of the devil, our enemy, was brought to naught. Although death terrifies human beings, yet the Lord Jesus has defeated it with his life-giving resurrection. He descended in His death to the abode of death, that is, to Hades, and exploded it from within, abolishing its effects. It is true that death is still there, however it has become a mere passage to true life, a complete liberation from temporal things and a way to eternity. Resurrection gave us grace instead of sin, immortality instead of corruption, life instead of death. The rule of the evil one is gone and the kingdom of God has appeared. Darkness gives way to light.

President Obama Releases Statement Observing Pascha

The White House has released the following statement:

Statement by the President on the Occasion of Orthodox Easter 

This weekend, Michelle and I extend our best wishes to members of the Orthodox Christian community here in America and around the world as they observe Holy Friday and the Feast of the Resurrection. 

For millions of Orthodox Christians, this is a joyful time. But it’s also a reminder of the sacrifice Christ made so that we might have eternal life. His decision to choose love in the face of hate; hope in the face of despair is an example we should always strive to follow. But it’s especially important to remember this year, as members of the Orthodox community have been confronted with persecution and violence, particularly in the Middle East and North Africa. For centuries, the region and the world has been enriched by the contributions of Orthodox communities in countries like Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq. As a nation, we reaffirm our commitment to protecting universal human rights including the freedom of religion. And in this season of hope and restoration, we celebrate the transformational power of sacrificial love.

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