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Stories on the Church of Antioch and the Middle East

The Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America is an archdiocese of the Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East. It traces its roots to first century Antioch (modern-day Antakya, Turkey), the city in which the disciples of Jesus Christ were first called Christians (Acts 11:26). The Patriarchate is led by His Beatitude John X from Damascus, Syria. In addition to its continuing presence in Syria and Lebanon, the Antiochian Patriarchate has archdioceses in Europe; Asia; North, Central and South America; and Australia and New Zealand.

The Church of Antioch was established by the Apostles Paul and Barnabas in 42 A.D., with St. Peter serving for the next eight years as its first prelate. The Church of Antioch is one of the five ancient Patriarchates of the Christian Church, along with Alexandria, Constantinople, Jerusalem, and Rome. Antiochians are in full communion with other Orthodox Christian jurisdictions, such as the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America and the Orthodox Church in America, as well as many other Orthodox jurisdictions around the world.

 

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The Great Lent: Message From Patriarch John X

By God's mercy
John X, Patriarch of Antioch and all East
Brethren, Pastors of the Holy Church of Antioch;
Beloved children in all dioceses in this apostolic see

Brethren and dearest spiritual children,
whose strength and anticipation in God, strengthen ours;

Entering this redemptive period which leads us to the Cross (of Christ) and the dawn of His and thus our resurrection, these days bring to us the anticipation to Jesus and His divine consolation for His beloved humans; for whom He descended from His highest, incarnated in the Virgin, submitting Himself to the human law, willingly walking the path of the Cross, in order to rise from the dead, becoming the first fruit for our resurrection from our earthly misery and tribulation.

On the New Martyrs of the Middle East: An Orthodox Christian View

by His Grace Bishop Thomas (Joseph), Ed.D.

Beloved in Christ,

Last weekend I visited parishes and college students in the Baltimore, MD area. While I was there, Orthodox clergy and faithful asked that I offer a response to what's going on in the Middle East. Attached is my response. Special thanks to Fr Andrew Damick for his contribution to what you'll read here.

To introduce this, I'll simply ask you to pray "for the peace of the whole world, the good estate of the Holy Churches of God, and the union of all men."

In recent months, images and stories of Christians being killed for their faith in the Middle East have flooded our news sources and dominated our social media. We see beheadings and shootings, sometimes available as gruesome videos on the Internet that are intended by their makers to inspire some to join their cause and others to cower in fear. We have seen bishops kidnapped, priests shot in the street as they ministered to the suffering, and innocents lined up and had their heads sawn off with knives.

Christians are not the only ones suffering in the Middle East—Muslims, Druze, Yazidis and others are also being targeted by the armies of takfirism. They are also dying for their faith, and even though we Christians do not share their religion with them, we still suffer with them in solidarity, because Christ still died and rose from the dead for them, even if they do not believe it.

The Gift of Remembrance: The Many Beautiful Faces of Balamand

by V. Rev. Jason DelVitto, Ph.D.

Almost one year ago, from May 20th through May 28th, 2014, I had the distinct honor and pleasure to accompany His Grace Bishop Thomas (Joseph) to the Balamand Monastery of the Dormition of Our Lady the Virgin Mary, the Balamand University, and the St. John of Damascus Institute of Theology. Balamand is located in the region of Al Kourah, approximately 45 miles north of Beirut. This was my second trip to Lebanon, the first being the occasion of the consecration of our three new bishops for the Antiochian Orthodox Church in North America, 2011.

As our beloved hierarch Metropolitan Philip of thrice-blessed memory had recently fallen asleep in the Lord, His Beatitude Patriarch John X had called for a meeting at Balamand of the Local Synod of Antiochian Bishops in America and members of the Board of Trustees of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America.

On this soon to be one-year anniversary, I would like to offer a reflection on our trip, sharing my impressions regarding a unique opportunity for which I remain eternally grateful. As a start, as I traveled with Sayidna Thomas, I was afforded the opportunity to gain a sense of the work and life of the students of the Theological School of St. John of Damascus and to meet with its administrators and students and instructors. I was greatly edified by the people that I met there and the work that is being done at the University and School of Theology.

March 29: Syrian Relief Fund Raising Dinner in Pittsburgh, PA

On Sunday, March 29, 2015 the IOCC Pittsburgh Metropolitan Committee plans to hold a prayer service and fund raising dinner that will benefit our Syrian brothers and sisters in Christ. This Syrian Relief gathering will be held at Holy Cross Greek Orthodox Church in Pittsburgh, PA. We would like to cordially invite your parish to attend, and support IOCC's aid efforts in Syria.

The recent conflict has been devastating. It has resulted in the displacement of numerous Orthodox Christians that are now hungry, homeless, and lacking essential items.

Last year Archbishop Melchisedek, Metropolitan Silouan, Metropolitan Savas, Bishop Thomas, and (former) Archbishop Theodosius led our Syrian Relief gathering. This year we are hoping to more fully engage all of the Orthodox jurisdictions and faithful in this Orthodox offering of love, prayer, and mercy. Please join us!

IOCC Assists Syrian Christians Traumatized in Deadly Attack

Exhausted and traumatized Christians from villages in northeastern Syria gather at an Orthodox Christian Church in Hasakah, seeking refuge after their small communities were terrorized this week. photo: IOCC/GOPAExhausted and traumatized Christians from villages in northeastern Syria gather at an Orthodox Christian Church in Hasakah, seeking refuge after their small communities were terrorized this week. photo: IOCC/GOPAFebruary 25, 2015

Baltimore, MD (IOCC) — Fleeing for their lives, more than 2,400 exhausted and traumatized Christians from northeastern Syria sought refuge in the towns of Hasakah and Qamishli after their small communities were terrorized this week. The attackers targeted a stretch of villages along the southern bank of the Khabour River, where they burned homes and churches, murdered a fleeing 16-year-old boy, and abducted 150 Assyrian Christian men, women and children from their homes.

For those who managed to escape the attack and seek shelter in Hasakah, International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC), with its church partner, the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East (GOPA), is providing food, medical attention, and emergency aid. IOCC/GOPA, which has offices in both Hasakah and Qamishli, is responding to the immediate needs of more than 1,000 displaced Syrian families seeking shelter at the Syriac Orthodox Church and the Assyrian Church in the Al Nasreh neighborhood of Hasakah with the distribution of food parcels, bedding, infant clothing and shoes. More than 600 of the survivors who fled the onslaught are children.

IOCC, an ACT Alliance member, is one of the few humanitarian organizations inside Syria providing immediate assistance to displaced families and elderly who have endured four years of a brutal war. Working in 28 offices across Syria, IOCC has provided relief to 2.5 million vulnerable people inside Syria since 2012.

IOCC Provides Vital Winter Relief For War-Weary Syria

January 9, 2015

Baltimore, MD (IOCC) — Freezing temperatures, heavy snow and chilling winds sweeping across Syria are putting thousands of young lives in jeopardy as displaced mothers struggle helplessly to keep their small children warm and sheltered from the harsh winter conditions. Many live in shelled out buildings with no doors or windows to keep frigid weather out, or in temporary shelters with no heat. The need for warm clothing is great.

International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC) is responding with the distribution of handmade sweater sets for 600 children crafted last summer by 34 displaced Syrian women taught to knit through a cash-for-work program. IOCC and its church partner in Syria, the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East (GOPA), offered the one-month training as a way to help Syria's most vulnerable families achieve some financial independence. The new skills help provide vital income for the women and their families while displaced Syrian children benefit by receiving warm clothes to protect them against bitter cold.

Homily of Patriarch John X for the New Year

On January 1, 2015, His Beatitude John X, Patriarch of Antioch and all the East, offered a homily at Maryamiyya Cathedral for the start of the new year. (Arabic original here.)

Brother hierarchs and beloved clergy,

"We are at the threshold of a new year. The newness does not lie in the year. The newness lies in our determination to transform time in favor of the truth, to give time a meaning other than the meaning that we know, for time to be an expression of the holiness of our life and our existence, for us to breathe into it the spirit of God's grace that is within us, so that its eternity will return to it and it will reach the shores of our holiness. The newness does not lie in the year, but in our resolve to shape our being anew... Shaping our being means opening our arms to the poor and the vulnerable in the world, for us to be a force for ending their weakness and liberating them from their humiliation. Shaping our being makes us cream to sate the hungry, a coat to clothe the naked, a right hand to take the lame and guide them to good pastures." —The Homily of Patriarch Elias IV for the New Year, 1971

"'For this the Lord has anointed Me to preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.' This is the beginning of the preaching career of our Lord Jesus Christ. This is His program and His plan... These words are two thousand years old. These words are ancient but they ring in our ears as though they were spoken today. Christ spoke them two thousand years ago, recalling the wretched, the poor and the broken-hearted." —The Homily of Patriarch Ignatius IV for the New Year, 1997

On this day the hearts of the faithful orient themselves to the Lord, the Creator, that He might grant peace to the world, the whole world.

Vicar General Interviewed Regarding Plight of Middle Eastern Christians

Archpriest Thomas Zain, Vicar General of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese and Dean of St. Nicholas Orthodox Cathedral of Brooklyn, NY, was interviewed by Jeanine Pirro of Fox News recently, about the plight of Christians in the Middle East. The interview was part of an ongoing series, "Christians Under Attack: A Justice Investigation." Noted Fr. Thomas, "Extremism is affecting all of the minorities in Syria, not just Christians."

2014 Nativity Pastoral Letter of His Beatitude John X, Patriarch of Antioch and All the East

By the mercy of God

Patriarch John X, The Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch and all the East

To my brother pastors of the Antiochian Holy Church, and my children throughout the Holy See

"Heaven and Earth are made one today, for Christ is born. Today God is come upon the earth, and man is gone up into the Heavens. Today He Who by nature is invisible, for man's sake is seen in the flesh. For this cause, let us also give glory and cry out to Him: Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, which Thy coming hath bestowed upon us; O our Savior, glory be to Thee."

This is what our church chants on this glorious day, the day of the Creator's presence in the flesh: the Nativity of Jesus Christ. 

His presence glows with peace. O Christ, how much we need Thy peaceful presence on earth, from which Thy glad tidings have gone forth unto the whole universe! O Treasure of Mercy, O Sun of Righteousness, how greatly do we need Thy presence, in a land which has grown weary of the drums of war, of dismemberment, and of abduction! The land that welcomed the apostles two thousand years ago lies wounded and hemorrhages!

Patriarch John Concludes North American Visit with Maryland Patriarchal Liturgy

Metropolitan Tikhon (OCA) and Patriarch John XMetropolitan Tikhon (OCA) and Patriarch John XOn Sunday, December 14, 2014, the final day of his visit to the United States before flying home from Washington, D.C.'s Dulles Airport, His Beatitude Patriarch John X of Antioch and All the East, alongside His Eminence Metropolitan Joseph, presided over a Patriarchal Divine Liturgy at Ss. Peter & Paul Antiochian Orthodox Church in Potomac, MD

Joining them was His Beatitude Metropolitan Tikhon of the Orthodox Church in America. (See the OCA's account of the joyous celebration here.) His Eminence Metropolitan Sabba and His Eminence Metropolitan Vasileios also concelebrated at the Liturgy.

Prior to Sunday's Liturgy, the parish of Ss. Peter & Paul hosted Patriarch John X and Metropolitan Joseph for several events. A concert of Orthodox liturgical Christmas music on Friday, December 12, featured selections from Sergei Rachmaninoff's Vespers, and Byzantine Nativity selections sung by Archmandrite Elias Bitar, George Theodoritis, and Raseem El Massih. On Saturday night, Patriarch John X and Metropolitan Joseph presided over Great Vespers, and then attended a banquet held in their honor.