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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.

 

Latest News

Metropolitan Philip's Letter to the Faithful Regarding Abductions in Syria

Metropolitan Philip December 2013On Friday, December 6, 2013, Metropolitan Philip issued a letter which was read on the following Sunday in all the parishes of the Antiochian Archdiocese. In it, he expressed his deep concern over the recent abductions of the bishops, nuns, and children in Syria.

Dear Clergy and Faithful of our God-Protected Archdiocese,

Greetings and blessings in the name of our Lord, God, and Savior Jesus Christ in the midst of this Holy Advent season.

It is with great sadness that we have received the news of the abduction of our beloved nuns and orphans from the Convent of St. Thekla, Maaloula, Syria. It is inexcusable for such peaceful, God-loving and defenseless people of God to be abducted and displaced from their place of residence and worship, after having suffered so much angush for the past three months. St. Thekla Convent, through the intercessions of its patron Saint and the prayers of all its nuns, has been since its inception in the first century a beacon of light for peace, miracles, and the spreading of our Lord's message of love for all. It is unfathomable to hear that peaceful servants of Christ are being treated in such barbaric manner, as have Metropolitan Boulos and Archbishop Youhanna been treated.

Video of Metropolitan Philip's December 8 Homily at St. Nicholas Cathedral

The video below of His Eminence Metropolitan Philip's teaching on December 8, 2013, and remarks on the abducted nuns of Maaloula, has been provided by St. Nicholas Cathedral:

 

December 8, 2013, Homily of Metropolitan Philip at St. Nicholas Cathedral from Antiochian Archdiocese on Vimeo.

Metropolitan Philip's Letter to President Obama

December 7, 2013

The President and Mrs. Obama; The White House; 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW; Washington D.C.  20500  

Dear Mr. President and Mrs. Obama,

Greetings and best wishes to you and to your two precious daughters in the spirit of this Holy Christmas season. I was honored to receive your invitation to attend a White House holiday reception on Friday, December 6th, 2013.

I remember fondly my attendance at the White House reception two years ago. The photograph which we took together on that auspicious occasion continues to adorn my office. Unfortunately Mr. President, I did not attend your holiday reception this year because while I do have the joy of Christmas, I do not have the peace of Christmas. This is the peace which the angels proclaimed on that Holy Night "Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, goodwill toward men" (Luke 2:14). Although I am Lebanese by birth and a proud American citizen for the past fifty-seven years, I received my secondary education in the cities of Homs and Damascus, Syria.

Patriarch John X Speaks on the Abducted Nuns of Maaloula, Syria

His Beatitude John X, Patriarch of Antioch and All the East, issued the following remarks on December 5, 2013 at a press conference in Balamand, Lebanon:

Amidst the calamities besetting Syria and the bloodshed afflicting our people and amidst the uncertainty that still surrounds the fate of our metropolitans Boulos and Youhanna in Aleppo, it is with deep pain that the Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East has received news of the abduction of her daughters, nuns and orphans of the Monastery of Saint Thekla in Maaloula on December 2, 2013 and their being transported to Yabroud. Because our initial attempts to obtain the release our abducted daughters did not achieve the desired outcome, the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East calls upon the international community and all governments to intervene and make efforts to release them safely. She likewise calls upon the conscience of all humanity and upon the spark of living conscience that the Creator, may He be exalted, sowed in the souls of all those who worship God, including the kidnappers, to release our sisters the nuns and the girls of the orphanage.

Pray for the Nuns of Maaloula, Syria

Monastery of St. Thekla, Maloula, Syria (Bernard Gagnon/Wikimedia Commons)Monastery of St. Thekla, Maloula, Syria (Bernard Gagnon/Wikimedia Commons)The following report was issued by the National News Agency of Lebanon on Dec. 3:

Orthodox Patriarch Yuhanna Yazegi on Monday leveled a heartfelt cry for the world to mobilize to free a dozen of Lebanese Syrian nuns that were evacuated in the historic Christian town of Maaloula in war-torn Syria. 

"Our cry is addressed to the international community and the world's government to release Saint Taqla's nuns and orphans detained since yesterday," the Patriarch said. 

"Detaining the nuns is a blatant offensive to people's dignity and the voice of peace throughout Syria and the entire Levant," he indicated. 

Update: See also this report from the Associated Press.

Dec 14: "Hope, Humanity, Healing - A Benefit Concert for Syria"

Deacon George Nashawati of St. Ephraim Orthodox Church in San Antonio, Texas, announces a fundraiser concert benefiting the people of Syria. "Hope, Humanity, Healing - A Benefit Concert for Syria" will be held on Saturday, December 14th, 2013 at 7:00 in the evening at St. Joseph Orthodox Church in Houston. The admission cost is $15 per person, and all concert proceeds will be distributed to the suffering people of Syria through the Diocese of Wichita and Mid-America's Sister Diocese of Bosra-Hauran, Jabal al-Arab, and the Golan in southern Syria, and the St. Gregory Orthodox Society for the Elderly and Orphans in Damascus.

For questions regarding the concert, please visit St. Joseph's website, contact the church's office at (713) 973-7001, or send an email to lamanash@hotmail.com. Artists at the benefit concert will include: Lama Nashawati DeVries (my sister) and Tracey Parker: Duo Piano; Bassam (Deacon George) Nashawati: Violin; Mariam Haddad and Christine Yacoub: Voice; The St. Romanos Pan-Orthodox Chorale; and Osama Raad: drums. The program will include classical and liturgical music in addition to some Arabic songs made popular by Fairuz. 

Download the concert PDF

Report from the Holy Synod of Antioch's October Meeting

The Patriarchate of Antioch reports:

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: Spiridon of Zahleh and its dependencies; Georges 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.

"A Great City": Illustrated History of Antioch Published

University of Florida Professor Emeritus Dr. Kevin McCarthy recently published Antioch on the Orontes: An Illustrated History, the story of the namesake city of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Church. The 280-page book contains over 200 illustrations of the city that was so vitally important in the history of Christianity. Many of the photos were taken by the author when he lived in the city during the period when he was researching the book.

"Archpriest Thomas Zain of St. Nicholas Antiochian Orthodox Cathedral in Brooklyn and the Vicar General of the Antiochian Archdiocese, helped me with the book," notes Dr. McCarthy. "I wrote it to let more people know about the importance of a great city, ancient and modern Antioch, that many Americans are not aware of."

Over the course of his academic career, the professor of English lived in the Middle East in various locations. For one year he taught at the Lebanese National University in Beirut as a Fulbright Professor of English in the 70s, and for two years in the 1980s at King Saud University in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia as a Fulbright Professor of English.

AFR Interviews IOCC's Mark Ohanian About Refugee Outreach

Syrian refugee families (iocc.org)Syrian refugee families (iocc.org)On October 14, 2013, Ancient Faith Radio (AFR), in its program "Ancient Faith Presents," released a podcast interview with IOCC Director of Programs Mark Ohanian in which the Director discusses the difficulties faced by Syria's swelling refugee population. IOCC is supporting one of the largest established efforts to provide aid to Syrians torn by civil war, and is one of the only international operations on the ground in Syria, working closely with His Beatitude John X, Patriarch of Antioch. There are 1.8 million refugees who now live in the countries surrounding Syria. 

"I was in the region about 2 weeks ago," notes Mr. Ohanian in the interview. "The most obvious thing I saw is that the needs are growing and becoming greater. This is a kind of conflict where there is no end in sight, and there's a constant flow of people who are avoiding conflict areas, migrating within Syria to safer areas, or leaving to a neighboring country.

"This humanitarian catastrophe and the need for resources are far, far greater than what we at IOCC have in place," he continues. "It is stretching everyone's capacities and the needs are unimaginable. We have not seen a scale of this kind of need since...arguably, the Second World War. Almost one third of the Syrian population is in need of assistance."

Listen to the full interview on AFR.

Antiochian Women Announce Project for Syria's War Orphans

By Dianne O'Regan, Vice President/NAB Project Coordinator, North American Board of the Antiochian Women

This summer at the Archdiocese Convention in Houston, Metropolitan Philip announced the new Antiochian Women Project for 2013-2014 (PDF). He has challenged us with a mission that is beyond bricks and mortar, but goes to the very heart and soul of our faith: “Help the Orphans of War in Syria.” His Eminence has asked the Antiochian Women to raise $200,000 towards this worthwhile Project. All monies raised will be distributed directly to the affected areas. 

When asked by His disciples who was the "greatest in the kingdom of heaven," our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ called a little child to Him and said, "Assuredly, I say to you, unless you ... become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 18:1-5).