Middle Eastern Violence and the Place of Christians in the Region Addressed in Patriarchal Statements
The Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East has issued two statements regarding, first, the violence in Iraq, Syria, and Gaza, and second, the place of Christians throughout the region.
At a time when Syria's wounds have been bleeding for more than three years, amidst the wounds of Iraq, which has experienced conflict since the 1980's, amidst the unrest that is sweeping countries near and far, and amidst the world's indifference to Palestine's wounds, which have not healed in almost seventy years, these days in particular we are witnessing a multiplication of these wounds in the expulsion of Mosul's Christians and the all-out assault on Gaza amidst a disgraceful international silence.
The cycle of violence sweeping Iraq and Syria, expelling peaceful citizens has not let up, as recent events in Iraq and specifically in Mosul have completed the series of murder, religious prejudice, and terror.
We strongly condemn attacks on any segment of society in this Middle East and we especially condemn the attack on the Christians of Mosul and their being compelled by force of arms to change their religion under the penalty of paying the Jizya or abandoning their homes and having their property confiscated.
Knowing that she is eternally present at the throne of God interceding for mankind, we pray for her love, guidance, and protection. Every year the Orthodox Church sets aside the first fourteen days of August in honor of the Virgin Mary. This fast period is climaxed on August 15th, when the Church gathers to celebrate the Great Feast of the Dormition (Falling-Asleep) of the Theotokos.
On Sunday, July 27, 2014, His Eminence Metropolitan Joseph visited St. Nicholas Antiochian Orthodox Cathedral of Brooklyn, NY for the first time since his election. Saint Nicholas is the Mother Cathedral of the Archdiocese and the seat of the new metropolitan. Although many of the Cathedral faithful were out of town for summer vacations and travels to visit family overseas, a large crowd nevertheless came to greet Metropolitan Joseph.
During his homily, Sayidna Joseph told the congregation that while this was his first visit to the historic Cathedral as metropolitan, it would not by any means be his last. At the end of the Hierarchical Liturgy, Cathedral Dean and Vicar-General Archpriest Thomas Zain, and Vice-Chairman of the Cathedral Council Mr. Samir Khoury, presented His Eminence with an engolpion (an episcopal medallion) of the Theotokos, offered as a gift from all the Cathedral clergy and faithful. Many years to our new metropolitan!
Additional photographs follow below.
Update July 23: A full written transcription of His Eminence's speech is available below.
At the closing banquet of the 2014 Clergy Symposium, His Eminence Metropolitan Joseph, Archbishop of New York and Metropolitan of All North America, gave a speech including his initial vision for the Antiochian Archdiocese of North America (beginning at 11:20 in the recorded audio). These remarks are available as an audio recording from Ancient Faith Radio.
His Eminence says in part:
Tonight, I am going to utilize my time by sharing with you my vision for the future of this Archdiocese. I truly believe that each and every one of us is an important and integral part of this body. We are grateful for everything that our beloved Metropolitan Philip of thrice-blessed memory created over the past 48 years. We humbly accept the fruit of his labor, as well as the labor of the faithful who worked alongside him and the legacy upon which we will now build. We have serious work ahead of us. We don’t have time to waste. ...
Representing the Diocese of Toledo and the Midwest this year at the annual NAC Bible Bowl was St. Mary Church of Palos Heights, Illinois, located in Chicago's South Side. Team St. Mary, composed of members Salena Ibrahim, Marlena Sweiss, Sandra Khouri, and Elizabeth Khouri, achieved a near perfect score of 104 points (out of 105). Under the leadership of their coach, Kh. Delia Haddad, and their clergy, Fr. Mousa Haddad and Fr. Malek Rihani, team St. Mary won first place. Afterwards, the team was congratulated by His Eminence Metropolitan Joseph and Bishop Anthony of the Diocese of Toledo and the Midwest.
Lately, he's been feeling called to do something even bigger. After much prayer and consultation with hierarchs and clergy throughout the Mid-Atlantic region, he has proposed the creation of an Institute for Orthodox Christian Thought and Culture at Eastern University.
Eastern is a fully accredited, Christian university with 35 majors and about 1,500 undergraduate students on its beautiful campus in suburban Philadelphia.
The proposed Institute would offer a minor for Orthodox students and serve as a hub for their spiritual, academic, and professional development.
The 18th Biennial Antiochian Archdiocesan Clergy Symposium, sponsored by the Antiochian House of Studies, is taking place at the Heritage and Learning Center at the Antiochian Village in Ligonier, Pennsylvania, from July 14-18, 2014. This will be a historic Symposium, representing the newly-elected Metropolitan Joseph's first opportunity to greet all of the clergy of the Archdiocese.
Priests and deacons of the Antiochian Archdiocese, in addition to invited laity, will be attending lectures and forums relevant to the theory and practice of Orthodox ministry within the context of the spiritual and historical roots of the Church. This year's theme, "...for the sick and the suffering": Medicine, Theology, Healing, will be explored by a variety of speakers.
John Maddex of Ancient Faith Ministries is at the Village, and preparing audio recording of many of the presentations. Follow along at this special section of Ancient Faith Radio. Written transcriptions of several talks are planned as well.
The following official translation has been provided by the Patriarchate of Antioch:
The Third Ordinary Session of the Holy Synod of Antioch was held between 1 and July 4, 2014. His Beatitude Patriarch John X presided over the meeting, with the participation of Their Eminences, the Metropolitans: Spiridon (Archdiocese of Zahleh and dependencies), Georges (Archdiocese of Mount Lebanon and dependencies), Youhanna (Archdiocese of Lattakia and dependencies), Elias (Archdiocese of Beirut and dependencies), Elia (Archdiocese of Hama and dependencies), Elias (Archdiocese of Tyre, Sidon and dependencies), Antonio (Archdiocese of Mexico, Venezuela and dependencies), Sergios (Archdiocese of Chile), Damaskinos (Archdiocese of Brazil and dependencies), Saba (Archdiocese of Houran and All Jabal Al Arab), Paul (Archdiocese of Australia and New Zealand), Georges (Archdiocese of Homs and dependencies), Silouan (Archdiocese of Buenos Aires and all Argentina), Basilos (Archdiocese of Akkar and dependencies), Ephrem (Archdiocese of Tripoli, El- Koura and dependencies), Ignatius (Archdiocese of France, Western and Southern Europe) and Isaac (Archdiocese of Germany and Central Europe).
His Eminence Metropolitan Joseph, newly-elected Archbishop of New York and Metropolitan of All North America, presided over the 2014 San Francisco Parish Life Conference of the Diocese of Los Angeles and the Diocese of Eagle River, shortly after his return from the Antiochian Unity Conference held in Balamand, Lebanon.
Two recordings are available below, of Metropolitan Joseph's first remarks after his arrival (18 minutes) and of his homily delivered on Sunday, July 6 (23 minutes). A written transcription of Metropolitan Joseph's initial statement is available here from Ancient Faith Radio.
Metropolitan Joseph says in part in his first remarks:
"Before anything, we have to think of the Holy Spirit who is leading the Church. … Thank you for your love, thank you for your patience, thank you for your endurance, thank you for your prayers and your tears as well. There is no reason to have any fear. … The Holy Spirit is leading this Archdiocese, is leading this Church. ... All of us, clergy and laity, laity and clergy ... the Archdiocese is all of us. We have to believe in this. And we have to have faith."
His Eminence Archbishop Joseph has been elected Archbishop of New York and Metropolitan of All North America by the Holy Synod of Antioch, led by His Beatitude Patriarch John X, meeting in Balamand, Lebanon on Thursday, July 3, 2014. Axios!
His Eminence Metropolitan Joseph was consecrated to the Holy Episcopacy on June 30, 1991 at the St. Mary Cathedral in Damascus, after many years of serving as a deacon and a priest. His Eminence was born in Damascus, Syria, in 1950. He was consecrated with the title, Bishop of Katana in Syria, and served as Patriarchal Assistant and Secretary of the Holy Synod of Antioch. In 1995, he was sent by Patriarch Ignatius IV of blessed memory to America. Here in our Archdiocese, Bishop Joseph was assigned to the West Coast Chancery by Metropolitan Philip of blessed memory. After self-rule status was awarded to our Archdiocese, Bishop Joseph was enthroned at St. Nicholas Cathedral by Metropolitan Philip as the first Bishop of the Diocese of Los Angeles and the West on September 12, 2004. On December 11, 2011, at the Church of the Dormition of the Theotokos in the Patriarchal Monastery of Our Lady of Balamand in Lebanon, Patriarch Ignatius elevated Bishop Joseph to the rank of Archbishop, in honor of his many years of service as a bishop both in our Archdiocese and in the Patriarchate of Antioch.
View photo galleries of Metropolitan Joseph from the Diocese of the West, including the ongoing 2014 Parish Life Conference.
From June 25–28, 2014, the Patriarch of Antioch and All the East His Beatitude John X joined with the Fathers of the Holy Synod to call the faithful from around the world to the Hill of Balamand for a conference on Antiochian unity. Appropriately, the Conference concluded with the joyous celebration of the Feast of Ss. Peter and Paul, patron saints of the Antiochian Church. (Read the text of Patriarch John's homily.)
Antiochian.org has assembled a collection of photographs highlighting the Unity Conference. Additionally, the Patriarchate of Antioch's website has published photo galleries and written reports of the historic events in both Arabic and English, and galleries are also available on the Patriarchate's Facebook page. The sizable North American delegation, pictured here with Patriarch John X, was composed of bishops, priests, key department heads, and organization leaders. Members of the group will begin returning home on Monday, June 30.
From the Patriarchate of Antioch website:
On June 25th through 28th, 2014, His Beatitude John X the Patriarch of Antioch and All the East, together with the Fathers of the Holy Synod, called the faithful to the Hill of Balamand for a conference on the Antiochian unity. The Conference concentrated around the Antiochian Unity in its dimensions and exigencies. Participants in the conference included metropolitans and bishops, and Church delegations from all the dioceses of the Antiochian See in Syria, Lebanon and the whole Diaspora. Throughout the conference the kidnapped bishop Paul of Aleppo was present in our thoughts and prayers, and we asked God for his safe and quick return to his church and people.
During the opening ceremonies, we were overjoyed to welcome their Holinesses and Beatitudes the Patriarchs of the East, who addressed the conferees with words full of life, inspired from our common Antiochian heritage and the legacy of our saints. Furthermore, they stressed the importance of one witness of Christians to the Gospel in the lands of the Antiochian See, to which we all belong. The presence of their Holinesses and Beatitudes enhanced brotherly love, and assured the necessity of serving people in "All the East", where God has made them shepherds of His People. The Patriarchs' visions and words were very well received by all attendees. They comprehended the necessity of taking theological and pastoral initiatives, in the goal of demonstrating Christ's full presence in the one Antiochian family. This Antiochian togetherness in Christ would constitute the pattern of the Universal Christian Unity that we all hope for and aspire to.
A unique and historic Patriarchal Divine Liturgy will be streamed live on June 29, 2014 at 10:00 a.m. Lebanon time (3:00 a.m. Eastern Standard Time), by Noursat (Telelumeire). The Liturgy will take place in the outdoor stadium at the University of Balamand at the conclusion of the June 26-28 Antiochian Unity Conference. The event, titled "Antiochian Unity: Its Dimensions and Exigencies," was convened by His Beatitude John X, Patriarch of Antioch and All the East.
Verily, the all-solemn Feast of the two Apostles hath arrived, bringing us salvation. Wherefore, let us mystically exult, crying unto them: Rejoice, O ye who have become luminaries to those in darkness, two rays of the Sun! Rejoice, O Peter and Paul, adamant pillars of the divine doctrines, ye friends of Christ and two honored vessels! Be ye present among us in an invisible manner, and grant immaterial gifts to those who extol your feast with songs.
--Doxasticon of the Feast, Tone 6
Our prayers for all of the parishes and faithful who celebrate their namesday with this Feast, the Patronal Feast of the Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East.
Sheet music for this Feast is available here courtesy of the Department of Sacred Music. Download "The Akathist Hymn to the Holy Apostles" here.
Update Tuesday June 24: The official Archdiocese delegation to the Antiochian Unity Conference has arrived safely in Lebanon, and has begun meeting in preparation for the beginning of the conference tomorrow. His Eminence Metropolitan Silouan met today with the delegation to encourage them and share his wisdom in the formation of their common witness on behalf of the Church in North America.
On the eve of the Antiochian Unity Conference convened by Patriarch John X and meeting at Balamand Seminary in Lebanon on June 26, 2014, it is fitting to reflect on our North American Antiochian Orthodox journey. Honorary Member of the Archdiocese's Board of Trustees Dr. Eugene J. Sayfie offered this intimate portrait of friendship and honor in his recent tribute published in The Word, June 2014.
Honorable hierarchs, beloved reverend Father, esteemed fellow members of the Board of the Antiochian Archdiocese of North America, brothers and sisters in Christ: I come to tell you a story of the journey of a great man and a friend. It is a story of work, service, determination, friendship, joy, love, and ultimately honor.
The great man was born in the hills of Lebanon. The friend was born in the hills of West Virginia.
June 19, 2014: His Eminence, Metropolitan Silouan of Buenos Aires and all Argentina and Patriarchal Vicar of North America visited His Eminence, Archbishop Demetrios of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, before departing for Lebanon for the Antiochian Unity Conference and Holy Synod meeting. His Eminence, Archbishop Demetrios welcomed Metropolitan Silouan and the Vicar-General, Fr. Thomas Zain, at the Archdiocese Headquarters in Manhattan.
After a brief tour by the Ecumenical Officer, Archimandrite Nathaniel Symeonides, the two Metropolitans discussed many issues including the two abducted bishops and the situation of Christians in the Middle East. Archbishop Demetrios thanked Metropolitan Silouan for the Holy Synod of Antioch's decision to resume participation in the Assembly of Bishops around the world.
Exhibits highlighting the work of two remarkable women artists recently opened at the Antiochian Heritage Museum at Antiochian Village. In Women with Icons: Photographs, by Jocelyn Mathewes, the beauty and meaning of iconography is explored through a series of portraits of women posed with icons of their patron saints. (Selected portraits can be viewed online.) Vibrant, colorful paintings and textile work are showcased in Eternal Spring: The Art of Leila Chokheli, an exhibit that celebrates the abiding faith and joy of an artist who lived for decades under oppressive Communist rule in the Republic of Georgia.
The two exhibits are open until February, 2015. Contact the Village's Director of Sales Barli Ross at 724-238-3677, ext. 426, to arrange an overnight package or a luncheon; view photographs and read more about the artists in the June 2014 edition of The Word magazine.
From the second Monday after Pentecost until the feast of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul on June 29th, Orthodox Christians celebrate the Apostles Fast. This year, the fast commences on Monday, June 16, 2014.
To learn more about the Orthodox approach to fasting, visit the Feasts and Fasts page of Our Discover Orthodox Christianity section.
The first two Parish Life Conferences (or PLCs) for the Antiochian Archdiocese have kicked off the summer PLC season with a splash! From June 11-14 in San Antonio, Texas, host parish St. Ephraim the Syrian Antiochian Church is overseeing a lineup of events for attendees from the Diocese of Wichita, including talks by Keynote Speaker Sister Vassa Larin, as well as excursions to local attractions such as the River Walk and Sea World San Antonio. Also enjoying water access are the faithful of the Diocese of Miami, who are being hosted on June 11-15 by the St. George Antiochian Orthodox Church of Orlando at the Crown Plaza Hotel, with its proximity to lakes and the Atlantic coast.