The first day of meetings of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of North and Central America reflected a growing collegiality and cooperation among those present. Forty-three hierarchs representing 11 jurisdictions are in attendance. The morning began with hierarchs participating in a common celebration of the Divine Liturgy at the Holy Virgin Protection Cathedral in Des Plaines, IL.
"Today...we are here together in unity and joy in full awareness of the truth that the love of Christ has brought us together and is with us," said Archbishop Demetrios, Chairman of the Assembly, in his opening remarks to the hierarchs. "As we stand with awe, having prayed the Divine Liturgy and received the precious Body and Blood of our Lord, we are not only in God's presence but also more importantly, we experience His presence as one undivided Body—His Body."
The Orthodox Christian Network (OCN) has posted an interview with His Grace Bishop Basil, Diocese of Wichita and Mid-America, discussing the topic of the fourth annual meeting of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of North and Central America scheduled for September 17–19 in Chicago, IL. Bishop Basil is the Secretary of the Assembly and is deeply involved in planning the upcoming meeting.
Metropolitan Philip Asks for Full Archdiocese Support for Antiochian Day of Solidarity on Sunday Sept. 15
As you may know, His Beatitude John X, Patriarch of Antioch and All The East, has designated Sunday September 15th as “Antiochian Day of Solidarity”. His letter can be found here.
His Eminence Metropolitan Philip is asking all of our churches and missions in North America to give our full support to this appeal, and to make a special collection on Sunday September 15, 2013 which will benefit the victims in Syria who are suffering so terribly.
From Orthodox Christian Network (OCN):
Join us for an exclusive interview with His Eminence Metropolitan Philip, the primate of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America. His Eminence has issued several statements calling for prayer and action on the current situation in Syria, where millions of Christians are suffering and in grave danger of persecution. Listen now to his thoughts on what will happen to Christians in Syria if the country is bombed, how people can help both the political situation and the millions of refugees, as well as about the Day of Solidarity that has been set for September 15th.
His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia sent a message to Mr. Barack Obama, President of the United States of America, in which he expressed his deep concern over the plans of the US army to strike the territory of Syria.
The Primate of the Russian Church appeals to the US President to listen to the voices of religious leaders who unanimously oppose any military interference in the Syrian conflict and to make every effort for the soonest commencement of peace negotiations.
His Excellency Mr. Barack OBAMA, President, United States of America
Your Excellency, Dear Mr. President,
The tragic events in Syria have raised anxiety and caused pain in the Russian Orthodox Church. We receive information about the situation there not from the news reports but from living evidence coming to us from religious figures, ordinary believers and our compatriots living in that country.
Syria today has become an arena of the armed conflict. Engaged in it are foreign mercenaries and militants linked with international terrorist centres. The war has become an everyday golgotha for millions of civilians.
We were deeply alarmed to learn about the plans of the US army to strike the territory of Syria.
Antiochian Delegation Receives Relics of St. Tikhon of Moscow from Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia
View a photo gallery, courtesy of Fr. Thomas Zain and the Photographer for Patriarch Kirill of Moscow
From August 13-27, 2013, His Grace Bishop Nicholas and Vicar-General Fr. Thomas Zain led a group of 22 pilgrims from throughout the Antiochian Archdiocese (along with two from Damascus) on a two week pilgrimage of Russia. After the majority of the group returned home on August 27th, Bishop Nicholas, Fr. Thomas, Fr. Mousa Haddad from St. Mary Church in Palos Heights, IL and Bishop Nicholas' mother, Nadia Ozone, remained until August 30 to celebrate the Feast of the Dormition of the Theotokos on August 28 (old style) with His Holiness Kirill, Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia.
The Divine Liturgy took place in the main historical Cathedral for all Russia, the Dormition Cathedral inside the Kremlin walls. It was in this Cathedral that the Patriarchs and Metropolitans of Russia were enthroned and Czars were crowned prior to the dark years of Soviet rule. Thanks to the efforts of our Antiochian representative in Moscow, His Eminence Archbishop Niphon, the delegation was invited to participate in the Patriarchal Divine Liturgy with His Holiness.
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.
+Metropolitan PHILIP Saliba
Update: Live recordings of this broadcast are now available:
Crisis in Syria, a Special Broadcast of Ancient Faith Today with Kevin Allen this Sunday, September 8 at 8 PM EST/7 PM CST
Chesterton, IN (September 5, 2013) — In light of the President's call for a “limited” military strike on Syria, Kevin Allen, the host of Ancient Faith Today, will speak live with Middle Eastern experts about the complex crisis in Syria, its main players and their interests, and what effects an American military attack will have on Syria, its struggling Christian population, and the region. The program will stream live on Ancient Faith Radio's Talk station on Sunday, September 8, at 8:00 PM Eastern/7:00 PM Central. Listeners will be able to hear and respond to a different perspective on the crisis in Syria than what is typically heard on the mainstream news.
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.
The September 2013 issue includes the following articles:
2013-2014 Sunday School Year Message, pg. 17
by Carole Buleza
Loving the Departed: Memorials and Almsgiving, pg. 22
by Josiah Trenham, Ph.D.
Old Heresies in the 21st Century, pg. 27
by Fr. Dan Daly
Orthodox Women's Retreat: Coping with Depression and Anxiety, pg. 29
by Elaine Holowach-Amiot
His Eminence Metropolitan Philip Saliba delivered the following speech at the evening prayer service at St. George Antiochian Orthodox Church, in Little Falls, New Jersey for the release of the two abducted Archbishops, Youhanna Ibrahim, and Boulos Yazgi. It is also an appeal to all Arabs in the Middle East and overseas. The speech is also available to download in Arabic (PDF).
Most Reverend Archbishops and beloved brothers and sisters,
We are gathered this evening to pray for the repose of the souls of the Arab martyrs who were killed in a vain war which history never experienced. When President Zain Al'abedeen was overthrown by a revolution in Tunisia, and when Colonel Mou'ammar Alqathafee was overthrown by another revolution in Libya, the United States said: "This is the Arab Spring."
In the Word Magazine, published in June which expresses the opinion of the Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese in North America, I wrote an editorial titled: "Is this an Arab Spring or a tornado?" This tornado extended to wounded Egypt, Palestine, Iraq, beloved Syria, and beautiful Lebanon, while Jordan is standing in these days on the edge of the abyss. After the Zionists' gangs defeated all Arab armies during the ﬁrst war between Arabs and Israel, the great Syrian poet ‘Omar Abou Reshee, and with much indignation, delivered a poem in Aleppo which he said:
My nation, do you have among other nations a pulpit for the sword or pen?
I look at you with much sadness ashamed from your past which has vanished.
My nation, how many idols you gloriﬁed which did not have the purity of an idol?
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.
The following excerpts are from the Director of the Department of Christian Education Carole Buleza's address to Sunday School teachers. The full text is available in the September 2013 edition of The Word.
All of us teachers, I trust, begin the Church School Year with the hope that our efforts will produce in our students a closer relationship to Jesus Christ. In my conversations with teachers through the years, the same concerns come up — the children don't come regularly to Church but it's not their fault; we can't have church school for more than 20 minutes without parents coming to get their children; our materials are not engaging the children. Except for the last, which I hope to address soon, these are, and will continue to be, perennial concerns. What can be done?
I teach high school at my parish, St. John Chrysostom, in York, Pennsylvania. My students are not in the same high school and don't get to see each other during the week. They went to get refreshments right after Divine Liturgy and it was hard to get them to class on time. I made a deal with them.
The Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of North and Central America announced on August 15 that the Assembly will hold its annual meeting September 17-19, 2013 at the Chicago Marriott in Schaumburg, Illinois. This is the fourth Annual Meeting of the Assembly, which is comprised of all 65 active Orthodox hierarchs serving the United States, Canada, and Mexico.
The agenda, available here, includes discussion of the Assembly’s vision, proposals for canonical restructuring, and an Assembly-sponsored national youth conference. The Assembly requests the prayers of all clergy, monastics, and laity.
In related news, the Executive Committee of the Assembly met at the Greek Orthodox Archdiocesan headquarters in New York on Tuesday, August 13.
The following resolutions were approved without opposition by the 2013 General Assembly of the Antiochian Archdiocese, convened in Houston.
On Tuesday, July 30, 2013, His Eminence Metropolitan Philip presented Dr. George J. Farha with the Antiochian Heritage Foundation’s 2013 “Man of the Year” award.
Born in Merj-Auon, Lebanon, Dr. Farha immigrated to the United States to pursue his baccalaureate degree at West Virginia University, and his doctorate of medicine degree at Tulane University Medical School. After graduating medical school, Dr. Farha came to Wichita where he met his wife Brenda. Since beginning practice in Wichita, he has always brought Christ into his practice by taking care of the patient first and treating all patients with the best care possible.
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.
Your Eminences, Your Graces, Reverend Clergy, Esteemed Members of the Board of Trustees, Generous Members of the Order of St. Ignatius of Antioch, Energetic Members of the Antiochian Women of North America, Members of the Fellowship of St. John the Divine, Beloved members of SOYO, and members of our Parish Councils throughout North America and all faithful of our God protected Archdiocese.
Before I address the theme of our convention, first, I would like to convey to you some very good news about our Archdiocese. We have completed the purchase of property and buildings in York County, Pennsylvania for the establishment of the Convent of St. Thekla Monastic Community at a price of $885,845. The property is located in Glenville, Pennsylvania and consists of 51 acres of land which includes a four bedroom “move in ready” house, a two story barn, and a three car garage with an attached workshop. The property also has a pond, and includes 30 acres of farmland and 7 acres of woodland. Our original plan was to build this convent at the Antiochian Village. However, it became clear that the cost of building at the Antiochian Village would have been $4,091,907. This is a total saving of $3,206,062. The purchase was funded by money saved in the Archdiocese from an endowment fund by the late Archimandrite John Matthieson, money which has been raised by the Antiochian Women, and generous donations from individual members of the Archdiocese Board of Trustees.
On 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.)
The city of Houston, and Fr. James Shadid and the parish of St. George Orthodox Christian Church, are hosting the Antiochian Archdiocese Convention this week at the Hilton Americas hotel. The largest legislative body of the Archdiocese, the General Assembly meets in convention biennially. In addition to the business meetings, liturgical celebrations, exhibits, youth activities, and department meetings are central to each convention as well.
There will also be special events that emphasize the uniquely Southern character of this year's gathering. Families will enjoy the Country Western Dinner and Dance on Thursday evening, while on Friday evening convention goers can attend the Mardi Gras Masquerade Dinner/Dance; visits to several of Houston's tourist venues are planned. The culmination of the week is the Hierarchical Divine Liturgy on Sunday with Metropolitan Philip and all eight Auxiliary Bishops of the Antiochian Archdiocese presiding.