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The Visit of Our Father in Christ, His Beatitude John X

By Fr. Joseph Antypas

During the recent visit of His Beatitude Patriarch John X, who was accompanied by a group of hierarchs and clergymen, it became clear to many people that the Patriarch is compassionate, serene, and that when he addressed audiences, he spoke from the heart. He addressed the faithful of our Archdiocese, whether individually or collectively, with warmth and compassion. He emphasized the bond of unity that holds all Antiochian clergy and laity who live in all parts of the earth. His appeals for Syria and the Arab world come from his heart. "We want peace; we do not want to be toys in the hands of the super powers. Leave us alone and we shall find a solution for our problems." His Beatitude repeatedly emphasized that Christians and Muslims have lived together for hundreds of years, in peace and tranquility. He stressed the fact that all assistance that is provided only to the Christians in Syria and denied to the Muslim population is not acceptable. "I am in peace only when my Muslim neighbor is in peace." He prayed fervently for establishing peace and harmony in the homeland.

His Beatitude gave a true picture of the destruction that Syria faces today. More than one hundred churches, hundreds of mosques, and some 6,200 schools; many institutions, hospitals, and learning centers, have been demolished and gutted; however, we are not hopeless, and we have not reached hopelessness. The OCA, IOCC, St. Vladimir's Seminary, and many individuals and groups, have lent their support to the Antiochian Patriarchate, in its appeal on behalf of the dislocated families, for the desperate need of medicine and treatments, food and shelter for the hungry and the needy, who look up to the church for help and support.

The message of hope remains central and the search for proper appeals becomes normal. The saying, "it is more blessing to receive than to give" is highly appreciated. It reflects on the serenity, transparency, and the humility of the one who receives things on behalf of the needy and the oppressed. I pray that those who have ears will hear. Thank you, Patriarch John, for your love, and for intimately knowing you.

During a special ceremony at St. Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary in Yonkers, New York, His Beatitude Patriarch John received an honorary doctoral degree. The dean, Fr. John Behr, commented on the real quality of the patriarch who has exemplified theological depth and scholarship, academic achievements, and monastic, spiritual, moral, and human qualities throughout the years of his many accomplishments as dean of St. John of Damascus School of theology, an accomplished author, head of a monastic movement, a good shepherd, and the head of our blessed Patriarchate in the world. In his response, the Patriarch accepted the degree as an honor bestowed on all of his people.

Since 1899, the Antiochian Patriarchate has been blessed by Primates who were courageous and visionary like Patriarch Malatius, (1899-1906); a philanthropist and nationalist, like Patriarch Gregorios, (1906-1928); a revivalist of churches and monasteries, and an able administrator, like Patriarch Alexander (1928-1958); a reconciler and a humble shepherd, like Patriarch Theodosius, (1958-1970); Patriarch Elias (1970-1979), who was given the title as 'Patriarch of the Arabs'; Patriarch Ignatius(1979-2012) a great theologian, an accomplished educator, and founder of Balamand University and a builder and presently, Patriarch John X, who incorporates many qualities of his predecessors, and who is sailing the boat, safe against all turmoil and storms, in the midst of so much destruction. Like a wise pilot he will guide his church and his people to safe haven. We are thankful that the Antiochian faithful in the Western Hemisphere had an opportunity to gain from the wisdom, compassion, serenity, and love of the person who presides with love over the See of Antioch, where the disciples and followers of Christ were known first as Christians in Antioch. (Acts 11:26).

The Very Reverend Joseph Antypas is pastor of St. George Church, Troy, MI.