Patriarchate News

On March 25, 2020, His Holiness Patriarch Mor Ignatius Aphrem II celebrated the Holy Qurobo on the occasion of the Feast of the Annunciation, at the Grotto of the Belt of the Holy Virgin Mary, at Mor Aphrem Monastery in Maarat Saydnaya.
 
During the Holy Qurobo, His Holiness was assisted by His Eminence Archbishop Mor Yacoub Babawi, Patriarchal Vicar for the Affairs of the Monks and the Administration of Mor Aphrem Theological Seminary. The Holy Qurobo was attended by their Eminences Archbishops: Mor Anthimos Jack Yacoub, Patriarchal Vicar for Youth Affairs and Christian Education, and Mor Boutros Kassis, Patriarchal Assistant, as well as the monks and seminarians.
 
In his sermon, His Holiness spoke about the journey of lent the middle of which we have reached, thanking the Lord for the blessings that we are receiving in this lent. He spoke about the pandemic that is spreading and explained that disease is not a punishment from God, because God is merciful and loves people; He wishes that all be saved and takes care of the smallest details of our lives. His Holiness commended the faithful to seek the Lord’s protection while they are aware of their responsibilities towards themselves and others. He spoke about the importance of the Feast of Annunciation which the church is celebrating today. It reminds us of the obedience of the Virgin Mary and her total submission to the will of God, having full faith in His promises. His Holiness emphasized that the Lord is offering us a true example of faith in these difficult times through the Virgin Mary who accepted the challenge of appearing pregnant to the society, but being strengthened by her faith that the Lord is with her and will not let anything harm her. His Holiness then spoke about the faith of King Abgar who heard about Jesus Christ and believed in Him. After a short historical overview about the kingdom of Urhoy, His Holiness explained the story of King Abgar who was sick and sought Jesus to be healed by Him. His Holiness concluded by calling the faithful to be like Mary and Abgar, i.e. to believe and trust the Lord, knowing that what is impossible for men is possible for God.

 

On March 24, 2020, His Holiness Patriarch Mor Ignatius Aphrem II attended the spiritual meditation which was prepared on the occasion of the Feast of the Annunciation. The meditation was held at the Grotto of the Belt of the Virgin Mary, at Mor Aphrem Monastery in Maarat Saydnaya. The monks and seminarians of Mor Aphrem Theological Seminary participated in the spiritual meditation and the prayers which were offered to the Virgin Mary seeking her intercession to stop the pandemic spread of Corona virus.

Their Eminences Archbishops: Mor Yacoub Babawi, Patriarchal Vicar for the Affairs of Monks and the Administration of Mor Aphrem Theological Seminary, Mor Anthimos Jack Yacoub, Patriarchal Vicar for Youth Affairs and Christian Education, and Mor Boutros Kassis, Patriarchal Assistant, also attended the prayers and meditation.

At the beginning of the meditation, His Holiness gave a spiritual talk encouraging the clergy and faithful to pray for God seeking His mercies, especially in these difficult times that we are living in. He also hoped that everyone will seize the opportunity of the Feast of the Annunciation to ask for the intercession of the Holy Virgin Mary, Mother of God, to stop the pandemic spread of the Corona virus which is threatening the lives of hundreds of thousands of people throughout the world. His Holiness also prayed for the medical teams throughout the world who are helping the patients infected with this virus. He offered prayers for the recovery of all the sick, especially the patients who were infected with the virus.

The monks and seminarians offered prayers and chanted hymns while some read excerpts from the writings of Mor Aphrem and Mor Yacoub of Sarough, inspired by their poems on the Annunciation.

At the end of the meditation, His Holiness offered the intercessory prayer for the Virgin Mary (Shahroyto) for the recovery of the sick and the protection of all people from Corona.

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On March 20, 2020, on the occasion of the 6th Annual Memorial of the Departure of Patriarch Mor Ignatius Zakka I Iwas of blessed memory (March 21, 2014), His Holiness Patriarch Mor Ignatius Aphrem II held a special service (teshmeshto d-Kumre) for the departed patriarchs at the tombs of the patriarchs after the evening prayer at Mor Aphrem Monastery in Maarat Saydnaya.
 
His Eminence Mor Yacoub Babawi, Patriarchal Vicar for the Affairs of Monks and the Administration of Mor Aphrem Theological Seminary in Maarat Saydnaya, attended the service as well as the monks and seminarians.
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On March 16, 2020, His Holiness Patriarch Mor Ignatius Aphrem II met their Excellencies the Archbishops of Damascus: Armenian Orthodox Archbishop of Damascus Armash Nalbandian, Greek Orthodox Patriarchal Vicar Aphrem Maalouli, Greek Orthodox Patriarchal Assistant Moussa Al-Khoury, Greek Orthodox Patriarchal Assistant Youhanna Batch, Syriac Catholic Archbishop of Damascus Mar Youhanna Jihad Battah, Armenian Catholic Archbishop of Damascus Joseph Arnaouti, Rev. Fr. Raymond Gergess, General Vicar of the Latin Bishop in Damascus, at the Patriarchate Headquarters in Bab Touma, Damascus, following the regular meeting of the Bishops of Damascus.
 
The meeting was attended by their Eminences: Mor Timotheos Matta Al-Khoury, Patriarchal Vicar in the Patriarchal Archdiocese of Damascus, Mor Anthimos Jack Yakoub, Patriarchal Vicar for Youth Affairs and Christian Education, Mor Boutros Kassis, Patriarchal Assistant, and Mor Yacoub Babawi, Patriarchal Vicar for Monks Affairs and the Administration of Mor Aphrem Theological Seminary in Maarat Saydnaya.
 
During the meeting, their Excellencies discussed the issues that are of importance for the faithful in Damascus and prayed for the health and protection of all the people, especially with the spread of corona virus.
 

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Statement

Issued by the Syriac Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East

Concerning the Corona Virus

Damascus – March 10, 2020

The fast spreading of Corona virus in many countries around the world created panic among the people; it necessitated the change of many daily customs and practices. Many faithful are raising questions concerning some ecclesiastical rituals and practices during the Holy Qurobo and church meetings.

Therefore, we issue the following instructions:

  • Participating in the Holy Qurobo on Sundays and Feast days is part of the duties of every Christian. Therefore, it is necessary to keep the churches open for the faithful – except when officially required otherwise by governments closing public places of worship. Caution should be taken and sanitizers should be made available in the churches. People are advised to avoid touching people, icons or the Holy Bible; in these current conditions, it is enough to bow the head as a sign of reverence and respect. Moreover, people showing symptoms of illness are advised to remain at home. They can call a priest to their house to pray for them and to give them Holy Communion.
  • Concerning the exchange of the sign of peace, the handshake should be replaced with bowing the head or placing the hand on the chest.
  • Replacing kissing the bishop’s cross or the priest’s hand with bowing the head before them.
  • Communion is an essential part of the Holy Qurobo; therefore, the faithful should not refrain from taking communion. We strongly believe that the Holy Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ is a source of bodily and spiritual healing; yet, one can examine the manner with which one receives communion in order not to contribute to the spread of the disease. In this regard, we advise to receive communion in the palm of the hand, which is an old custom that existed in our Syriac Orthodox Church in the first centuries, and spread from it to the church in the west, as we read in the writings of the Church Fathers like Mor Aphrem the Syrian and Mor Philoxenus of Maboug. In this case, the faithful comes forward for Communion with their right palm placed over the left in the form of a cross. Once the Eucharist has been placed upon their hand, it should be respectfully consumed before returning to their place.

We pray for the recovery of all patients, especially those who are infected with the Corona virus. We ask the Divine Providence to protect all.

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On March 2, 2020, His Holiness Patriarch Mor Ignatius Aphrem II presided over the Midday prayer at Mor Yacoub Baradeus Church in Mor Yacoub Baradeus Monastery in Atchaneh – Lebanon.
 
At the end of the prayer, His Holiness conducted the special service of Shubqono (Forgiveness) during which the clergy and faithful ask forgiveness from one another, on the occasion of the beginning of the Great Lent.
 
In his sermon, His Holiness spoke about the beginning of the spiritual journey of lent, which is a spiritual fight, with forgiveness so that our repentance is built on the solid ground of true love. His Holiness pointed out that God wants all to be saved and this is a sign of his abundant love. He teaches us how to forgive from the bottom of our hearts. His Holiness added that forgiveness should emancipate from an internal feeling, which confirms the inner peace that every believer in the Lord Jesus Christ has. He spoke about the three symbols of this service of forgiveness, namely forgiveness, love and inner peace, which help the faithful grow in the spirit.
 
The service was also attended by His Eminence Archbishop Mor Chrysostomos Mikhael Shemoun, Patriarchal Vicar and Director of the Patriarchal Benevolent Institutions in Atchaneh, as well as the monks, nuns and faithful.

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On February 29, 2020, His Holiness Patriarch Mor Ignatius Aphrem II attended the Holy Qurobo celebrated by His Beatitude Mor Ignatius Joseph III Younan, Syriac Catholic Patriarch of Antioch, at the Lady of Annunciation Cathedral in Beirut, for the occasion of the feast of Mor Aphrem the Syriac according to the Syriac Catholic Calendar.
 
The Qurobo was also attended by His Beatitude Cardinal Mor Bechara Boutros Rai, Maronite Patriarch of Antioch and All the East, and their Excellencies the bishops of the sister churches.
 
His Holiness was accompanied by His Eminence Mor Theophilus Georges Saliba, Archbishop of Mount Lebanon and Tripoli, and Very Rev. Raban Joseph Bali, Patriarchal Secretary and Media Office Director.
 
At the end of the Qurobo, His Holiness offered greetings to His Beatitude Patriarch Younan for the occasion, and asked the intercession of Mor Aphrem the Syriac for the Holy Church of God.

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No. EN 166/20

ܒܫܡ ܐܝܬܝܐ ܡܬܘܡܝܐ ܐܠܨܝ ܐܝܬܘܬܐ ܕܟܠ ܐܚܝܕ

ܐܝܓܢܛܝܘܣ ܦܛܪܝܪܟܐ ܕܟܘܪܣܝܐ ܫܠܝܚܝܐ ܕܐܢܛܝܘܟܝܐ ܘܕܟܠܗ̇ ܡܕܢܚܐ

ܘܪܝܫܐ ܓܘܢܝܐ ܕܥܕܬܐ ܣܘܪܝܝܬܐ ܐܪܬܕܘܟܣܝܬܐ ܕܒܟܠܗ̇ ܬܒܝܠ

ܕܗܘ ܐܦܪܝܡ ܬܪܝܢܐ ܡ̄

  

We extend our apostolic benediction, benevolent prayers and greetings to our brethren, His Beatitude Mor Baselius Thomas I, Catholicos of India, and their Eminences the Metropolitans; our spiritual children: Very Reverend Corepiscopoi, Reverend priests, monks, nuns and deacons and the entire blessed Syriac Orthodox people throughout the world. May the divine providence embrace them through the intercession of the Virgin Mary, Mother of God, and St. Peter, Chief of the Apostles, and the rest of the Martyrs and Saints. Amen.

 

“That they may be one” (John 17: 21)

Dearly beloved in Christ,

Jesus’ Prayer for the Unity of Those Who Believe in Him

At the Mount of Olives, our Lord Jesus Christ prayed to the Father on the night of His passion, asking for His disciples: “that they may be one” (John 17: 21). In His internal trinitarian dialogue, the Son spoke to the Father showing His submission to the will of the Father, and His perfect love towards mankind, fulfilling thus what He taught His disciples: “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15: 13). Following the command of the Lord Jesus to be one as He and the Father are one (cf. John 17: 22), the apostles remained united with each other in the one faith, as St. Paul the apostle writes: “ There is one body and one Spirit, … one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all” (Ephesians 4: 4-6).

In the prayers of the Feast of the Transfiguration, we recite the mimro of St. Jacob of Serugh, the great teacher of the church, on the unity of the Church, in which he says:

“ܐܰܠܦܶܗ ܐܰܒܐ ܒܰܚܕܐ ܡܛܰܠܠܬܐ ܕܢܽܘܗܪܐ ܕܰܥܒܰܕ܆ ܕܰܚܕܐ ܗ̱ܝ ܥܺܕܬܐ ܘܚܰܕ ܗ̱ܽܘ ܝܰܠܕܐ ܕܡܶܫܬܰܡܰܫ ܒܳܗ̇: ܠܐ ܗܘܳܐ ܡܛܰܠ̈ܠܶܐ ܐܶܠܐ ܡܛܰܠܠܬܐ ܠܚܰܕ ܝܺܚܺܝܕܐ܆ ܘܠܐ ܥܺܕ̈ܳܬܐ ܐܶܠܐ ܥܺܕܬܐ ܠܒܰܪ ܐܰܠܳܗܐ”

“the Father taught (Peter) through the one tent of light He made, that the Church is one and one is the Son Who is worshipped by her; Not many tents, but one tent for the Only One, and not many churches, but one Church for the Son of God”.

Indeed, these wise words that pronounce the unity of the church through the events of the Transfiguration of the Lord, affirm that the church has always sought unity. Moreover, it reflects the concern of the Fathers of the church for unity, which they saw as vital for the life of the church.

Through his words in the first epistle to the Corinthians, the apostle St. Paul warned the faithful concerning divisions: “Now I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you be in agreement and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same purpose.” (I Corinthians 1: 10). One mind and one purpose are the result of the work of the Holy Spirit in individuals as well as in communities, through His talents that make the many one. This is similar to what happened to the apostles on the day of the Pentecost when the Holy Spirit descended on them in the form of tongues of fire. The Pentecost united the apostles and the disciples, unlike what happened in Babylon where the Lord confused their language and scattered them over the face of the whole earth (cf. Genesis 11: 5-9).

Unity of the Faith

The dawn of Christianity broke and it started to spread despite the persecutions. In fact, Christianity became stronger and endured the hardships by the grace of God which filled the faithful, which encouraged them and supported them through all difficulties, especially when oppression was most severe. Their unity was the source of their strength and perseverance. Hence, the unity of the faith makes the church united, and her children can partake in the sacraments as an expression of their fellowship and their spiritual unity in the one body which is the church.

Unity in Jesus Christ

Unity in the church is rooted in the firm relationship of the ministers and faithful with Christ and their total obedience to His divine commandments. Consequently, the unity of the church which is built on the correct relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ drives away divisions among the faithful arising from groupism. These divisions spread quickly in the fertile soil of new teachings or ideologies that are contrary to the teachings of the Gospel and the instructions of the apostles and holy fathers. Hence, the faithful side with either Paul or Apollos (cf. I Corinthians 1: 12).

Christ’s Cross as a Symbol of Unity of the Faithful

Christ’s Cross remains the strongest symbol of unity because the apostles, disciples and the entire humanity were included in the same salvation which was completed on the cross. In his epistle to the Corinthians, St. Paul points out the importance of the cross for the confirmation of their unity: “Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?” (I Corinthians 1: 13). Hence, Christians understood that the cross of the Lord united them in the same sacrifice, love, and unique salvation.

Despite hardships, the one universal church grew stronger in the apostolic era because people from all nations accepted Christ as their savior and were united by the cross. There were “no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3: 28). The third Patriarch of Antioch, St. Ignatius Theophoros, was able to unite the parts of the church in Antioch, namely the converted Jews and the believing Gentiles. He called her “catholic” because she united all ethnicities without discrimination and she was open to everyone, offering salvation to all. We learn thus the importance of the Lord’s teaching: “so there will be one flock, one shepherd” (John 10: 16).

Divisions in the Church

Witnessing to the Gospel of Christ continued to spread in the ancient East. Soon, theologians started to interpret divine matters in different ways and became divided over several issues – doctrinal or political. This resulted in the emergence of conflicts which were used by the evil one to divide the church. Foreign teachings found their way into the church in an attempt to drive the faithful away from the orthodox apostolic faith. The unity of the church was broken and the church nearly became a “kingdom divided against itself” (cf. Matthew 12: 25). Despite division in the church, the Grace of God preserved the church, though a great schism came to exist among Christians and resulted in their fighting each other.

Foundations of Unity

Unity in the church may be taken for granted. Yet, it is difficult to preserve among the faithful and to restore it once division has taken roots. Through humility and love that unite us in Christ, we can work together to remove disputes and conflicts. Thus, we lift our hearts together to the Lord in one spirit. Consequently, the faithful truly become “the body of Christ and individually members of it.” (cf. I Corinthians 12: 27). Love which results from faith in the Lord Jesus Christ inspires in people the willingness to make sacrifices for others. For “unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” (John 12: 24). Likewise, when the faithful sacrifice for the sake of the unity of the church, and burry in the spiritual soil every wickedness, pride and selfishness, they will enjoy the fruits of the spirit which are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, and faithfulness (Galatians 5: 22). This will keep the unity of the church intact and bring forth fruits of holiness for generations to come.

 

Working for the Unity of the Church

Since the first divisions in the church, and despite the resulting persecutions that affected our Syriac Orthodox Church, our church did not spare any effort to call and work for the unity of Christians. Indeed, Patriarch Mor Severus the Great traveled to Constantinople to discuss the matter of uniting Christians. The great scholar Mor Gregorius Bar Hebraeus, Catholicos of the East, wrote about the schisms in the church describing them as a conflict of terminology, inviting all Christians to unite. In recent decades, our church overcame the old historical wounds and sincerely opened up towards sister churches, collaborating in many ways, especially in the domain of pastoral ministry. Achieving unity among the Syriac churches which share the same language and have a common heritage, continues to be a priority for us. We will continue to work together to reach the fullness of unity in order to reclaim the unity of faith and witness, as it used to be in the first centuries of Christianity.

We thank God that the church today enjoys unity, though imperfect. It is united in praying for peace in the world and in the service of all humanity. Through this unity, the faithful from all churches, East and West, pray for the two abducted Archbishops of Aleppo, Boulos Yaziji and Mor Gregorius Youhanna Ibrahim, since the first moment of their abduction. We hope for their safe return to the dioceses. During this holy season of lent, we offer our prayers for them and appeal once more to all powerful decision makers to do their best for their safe return.

Dearly beloved in Christ,

At the beginning of the Great Lent, while we meditate upon the unity of the church which is the body of Christ, we invite you to be united together and walk in the spirit through true repentance and fervent prayers, through reading the Bible and almsgiving, through ministry and witness to Christ. We, likewise, invite you to pray for the unity of our Holy Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch, the unity is a source of our strength and a sign of our obedience to God. Let us overcome the stumbling blocks that seek to weaken the church, by tearing down every obstacle that rises before us through the work of the evil one who seeks to divide us. At the same time, let us pray and work for the unity of the entire Christian church.

May the Lord accept your fasting, repentance, prayers and almsgiving. May He make us worthy to rejoice in the Feast of His Resurrection, through the intercession of the Virgin Mary, Mother of God, St. Peter, Chief of the Apostles, and all the martyrs and saints.  ܘܐܒܘܢ ܕܒܫܡܝܐ ܘܫܪܟܐ

 

Issued at our Patriarchate in Damascus, Syria

On the 27th of February 2020,

Which is the 6th year of our Patriarchate

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On February 26, 2020, His Holiness Patriarch Mor Ignatius Aphrem II received His Excellency Minister of Endowments Dr. Mohammad Abdulsattar Al-Sayyid at Antioch Syrian University (ASU), in Maarat Saydnaya, in the presence of Dr. Rakan Razzouk, President of ASU.
 
His Excellency delivered a lecture at ASU entitled: “The Role of the Universal Interpretation in Facing Extremism”. The lecture was attended by His Excellency Dr. Shukri Al-Baba, Assistant Minister of High Education for the Private Education, as well as dignitaries from Saydnaya and Maarat Saydnaya, including many religious leaders, both Christians and Muslims. Their Eminences Archbishops: Mor Timotheos Matta Al-Khoury, Patriarchal Vicar in the Patriarchal Archdiocese of Damascus, and Mor Yacoub Babawi, Patriarchal Vicar for the Affairs of the Monks and the Administration of Mor Aphrem Seminary in Maarat Saydnaya, also attended.
 
Following the lecture, His Holiness met His Excellency at Mor Aphrem Monastery. They discussed the current situation in Syria, especially the role of religious institutions in educating the society and the youth, in order to face terrorism and extreme religious ideologies.
 

On February 25, 2020, His Holiness Patriarch Mor Ignatius Aphrem II visited His Excellency Mr. Hussein Diab, Governor of Aleppo at the Governorate Headquarters in Aleppo.

 

His Holiness congratulated His Excellency on the victory of Aleppo over terrorism and hoped that it will recover soon its role as the center of industry and trade in Syria.

 

He was accompanied by His Eminence Archbishop Mor Boutros Kassis, Patriarchal Assistant and Patriarchal Delegate in Aleppo, the reverend priests of the Archdiocese as well as Mr. Ghassan Shami, and Mr. Nabeel Kahla. 

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