Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Second Afrikaans-speaking parish founded in South Africa

Archbishop Damaskinos of Johannesburg and Pretoria blessed the St Theodore the Tyro Orthodox Mission Church. It is the second Afrikaans-speaking parish in the Archdiocese of Johannesburg and Pretoria. More information available here.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Violence against Christians up in Egypt

(Premier) - The study by Christian Solidarity Worldwide documented that since 2011 there has been a rise in the number of blasphemy cases brought against Christians and that perpetrators of attacks against religious minorities generally enjoy impunity.

The report also found there are still serious restrictions on church-building in the country.

The publication of the report coincides with the second anniversary of the beheading of 21 Coptic Christians on an Egyptian beach in an Islamic State video.

The charity's Egypt Advocacy Officer - who can't be named for security reasons - told Premier News Hour that they are working with the Egyptian government to help improve the situation for Christians.

"There will be an attack on a community, the security services may know about it before hand and do nothing, there's precious little follow up for the Christian community in terms of justice."

He added: "We're making recommendations to try and encourage the Egyptian government in everything they've done well but also pointing out to everyone here that there are serious areas of concern where we want to see the Egyptian government do better."

Egypt's Coptic Christian community is still recovering after Islamic State suicide bombers murdered 27 believers at St George's Orthodox Cathedral in Cairo in December.

The country is number 21 on the Open Doors' World Watch List of the 50 most difficult countries in the world to be a Christian.

A day in the life of Fedor Emelianenko

Further update on Georgian poison plot

Tbilisi, February 17 (Interfax) - Catholicos-Patriarch Ilia II of All Georgia has made his first statement after undergoing surgery at a Berlin clinic regarding the detention of Deacon Giorgi Mamaladze, who has been accused by the Prosecutor's Office of attempted murder.

"I have known Father Giorgi for a long time and have heard nothing but good things about him. The story with Father Giorgi is strange and not normal," the patriarch said in an interview circulated by the Zugdidi-Tsaishi Diocese.

Ilia II said that he would arrive in Georgia in three days and then "everything will be clarified and will return to normal."

"No one will be able to disrupt the unity of our people and our Church," he said.

Deacon Mamaladze faces attempted murder accusations. He was detained at Tbilisi International Airport on February 10 carrying the toxic substance cyanide.

Georgian Chief Prosecutor Irakly Shotadze said at a press briefing earlier that Mamaladze was accused of attempting to murder a "high-ranking clergyman" in Germany.

More on the Patriarch Ignatius Aphrem II kerfuffle

A few days ago I posted on some rather raucous behavior within the Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch (see here). I got a few emails asking for more background and some emails providing more details. I've posted more below.

His Holiness Moran Mor Ignatius Aphrem II
Patriarch of Antioch
(La Stampa) - It is a “serious internal problem” the one exploded within the Syrian Orthodox Church. Words by Mor Ignatius Aphrem II, Patriarch of Antioch Syrian Orthodox, addressing the faithful present on Sunday in St. George’s Cathedral in Bab Tuma, in the old city of Damascus. This “serious problem” concerns himself as Primate of that ancient pre-Chalcedonian Christianity, who is also “the Successor of Peter”, as the Prince of the Apostles before being martyred in Rome, was also head of the Church Antioch. Six Syrian Orthodox metropolitan bishops have publicly accused him of “betrayal of the faith”, unleashing a hail of attacks against the Patriarch also through blogs and social media. I've noted the use of pre-Chalcedonian in recent articles instead of non-Chalcedonian. It's an interesting turn of phrase.

The turmoil between the patriarch and some bishops of his Church has a complicated plot. Officially, the most shocking accusation against Mor Ignatius Aphrem has a doctrinal imprint. The betrayal of faith “attributed to the Patriarch by his detractors is that of having raised the Koran, out of respect, and having used the expression “Prophet Mohammad,” when referring to Muhammad, during inter-religious meetings. “Christ loves everyone, and calls us to be peace-builders with everyone”, replies the Patriarch to his detractors. He reiterates that lifting the Qur’an is only a way of showing respect for hundreds of millions of Muslim believers around the world. It is he who exploits these kind of acts and words to divide the Church, “the body of Christ,” he is actually the one offending and denying the faith of the Apostles, “that reached us through the blood of martyrs.”

The six anti-Patriarch bishops have issued a statement on February 8, in which they argue that the Primate of the Church no longer deserves the title of “defensor fidei”, because according to them he has cast doubt and suspicion in the heart of believers, with statements and actions “contrary to the teachings of Jesus Christ and his Holy Gospel.” They also threatened to ordain bishops around the world, if the Patriarch continues to “persist in his errors.” However, the six bishops’ statements against the Patriarch provoked the firm response of the other 30 Syrian Orthodox bishops, who represent the vast majority of the Synod.

In a statement dated February 10, the thirty bishops have labeled as “rebellion against the Church ’ the allegations against the Patriarch of having moved away from the “orthodox Christian dogma.” They preventively declare as invalid all the ordinations and other episcopal acts that they should implement without the consent of the Patriarch. Bishops urge the “rebels” to repent and return to the right path, and confirm their full communion with the “legitimate successor of Peter”, recognizing the paternal aspect of his conduct, “through his constant presence among the people, especially during difficult times.”

Through social media, priests and Syrian Orthodox communities around the world express their solidarity to the Patriarch. Nevertheless, the unfortunate affair occurred at the Syriac Orthodox Patriarchate is only the latest among the recent incidents that took place within many ecclesial communities of the Middle East and Arab world. The turmoil caused by the conflicts and sectarian rivalry in the Middle east have revealed the obvious weaknesses and miseries within local churches, catalyzing new divisions. Last June, the Synod of the Greek-Melkite Catholic Church was interrupted and postponed due to the no-show of a number of bishops, who failed to reach the quorum and asked for the resignation of Patriarch Gregoire III and the election of a new Patriarch. In addition, Chaldean Patriarch Raphael Louis Sako the First had to carry on a hard struggle to denounce the exodus of priests and religious who left their homeland and emigrated to the West without the consent of their bishops. While the Syrian Catholic Patriarch Ignace Youssif Younan, in December, has suspended a divinis three priests who had sent the Pope a letter asking for the resignation of Yohanna Bedros Mouche, Syrian Catholic Bishop of Mosul.

The conflicts within the clergy of the Churches in the Middle East are also a distressing symptom of many clerics’ distance from the faithful’s sufferings and tribulations experienced in this time. Exchanges of doctrinal accusations often work us cover-ups to “dignify” conflicts moved by far more prosaic reasons. Meanwhile, the number of bishops, priests and religious-turned-financial operators, enrolled full-time in “fundraising” operations under a sign of support to the “suffering Christians” is increasing. Processes that in the long run may prove to be more devastating for the future of the Eastern Churches than jihadist violence.
And also...
(SCOOCH) - In the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, One God, Amen.

The Standing Conference of Oriental Orthodox Churches (SCOOCH) was disturbed to learn that on February 8, 2017 six bishops of the Syriac Orthodox Church issued a statement accusing H.H. Mor Ignatius Aphrem II, Patriarch of Antioch and All the East, of deviating from the Orthodox Faith. The six bishops further declared that they had intentions not only to administer their dioceses independently of the Patriarchate, but also to cause enduring division by ordaining parallel bishops for all of the existing dioceses of the Syriac Orthodox Church.

For its part, SCOOCH declares its unequivocal support for His Holiness Patriarch Ignatius Aphrem II, a learned teacher and a stalwart defender of the Holy Orthodox Faith. During his tenure as Patriarchal Vicar of the Syriac Orthodox Archdiocese of the Eastern United States from 1996-2014, H.E. Mor Cyril Aphrem Karim – as His Holiness was then known – labored alongside the members of SCOOCH for the growth and development of our shared heritage of Holy Orthodoxy here in the United States.

During that time, His Holiness established himself as a pillar of the Pan-Oriental Orthodox Movement and one of the driving engines behind the reinvigoration of SCOOCH, and cultivated the growth of the faith that is our shared inheritance in the hearts of all around him.

The Standing Conference of Oriental Orthodox Churches condemns any action which might create schism within our communion, and urges the six bishops to reconcile themselves to their Patriarch and to the Holy Synod, which supports him. Now more than ever, it is crucial that we come together and not foster division among ourselves. The Standing Conference supports any efforts at reconciliation between the six bishops and His Holiness Mor Ignatius Aphrem II, and will meet personally with His Holiness to declare our support for him when he next visits the United States early next month.

With Love in Our Savior Jesus Christ,
Archbishop Khajag Barsamian
Primate, Diocese of the Armenian Church of America (New York)
President, Standing Conference of Oriental Orthodox Churches of America

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Update on Georgian poison plot

Moscow, February 15 (Interfax) - Public defender (ombudsman) of Georgia Ucha Nanuashvili on Tuesday met with deacon Giorgy Mamaladze who is in preliminary detention for attempting to murder a high-ranking clergyman.

"Accused deacon Mamaladze denies the accusations and says he did not have poisonous substance cyanide with him when he was detained in the Tbilisi airport. Mamaladze also asks the ombudsman to provide security for all members of his family," the ombudsman said.

According to him, there are many questions and many processional violations in the case of the detained deacon.

"Deacon Mamaladze considers himself not guilty and hopes to prove that he is right. Another very important detail: according to the deacon's statement, when they read out accusations to him, there was nothing about an attempt against a high-ranking clergyman," Nanuashvili said.

It was reported earlier that Mamaladze had been arrested on February 10 on charges of attempted murder at the Tbilisi international airport. Cyanide was found in his luggage.

Last Monday Georgia's Prosecutor General Irakli Shotadze said the deacon was arrested based on the information the prosecutor's office received from an individual who claimed that Giorgi Mamaladze had asked him, "in return for a substantial reward, to acquire the poisonous substance cyanide for elimination of a high-ranking priest".

An investigation has been started based on this information, he said.

"It transpired that Mamaladze was going to travel to Germany where Patriarch Ilia II is currently being treated. Upon his arrest at the airport, a search of his luggage revealed a cache with the poisonous substance cyanide. A search of his apartment led to the discovery of a firearm and cartridges," the prosecutor said.

Feast Day of the Meeting of Our Lord at St.Catherine’s Church

Someone is going to ask me, "What does this have to do with the Feast day?" To that I answer, "It's just a well lit and framed photo. Spraznikom."

Consecration of an Armenian prison chapel

Even if you don't speak Armenian, it's fascinating to see how chapels are blessed in their tradition.

The consecration of the newly built Holy Resurrection chapel at the Armavir Detention Facility was offered by His Grace Bishop Artak Tigranyan, Head of the Monastic structures of the Mother See. The chapel was built by the inmates of the facility.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Planting grant seeded into Saint James, MO

Father Joel is a wonderfully kind-hearted priest and I expect it's a delight to be a communicant under his care. Prayers and well-wishes to the souls of Annunciation Mission!

SAINT JAMES, MO (OCA-DMW) — “The timing of the Planting Grant for our community is a mercy of God that will allow us to more fully offer our time and energy — ourselves — to the life of the Church here,” said Priest Joel Wilson of the Annunciation of the Virgin Mary Mission, Saint James, MO. “It will enable us to be present with a single purpose.”

Annunciation Mission, one of the Diocese of the Midwest’s newest mission communities, was recently awarded its first Church Planting Grant from the Orthodox Church in America.

Father Joel, who during his years at Saint Tikhon’s Seminary had been given “a unique perspective on evangelization” while pursuing a summer internship in an Oklahoma mission, discerned the call to plant a mission in an area with little or no Orthodox Christian presence.

“Having come from a small parish myself, and having participated in the life of a vibrant mission prior to seminary, that summer was all it took to solidify the desire to plant a mission within my and my wife’s hearts,” Father Joel explained. “Though the desire was there, I was personally conflicted. The fact that ‘you cannot give what you do not have’ was ingrained within us while at seminary…. But in the Scriptures we are told that in our weakness, God’s strength is made perfect.”

After ordination to the diaconate, Father Joel was given a blessing to plant a mission in Rolla, MO in June 2012 as a mission outreach of Saint Thomas the Apostle Church, Springfield, MO — some two hours away.

“Participating in the missionary effort, they offered to host us for up to two years to allow us to evangelize the community in Rolla and establish a mission,” Father Joel explained. “Though our only source of income was what little work came in through my web design business, we worked to publicized the mission effort online, in newspapers, and by word of mouth. By the end of 2012, we were introduced to a few Orthodox families who had resided in the Rolla-Saint James area for quite some time, and they encouraged us to begin services as soon as possible.”

And so, in February, 2013, the first Divine Liturgy at what is today Annunciation Mission was celebrated, after which Deacon Joel and his fledgling flock began to celebrate Typika on Saturdays at a Knights of Columbus hall, which was offered free of charge. The community began to grow and, with the blessing of His Grace, Bishop Alexander, it was named in honor of the Annunciation.

On moving the Russian-Roman conversation forward

Rome, Italy, Feb 12, 2017 (EWTN News) - One year ago marked a historic first meeting between a Pope and a Russian Orthodox Patriarch. Now, the Vatican and the Moscow Patriarchate will celebrate the meeting’s anniversary with a conference at Switzerland’s Freibourg University.

The conference will take place Feb. 12, exactly one year after the meeting between Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill at the St. Marti airport at the Havana. Christian brotherhood and unity were the focus of the 2016 meeting. “We spoke as brothers,” Pope Francis said of the meeting last year. “We have the same baptism. We are bishops. We spoke of our Churches.”

Patriarch Kirill said their private discussion was conducted “with full awareness of the responsibility of our Churches, for the future of Christianity, and for the future of human civilization” and provided a chance to understand each other. He said the two Churches will work against war.

Now, one year later, Catholic and Russian Orthodox leaders will gather in Switzerland for a conference. The event is held by Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization, and Metropolitan Hilarion, president of the department of the external ecclesiastical relations of the Russian Orthodox Patriarchate.

Cardinal Koch and Metropolitan Hilarion both led the negotiations that led to Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill’s joint statement in Havana. At the Switzerland conference they will talk about progress and rapprochement between the two Churches. It is probable that Cardinal Koch’s lecture will follow the approach of Fr. Hyacinthe Destivelle, who is in charge of the Eastern relations desk at the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the Christian Unity.

In Jan. 19 essay for L’Osservatore Romano, Fr. Destivelle emphasized the advances in the dialogue between the Holy See and the Russian Orthodox Patriarchate. The 2016 meeting was not framed by theological dialogue, which is instead the competence of the International Roman Catholic-Orthodox Dialogue. Rather, it was framed instead “by the dialogue of charity, and more precisely by pastoral ecumenism.”

The priest reiterated that the joint declaration between the Pope and the Patriarch was “a pastoral one.” He rejected interpreting their declaration through “geopolitical lenses” and said it would be incorrect to see in them an excessive theological impact. The declaration focused at length on anti-Christian persecution, especially in in the Middle East and North Africa. It lamented the hostilities in Ukraine.

The declaration also voiced concern about the threat of secularism to religious freedom and the Christian roots of Europe. Other topics of the discussion between the Pope and the Patriarch included poverty, the crisis in the family, abortion and euthanasia. The Pope and the Patriarch exhorted young Christians to live their faith in the world.

Fr. Destivelle also noted that the declaration drew criticisms from both Orthodox and Catholic sides. In particular, from Ukraine the Greek Catholic Church expressed “strong reservations” focused on some passages. The priest said more time is needed for the Havana meeting and the joint declaration to bear fruit.

As for the upcoming anniversary, Fr. Destivelle listed a series of concerts, exhibitions and even exchanges of gifts that will show strengthened relations. He noted that Metropolitan Hilarion visited Rome four times in the last year and met with Pope Francis twice, on June 15 and Oct. 21. The metropolitan has met with other Vatican leaders. He had a June 26 meeting with Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican Secretary of State, and several meetings with Cardinal Koch.

Fr. Destivelle wanted to reiterate that the Havana declaration was a “pastoral declaration” that intended to soften the polemics, even the polemics raised after the declaration was issued. The declaration was at that time considered “Russophile” in some quarters. The Ukrainian religious agency RISU described it as such in its introduction to an interview with Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church.

Cathedral. Museum. Cathedral. Museum?

Recently St. Isaac's cathedral in St. Petersburg was turned back into a cathedral (it's initial purpose obviously). Some people are opposed to this change and think it should go back to being a museum. I understand the financial implications of this change, but church buildings should be churches and icons should live in churches not museums.

(RT) - Hundreds of people on Sunday gathered near one of the main landmarks in St. Petersburg, Russia – St. Isaac's cathedral, the city’s most prominent religious museum. While one group came to celebrate the city authorities' decision to give the historic building to the Russian Orthodox Church, others protested against the move.

Participants of the anti-transition rally on Sunday were chanting "Museum! Museum!" as they formed a triple circle around the landmark, local media reported.

Judging by the size of the cathedral, up to 3,000 people might have taken part, according to participants' estimates, as cited by the St. Petersburg-based Fontanka newspaper...
Complete article here.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Patriarch Ilya II escapes poisoning plot

(Christian Today) - Georgia's Patriarch Ilya II is said to have been the target of an assassination attempt.

A Georgian Orthodox priest has been arrested after police accused him of attempting to poison a 'high-ranking Church official'.

Giorgi Mamaladze was detained on Friday at Tbilisi airport as he boarded a plane to Berlin, where the head of the Georgian Church, Patriarch Ilya II, was waiting for a gall bladder operation.

Georgia's chief prosecutor said Mamaladze was in possession of sodium cyanide. His statement did not name the intended target, but the prime minister ordered increased security for the Patriarch.

Mamaladze is director general of the Georgian Patriarchate's St Joachim and Ana Medical Centre, and also serves as deputy head of the Patriarchate's property management service.

He has been formally charged with attempted murder and has pleaded not guilty.

The Georgian Orthodox Church counts around 80 percent of the country's 4.5 million population among its members and is notably conservative. It withdrew from the Pan-Orthodox Council last year because it believed the preparatory documents gave too much away to non-Orthodox Churches, later repudiating the Council and its decisions.

Patriarch Ilia has led the Church since 1977 and is credited with overseeing a major revival after Georgian regained its independence after the collapse of the former Soviet Union. He has suffered ill-health recently and had a successful gall bladder operation today.

Ethiopian Church delegation visits WCC

Complete speech available here.

(EP) - On 8-11 February 2017, His Holiness Abune Matthias Asratetshion Kokebu I, Patriarch of Ethiopia, Archbishop of Axum, Echegue of the See of St. Tekle Haimanot, Primate of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church made an official visit to the World Council of Churches that included a visit of the Ecumenical Centre, meeting with the leadership of the WCC, meeting with the Orthodox staff members, meeting with the African staff, a visit of the Ecumenical Institute of Bossey and a meeting with its faculty and students, a visit of the Orthodox Centre of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Chamb├ęsy and a meeting with the leadership, faculty and students of its Postgraduate Institute of Orthodox Theology, a public conference at the Ecumenical Center of the WCC, and a Liturgy at the Ecumenical Centre Chapel.

In his public address, Patriarch Abune Matthias brought greetings on behalf of more than 50 million members of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church. He commended the WCC for remaining dedicated to its founding principle of forging unity between and among the worldwide Christian community. “Compared to that historic time of the creation of the WCC, today Christianity is under assault, challenge and confrontation throughout the world.” He also answered questions from the audience. “Being together, despite differences of traditions,” seemed to be the most important focus for the Ecumenical Movement today.

The Patriarch said in his address: “Let it be clear, therefore, that the principle and objectives articulated when the WCC was established have relevance and meaning today more than ever.” And he further added: “Hence the WCC has been calling not only member Churches and ecumenical councils but also governments, world leaders, and social movements to stand together in the fight against devastation – responding to manmade and natural disasters, ensuring peace, justice and dignity of all, and making our earth a safer place to live.”

For Patriarch Abune Matthias, peace is the key word in the Church’s message. “In our church, peace is the message of every day,” he said. “We have faithfully followed the call of the WCC for interreligious dialogue to be integrated as an important part of our ecumenical responsibility.”

The Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church is an Oriental (Pre-chalcedonian) Orthodox Church, established in the first century, now has more than 50 million members; 35,000 parish churches; 1,500 ancient monasteries (including those in Jerusalem); 50 archbishops and bishops; 400,000 ordained clergy, and 20,000 classical and ecclesiastical schools. During his four day visit to Geneva, Patriarch Abune Matthias was accompanied by His Grace Abune Mussie (Archbishop of the Diocese of Western Europe), His Grace Abune Sawiros Moges Liche (Archbishop of the Southwest Shewa Diocese and general secretary of the Holy Synod), His Grace Abune Enthos Hailu Hagos (Archbishop of Western Hararge Diocese) and Rev. Musie Hailu Asgedom.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

The history of Soul Saturdays

Saturday of Meatfare week is dedicated to the memory of ‘our fathers and brothers, all the Orthodox Christians who fell asleep throughout the ages.’ This is a universal commemoration of all the dead, which we shall find again on the Saturday before Pentecost. Thus we find such a commemoration and the beginning and the end of the moveable cycle.

The first indication of this universal commemoration of the dead on Saturday of Meatfare week appears in the Typikon of the Great Church (9th-10th century). It is possible that it was instituted in connection with the commemoration on Meatfare Sunday of the last judgement. The Typicon St. Alexios the Studite (11th century) describes an ordo of the office very similar to what we celebrate today.

Bishop Afanasii (Sakharov) believed that, during these two days, the Church prayed in a more intense way for the repose of all the dead, familiar and stranger, known and unknown, of every age and circumstance, of all times and all peoples, of all who have died since the beginning of the world. According to him, this is the reason the Church put aside the commemoration of saints from the Menaion, in order to dedicate itself fully to prayer for the dead. Indeed, in contrast with other Saturdays, when the commemoration of the of the dead follows the glorification of all the saints, here the memorial of the dead takes up the entire focus of the liturgical celebration…

These rubrics reflect an ancient practice, attested to by Canon 51 of the Council of Laodicea [363-364AD], which instructs that the memory of the martyrs should not be celebrated during the forty days of Lent, but on Saturdays and Sundays. Theodore Balsamon (c. 1140-c. 1195), the great Byzantine canonist, already considered that this canon concerning the commemoration of martyrs applied equally to the commemoration of the dead.

- Archimandrite Job Getcha
The Typikon Decoded, pp 147-148, 186

Startling statement from the Syriac Orthodox Church's synod

February 10, 2017 (Syrian Orthodox) - Statement Issued by the Fathers of the Holy Synod of the Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch

A statement was issued by six archbishops of our Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch (four of whom are members in the Holy Synod and two are not) in which they attacked His Holiness our Patriarch, “the Supreme Head of the Syrian Orthodox Church of Antioch, the defender of its faith, doctrine, and apostolic traditions, the symbol of its unity, its representative and spokesman everywhere, the general supervisor of all its affairs, and the spiritual father of all Syrian Orthodox people worldwide.” (Article 7 of the Church Constitution) and questioned, in particular, the faith of His Holiness and his adherence to the Orthodox Christian dogma, and permitted themselves to speak on behalf of the Holy Synod declaring their rebellion against Church leadership and Constitution, considering His Holiness an alien to the rank of Patriarch.

We confirm in this statement that carries our names, the following:

Our utter condemnation and absolute rejection of everything that appeared in the referenced statement in the form of accusations against our Patriarch, which are hereby declared totally false and hostile positions that incite discord and sow the seeds of division among our people.

Our clear declaration that these six archbishops do not, in any way, represent our Holy Synod nor do they speak for any of us.

We consider invalid and illegal every and any action that these archbishops conduct in the form of ordinations and any other episcopal services that, contrary to the Constitution of the Church, are carried out without securing the approval of His Holiness the Patriarch (Article 50 – Section H, which states: “All of his [the Metropolitan] activities are subject to the supervision of H.H the Patriarch”, and Article 56, which states: “The Metropolitan will be vigilant in choosing the best priests whom he ordains, according to church rules and traditions after obtaining approval from H.H. the Patriarch”). By their actions, in disobedience of these laws, they are separating themselves from the Church.

Our clear call to these six archbishops to follow the path of repentance and for their return from their deviation, subject to the Church canon law in accordance with the Constitution of our Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch.

The fathers of the Synod confirm their standing by the side of the lawful successor of St. Peter, His Holiness Moran Mor Ignatius Aphrem II, who was chosen by the Holy Spirit through his election by the Holy Synod in these difficult circumstances that we are currently witnessing. We value his clear fatherly conduct through his constant presence among his people, particularly during at critical times, and we call upon all Church members, clergy and laity, to pray fervently for the sake of the Holy Church and her shepherds and to rally around the their spiritual leadership.