Life of Jesus
Patriarchal Encyclical Issued Following the Holy SynodJuly,2 2015
After the conclusion of the meetings of the Holy Synod, His Holiness Patriarch Mor Ignatius Aphrem II issued a patriarchal encyclical informing about the results of the meetings.
Hereafter you can read the full text of the encyclical:
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, deacons and deaconesses 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, St. Peter, Chief of the Apostles, and the rest of the Martyrs and Saints. Amen.
By the grace of the Holy Trinity, we have presided over the Holy Synod of our Syrian Orthodox Church of Antioch, convened between 9 and 14 June 2015 at St. Aphrem Monastery in Maarat Saydnaya – Damascus. Most of the members of the Synod attended, as well as, Archbishops from Malankara who are directly under the Holy Apostolic See of Antioch. Father of the Synod were greatly saddened by the compulsory absence of His Eminence Mor Gregorius Youhanna Ibrahim, Archbishop of Aleppo and Environs. However, we strongly believe that His Eminence was present with us in spirit, praying for the Church and for his spiritual children who remain steadfast in their endurance in the city of Aleppo.
In the presence of several laypeople, representing some of our Syriac archdioceses around the world, we opened the sessions of the Holy Synod with a prayer invoking the Holy Spirit to inspire the Fathers of the Synod and to give them wisdom in their deliberations and decision making. We then meditated on chapter 10 of St. Matthew’s gospel; and offered prayers for the late lamented Patriarch Mor Ignatius Zakka I Iwas of blessed memory and for the safe return of the two abducted Archbishops of Aleppo their Eminences Mor Gregorius Youhanna Ibrahim and Boulos Yaziji and others.
In the first session, we gave an overview of the various activities we conducted, by the grace of God, during our first year as patriarch. We informed their Eminences about the results of our meetings with presidents, prime ministers, heads of parliaments, ministers and parliamentarians. We also reported on the official and apostolic visits we paid to some of our archdioceses throughout the world. We, likewise, reported on our visit to our church in India, highlighting the amicable and peaceful atmosphere which was prevailed during the visit and the joy it brought to the children of the Church. Similarly, we have informed the Fathers about the ecumenical meetings we held with patriarchs of the East in Syria, Lebanon, Egypt and Armenia, especially the meeting of the Oriental Orthodox Churches in the Middle East. Moreover, we reported on our meetings with the Syriac political parties and organizations, which we called to cooperate and unify their efforts for the good of the church and nation. Furthermore, we gave an overview of the most important projects that the patriarchate is currently undertaking. Their Eminences the Archbishops and the Reverend monks also gave a concise overview of their work in the diverse departments of the patriarchate.
During the sessions of the Holy Synod, the Fathers discussed the following:
1- The abduction of the two archbishops Boulos and Youhanna:
Being the coordinator of the Patriarchal Committee for the case of the abduction of Archbishop Youhanna Ibrahim, His Eminence Mor Clemis Daniel Kourieh, Metropolitan of Beirut, delivered his report in this respect. It assures us that Archbishop Youhanna Ibrahim is still alive, and we are waiting for his return soon. We, in turn, invite you all to pray for the safe return of His Eminence and assure the committee of our continued financial and moral support to help it succeed in its mission.
2- Re-organization of the General Secretariat of the Holy Synod:
We have decided to form an advisory body to develop a working mechanism for the “General Secretariat of the Holy Synod”. This body will act as a General Secretariat until the next synod is convened.
The Fathers have agreed unanimously to bring back the ‘rank of bishops’ to the church. Bishops will be consecrated to work in the departments of the patriarchate and acquire experience. When one of them is chosen by an archdiocese; he will then be elevated to the rank of Metropolitan and will be able to vote in the Holy Synod.
Accordingly, our spiritual son Raban Maurice Amsih was elected bishop Director of the Department of Public Relations and Protocol and our spiritual son Raban Georges Kourieh was elected bishop Director of Mor Aphrem Theological Seminary. Both of them received most of the vote in a secret ballot.
4- Archdiocese of Aleppo and Environs:
The Fathers of the Holy Synod listened to the detailed report given by Raban Boutros Kassis, the Patriarchal Delegate to Aleppo. The current situation of the Archdiocese was explained as well as the main problems and difficulties that the faithful are facing there.
After thorough and objective discussion, the Father unanimously decided to oblige the priests of the Archdiocese of Aleppo, who left their parishes earlier, to return to their parishes before August 16, 2015. In the case of failing to return before the said date, the priest will be automatically suspended from all priestly service. The Archdiocese is nevertheless committed to provide all means of an honorable life to its priests.
Concerning the manuscripts and other valuable articles in Aleppo, the Holy Synod agreed to form a committee which will include at least one bishop, two or three priests and laypeople from both Archdiocesan councils in Aleppo. The committee will have the mission to temporarily transfer the articles from the Archdiocese headquarter and the two churches, to a safer location that will be designated with the consent of the Patriarchate.
5- The Syriac Archdioceses:
The Fathers discussed the current situation in some of our Archdioceses, namely: the Archdiocese of Al-Jazeerah and Euphrates, the Patriarchal Vicariate of Jerusalem, Jordan and the Holy Lands, and the Patriarchal Vicariate in Belgium, France and Luxemburg. Important decisions were taken in this respect.
The Holy Synod also agreed that His Eminence Mor Nicolaos Matta Abdelahad will be the Patriarchal Vicar in Spain, without forming a diocese in Spain until the conditions for a forming a diocese, such as establishing parishes and ordaining priests, are met.
His Eminence Mor Julius Abdelahad Shabo proposed the separation of the Scandinavian countries from the Archdiocese of Sweden. The Fathers did not find that the sufficient elements for creating a new diocese in the Scandinavian countries (Finland, Norway and Denmark) exist. Raban Aphrem Lahdo was asked to continue to serve these countries under the supervision of the Archbishop of Sweden and Scandinavia until churches are established and priests are ordained for ministry in these countries. Thus, a basic structure for forming a diocese will be in place before any new decision is taken in this matter.
6- The formation of Sub-Committees:
After we demonstrated the necessity to reconsider the current constitution, by-laws and rites of our church, the members of the Holy Synod decided to form the following episcopal committees: 1- Committee for relations with the Syriac Churches, 2- Committee for the Constitution of the Syriac Orthodox Church, 3- Committee for the Personal status laws, 4- Committee for Liturgy and church rites 5- Committee for the church seminaries. These committees will be called to meet and to form their agendas.
7- General Patriarchal Council:
8- Fathers of the Holy Synod and the lay representatives studied together and then separately, the proposed by-law for the General Patriarchal Council prepared by the Patriarchate. After a long discussion the Fathers accepted in principal the draft of the by-laws of the “General Patriarchal Council”. The draft will be sent to the archdioceses to be studied by Metropolitans, the priests and the Archdiocesan councils. The suggestions will be sent to the General Secretariat of the Holy Synod within a period of six months.
The Fathers discussed the affairs of monks, especially those serving in parishes. We decided to form an episcopal committee to meet with the monks, individually and in groups. The committee will then report to the Patriarchate. The reports will be thoroughly studied and the necessary decisions will be taken in this respect.
10- The Date of Commemoration of the Syriac Genocide Sayfo:
After considering the dates proposed to the Patriarchate by some Archdioceses, institutions and academicians, the Fathers agreed to set June 15 as an annual date to commemorate the Martyrs of the Syriac Genocide Sayfo.
11- General Affairs:
Other diverse matters were discussed: the trespassing of some priests (e.g. using the blessed bread for communion when they run out of Holy Body), the lack of knowledge of some priests in liturgical matters (e.g. the rites of baptism, Eucharist, prayers…), the usage of the pectoral cross to bless the sick and the hand cross in matrimonies. The Fathers unanimously rejected these trespasses and behaviors that are contrary to the constitution and practice of the Church. We therefore, order our spiritual children, the clergy, to abide by the church teachings and practices, each of them according to his rank.
We concluded the sessions of the Holy Synod with a thanksgiving prayer to the Lord for gathering the Fathers in Syria in these difficult times and for protecting us from all harm. We also prayed for the safe return of their Eminences to their archdioceses asking them to convey our prayers and apostolic blessings to the faithful members of our church throughout the world.
Dearly beloved, we also inform you that on this occasion, we visited His Excellency the President Syria Dr. Bashar Assad. He warmly welcomed the members of the Holy Synod expressing his appreciation of the Syriac Church which is the Church of Syria.
We consecrated an altar in St. Aphrem Monastery in Maarat Saydnaya in the name of the Syriac Sayfo Martyrs. We also blessed an icon dedicated to their martyrdom. Furthermore, we inaugurated two monuments for the Syriac Genocide Sayfo: one in St. Aphrem Monastery in Maarat Saydnaya and the other in the Garden of the Syriac Sayfo Martyrs in the Old City of Damascus.
Dearly beloved, we hope that you will continuously pray for the Church and her servants. May God Almighty help us to serve you in all that glorifies his name and brings honor to our venerable ancient church.
May the grace of God be with you,
ܘܐܒܘܢ ܕܒܫܡܝܐ ܘܫܪܟܐ
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