In The Name Of The Self-Existent Eternal, Omnipotent and Almighty God
Ignatius Zakka I Iwas
Patriarch Of The Apostolic See Of Antioch And All The East
Supreme Head Of The Universal Syriac Orthodox Church
We extend our apostolic benediction, best wishes and greetings in the Lord to our brothers, the Eminent Metropolitans, to our spiritual children: the honorable Very Rev. and Rev. priests, monks, nuns, deacons; and to all our esteemed Syriac Orthodox people throughout the world.
May the divine providence protect you through the intercession of our Lady the Virgin Mary, St. Peter the chief of the apostles and all the Saints and Martyrs. Amen.
After asking about your well being, we are pleased to inform you that we presided over the Holy Synod which was held on December 1, 2, and 3, 2009, in Mor Aphrem Monastery, in Ma’arat Saydnaya. Most of the Holy Synod members were present. We studied the current Church issues in its spiritual, moral and administrative aspects. We also discussed the problems that face our Church worldwide, especially in countries like Iraq and Palestine, where our people suffer from tribulations, financial needs and difficulties; asking the Lord to ease their burden.
We dealt with the difficulties that some Archdioceses are facing in their services, directly or indirectly, especially in matters of administration. We thank the Lord, and commend members of the Holy Synod who fulfilled their assignments which helped us resolve these issues, especially in Germany where, by the grace of God, matters were concluded peacefully and with an appropriate solution. Concerning the Patriarchal Vicariate of Belgium, France and Luxembourg, which also suffers from administrative difficulties, we have reached some positive solutions to put an end to these problems. We, likewise, studied the state of the Archdiocese, Patriarchal Vicariate of Argentina. We are taking some steps to solve its problems.
We have discussed also our Church’s role in the Ecumenical movement: our involvement within the Oriental Orthodox Churches, our relationship with the Catholic Church, the World Council of Churches and the Middle East Council of Churches and others. It became clear to us the importance of our leading role in all these arenas.
Moreover, we have studied the Patriarchal Magazine – the mouthpiece of our Patriarchate and Church – and we expressed our gratitude to those who manage, publish and distribute it with tireless efforts. We have listened to the positive reports about it, and to the important message it promotes since its establishment in 1962. We encourage you to continue to support this magazine, by reading it, writing in it, or directing good pens to share in its editing, and in the distribution of the news of our archdioceses and the activities of all the organizations. We urge you to subscribe to it and support it both morally and financially. This magazine reflects the life and the mission of the Church. We thank their Eminences on their positive responses, in showing their complete readiness to do their duties concerning the magazine, because the media is the best way to declare the word of God, and lift up the profile of the Holy Church.
We, likewise, studied the state of our monasteries and monasticism in general. We especially examined the status of our children, the monks and the nuns, as well as the role of Mor Aphrem Theological Seminary which is the beating heart of our Church. We appreciate the efforts and loyalty of those who serve in the Patriarchate, monasteries and parishes, those who work in the fields of religious education and catechism and those who are continuing their studies which upholds the Word of God and strengthens the Church. Next year, God willing, we shall meet them all in Mor Aphrem Monastery in Ma’arat Saydnaya, for spiritual, theological and scientific discussions. These courses constitute part of their Holy Service.
Concerning the role of the laity in the Church, we studied the proposals sent to us during the meetings of the Holy Synod. Our Holy Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch is one of the churches that greatly encourage the role of the laity in the Church by offering them opportunities to share in the decision making, through membership in the parish boards of trustees, organizations, institutions and educational, instructional and financial committees. We are pleased to increase the duties of lay people, through a study prepared by the Holy Synod, which is available with their Eminences who will announce it to you soon, in hope of increasing cooperation between clergy and laity in the Church.
As we prepare to observe the Christmas fast, and the celebrations of the Holy Birth of our Lord, the New Year and Epiphany, we take this opportunity to send you our apostolic benediction and heartily congratulations, wishing you and your families joyous and blessing feasts and asking the Lord to shower you with His blessings of good health, success and happiness. May His Grace abide in you.
Our Father Who art in heaven…
Issued at our Patriarchal Headquarters in Damascus, Syria, on the 4th day of December in the year of our Lord 2009, which is the 30th year of our Patriarchal reign.