The Speech of Patriarch JOHN X The Honorary…
The Speech of Patriarch JOHN X
The Honorary Doctorate Award Ceremony
The Christian Academy of Theology, Warsaw, August 16, 2016
Mr. President and Faculty Members,
It is a great honor for me on my first visit to Poland to be with you and be awarded this honorary doctorate from the Christian Academy of Theology in Warsaw. I would like to express my deep gratitude to His Beatitude, my brother Metropolitan Sawa, Archbishop of Warsaw and Metropolitan of All Poland, and my appreciation to the faculty and staff of this esteemed Academy.
I come to you from the ancient Near East, from the heart of Antioch, a place where the first cultures came to be.
I come from Antioch, the inheritor of the intellectual thought of Aristotle, and the Hellenistic beacon shining from the Mediterranean basin to the entire world.
I come from Antioch, a name that carries great symbolism. Intellectuals may not agree on one description of Antioch’s history, its intellectual influence and how much it was influenced. In Christianity and in the history of civilization, it was considered by some Greek, and by others Arabic, or Syriac. Some thought it has an Aristotelian thought, an incarnational trend, and a Pauline orientation. Others saw it as symbolizing the glory of the ancients: they were elated by its Romanity or Byzantinism. All of these descriptions are nothing less than an affirmation that the Church of Antioch is the place where first cultures and civilizations were molded in the crucible of love that the Lord Jesus Christ laid down for all people.
Perhaps the uniqueness of the history of Antioch lies in that, in spite of its prominence, it was never the capital of the civil authority. Rather, it was the center of thought and of theology. Like other cities, it had a distinct fragrance that is still felt throughout history till today: in the minutes of the Holy Councils, and in the heart and mind of every Christian today. History aggrieved it and broke some of its walls, but the theology wall of its living testimony in Jesus Christ was not shaken. I say this, despite the divisions that beset it and all the sects and schisms that affected it. Thus, I would like to assure that Antioch has always been a home and an arena of living theology, which has led to the formation of history, dogma, liturgy, ecclesiastic art, and dialogue with all.
Being the Patriarch of Antioch, the city which engraved in history the name of the School of Antioch, the theological school of exegesis, I am pleased to be with you and in your midst at the Christian Academy of Theology in Warsaw. This Academy’s legacy and the Christian name it bears is the best evidence that the main universities in the world were the walls of churches and monastery yards. This is not in itself a matter of reclusiveness or about rigid Christian thinking. Rather, it is the best evidence that Christianity, despite all the lapses of Christians in history and the present times, is, and ever shall be, the foundation of human civilization for Europe and for many countries. Its first and foremost calling is to supply societies with all of its beauties, values and lights, eliminating all isolationist and takfir ideology, and paving the way for love and openness, and for the confluence of civilizations, not for their struggle.
Antioch the thought is the same as Antioch the blood of the martyrs and confessors. Antioch the theology is the same as Antioch the living testimony throughout history and present times. What characterizes this Church is that She has been, first and foremost, the Church of the land and of the lively people, the Church of the ringing bells echoing, not just in the valleys and across walls, but also in the innermost deepness of souls. And by virtue of its situation, the Church of Antioch took up a leading role in Christian relations with all churches and denominations. If some speak about Christian-Christian brotherhood in conferences, we are living this brotherhood in Antioch , as you, my brothers in Poland, are living it in the streets and neighborhoods, and in the social relations based on both, firmness of faith and openness to others. Antioch is also the Church which best understands the Arab and Islamic civilization in all its dimensions. Hence, its long experience in the Christian-Muslim dialogue and its focus first and foremost on building a communication bridge with the other, discovering oneself through interacting with the other.
In our modern era, our Church of Antioch has sought to establish a theological Institute, and the dream came true in the seventies of the last century, taking the name of St. John of Damascus. It is an Institute that is directly under the supervision and direction of the Church of Antioch. Our Church has recently yielded many fruits. In addition to establishing many schools and colleges, She founded the University of Balamand in Lebanon, one of the most important universities, which is the eldest academic offspring of the Church of Antioch and All the East. We are now working also on a major historical challenge to build the Humayrah University in the heart of Syria, in order to strengthen our will to remain steadfast in our land, believing that through education we open a way to eradicate all dark ideologies and to strengthen the modern societies.
In recent days, since more than five years now, our Church has paid one of the toughest bills of terrorism, violence and blind takfir. She even suffered more from the treacherous attempts to falsify history and social and cultural relations in Her land. Our Church exists in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Turkey, the Arabian Gulf, and in all the countries of the Diaspora. Today, She is united in the face of these fateful circumstances of the war on Syria and in Syria.
Since more than five years the crisis began under irrelevant slogans. We, the Christians along with other people, are paying from our blood and from the blood of our children a high price for the falsity of falsehood. We are suffering from displacement, uprooting, killing, kidnapping, violence, and blind terrorism, and from the instability of nations which were founded by our sacrifices and the sacrifices of others. Our churches and mosques are burnt, our monuments are ruined, and our bishops, priests and elderly are being killed and abducted, acts that God completely disowns. Perhaps, the case of our brothers Youhanna Ibrahim and Paul Yazigi, the Bishops of Aleppo, is one of the most issues that reflect, even briefly, the sufferings of the humans living in the East. They have been in abduction since more than three years amid the silence of all, while all decision-makers are just being content with words of condemnation that almost converge to silence.
We are with you today, but our hearts are in Lebanon and in Syria, and in every corner of our land in the East. We will stay where we are, no matter how much the circumstances worsen. Our country is burning with destruction and tribulations, and we are burning by our original steadfastness to remain well rooted in it. We draw this steadfastness from the strength of our faith, because our ancestors were in their own land two thousand years ago, and they are the ones who heard the footsteps of the Apostles and proclaimed the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the whole world.
We thank you, my brothers, for the honor you bestowed on ourselves, and we primarily consider this honor as a medal for the Church of Antioch and for every enlightened person in the East. Light, and a bright light, emanates from the East. Thus, we offer our prayers today to the Father of Lights, that He may perpetuate His compassions on your dear country, instill His peace in our country, and crown the world with the light of His divine presence.