Statement Issued by the Holy Antiochian Synod


Statement Issued by the Holy Antiochian Synod

Balamand: October 8, 2021

 The Holy Antiochian Synod, presided by His Beatitude Patriarch John X (Yazigi), held its twelfth regular session from October fifth to October eighth of 2021 in Balamand, in the presence of each of their Eminences, the Most Reverend Metropolitans:

Elias (Archdiocese of Beirut and dependencies),  Elias (Archdiocese of Tyre, Sidon and dependencies), Saba (Archdiocese of Houran and Jabal Al-Arab), George (Archdiocese of Homs and Dependencies), Silouan ( Archdiocese of Jbeil and Batroun and Dependencies), Basilios (Archdiocese of Akkar and Dependencies), Ephrem (Archdiocese of Tripoli, Koura and dependencies), Ignatius (Archdiocese of France, Western and Southern Europe), Ghattas (Archdiocese of Baghdad, Kuwait, the Arab Peninsula and Dependencies), Silouan (Archdiocese of the British Isles and Ireland), Antonios (Archdiocese of Zahleh, Baalbek and Dependencies), Nicolas (Archdiocese of Hama and Dependencies), Ignatius (Archdiocese of Mexico, Venezuela, Central America and the Caribbean Islands), Athanasius (Archdiocese of Lattakia and dependencies) and Jacques (Archdiocese of Buenos Aires and All Argentina). Bishop Ephraim Maalouli, the Secretary of the Holy Synod also attended.

Their Eminences, the Most Reverend Metropolitans Sergio (Archdiocese of Santiago and Chile), Damaskinos (Archdiocese of São Paulo and All Brazil), Isaac (Archdiocese of Germany and Central Europe), Joseph (Archdiocese of New York and All North America), and Basilios (Archdiocese of Australia, New Zealand and the Philippines) were unable to attend. His Eminence, the Most Reverend Metropolitan Boulos (Archdiocese of Aleppo, Alexandretta and dependencies), whose absence is due to abduction, was present in the prayers and supplications of the Synodal Fathers. 

After prayer, invocation of the Holy Spirit, and invocation of divine mercy for the soul of Bishop Luke al- Khoury, the fathers reviewed the agenda after the Antiochian Synod meetings were halted for two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic. They first addressed the issue of the abducted metropolitans of Aleppo, Boulos Yazigi and Yohanna Ibrahim, and denounced the international silence over the issue, which is entering its ninth year. They called for the instant release of their Eminences and immediate resolution of this outstanding issue, which exemplifies one of many which afflict the people of the East.

The fathers raised their prayers to the Almighty Lord, that He may have mercy on His world and eradicate the present pandemic. They prayed for the repose of the souls of those who have perished as a result of this pandemic as well as for the sick and their recovery. They also raised their prayers for medical and service members whose sacrifices and devotion constitute a living testimony.  They called on everyone to adopt precautions and mitigative measures in the midst of this fatal pandemic which continues to pose an existential threat to all humanity.

Given that nearly nine years have passed since the abduction of Metropolitan Boulos Yazigi without certainty regarding his fate, the fathers unanimously decided to transfer His Eminence to assume the position of Metropolitan over the honorary diocese of Diyarbakir, and elected Bishop Ephraim Maalouli, the Patriarchal Vicar and Secretary of the Holy Antiochian Synod, as the Metropolitan over the Archdiocese of Aleppo, Alexandretta and dependencies.

The Fathers reviewed the services provided by Archbishop Niphon Saykali, the honorable Metropolitan of Shahba, the episcopal march of His Eminence, and the prominent role he had played in the ministry of the Antiochian Church. After deliberation, the fathers elected His Eminence, Niphon Saykali as a Metropolitan and a member of the Holy Synod.

The fathers also elected Bishop Gregory Khoury as the Patriarchal Vicar and Secretary of the Holy Antiochian Synod. They elected Archimandrite Arsanios Dahdal as a Bishop to His Beatitude, with the title of Bishop of Hierapolis (Jarabulus) and Archimandrite Mousa Al-Khasi as a Bishop assistant to His Beatitude, with the title of Bishop of Larissa (Shaizer).

The Synod Fathers considered the challenges facing Orthodoxy in the contemporary world, and stressed the importance of preserving the unity of Orthodoxy, respecting the canonical tradition of the Church, and avoiding anything that would exacerbate existing disputes, potentially transforming these disputes into larger and more consequential divisions in the one body of Christ. In this regard, they called for the opening of a comprehensive dialogue concerning all the accumulated controversial issues in order to find solutions that would allow the restoration of ecclesiastical communion within the one Orthodox family.

The fathers listened to several reports and interventions by specialists dealing with an array of issues including the general situation in the Middle East, the Lebanese economic situation, in addition to the prospects and hopes for the coming stages . They listened to reports presented by the Middle East Council of Churches and by the World Council of Churches, a report on the St. John of Damascus Institute of Theology in Balamand, and several interventions that dealt with the general situation in the region along with the repercussions of the pandemic crisis and its ecclesiastical reflection. The fathers also discussed the issue of formation, preparation and follow-up for priests, the issue of spiritual fatherhood, and the mystery of confession.

Fathers value and appreciate the ecclesiastical and social role of women, which is not always mentioned. Fathers underline the role of women as the first furnace, in which a committed person is first kneaded: it is the first cornerstone in building nations and societies. The fathers emphasize the complementarity ecclesiastical and social roles of both women and men in achieving desired objectives and realities.

Concerning the Syrian issue, the Synodal fathers welcome the initiatives that aim to find a political solution to the crisis that has persisted for years: a political solution that respects the unity and territorial integrity of the state, and that respects the rights and aspirations of the Syrian people. The fathers demand the world to look at the magnitude of the human tragedy and indiscriminate suffering as a result of the ravages of war and economic blockade which disproportionality affects the innocent and calls upon the international community to assume their collective responsibilities to bring this suffering to an end. They call for serious work to lift the sanctions imposed on Syria. These sanctions are burdens borne by the citizens, first and foremost, and serve as adverse impediments and obstacles to their livelihood and health. The fathers also call for providing appropriate conditions for the return of the displaced, and refugees. They resolve that the best assistance offered to the Syrian people resides in spreading the spirit of peace among all its societal components and providing both material and moral support to them in their homeland, rather than facilitating their exodus by opening the doors of emigration and embassies and altering their demographic and the pluralistic nature of their society. They also express their condemnation of every aggression that targets Syrian sovereignty and exposes its people to death, displacement and deportation.

The Synod fathers commend the formation of the Lebanese government after a long wait. Hence, they hope that the new government will work on finding substantive solutions that contribute to eradicating injustice suffered by the citizens, whose wealth was confiscated, savings plundered, and who are now unable to secure the most basic necessities for a decent life such as food, fuel, education, and medical care.  They call for a concerted effort to save Lebanon and Its people from this crisis. They call for the independence of the judiciary that it may, without interference, uncover the crimes that have been perpetrated against the Lebanese people for many years, leading to its impoverishment, the plundering of its wealth, and the destruction of the state’s institutions that are designed to protect and preserve its rights. They are calling for diligent and rapid action to uncover the events surrounding the blast in the port of Beirut and the explosion of al-Talil in Akkar and to bring to justice those responsible. They support the victims’ families in their determination to unveil the truth and punish those responsible for this catastrophe, its people, and the entire country.  They also pray for the injured and their recovery.

The fathers call on the government to provide all the necessary requirements to ensure fair and transparent parliamentary elections, to secure their integrity by combating against foreign interference, and to oppose the exploitation of economic realities and the consequent poverty to influence their stances, dispositions, and to distort their collective will. They appeal to the Arab and international communities to help Lebanon achieve the required economic, financial and developmental reform so that Lebanon can recover its wellbeing and role.

The Synod fathers appreciate the cooperative efforts paid by the dioceses and the faithful in these difficult circumstances, stemming from collective responsibility towards the poor, needy, and homeless brethren, who as children of God, are an extension of Christ’s presence in the world. They call on the benefactors, especially their children in the countries of the diaspora to support their brothers in the homeland, who are suffering under the weight of difficulties and are unable to secure food, clothing, medical care, and education for themselves and their children. The fathers stress the importance and centrality of the Christian presence in the East and call upon the consciences of their children to firmly root themselves in the land where they have received the Gospel, to ensure the survival and presence of future generations in this land, and to be mindful that preceding generations confronted many of the same difficulties that afflict the current generation but overcame them with resiliency and determination. The face of Christ will not disappear from this East, which has suffered and is still afflicted with calamities. Despite all this, the ancestors hung their Church bells in the valleys and hills of the East, as a testimony to the authenticity, roots, and antiquity of their history amid openness to others from different religions. The fathers are aware of the historical role of the Church in standing by her children in these dark circumstances and assert their sensitivity to the material hardship that the Church wishes to mitigate against the impact of with all Its energies and available means and possibilities.

The fathers concluded with the events that have transpired and are currently unfolding in Palestine, this issue remaining central but forgotten. The fathers called on all countries of the world to implement the international resolutions calling for the right of return and stressed that any solution to the Palestinian issue outside the framework of justice and the guarantee of the rights of the Palestinian people remains an unjust and unacceptable solution.

The fathers pray for Iraq, other peoples, and other countries in the region, asking God to enlighten the minds of those responsible for the destinies of the people in the world and the region, that they may feel the oppression and pain that befalls man and for them to take the initiative in order to make the world more peaceful and just, free of conflicts, violence, greed, polarization, and divisions.

The fathers raise their prayers for the peace of the whole world and pray to the Almighty God to send the spirit of His peace, and preserve the children of the holy Antiochian Church everywhere: in the homeland and the countries of diaspora.