Address of his Holiness Moran Mor Ignatius Zakka I Iwas Syrian Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch and all the East
On the occasion of: The 1700 Anniversary of the Conversion of Armenians to Christianity and the Declaration of Christianity as their Official Religion
Your Holiness, Your Beatitudes, Your Eminencies, Your Graces and Your Excellencies, Distinguished Audience,
We do thank God Almighty, who granted us the opportunity to be present here at the invitation of His Holiness, Aram I, Catholicos of the Armenian Catholicosate of Cilicia and to share our sister Armenian Church her joy in the Celebration of the 1700 anniversary of the Conversion of Armenians to Christianity and their declaration of Christianity as their official religion.
We extend our warmest Congratulations to our brother in Christ, His holiness Aram I, their Eminencies the Metropolitans, Reverend Fathers and the faithful of the Armenian Church all over the world on this happy historical occasion.
It�s our pleasure to extol saint Gregorius Nurono and all those who preached the Holy Gospel to the honorable Armenian people; and to remember with great pride the struggle and strife of those blessed people who offered sacrifices and numberless martyrs generation after generation, in testimony of their tenacious adherence to the Christian faith attesting thereby to their love of Christ and their faith in him before the entire world.
Ever since the Great Armenian People professed faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, the Redeemer of the world, they have repudiated the darkness of ignorance and become illuminated by the effulgence of Jesus Christ. From that time on, the Gates of civilization and Culture became wide open before them.
It is well known that the Armenian Language, like all other Indo-European Languages, was not a written language. It was transmitted by word of mouth. Armenians had no Alphabet of their own. Upon the Armenians� profession of faith in Christ, they adopted the Syriac Alphabet and used it in writing the Armenian Language.
At the beginning of the fifth century AD, and in cooperation with Syrian Bishop Daniel, Mesrob, the Armenian scholar, invented the Armenian Alphabet. This achievement paved the way for those who translated the scriptures from Syriac into Armenian. Consequently, many Syriac loan words are found in the Armenian Language and vice versa.
Some of the spiritual works of Syrian fathers and other writers were translated into Armenian such as the exegesis of the Diasteron, which is a Greek term for the United Gospels meaning (through the four), done by Titianus of Hidyab Known as (The Assyrian), around 172 AD.
The exegesis of the Diasteron was done by St. Ephrem, the Syrian (+373) in the fourth century. It was translated into Armenian. The Original Syriac version was lost, but the Armenian translation is still extant.
The Armenian, Syrian and Coptic Churches along with all non-Chalcedonian Churches are indeed well known for their tenacious adherence to the faith they received from the Holy Apostles and Rightous fathers. This faith is expressed in the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Greed. These churches recognize only the three ecumenical councils held in Nicea 325, Constantinople 381, and Ephesus 431.
Martyrdom and sacrifices characterized the history of these churches. How often did these churches endure crucifixion with Jesus Christ and how often they were buried with him to resurrect with him on the third day in Glory.
Cooperation between these churches was so greatly manifested during these past periods of Agony and ordeals which strengthened their spiritual ties. These churches have always been united through the full communion between them, and they have always supported one another.
This unity of doctrine, faith, the sacrament of priesthood and of all the rest of the Holy sacraments of the church has been maintained and upheld up to the present day. However, the Autonomy and jurisdiction of the respective Apostolic Sees, their Liturgical Languages and various Cultural characteristics have been preserved.
Undoubtedly, the spiritual religious relations established among these churches are so deep and strong. The two churches shared the same destiny due to their geographic location, their communion in one faith and unity in the sacrament of priesthood. These strong relations were supported by historical evidence found in the bloody events that took place around 480 AD.
When Nairuz, the Persian king, massacred the faithful of the Syrian Church in Persia and Iraq following some false information by Barsauma of Nisibis, he ordered that the Catholicos Babai be crucified. The king�s soldiers ravaged the country and a great number of Bishops, Clergymen and monks in the Monastery of St. Mathew, on Al-faf mountain, near Mosul � Nineva were martyred.
Most of the Syrian Clergy and laity, who escaped sought asylum in Armenia among their Armenian brothers. The Persian power could not reach that region which was far from the fierce fight taking place between the Romans and Persian states.
The aftermath of that ordeal was the martyrdom of a great number of clergymen. As a result of this loss the Syrian Church in Persia and Iraq was badly in need for bishops. Due to inevitable political reasons, and because of the isolation of this church in this part of the world from her Antiochean Patriarch whose see was located in the area under the rule of the Roman state, which was an enemy of the Persian state, Christophores, the Armenian Catholicos who was of Syrian Origin, and after the death of Barsauma of Nisibis, ordained Monk Karmai, from among the monks of St. Mathew Monastery as a bishop for the aforementioned Monastery power to ordain bishops. He also ordained Monk Ahudemeh Al-baladi as a bishop for Baarbaya, a diocese whose people were Arab tribes of Tai, Akeel and Tanookh, who dwelled in the region located between Mosul and Rabeea. In 559 St. Jacob Burdana visited the Eastern countries, Egypt and Armenia and ordained bishops and priests following the persecution endured by our Oriental Syrian, Coptic and Armenian Orthodox churches as they refuted the council of Chalcedon. He ordained Jacob Mar Ahudemeh as a Catholicos of the East.
The memory of no less than 200,000 Syrian Martyrs who were massacred in world war I will always be present in our minds. Those martyrs who died because they provided protection and shelter for their Armenian brothers in their houses and Churches motivated by that sublime spirit derived from familial, confessional and human bonds.
Ecclesiastical History relates that the Ceremony of the enthronement of Bishop Mar Gregorios Yuhanna Bar Hebraeus as a Catholicos of the East in the thirteenth century took place in the Great Armenian Cathedral in Sis in the presence of Hugme, the Armenian king of Cilicia, his statesmen and the Armenian bishops together with Syrian bishops who carried out the ceremony of the enthronement according to the Syrian rites. Another indication of the unity of the Syrian and Armenian sacrament of priesthood is the Participation of Bishop Severius Yaccoub, Metropolitan of Beirut and its environs (future Patriarch), upon permission of his predecessor late scholar Patriarch Ephrem Barsom I, along with two Metropolitans from the Armenian church, in the enthronement of Zareh, the late Armenian Orthodox Catholicos of the Catholicosate of Cilicia.
The joy that fills our hearts at the participation in this celebration of 1700 anniversary of the conversion of the Armenian people to Christianity reflects these tight relations between the two churches.
On my own behalf and on behalf of their Graces the Metropolitans, members of the Syrian Orthodox synod of Antioch, we do have the pleasure to reiterate our hearty congratulations to His Holiness Aram I, Catholicos of the Armenian Orthodox Catholicosate of Cicilia, their Graces the Armenian Metropolitans, the Reverend Fathers and the faithful in the Armenian Orthodox Church all over the world, praying to God that He may consolidate them in their faith and confession and bless the martyrs on whom wreathes of martyrdom were bestowed in witness of their faith in Jesus Christ. We do Pray to God Almighty for the prosperity of the sister Armenian Church and the well being of her honorable shepherds. Amen
Sources : Syriac Universal Alliance