+Basil "Hopes Visit Will Inaugurate a New Chapter in Relations"
Upon his return to Wichita late last evening, Bishop Basil released the following statement to his clergy. The full text reads:
"Dear to Christ, Fathers and Brothers:
I embrace and greet you with a holy kiss, and take great joy in conveying to you, your families and your congregations the paternal love and blessings of our Father in God, The Most Blessed Ignatius IV, Patriarch of the Great City-of-God Antioch and all the East.
By your holy prayers, I returned earlier this evening from my travels to the Patriarchate (Wichita, the Antiochian Village, Greensburg, Pittsburgh, New York, Cairo, Damascus, Cairo, New York, Minneapolis, Wichita) along with my brother bishops of our Archdiocese at the invitation of His Beatitude. I thank The Very Reverend Paul O’Callaghan, Dean of St George Cathedral and Proestos of our Diocesan Council of Presbyters, who, at my request, had the news report and photo prepared by Archimandrite Ibrahim Daoud, Secretary to the Patriarch, distributed from his office to all members of our Diocesan Clergy Brotherhood immediately upon its release earlier this past week. (A copy of that same news report is also attached hereto.)
As noted in the news report, all of our interactions with His Beatitude - individual meetings, group meetings and informal chats - were exceedingly warm. The Patriarch both asked questions of us and answered queries from us in a sincere and frank manner, hearing us with an open mind and, more importantly, an open heart. We bishops were and are most grateful for the obvious paternal love, gracious hospitality and kind attention shown to us by His Beatitude, and, like him, are hopeful that our visit will inaugurate a new chapter in our relations with our Mother Church which will be punctuated by frequent, direct and personal communications between each us and our Father in God.
Following meetings with His Beatitude on Wednesday, Bishop Thomas, Bishop Mark and I were invited by Metropolitan Saba to visit the Archdiocese of Bosra-Hauran and be overnight guests at his Chancery in Suweida. We spent the entire afternoon visiting parish churches (the oldest being from the 6th century and the newest still under construction) and the numerous archeological and historical sites from the earliest days of Christianity which pepper his Archdiocese (encompassing all of southwestern Syria). That night His Eminence hosted a sumptuous dinner for us at a first class out-of-doors restaurant high up on Jabal al-Arab. Guests of honor at the dinner were our own Father Richard Petranek and Father Matthew MacKay from Houston, TX and the group from DOWAMA who spent the past two weeks working in our “Sister Diocese” of Bosra-Hauran and making pilgrimage to monasteries and other holy sites in our Patriarchate. His Eminence
returned us to the Patriarchate in Damascus early the next morning (Thursday) where we continued our meetings with His Beatitude. At midnight we departed for Damascus International Airport where, several hours later, we began our return trip to the U.S.
Most sincere thanks is expressed to His Beatitude and his staff at the Patriarchate - especially Bishop Ghattas (the Patriarchal Vicar), Bishop Mousa, Bishop Luka, and Archimandrite Ibrahim Daoud (Secretary to His Beatitude) - for their warm welcome, careful attention to our every need, and many, many kindnesses.
Thanking you and your flocks for your God-pleasing prayers by which I was blessed and sustained during my journey, eagerly looking forward to being with you at our “Diocesan Family Reunion” in Wichita this coming week, and wishing you, your families and your congregations a very happy feast of Pentecost, I remain
In Christ our Saviour,
[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]