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49Fwd: Patriarch's Welcome Address to Pope John Paul

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  • Thomas Daniel
    May 15, 2001
      --- In SOR-Forum@y..., thomas_joseph@h... wrote:
      IN DAMASCUS - SYRIA, MAY 6, 2001

      Great is our joy to have such a significant historic event, which is
      the visit of His Holiness Pope John Paul II to Syria, at the very
      beginning of the twenty first century.

      1. It gives us great pleasure to receive His Holiness today at our
      St. George Patriarchal cathedral in Damascus. On my own behalf and on
      behalf of Their Graces, the Metropolitans, members of the Holy
      General Synod of our Syrian Orthodox Church of Antioch all over the
      world, and in the presence of the Heads of sister Churches, their
      Beatitudes, the Patriarchs, their Eminences, the Metropolitans, and
      all the Representatives of different denominations with whom we share
      the joy of receiving His Holiness, We extend to His Holiness our
      hearty welcome.

      2. The Apostolic See of Antioch, was established by Saint Peter and
      blessed by the Apostles Paul and Barnaba; the rest of the disciples
      and followers of our Lord who came to Antioch following the martyrdom
      of St. Stephen, the proto martyr and chief of deacons. The Church of
      Antioch consisted of believers in the Lord Jesus Christ from both the
      Jews and the Gentiles. The Apostles Peter and Paul consecrated two
      bishops, St. Ignatius to minister believers of Jewish origin and St.
      Evodius to minister believers of the gentiles.

      After the demise of St. Evodius the Church of Antioch of both groups,
      came under the leadership of Ignatius who called her the Universal

      The Church of Antioch embraced diverse Cultures in the lead of which
      were the ancient cultures of Syria, especially Syriac Aramaic, the
      ancient language of Syria which was spoken by our Lord Jesus Christ
      and His blessed Mother St. Mary and His Apostles who knew no other
      language but Syriac, according to Eusebius the Church historian of
      the fourth century AD.

      Our Syrian Church of Antioch still preserves the Holy Syriac language
      as its official and liturgical language.

      It is a well-established fact that it was at Antioch that the
      followers of our Lord were first called Christians. We are thankful
      to God and proud that the fathers of our Church have preserved the
      ancient historic roots of the Syrian Church of Antioch and spread the
      light of the Gospel in different regions in the world.

      In the early history, Christianity in the East and West, enjoyed
      communion in one faith. It is noteworthy that the Apostolic Sees in
      Rome, Alexandria, Antioch and Constantinople were all united in one
      faith; and the Shepherds of these churches who were enthroned on
      their Sees accepted one another. The schism took place after the
      Council of Chalcedon 451, when the one Christian church split into
      groups that proclaimed mutual anathemas and exchanged false
      accusations. This situation continued until the middle of the
      twentieth century. No one then could have expected or even imagined
      that His Holiness the Pope, Head of the Roman Catholic Church would
      visit the Syrian Orthodox Church or that the Syrian Patriarch of
      Antioch would visit the Vatican, exchange the kiss of peace and love
      and would sign a common declaration.

      3. It was in 1971 that my predecessor Patriarch Mor Ignatius Jacob
      III of blessed memory paid a visit to His Holiness Pope Paul VI of
      blessed memory at the Vatican. I had the honour to be one of the
      bishops who accompanied His Holiness. It was a historical meeting in
      Mathilda Chapel where the two Holy Pontiffs prayed together in Latin
      as well as in Syriac. The Pope and the Patriarch made significant
      speeches. In his address the Syrian Patriarch of Antioch said:

      "After 1520 years of separation and mutual excommunications, both the
      Heads of these two most ancient Churches in Christianity meet each
      other as brothers in an atmosphere of love and brotherhood. Really
      time heals."

      And His Holiness the Pope in his speech said:
      "We greet in your person a Church which sees in the faith of the
      Apostles at Antioch, the roots and basis for our common Christian
      witness. Nine years ago, Your Holiness accepted the invitation of our
      predecessor John 23rd and sent a representative to the second Vatican
      Council as an Official Observer. Since then the exchange of letters
      and visits by officials from our Church to Your Holiness helped in
      strengthening the relations between our churches. Now I am glad to
      meet you personally and to exchange points of view and desires which
      enliven us. Your visit greatly assures us that our two churches will
      find better means and ways to cooperate with each other in our common
      mission, and at the same time will open the way to full communion
      which we all warmly long for."

      In the Common Declaration the following was stated:
      "Progress has already been made and Pope Paul VI and the Patriarch
      Mar Ignatius Jacob III are in agreement that there is no difference
      in the faith they profess concerning the mystery of the Word of God
      made flesh and become really man, even if over the centuries
      difficulties have arisen out of the different theological expressions
      by which this faith was expressed. They therefore encourage the
      clergy and faithful of their Churches to even greater endeavors at
      removing the obstacles which still prevent complete communion among
      them. This should be done with love, with openness to the promptings
      of the Holy Spirit, and with mutual respect for each other and each
      other's Church. They particularly exhort the scholars of their
      Churches, and of all Christian communities, to penetrate more deeply
      into the mystery of Christ with humility and fidelity to the
      Apostolic traditions so that the fruits of their reflections may help
      the Church in her service to the world which the Incarnate Son of God
      has redeemed."

      Your Holiness,
      On this occasion, may I state that ever since my enthronement as
      Patriarch by the Grace of God in 1980, I have followed in the
      footsteps of my predecessors of blessed memory in cooperating with
      other sister Churches. I have been striving for the good of
      Christianity and for achieving Christian unity. With this objective
      in mind I exchanged cordial letters with Your Holiness on various
      occasions, and I also visited Your Holiness at the Vatican in 1984.
      During that visit a Common Declaration was made by Your Holiness and
      my humble self on June 23, 1984 in confirmation of our joint effort
      to achieve a better understanding and continue exerting efforts to
      attain the sublime goal which is ultimately Christian Unity. May I
      cite a few passages of that blessed historical declaration quoting
      the following:

      "Our Unity in faith, though not yet complete, entitles us to envisage
      collaboration between our Churches in pastoral care, in situations
      which nowadays are frequent both because of the dispersion of our
      faithful throughout the world and because of the precarious
      conditions of these difficult times. It is not rare, in fact, for our
      faithful to find access to a priest of their own Church materially or
      morally impossible. Anxious to meet their needs and with their
      spiritual benefit in mind, we authorize them in such cases to ask for
      the sacraments of Penance, Eucharist and Anointing of the Sick from
      lawful priests of either of our two sister Churches, when they need
      them. It would be a logical corollary of collaboration in pastoral
      care to cooperate in priestly formation and theological education.
      Bishops are encouraged to promote sharing of facilities for
      theological education where they judge it to be advisable. While
      doing this we do not forget that we must still do all in our power to
      achieve the full visible communion between the Catholic Church and
      the Syrian Orthodox Church of Antioch and ceaselessly implore our
      Lord to grant us unity which alone will enable us to give to the
      world a fully unanimous Gospel witness.

      Thanking the Lord who has allowed us to meet and enjoy the
      consolation of the faith we hold in common (cf. Rom 1:12) and to
      proclaim before the world the mystery of the Person of the Word
      incarnate and of His saving work, the unshakeable foundation of that
      common faith, we pledge ourselves solemnly to do all that in us lies
      to remove the last obstacles still hindering full communion between
      the Catholic Church and the Syrian Orthodox Church of Antioch, so
      that with one heart and voice we may preach the word: "The True Light
      that enlightens every man" and "that all who believe in His name may
      become the children of God" (cf. Jn1:9-12)". (The quotation ends)

      The Common Declaration is unique indeed. It represented great steps
      forward along the ecumenical movement because it went beyond
      doctrinal professions of the two churches to embrace the pastoral
      care of the faithful in both churches. The objectives of this
      declaration have been implemented in many parts of the world.

      4. At this unique and historical meeting, we do have the pleasure to
      welcome our brethren, the Clergy from all denominations and thank
      them for their participation in welcoming His Holiness Pope John Paul
      II. We have to keep in mind that it's the duty of all of us to be
      fully aware of our spiritual mission as clergymen to provide means of
      salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ to all the faithful from all
      Churches and continue praying and spreading love which is the first
      sign of the true disciples of Jesus Christ abiding thus by the Lord's
      commandment, "By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you
      have love for one another" (Jn 13: 35).

      While endeavoring to attain Complete Unity, we have to accept one
      another. It's our message to convey the voice of people to God and
      the voice of God to people.

      It's through preaching and religious guidance that we have to warn
      the sinners and exhort them to obey the divine laws.

      We have to carry the cross of our Lord and follow Him, as did His
      Holiness Pope John Paul II who set us the good example in his
      courageous stand against immoral violations practiced nowadays in
      some institutions that claim to represent Christianity permitting
      abortion, homosexuality and what not.

      In this generation invaded by many corrupt concepts we are badly in
      need for a true witness, for courage to address these challenges and
      adhere to our true faith in Christ our Lord and his divine law.

      We can never claim to be Christians unless we adhere to this faith
      because true Apostolic Christianity is the true profession of faith
      and a life of virtues.

      Your Holiness,
      5. It goes without saying that Christians of good will from all
      Churches and denominations do acknowledge that God Almighty has
      chosen Your Holiness to be His instrument for spreading peace, love
      and fraternity among people and for confronting all deviations from
      Christian teachings in the world.

      God Almighty has granted you both civil and religious authorities,
      being the Pope of Rome and the head of the Vatican, the smallest
      state in the world, yet the most powerful in its influence throughout
      the world in relation to what might be useful for the accomplishment
      of a just and comprehensive peace and for confirming man's faith in
      God Almighty and upholding His virtues and values. So far you've
      strived in this field for the attainment of such goals overlooking
      the hardships and fatigue endured by true shepherds.

      I beseech God to grant Your Holiness good health and long life. I
      wish Your Holiness a pleasant stay in Syria and a safe journey back.

      We are certain that your presence here is an affirmation of Christian-
      Christian and Christian-Muslim fraternity. I'd like to assert that
      we, as Christians enjoy a national Unity living with our Muslim
      brethren a life full of love and pure amicability.

      6. On this occasion, it is of great pleasure to us to greet His
      Excellency President Bashar Al-Assad praying to God to bless him and
      keep the banners of victory held in our country under his wise
      leadership. Amen.

      (The text of the speech was received from Archbishop H.E. Mor Clemis
      Eugene Kaplan, Patriarchal Vicarate of Western USA).
      --- End forwarded message ---