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In Teaneck, a Syrian Orthodox cathedral mourns those lost on Sept. 11

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  • Gabriel Rabo
    SOLNews - There is an articel about the Syrian Orthodox cathedral in USA, in: The Record N.J. News, Oct 29, 2001. Gabriel Rabo In Teaneck, a Syrian Orthodox
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 4, 2001
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      SOLNews - There is an articel about the Syrian Orthodox cathedral in USA, in: The Record N.J. News, Oct 29, 2001.

      Gabriel Rabo

      In Teaneck, a Syrian Orthodox cathedral mourns those lost on Sept. 11

      Monday, October 29, 2001

      Staff Writer

      In accordance with ancient tradition calling for a memorial service about 40 days after a death, Syrian Orthodox Christians from throughout New Jersey gathered in Teaneck on Saturday night to mourn those lost in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

      The solemn service at St. Mark's Syrian Orthodox Cathedral was conducted in English and Aramaic, the language the church uses for worship. Although the Syrian Orthodox are deeply rooted in the culture of their ancestors, the memorial service had a decidedly American flavor. Boy Scouts carrying an American flag preceded several dozen clergy down the center aisle of the packed cathedral. The service closed with everyone singing "God Bless America."

      The Syrian Orthodox Church traces its lineage to the cities of Jerusalem and Damascus and the earliest days of Christianity. Membership is estimated at about 40,000 nationwide. Its New Jersey parishes are in Teaneck, Hackensack, Mahwah, and Paramus, and many of the families have been in Bergen County for decades.

      Still, some have felt hostility directed against Middle Easterners since the attacks.

      "There have been some glares and sneers," said Sama Khalef, an usher at the Teaneck cathedral. "We felt it also during the Gulf war 10 years ago."

      In Syria -- a predominantly Muslim country -- the Orthodox are sometimes maligned for being associated with unwanted influences from "the Christian West."

      Teaneck-based Archbishop Cyril Aphrem Karim, one of the church's three archbishops in North America, read a letter signed by all three. The letter asked for prayers for the victims, their families, and rescue workers. "We ask almighty God to grant the leaders of the United States strength, wisdom, and patience in their pursuit to bring the perpetrators of the horrendous crimes to justice," he said.

      Holding the ornate staff symbolizing his office, the archbishop said he grieved for those who are "victims of ignorance and intolerance."

      "But through their deaths," he added "they have taught us the value of life. Evil people may kill the body, but they cannot kill the soul."

      New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik, whose wife is Syrian Orthodox and who was married in the Teaneck cathedral, told worshipers that although Sept. 11 will be seen as "our darkest day," it also will be remembered as a day when thousands were saved by the efforts of police officers and firefighters "who didn't ask about race or religion or the color of skin" before entering the doomed towers.

      The Rev. John Peter Meno, rector of the Teaneck cathedral, read additional greetings from Patriarch Ignatius Zakka I of Damascus, head of the worldwide church body.

      "At this time of mourning," the patriarch wrote, "we pray God to grant your leaders wisdom that in their pursuit of justice, they may not afflict suffering on other innocent people. We also ask all of you to be God's agents of peace and reconciliation and to remind everybody that evil can only be overcome by goodness."

      Members of the congregation were dressed in black. Some wore red, white, and blue ribbons, and several women wore scarves in the same colors. Uniformed Boy Scouts stood at attention throughout the service.

      A choir sang from the balcony in both English and Aramaic.

      Among the dignitaries were Teaneck Deputy Mayor Emil "Yitz" Stern and Councilwoman Marie Warnke. Stern read a letter of commendation from the council, praising the cathedral for its special attention to memorial prayers following the Sept. 11 attacks.

      After the hour-long worship, Archbishop Karim said the Syrian Orthodox Church was taking steps to make itself better known as "proud Arab Americans and faithful Christians."


      Department of Syrian Church History
      Faculty of Theology
      University of Göttingen/Germany
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