Tuesday, April 22, 2014
Statement on the One-Year Anniversary of the Bishops Abducted in Syria from the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States of America
1. We, the Hierarchs of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States of America, representing millions of Orthodox Christians, express our grave concern over the escalation of unrest and ongoing violence in countries throughout the Middle East, especially in Egypt, Iraq and Syria.
2. Our Assembly denounces any and all attacks—whether by means of violence, kidnapping, torture or killing—on all fellow human beings, irrespective of their race, ethnic origin, and religion. Moreover, we deplore the destruction of all places of worship or their forced conversion from their original intent.
3. We are especially disheartened at the inexcusable indifference and unjustifiable inaction of local and national governments, which have failed to protect the Christian population in these regions. We are also gravely troubled that representatives of the ancient Christian communities in Syria are not included in the peace and reconciliation process. Christians in Iraq, Egypt, and Syria have peacefully coexisted with people of all faiths in the region for two thousand years. As such, they must be respected and included in all decisions toward social and political justice.
4. One year ago, on April 22, 2013, the Greek Orthodox Metropolitan Boulos Yazigi (brother of His Beatitude Patriarch John X of Antioch) and the Syriac Orthodox Archbishop Yohanna Ibrahim, both of Aleppo, Syria were kidnapped by Islamist extremists during a joint philanthropic mission in the region. With sorrowful hearts we recognize a growing lack of interest on the part of civil authorities to assist in the recovery of the two Christian leaders. We encourage all people of good conscience to communicate with their elected officials and ask
them to assist in the effort to find and retrieve the two bishops. We implore the Holy Great-Martyr Saint George, the patron of Christians of
the Middle East and upon the eve of whose Feast the Hierarchs were kidnapped, to intercede for their salvation and safe return.
Moreover, we appeal to the world’s 2.2 billion Christians, as well as to all people of faith and good will, and ask them to keep the two bishops in their daily thoughts and prayers. We also ask the Orthodox Christian faithful of our Assembly’s region to offer a special petition during the Great Litany of all divine services during this 40-day Season of Pascha. Before the petition commemorating the Most Holy
Mother of God, we ask that the following petition be included:
For the safety of Metropolitan Paul and Archbishop John and for their return to their communities, let us pray to the Lord.
The Members of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States of America
Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States of America
Sunday, April 20, 2014
Saturday, April 19, 2014
We have just celebrated the Miracle of the Holy Fire in Taybeh in a most magnificent way at the outskirts of our village approximately 5:30 pm local time on this Great and Holy Saturday while waiting all afternoon when this great miracle occurred once again in Jerusalem.
“O Gladsome Light, of the Holy glory of the Immortal Father, heavenly Holy, blessed Jesus Christ!” (Holy Saturday Morning Prayers)
The local priests, Fr. Daoud, Fr. Jack and Fr. Aziz, of all three churches and Fr. Peter who came from Jerusalem with the choir chanting, and the Taybeh Scouts beating the drums marched again this year to meet our cousin Ibrahim with his son Philip, who went to the city of Ramallah, where the faithful brought the flame from Jerusalem for the Palestinian Christian s who cannot reach the Holy City due to lack of permits. Many residents of Taybeh, were in the streets for the ecumenical procession which was simply glorious although a bit cloudy with a sprinkle of rain.
The solemn and beautiful procession in our village ended at St. George Church, where Fr. Daoud placed the flame on the altar to await the faithful for the Resurrection service of Holy Pascha: “Come ye and receive light from the unwaning Light, and glorify Christ, Who arose from the dead.”
In the last few years during Great and Holy Saturday, I have delivered the same message from the Holy Land. But it has been a great spiritual joy to keep reminding friends about the miracle that appeared for the first time during the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Luke 24:4; Matthew 28:1-4) This magnificent miracle is at the core of our Christian presence in the Holy Land The Miracle of the Holy Fire received today by His Beatitude Theophilos III, Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem was broadcasted live on Palestine TV.
The brilliant ceremony is considered a miracle because there is no explanation for the way the Holy Fire appears from the Holy Life Giving Tomb of Christ actually coming down from Heaven. Many personal accounts have called the miracle “incredible” and similar to lighting. The Holy Fire at the moment is in flight to many surrounding countries that have less than three hour flights by private transportation including Cyprus, Greece, Russia, Romania.
The Christian community in the Holy Land witnessed the True Light of Christ by receiving the Holy Fire today so that all who are not living in the land of Christ’s Holy Resurrection can believe that Christ is “the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world” (John 1:9).
It is so difficult this year to wish everyone a blessed and glorious holy Pascha knowing in Syria the new rules from fanatics is that it is forbidden to wear or display the cross in public. It is forbidden to ring the church bells in public. Also, Christians are asked to pay a tax or convert to Islam; how sad that the new Middle East that America wishes to develop has really gone back one thousand years in history. May our Risen Lord who has had victory over death have mercy on those suffering in different places of the world! May the peace of Christ and the knowledge that our Lord offers everlasting life continue to bring us joy and give us hope. Christ is Risen! Truly He is Risen! Please accept my humble wishes for a glorious Holy Pascha from the Land of Christ’s Holy Resurrection!
For my first time witness on the Miracle of the Holy Fire view:
Friday, April 18, 2014
How to resurrect with Christ
"If then you were raised together with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated on the right hand of God" (Colossians 3:1)
Beloved in Christ
Hierarchs, clergy and faithful,
Of this God-protected Archdiocese
Christ is risen! Indeed He is risen!
Christ defeated death! We are no longer subject to it; rather we are Christ's, who gave us "the right to be God's children" (John 1:12) and to be His "friends" (John 15:15)! What great news! What a great gift! What a great reality! An eternal bond is granted to whoever believes in Christ as Savior from death - divine adoption in Christ's name!
From now on, the Lord commissioned us to be victorious not only over death "from outside," but also over death "from within," that is, over our own selfishness. He also commanded us to be messengers of the Good News and heralds of His victory - and ours, too - over any kind of death. He asked us, as Christians, to abide by love rather than by hate, by hope rather than by despair, by faith rather than by logic, by justice rather than by injustice, by forgiveness rather than by resentment, by humility rather than by vanity and arrogance, and by sacrifice rather than by self-interest.
Christ defeated death in our lives! He set us free from fear: from fearing death, from fearing evil, from fearing illness and calamities, from fearing each other, from fearing the uncertainty of the future, from fearing insecurity and unemployment, from fearing violence and terrorism, and from fearing persecution and sufferings for His sake. Instead, He gave us the power and the means to seek the true freedom. The freedom to love each other even though we differ in character, education and profession. The freedom to forgive each other even though we have suffered. The freedom to ask forgiveness from each other even though we have badly hurt each other. The freedom to serve each other even though we differ in origin, background and culture. The freedom to work together even though we differ in thinking, worldview, ability and capacity. The freedom to abide by the truth and raise our children to seek Him. The freedom to defend the unjust and the needy and restore them their rights. The freedom to be at the Lord's hand, obedient, prayerful and faithful.
Christ defeated death in our reality! He gave us the gift to start anew, to renew our heart, to purify our mind, and to reaffirm our commitment of faith at His service. He restored in us the dignity of our person, the beauty of our nature, and the bounty in our personality.
Christ defeated death in our relationships! Christ is the only mediator between God and man. However, He made us "bridges" of salvation to reach others. As Antiochian Orthodox Christians in North America, we are bequeathed an apostolic "lineage:" tradition, inheritance and mission. In this regard, the image of the "bridge" summarizes the Antiochian witness that emerges out of the past, prompts the present and prepares the future of the Antiochian Orthodox Church on the eve of the election of a new Metropolitan to succeed to His Eminence, Metropolitan Philip of eternal memory.
Christ´s victory over death is a responsibility when it is handed over to us. "I am the Way," (John 14:6) the Lord said. "We are the bridge," we would respond to Him. Indeed, the Lord means for us to be His co-workers in this most unprecedented cooperation between heaven and earth. Antiochian Orthodox, among others, are leading the work of building a bridge between East and West, between our Patriarchate and the Archdiocese, among their brothers and sisters of other Orthodox Churches in North America, among their brethren whom they invited to share this apostolic faith, toward those are in need. If Christ is the "bridge" from heaven to earth and from earth to the netherworld, saving in this way the entire creation, then you understand that being a "bridge" means to follow Christ in His openness to humanity, in bringing humanity to unity, in serving your brethren to the extent of your ability and capacity.
I am glad for your witness – a bridge that unites both ends and that is open for people to come across in both directions, and for Christ to work the salvation of each one. I am sure that, as we are celebrating our Lord's resurrection from the dead, you will treasure this divine gift of being a bridge. Indeed, I am certain that you will not spare any means to serve the Divine Providence toward humanity.
May our Lord guide all of us by His eternal light shown forth from the empty tomb!
Metropolitan of Buenos Aires and all Argentina & Patriarchal Vicar of New York and all North America