Patriarchate News

On January 6, 2020, His Holiness Patriarch Mor Ignatius Aphrem II celebrated the Holy Qurobo of the Feast of Epiphany at St. Georges Patriarchal Cathedral in Bab Touma – Damascus.
Their Eminences Archbishops: Mor Timotheos Matta Al-Khoury, Patriarchal Vicar in the Patriarchal Archdiocese of Damascus, Mor Boutros Kassis, Patriarchal Assistant, and Mor Anthimos Jack Yacoub, Patriarchal Vicar for Youth Affairs and Christian Education, assisted His Holiness in the Holy Qurobo.
In his sermon, His Holiness spoke about the true effect of the Epiphany, namely the revealing of the Trinity and the shining of God’s mercy on humanity. He explained the content of St. John’s Epistle concerning the Holy Trinity. His Holiness invited all to live according to the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives, preserving the grace we received at our baptism. He added that the symbols and analogies used by the Fathers of the church are used to explain and describe the Trinity and thus to support the Christian faith, as it was used at the beginning of Christianity, to spread the correct doctrine of Trinity.
His Holiness then presided over the procession and the special service for the Feast of Epiphany.
 

On January 5, 2020, His Holiness Patriarch Mor Ignatius Aphrem II presided over the meeting of the Board of Trustees of Antioch Syrian University, at the Patriarchate Headquarters in Bab Touma – Damascus.

Members of the BOT listened to a report from Dr. Rakan Razzouk, President of ASU, about the new students who joined the university in this academic year. He also spoke about the preparations that are being made to account for the growth of the university faculties and accommodate the need that arises consequently. Other reports on the different aspects of the administration of the university were also submitted and discussed. Development plans were also studied during the meeting.

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On January 1st 2020, His Holiness Patriarch Mor Ignatius Aphrem II presided over the Holy Qurobo on the occasion of the New Year at St. Mark Cathedral in New Jersey, U.S.A.
His Eminence Mor Dionysius Jean Kawak, Patriarchal Vicar for the Archdiocese of the Eastern United States of America, celebrated the Holy Qurobo.
In his sermon, His Eminence welcomed His Holiness and offered to him greetings on behalf of the archdiocese for the occasion of Christmas and New Year. His Eminence spoke about the spiritual habits that we should cultivate as Christians year after year.
 

On December 25, 2019, His Holiness Patriarch Mor Ignatius Aphrem II celebrated the Holy Qurobo on the occasion of Christmas at St. Georges Patriarchal Cathedral in Bab Touma – Damascus.
 
Their Eminences Archbishops: Mor Timotheos Matta Al-Khoury, Patriarchal Vicar in the Patriarchal Archdiocese of Damascus, Mor Anthimos Jack Yacoub, Patriarchal Vicar for Youth Affairs and Christian Education, and Armenian Orthodox Archbishop of Damascus Armash Nalbandian, assisted His Holiness in the Holy Qurobo.
 
In his sermon, His Holiness spoke about the names that our Lord Jesus Christ identifies Himself with, namely the two names: life and light. He specified that we have received life from our Lord Jesus Christ with His birth in the flesh which prepared and initiated the salvation on the cross. Thus, He conquered sin and gave us eternal life. He also spoke about the Lord calling Himself “Light of the world” and explained that Jesus Christ is the light that casted away darkness and death and He also gave us to become the light for others in the spirit and truth.
 
Then, His Holiness offered Christmas greetings to all Christians around the world and prayed especially for the people of Syria, Lebanon and Iraq that the Lord may bless them and help them through the difficult times that they are witnessing in their respective countries. He also prayed for the return of their Eminences the abducted Archbishops of Aleppo: Boulos Yaziji and Mor Gregorius Youhanna Ibrahim.
 
His Holiness also presided over the special rite for Christmas.
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On December 24, 2019, His Holiness Patriarch Mor Ignatius Aphrem II presided over the Holy Qurobo for Christmas Eve in St. George Patriarchal Cathedral in Bab Touma – Damascus.
 
His Eminence Mor Anthimos Jack Yacoub, Patriarchal Vicar for Youth Affairs and Christian Education celebrated the Holy Qurobo.
 
During the Qurobo, Christmas procession was performed, then the Christmas Message of His Holiness was read.
 
At the end of the Qurobo, His Holiness blessed the faithful and wished them a Merry Christmas.
 
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On December 24, 2019, His Holiness Patriarch Mor Ignatius Aphrem II received His Excellency Syrian Minister of Religious Endowments Muhammad Abd Al-Sattar Al-Sayyid, accompanied by a group of Muslim Sheikhs, who offered to His Holiness Christmas greetings.

Their Eminences Archbishops: Mor Timotheos Matta Al-Khoury, Patriarchal Vicar in the Patriarchal Archdiocese of Damascus, Mor Anthimos Jack Yacoub, Patriarchal Vicar for Youth Affairs and Christian Education, as well as the clergy of the Patriarchal Archdiocese, were also present.

His Holiness expressed his joy to see that His Excellency took an initiative calling all Syrian traders to lower their prices on the occasion of Christmas and New Year.

His Excellency congratulated His Holiness on the occasion of the Feast of Christmas and stated that the Syrian people is united and celebrates together the feast of the Birth of Christ.

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No. EN 628/19

 

By the Grace of God

Ignatius Aphrem II

Patriarch of Antioch and All the East

Supreme Head of the Universal Syrian Orthodox Church

 

Our beloved Children in Christ,

May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.

 

“In Him was life, and the life was the light of all people.” (John 1: 4)

 

The Feast of the Nativity of our Lord draws our attention to the Great Divine Truth which is “the Word became flesh” (John 1: 14). It means that God took flesh in order to save man and that the relationship of eternal love between God the Creator and man the created is a relationship which was broken by disobedience has now been restored when God became flesh and “dwelled among us” (John 1: 14).

The Christian faith is based on this doctrine, namely that the Lord Jesus Christ is God incarnate, “so that by believing, you may have life in His name” (John 20: 31). With this faith, the Christian believer is sure that the darkness which did not overcome Christ, will not overcome him too (John 1: 5), because the Lord Jesus born in this dark world has become the light of the world (John 8: 12). How beautiful are the words of St. Jacob of Serugh, the Teacher of the Church, about the birth of Christ, where he says:

“ܗܳܝ ܕܰܐܡܺܝܪܐ ܕܡܶܢ ܚܶܫܽܘܟܐ ܢܽܘܗܪܐ ܢܶܕܢܰܚ܆ ܗܐ ܡܶܢ ܥܰܡܐ ܫܶܡܫܐ ܠܥܰܡ̈ܡܶܐ ܕܢܰܚ ܘܰܢܗܰܪܘ ܒܶܗ”

“it is said that light shall appear from darkness; behold the sun (Christ) appeared from the people to the peoples and they became enlightened through Him” (Mimro 203: 62).

This is the unique divine event which St. Paul calls a great mystery saying: “Without any doubt, the mystery of our religion is great: God was revealed in flesh” (1 Timothy 3: 16). The incarnation of Christ brought back hope to the people, as it is proclaimed by the angels: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men!” (Luke 2: 14). Through His birth, hope was renewed on the face of the earth, joy increased, and salvation was born. Indeed, great is this mystery that casts away fear from the hearts of people, drives away doubt from their minds and strengthens them so that they do not feel insecure but are certain that God – Emanuel – is with us (Matthew 1: 23) since the beginning because “He was in the world, and the world was made by Him” (John 1: 10).

However, today’s world is full of fear and anxiety; Truth is resisted, honesty and faithfulness are attacked, man is drawn to perish, seduced by irresistible temptations and by sin that is presented to him disguised in virtue or freedom. How dark is our world where injustice, evil, atheism and death are spreading; however, we do not fear, because we trust that Christ our God is shining in the darkness and in His light we see light (Psalm 36: 9). The angel’s good news to the shepherds strengthen us: “Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2: 10-11).

Let us thus seize this opportunity and contemplate the mysteries of the nativity, where we will encounter the humility of the Lord Who “emptied Himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness.” (Philippians 2: 7), abandoning His great glory in order to save us and discern His will to dwell among us as an infant, choosing the simplicity and the poverty of the manger over the luxurious palaces. We thus understand that God’s ways are different from the ways of man (Isaiah 55: 8), for His ways lead to salvation and holiness.

As the Middle East continues to suffer because of wars, destruction and the deteriorating economic situation which are affecting the people’s daily lives, we offer prayers to Christ, the King of peace, asking Him to shine His light in the midst of darkness and let His peace reign in our countries so that stability and security may return to our homeland. On this holy season of joy and hope, once again we call upon all decision makers and people of good will to do all they can for the safe return of the two abducted Archbishops of Aleppo: Boulos Yaziji and Mor Gregorius Youhanna Ibrahim, hoping to rejoice together in their return and celebrate with them these Christmas festivities and all other celebrations.

Finally, we wholeheartedly congratulate you all on the occasion of Christmas and the New Year. We pray that this year 2020 will be full of hope and that the Lord may bless all with security, peace, good health, success and prosperity. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

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On December 22, 2019, His Holiness Patriarch Mor Ignatius Aphrem II received the children of the “Happy Child House” Kindergarten, as well as their teachers headed by Malfonitho Hedra Massouh, at the Patriarchate Headquarters in Bab Touma – Damascus.
 
The children sang a few hymns they learned about Christmas and presented some of the new things they learned at the kindergarten.
 
His Holiness was happy to see the children whom he blessed and thanked their teachers for their good job and efforts to teach them.
 
Their Eminences Archbishops: Mor Timotheos Matta Al-Khoury, Patriarchal Vicar of the Patriarchal Archdiocese of Damascus, and Mor Anthimos Jack Yacoub, Patriarchal Vicar for Youth Affairs and Christian Education, were also present.

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On December 21, 2019, His Holiness Patriarch Mor Ignatius Aphrem II participated in the Christmas Spiritual Retreat for the Clergy of Damascus, held at the Maryamite Cathedral of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East. His Beatitude John X, Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch and All the East hosted the retreat and His Beatitude Joseph Absi, Greek-Melkite Catholic Patriarch of Antioch and all the East, Alexandria, and Jerusalem, as well as His Eminence Mario Cardinal Zenari, Apostolic Nuncio in Damascus, also participated in the retreat.

Their Eminences Archbishops: Mor Timotheos Matta Al-Khoury, Patriarchal Vicar in the Patriarchal Archdiocese of Damascus, Mor Anthimos Jack Yacoub, Patriarchal Vicar for Youth Affairs and Christian Education as well as a number of the Reverend priests, monks, and seminarians from Mor Aphrem Monastery in Maarat Saydnaya also participated in the retreat.

During the retreat, the Greek Orthodox Patriarchal Choir chanted Christmas hymns and carols for the occasion.

In his word, His Holiness Patriarch Mor Ignatius Aphrem II emphasized that hunger and conflicts that surround us are the result of the irresponsible actions of men and of their materialistic desires. He called upon the clergy on the occasion of Christmas to meditate their ministry and have a mission of remembering the needy and visiting them to help them and serve them with joy so that they may rejoice in the Lord with us.

His Beatitude Patriarch Joseph Absi spoke about the special reverence of the feast of Nativity while reminding the clergy of their initial calling to serve the poor and marginalized with a pure heart and conscience.

His Beatitude Patriarch John X spoke about the Divine Providence that is the truth of this holy feast in which a child communicated to us the love of God and His care for His creation. He prayed for each family and asked the King of peace to spread His peace, especially inner peace, towards all people.

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On December 20, 2019, His Holiness Patriarch Mor Ignatius Aphrem II inaugurated the Christmas Tree at the Abbasiyyin Square in Damascus. Thousands of people gathered to be part of this joyful event.
 
Their Eminences Archbishops: Mor Timotheos Matta Al-Khoury, Patriarchal Vicar in the Patriarchal Archdiocese of Damascus, Mor Anthimos Jack Yacoub, Patriarchal Vicar for Youth Affairs and Christian Education, and Very Rev. Raban Joseph Bali, Patriarchal Secretary and Media Office Director, accompanied His Holiness to the inauguration ceremony.
 
In his speech, His Holiness named the square “the square of life” pointing out to the suffering of the Syrian people that this square witnessed during the difficult times of the crisis. Then, it was restored from its ashes to be a place of gathering, uniting the Syrian people irrespective to their religions. He added that this celebration is an occasion to draw a smile on the children’s face and to give hope to all people. The lively city of Damascus is thus sending a message to the entire world that peace starts from the heart and all people have a desire for peace. He wished all a Merry Christmas and greeted the Syrian army who is giving lots of sacrifices to protect Syria and its people. He prayed for peace throughout the world and wished all the Syrian people a blessed season.
 
This event is the result of the hardwork of Sabro Team under the leadership of Very Rev. Raban Barsoum Kando who coordinated the organization of many Christmas activities including the giant Christmas Tree at the Abbasiyyin Square.
 
The event included also a performance by the orchestra of the Syrian Army which played several songs for Christmas and the holiday season. The Hymn Chanter Abeer Nehmeh also performed several chants and carols in Syriac and Arabic.

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