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Prot. 358/2012 Damascus, 27 July 2012

To our brother bishops, members of our Holy Synod in the Middle East and throughout the whole world!
To our sons and daughters: priests, monks, nuns, and Greek Catholic faithful!
May "the Peace of God which passeth all understanding keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus!" (Philippians 4: 7)

Dear brothers and sisters!

Once again Christians and Muslims are fasting and praying at the same time. That is one of the most beautiful marks and signs of their living together in solidarity.

So Muslims have begun the fast of the honourable month of Ramadan (that lasts this year from 20 July to 18 August.)

In a few days, Christians will begin the fast or abstinence of the Dormition of the Mother of God, from 1 until 15 August. This fast is a summer fast. There is first the autumn fast that precedes the Nativity (40 days). Then follows Great Lent or the winter fast (40 to 50 days), before the Feast of the Resurrection or Great Feast, and the spring or Apostles' fast (20 to 25 days), in June.

The fast or abstinence of Our Lady is very popular and loved by Christian families. During these 15 days we celebrate the consolation or invocation service called Paraklesis in Greek. It is a very popular service that fills our hearts with hope, consolation and joy. It is celebrated for various intentions, especially for the sick, injured, travellers, mourners, orphans, refugees, exiled, departed...

We call upon our faithful, especially in our patriarchal eparchy in Damascus, to participate in these services, with fasting, prayer and repentance.

So the sounds of services in churches and mosques will be simultaneously united, as will be the prayers, fasting and devotions of Muslims and Christians both in places of worship and homes! What beautiful harmony of faith!

Together we shall be praying especially for the safety of all Syrians and for the cessation of the violence that sows fear in quiet districts and has caused the displacement and flight of thousands who have left their homes and properties! We pray too during this period for the return of charity, friendship, fellowship and compassion among all citizens. Syrians are still capable of loving and forgiving each other, being reconciled and showing tolerance to one another. Together they can rebuild a renewed, free, secure, conciliatory Syria, in which citizens regardless of group, party, religion or affiliation can enjoy freedom, dignity, employment and education ... United together, they can rebuild what has been destroyed and work for development and prosperity, for a better future for all citizens.

Together we pray: "O Lord, save thy people and bless thine inheritance. Grant peace to thy world! Grant peace to Syria! By thy Cross, preserve thy people!"

We ask everyone to add special litanies for peace and reconciliation to services.

To everyone, a holy fast!

With my affection!
United in prayer!

Gregorios III

Patriarch of Antioch and All the East,
Of Alexandria and Jerusalem