Damascus, 19 October 2016
“O Lord, give peace to our country.”
With this prayer, we concluded the autumn session of our Assembly of Catholic Hierarchy in Syria, which took place at the Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarchate in Damascus.
We studied the situation of our eparchies, and especially, ways of promoting our presence and role, as well as ensuring the service of our people in the tragic situation that we have been experiencing for the last five and a half years.
The participants presented reports on the state of their work in the various committees dealing with the Church’s life and mission in Syria, including: justice and peace, mutual welfare (Caritas Syria), Christian education, ecumenical relations, religious orders, Bible, interfaith dialogue, media, youth, family and canon law.
From Damascus, we wanted to greet Aleppo, which is greatly suffering. It had been decided to hold the meeting of our assembly there, but the security situation prevented us from doing that. As Church pastors, we express our love for Aleppo and our solidarity with its people. We pray for Aleppo’s ordeal to end and for peace and security to reign there, as has been the case elsewhere, in Homs and its countryside, in Ma’alula and most recently in Daraya, and for reconciliation to be built up in all regions of our beloved Syria. We also pray for peace to reign in Syria and throughout the world.
We thank all those agencies, organisations and countries that stand with us and have assisted the Church, wherever it has a significant role in Syrian society, in its service to all our fellow countrymen through social, spiritual and material support. The Church desires to help its beloved children, especially young people, in their staunchness and rejection of emigration, which has become a tsunami, sweeping away our children into seas and oceans and towards other shores across the globe. We are looking for ways to help our children to stay and resist, despite the crisis and suffering. Despite circumstances, we must hold fast! We encourage our children to remain where God has planted them, in Syria, cradle of Christianity, as guardians of their ancestral faith. We also appeal to those who have been forced to emigrate to keep alight the flame of their holy faith.
We implore God’s mercy upon our martyrs and the victims of violence and terror. We remember those of our children and priests who have disappeared and been abducted here and there in Syria, including Archbishop Gregorios Yuhanna Ibrahim and Metropolitan Boulos Yazigi. We pray for our President and his ministers and for our army that remains firm in its fidelity to our country’s mission and to its defence.
We should like to thank His Holiness, Pope Francis, for remembering Syria once or twice a week, with the phrase, “My beloved Syria.” And, this month, he showed his love for Syria by promoting the Apostolic Nuncio in Damascus, Archbishop Mario Zenari, to the rank of cardinal, while at the same time His Holiness sought to express his gratitude and appreciation by arranging for him to head the list of new cardinals and deciding that as cardinal he should remain Nuncio to Syria. This arrangement is the sign of solidarity and love for “beloved and wounded Syria.”
We thank the Saviour, Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd, for his concern for his Church in Syria, just as he showed himself here in the sight of Saint Paul on the road to Damascus, converting him and making him into the Apostle to the Nations, beginning with Syria. For our Church and our dear country, Syria, we implore the abundance of God’s blessings, and especially for the constant grace of love to overflow into all our hearts throughout all regions of Syria, and for mutual help, solidarity, fraternity and generosity to endure, together with the faith values, patriotism and inheritance characteristic of Syria.
With His Holiness, Pope Francis, we say to all our children and all Syria’s children, “Never allow the flame of hope to be extinguished in your hearts” and here, in beloved Syria, continue to be light, salt and leaven.
+ Gregorios III (Laham)
Melkite Greek Catholic
Patriarch of Antioch and All the East,
Of Alexandria and of Jerusalem
President of the Assembly
Of the Catholic Hierarchy in Syria