June 3, 2013
Your Beatitude and honorable
brother, Patriarch John of Antioch,
Venerable brother hierarchs and beloved members of His Beatitude’s entourage,
Honorable and beloved attendees, cherished brothers and children in the Lord,
Christ is Risen!
The visit of an Orthodox Patriarch to the Ecumenical Patriarchate is always a blessing from God, a blessed opportunity for our people to confirm the communion and unity between the Orthodox of the entire world, as well as a spring of joy for all.
All of the Orthodox Patriarchs, Archbishops and Hierarchs, who visit us here at the Phanar, allow us to enjoy these sentiments and experiences. Your visit, however, Your Beatitude and brother Patriarch of Antioch, transcends the boundaries of this experience and etiquette, comprising a genuine presence in familiar places, where our Orthodox Rum faithful have lived together, were tried together, rejoiced and celebrated together, while many of your predecessors, during difficult times, lived here not circumstantially but as participants in the liturgical, sacramental and administrative life of our Church here in Constantinople. After all, beyond the blessing of grace and joy that all of us feel here in this City during these days of your visit, your presence is also a constant reminder of the past, an experience of the future and a signpost to the future of the Church of Christ and of the traditional fraternal relations between our Churches and people.
That is why this evening, we are experiencing a moment of eternity with you, Your Beatitude, together with the esteemed hierarchs of our Church here, and especially the Rum community of Constantine’s City, who have gathered to honor, in their own simple and unfeigned way, the presence of the First-Hierarch of the historic Patriarchate of Antioch, coming from the region where the propagation of the salvific message of the Resurrection of Christ to the entire world began.
We are particularly delighted tonight, because with us, Your Beatitude, there are many of our spiritual children, who hail from Antioch, the ancient See of your Patriarchate; they are Orthodox Christians of Arabic descent in Turkey, themselves Rum Christians, all of us Rum Orthodox, who as one united presence, stand firm and comprise the permanent remnant, offering ourselves and one another and our whole life to the glory of God.
With this common presence, we further strengthen our relations, bear witness to a vibrant and fervent communication in the places of our work, education, and daily life, contributing to the preservation of the Christian tradition in this land where the unfading Light of Christ once shone and continues to shine, beholding the light-beaming Star and being guided by it in order to “reach the Unreachable,” while abandoning those who scheme against us like another “babbling Herod” and who know not how to sing Alleluia, that is to say, glory and praise be to the God of our Fathers.
According to the inscrutable will of our all-knowing Lord, who knows all the secrets of our hearts, Your Beatitude, you were elected Patriarch of the ancient Throne of Antioch, without personal ambition, because the Spirit which is God’s and not our human spirit not ours in fact knew its place and burdened you with the cross of service to your faithful, who in recent times have endured many serious tribulations and have, probably more so than ever before, needed immediate spiritual and pastoral support in this unstable world; indeed, you confront and cover this need with a sense of responsibility. In your struggle and anxiety, you have us all as your sojourners in prayer and in thought.
Knowing your great love for God and for His Body, the Church, as your Rum Orthodox brethren, we pray that your Patriarchal tenure will be abundantly blessed, constituting a period of increased collaboration for your Patriarchate with the Orthodox world and indeed the entire world, while simultaneously playing a definitive role in bringing about peace in the much-troubled region of the Middle East for the protection of Orthodox Christian remnant there, your spiritual children, which we know, that you are ready to sacrifices everything for their prosperity, peace, unity and salvation, according to the example of your predecessor holy Patriarchs and especially of the hieromartyr St. Ignatius the God-bearer.
All of us here in Constantinople hope that your presence among us has granted you some respite from your many worries and struggles during this difficult period in order that it may become an occasion for renewal of strength, through rejuvenation at the shrines of our City, so that you may continue your God-pleasing and very responsible work and ministry.
It is impossible during such moments, even during this brief occasion of common joy, not to mention one vociferous absence; that is to say, to forget your beloved captive brother and our concelebrant, His Eminence Metropolitan Paul of Aleppo, as well as all those who daily experience fear, terror, death, like the hundreds of Orthodox residents of the village of Al-Duvair.
This evening, we would also like to devote our final wish and prayer to all your faithful undergoing difficulties in Syria and Lebanon, most especially to the captive for the sake of the Lord, our brother Paul, with our common petition that the Risen Lord may shorten the time of tribulation for him, for Your Beatitude, and for all of us who know and love him. May he be returned to His Church, his flock, which has such great need of him these days, with integrity, honor, and health, so that he may continue with length of days rightly to divide the word of His truth, instead of the lies, evil and injustice, by which our own brother is tried and suffering.
We believe that, just as the Holy Resurrection followed the Holy Passion of the crucified Lord, so too the cross that is currently borne by your faithful in Syria – and especially His Eminence our brother Paul – will be succeeded by the Resurrection as the common joy of our Church.
We thank you for your presence here. We thank you for this joy and the honor. We thank you for being the Patriarch of Antioch. And we pray that our gracious Master Christ will grant us whatever is best for the salvation of us all and that He will dispel the attacks of the evil enemy against the tested sacred ship of Antioch.
Christ is Risen!
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