ENTHRONEMENT SPEECH OF PATRIARCH JOHN X OF ANTIOCH
Distinguished guest and beloved children,
We thank the Lord our God who allowed us, in the two previous months, to celebrate His appearance in the flesh as man and His manifestation as God coming to save us. After Jesus has fulfilled His plan of salvation by dying on the cross and rising from the dead, and after He ascended in the flesh to heaven from whence He had descended, sitting on the right hand of the Father, He prayed the Father to send the Holy Spirit to dwell in the hearts of each of us. Everyone who desires this and wants the Spirit to dwell in him does this so that Jesus may appear to him, and also that he might be reminded of the Lord’s sayings and teachings. The Holy Spirit shows us Jesus Christ, at first in the Church, which is His Body and which He wanted to be “a glorious church, with neither stains, wrinkles, nor any such thing” (Eph. 5: 27). It also makes Him present in the Church through the word of His Gospel, in the Body and Blood of His Eucharist, in His meeting with His brothers who gathered in His Name, as well as in every human being – especially in the poor, the homeless and the broken hearted, in whom He accepted to dwell. The Holy Spirit reveals Jesus wherever it dawns, making Him present yet veiled in all religions and all cultures.
Jesus, Emmanuel, is always present here and everywhere, present among us. He is always with us, ready to meet us. He rejoices in our joys, He revels in our holiness, and He weeps with us when we are troubled and sorrowed. He also cries when, as shepherds and flock, we neglect to live according to His teachings, and whenever our sins mar His bleeding, yet glorious face, and thus veil the world from seeing Him in His Church, and through us.
Brethren, let us on this blessed day, when the cross of shepherding the great and glorious Church of Antioch is entrusted to me, join hands that together we may live its glory and reveal it to all. This happens when we listen together to Jesus, and when we pray daily: “teach me to do thy will, for thou art my God” (Psalm 142: 10).
God is not pleased to see that the unity He wants for His people is shattered, and that His flock is divided into many factions. We, together, constitute the people of God, a charismatic people, a holy nation, a royal priesthood. Each of us must realize the gifts given to him by the Spirit in the service of others. The shepherd is the first servant who sacrifices himself for his flock; he knows each of them by name, like the Good Shepherd who gave his life for all. The shepherd does not command “as if he was an autocrat” (Ignatius of Antioch: Letter to the Ephesians 3:1), as the great St. Ignatius of Antioch wrote in his letter to the people of Ephesus. The shepherd orders by love and sacrifice. He orders by the cross which he willingly climbs, as his Lord did before. He observes the talents of his flock. He recognizes the good in them to enhance it. He calls us all to participate in the Kingdom’s Design that starts here on this earth, in the Church. And then the flock should put all their resources and their powers at the service of the Church, our true mother. In this way the face of Christ will be revealed under the leadership of the bishop who steadfastly calls for love, service and “cooperation”, “For one is your Master and all ye are brethren” (Mt. 23: 8). Let us practice this brotherhood in mutual respect and rise above ourselves, as our Lord has done by loving us unto death.
God is not pleased to see His Church which is called upon to care for all —not caring enough about the poor, those little ones whom He loved, and not treating them as its priority and the priority of its institutions. Jesus desires that no one should suffer from poverty, especially when He knows that we ourselves have the necessary means and resources. Why don’t we set as our goal what St. John Chrysostom, the great shepherd from Antioch, taught us: “Do not possess anything that you have. What you have belongs to the others. It is yours and your neighbour’s as well, like the sun, the air and the earth” (Homily n. 20 on the Epistle to the Corinthians).
Jesus suffers when He sees many of us, and especially the young, drift away, leave the flock or become indifferent. Regaining them must be our utmost priority. Thus, we will rejoice at the return of the prodigal son and that he may resume his place in the work of the Church. Why don’t we seriously ponder the real reasons behind the emigration of our young? Why don’t we develop the methods of our pastoral care that we may reach them, not only with words, but through liturgical revival, and through the teaching that refocuses on the core of our tradition and liberates some of our practices from monotony? We have to find a way that enables them to touch the depths of our inspirational Liturgy, to let them inhale from it, and show them that it will open many opportunities for them to enter into God’s and their brethren’s hearts. We face the huge task of modernising the practice of our pastoral care and of our educational programs. Such a task requires the participation of the priest, the monk, the nun, and the lay men and women. The task has to be founded on the knowledge of the theologian, the specialization of the educator, and on the labor of workers in the pastoral field as well.
Indeed, our youth are the treasure of our Church. They are its ambassadors in this rapidly changing world. We want them to assume the role of ambassadors in a serious way. We want them to know that the whole Church needs their enthusiasm and commitment. It needs their readiness to consecrate their lives for a goal they want to achieve. We have to make them aware of their special role in the Church of Christ “who loved the rich young man” and was saddened by his departure. The young are rich in their modern outlook, in their passion, and in the many gifts that God bestowed upon them. We need them and urge them, through our love, to always work in the Church’s workshop and to consider themselves responsible for it along with their brothers, and especially those whom God has called upon to watch over His flock. If we love them the way Christ loves them, then our relationship with them would become one of brotherhood, love and mutual respect. In this way they will overcome every contradiction between obedience and authority and will live as the children of one family, obeying those who obey Jesus Christ. Thus, authority becomes obedience and obedience becomes a loving authority.
God is not pleased when He sees us clinging to the letter of things, emptying the letter from spirit and life. We know that the Church is alive by the Holy Spirit, and through ‘Which’, it has survived throughout history. Ecclesial Tradition is not something motionless or stagnant but a tool of salvation and a way to understand the divine sacrament. We live at a time where tradition is often rejected, and this negatively affects our youth. Our Church is concerned with the developments of our time because Jesus Christ wants it to be His witness at all times. Following up on a time like ours requires wiping off the dust that, due to our sins, has accumulated on our tradition throughout the centuries. It also requires working to reveal what is authentic in it. Modernity is a blessing that calls us to revive the fundamentals of our worship and teachings, and also to differentiate between the one Holy Tradition and the many secondary traditions and practices to which we often cling. The witness of the Church, at this age, is to discern and make choices. Modernity offers many opportunities. We must resort to the good in it to regain our people who are getting increasingly attracted by prevailing globalization. Our Church must not fear to use the methods available in our time to modernise its practices, to build bridges towards its children, and to learn to speak their language. This is what the holy fathers did when they used Greek philosophy, which was widespread in their time, to convey the message of the Gospel in a language that the people understood. We have to follow their example if we are to remain faithful in transmitting the message. The challenge lies in making the life of Jesus Christ glow in our faces, in our worship, and in all the aspects of our Church that the people may find their salvation in it. Finally, renewal is not only to modernise the texts and to make them understandable in the language of our time, but to renew the human soul and bring it closer to the face of Jesus. All its attention must be in His direction. Only then will modernisation interact with the human heart and lead to the salvation of man.
Needless to say, the Lord is saddened by the violence and killing now permeating many regions, as is now happening in Syria. We have there members of our Church who have been forced to leave their homes and towns; they have become jobless, they have lost their means of livelihood. Love is the enemy of death and of violence wherever they may come from. We have to consider the cause of the homeless as our cause and help those who suffer from this tragic situation. We have to show them our love, to consecrate ourselves to comfort them. Jesus suffers in each one of them; do we see Him in them? Shouldn’t we consecrate ourselves to serve them by donating a part of what we own to them? Shouldn’t we be ‘the administrators of divine matters’, as the great Antiochian St. Maximos the Confessor said? In this respect, we have to carry the cross of our country and to pray and work for reconciliation, brotherhood, peace, freedom and justice in our region, categorically refusing all kinds of violence and hatred.
Jesus is undoubtedly saddened when He sees some of us, shepherds and flock, behaving in a way totally strange to the spirit of His Gospel. Such behavior transforms our character and becomes a stumbling block in guiding people to imitate Jesus and espouse His ethos. Hence, we have no choice but to repent as persons and as a community, and to rely fully on God, seeking His forgiveness, and trusting that He will guide us to His path. “He who longs after God and finds his ease and comfort in Him, God can be seen in him for God is in all His creatures”, according to St. John of Damascus.
Here we appreciate the importance of a good clerical education that will provide us with shepherds who will live and behave according to God’s will, who will be committed to the mission of Priesthood and who will participate in the Church’s work. Therefore, I call our youth to approach this ecclesiastical service with humility, steadfastness and boundless love for God, remembering the Lord’s saying to Peter: “If you love me, feed my sheep” (John 21: 15). To help those priests in fulfilling their mission and succeeding in it, we ought to support them and assure them a decent life. The community has a major role to play in this regard.
The monastic movement plays a central role in the revival of the Church and in its spiritual life. We are thankful that in the past fifty years and with the help of God, we have regained in our Patriarchate, these “spiritual oases”, the monastic orders that arose in the first centuries of Christianity. We need monasteries with members who truly live brotherly communion in prayer, spiritual exercise and physical work, thus carrying us with them in their prayers. We are certain that their fervent prayers will protect the entire world and will strengthen the Church in fulfilling its mission.
Jesus wants everything among us to be performed decently, wisely, in an orderly manner and abiding by the rules. We respect our institutions and our laws, and we try to remove the obstacles that stand in the way of their proper implementation. Canons are not rigid laws. They are an expression of the life of the Church and of its relationship with its Lord. In addition, we should enable the institutions established by our ancestors, with the grace of God, to be more conscious of the challenges of the modern consumer society. These institutions should continue to inhale from our tradition and from the Spirit manifested in it. If we do that, then the dialogue with the world will become easier and our children will be better equipped to face the challenges of modernity. They will also get acquainted, without fear, with its positive aspects. The only reason for justifying the existence of an institution in the Church is to witness to Jesus and to spread His teachings in its own way, although it may have other important social and cultural roles to play as well.
Jesus wants his Church to be the light of the world, and the light should not be hidden. It should illuminate the minds and hearts of our people. We have to mobilize all our resources and activate all our brethren to serve their mother, our Antiochian church, that it may preserve its shining light ignited in the past by our Apostolic See. In this respect, we recall the important role of St. John of Damascus Institute of Theology and of the University of our Orthodox Church, the University of Balamand, in renewing the pastoral vision, in offering new possibilities, and in helping to find the right responses to the urgent challenges facing our generation, as well as our institutions.
We please the Lord when we work as shepherds and flock in strengthening the unity of the Orthodox churches, in helping them in the realisation of the awaited Great Holy Synod, and in resolving the challenges facing it. We cannot, in this respect, forget the basic role of the Church of Constantinople and the Ecumenical Patriarchate. As for us, in Antioch, we shall remain a bridge of communication among all, and supporters of all decisions taken by consensus of all the churches working together. We are also committed to finding solutions that will manifest the face of Jesus in His Church, for the salvation of the world, setting aside all divisive material and mundane concerns.
Jesus cries when He witnesses the divisions in the Christian world, and the distance among its members, as well as the recent weakening of ecumenical work. We have to pray with Jesus and all brothers belonging to Him, that “the unity Christ wills might grow” (John 17: 1). We must understand that this unity is a necessary condition “that the world may believe” (John 17: 21). The drifting of the people away from faith, their disinterest in God’s love, their reliance on a world without the God who created them in His own image, calling them to His likeness, and offering them a way toward deification, is disturbing. These tendencies urge us to try and instill harmony between the Eastern and Western churches and to strengthen cooperation in the fields of ministry and pastoral care. We need to encourage dialogue, to get to know each other better, and to take daring religious initiatives so that we may reach, in God’s good time, the communion in the one chalice. We may then tell those who ask about our faith: “come and see” (John 1: 46), come and see how our love for each other stems from our love for the One who loved us and gave His life for all.
God is not pleased to see co-existence with non-Christians with whom we share the same country regress and even vanish here and there for various reasons, for reasons of politics, or for fundamentalist tendencies, that have nothing to do with religion. Love does not know fear or hostility: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast… It keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil…” (1 Co 13: 4-8). Love is our byword and our weapon. We, the Antiochians, are an Eastern church; its roots go deep in the history of our region. Along with our Muslim brothers, we are the sons and daughters of this good earth. God wanted us in it to witness to His Holy Name, and in it we must stay, encouraging decent and respectful co-existence, refusing all kinds of hatred, fear and arrogance. To my Muslim brothers I proclaim, we are not only partners in the land and in its destiny, for together we have built the civilization of this land and shared in the making of its culture and history. Let us therefore work together in preserving this precious heritage. We are also partners in worshipping the one God, the true God, the light of the heavens and of the earth.
We are a church and not just one confession among others. The Church includes the confession and does not deny it, but the Church is not a confession whose concerns stop at its boundaries without thinking of the others. This is so because our Lord asked us to love everyone and to seek the common good. This does not mean that we should neglect the concerns of the community that constitutes the social environment of our church. We have to care, according to an open evangelical spirit, about all its components. We continuously pray for all its members because this is how we “lead them to God” (St. Ignatius of Antioch). We want to listen to them and try to solve their problems and difficulties. We know that many of their members emigrate because they are afraid and anxious about their fate; they emigrate searching for a better life. The Church must deal seriously with these problems which are at the heart of its mission, using all available capacities, resources and endowments to help its children stay in this region. As for those who have already emigrated or are about to emigrate, the Church must find adequate ways to shepherd them abroad, in their respective Antiochian archdioceses. We must always call them to be “imitators of Christ even as He is of his Father” (St. Ignatius of Antioch: The Letter to the Philadelphians 7: 2), reminding them that they are all “fellow-travelers and God-bearers” (St. Ignatius of Antioch: The Letter to the Ephesians 9: 2). Without God and without returning to Him in total humility, all human associations are in vain, with no present and no future.
My brothers, my sons, our common concern is to please God. This is the main challenge that members of the Holy Antiochian Synod, and our archdioceses in the homeland and abroad, our sons and daughters, and all members of our Church will have to face. The Antiochian See is one and we will continue to work that it may remain united and continue to shine even brighter. Our archdioceses are and should be open to each other and should cooperate at all levels. They should be open to the other Orthodox churches, to the sister Christian churches, and to all people of good will. The goal of our Antiochian Patriarchate is to ensure that Christ is not ashamed of us. Rather, we have to stand united together in love in order to fulfill this goal. Help me to reach this goal, that our church may shine by His light and may serve as a vehicle of peace, brotherhood and cooperation. It is this goal that will ultimately salvage our deteriorating world and infuse it with meaning. We know well that this meaning is in us, but it is often hidden behind our passions and sins. I humbly and collegially call upon all our archdioceses to actively congregate and wipe off the dust of the precious jewel entrusted to them. Through joint solidarity and participation of all members of these archdioceses, we shall together bear witness to the One God who redeemed us with His precious blood, and who wants the Antiochian Church, where we were first called Christians, to recover the leading role it played in its glorious history.
PASTORAL MESSAGE THE FEAST OF THE NATIVITY
With God’s mercy
Patriarch of Antioch and all the East
To my brethren, the Shepherds of the Holy Antiochian Church
And my children who belong to this Apostolic See
We approach these Holy and Blessed Feasts as we witness the crucial events our Antiochian Church has gone through recently, first and foremost with the departure of our Father, Patriarch Ignatius IVth who ministered the Church with patience and faithfulness for several decades. His memory shall remain alive in our minds and hearts, and shall be eternal before the Lord Whom he served all his life. At this time, our Church and our people are experiencing dramatic situations caused by violence and troubles shaking our region.
The Holy Spirit has willed that I be elected by my brothers, the members of the Holy Synod, to succeed this great Minister, in spite of my unworthiness. However, I rely on God and on you, my brothers and children of my Church, and this shall make me expect, with great hope, divine help, which will enable us to overcome these hard tests and look for a better future.
In the midst of these events, you have left in my heart the feeling that you have lived in this period as the people of the living God; you have expressed this reality in three responses: You were deeply moved at the departure of our great Patriarch; You maintained your fasting, prayers and hope before the elections; and finally you showed joy, exultation and peace after the elections. For all these three responses and your care, allow me to express my deep thanks to you, convey my pride in you and my steadfast hope in the one body of our Church.
Behold, the Child Who is coming to us in the cave to die for us; is reminding us that He is with us, talking to us, and entrusting us with conveying the message of peace and love, which He addressed to each and every one of us and to the whole world. He is coming to us as a humble one, knocking at the door of our heart with gentility as if He wanted to be born in it. The feast of Nativity is not a mere remembrance of Jesus’ birth in a cradle from the Virgin Mother of God; it was meant to be the feast of His birth in us, a birth that can only occur if we seek the purity that distinguished the Virgin Mary. The Birth of Jesus in us will invite us to renew our commitment to His teachings, and our struggle to become His unblemished Church, a Church that is free of weaknesses, pure in everything, and shining with the Holy Spirit. Together we shall be aware that the Church of Christ is our mother, and that the shepherds and the believers are called to be Christ’s messengers inviting their brethren in the world to reconciliation and to the rejection of violence so that His peace may prevail.
The world will not be convinced unless it feels that it is much loved by the followers of Jesus and that they are its servants.
The Church is our mother. Each and every one of you is important and has a unique position in it. You have the right to be ministered by its shepherds. All ministers, at all ranks, should go out to you, listen to you, to your problems, and should seek to help you and answer all your crucial questions.
You have the right, as believers who submitted themselves to the Word of God and sought to be like Him in everything, that you be included in consultations and the resolution of its issues; all the children together with the father, are supposed to keep vigilance for the future under God of the family.
We approach this feast as many of the children of our Church are displaced, away from their homes, enduring much suffering. Our duty as brothers and sisters is to support them and give them consolation, not only with money and necessary material help, but also by showing them care, love and compassion.
We approach the feast as our people are facing many changes and challenges in a world that is departing increasingly from traditional concepts, making violence, consumption and possession a new law for this life. Needless to say, the luxury with which we celebrate this feast, the feast of the poverty of Bethlehem, is a clear sign that we, also, have adopted this law in the conduct of our lives. As we are accustomed to exchange gifts in the manner of the kings who visited the Lord Jesus at His birth, let us express our love to the Divine Child, coming to us, by feeding the hungry, visiting the sick, offering a shelter to the homeless and doing whatever we can do.
We approach this feast as many in our countries are asking what might happen to them.
Brethren, the Child of the cave is saying to us: “Do not fear, I am with you. Do not fear because your brothers and sisters are called to help one another and support one another. Do not fear because you are the people of this region, in which God willed you to be born since ancient times. Do not fear, because you have in it many brethren who believe in love and peaceful co-existence.
Do not fear, lest you lose your dynamism; instead go to meet all with love, joy and full trust in your God, who is the God of love, Who is love itself. Be the heralds of reconciliation, and of a dialogue in depth.”
We celebrate this feast with our other Christian brethren. We pray to God that he may give us to deepen our dialogue with them all, in order to reach the unity God desires, the unity without which the world will not believe that Jesus was sent by God.
Let us also celebrate with our Muslim brethren who look highly at Jesus Christ and confess his birth from the Virgin Mary according to the will of God. This feast is in common with them if we know how to make with them a dialogue of life and co-existence on the notions that bring us together in our religion and in our world.
Brothers and Sisters, bow down before the Child of the cradle who willed to dwell in you.
I cannot but think here of our children who are awaiting us all over the world, our children in the Arab Gulf, Europe, Australia and the Americas. You are in my heart since I met you during my journeys and during my ministry of your churches. You are a real expression of the apostolic spirit of Antioch in the countries in which you are living. Your love for Antioch and the faith you are living makes me feel, more than ever, the necessity of working together in the service of the Church and of offering a living witness to our unity and love.
Thus we become true witnesses to the Lord in the world, and thus our Antiochian Church becomes faithful to its history which shines with the light of the martyrs and the saints. We have no other way but holiness, which makes everything possible.
I send to you the apostolic blessing assuring you that I carry each and every one of you in my heart, asking God to make me His faithful servant in you and to enable us to work together so that God may be glorified in the humanity he loved and in the Church which carries His name in this world.
Addressed from the Patriarchal residence in Damascus.
On 20th January 2012.
EXTRACTS FROM THE PRESS CONFERENCE OF HIS BEATITUDE PATRIARCH JOHN X
Extracts from the press conference Of His Beatitude Patriarch John Xth, in the Hall of the Holy Cross Church,on December 22, 2012 at 10.00 am
At the Beginning, His Beatitude said a prayer for all the children of the Antiochian Church in the East and in the countries of the diaspora.
The Church of Antioch:
It is a genuine eastern church. It is the Church of the East. It is deeply rooted in its countries, especially in Syria and Lebanon, extending at the same time to the whole world. It is the church of everybody. It gives everyone the light of its civilization. It belongs to all human beings.
The Christian Presence in the East:
We exist in the East and we shall stay there. We believe that the face of Christ will not disappear in this region, in which Christianity begun. The Church of Antioch offered martyrs, as well as civilization, heritage and tradition. We have always been the children of our nation and we shall remain here. We are full of hope that what our beloved nation is going through will have an end. We call for dialogue. Through common dialogue and the acceptance of the other we cross ways. Religion binds us to our Lord, and with our brother. To believe in the Lord is to open up to the other with love and truthfulness.
The Situation in Syria:
His Beatitude affirmed that the Christians are not a part in the conflict. They will play a role in resolving the problems. They face difficulties like others. The Church shall make every effort to help the needy, the poor and the suffering.
Pastoral visions of the Patriarch:
The tasks of the Patriarch are spiritual and administrative. He is the father in the family – church, and in the nation, which is the larger family.
We need a spiritual revival aiming at renewing the mind and the heart. We need an administrative revival as well as a revival in the media. We will give our schools, the University of Balamand as well as all other institutions special care. Ministry is the aim of these institutions. Ministry is at the heart of our mission and our work in the Church. It is the perspective through which we look at all other charity and institutional works.
BIOGRAPHY OF HIS BEATITUDE JOHN X PATRIARCH OF ANTIOCH AND OF ALL THE EAST
His Beatitude Patriarch John 10th (Yazigi) was born in Lattakia, a town on the Mediterranean coast of Northern Syria. He grew up in a household atmosphere of faith, prayer and education. His father, the late Manah Yazigi, a Syrian teacher of Arabic language, was a poet. His mother Rose Moussi is a devout Lebanese woman. In their pious home, Manah and Rose raised a family of four children, two boys and two girls. Raising their children in the faith and educating them in the virtues yielded much fruits. Their children were dedicated to the service of the Church: one became the Patriarch of Antioch, the other a Metropolitan, and another joined a convent as a nun.
His Beatitude studied in the city schools and graduated with high honors. He earned a Bachelor in Civil Engineering from the University of Teshreen. During his studies, he played a key role with the youth and established several youth programs, thus becoming a well known youth leader. Since he excelled in Byzantine Music, he set up a Byzantine Music School and formed several choirs. By the grace of God, his work led to a great spiritual revival among his generation.
In 1978, His Beatitude graduated from the St. John of Damascus Institute of Theology, University of Balamand, with a Bachelor in Theology. In 1983, he earned with high honors his doctoral degree in Liturgics from the University of Thessaloniki, Greece. The tile of his thesis published in Greek is: “The Service of Holy Baptism: An Historical, Theological, and Liturgical Study.” In 1981, and simultaneously with his doctoral studies, His Beatitude successfully earned a Diploma in Byzantine Music issued by the Conservatory of Byzantine Music in Thessaloniki, Greece.
His Beatitude was ordained a deacon in 1979 and a priest in 1983, by the laying on of hands of His Eminence Metropolitan John Mansour of the Archdiocese of Lattakia where he initially served.
Since 1981, His Beatitude became the Professor of Liturgical Studies at the St. John of Damascus Institute of Theology at Balamand. During the periods of 1988-1991 and 2001-2005 he served as the Dean of the Institute of Theology.
In the years 2001-2005, His Beatitude became the abbot of the Our Lady of Balamand Patriarchal Monastery, Lebanon. He was also appointed abbot of the St. George Al Humayrah Patriarchal Monastery, Syria, in the period of 1993- 2005, where he founded a monastic community and a school of ecclesiastic studies for the Patriarchate. In addition, His Beatitude contributed to the foundation of the Convent of our Lady of Blemmana in Tartous, Syria.
In 1995, the Holy Synod of Antioch elected him as the Bishop of Pyrgou, an area called in Arabic Wadi An-Nasara or Al-Hosn, in the Archdiocese of Akkar.. He faithfully served the parishes there till 2008, when was elected Metropolitan of Europe. On December 17, 2012, the Holy Synod of Antioch elected John Yazigi as the Patriarch of the Holy and Apostolic See of Antioch.
In addition to his pastoral ministry, His Beatitude was involved in many worldwide activities in the ecumenical, Christian and especially Orthodox Christian spheres. He participated in many international conferences, namely in Greece, Italy, Switzerland, Cyprus, United States of America, Russia, and the United Kingdom.
Patriarch JOHN X is well known for his insightful leadership and his clear vision. He has expressed his vision about various national, ecumenical, international and humanitarian issues through several international conferences and church and national gatherings. His Beatitude uses fairness and truthfulness as keys to all solutions. As a shepherd, he works on gathering the flock, and calls for reconciliation and dialogue among all people and parties, both nationally and internationally. His Beatitude’s personal characteristics are summarized in having good manners, notable interpersonal and listening skills, and his ever-readiness to serve with much dedication and integrity.
Throughout his priestly ministry, His Beatitude’s active presence has led to a notable Church revival. He has succeeded to be close to the youth, calling them to serve the Church and to be active in their society and nation. His Beatitude is also known for his strong administrative, institutional and team work skills. He has played an effective role in encouraging priestly vocations, and a leading role in the development of the St John of Damascus Institute of Theology at the University of Balamand.
Patriarch JOHN X is the author of several books on theology, education, Byzantine music, and liturgy. He edited the liturgical books of the Orthodox Church in Arabic, and more specifically the liturgical books of the archbishops, priests, deacons. Some of his main published works are: The Service of Baptism: A Historic, Theological and Liturgical Study, Thessalonica, 1983 [Greek] (His PhD Thesis); Principles of Byzantine Music, Balamand, 1990, Second Edition 2001; The Life of St. Nectarios the Wonderworker, Lattakya, 1990; Priesthood & Marriage of Priests, Lattakya, 1992; Baptism as a Sacrament of Initiation into the life in Christ, Lattakya, 1992; The Liturgikon, St. George Al-Humayrah Patriarchal Monastery, 2001, Second edition 2005; The Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, Al-Humayrah Patriarchal Monastery, 2001; The Archieratikon, Our Lady of Blemanna Convent, 2007; The Deacon Service Book, Our Lady of Blemanna Convent, 2007; Church Consecration Service, Archdiocese of Europe, 2011; Liturgical Series (Six Volumes), St. John of Damascus Institute of Theology, 2001-2004.
In addition, he translated several books, namely: The life of Our Holy Righteous Mother Makrina, by St. Gregory of Nyssa, An-Nour Publications, 1984; For Those Who Believe in Justification by Works, by St. Mark the Monk, Chapters in Prayers and Spiritual Life, Patristic Series, An-Nour, 1990.
His Beatitude also gave many lectures and participated in several international conferences in different universities churches and institutes, as follows: St Paul and the Antiochian Church, Conference on St Paul, Virea, Greece, 2007; Eucharist in the Byzantine Liturgy, A Conference on Liturgics, the Holy Sprit University, Kaslik, 2004; The Church and Sacraments, An International Conference on the meaning of the Church from an Orthodox perspective, Moscow, 2003; The Unmerceneries Healers of the Church. A Lecture in the occasion of the 125th Anniversary of the St. George Hospital, Beirut, 2002; The Church in the Middle East, University of Oxford, Cambridge, 2002. Meditations on the Meaning of the Church from an Eastern Theological Perspective, The Institute for Orthodox Studies Cambridge, 2002; Antioch: Its Theology and Pastoral Care, A Lecture in the occasion of the Annual priestly convention of the Antiochian Christian Archdiocese of North America, Pennsylvania, 2002; The Mystery of Repentance, Conference on Eastern Liturgics, Holy Spirit University – Kaslik, 2002; The Hymnographic Contribution of the Antiochian Orthodox Church to the Liturgy During the Sixth and Seventh Centuries. Conference on the Specificity of the Church of Antioch, University of Balamand, 1999.
Patriarch John X: Challenges in a time of changes
By Carol Saba (Original Arabic in an-Nahar: “Challenges Facing Patriarch John X)
John X came to us as a shepherd for Antioch, reflecting the tenth chapter of the Gospel of John that tells us about the Good Shepherd who knows the voice of His sheep. I got to know him through his writings as Metropolitan of Western Europe. Together we experienced harmony and difference. It was a profound encounter, in love of service to the Church. Today the Holy Spirit gave him an appointment with history in motion. His election is a message of light in the darkness of the time and of hope for the resurgence of a renewed Antioch. The process of his election was neither lengthy nor complicated. It was completed in peace and simplicity, with neither hesitation nor haste. There was no lack of concern for the Church’s unity. Perhaps the fathers of the Synod deeply realized the danger of the situation and the need for being ready for challenges. The very Church is at stake if stagnant waters do not stir with “churchly” intelligence so that we might bring back the activity of linking, connection, and leadership in the Middle East. In the Church today there are harmonies and contradictions, revelations and flabbiness, purity and questions, and much that has piled up. The new patriarch, who has experienced both the West and the East, completely realizes the challenges and that the world is changing around us, East and West, radically and rapidly. Globalization, which has both positive and negative aspects, has conquered every place. “Progressive” materialism submits all values and standards to change and questioning. The Arab Middle East is flailing about and living through a phase of great transformation. A whole series of exceptional events require a critical reading, a demonstration of vision, and an exceptional road-map for the Church, so that we as Orthodox may be active within her and not divided and passive.
Five major ecclesial and national challenges stand before us in order for us to rise from “maintaining existence” to “active presence.” First of all the challenge of evangelism and renewed pastoral care so that the Church can be in a state of faithful dynamism that speaks to contemporary man and modernity with the language of living faith and not a state of social and cultural nostalgia that revives traditions whose spiritual meaning is lost on new generations. The Gospel is a spiritual radicalism that must be intelligently centered on society in order to build it up. Otherwise it becomes a worldly ideology subject to failure. Then, secondly, the challenge of Antiochian unity, since we do not want merely a slogan but rather effective frameworks for cooperation, coordination, and shared activity between the dioceses, which must be aware that they are members of a single body. Then, thirdly, the logic of service must outweigh the logic of authority, since the Church is not a “pyramid” of authority with a head and a base, decider and implementers. She is a communion of believers who gather together like a ring of links that is consultative and collegial, as rings of charisms, around their patriarch with the bishops in their middle, together taking part in crafting their present reality and future in the Church, exactly as Christ stood in the middle of the disciples after His resurrection.
The fourth challenge is the sound institutional basis of the Church: canons, departments, research workshops, planning for the framework for services and collaboration, the launching point for the dynamism of the extensive Antiochian Orthodox conference, etc., so that the work of the Church can be coordinated, programmatic, transparent, and universal. At that point, the initiative will be in the hands of the Church instead of being in the hands of Orthodox groups and individuals with their own agendas. Finally, the Church must distance herself from politicization and make herself into a place of encounter, dialogue, and initiative for supporting national cohesion and cooperation in our Middle Eastern societies. So let us as Orthodox work to take her out of the logic of sectarianism, minoritarianism, isolationism and into the logic of openness, citizenship, the rule of law, freedoms, and equality.
In the end, all these challenges require the Church to address the world of today through media, a world of connectedness and connectivity, in a studied, contemporary language, in order to convey the words of the Evangelist John, the patriarch’s patron, “Come and see.”
The initiative today and every day is in the patriarch’s hands, since in our Church he is the first bishop among equals, the point of demonstrating unity, the meeting-point of all for consultation, and the starting-point for energetic activity. He is the location of comprehensive catholicity and he wears its symbol, two pectoral icons and a cross. John X, you are the one chosen to be father, leader, inspirer, organizer, motivator, and facilitator between the Orthodox of Antioch and their surroundings as well as with the Orthodox churches, other Christians, other religions, and the entirety of the world today. You have your date with history in the Church of Antioch and with the face of the Lord in her, and from her to the ends of the earth.
Archimandrite Parthenios’ Words to Patriarch John X
Archimandrite Parthenios is the abbot of the monastery of St. Paul on Mount Athos. He is also the spiritual father of Metropolitan Ephrem Kyriakos of Tripoli.
Your Beatitude, Patriarch of Great Theopolis, John,
The monks of Mount Athos greatly rejoiced to hear the news of your election as patriarch of the third-ranking patriarchate of the Eastern Orthodox Church.
Answering your invitation, they decided to participate in this joy of the Church of Antioch and so they sent my humble person, despite my old age.
You have been well-known to the monks of the Holy Mountain for more than thirty years, when you finished your theological studies in Thessalonica and lived in our monastery, the Monastery of the Holy Apostle Paul for two years, with the blessing of His Eminence Metropolitan John of Lattakia. You received the monastic schema in our monastery from my hands. We remember your meekness, humility, and tranquility. In the days you passed at the monastery in order to learn the principles, you were a model for the monks and fathers of the monastery.
The virtues and talents with which the Lord Jesus Christ crowned you raised you up to the episcopate eight years ago. Then, after the departure of Patriarch Ignatius of thrice-blessed memory, the fathers of the Holy Synod valued your pastoral experience during these years and elected you patriarch.
Today at this celebration of the Church, they hand over to you a throne that has been adorned by great saints like Ignatius the God-bearer, Meletius, and Peter, people who made firm the faith in difficult circumstances. We join our prayers to the prayers of these saints, that the Lord God will show you to be worthy of the trust you have been granted by your brother hierarchs. May He grant you the strength to work for the Church as your predecessors worked, that you may be worthy with them of the kingdom of heaven.
In humility I call out to you, worthy, worthy, worthy.
President al-Assad Receives Patriarch John X Yazigi
Author: H Sabbagh
DAMASCUS, (SANA) – President Bashar al-Assad on Monday received Patriarch John X Yazigi, Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch and All the East.
President al-Assad congratulated Patriarch Yazigi on his inauguration as Patriarch of Antioch and All the East, wishing him luck in his new position and lauding the historic role of the Orthodox Church in spreading messages of amity, good and tolerance in the world in general and in Syria in particular.
President al-Assad lauded the high national sense of the Orthodox Church and its essential role in consecrating national unity in the face of the attack targeting Syria which aims to tear apart the unified Syrian fabric and Syrians’ coexistence values.
For his part, Patriarch Yazigi voiced strong confidence that Syria will emerge victorious from the current crisis, stressing the importance of Syrians’ adherence to their unity and national standards to reach victory.
He wished that security, safety and peace will prevail in Syria so that it may return to being a country of good and amity as it always were and always will be, affirming that all Syrians are one family and the Syrian people are one no matter how difficult the circumstances become.
The Words of the Late Patriarch Ignatius IV on: Antiochian Orthodox Identity
This is taken from an article by Fuad Daaboul in his newspaper al-Anwar. The original context is the late patriarch’s response when Elie Salem, a former minister in the Lebanese government and now president of Balamand University asked him, “Who are we?” With the accession of Patriarch John X, the words of the late Patriarch Ignatius on the question of identity ring loud and clear, as a reminder of the burden of ministry within the ancient Apostolic See of Antioch in this era of immense upheaval.
We are Antiochians, the descendants of the original Church that Saint Paul founded. We are the Church of the Middle East, one hundred percent Middle Easterners. Here in the Middle East we are in our home. Our hopes are the hopes of our region. Its tragedies are our tragedies, when there is tragedy. We are the original Christians. The others came to us as guests. We welcome them and work with them, but we do not forget our originality and uniqueness. Certainly, the past has been harsh to us. Empires came, threatened, destroyed, then left. We remained, firm in our faith, humble but proud and daring in our convictions.
The Antiochian spirit is an apostolic spirit, leavening like yeast in dough. We are the leaven of this land. We shape the quality and value– we are not quantities.
The Antiochian spirit affects man in his capacity as bearer of divine truth and the dwelling place of unlimited and unconditional love.
We are Arab Christians. We were here in Palestine, Syria, and Lebanon long before Islam. When the Arabs took over, bringing the message of Islam to this land, we cooperated with them and contributed to building the Arab-Islamic civilization that flourished in the Umayyad era (650-750) and the Abbasid era (750-1257). We were the scientific and intellectual intermediary between them and the Greek world. However, we were not only intermediaries. We also made contributions in various fields.
The Arabic language has been our liturgical language for centuries. We played a role in the history of Classical Arabic, just as we played a prominent role in the Arab reform movement that began in the 19th century, following the Ottoman tanzimat reforms.
The future of Jerusalem is the future of the Palestinian people and of the Arab Christians who share with them a long past and limitless future.
For us, Jerusalem is a symbol of man’s emancipation, despite oppression and crucifixion. Of all the peoples of the earth, we are the people who most belong to Jerusalem. In the most profound sense of the word, Jerusalem is ours. But it languishes under Israeli occupation and because of repression, the number of Jerusalem’s Christians has greatly diminished. The tragedy that is happening in Jerusalem is happening in Palestine as a whole under Zionist occupation. As Orthodox Christians, we do not only bear witness to our own tragedy. We also bear witness to the tragedy of our Muslim brothers in Palestine. The least we can do is to bear witness to truth and justice, the two universal values that are being violated in Palestine.