The Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria

Based in: Egypt
Present in:
South Africa
United Kingdom
United States of America
Pope of Alexandria (vacant since death of Pope & Patriarch Shenouda III on March 17, 2012)
Bishops: 101
Priests: 3100
Dioceses: 72
Parishes: 1500
Member of:
World Council of Churches- WCC (1948)
The Middle East Council of Churches -MECC
All Africa Conference of Churches- AACC
Periodicals: El-Kerazah and Watany (weekly, in Arabic)
Website: www.coptic.org

*Distribution (membership):
- Egypt: 11,000,000
- Outside Egypt: 1,000,000 (Australia, Europe, North America)

The Copts are the native Christians of Egypt and the direct descendants of the ancient Egyptians. Eusebius records the tradition that the church in Egypt was founded by St Mark the Evangelist, and Alexandria ranked with Antioch and Rome as one of the chief sees of the early church. The Coptic Church suffered severely in the persecution under Diocletian. In Egypt the rapid development of monasticism is attested by the many Coptic "Lives of the Saints" and "Sayings of the Fathers". The Byzantine political domination and the misunderstanding of the Coptic doctrine caused the Coptic Church to undergo severe sufferings at the hands of the Byzantine rulers. In 616 the Copts came under Persian domination. In 642 they were conquered by the Arabs, whose rule in varying forms has lasted to the present day. Long periods of comparative peace would suddenly be broken by persecution, e.g. under the Caliph el Hakim (996-1021), who is said to have destroyed 3,000 churches and caused large numbers to apostatize. The Coptic Church is the largest Christian community in the Middle East. The Coptic language is used mainly in the church and in the service books, which provide the Arabic text in parallel columns. The liturgies used are those of St Basil, St Gregory and St Cyril. Five important fasts are observed: 1) the pre-Lenten fast of Nineveh, 2) the great fast of Lent, 3) the fast of the Nativity before Christmas, 4) the fast of the Apostles, after the Ascension, 5) the fast of the Virgin, before the Assumption. In addition Wednesday and Friday are fasting days except between Easter and Pentecost. Of the hundreds of monasteries which flourished in the deserts of Egypt there are now twenty left with more than 1000 monks, and seven convents with about 600 nuns.

Towards the middle of the 19th century the Coptic Church began to undergo phases of new development. Primary, secondary and technical schools for boys and girls were established, some by the patriarchate and the diocesan authorities, others by various Coptic benevolent societies. The theological school for the preparation of priests and lay leaders was re-established in Cairo in 1975 under the name of Theological Seminary. Today there are nine seminaries in Egypt and five outside the country.

It should be noted that the Coptic language, being the last form or stage of the ancient Egyptian language (originally written in picture-form called hieroglyphics), is indispensable for the study of Pharaonic history and for biblical studies. In the 2nd century AD, Pantaenus, the principal of the theological school in Alexandria, established the Coptic alphabet, using Greek characters and adding seven from the Egyptian which correspond to sounds that do not exist in Greek, in order to record phonetically the vernacular of Egypt. Public interest in theological studies as well as in Coptic history and tradition has led to the foundation by the church of the Institute of Coptic Studies in Cairo. More than one hundred postgraduate students are currently enrolled in the institute.

The Coptic laity (men and women) participate actively in the life of the church. Parish church councils comprise various sub-committees which cooperate with the clergy to meet the pastoral and social needs of the community. Diocesan communities and parish congregations have established a large number of benevolent societies covering a wide range of spiritual, educational and welfare services.

Courtesy:World Council of Churches

External link: Wikipedia

Syrian Orthodox Church of Antioch

Based in: Syria
Present in: Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Canada, Germany, India, Israel/Palestine, Lebanon, Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, United Kingdom, United States of America,
Membership*: 1430000 (420,000, plus 1,010,000 in India)
Patriarch: Patriarch of Antioch Ignatius Zakka Iwas I (1980-2014)
Title: Syrian Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch and All the East
Residence: Maarrat Sednaya (Damascus), Syria
Bishops: 41
Priests: 1050
Dioceses: 39
Parishes: 950
Member of:
World Council of Churches- WCC (1960)
The Middle East Council of Churches -MECC
Periodicals: Journal of the Patriarchate (in Arabic)
Website: http://www.syrianchurch.org/PZakka/Patriarchate.htm

The Syrian Orthodox church is also portrayed on the 'Keeping the Faith' website.

The Syrian Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and all the East is one of seven autocephalous churches under the Oriental Orthodox communion.

According to tradition, St Peter established the Holy See at Antioch in AD 37 and presided over the church, prior to his journey to Rome. An outstanding saint was St Jacob Baradaeus (500-578) who revived the spiritual life of the church in Syria, Armenia, Egypt, Persia and Cyprus. At the beginning of the 13th century the Syrian Orthodox Church had about 20,000 parishes and hundreds of monasteries and convents. During the 14th century the church suffered greatly through the Mongol invasions. At the end of the 18th century its strength was further reduced because of the establishment of a separate Uniate Patriarchate of Antioch (Syrian Catholics), and at the turn of the present century it suffered severe persecution at the hands of the Ottoman Turks. Hundreds of thousands perished. The seat of the patriarchate, after many moves over the centuries, is now in Damascus.

The Syrian Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch (SOPA) refused to accept the decisions of the Council of Chalcedon about the person of Christ, on the ground that they had made too many concessions to the Nestorians. Their doctrinal position is thus similar to that of the Armenian, Coptic and Ethiopian churches. Veneration of the saints and prayers for the dead are essential elements of the church's tradition. The seven traditional sacraments are recognized. The Old Testament was translated into Syriac during the first century, the New Testament in the second century.

The liturgical language of the church is Syriac Aramaic. Other Syriac translations of the Bible were subsequently made by various Syrian scholars. Famous schools of theology were established in Antioch, Nassibeen, Edessa and Qenneshreen. St Aphrem the Syrian, St Jacob of Sarug, Philexinos of Maboug and Jacob of Edessa graduated from these schools. Ignatius Ephrem Barsaum (Patriarch, 1933-57) was the author of a valuable history of Syrian Orthodox literature in Arabic (recently published in English: History of Syriac Sciences and Literature). Since the church has spread widely during the centuries, languages like Arabic, Malayalam, Turkish, English, Spanish and Portuguese are today used, alongside Syriac, in religious services.

The SOPA maintains a number of monasteries which are an integral part of its spiritual and cultural heritage. There are two major and three minor seminaries for the training of the clergy. The church also operates other schools and institutions.

World Council of Churches

List of Syriac Orthodox Patriarchs of Antioch

*According to the WCC, the church has 1,430,000 members. 2013

Catholicosate of All Armenians

Armenian Apostolic Church (Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin)

Based in: Armenia
Present in:
Russian Federation
Sudan (Republic of Sudan)
United Kingdom
United States of America
The Supreme Spiritual and Administrative leader of the Church:
Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians, His Holiness Karekin II Nersessian 1999
Bishops: 47
Archimandrites: 88
Priests: 365
Parishes: 500
Member of:
Member of:
World Council of Churches- (1962)
Conference of European Churches (CEC)
Periodicals: Etchmiadzin (official monthly record of the Catholicosate of All Armenians), Sion (monthly, Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem), The Armenian Church and Mother Church (Armenian Dioceses of the USA)
Website: http://www.armenianchurch.org/

Note about membership:
Distribution of membership:
Armenia: 3,026,000
Europe: 3,695,000 (including Russia and the other countries of the former
Soviet Union)
North America: 1,190,000
Latin America: 112,000

According to sacred tradition, in the 1st century the apostles St Thaddeus and St Bartholomew came to Armenia, preached the gospel and were martyred for their faith. From that time onward, there have been Christian communities in Armenia. In 301, Christianity was proclaimed the official state religion. The historical centre of this autocephalous national church is the Mother See of Etchmiadzin, near the capital city of Yerevan. Doctrinally, the church bases its faith on the Bible, holy Tradition, and on the decisions of the first three ecumenical councils. On the question of Christology, it accepts the definition set by the Council of Ephesus, that "one is the nature of the incarnate word". It does not accept the Council of Chalcedon (451), and renounces the teachings of Nestorius and Eutyches. The church's liturgy is substantially that of St Basil the Great, in classical Armenian. The Gregorian calendar is primarily used. The Bible was translated into Armenian at the beginning of the 5th century, immediately after the creation of the Armenian alphabet, which is still in use today.

Holy Etchmiadzin and other monastic centres have contributed to the advancement of faith, culture, literature, science and the arts for centuries. They represent the religious, linguistic and cultural unity of Armenians in their homeland and abroad. During the last decades many sanctuaries, old monasteries and churches have been renovated. There are currently 18 monasteries. As a result of the historical situation of the Armenians, two patriarchates were established within the hierarchy of the Armenian Church, in Jerusalem and Constantinople, both with local jurisdiction. At present over three million Armenians live in the Republic of Armenia, more than two million in Russia and the other republics of the former Soviet Union, and another three million in the diaspora. During the last ten years, 16 new bishops have been consecrated, 63 celibate priests and over 100 married priests have been ordained, and hundreds of deacons have graduated from the Gevorkian Theological Seminary located at the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin. In recent years, the number of believers has considerably increased. Among the principal priorities of the Armenian Apostolic Church in the near future are: (a) the spiritual life of Armenians and the sustenance of newly formed parishes and communities; (b) reorganization of the theological seminaries - two new seminaries have been founded; (c) construction and renovation of new churches, (d) development of church media agencies and advancement of Christian education; and (e) the continuation of ecumenical dialogue and visitation with sister churches and other member churches of the WCC.

A new Armenian translation of the Bible was published in 1994. Armed forces chaplaincy and prison ministry programmes were established in the late 1990s. In 2002, at the proposal of the church, the government agreed to add the subject of "Armenian Church History" to the curriculum of the public schools system. A TV studio was founded in 1998, and was granted a licence for a public broadcast in 2002. The studio produces and shows thematic films and documentaries and covers public, economic, cultural, and national-ecclesiastical events as well as church activities. Youth centres were started in 1993 and are spread throughout Armenia providing the youth with places for learning, social and cultural activities. In 1997, the Christian Armenia newspaper was established, a bi-weekly periodical distributed to the local public. The Mother See is a quarterly English language newsletter published and distributed to the diaspora by the department of information services.

Courtesy:World Council of Churches

External link: Wikipedia

Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church

Based in: Ethiopia
Present in:
Sudan (Republic of Sudan)
Trinidad and Tobago
United Kingdom
United States of America
Membership: 38956642
Patriarch: vacant since death of Patriarch Catholicos Paulos I on August 16, 2012
The Locum Tenens (Caretaker): Archbishop Abune Natnael of Arsi Diocese
Bishops: 57
Priests: 364769
Dioceses: 44
Parishes: 31481
Monasteries: 1056
Member of:
World Council of ChurchesWCC (1948)
All Africa Conference of Churches(AACC)
Christian Council of Trinidad & Tobago CCTT
Guyana Council of Churches GCC

Website: http://www.ethiopianorthodox.org

Ethiopia was introduced to the Christian faith by the Ethiopian eunuch who was baptized by the apostle Philip (Acts 8). The Ethiopian Orthodox Church was founded on a synodal level in 328 AD. The first bishop of the church was Frumentius, a Syrian by birth brought up in Ethiopia in the palace of Axum. He went to Alexandria and returned after being consecrated as bishop by Saint Athanasius. The faithful in Ethiopia call him Abba Salama Kassate Berhan (Father of Peace and Revealer of Light). Nine saints from the Middle East and Asia Minor migrated to Ethiopia 150 years later. They introduced monastic life, translated many religious books from Aramaic and Hebrew into the Geez language, and expounded the One-person, One-nature doctrine of St Cyril. Since the schism of 451, the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church shares the same faith with the Coptic, Syrian and Armenian Orthodox Churches and the Syrian Orthodox Church of India (Tewahedo is a word that reflects the Ethiopian understanding of one nature).

The church has suffered greatly from various religious persecutions down the centuries. The reign of Queen Yodit in the 9th century lasted for forty years and caused great damage to the life of the church. The invasion of Mohammed the Left-Handed in the 16th century was even more destructive. Again during the 17th century, the church suffered persecution at the hands of the Jesuit Alphonzo Mendez and his followers. During the fierce five-year struggle against the invasion of Mussolini from 1935 to 1940, several bishops, many priests and thousands of faithful lost their lives. More than 2,000 churches were destroyed and numerous church manuscripts taken away.

Since 1950 the Ethiopian Orthodox Church has been autocephalous. The church has 81 canonical books and 14 anaphoras. The language of the divine service is Geez, the ancient language of Ethiopia. Today, however, portions of the liturgy are also rendered in Amharic. There are seven official fasting periods: (1) all Wednesdays and Fridays (except during the 50 days after Easter); (2) the Lenten fast; (3) the Nenveh fast; (4) the vigils or Gahad of Christmas and Epiphany; (5) the fast of the apostles; (6) the fast of the prophets; (7) the fast of the Assumption.

The supreme authority in matters of church administration and justice - legislative, administrative and judicial - belongs to the holy synod which meets twice a year, under the chairmanship of His Holiness the Patriarch. The diocesan archbishop is the chairman of the diocesan parish council. The national parish council meets once a year in the patriarchate, also under the chairmanship of the patriarch. The church has two kinds of clergy: the regular priests, who administer the sacraments, and the learned lay clerks, who are entrusted with the chant of the church offices and teaching in the schools. There are six clergy training centres and one theological seminary. The current administrative structure has been most conducive for both the clergy and the laity to meet the vital needs of the whole human being and to work together for the development of the church, both spiritually and socially, through the respective parish councils. The Sunday school programme unit is very active.

The Ethiopian Orthodox Church exists in the Sudan and Djibouti, in Jerusalem, Europe and North and South America. Eight of its bishops serve the church outside Ethiopia.

World Council of Churches

External link

The Armenian Catholicosate of the Great House of Cilicia

Armenian Apostolic Church (Holy See of Cilicia)

Based in: Lebanon
Present in:
United States of America
About membership: 1285000
Armenian Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia: Aram I Keshishian 1995
Bishops: 19
Priests: 120
Dioceses: 13
Parishes: 150
Member of:
World Council of Churches- WCC (1962)
The Middle East Council of Churches -MECC
Periodicals: Hask (monthly, in Armenian)
Website: www.armenianorthodoxchurch.org

Distribution (membership):
- Middle East: 650,000
- North America: 600,000
- South America: 10,000
- Europe: 25,000

The origin of the Armenian Church dates back to the apostolic age. Christianity was preached in Armenia as early as the second half of the first century by St Thaddeus and St Bartholomew, two apostles of Jesus Christ. During the first three centuries Christianity in Armenia was a hidden religion under heavy persecution. In 301 AD Christianity was officially accepted by the Armenians as the state religion. St Gregory the Illuminator, the patron saint of the Armenian Church, and King Tiridates III, the ruler of the time, played a pivotal role in the Christianization of Armenia. It is a well recognized historical fact that the Armenians were the first nation to formally adhere to Christianity.

St Gregory the Illuminator organized the Armenian Church hierarchy and chose as the site of the Catholicosate the then capital city of Vagharshapat (Holy Etchmiadzin). Because of the continuous political upheavals, the Catholicosate was transferred to various cities, beginning in 485, and was established in 1080 in Cilicia, when the Armenian kingdom also settled there. In 1441, a new catholicos was elected in Holy Etchmiadzin, in the person of Kirakos Virapetsi. At that time Krikor Moussapegiants (1439-1446) was the catholicos residing in Cilicia. Therefore, due to these historical circumstances and the geographical dispersion of the Armenian people, two Catholicosates - Catholicosate of All Armenians (Holy Etcmiadzin) and the Armenian Catholicosate of the Great House of Cilicia (Antelias) - have continued to function since 1441, with equal rights and privileges, and with their respective jurisdictions. His Holiness Aram I, who was the moderator of the central committee of the WCC from 1991 to 2006, is the 142nd pontiff counted from the Apostle St Thaddeus.

During World War I, one and a half million Armenians were massacred by the Turkish government. The rest of the Armenians in Turkey were forced to leave their homeland and found refuge in the countries of the Middle East, in Europe, and in North and South America. In 1930, the Catholicosate of Cilicia was established in Antelias, Lebanon. Thus, a new era opened, with the organization of dioceses and the founding of a new theological seminary and community-related institutions. The Catholicosate of Cilicia played a significant role in the organization of the world-wide Armenian diaspora. It also takes a major part in the cultural, social and other aspects of the life of the Armenian communities. The Armenian Church in diaspora finds itself in different contexts and faces various problems and challenges. It is truly a global church. Deeply rooted in its centuries-old tradition, it continues to bear witness to the salvation in Christ, and to work for the renewal of its life by responding to the challenges of modern societies. Theological formation, Christian education, community schools, youth and women, leadership training, social action, care for children of broken families, homes for the aged, medical care and housing projects for the needy families - all these are among the priority concerns and activities of the Catholicosate of Cilicia. In the area of publications, the printing house produces theological journals and hundreds of volumes on a regular basis. Ecumenical collaboration, theological dialogues and inter-religious relations occupy an important place in the life and witness of the Catholicosate.

The jurisdiction of the Catholicosate of Cilicia covers Lebanon, Syria, Cyprus, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, the Gulf region, Iran, Greece and the Americas.

Courtesy:World Council of Churches

External link


Islamisation of Egypt: Churches talk to al-Azhar on constitution

Monday 24 Sep 2012
Nader Shukry

In a meeting at the premises of al-Azhar in Cairo today, the acting patriarch for the Coptic Orthodox Church Anba Pachomeus and the Coptic Catholic Bishop Anba Yuhanna Qolta talked to the Grand Imam of al-Azhar Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb on Egypt’s new constitution.
Anba Pachomeus began by confirming the Church’s position in renouncing and condemning the US-produced film which Muslims feel insult their Prophet Mohamed. Dr Tayeb expressed entire understanding. The visit was courteous and compassionate.

The talks, according to Judge Edward Ghaleb, the representative of the Coptic Church in the Constituent Assembly which is currently writing Egypt’s draft constitution, were fruitful and in agreement. All the participants agreed that no changes should be made to Article 2 which stipulates Islam as the State religion, Arabic its language, and the principles of Islamic sharia the main source of legislation. It was agreed, however, Mr Ghaleb said, that a new article should be added to maintain the right of non-Muslims to have their own family law according to their own beliefs.

They also discussed, Mr Ghaleb said, the draft articles on zakat (Islamic alms) and religious endowments, to which the Church objects, and to which Al-Azhar expressed its own reservations. Dr Tayeb said al-Azhar refuses to be considered a reference on legislation, since the venerable, topmost Islamic institution in the world which is now a stronghold of moderate Islam may one day change hands and be governed by hardliners. Meaning that al-Azhar is not immune to changes and may be manipulated to certain ends.

Dr Mahmoud Azab, consultant to the Grand Imam of al-Azhar, said that Dr Tayeb intends to hold meetings shortly with representatives of the Egyptian secular movements, as well as the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafis, to discuss the draft constitution, in an effort to iron out the differences.

Participating in today’s meeting were Bishop of Tanta Anba Pola, Judge Ghaleb, and Judge Munsif Soliman from the Coptic Church; and Dr Azab, Dr Mohamed Kamal Imam, and Dr Hassan al-Shafei from al-Azhar.

Watani International

24 September 2012

Al-Azhar, Churches Agree: Islam Remains Source of Egyptian Law

By: Ahmad El-Behery, Mohammad Abdel Kader, Mohammad Gharib, Ahmad Allam & Shayma' al-Qarnashawi, Sep 25, 2012

Dr. Ahmed al-Tayeb, the Grand Sheikh of Al-Azhar, met on the evening of Sept. 24 with a delegation of leaders and representatives of Egyptian churches headed by acting patriarch of the Coptic Orthodox Church Bishop Anba Pachomius. The two parties agreed on the need to keep Article II of the constitution as is, without any amendments, so that "the principles of Islamic law are the main source of legislation.”

Participants in the meeting stressed the need to maintain a unified social fabric. The Grand Sheikh of Al-Azhar stressed the need for consensus in the founding committee, and said that is must be representative of all the Egyptian people. Moreover, participants agreed to continue to work to complete the constitution.

On the other hand, ​​Manal al-Tiby, a member of the Constituent Assembly, which is tasked with drafting a new constitution, submitted her resignation from the assembly yesterday [Sept. 24]. She warned that the new draft constitution will be “the worst constitution among all previous Egyptian constitutions.”

Tiby told Al-Masry Al-Youm that she had reached "a final decision that there is no point in continuing to be a member of the Constituent Assembly because the final product of the new constitution will not meet the expectations of the majority of Egyptians.” She also pointed out that "it has become clear that the constitution is being drafted to enable a specific current to establish a religious state so that it can seize power.”

On the other hand, on Sept. 24 an administrative court rejected a request to disband the assembly submitted by Abdulsalam al-Naggar, an adviser who is responsible for examining all requests to disband and dissolve the Constituent Assembly. The court also decided to impose a fine of 288,000 Egyptian pounds [$47,000] on a number of Muslim Brotherhood lawyers for nine requests they have made to disband the assembly .

The plenary session of the Constituent Assembly will be held today [Sept. 25] to discuss the fate of the Shura Council and whether it should be canceled or retained with increased powers. Moreover, the drafting committee has completed the chapter related to local administration.

The ruling regime’s committee within the assembly has decided to hold a hearing next Wednesday for parties, political forces and the media. This hearing will be broadcast live, so that people can get to know the party’s vision, which will be adopted during the next parliamentary elections. This hearing will also serve as a prelude to the introduction of a transitional electoral article, upon which the President of the Republic will issue a law aimed at dividing constituencies.

Dr. Wahid Abdel Meguid, a spokesman for the Constituent Assembly, submitted a note to the Drafting Committee about the articles related to freedom of expression and press freedom. In the note, he objects to the article that stipulates that newspapers can be shut down through judicial decree, saying that this represents “collective punishment, which when applied, will lead to the displacement of all people working for a newspaper just because one individual made a mistake.” He also asked that they reconsider the decision to delete Article 12, which prohibited the imprisonment of those involved in publication crimes. He pointed out that this article does not just discriminate against journalists, but includes all those who publicly express their opinions through various means.


Indian Orthodox Church express sadness over death of Archbishop Aghan Baliozian of the Armenian Church

Kottayam: 26 September 2012: His Eminence Archbishop Aghan Baliozian (66) of the Armenian Orthodox Church, primate of the diocese of Australia and New Zealand entered His eternal rest on September 22nd 2012, in Sydney Australia. Archbishop Baliozian passed away suddenly of a heart attack. His Eminence was 66 years old.

His Eminence Dr. Yakob Mar Irenaios and His Eminence Dr. Yuhanon Mar Diascoros have sent their condolences to the Armenian Apostolic Church on behalf of the Indian Orthodox Syrian Church. Archbishop Aghan Baliozian was a great friend of the Indian Orthodox Church. His Eminence visited India on numerous occasions. His Eminence was a guiding light to the St. Thomas Orthodox Cathedral Sydney, right from its inception. We have been very fortunate to enjoy his hospitality during the visit of late Catholicose H.H. Baselios Mathews II and many other bishops from our Church.
His Eminence Archbishop Aghan Baliozian with
 Catholicos of the East, His Holiness Baselios
Marthoma Paulose II at a conference India.

His Eminence has been very active in ecumenical activities in Australia. From 1994 to 1997 Archbishop Aghan served as the first president of the National Ecclesiastic Council of Australia. In 2001 His Eminence was elected as the President of the New South Wales Ecumenical Council. He served three terms, and was re-elected to the position.

May God Almighty grant His Eminence a resting place among the great Patriarchs of Christendom.


Greetings from the wounded city of Aleppo -2

Three Wishes Addressed to His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI in the occasion of his historical visit to Lebanon and the issuing of the Post-Synodical Apostolic Exhortation

By Mar Gregorios Yohanna Ibrahim

Metropolitan of Aleppo

Aleppo, Friday 14 September 2012

Your Holiness
Your timely historical visit to Lebanon is welcomed by all citizens, Christians and Muslims of Lebanon, Syria and the wider Middle East

The most important station of this visit is the issuance of the apostolic exhortation. Whose inception we saw two year ago at the special Synod for the Middle East in the Vatican
Christians in the Middle East at this juncture are eager for the success of the multidimensional facets of the apostolic visit: spiritual, religious and social

Aspiring that in the current state of fatigue, your presence in our midst will inject enthusiasm, assurance and your special message will envelope the good news of a bright future for the entire region
Your Holiness, here are my three wishes and concerns


For over a year, since mid March 2011 Syrians have been enduring an unprecedented and unfamiliar state of violence, following the initially peaceful popular uprising. The violence swiftly spread to rural and urban areas in different parts of the country, with a human toll of tens of thousands of victims and martyrs. Simultaneously, this created waves of exodus of hundred thousands of internally displaced and external migrations
We have suffered terrible human and economic losses in major cities of entire residential quarters, markets and commercial zones, vital public amenities and tens of thousand of missing people. No citizen is currently immune from the swiping swords of violence in major cities, like Dara’a, Homs, Idle, Damascus, and now Aleppo, which overnight became battlefields

Christians and Muslims in different villages, towns and cities faced forced displacement form their peaceful co-existence in their traditional living quarters to the destitution of refugee camps erected in Syria or on the borders of neighbouring countries

Aleppo, among other Syrian cities previously reflected a peaceful situation and an exemplary co-existence of a Christian stronghold in a Muslim milieu. Never before in its contemporary history, has the city of Aleppo witnessed such a painful and threateningly difficult time, like what we have been experiencing over the last few weeks

In Aleppo, Christians were kidnapped, viciously tortured, with hefty ransoms claimed beyond the economic capability of Syrian citizens and their extended families, were demanded for their release

Churches, mosques and other religious centers and institutions were targeted and sacrilege in Homs, Aleppo and other localities in Syria

What is more dangerously unsettling is the online circulation of threatening and intimidating statements and communiqu├ęs, that were initially, directed generally towards all Christians in the city of Aleppo and the second directed specifically towards the Armenian community

Lately this threat was translated in a fatal ambush of a group of Armenians returning from Armenia on their way back to Aleppo from the airport

All these incidences created a state of deep depression and anxiety for all Christians in Syria regardless of their denominations

Such absence of law and order will reflect badly on the well being of the entire community. The only measure of self protection and security available for the terrified and traumatized ordinary citizens is to leave their homes at the earliest possible opportunity and seek a refuge, wherever possible. They are mostly ending up in Lebanon, Egypt, Cyprus and Turkey

What aggravated and undermined the status of our presence and witness and encouraged Christians to embrace the idea of immigration. Is the fact that some Armenian families were granted Armenian passports in preparation for evacuation the prosperous Armenian community in Aleppo. Other people are using green cards and visa to different part of the world to immigrate. Consequently, we are facing a steady mass exodus


Until the last few months, immigration was not a priority let alone the only solution for the co-existence of Syrian Christian communities. Alas, as the situations intensified, violence escalated and the failure of different calls and endeavours for a cease fire and the restoration to the negotiating table

Consequently, now, a great many people are nursing the idea of immigration regardless of the destination. Sadly, they are desperately clutching on to rumours of possible immigration opportunities to Sweden, Holland, Canada or America. Accordingly, waves of families are leaving Syria to Lebanon in anticipation of finding an immigration avenue via the United Nations or any other humanitarian organisations

The entire situation in Syria and the immigration scenario is a mirror image of what happened to Christians from Iraq post 2003, many of whom are still refuges in Syria awaiting indefinitely for their ambiguous destiny. The mere thought of an action replay of what happen to Christians in Iraq is enough to send a chill down the spine of every Christian and Church leader in Syria

Heaven forbid, if the Iraqi predicament will be repeated in Syria. Its Christians will defiantly be diasporaised. This will reflect badly on the social fabric and the delicate balance of the demographic tapestry and debase the rich Syrian mosaic which has been the treasured Syrian identity for centuries

We urge world Churches and their leaders and world governments and their decision makers to endeavour to cure the root cause of this imposed violence which has accelerated the enforced migration of peaceful citizens of Syria. We wish they can return to their peaceful life and co-existence and enjoy again being productive citizen among the pluralism of Syria

Thirdly and finally

Our expectations are that the Apostolic Exhortation will embrace the concerns and what unites all churches in the region, such as

Unifying the date of Easter. Establishing an anniversary for the Christian Martyrs. Activating Christian unity. Empowering and supporting Christian-Christian dialogue and Christian-Muslim dialogue in the region

Given the utmost importance to propagate the message of love and co-operation between them, emphasis on the importance of the Christian presence, the sustainability of Christians in the Middle East is an Islamic moral responsibility. It is pertinent for fellow Muslims to realize that citizenship is the only way which guarantees the equal rights of every one under the ceiling of Homeland. Implementing and adhering to the concept of citizenship is the duty of the government and legislative authority

It is not enough for Churches and its institution to condemn and denounce immigration. They should be instrumental in stemming migration, and formulating polices to empower and enable Christians to lead peaceful and dignified lives, by establishing and enhancing educational, cultural, medical and media institutions, housing projects for the youth to enable them to establish their new families and consolidate their presence and witness in their society

We call on Arabic and Islamic Governments to reconsider their education syllabuses and purge them of any signs or intimation which may encourages a culture of sectarianism, discrimination and violence against fellow citizens which undermine the role of Christians or any other groups in society, highlighting the fact that Christians are not new comers to the region. They are the indigenous people of the land before the advent of Islam, who have lived and practised Christianity in the region for two Millennia

It is not only useful but also important to address governments to put an end to the repression, arbitrary arrest, release and rehabilitate prisoners, establish a welfare systems to enable families of martyrs and forced immigrants to re-gather their shattered lives, give more freedom for the media, and implement the needed and overdue reforms, adopt democracy as a path to achieve equality and social justice

Also, to place the establishment of security, stabilities and peace in all Middle Eastern countries

Finally, I call to all belligerents factions to join the negotiating table and develop a code of conduct and honourable accord to establish just peace that re-secures life and tranquillity to all citizens

I wish Your apostolic visit all success and a blessing for the region
Mar Gregorios Yohanna Abraham
Metropolitan of Aleppo

Aleppo Suryoye

Greetings from the wounded city of Aleppo -1

*Aleppo 15th September 2012

Your Grace Dr. Rowan Williams

The Archbishop of Canterbury

Peace in the name of Jesus our Saviour and Redeemer, and greetings from the wooded city of Aleppo.

My sincere apologies for not being able to attend our meeting at Lambeth scheduled on 17th September. This is due to the current situations in Syria in general and Aleppo in particular.

Your Grace will understand that our Archbishopric is in Aleppo ancient city centre. Our movement is restricted to one square kilometre. The way to Aleppo International Airport is impassable and unsafe with road blocks and ambushes. Many have lost their lives, including four returning Armenians, and a Syrian Orthodox doctor of medicine martyr today, and another Syrian orthodox martyr few weeks ago.

We are suffering immensely as a result of the uncontrollable changes which are currently under way. My fear is that citizens will lose confidence in their homeland.

This war has shaken to the core our confidence in each other, and also our confidence in our country, to which we belong, cherish, and are proud of its history and potential.

It is difficult for me to capture and summarize for Your Grace all that has happened and is happening daily on the ground.

But if and when the hostility ceases, the world will stand astonished and very surprised for the extent of civilian lives lose and the magnitude of devastation and sacrileges. In addition to the damage to the infrastructure and great havoc to the economy.

I could not travel to Lebanon either to attend the annual Synod and participate in the discussions which have to do with the current situation in Syria. I was not also able to greet His Holiness Benedict XVI during his historical visit to Lebanon. As your Grace may know i was one of the participants to the Synod for the Middle East in October 2010. In both my presentations; first on behalf of my church the SOCA, and the Second on behalf of the WCC, i tackled some important issues such as the present and witness of the Christians of the MD today and the impact of the Christian immigration from the ME, and the high number of the refugees from the ME also. Because of my absence in Lebanon during this visit, I sent my letter to His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI on the occasion of his visit to Lebanon and the signing of the Apostolic Exhortation on the Middle East. My letter is attached.

Finally, I look forward to seeing Your Grace on another occasion.

I wish you heavenly blessings and graces.

Mar Gregorios of Aleppo

Aleppo Suryoye


Armenian Catholicos receives Roman Catholic Church official

September 24, 2012
ETCHMIADZIN. – The Catholicos of All Armenians Karekin II on Sunday received His Eminence Cardinal Kurt Koch, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.

The Catholicos gave a high assessment to the ties and cooperation between the Armenian Apostolic and the Roman Catholic churches. He noted that, by way of such visits, Armenians become witnesses to the friendship that exists between both churches, Information Center of the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin reports.

In his turn, Cardinal Koch noted that it is a great honor for him to be in a country where Christianity was first proclaimed as state religion, a country that has deep Christian roots and a rich culture, and where the people have preserved their faithfulness to Christianity to this day.

The interlocutors reflected on the challenges the Armenian Church faced in Soviet years, the religious awakening during independent statehood, and the accomplishments of the Armenian Apostolic Church.

In addition, the Catholicos briefed the Cardinal on the Mother See’s ongoing programs, and stressed that, with the assistance by the sister Catholic Church, several clergy from the Mother See have continued their religious education at the Catholic higher education institutions in a variety of countries.

After the meeting, the delegation led by Cardinal Kurt Koch attended the Sunday Divine Liturgy celebrated at the Mother Cathedral of Holy Etchmiadzin.

Fete to hail first Malayalam Bible

Orthodox Church will celebrate its 200th anniversary tomorrow

Thiruvananthapuram, September 24, 2012: The 200th anniversary of the first translation of the Bible into Malayalam will be celebrated by the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church in Thiruvananthapuram on Tuesday.

Church historians say Philipose Ramban, a scholar from Kayamkulam, translated the Bible from Syriac into Malayalam in 1811 to help the faithful get a better understanding of the scripture.

Claudius Buchannan, a missionary who toured South India in the early 19th century, persuaded the Ramban to translate the holy book.

The Orthodox Church authorities in Travancore gave Buchannan, during his visit to Kerala, a copy of the Bible in Syriac, known in local parlance as Suriyani.

Buchannan told them to translate the Syriac text into Malayalam and gave guidance to some local Syriac and Tamil scholars to undertake the task.

For centuries, Syriac had been the liturgical language of Christians in Kerala, who believe that St. Thomas the Apostle preached the Gospel in Kerala.

D. Babu Paul, former Additional Chief Secretary and scholar of Christian literature, says the Ramban had worked hard for the translation as he had no model before him to follow.

“Four Gospels translated by the Ramban made up the first version of the Bible, which appeared in the book format in Malayalam. The translation was completed in 1811 and printed in ‘Kallachu’ (lithographic printing) at a press in Bombay (now Mumbai),” Dr. Paul says.

Ramban Bible

The book, composed in a hybrid language of Malayalam and Tamil, was titled Visudha Veda Pustakam. The faithful used to call it the Ramban Bible for long.

Before the Malayalam version, the Bible had been translated into Tamil and Bengali, historians say.

It took two more decades after the appearance of the Ramban Bible for Malayalam to get a comparatively complete version of the scripture.

Dr. Paul says the missionary-scholar Benjamin Bailey produced another Malayalam version of the Bible in the 1840s with the help of Chandu Menon, a tahsildar in the Madras State service.

Herman Gundert, German scholar, who compiled the first lexicon in Malayalam, translated the New Testament in the 1850s.

“One major difficulty in translating the Bible in the earlier centuries was the absence of an accepted prose literary form in Malayalam. People of various communities used to speak varying dialects in different places. There was a deep influence of Tamil in the early translations,” Dr. Paul, author of a comprehensive work on Biblical literature, says.

A book containing a collection of studies regarding the contribution of the Ramban, edited by M. Kurian Thomas and titled Kayamkulam Philipose Remban - Vayakthium Sambhavanaum, will be released by Perumbadavam Sreedharan, Chairman, Kerala Sahithya Akadami, at VJT Hall Thiruvananthapuram, at 11. 30 a.m. on Tuesday. — PTI

The Hindu


Antelias (Lebanon): On Thursday 20 September, Catholicos Aram I left for Yerevan to attend the second meeting of the 100th Anniversary Commemorations of the Armenian Genocide Committee, chaired by the President of Armenia H.E. Serge Sarkissian.

Upon his arrival in Yerevan, His Holiness Aram I met with His Holiness Karekin II in Etchmiadzin. The two Catholicoi then attended the meeting of the 100th Anniversary Commemorations Committee, after which they met with President Sarkissian and the President of Karabagh, H. E. Pago Sahakian. During this meeting they discussed the situation in Syria and the difficulties that situation raises for the Armenian Community.

At the end of all meetings and consultations, His Holiness Aram I returned immediately to Antelias (Lebanon).

Armenian Orthodox Church


His Eminence Archbishop Aghan Baliozian Enters Eternal Rest

His Eminence Archbishop
Aghan Baliozian

Etchmiadzin, September 22: It is with deep regret that the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin announces the death of His Eminence Archbishop Aghan Baliozian. His Eminence entered his eternal rest on September 22, while in Sydney Australia. He died suddenly of a heart attack at 66 years old. His Eminence was the Primate of the Diocese of Australia and New Zealand.

Our Holy Armenian Apostolic Church and distinguished clergyman mourn the untimely and unexpected loss to the Armenian Apostolic Church, our clerical ranks, the faithful and the children of our Church .

His Holiness Karekin II, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians; the members of the Supreme Spiritual Council of the Armenian Church; the Brotherhood of the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin; and the entire class of clergy and faithful; deeply mourn the untimely death of Archbishop Aghan, and pray for the repose of his soul.

Blessed be the memory of the righteous.


Archbishop Aghan Baliozian (baptismal name Yeghia) was born on 18 August 1946 in Aleppo, Syria. He is the son of Nerses and Alice Baliozian. He received his primary education in Aleppo.

In 1961 he entered the Jarangavoratz Seminary at the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem and graduated in 1968, becoming a member of the Brotherhood of St. James.

He was ordained to the diaconate on 28 May 1966, and was ordained as a celibate priest on 28 July 1968 by then Patriarch of Jerusalem, Archbishop Yeghishe Derderian, and given the priestly name of Aghan.

On 4 November 4 1971 Father Aghan received the rank of Archimandrite (Vardapet) in the St. Mesrop Mashtots Church in Oshakan, Armenia, by the Grand Sacristan of the Mother Cathedral of Holy Etchmiadzin, Archbishop Haykazun Abrahamian.

From 1968-71 he served as Vice Dean and Secretary at the Gevorkian Theological Seminary at the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin, while also teaching Classical Armenian (Grabar), Geography and Physical Education. In 1971-74 he served at the Seminary as a lecturer on several subjects including; Commentary on the Old and New Testaments, Hagiography and Theology.

From 1970-71 he served as the Dean of the Gulbenkian Matenadaran in Jerusalem (the Archives Depository where several thousand historical illuminated manuscripts preserved).

In 1971 on the recommendation of the Catholicos of All Armenians, His Holiness Vasken I of blessed memory, he entered Yerevan State University where he studied Armenian Language, Literature and History until 1974. In 1974 Father Aghan returned to Jerusalem and was appointed the Dean of Jarangavorats Seminary, where he taught Theology, Classical Armenian and Physical Education.

In 1975 by the order of His Holiness Vazken I Catholicos of All Armenians, he left for Sydney, Australia, to serve as the Vicar General, through the courtesy of the Patriarch Yeghishe of Jerusalem and by the invitation of Bishop Karekin Kazanjian then Primate of the Diocese of Australia and New Zealand.

In June 1976, in the city of Sydney, Father Aghan received the rank of Senior Archimandrite (Dzayraguyn Vardapet) by the Primate of the Diocese, Bishop Karekin Kazanjian. He also took private courses in Religion, History and Linguistics at the Universities of Sydney, New England, and Mackay, in Australia.

In 1979 he was bestowed with a pectoral cross and flowered cope for his devout and conscientious service to the Armenian Church.

In October 1981 he was appointed as the Primate of the Diocese of Australia and New Zealand by His Holiness Vasken I. On 14 February 1982 he was consecrated as a Bishop for Australia, New Zealand and the Far East. In 1991, His Holiness Vasken I restructured the Diocese and appointed Bishop Aghan as Pontifical Legate of India and the Far East.

After years of dedicated service to the Armenian Church, he was elevated to the rank of Archbishop by the Pontifical Encyclical of His Holiness Vazken I, on 17 June 1993. He has been a member of the Supreme Spiritual Council of the Armenian Church since 1995.

His Grace has been very active in ecumenical activities. From 1994 to 1997 Archbishop Aghan served as the first president of the National Ecclesiastic Council of Australia. Since 1998, His Eminence has represented the Armenian Church within the World Council of Churches. He participated in the WCC Congresses of Canberra (1991) and Harare (1998), Ethiopia. In 2001 he was elected as the Vice President of the New South Wales Ecumenical Council. He has served three terms, and was re-elected to the position.

In 1995 and 2003 he was awarded the state order of Australia for his devout service and contribution to the country and society, especially to the Armenian community.

His Eminence Archbishop Aghan Baliozian works with the "SION" monthly periodical of the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem. He has contributed numerous religious articles and philological works, prepared the bibliography of the monthly for the years 1866-1877 and 1927-1971 as well as the bibliographical works of Poghos of Taron and others.

Information Services


Independence Day of the Republic of Armenia


On September 21, 2012, His Holiness Karekin II, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians extended his message of congratulations on the festive occasion of Independence Day of the Republic of Armenia.

"With fatherly love we extend our blessings and congratulations From the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin to our children living in Armenia and the Diaspora on the occasion of Independence Day of the Republic of Armenia.

With the declaration of independence our people chose the difficult but dignified path of freedom and a contented life. The story of independence reveals the images of miracles of our new history, which is filled with the faith and foresight of our brave children of Armenia. Independence is a gift from God in response to our challenges and losses suffered during the Genocide and during years of torture by the Soviet Union, when the people were forced to renounce God.

Today we offer our thanks and glory to God, that during the twenty-one years of Independence we have recorded many achievements and successes, while also facing difficulties and failures.

Dear pious people, we believe that despite the current challenges, we will continue onward with great efforts and steadfast spirit, strengthening the Republic of Armenian and adding new pages to the history of our people.

We pray that God keep our Republic strong and secure, and that he keep my nation of the Armenians in the Diaspora under His Holy Right, by continuing to grant them success for the sake of love for our Homeland.


Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin, Information Services 21 September, 2012



Antelias (Lebanon): Following the recent protests against the disgusting film on you tube denigrating Prophet Mohammed, His Holiness Aram I stated that “no group or individual has the right to undermine what is regarded as sacred by any religion, and we strongly condemn such approaches. The traditions, teachings and values of all religions should be respected.” He went on to say, “The monotheistic religions believe in peace and not violence, and dialogue is the key to building respect.”

His Holiness concluded by stating that we in the Middle East believe that the ‘other’ is the ‘neighbor’; “Christians and Muslims,” he said, “have been living together as neighbors for many centuries and are working constantly towards building a culture of coexistence based on respect for our differences.”

Statement issued by the Holy Synod of the Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch

10 - 14 September 2012
St. Jacob Baradaeus Monastery

Atchaneh, Bekfayya, Lebanon

The Holy Synod held its meeting at St. Jacob Baradaeus monastery in Atchaneh - Bekfayya, Lebanon from September 10 - 14, 2012. It was headed by His Holiness Patriarch Mor Ignatius Zakka 1, Iwas, Patriarch of Antioch and all the East and the supreme Head of the universal Syriac Orthodox Church. The Holy Synod started with opening prayers and supplications to God Who blessed and eased the assembly of the Synod in Atchaneh. It is the second time the Holy Synod is being convened in Atchaneh. The first one was in September of 1971.

The Synod was attended by their Eminences the Metropolitans of the Holy See of Antioch from all over the world. They discussed the situation of the church in general and in the Middle East in particular, Syria, Iraq, and Lebanon, the countries facing turbulent times. They prayed for them to have peace and tranquility among all people from all denominations, sects, religions, and ethnicities. They also asked the Lord to have mercy on the souls of all who perished in this conflict and for the speedy recovery of all the wounded, and for reunion of all refugees and sufferers.

The Fathers, members of the Holy Synod, stressed that the Middle East countries are our homeland, the sacred land and soil which we are proud of. It was there our Lord Jesus Christ was born and lived, as well as our forefathers who a long time ago established the first civilization in the world and in which we share nowadays our life and destiny with our brethren. We regret the chaos and troubles marring this land causing the endangerment of the lives of people, disrespect to their dignity, desecration to their worshipping homes and their religious, social, and national institutions.

It greatly pains the Fathers to what is happening in our beloved Syria these days, the country that carries our name, civilization, traditions, and embraces our Holy See of Antioch. They pray the situation will become calm and peace will spread among people. From the position of responsibility, the Fathers call upon all sides to stop the violence, the language of weaponry, killings, and infringements of all kinds. They call for a peaceful dialogue which is the base of every reform or solution to the present crisis. In this regard, they want to emphasize that the sole official spokesman for our church is the Holy Synod of the Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch headed by His Holiness, our Patriarch. He represents our church and our people at the local, regional, and international arenas, albeit all over the world.

The holy Fathers expressed their confidence that the people of good conscience and goodwill can best offer their prayers and supplications to God to lessen the burden of these difficult times on the people. We ask Him for a safe return of all refugees to their homes, assuring that immigration is a murderous bleeding which abolishes our personality, threatens our existence in the land of our forefathers, and destroys our esteemed traditions.

The Fathers discussed the agenda of the meeting which included: The present situation of the church in the Middle East and in India, our Archdioceses worldwide, our role in the ecumenical movement, the Easter date, the role of the laity in the service of the church, and other matters serving people and countries. They concluded the Holy Synod urging the faithful to endure and take refuge in God because the requests of the faithful will be answered by heaven. They ask, in the beginning and the end, to take the path of the word and dialogue as a principle which leads us to the safe haven, so that whoever works for peace will be rewarded by God Who said: "Blessed are the peace makers for they shall be called the children of God." (Mathew 5:9)

The Western Archdiocese of the Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch


Greetings from the wounded city of Aleppo.

September 17th, 2012

Dear friends,
Greetings from the wounded city of Aleppo.
I feel sorry I could not write to you all this time. The reason was because all kinds of internet services were
off. Still, this service is not always available.
I sent a letter to His Grace Dr. Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, as well as a letter to
His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI , Pope of Rome with three wishes.
I would like to share these letters with you for your information with what is going on in Syria.
Still, we feel we are weak and we need your prayers. The situation in Syria and in Aleppo is
getting worse and worse every day. Nobody may predict or say a word of the future.
This afternoon, I presided a funeral of a Syrian Orthodox doctor of medicine, who was killed while
working with wounded people in Aleppo.
I ask for your prayers and for the prayers of all our friends everywhere.
Mar Gregorios of Aleppo


Abba Seraphim visits Eritrean Church in Birmingham

London: On 8 September Abba Seraphim celebrated the Divine Liturgy at St. George’s Church, Bridge Street, Newtown, Birmingham, at the invitation of Father Mulebrhan, the newly ordained priest for the local Eritrean Orthodox community within the Diocese of Europe, under His Grace Bishop Makarios. Assisting him were Father Mulebrhan and Father Yonas Tesheme from Sheffield as well as a number of deacons. Abba Seraphim preached on the Gospel of the day (Matthew XI: 1-20) to a large and devout congregation. Following the service and traditional religious songs and dances, Abba Seraphim spoke about his long association with the Eritrean Orthodox Church in the UK and answered questions from the congregation about the situation of the Eritrean diaspora following the uncanonical removal of His Holiness Abune Antonios, the Eritrean Patriarch, in 2006. This congregation remains loyal to the Patriarch, whom it continues to pray for in the diptychs. Thanks were also expressed to Abba Seraphim for his unwavering support for the loyalist Eritrean clergy and faithful.


Armenian Church Condemns Recent Release of and Reaction to “Innocence of Muslims "

Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin, Information Services 20 September, 2012

On 19 September, 2012 the Inter-Church Theological Council was convened in the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin. Questions relating to inter-church and intra-religious relationships were discussed during the meeting.

The council discussed the release of the trailer for the film "Innocence of Muslims", which has recently overwhelmed lives of all the international community, and issues the following statement:

"The Holy Armenian Apostolic Church deeply condemns the creation and distribution of the film "Innocence of Muslims", which gave rise to grievous demonstrations and violence of religious intolerance in different countries, and resulted in deaths. Such incendiary acts on religious grounds are damnable, and do not contribute to the creation of an atmosphere of inter-religious tolerance and peaceful existence in people’s lives. Religion and faith should not become an instrument of violence "For God is not a God of confusion but of peace." (1 Corinthians 14:33)


Patriarchs' hopes of peace after the Roman Pope's visit to Lebanon

Damascus (Agenzia Fides) - Satisfaction and hope of the Christian Patriarchs in Damascus for a future of peace and reconciliation in Syria: in the aftermath of the Roman Pope's visit the Christian leaders of Damascus, all in Lebanon, stress the "full agreement" with Benedict XVI on the urgent need for a "peaceful resolution" of the Syrian crisis through dialogue and reconciliation.

Among the more than 200 Bishops who attended the Pope's visit there was the Greek-Catholic Patriarch Gregory III Laham; the Greek-orthodox Patriarch Ignatius IV Hazim; the Syrian Catholic Patriarch Ignatius III Younan; the Syrian Orthodox Patriarch Zakka I Iwas who although sick and in need of care for dialysis, really wanted to be there.
In a statement to Fides Agency, the Patriarchs expressed "great consolation to be on the Holy Father's side with regards to vision on the irreplaceable existence of Christians in the Middle East." The leaders note that, with regard to the Syrian crisis, the Pope, "as the supreme moral authority, offered ethical criteria without interfering in the political field, reminding the international community the responsibility to save the life of the population and especially of minorities"
The Patriarchs, in particular, appreciate the passage in which the Holy Father recalled that "every Christian should be an instrument of peace and reconciliation in the Middle East," saying "No to extremism, violence, weapons, Yes to peace, dialogue and reconciliation. " "We are confident – they conclude - that this trip will be fruitful and that it will give powerful impetus to find new ways for peace in Syria." (PA) (Agenzia Fides 17/09/2012)


Holy Synod of the Antiochian Syriac Orthodox Church Calls for Dialogue and Peaceful Solutions for Crisis in Syria

BEIRUT,Sep 16, 2012, (SANA) – The Holy Synod of the Antiochian Syriac Orthodox Church called for resorting to dialogue as a principle that leads to safety and adopting political solutions as a basis for reform and resolving the crisis in Syria, and halting violence from all sides.

This came in a statement issued by the members of the Holy Synod after the conclusion of their meeting on Saturday in Lebanon. The meeting was chaired by Patriarch Mar Ignatius Zakka I Iwas.

The statement expressed the Holy Synod members' confidence that the best that could be offered is to relieve the effects of the crisis on citizens and helping the displaced return to their homes, voicing their pain over the tragic events taking place in Syria and praying that peace will prevail across Syria.

The Holy Synod members also voiced sorrow over the chaos and turbulence taking place in the Arab world which endanger life, violate human dignity, desecrate places of worship, and infringe upon religions, social and national establishments.

H. Sabbagh

Holy Synod of Syrian Orthodox Church of Antioch calls for halting violence and starting dialogue in Syria
DAMASCUS- Members of the Holy Synod of the Syrian Orthodox Church of Antioch called upon all parties in Syria to halt violence and start a peaceful dialogue, which constitutes a basis for any reform and solution to the crisis.

In a statement concluding a meeting in Lebanon on Sunday, members of the Holy Synod expressed pain over what is going on in Syria, "the home of Syriac civilization and culture which embraces the Holy See of Syriac Antioch," stressing that prayers to God are the best thing that can be done during these severe circumstances.

They pointed out that immigration from the homeland is "a lethal bleeding that erases identity, threatens existence in the land of the forefathers and kills the deep-rooted heritage."

The participants in the Holy Synod meeting emphasized that the Middle East is their homeland of which they are proud, being the land where Jesus Christ was born and forefathers had lived establishing the first civilizations.

They also expressed sorrow over the chaos, difficulties and turmoil in this land, not to mention violation of human dignity and the sanctity of holy places and religious, social and national establishments.

The clarified that the only spokesman for the Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch is the Holy Synod, chaired by His Holiness Ignatius Zakka I Iwas, Patriarch of Antioch and All the East.

Members of the Holy Synod reviewed the situation of the Syriac Church in the world, and particularly in Syria, Iraq and Lebanon.

Sunday 16-09-2012


Armenians in France Welcome His Holiness Karekin II

His Holiness Karekin II, the Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians, made a pontifical visit to Nice, France, from September 7 to 9. Arriving in France, His Holiness was welcomed by Archbishop Norvan Zakarian, Pontifical Legate of Western Europe and Primate of the Armenian Diocese of France; Christian Estrosi, mayor of Nice; and members of the local Armenian community.

His Holiness also met with Christophe Mirmand, the prefect of the Alpes Maritimes. Together they visited Nice’s “Armenian Park,” where they laid a wreath at the khatchkar memorial for victims of the Armenian Genocide. His Holiness also laid a wreath at the city’s World War II memorial. The Catholicos expressed his appreciation to the French government for its continuous support of the country’s Armenian community.

At a banquet organized in honor of the pontifical visit, His Holiness presented the “St. Gregory the Illuminator Medal” to historian and philanthropist John Chilingirian. On Sunday, September 9, His Holiness celebrated the Divine Liturgy at St. Mary Church in Nice, and met with community leaders from Nice and Marseille.

Accompanying His Holiness on the three-day visit were Archbishop Hovnan Derderian, Primate of the Western Diocese of the Armenian Church of America; Bishop Vahan Hovhanessian, Primate of the Armenian Diocese of Great Britain; and other clergy.

By pressoffice
Canadian Diocese of the Armenian Church


Statement by HG Bishop Angaelos RE alleged Coptic involvement in film 'Innocence of Muslims' and the resulting unrest

London,14 Sep 2012: In relation to the claims of the alleged involvement of Coptic Christians in the film ‘Innocence of Muslims’ and the resulting unrest in the Middle East, His Grace Bishop Angaelos has released a statement.

“It is of course the right of individuals or groups to protest in a responsible manner against conduct that insults what they hold sacred. Having said that, as these protests continue to escalate, sometimes dangerously out of hand, there must be a realisation that in Egypt, its surrounding region, and beyond, it is only local citizens and communities, and the reputation of these states that is being damaged through such aggressive and violent behaviour.”

The full statement

Statement by His Grace Bishop Angaelos, General Bishop of
The Coptic Orthodox Church in the UK

In assessing the recent developments surrounding the release of the film 'Innocence of Muslims' that insults Islam, and the alleged involvement of ‘Coptic Christians’, it is imperative that a clear distinction be made between the vast majority of Coptic Christians, and a minute minority that may choose to use inflammatory and insulting means to further political agenda. Coptic Christians in Egypt, across all churches and denominations, are known to be a peaceful people who have faced persecution for centuries and have never retaliated in any way that would insult or demean any other faith or faith group.

Having the largest Christian presence in the Middle East and numbering in the order of 18 million, Coptic Christians have peacefully coexisted alongside their Muslim brethren for centuries. Despite repeated attacks by religious extremists upon churches and communities, they continue to live a message of love, forgiveness, peace, and tolerance.

In this and in similar cases, it is of course the right of individuals or groups to protest in a responsible manner against conduct that insults what they hold sacred. Having said that, as these protests continue to escalate, sometimes dangerously out of hand, there must be a realisation that in Egypt, its surrounding region, and beyond, it is only local citizens and communities, and the reputation of these states that is being damaged through such aggressive and violent behaviour.

In a changing region that hopes to safeguard the rights of every individual, it is of course unacceptable for anyone to demean or insult another faith, whether it be the film currently in the spotlight or the radical Muslim cleric who burned, spat on and threatened to further desecrate a Holy Bible in a public square in Cairo.

While we must realise and accept that there will always be differences on faith matters between religious communities, it must also be agreed that interaction, conversation, debate, dialogue and even protest must be in a respectful and peaceful manner that safeguards the wellbeing of individuals and the harmony of communities.

We pray for peace to prevail at this challenging time, and healing for those who have suffered injury, pain or offense of any kind; we especially pray for the repose of those who have lost their lives, and comfort to their families and those whom they have left behind.

The Coptic Orthodox Church Centre UK
Media and Public Relations Office

The Armenian Apostolic Church calls to raise a voice of protest

The Supreme Spiritual Council held an emergency sitting at the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin chaired by His Holiness Karekin II, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians.

The Supreme Spiritual Council expressed concern over the release of the Ramil Safarov, an Azerbaijani officer, who brutally killed Armenian army officer Gurgen Margaryan during NATO courses in Budapest. The Council adopted the following statement:

“The Armenian Apostolic Church severely condemns the decision of the Hungarian authorities to transfer murderer Ramil Safarov to Azerbaijan and the fact of granting pardon to the criminal. This is another demonstration of the policy of hatred against Armenians pursued by the Azerbaijani authorities. Unfortunately, an EU member Hungary, which cherishes the principles of democracy and justice, supported the nasty program of justifying an Azerbaijani murderer, a fact, which is pregnant with the threat of murders on the basis of nationality and religion. Human life is God-given and an intentional murder is a crime against humanity and God.”

The Spiritual Council calls on all servants of the Armenian Apostolic Church, the world-spread pious Armenians to raise their voice of protest for the sake of protection of our national rights. The council also applies to Sister Churches and all religious organizations to raise their voice for the sake of justice and truth.

By pressoffice
Canadian Diocese of the Armenian Church

President Sleiman received the Syriac Orthodox Patriarch Mar Ignatius Zakka I Iwass

Lebanese President H.E Michel Suleiman Receives
His Holiness Patriarch Ignatuius Zakka I Iwas
and the Holy Synod Members of Syriac orthodox
Church of Antioch Moran Mor at the
presidential palace in Baabda

BEIRUT,Sep 13, 2012 – ​The President of the Republic of Lebanon General Michel Sleiman denounced the American film offending the honorable Muslim community and condemned the reactions that occurred which are in turn as disgraceful as the act itself.
Receiving at the Presidential Palace of Baabda the Syriac Orthodox Patriarch Mar Ignatius Zakka I Iwass, the Bishops’ of Lebanon and the diaspora on the occasion of their second meeting, President Sleiman considered that what is occurring contradicts with the protection of public freedoms and affects the others’ liberties which goes against the values the Americans believe in. Furthermore, the President condemned the reaction which resorts to negativity and killing underlining the importance of the Lebanese dialogue model which is essentially founded on engaging all the society’s components in the management of the public affairs which reinforces convergence and coexistence as it represents the image of tomorrow thanks to globalization and the development of communication technologies and social networking among the peoples.
President Sleiman stressed the importance of supporting good orientations and encouraging such orientations not to retreat in the face of the evil forces that sow strife, terrorism and turmoil.
Patriarch Mar Ignatius Zakka I Iwas thanked the President at the beginning of the meeting for having received him commending his efforts to maintain stability in Lebanon in various fields.


Don't leave Syria, Christian prelates implore faithful

Damascus, September 14, 2012- The prelates of four Syrian churches, have joined in an appeal for Christians not to leave Syria during the current crisis.

"With all my heart we ask the Christians of Syria not to leave our beloved country, despite the violence, the suffering, the displacement,” the prelates said.The message, released through the Fides news agency, was timed to coincide with the arrival of Pope Benedict XVI in Lebanon. The appeal was signed by Syrian Orthodox Patriarch Zakka I Iwas;Greek Orthodox Patriarch Ignatius IV Hazim; Melkite Catholic Patriarch Gregory III Laham; and Syrian Catholic Patriarch Ignatius III Younan. All four prelates have their headquarters in Damascus.

"Be patient, do not run away," the patriarchs implore their people. Acknowledging the dangers that Christians are suffering in Syria today, they recognize the “temptation” to leave the country, but ask the faithful to bear the pain.

If Christians continue to leave Syria, the prelates argue, the country’s conflict could spill over into Lebanon (where most refugees have sought shelter). Meanwhile, they warn, Syria could follow the pattern of Iraq, where strong pressure from Islamic militants has greatly diminished the historic Christian presence.

Catholic World News (CWN)

"Faithful, do not leave Syria!": Patriarchs’ Message, rallied around the Roman Pope

Damascus (Agenzia Fides) - "With all my heart we ask the Christians of Syria not to leave our beloved country, despite the violence, the suffering, the displacement": This is what the Patriarchs of the Christian Churches in Syria ask and since this morning are in Lebanon to "rally around Benedict XVI, a pilgrim of peace in the Middle East." In a message released by Fides Agency, Christian leaders, welcome Benedict XVI, underline the topic which is dearest to local Churches: the presence of Christian communities in the Middle East. The four leaders based in Damascus shared the message: the greek-catholic Patriarch Gregory III Laham; the greek-orthodox Patriarch Ignatius IV Hazim; the Syrian Catholic Patriarch Ignatius III Younan; the Syrian Orthodox Patriarch Zakka I Iwas.
In particular, today in Syria there is a danger of an exodus of the faithful, many of whom are already heavily affected by poverty, were forced to leave their homes for the armed clashes, and live as internally displaced or in neighboring countries. In these tragic hours, the Patriarchs ask the faithful: "Be patient, do not run away," inviting them to "bear the pain", for Christ's sake.
Christian leaders in Syria deplore the attitude of some Western Chancellors that, explicitly or implicitly, are offering the faithful Syrians the opportunity to emigrate, noting that this "is a temptation," but is not the solution for Christians in Syria. The risk, they note, is a "Lebanonization of the Syrian conflict" (more than 50% of Christians fled Lebanon during the war) or the Iraqi scenario (in recent years the local Christian communities, under the pressure of terrorism, have considerably decreased).
The Patriarchs strongly support the Holy Father’s recent appeal to dialogue and reconciliation in Syria, defined by the Pope "priority for all parties involved" and hope that Benedict XVI’s visit may leave "a deep trace of peace."
As reported to Fides, a symbol of solidarity and love for the Pope is, in particular, the presence of the Syrian Orthodox Patriarch Zakka I Iwas, despite his illness and the dialysis treatment he needs, he wanted to be present next to Benedict XVI. (PA) (Agenzia Fides 14/09/2012)



On Friday 10 September 2012, His Holiness Aram I accompanied by Archbishop Nareg Alemezian and staff bearer Fr. Mesrob Sarkissian visited Patriarch Zakka Iwas I, who had just returned from a medical treatment in Germany, and was going to spend a period of convalescence at the Atchaneh Monastery in Lebanon.

The two Spiritual leaders used the opportunity to discuss the situation in the Middle East, the challenges it represents to Christians and cooperation between the two sister churches.