The Copts and Christmas

Amidst Egypt's political turmoil and the recent approval of the country's draft constitution, millions of Christians across Egypt are preparing to celebrate Christmas as usual this year under the shadow of Islamist rule.

Egypt's churches have invited all the Copts to attend the celebrations as usual, and Pope Tawadros II, the head of the Coptic Church, has urged all Copts inside and outside Egypt to celebrate Christmas despite a sometimes tense political atmosphere.

Pope Tawadros said that the anniversary of the attacks against the Copts at Christmas time over the past two years in Alexandria and Nagaa Hammadi should not lead to fears during this festive season. He asked the clergy of all churches to celebrate together in order to express Christian joy and strongly encouraged all Copts to attend church on Christmas Eve.

To celebrate Christmas, the St Nicholas Church in Banha has been holding services under the auspices of Bishop Maximus, the Coptic bishop of Banha and Quesna, which have included a daily mass, hymns for the Coptic month of Kiahk and praise of St Nicholas and other saints, as well as exhibitions of the Bible and images of the Holy Family.

Elsewhere, the celebrations have included daily masses given by Bishop Qozman, bishop of North Sinai, Bishop Daniel, bishop of Bishop Bola Monastery, Bishop Daniel, bishop of Maadi, and Bishop Dawoud, bishop of Mansoura.

St Nicholas is the real person behind the legendary character of Father Christmas, or Santa Claus, who traditionally gives children gifts on Christmas Eve. The origins of the story began when a rich man lost all his wealth and became a pauper, his three daughters being led into temptation by the devil in order to help him back to prosperity.

God revealed the man's story to Nicholas, the bishop of the city, who threw a bag of money through the window of the man's house. The man was overjoyed and was able to marry off his eldest daughter. When Nicholas did the same thing again, he was able to marry off his second daughter. The third time, the man wanted to find out the identity of his benefactor, and when he discovered it was Nicholas he knelt at his feet in gratitude.

The church in Banha is the only Coptic church in Egypt named after St Nicholas, and it belonged to the Greek Orthodox sect until Bishop Maximus, the archbishop of Qalioubiya, bought it, the late Pope Shenouda III signing the deed in 1980.

This Christmas, enhanced security measures have been put in place at churches in Egypt, including the installation of additional security barricades and special guards, as well as surveillance cameras and X-ray machines.

Coptic churches will begin mass on Christmas Eve at 7pm, and this will be followed by traditional gift-giving. The services will end at dawn the next day. One Church source told Al-Ahram Weekly that there was no truth in rumours that Christmas celebrations could be cancelled because of the political turmoil or out of fear of sectarian attacks.

The source said that all Christian churches had a variety of programmes planned to celebrate Christmas, including giving children gifts. Many Coptic families have said they will celebrate Christmas in Egypt no matter the circumstances because they believe that festivities in Egypt have a special flavour. Pope Tawadros's decision to celebrate the occasion has added to their enthusiasm.

Monica Mena Morcos, a secondary school student, said that most families were likely to decorate Christmas trees and their homes in order to help forget the tense political situation that has been reigning in Egypt. "People are fed up and want to rejoice," Morcos added.

Mina Magdi, 40, an employee at an oil company, said that he intended to celebrate Christmas "at a resort on the Red Sea with my wife and nine-year-old daughter. I bought a Santa Claus figure for my daughter and some toys with flashing lights."

George Al-Qoms, an engineering student, said that "political tensions will not affect my family's celebrations of Christmas or New Year. It comes once a year, and everyone wants to go to church on this glorious day. We are confident that this will be a day of joy and ask the Lord to give Egypt peace and love and protect it against subversive currents."

Irenie Wagdi declared that "as Copts we do not know fear, but we do not like trouble and tension. I believe Copts will gather at churches this year more than in previous years. We should not be fearful, despite threats by extremists to prevent our celebration of Christmas."

Barbara Al-Qoms Maqar said that "political and other events do not affect the Church and its celebrations because the Church's festivities are spiritual and include prayers and mass. Celebrating the birth of Christ must take place no matter what. It cannot be cancelled."

Vivian Fakhri, an employee in a private-sector company, said that she was overjoyed to be able to celebrate Christmas with her friends and family. Fakhri said that the political events would not affect her celebration of Christmas and the New Year.

Amy Aziz, 29, and the mother of two, said she intended to decorate her home to celebrate Christmas, but that she would be discrete because of fears of lax security on the streets and the incidents that had taken place during the referendum on the constitution.

Vendors have started to sell the latest decorations, and the entrances of hotels, malls and shops have been decorated with Christmas trees. Shops have also been seeing increased sales during the holiday season.

Michael Safwat, a shopworker, said that lasers were the latest decorative fad this year, along with strings of glass decorations and a Santa Claus that talks and tells stories. Several other new products made an appearance this year, including decorative bells and baubles.

Sami Adel, who owns a shop selling Christmas gifts, said that he would like to see as many people as possible buying Christmas decorations. Adel said that sales were down this year, and he hoped that people would set aside their concerns about politics in order to celebrate.

Awni Aziz, a salesman in a clothing shop, said that customers enjoyed looking in the windows because of the Christmas decorations and that many appeared to be more interested in the shop's Christmas tree than in its merchandise.

The Christmas tree tradition dates back to mediaeval times in Germany. The first person to decorate a Christmas tree is said to be St Boniface, who brought Christianity to Germany and asked people to cut down a pine tree as an expression of gratitude for the birth of Christ.

The custom spread and became popular in other countries, with Britain's Queen Victoria encouraging her husband, the German prince Albert, to plant a Christmas tree inside her palace. People began decorating and lighting Christmas trees at the end of the 19th century.

Poinsettias are also a staple of Christmas decorations because of their rich red colour and height. The plant has many branches and a short stem with wide triangular leaves. It blooms in winter at the beginning of December.

By Michael Adel
Assyrian International News Agency

Amin Fakhry Abdel-Nour (1912 – 2012)

Rest in peace

Nasser Sobhy

Amin Fakhry Abdel-Nour, the prominent Copt and Wafdist passed away last week. The Wafd is the national, liberal political party founded by head figures of Egypt’s national movement back in the 1920s and still a strong player on Egypt’s political scene today.
Pope Tawadros II presided over Abdel-Nour’s funeral in the Coptic Orthodox Cathedral of St Mark in Abassiya, Cairo. In addition to the family and friends of the deceased, and leading figures of the Wafd party, a large number of public and political figures were on hand to pay their last respects to the widely-loved and honoured Abdel-Nour.
Present was Fr Rafiq Greiche of the Catholic Church; Hamdeen Sabahi, Amr Moussa—both were presidential contenders in the last elections—and Mohamed Abul-Ghar of the secular People’s Stream; Sayed Badawi and Fouad Badrawi of the Wafd party; Rifaat Said and Nabil Zaky of the leftist Tagammu party; the liberal politicians Amr Hamzawi and Amin Abaza, activists Usama al-Ghazali Harb and George Ishaq; former cabinet members Hassan Massoud, Ahmed Darwish, Adel Abdel-Hamid, and Emad Abu-Ghazi, as well as the prominent film director and activist Khaled Youssef.
Abdel-Nour, who died 100 years old, was the son of Fakhry Abdel-Nour who was among the most prominent figures of the national movement which worked to free Egypt of British occupation in the post-WWI years, and for which purpose he was banished to the island of Malta in 1919 together with the movement’s leader Saad Zaghloul. When he was back home in 1920, he resumed his struggle, this time through the Wafd party which he helped found with Zaghloul in 1919, and which his son Amin described as the stronghold of liberalism and democracy in Egypt.
Egypt finally gained its independence in 1954. The Wafd party was dissolved, as were all other political parties in Egypt in 1952 by order of the then president Gamal Abdel-Nasser. However, when President Anwar al-Sadat allowed the formation of parties in 1970s, the Wafd was resurrected and resumed operation, with Amin Abdel-Nour and later, his son Mounir playing pivotal roles there.
When Amin Abdel-Nour was recently asked his opinion about the current rise of political Islam in Egypt, he gave his by-now famous reply: “Egypt is irrevocably moderate, and its people will never relinquish their moderation and freedom no matter what.”

Eyewitness to a century of Egyptian life
Milad Zaky

Amin Abdel-Nour, who died last week at 100, was a walking national archive who lived through three Egyptian revolutions, eight rulers and countless cabinets. He saw Egypt’s population grow from a mere 12 million to some 83 million, and mingled with heads of State, men of religion, artists, intellectuals and public figures.
Abdel-Nour was born in July 1912 into a prominent Coptic landowner family from the town of Gerga in Upper Egypt. His father was the famous patriot Fakhry Abdel-Nour.
Amin received his schooling at the Jesuits’ school in Cairo, the Collège de la Sainte Famille and, in 1940, married Nina Ghali who was the sister of his close friend Michel Ghali, and was 10 years his junior. Nina remained to the very end the love of his life. Together they had two sons: Fakhry who focused on business, and Mounir who earned a degree in political science and walked in his father’s footsteps to become a prominent politician in his own right.

First meeting since 5th century
Amin Abdel-Nour’s political career spanned years of effort against the British occupation of Egypt, which had begun in 1882 and ended in 1954, and work for a constitution that would establish Egypt as a democracy. He took part in more demonstrations than he could remember, many of them in Cairo and others in his native town of Gerga. In a 1938 demonstration in Gerga he sustained a head injury and had to be moved to Cairo to be hospitalised.
Abdel-Nour had a very important role to play with the Coptic Church. His good relations with the Vatican poised him to mediate between the two Churches for the return of part of the relics of St Mark to Egypt. St Mark had brought Christianity to Egypt and was martyred in Alexandria in the first century. His body was taken to Venice in 828 and there it remains till today. In the 1960s, Pope Kyrillos VI wished to have the relics of St Mark, or part of them, returned back to Egypt. And so it was that Abdel-Nour, accompanied by the Jesuit Père Henri Ayrout, headed to Rome to negotiate the matter with Pope Paul VI. The result was auspicious, and the part of the relics was returned to Egypt in June 1968, where it now lies in the crypt of St Mark’s cathedral in Abassiya.
In 1973, Abdel-Nour was again instrumental in bringing closer the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria and the Roman Catholic Church in the Vatican. Pope Shenouda III went to Rome to meet Pope Paul VI, the first meeting between the two Churches since the great schism of 451AD.
Like his father, Amin Abdel-Nour enjoyed warm, cordial relations with the Muslims of his town. The family home used to host sheikhs to recite Qur’an during the evenings of the Holy month of Ramadan, all through which he used to hold iftar (the sunset breakfast meal) for his townspeople. He made contributions towards building mosques, and helped with the tuition of distinguished pupils in town, Muslim and Christian.

My son, the Minister
Abdel-Nour was famous for his legendary wit and humour. Until the very end he enjoyed a vibrant memory and spoke about minute details of incidents that occurred decades ago.
Yet, according to Watani’s Lucy Awad who interviewed Abdel-Nour earlier this year, his eyes would get misty and his entire body language would betray strong emotion at one particular memory: that of the death of his father Fakhry Abdel-Nour. The senior Abdel-Nour dropped dead while in the middle of a speech he was giving before parliament in December 1942. Amin was among the backbenchers and, to the last days in his life, could never forget how his father fell.
The pride of Abdel-Nour’s life was his son Mounir. The father talked gleefully of Mounir’s political career as secretary-general of the Wafd, as MP and, later, as Minister of Tourism in 2011. He used to boast that Mounir was the only one who could beat him at a game of squash.
When Awad met Abdel-Nour, she was especially impressed at his happiness for having lived to be 100. Yet his lifetime experience led him to insist Egypt was on the wrong path since the 2011 Revolution, since a revolution without a leader was clueless; it was bound to fail.
Amin Abdel-Nour was an exceptional man, hard to come by. He will definitely be missed.

The picture shows Mr Amin Abdel-Nour being honoured by Youssef and Samia Sidhom on the occasion of Watani’s golden Jubilee in December 2008

Watani International
Saturday 29 Dec 2012

Pope Tawadros visits Catholic Churches in Egypt

Pope Tawadros II seized the opportunity of Christmas to visit the heads of the Churches in Egypt that celebrate Christmas on 25 December, to offer his good wishes and respects.

The Pope was accompanied by Bishop of Youth Anba Moussa, Bishop of Shubral-Kheima Anba Morqos, Deputy of the patriarchate Father Sergius, and manager of ecumenical relations at the Coptic Cultural Centre Sobhy Girgis.
The first visit was to the Coptic Catholic Patriarchate where Pope Tawadros met Bishop Kyrillos William, administrator of the Coptic Catholic Church, to wish the Coptic Catholic Church a blessed Christmas. The patriarch, Cardinal Antonius Naguib, was sick and unable to meet the Coptic Orthodox patriarch, so Pope Tawadros paid him a special visit two days later.

Pope Tawadros also visited the Greek Melkite Catholic Church where he offered his good wishes to Pope Gregory III Laham, Patriarch of Antioch and all the East, who keeps a tradition of celebrating Christmas with his congregation in Cairo. The third visit was to the Greek Orthodox Pope Theodore II of Alexandria and all Africa, who thanked Pope Tawadros for his visit, and prayed that his papacy would be blessed, since he had become patriarch “while Egypt is undergoing difficult times”.
Father Rafiq Greiche, the spokesman for the Catholic Churches in Egypt, said that Pope Tawadros’s visit was a source of great happiness and blessing, since it confirmed the love and cordial relations between the Churches in Egypt. “The Late Pope Shenouda III,” Fr Rafiq said, “had been used to make this round of Christmas visits, until his health failed the last three years. We are very happy Pope Tawadros has picked the thread and resumed the visits.” Bishop Kyrillos William said that, even before Pope Tawadros II was chosen as patriarch last November, all the Churches had been invited to pray together with the Coptic Orthodox Church for the Lord to choose a new pope according to His will. “Ever since,” he said, “we feel we are indeed one Church, and that Pope Tawadros is not only the Patriarch of the Coptic Orthodox, but is also the spiritual father of the entire Middle East, in his capacity as head of the largest Christian community there.”

For his part, Pope Tawadros said that compassionate relations have always tied the Churches in Egypt, and expressed his personal love and respect to each of them. He asked them all to join in prayer for Egypt, saying that the nativity of Christ should be a message of love to the entire world.

Watani International
28 December 2012


Salvation Front will continue fight against constitution: Spokesperson

National Salvation Front's official spokesperson plans to discuss the possibility of running in parliamentary elections as one electoral list
Cairo, Wednesday 26 Dec 2012: Hussein Abdel-Ghani, the official spokesperson of National Salvation Front (NSF) stated on Wednesday in exclusive statements to Al-Ahram Arabic news website that the NSF would continue its fight against the constitution “drafted by the Muslim Brotherhood” to either reduce or amend the national charter.

“The fight against the constitution will continue through all the democratic mechanisms, whether through protests, sit-ins and parliamentary elections,” Abdel said, adding that these approaches would work in parallel until Egypt writes a constitution that represents all Egyptians.

The official spokesperson also revealed that the front plans to hold a meeting on Wednesday night to discuss the possibility of running in the parliamentary elections under one electoral list.

Abdel-Ghani added that the NSF also plans to form a committee to coordinate between different parties in order to ensure that the front gets the majority of votes in the upcoming elections.

Opposition groups have argued that the constitution lacks national consensus, describing the charter as "unrepresentative."

Drafted by an Islamist-led Constituent Assembly that saw walkouts by church representatives, liberals, leftists and others, the constitution was upheld on late Wednesday after a referendum that saw 32 per cent of voter turnout.
Ahram Online

egyptindependent.com- National Salvation Front: No dialogue with Morsy unless he amends Constitution

U S State Dept. on Egyptian Constitution

Sheikh of Al-Azhar Congratulates Christians On Christmas

Cairo, December 26 2012: Al-Azhar Grand Sheikh Dr. Ahmed el-Tayyeb congratulated on Tuesday 25/12/2012 Christians on the advent of Christmas.
In a cable on Tuesday, he expressed hope that this would be a good chance to promote "love and mercy" among Egyptians, regardless of their orientations and beliefs.
Moreover, Mufti of the Republic Ali Gomaa greeted on Tuesday 25/12/2012 Pope Tawadros II of Alexandria and Patriarch of Saint Mark Diocese on the advent of Christmas.
Gomaa also sent greeting cables to Archbishop of the Evangelical Church Safwat el-Bayadi and Patriarch of the Coptic Catholic Church Antonios Naguib wishing them a merry Christmas.

The Vatican's ambassador in Cairo received a similar cable from the mufti.
Gomaa hoped the holidays would be a good chance to promote peace on earth and to unite Egyptians.

Egypt State Information Service

Egypt President Morsi puts constitution into effect

President Morsi enacts the controversial constitution after the referendum's official results were released

Cairo,, Wednesday 26 Dec 2012: Egypt President Mohamed Morsi signed an executive order late on Tuesday enacting Egypt's new constitution.
Yasser Ali, presidential office spokesperson, confirms that Morsi signed the executive order hours after the Supreme Electoral Commission announced the the draft charter had been endorsed by 63.8 of voters in this month's referendum.
Morsi's leftist, liberal, secularist and Christian opponents had taken to the streets to block what they argue was a move to ram through a charter that would dangerously mix politics and religion.
The president, however, argues that the new constitution offers sufficient protection for minorities and adopting it quickly is necessary to end two years of turmoil and political uncertainty that he says wrecked the economy.
Egypt's new constitution has been drafted by a Constituent Assembly whose non-Islamist members, including church representatives, liberals, leftists and others, dropped out of in protest against what was frequently described as "Islamist domination."

Ahram Online

Egypt Approves Disputed Draft Constitution

Official results are announced; 63.8 per cent said 'Yes'
Cairo, December 25, 2012: Egypt's new constitution, drafted by Islamist supporters of President Mohamed Morsi, has been approved by 63.8 percent of voters in a two-round referendum. The final official turnout was 32.9 percent of the country's 52 million eligible voters.


Egypt's New Constitution Gives Coptic Christians a Bleak and Unstable Future

Egyptians have approved a controversial new constitution. According to reports, Egyptians have endorsed the new charter in the two-stage referendum; the approved charter gives Islamists the mandate to decide the future of Egypt which has a considerable Christian population and other minorities.

The new constitution drafted by a predominant Islamist group, which excluded the aspirations of the Christians and liberals, is expected to come into effect this week. The final endorsement of the constitution by Egyptians has crystallized the fears of liberals, religious minorities, and women that "all is not well in the state of Egypt."

The new constitution after a drawn-out referendum may apparently provide Egypt's transition period an ostensible closure. However, with violence, lawlessness, and disapproval simmering from a large chunk of Egypt's minority, there are apprehensions that Arab's most populous nation is increasingly sliding into a state of civil strife.

Ever since the constitutional draft was passed without any consensus from the secular groups and liberals, the Coptic Christians have taken an unprecedented approach in the constitutional struggle. The Coptic Orthodox Church withdrew six of their members from the Constituent Assembly as a mark of protest and later declined to join the 'national dialogue' staged by PresidentMohammed Morsi.

Despite the protests and violence which engulfed the cities of Cairo and Alexandria, the Muslim Brotherhood has managed to sustain its will in influencing the Egyptians, especially the conservative, uneducated, and traditional sections to vote in favor of the new draft.

The manner in which supporters of Muslim Brotherhood swept down on anti-Morsi protesters on December 5 outside the presidential palace trying to dismantle the protests with violence predicts a new Egypt that stretches beyond the politics of the constitution itself.

There's no doubt that the draft constitution finalized by the Islamists has polarized Egypt. The Muslim Brotherhood, on the other hand accuse the liberals of attempting to curtail a right to bring Islamic law which they earned with election victories the past year.

According to a report in the Washington Times, the new constitution now openly seeks to "establish dictatorial arrogance with a blatant disregard for religious freedom" within the Egyptian constitution.

The new legislations can now endorse religious discrimination and there are apprehensions that that once the constitution begins to take effect, Egypt will witness a new phase of repression. Sharia or Islamic religious law will be the basis of legislations and some of the doctrines in the constitution essentially relegate non-Muslims to a position of second class citizenry.

The Coptic Christians are among the major casualties as Morsi's constitution insists on Egypt's religious identity and not the nation's secular identity. The legal framework meant to ensure equality for all Egyptians including the Copts who comprise nearly 10 percent of Egypt's population has been severely compromised.

The single largest Christian community in Middle East now looks at a future that is uncertain, unstable and filled with perils. The apprehension is; it will be worse with the Islamists who have dominated Egypt's political landscape since the dismantling of Hosni Mubarak's regime in 2011.

For the rest of the world, it is crystal clear that the despite the Muslim Brotherhood emerging victorious on the referendum, the new constitution displays sharper dichotomy between democratic groups and Islamists.

The Islamists have definitely gained legitimacy by operating anti-democratic forces during Egypt's transition and the world has no reasons to endorse the victory just because the Muslim brotherhood gained acceptance through elections.

Source: www.allvoices.com- Assyrian International News Agency


Youhanna Yaziji Elected New Greek Orthodox Patriarch of the Levant and Antioch

Youhanna al-Yaziji

by Naharnet Newsdesk
BEIRUT, December 17, 2012: Youhanna al-Yaziji was elected on Monday the new Greek Orthodox Patriarch of the Levant and Antioch.

He will succeed late Patriarch Ignatius IV Hazim, who passed away on December 5.

He will be known as Patriarch Youhanna X.

The election was made after a meeting of 20 archbishops at Our Lady of Balamand Monastery on Monday morning.

"We have a lot of work ahead concerning youth affairs and universities," the new patriarch said in a speech at the monastery later on Monday.

"We share the same fate with our Muslim brothers and we will work together," he vowed.

"Our confidence in our people is very deep and our path is the path of the cross," Yaziji added.

Answering a reporter's question, the patriarch stressed that "Christians will remain in Syria and it is their land."

"Our country suffered a lot of difficult periods, but we will stay" in Syria, he added.

"Throughout history, we have always been with all parties and all groups in Syria," Yaziji noted.

Born in Latakia, Syria in 1955, Yaziji earned his school and university education in Syria.

He earned a degree in theology in 1978 from the St. John of Damascus Faculty of Theology at the Balamand University and a doctorate in theology in 1983 from the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in Greece.

He was appointed a deacon in 1979 and a priest in 1983 and in 1981 he took up teaching liturgy at St. John of Damascus Faculty of Theology at the Balamand University.

He assumed the position of dean of the faculty from 1988-1991 and 2001-2005.

He became the head of the Our Lady of Balamand Monastery from 2001 to 2005.

In 2008 he was elected as the Metropolitan of western and central Europe.

Source: Naharnet


Egyptians Vote for Controversial Constitution

Pope Tawadros II, the new pope of the
Coptic Orthodox church casts his vote
 in a referendum on the new Egyptian
constitution, at a polling station in
 Cairo December 15, 2012.
(Photo: Reuters - Amr Dalsh)
VOA News
December 15, 2012
Half of Egypt's eligible voters are casting ballots Saturday for a controversial draft constitution that has sparked weeks of violence and protests.

Men and women are voting separately at schools in Cairo and nine other provinces. Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi has already cast his vote.

The rest of the country will vote next Saturday ( December 22 ). The vote has been scattered over two consecutive Saturdays due to a boycott by a majority of the judiciary, which must oversee the vote by law.

It is not clear when final results will be announced.

President Morsi's former party, the Muslim Brotherhood, supports the proposed constitution. Mr. Morsi resigned from the party when he became president earlier this year.

Members of the liberal, secular and Christian opposition say they fear the constitution will erode civil liberties because it boosts the role of Islamic law and does not mention womens' rights.

Officials say they have deployed 120,000 soldiers to protect polling stations.

Clashes broke out Friday among stone-throwing demonstrators protesting the draft constitution near a mosque in the port city of Alexandria, prompting police to fire tear gas. Medical workers say 15 people were injured.

A largely Islamic committee approved the document last month after liberal and Christian members walked out, complaining they were being ignored.

Egypt's Draft Constitution

-Limits president to two four-year terms
-Provides protections against arbitrary detention and torture
-Islamic law, or Sharia, serves as the basis for legislation
-Religious freedom is limited to Muslims, Christians and Jews
-Citizens are deemed equal before the law and equal in rights

Source: VOA News

The rest of the country will vote next Saturday

After three weeks of political turmoil which saw nation-wide rallies against President Morsi and fatal clashes between rival protest groups, 10 governorates vote on controversial national charter in referendum first round.

The first stage, Saturday, will include 10 governorates: Cairo, Alexandria, Gharbiya, Sharqiya, Daqahliya, Assiut, Sohag, Aswan, and North and South Sinai.
The number of citizens eligible for voting in this stage is estimated at 26.6 million out of a total 51.3 million.

Four of these (Cairo and the three Nile-Delta governorates of Gharbiya, Sharqiya, and Daqahliya) voted overwhelmingly against Egypt’s current Islamist President Mohamed Morsi in Egypt's run-off presidential election in June.
Alexandria, the upper-Egypt governorates of Assiut, Sohag, and Aswan, and the border governorates of North and South Sinai voted 'yes' for Morsi without a large margin from his rival Ahmed Shafiq.
The second stage, due to be held on 22 December, will include Egypt’s remaining 17 governorates, with a number of voters estimated at 24.7 million.


His Eminence Mar Pelexinos Matthias Nayis enthroned as Patriarchal Vicar for Warburg in Germany

His Holiness Moran Mar Ignatius Zakka I Iwas of Antioch
 (79, left) lead the enthronement ceremony of the Patriarchal
 Vicar of the Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch
 for Germany, Mar Philoxinos Mathias Nayis(37, right).
 Photo courtesy of westfalen-blatt.de

Warburg, Dec. 09, 2012: His Eminence Metropolitan Mar Philoxinos Mathias Nayis (37), enthroned as the Patriarchal Vicar of the Syrian Orthodox Church of Antioch for Germany.

The Patriarch His Holiness Moran Mar Ignatius Zakka I Iwas (79) of Antioch led the ceremony at the monastery of St. Jacob of Sarug in Warburg, Germany on Dec. 09. Bishops of the Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch and sister churches assisted the Patriarch.


Egypt: Catholic Bishops' Conference spokesman warns of possibility of Islamist ‘fascist dictatorship’

CWN - December 13, 2012

The spokesman for the Egyptian Catholic Bishops' Conference is calling upon the European Union to press the nation’s current government to respect human rights.

“The European Union must make it clear to President Morsi and his government that they have to observe human rights,” said Father Rafik Greiche. “The militias of the Muslim Brotherhood have threatened people demonstrating peacefully against the president's policy.”

“This is just as unacceptable as the text put forward for the future Egyptian constitution,” he added. “Of course, we won't tell the people what to do. But we certainly won't encourage them to vote in favor of the draft constitution.”

“Whenever Islam becomes politicized it automatically turns into a fascist dictatorship,” he continued. “Then comes the impending threat that the sharia in its most fundamental form will be introduced.”

“And this affects not only Christians, but all Egyptians who want freedom and justice.”

Source: Catholic World News (CWN)

Rights group accuses Ansar al-Sharia Brigades of threatening pope

Al-Masry Al-Youm
Pope Tawadros II

CAIRO, Tue, 11/12/2012: Naguib Gabriel, head of the Egyptian Federation of Human Rights, on Tuesday filed a charge with the prosecutor general, requesting the arrest of the members of the so-called Ansar al-Sharia Brigades, after they posted on Facebook a list of assassination targets in case the state falls.

The list included familiar faces from politics and the media, as well as Pope Tawadros II and other Coptic figures.

Gabriel said that what was posted constitutes intimidation, thuggery, threats to national security and safety, sedition, terrorism and violation of the rule of law, and that all these crimes are mentioned in the Egyptian Penal Code.

He called on the interior minister to conduct investigations into who is behind the group and its finances.

Meanwhile, The Copts for Egypt Coalition sent a message to Mohamed al-Beltagy, a leading figure in the Muslim Brotherhood, in response to his remarks on the group’s Misr 25 channel, in which he said the Copts should not get caught up with the remnants of the former regime and the National Democratic Party, or with Ahmed Shafiq.

Hany al-Gizy, chairman of the coalition, said in the message that the Copts only get caught up with what is good for Egypt, even at their own expense.

Edited translation from Al-Masry Al-Youm

Egypt Independent

Read more: In Egypt, Ansar al Sharia Brigades posts hit list

Egypt's Coptic Orthodox Church to take part in constitutional poll

Pope Tawadros II says Egypt's Coptic Church will not push its congregants to vote either 'yes' or 'no' in upcoming referendum on draft constitution

Cairo, Thursday 13 Dec 2012: At a Thursday meeting with the Council of Catholic Churches in Egypt, Pope Tawadros II, head of Egypt's Coptic Orthodox Church, said that Christians in Egypt enjoyed "complete freedom" to participate in the upcoming constitutional referendum, stressing that Copts should "go and vote."

Tawadros II also stressed at the meeting that the Orthodox Church would not push Christians to vote either 'yes' or 'no' in the upcoming poll.

The Orthodox Church sent a memo earlier on Thursday to the presidency regarding constitutional draft articles that it did not approve of.

Meanwhile, the Anglican and Catholic churches in Egypt announced their intention to take part in a third round of national dialogue – aimed at resolving the current political impasse – to be hosted by the presidency on Thursday.

Ahram Online

The elections of the new Armenian Patriarch of Jerusalem will be held in January

YEREVAN, NOVEMBER 19, ARMENPRESS. The elections of the new patriarch of Jerusalem will be held in the Armenian Patriarchate on January 23-25. The Vicar of the Armenian Patriarch of Jerusalem Archbishop Aris Shirvanian announced this in a conversation with "Armenpress". Archbishop Aris Shirvanian stated: "As you know the funerals of the deceased Patriarch are over now and 40 days after his death, the election of the new patriarch must be held. Notwithstanding this does not mean that the elections must be convened right in the 41st day, hence the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem has decided to fix the date of the elections on January 23, 24 and 25."

Secret ballot is held at the council, where 5 candidacies are involved and after the second votes one of these 5 will become patriarch.

On October 12 Armenian Patriarch of Jerusalem Archbishop Torkom Manoukyan passed away. He was a chairman of "Religion in American Life" Council. He also was a member of the council of directors of "Call of Conscience" foundation. He was the author of more than 20 monographs including three books of poetry, a study on Armenian Devine Liturgy, books dedicated to the Armenian Genocide and detailed guide to the holy sites of Jerusalem. Also the deceased Patriarch was a prominent expert on Komitas.


Metropolitan Mar Barnabas Mathews buried

Metropolitan Mathews Mar Barnabas at his funeral.
Orthodox Syriac hierarchs are buried sitting on their
cathedrae. Photo: orthodoxchurch.in

KOTTAYAM (KERALA, INDIA): The senior Metropolitan of the Holy Episcopal synod of the Orthodox Syrian Church of the East and Metropolitan emeritus of North-East American Diocese Mathews Mar Barnabas (89), was buried on Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2012 at St. Peter's and St. Paul's Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church, Valayanchirangara, near Perumbavoor, in the district of Ernakulam in Kerala. Catholicos His Holiness Moran Mar Baselius Mar Thoma Paulose II of the East led the service in the presence of bishops of the Indian Church and thousands of people from across the State.

Mathews Mar Barnabas died on Sunday, December 09 aged 88 at the Pushpagiri Hospital in Thiruvalla. The metropolitan, who lived a very ascetic life, has been leading a retired life at the Mar Kuriakose Dayara, Pampady, after retiring as head of the North American diocese. He has been suffering from age-related illness and undergoing treatment at a private medical college in Thiruvalla for the past many months. The end came in the hospital.

In 1982 he was appointed as the metropolitan of the newly formed Idikki Diocese. In 1992, Mathews Mar Barnabas was appointed as the diocesan metropolitan of American Diocese.

In 2011, Mathews Mar Barnabas was relieved of administrative responsibilities as diocesan metropolitan of the Northeast American Diocese due to his ailing health.


The Church prays for Egypt

Nader Shukry
Pope Tawadros II has said that the Coptic Church is an Egyptian Church that is praying hard for peace to reign in Egypt.
He called upon the wise men of Egypt to intervene with the conflicting parties to promote self-restraint and stop the bloodshed. "We must work together so that matters do not get out of control," the Pope said. "Let every Egyptian today seek wisdom with diligence; wisdom is what we need to overcome the current turmoil. The Bible says: 'Tell wisdom you are my sister, and understanding my relation'."
In reply to accusations by the Islamist satellite TV channel Misr 25 (Egypt 25) that the Church was mobilising its congregation against President Mursi, The Pope's secretary Fr Angaelos told Watani that the Church was a spiritual institution that had nothing to do with politics. He reminded that Pope Tawadros had called for dialogue, and asked all Egyptians to put Egypt's interests above anything else, to exercise wisdom and renounce violence, so that peace would reign.

Father Rafiq Greiche of the Catholic Church, whose church in Heliopolis lies in the thick of the events, has been an eyewitness to all what has been going on near the presidential palace the last few days. Fr Rafiq said the violence had been a horror to see; "The civil forces protested peacefully," he said. "It was when the Islamists came in buses and marches and assaulted the demonstrators with clubs and white weapons that matters turned violent. President Mursi is responsible for promoting this division between countrymen; he should have acted as a president for all Egyptians not only of one sector."

The Reverend Andrea Zaky of the Evangelical Church said that his church had set up a field hospital to care for the injured. "Egypt in its entirety should join hands to stop the bloodshed," he said. "Otherwise, we may be on the verge of civil war."
For his part, the Rev Rifaat Fikry of the Evangelical church in Shubra, Cairo, condemned the attempt at sectarianism by Egypt 25. The only role the Church plays, he said, was to pray for Egypt. "Any attempt to play on sectarian sentiments is contemptible," he said, " and only serves to divide Egypt."

WATANI International
7 December 2012


Egypt: Church not into politics

A general state of comfort has reigned among Copts on account of the Church refusing to be pushed into politics. Several Coptic activists have applauded the “sound decision” of Pope Tawadros II of staying out of politics

CAIRO: A general state of comfort has reigned among Copts on account of the Church refusing to be pushed into politics. Several Coptic activists have applauded the “sound decision” of Pope Tawadros II of staying out of politics.

A Church source earlier confirmed that the Church had come under pressure from the political authorities in Egypt to join in the meeting called for by President Mursi last Saturday. All political movements in Egypt were invited to discuss the protests against the President’s recent decrees by which he gave himself sweeping powers, and set the date 15 December for a referendum on an Islamist constitution that had been rushed through a constituent assembly whose legality is under question in court.

The Church declined the invitation, and said it saw itself as a religious institution whose main role is to pray for Egypt and its safety and stability; political dialogue is the responsibility of political parties and public figures.

“The Church should not be pushed into any political debate,” member of the Coptic Orthodox Melli (Community) Council member Kamel Saleh told Watani, “especially after it took that step back following the 25 January 2011 Revolution. The Copts have become an active part in a vigorous political and public scene, in political parties and movements through which they demand their rights as Egyptian citizens.” By attempting to treat the Church as the sole representative of the Copts on the political level, the Islamist regime now ruling Egypt wishes to turn the political scene into a sectarian one, in order to further polarise the Egyptian street, Mr Saleh said.

The lawyer and political acitivist Peter al-Naggar said that Pope Tawadros’s response confirms his sensitivity to the pulse of the Coptic street which rejects this dialogue. He said that only the Islmists, their allies and persons with special interests took part in the dialogue President Mursi called for. The presidency attempted to push the Church into it in order to create a state of political inflammation that would surely turn into sectarian conflict, Naggar pointed out. But the Pope as well as the other Egyptian Churches, he said, were wise enough to steer clear off this pitfall.

Reverend Safwat al-Bayadi, head of the Evangelical Church in Egypt, who divulged that no official invitation had been extended to the Church to participate in the dialogue, confirmed that the Church refuses to take part in any political dialogue and that it should be left to politicians to reach a common understanding.

Monday, December 10, 2012
Nader Shukry
Watani International

Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch Ignatius IV Hazim Laid to Rest in Patriarchs Burial Chambers in Mariamite Cathedral

H B Hazim’s body at the Mariamite Cathedral
in Damascus-photo: SANA
Damascus: The body of Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch and All the East Ignatius IV Hazim was laid to rest on Monday December 10, 2012 in the patriarchs' burial chambers underneath the Mariamite Cathedral in Damascus.

The interment ceremonies were presided upon by Archbishop Saba Esper, Archbishop of Houran and Jabal a-Arab, assisted by the Archbishops of the Holy See of Antioch, with psalms performed by the choir of St. John of Damascus Institute of Theology at the University of Balamand and the choir of St. John of Damascus.

Archbishop of Mount of Lebanon, Archbishop George Khedr, delivered the eulogy of the late Patriarch, extolling his religious and worldly standings and his deep knowledge and services to Christianity and science.

Archbishop Khedr affirmed that Syria is the heart of the Christian world and that Antioch was the first stage on which Christianity emerged, spreading across the entire world.

The internment ceremony was attended by State Minister for Presidential Affairs Mansour Azzam representing President Bashar al-Assad, offering condolences on behalf of the President.

The ceremony was also attended by Greek Catholic Patriarch of Antioch and All the East Gregorios III Lahham, in addition to heads of Christian denominations, Speaker of the People's Assembly Mohammad Jihad al-Lahham, and Minister of Information Omran al-Zoubi representing the Prime Minister, in addition to other ministers, representatives of political parties, representatives of Iraqi, Lebanese and Palestinian figures and organizations, and accredited diplomats in Damascus.

Before the interment, a requiem was held for Patriarch Ignatius IV Hazim at the Mariamite Cathedral, presided upon by chief priests and bishops of the Holy See of Antioch and accompanied by the two aforementioned choirs.

Representatives of churches and Islamic clergymen in Syria and citizens attended the requiem.

Minister of Religious Endowments, Grand Mufti of the Republic, Scholars Offer Condolences over Patriarch Hazim's Death
Hazim’s body at Beirut’s Saint Nicholas Cathedral.
(The Daily Star/Mohammad Azakir)

Minister of Religious Endowments (Awqaf), Dr. Mohammad Abdul-Sattar al-Sayyed, and Grand Mufti of the Republic, Dr. Ahmad Badreddin Hassoun, and a number of scholars on Monday offered condolences over death of Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch and All the East Ignatius IV Hazim at the Mariamite Cathedral in Damascus.

Earlier this afternoon, the body the late Patriarch was laid to rest in the patriarchs' burial chambers underneath the Mariamite Cathedral in Damascus.

Source: Syrian TV

More on This Story:

Coptic leader declines to join in Egypt's 'national dialogue'

CWN - December 11, 2012
Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II has declined an invitation from Egypt's President Mohammed Morsi to join in a "national dialogue," explaining that the Church is not a political institution.

President Morsi, whose move to assume sweeping new powers has provoked strong opposition, evidently wished to enlist Coptic leaders in his bid to negotiate a response to the country's political crisis.

Pope Tawadros replied that the proper role of the Orthodox Church is to pray for Egypt, and leave political bargains to political officials.

Catholic World News (CWN)

Thousands pay homage to Mathews Mar Barnabas

His Excellency Oomen Chandy, Chief Minister
of Kerala , visits His Eminence Mathews
Mar Barnabas in hospital - file-photo

KOTTAYAM, Dec 11, 2012: Thousands paid homage on Monday,Dec 10 to the former Metropolitan of the Idukki and American dioceses of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church, Mathews Mar Barnabas, 88, at Mar Kuriakose Dayara, Pampady in Kottayam. The senior Metropolitan breathed his last at Pushpagiri Hospital, Thiruvalla on Sunday morning. The body, now at the Mar Kuriakose Dayara, will be taken to the Orthodox Seminary, Kottayam, by Tuesday afternoon and later to St Peter's and St Paul's Church, Valayanchirangara, near Angamaly. On the way, the body will be kept at Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church Medical Mission Hospital, Kolencherry where he had served as chaplain, for the public to pay their last respects.

The body will be interred at a specially constructed crypt at St Peter's and St Paul's Church on Wednesday after morning prayers.

The Orthodox Church has declared a holiday for all educational institutions, including professional institutions, under its management on Wednesday. However, examinations will be held as per schedule.

Source: Times of India


New Primate Appointed for the Armenian Diocese of Australia and New Zealand

H.G. Bishop Haykazun Najarian

Etchmiadzin, December 05, 2012: By Pontifical Order of His Holiness Karekin II, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians, His Grace Bishop Haykazun Najarian, has resigned his service as the Pontifical Legate of Central Europe and Sweden, and as of 1 January, 2013 His Grace will serve as the Primate of the Armenian Diocese in Australian and New Zealand.

His Grace Bishop Haigazun Najarian (baptismal name Vrej) was born in 1952, in Aleppo, Syria.

He received his primary education at the Vahan Tekeyan Elementary School in Beirut, and graduated in 1964. He continued his education in the Hovakimian-Manoukian secondary school in Beirut and graduated in 1967.

He entered the Gevorkian Theological Seminary at the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin in 1967 and graduated in 1973. In 1973 he successfully defended his thesis entitled "Mkhitar Gosh; Interpretation of the Prophet Yeremia".

In 1973, in Holy Etchmiadzin, he was ordained to the diaconate by His Eminence Archbishop Husik Santurian, and in 1975, at the St. Sarkis Church in London, he was ordained as a celibate priest by His Eminence Archbishop Nerses Pozapalian.

From 1973 to 1974 he worked as a secretary in the Chancellery of the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin.

He continued his higher education at the St. Augustine of Canterbury School in England where he studied Pastoral Theology from 1974 to 1975. In 1975 he continued his education at the King’s College in London and graduated in 1978. He received a Bachelor’s Degree in Theology (BD).

From 1978 to 1979 he studied at the St. Andrews School in Scotland. From 1979 to 1981 he served as the Spiritual Pastor of the St. Peter Church in London.

Returning to Armenia in 1981 he served as the Assistant Dean and Professor of New Testament and History of the Universal Church at the Gevorkian Theological Seminary until 1986.

In 1983, he presented and successfully defended his doctoral thesis entitled "The Origin of the Monastic Movement in Armenia" and received the rank of Archimandrite at the St. Mesrop Church of Oshakan by His Eminence Archbishop Nerses Pozapalian.

In 1986, he defended his doctoral thesis entitled "The Rules of St. Barsegh Kesaratsi" and received the rank of Senior Archimandrite at St. Mesrop Church of Oshakan by His Eminence Archbishop Nerses Pozapalian.

By the order of His Holiness Karekin I of blessed memory he was appointed to serve as the Vicar General for the Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Church of North America and served in that position from 1986-1988. From1988 to 1991 he served as the Spiritual Pastor of the Church of St. Stepanos in New Jersey. In 1991, he returned to serve at the headquarters of the Eastern Diocese and was reappointed to serve as the Vicar General until 1995.

While serving in New York, he entered the University of Columbia in 1992 and graduated in 1993, receiving a Masters degree (MA) in History.

From 1995 to 1999 by the Order of His Holiness Karekin II, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians, he returned to Armenia and served as the Dean of the Gevorkian Theological Seminary, and as professor of New Testament of the Seminary.

He returned to the United States in 2000, and served as the spiritual pastor of the St. Sarkis Armenian Church of Dallas, Texas, until 2002. In 2002 he moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and served as the pastor of the St. Sahak and St. Mesrop Church in Philadelphia until 2007. He concurrently served as the Vicar General of the Eastern Diocese, ending his service as Vicar General in 2010.

He moved to Sweden in 2010, and by Pontifical Order of His Holiness Karekin II, served as Pontifical Legate of Central Europe and Sweden until December 2012.

On 6 November, 2011 he was consecrated as a Bishop by His Holiness Karekin II, in the Mother Cathedral of Holy Etchmiadzin.

Source: Information Services of the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin

Condolence Letter on the Passing of His Beatitude Ignatius IV

Etchmiadzin, December 07, 2012: On 7 December, 2012, His Holiness Karekin II, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians, sent a letter of condolence addressed to the Holy Synod of the Greek Orthodox Church of Antioch, the clergy, and the pious faithful, on the passing of His Beatitude Ignatius IV, Primate of the Orthodox Church of Antioch and All the East.

The Pontifical letter of Condolence stated in part: "His Beatitude courageously served the Church in Syria throughout his lifetime and exemplified strong Christian leadership especially during the crises currently facing the Middle East.

Through the efforts of Patriarch Ignatius, significant progress was made towards fostering and renewing the Orthodox youth ministry, new theological faculties were inaugurated and the ecumenical and inter-religious dialogues were promoted, which nurtured a renewal in the spiritual life of the Patriarchate of Antioch.

We honor the dignified and determined spirit with which he approached his role as a shepherd and guide for Middle Eastern Christians in all aspects of life.

We pray that God eternal receives the soul of the blessed Patriarch in His Heavenly Kingdom and ask the Almighty also to grant peace to the people of Syria during these difficult days of political instability and civil war."

Information Service of the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin

Metropolitan Esper named interim patriarch of the Greek Orthodox Church of Antioch

Esper serves in southern Syria

BEIRUT,December 08, 2012: Metropolitan Saba Esper was elected Friday as temporary successor to the late Greek Orthodox Patriarch Ignatius IV Hazim.

The appointment came during a meeting at Balamand monastery in Koura, North Lebanon. Esper currently serves as the metropolitan of three southern provinces of Syria: Hawran, Jabal al-Arab and the Golan.


Metropolitan Mar Bernabas Mathews Enters Eternal Rest

H.E Mathews Mar Bernabas
Kottayam (Kerala, India): Former metropolitan of the Northeast American Diocese of the Indian Orthodox Church, H.E Mathews Mar Bernabas, has died in the Pushpagiri hospital in Kerala on Sunday, December 09, 2012. He was 88.

H.E. Mathews Mar Barnabas (K K Mathews) was born at Vengola in the ditrict of Ernakulam in Kerala,on August 9, 1924. He studied Biology at Madras Christian College and while he served the parish in Secunderabad he did his masters in Botany in Osmania University, India.
In 1951 Metropolitan Augen Mar Thimotheos (His Holiness Catholicos Baselios Augen I), ordained him to the priesthood. H.H. Baselios Mar Thoma Mathews I consecrated him as a bishop and appointed as assistant bishop of the Ankamali and Kottayam Dioceses on May 15, 1978. In 1982 he was appointed as the metropolitan of the newly formed Idikki Diocese. In 1992, H.E. Mathews Mar Barnabas was appointed the diocesan metropolitan for American Diocese.
On January 18, 2011, His Holiness Baselius Mar Thoma Paulose II, the Catholicos of The East, accepted H.E. Mathews Mar Barnabas' request to be relieved from administrative responsibilities as diocesan metropolitan of the Northeast American Diocese.

Hazim's Funeral Held in Beirut as He Will Be Laid to Rest in Damascus

Hundreds attended the funeral service at the Ashrafieh church in honor of the 92-years old patriarch.

The delegation of the Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch offers
prayers for the departed Greek Orthodox Patriarch Ignatius IV Hazim

Beirut: The funeral of the late Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch and all the East Ignatius IV Hazim was be held in Beirut on Sunday ahead of being laid to rest in Damascus, Syria.

The funeral was held at noon at Saint Nicholas Cathedral in Beirut's Ashrafiyeh district and attended by a number of politicians, including Lebanese President Michel Suleiman and Prime Minister Najib Miqati.

Hazim's coffin was then transferred to the Mariamite Cathedral in Damascus where it will be put on display until Monday afternoon when it will be buried at the cathedral's graveyard.

Hazim passed away on Wednesday after suffering a stroke.

Prime Minister Najib Mikati announced Sunday as an official day of mourning for the patriarch.

The patriarch’s passing has been described by President Michel Sleiman and Prime Minister Najib Mikati and most of the Lebanese parties as a loss for Lebanon and the region, and he was praised for believing and maintaining the principle of coexistence. He was dubbed as a man of moderation by Lebanese officials.

Hazim, who served 33 years as patriarch, was born in the village of Mhardeh near Hama in Syria in 1920. He was consecrated as a bishop in 1961, and was elected as the Metropolitan of the Latakia province in Syria in 1970.
Hazim was chosen to become Antioch's 157th patriarch on July 2, 1979.

Patriarch Ignatius Hazim of the Greek Orthodox Church of Antioch and all the East Dies in Beirut

Beirut,6 December 2012: The Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and all the East announced that on Wednesday,5 December 2012, His Beatitude Patriarch Ignatius IV Hazim of Syria, the long-time leader of the second-largest Christian church in the Middle East and one of the oldest in the world, died in Beirut at the age of 92. His Beatitude Patriarch Ignatius Hazim’s funeral will be held Sunday at 12 p.m at Mariameh Cathedral and Patriarchate Cemetery, Damascus. Services will also be held at St Nicholas Church in Beirut.

The Patriarch Ignatius, who was born on 28 August 1921, died in Beirut’s St George Hospital University Medical Centre on Wednesday morning after suffering a stroke. Ignatius Hazim led the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and all the East, since 1979.The Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and all the East is one of 14 autocephalous churches under the Orthodox communion. It counts around a million members, the majority of them Christians in Syria. The country’s 1.8-million-strong Christian community has stayed on the sidelines of the nearly 21-month conflict against the régime of President Bashar al-Assad. Lebanon, which has a large Greek Orthodox community, declared the patriarch’s funeral a national day of mourning.

His Beatitude Patriarch Ignatius IV (Hazim) was born in 1920 in the village of Muharda, near the city of Hama Syria. In 1936, he moved to Beirut, where he became an altar server. Years later, upon taking monastic vows, he became a hierodeacon. In 1945 he graduated from the American University of Beirut, and from 1949 to 1953 studied at the Saint Sergius Theological Institute in Paris. On his return to Lebanon, the young theologian with a master's degree was ordained hieromonk. In 1942, he became one of the founders of the influential Orthodox Youth Movement in Lebanon and Syria, which has done much to renew youthful participation in Church life. In 1953, His Beatitude became one of the organizers of Syndesmos the worldwide Brotherhood of Orthodox Youth. In 1961 he was ordained Bishop of Palmyra and Patriarchal Vicar, and in the following year, he was sent to the monastery of Balamand as superior and as dean of the Theological Seminary founded, which in 1988 was transformed into an Orthodox University, the first in the Middle East. He has published a series of theological books and numerous articles. His Beatitude is an honorary doctor of Sorbonne and Saint-Petersburg (1981) and Minsk (2003) Theological Academies. In 1970, the future Patriarch was appointed Metropolitan of Latakia (Laodicea). On 2 July 1979, he was elected Primate of the Church of Antioch. on 8 July of the same year, under the name of Ignatius IV, he enthroned the Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch, the third ranking hierarch of the Orthodox Church after the Patriarchs of Constantinople and Alexandria.

His death was reported to and published exclusively via the Syrian state news agency SANA. Patriarch Ignatius IV of Antioch did not support the Syrian rebel uprising of 2011-2012 and called for a peaceful political dialogue.


Patriarch Antonios of Eritrea: An Icon of St. Paul in Chains

His Holiness Abune Antonios - Patriarch
of the Eritrean Orthodox Tewhado Church

The rightful occupant of the Episcopal throne of the Eritrean Orthodox Tewhado Church is widely known to have been unlawfully detained in an undisclosed location within the general confines of Amasra, Eritrea for approximately 7 years and an uncanonical claimant has been occupying the Patriarchal throne. Reliable sources have indicated that while His Holiness is of delicate health due to a lack of proper medical care, his spirits remain high and his faith unshaken in response to a dedicated and fruitful prayer life.

His Holiness is viewed as a true icon of St. Paul who is depicted as a prisoner in chains in the books of Philemon 1:1, Ephesians 3:1 and especially in 2 Timothy 1:8 where he asks Timothy not to be ashamed of his imprisonment, but to join him in his suffering for the Gospel. In this manner of faithful resolve, His Holiness Antonios is steadfast and endures his suffering without complaint or ill words toward those who detain him just as St. Paul instructed his captors rather than criticizing them. This is why His Holiness is a living icon of St. Paul in Chains and establishes his rightful claim to the Episcopal Throne of the Eritrean Orthodox Tewhado Church and explains why most of the faithful continue to view His Holiness as the rightful leader of the Eritrean Church and continue to advocate for his well being while praying for his eventual return.

His Holiness is currently 87 years old and suffers greatly from decimating and debilitating effects of advanced diabetes. It is important to recognize that the major concern of the Eritrean faithful is the unattended medical condition of their spiritual leader, which makes their concern a humanitarian matter rather than a political or church matter. According to Article 3 of the Geneva Convention it is stated that as a minimum, the wounded or sick should be collected and cared for and this is based upon recognition of the moral and ethical treatment of another human who is suffering or in the involuntary care of another party. Article 3 of the Geneva Convention also indicates that all prisoners of conflict should be treated humanely and protected from “outrages upon personal dignity, in particular, humiliating and degrading treatment…,” which denial of appropriate medical treatment, religious observance and human companionship may be so characterized.

The irony of the situation is that His Holiness is not a prisoner of war, a combatant, an enemy, a political or military threat; nor a bearer of arms against a sovereign nation. Nevertheless, according to reliable internal sources, he is being denied one of the most basic of human rights, which is necessary medical care in response to a well known disease that is undoubtedly exacerbated by advanced age resulting in steadily declining health and well being, which failing medical and humanitarian intervention will ultimately result in the unfortunate death of a humble and faithful human being. Remarkably, the aforementioned information sources have indicated that despite his declining health Patriarch Antonios is always in good spirits and remains in prayer for his captors, as well as for his spiritual children of his beloved Eritrean Orthodox Tewhado Church.

This behavior is reminiscent of St. Paul during his period of captivity and is the basis for His Holiness being considered an icon of St. Paul in Chains. The chains by which he is bound are as much spiritual as they are physical because they restrict His Holiness Antonios from exercising his spiritual leadership over what has become a widely disbursed church with members in many countries outside of their homeland who still look to their patriarch for spiritual guidance and reassurance.

The faithful priests, deacons, religious and faithful of the Eritrean Orthodox Tewhado Church which is in Diaspora on many shores request your prayerful support in advocating for the humane treatment and appropriate respect for His Holiness, Patriarch Antonios and that of the worldwide community of faith. For more information on the plight of Patriarch Antonios and to sign the petition for his return please follow our link to Support Patriarch Antonios.

Thursday, 01 March 2012

+Metropolitan Scholarios-Gennadius III, OSB
Œcumenical Canonical Orthodox Church Worldwide

Source: The Global Herald/Asmarino Independent