on June 25th through 28 2014, His Beatitude John X the Patriarch of Antioch and All the East, together with the Fathers of the Holy Synod, called the faithful to the Hill of Balamand for a conference on the Antiochian unity. The Conference concentrated around the Antiochian Unity in its dimensions and exigencies. Participants in the conf included metropolitans and bishops, and Church delegations from all the dioceses of the Antiochian See in Syria, Lebanon and the whole Diaspora. Throughout the conference the kidnapped bishop Paul of Aleppo was present in our thoughts and prayers, and we asked God for his safe and quick return to his church and people.
During the opening ceremonies, we were overjoyed to welcome their Holinesses and Beatitudes the Patriarchs of the East, who addressed the conferees with words full of life, inspired from our common Antiochian heritage and the legacy of our Saints. Furthermore, they stressed the importance of one witness of Christians to the Gospel in the lands of the Antiochian See, to which we all belong. The presence of their Holinesses and Beatitudes enhanced brotherly love, and assured the necessity of serving people in “All the East”, where God has made them shepherds of His People. The Patriarchs’ visions and words were very well received by all attendees. They comprehended the necessity of taking theological and pastoral initiatives, in the goal of demonstrating Christ’s full presence in the one Antiochian family. This Antiochian togetherness in Christ would constitute the pattern of the Universal Christian Unity that we all hope for and aspire to.
His Beatitude Patriarch John X addressed the conferees with fatherly statements that included his vision and aspirations, and emphasized the fact that the faithful are the treasure of the Church, since the latter is primarily composed of humans as opposed to stones. He insisted that Antiochian unity which is the subject of the conference does not imply that our Christian children are scattered, but rather invites them to fortify the bonds of unity among them, bonds which began in the baptismal font and assembled them by the one Chalice. He further clarified that work in the Church is an endeavor, towards which both clergy and laymen contribute.
The conference focused on five different subjects. Those subjects included:
- Activation of consultation and interaction among parishes and dioceses, as well as amelioration of the dioceses complementing one another.
- Financial and Wakf Property Development
- Social Work
- Effective Presence in Society
Experts gave presentations on their respective subjects, and those were subsequently discussed in smaller groups. At the end of these discussions, a set of suggestions and recommendations was formulated and presented to the Holy Synod for examination as tools for future planning in the Antiochian Church.
The conference underlined the notion that the participation of Antioch’s children in such a general conference, despite the difficult circumstances that we go through in the East, is a clear expression of the essential role of our children in this area, and a message to all that they will remain in the East, living together with their Muslim co-citizens. It is also a message that they belong to this East in a time where belonging to the Nation is asunder, and certain winds of ideologies, such as radicalism, terrorism and similar strange phenomena, previously unknown in our East, are currently flustering our societies. The conference called the international community to look justly at what is happening in the East, in general, and in Syria in particular. They implored of all to give their best efforts, in order to establish peace in Syria, and in the whole East and the entire world. They also called for the maintenance of peace and stability in Lebanon, and for collaboration in filling the Presidential Seat. Furthermore, they strongly urged for the cessation of violence and blood shedding in Iraq, and they prayed for peace in Palestine, and welfare in Jordan, Egypt and the entire world.
The conferees invited the Arabic and international community and all the human rights organizations to intensify their efforts in freeing all hostages, especially the two bishops John (Ibrahim) and Paul (Yazigi), who have been missing for more than a year, amidst a shameful and frightening international and local silence.
The conference was an occasion to lay the foundation stone of the Balamand Medical Center, and the inauguration of the new Patriarchal center, that will help the Church of Antioch to continue serving man in this East.
The participants thanked His Beatitude Patriarch John X and the Fathers of the Holy Synod for giving them the opportunity to meet together in an environment of love and serenity, and they appreciated the role of the Balamandian family, which includes the monastery, the University, the school, and the Institute of Theology, and also thanked all those who worked and contributed to the success of this conference.
In the joyous feast of Saints Peter and Paul, the Patrons Saints of the Antiochian Church, the conferees conveyed their sincere wishes to all their brothers and sisters, who are dispersed all over the world.