The Holy Synod of the Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch

Regular Session
St. Ignatius The Illuminator Center
Ma’arrat Saidnaya, September 15 – 17, 2010

His Holiness, Patriarch Mor Ignatius Zakka 1, Iwas called upon their Eminences, members of the Holy Synod, to attend its sessions at St. Ignatius the Illuminator center – Ma’arrat Saidnaya from Wednesday September 15 2010 to Friday 17th. Members of the Holy Synod responded to His Holiness’s call and all attended.

His Eminence Mor Malatios Malki Malki, Patriarchal Vicar of Australia and New Zealand apologized for health reasons. The Holy Synod sent him the following message:
“It pained us to learn of your inability to attend the Holy Synod regular session for health reasons. His Holiness our esteemed Patriarch had mentioned you and asked that we all pray for your well being and your good shepherding for you beloved Archdiocese. In the name of His Holiness and the Holy Synod we pray for your continued healthiness.”

His Holiness opened the Holy Synod session with a prayer after welcoming their Eminences. The Secretary of the Holy Synod presented the prepared agenda which was approved by all members after adding few subjects to be discussed during session.

Here are some points of discussion during the session in brief:

Matters of the Syriac Archdioceses:

First: The Archdiocese of Germany – Patriarchal Vicariate:
His Holiness and their Eminences discussed the situation of the Archdiocese of Germany. Attendees discussed details of His Holiness’s decision issued on August 08, 2010 that included views evaluation of the parishioners of said Archdiocese, clergy, laity, and boards of trustees to organize the Archdiocese for its spiritual, administrative, social …etc benefits. Said decision included the following:

1 – Dividing the Archdiocese of Germany geographically into two:
A – The Archdiocese of Northern Germany:
starts from Westfarlen – Niedersachen to Berlin – Hamburg till the far North. It includes all cities and villages and areas included in this division. His Holiness appointed His Eminence Mor Julius Hanna Aydin patriarchal Vicar for this Archdiocese. His Eminence will meet with clergy and boards of trustees in this Archdiocese to find a residence that will become the Archdiocese’s headquarters.

B – The Archdiocese of Southern Germany:
It starts from Rheimnlandfarlz – Hessen – Bayern – Wuttemberg to the far South. His Holiness appointed Reverend Father Rabban George Gharzani Patriarchal Vicar for the Southern Archdiocese. His Holiness will delegate authority to him according to regulations and his Archdiocese will arrange a residence to manage said Archdiocese.

2 – As for St Jacob of Serouj Monastery in Warburg:
His Holiness appointed Rev. Fr. Rabban Georges Kourieh to become the head of said monastery. The two Archdioceses have to cooperate in supporting the monastery in every aspect by a committee from both Archdioceses and whoever being seen fit by His Holiness. His Eminence Mor Julius Hanna Aydin will leave the monastery as soon as his residence is secured.

After a long discussion regarding this beloved Archdiocese, all members of the Holy Synod supported and agreed to His Holiness decision.

Second – The Archdiocese of Belgium, France, and Luxemburg – Patriarchal Vicariate:
Fathers of Holy Synod moved on to discuss matters of the Archdiocese of Belgium, France, and Luxemburg – Patriarchal Vicariate which suffers many problems and internal tensions. They listened to suggestions and read reports of the Episcopal Committee that was appointed by the Holy Synod.

Many suggestions were offered to solve this difficult crisis. Members listened to the views of his Eminence Mor Severius Hazail Soumi, the patriarchal Vicar of this Archdiocese. The attendees went very deep in their discussions and suggestions. They came back and restudied the problems and decided to ask their Eminences Mor Eustatheos Matthew Roham and Mor Dionysius Isa Gurbuz, being members of the Episcopal Committee for Belgium situation, to submit their report.

Mor Severius Hazail Soumi insisted that all churches and Archdiocese’s endowments to be registered in the name of the patriarchate according to the Holy Synod’s decision held from 01 to 03 of December 2009 specially the letter sent to the clergy and boards of trustees who didn’t submit the required documents. The representatives view was for His Holiness to appoint a patriarchal visitor who will take care of their spiritual needs.

The Fathers of the Holy Synod asked His Holiness the patriarch to write to the clergy and parishioners of the Archdiocese to comply with the decisions of the Holy Synod held in 2009 as a first step solution for these conflicts and call specially upon the clergy to obey his Eminence and all to cooperate for peace and Archdioceses benefit, and that His Holiness give a appropriate period in order to register endowments, according to the previous decision, in the name of the Patriarchate with assurances that his Eminence’s name be mentioned as he is still the legitimate bishop and patriarchal vicar until all come back to their senses as a last chance to issue a decision regarding this Archdiocese.

Clergy and boards of trustees are not allowed to bring new priests to serve the Archdiocese or churches except by His Holiness approval according to the church constitution.

Third – The Archdiocese of Argentine – Patriarchal Vicariate:
Fathers read the Episcopalian Committee report written by their Eminence Mor Severius Malki Mourad and Mor Clemis Daniel Kourieh who visited Argentine. They presented their report about the situation and problems with his Eminence Mor Nicholas Matthew Abdulahad, the patriarchal vicar.

It became clear that tensions have somewhat subsided specially after His Holiness ordered his Eminence Mor Nicholas Matthew Abdulahad to move the Archdiocese headquarters from La Plata to Buenos Aires. His Eminence announced that he purchased a place near Buenos Aires and started administering from there. According to him, his opponents are now fewer and that he with other parishioners are working to soften relations with them. His Eminence requested for two monks to be appointed to serve in Argentine and financial support in order to facilitate his work.

Fourth – Iraq:
Fathers of the Holy Synod discussed the church situation in Iraq and the difficult circumstances for the Iraqis in general and the Christians in particular and specially our Syriac Orthodox people.

His Eminence Mor Gregorios Saliba Shamoun, Archbishop of Mosul and Environs stated that the lack of security and economic hardships are what the Christians are suffering from. Mor Timotheos Moussa Shamani reported that security at St. Matthew’s monastery is better and acceptable in comparison with other regions, but that people are very cautious.

His Eminence Mor Severius Hawa, bishop of Baghdad and Basra presented a detailed report in which he fully explained situation of renovated churches, some endowments, schools, and parishioners’ attendance of services and prayers. He also detailed the immigration problems and economic situation that face them specially the religious educational, and youth organizations whose attendance has severely dropped.

His Eminence talked about projects he is involving with in his Archdiocese specially helping the poor and needy and securing some tranquility for them as much as possible assuring that most of the income is from the Archdiocese parishioners. He insisted that our family abroad must support the church and its institutions in Iraq.

The Ecumenical Movement:
According to agenda, his Eminence Mor Theophilos George Saliba, Secretary of the Holy Synod, presented the following:

A – Meeting between heads of the Oriental Orthodox churches with the permanent committee: He stated that such meeting has been frozen for over a year because His Holiness Pope Shenouda 03rd, and His Holiness Catholicos Aram 01st are not on good terms for reasons given by the Secretary to the Holy Synod.

B – Council of Middle Eastern Churches: Which the Coptic Orthodox church withdrew from, for conflict with the Greek Orthodox church in Jerusalem for the position of its patriarch Theophilos 03rd towards the Coptic Orthodox church and His Holiness Pope Shenouda 03rd. This subject was fully explained by the Secretary of the Holy Synod.

Most member churches in this Council spared no efforts trying to convince His Holiness Pope Shenouda 03rd to rescind his decision but to no avail. For the sake of peace and in stressing on the historic brotherly and strong relations between our Syriac Orthodox church and our sister church, the Coptic Orthodox church, His Holiness our patriarch Mor Ignatius Zakka 1st Iwas, travelled to Egypt and met twice with His Holiness Pope Shenouda 03rd in the presence of bishops from both churches. His Holiness Pope Shenouda 03rd did not change his position while His Holiness patriarch Mor Ignatius Zakka 1st Iwas continued his efforts to bring back harmony and understanding among our Oriental Orthodox family, knowing that the Council is in deep financial crisis that threatens its future.

C – Universal Council of Churches: Our church is represented by his Eminence Mor Eustatheos Matthew Roham who is successfully fulfilling his duties.

D – Roman Catholic & Oriental Orthodox Dialogue: Which is the official theological dialogue between our Oriental Orthodox family and the Roman Catholic family. His Eminence Mor Theophilos George Saliba and Mor Theophilos Kyriakos from our church in India, represent our church.

The Affaires of our Syriac church in India:
His Holiness our patriarch detailed the history of our Syriac Orthodox Church in India and the problems it faced since 1908 till the election and ordination of Mapheryono (Catholicose) Eugene 01st in 1964 and the discords between Antioch and Malankara. In 1975 the Holy Synod excommunicated Mapheryonno Eugene and his followers and Mor Basilios Paul 2nd was elected the new Mapheryono. In 2002 Mor Baselios Thomas 1st was elected and ordained by His Holiness Mor Ignatius Zakka 1st Iwas as the Mapheryono of India with jurisdiction over India only, while Syriac Indians living abroad in the Gulf or Europe or America report to His Holiness the patriarch.

His Holiness mentioned items to be added to the church constitution by identifying the names of those eligible to elect the patriarch from His Beatitude the Mapheryono and the Holy See churches in India (Simhasana Churches), and the Canaanite Archdiocese and Syriac Orthodox organizations and the Malankara Syriac Orthodox Archdiocese in North America.

A suggestion was made to form a shared committee from the Holy Synod of Antioch and the local Malankara Holy Synod in India, to schedule a Universal Synod of the Holy Synod of Antioch and Malankara in 2011, according to what His Holiness and the committee will agree upon.

Retired Bishops:
According to our church constitution and upon request of members of the Holy Synod to discuss the situation of the retired bishops who do not attend the Holy Synod’s meetings and are not eligible to vote or to be nominated. Their relationship would be with His Holiness outside the meeting if he deems necessary to consult them and ask for their expertise.

Monks Convention:
His Holiness stated: “We decided at our last Holy Synod’s session to call for a monk’s general meeting (convention). The Secretary General and the preparatory committee sent questions and invitations to the monks to attend this convention supposed to be held last July”. According to answers received by the patriarchate, His Holiness said: “We think it is better to postpone this convention for another time.” His Holiness spoke today about the importance of this convention and that it should be very well prepared for in order to be more effective.

Other subjects also were discussed.
The Holy Synod discussed many other subjects and was suggested that future items should be reported to the Holy Synod secretary’s office before holding the next Holy Synod. These items will be on the next agenda. They will be discussed and decisions will be taken according to the rules.

Final Session:
Being the Dean of bishops, members of the Holy Synod, his Eminence Mor Gregorios Saliba Shamoun thanked His Holiness in person for his presence and presiding over the Holy Synod’s meeting, who by the grace of God and the blessings of His Holiness came out with suggestions and decisions for the benefit of the holy church. He asked, in the name of all bishops, for his Holiness’s health and prolonged life to shepherd the church and lead it to progress and prosperity.

He also thanked bishops in charge of serving the holy center of St. Ignatius the Illuminator and St. Ephrem the Syriac monastery, specially his Eminence Mor Philoxenos Mattias Naish, the monks and nuns for their fine service.

His Holiness the patriarch said: “Thank you, Dean of bishops, and thanks to the Holy Synod members for your presence at these important meetings in which we conferred about church matters in all our Archdioceses. We recognize the hardships faced by our people due to immigration. Wherever we go we are accompanied by these problems. We arrange for our people all kinds of spiritual, administrative, and social services. I pray that harmony and optimism prevail between the bishops as every one of them is responsible in front of God and his conscience for the benefit of the holy church. I pray that God bless our clergy and laity and protect our holy church that He may make peace reign all over the world preventing wars and confusions specially in our beloved Middle East where some regions are suffering from destitutions and dark days.”

His Holiness asked for good health and happiness for all, bestowing his apostolic blessings with his well known fatherly love. The Holy Synod was concluded by a prayer.