Your Holiness Pope Francis
Your Beatitudes the Patriarchs of the East
Your Excellencies the Presidents of the Bishops’ Conferences
The Christians of Iraq face an enormous tragedy
The Christians of Mosul (Nineveh Province, Iraq), horrified, have fled the city with only the clothes they were wearing. Their churches have been profaned and on August 2, a mass migration took place from the villages of Telkev, Batnaya and Telleskuf as, knowing that the small town of Sinjar alongside other neighboring villages had fallen and seventy persons had been massacred, gave rise to panic. There, on Monday, August 4, ISIL commenced the bombardment of the village of Telkef and a young Christian was killed. This having been said, it is evident that there is practically no collaboration between the central government and that of the Kurdish Region and, in addition to that, the new government is not yet formed!
As for our political parties, they have failed in every tangible manner, and this for reasons well known to everyone as well as to each of these parties themselves.
As for the Church, she finds herself completely alone, more than ever; nevertheless her leaders are strongly required to react before it is too late in applying the necessary pressure on the international community as well as those other decision-makers in view of fundamental answers necessary to the scandalous crimes and the destructive conspiracies that affect, above all, unarmed citizens in Iraq, Syria, and in Palestine – Gaza.
It should be noted that the motivation for all of these killings is the lust for everything that lies beneath the earth like oil and gas…what else explains this war so curiously radicalised and, as if following an excellently premeditated plan, does not take the least account of the destinies of the people.
We are equally shocked and indignant with the absence of a vigorous position taken by Muslims and their religious leaders, not the least because the actions of these factions represent a menace for Muslims themselves.
In fact, speeches are good for nothing, so too declarations that rehash condemnations and indignation; the same can be said for protest marches. In addition, while appreciating the generosity of our donors, we would say that donations and fundraising too are not what will solve our problems. We have to demand a large-scale administrative [governmental] operation on an international level. There is in fact the need for awareness, in conscience, regarding this simple human principle: the demand for real actions and solidarity because we are before a crisis related to our very existence, facing the fact that “we will be or we will not be.”
This is an appeal from the bottom of the heart in the search for a solution that lies uniquely in the hands of the international community and above all with the great powers. We address ourselves profoundly to their consciences and that they should review their positions and to re-evaluate the impact of the situation of today.
These powers face a human and moral responsibility. It is no longer reasonable to take recourse to double standards. They are called to free themselves from their narrow interests and to unite themselves in a political and peacekeeping solution that puts an end to this conflict. These powers must vigorously exercise pressure on those who support financially and train militarily these factions and so cut short these sources of violence and radicalisation.
Concerning the Christians of Iraq, in our pastoral ministry towards them, we also call upon the international community: our Christians are in urgent need of humanitarian aid, as too they are in need of an efficient, true and permanent protection that reassures them that there is no end to their existence, whose origins are so deeply rooted in Iraq; this also concerns Christians in other regions of the Middle East that are burning and being torn apart.
We also appeal to our brothers and sisters around the world, that they too be truly with us in solidarity at this our time of suffering this terrible ordeal; that they live with us this feeling of solidarity as if belonging to the same family.
We are in need of a communion of the heart, and for prayers with our faithful during this terrible ordeal as we experienced during the visit of the delegation of Bishops of France presided by His Eminence Cardinal Philippe Barbarin, Archbishop of Lyon.
We remain believing in dialogue, exchange and conviviality.
That God may grant us the grace and possibility to overcome this trial, that He remove from all hearts all hatred and violence.
In great union of prayer,
Louis Raphael I Sako
Patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans
30/07/2014 Statement from the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East
In the midst of all destruction which is taking place in the Middle East and with the recent events like killings and displacements which affected Christians and others, and in the midst of the conflicts in Syria and the attack on Gaza, we hear some officials of Western governments giving declarations from time to time or publishing some “studies” to express their unreal empathy with Christians of certain areas and showing their solidarity with them, describing their circumstances in a way that supports the logic of minorities. But the most recent of these declarations is that of the French government regarding its readiness to accept the Iraqi Christians and granting them a political asylum, in addition to the study issued by the American Ministry of Foreign Affairs that describes the presence of the Christians in the Middle East as “a shadow of its former status”.
We, in the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and all the East, would like to confirm that the difficult circumstances in the East do not justify anybody’s attempt to misuse them as “Trojan Horse” to empty the East from its Christians, declaring that what Christians are confronting in the East is similar to what is happening to religious or ethnic minorities in other places of the world. We believe that helping the inhabitants of the East, Christians or Muslims, starts with uprooting terrorism from its homeland and stop nourishing the movements of extremism and Takfirism (religious prejudice) , whose financial resources are very well known as well as the states and the governments that offer them the ideological, logistic and military support through undeclared international alliances. The best way to help Christians and Muslims in the East is by restoring peace through dialogue and political solution, and through practical rejection of all resources that nourish the reasons of this extremism, refusing the injustice towards Palestinians, adapting an honest Media that shows the active role of the Christians in the life of their homelands away from any statistical division of people.
We say it to all: the only embracing place for Christians and Muslims of this area is their homelands, in which they have been living together for many centuries, building a unique civilization recognized by a real partnership; a civilization that transferred to the West the human heritage and enriching it. We, the Christians of this land, will not accept to be treated through the logic of minorities which is imposed on us from abroad, and we reconfirm that we were and are still committed to the message of our Gospel, which has arrived to us from our ancestors 2000 years ago. Our forefathers carried and transferred this message to us enduring numerous afflictions. And we will keep this seed which we have received here in the East, growing it and being loyal to it.
23/07/2014 Statement from the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East
At a time when Syria’s wounds have been bleeding for more than three years, amidst the wounds of Iraq, which has experienced conflict since the 1980’s, amidst the unrest that is sweeping countries near and far, and amidst the world’s indifference to Palestine’s wounds, which have not healed in almost seventy years, these days in particular we are witnessing a multiplication of these wounds in the expulsion of Mosul’s Christians and the all-out assault on Gaza amidst a disgraceful international silence.
The cycle of violence sweeping Iraq and Syria, expelling peaceful citizens has not let up, as recent events in Iraq and specifically in Mosul have completed the series of murder, religious prejudice, and terror.
We strongly condemn attacks on any segment of society in this Middle East and we especially condemn the attack on the Christians of Mosul and their being compelled by force of arms to change their religion under the penalty of paying the Jizya or abandoning their homes and having their property confiscated. These fundamentalist movements that are trying to become mini-states through force and terror with outside moral and material support are the greatest threat to people in the Middle East and to coexistence there. We ask the international community and specifically the United Nations and all global powers and organizations to take into proper consideration what is happening in Iraq, Mosul and the entire Middle East.
We call on them to deal with the current situation courageously, with a genuine language of human rights and not a language of interests that uses the principles of human rights and exploits them in the service of narrow aims and interests. We ask the countries that provide outside support to these groups, whether directly or indirectly, to cease immediately from all forms of material, moral, logistical and military support for these extremist groups and so cut off at its root the terrorism that is first of all a threat to the peace and peoples of those countries. We likewise call for an end to resorting to any form of violence as a means by which citizens deal with each other.
Because we in the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East constantly affirm that Christians and Muslims are two lungs of a single Middle Eastern body that stands on citizenship and common life, we reject anything that would first of all hurt Islam’s reputation for tolerance, brotherhood and peaceful life, which we have experienced, and secondly disrupts the right of citizens to have a civic presence free from sectarian or racial pressures.
As the world watches what is happening in Mosul, the chain of violence is repeated in the Gaza Strip under various justifications, amidst a frightening international silence. This is happening while the outside world is content to watch a bloodbath that has not spared women, children and the elderly. It is as though the Middle East has become a testing-ground for every sort of weapon and a fertile soil for every sort of plot. It is as though the people of the Middle East are a commodity created to be dough in the hands of the forces of evil, when they are created to be the image of the Lord’s splendor and the focus of the Creator’s good pleasure, with good relationships with their fellow citizens and fellow humans.
We in the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch and All the East understand the common fate that binds us to our Christian and Muslim brothers in Palestine. We implore the international community for a ceasefire in Gaza and an end to the sinful siege on our brothers in Palestine, whose cause remains par excellence the cause of Humanity.
The attachment of the Palestinians to their land and their longing to return to it is a cause for hope for all those suffering in this Middle East and a mark of shame upon the faces of those for whom “human rights” end at the hills of Palestine while at the same time that they traffic in these “rights” in order to intervene in the affairs of other peoples.
We pray that God give peace to the world, that He give strength to all those in distress, that He cause peace to be lasting in the Middle East, so that humanity may enjoy well-being and tranquility.
In the USA, His Excellency Bishop William Myers declared “The clergy of the Old Roman Catholic Church in America request all people of goodwill to pray for the Christian population of Iraq. The situation in that country has become very volatile for Christians, especially those living in Mosul. News reports note that their homes are being marked and that they face death for their beliefs.”
In Europe, His Grace, Metropolitan Jerome OSJV like others has invited fellow Christians on Facebook to adopt the “nun” symbol as their profile photo in response to the persecution of Christians in Mosul and Iraq where the symbol is being daubed on the walls of Christian homes, businesses and churches and have been ordered to “convert or die”. His Grace wrote, “What an opportunity for witness and solidarity if EVERY Christian on Facebook swapped their personal profile photo for this one as an expression of solidarity with our brothers and sisters in/of Mosul?! We could explain the symbol, what it means, who it represents, how it’s been misused and share their story of faith? JUST IMAGINE!!! Denominational ties would be IRRELEVANT! We would simply be expressing solidarity as THE BODY OF CHRIST!”
In the UK, Bishop Damien Mead of the Anglican Catholic Church requested his Diocese pray for the persecuted Church around the world. Stating; “Our brothers and sisters in Christ are suffering on an unprecedented scale in the Middle East, Africa and around the world. Persecution of the faithful has happened before, it is happening now and it will happen in the future until the Second coming of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, wipes the tears from our eyes and brings an end to death and suffering. Of course we pray for all victims of violence and persecution, who ever they may be and whatever faith, or none, they may hold. But it is appropriate that we show solidarity with our fellow Christians, many of whom are in parts of the world where there has been a Christian presence since the days of the Apostles.”
To all who have a living conscience in Iraq and all the world
To the voice of moderate brother Muslims who have a voice in Iraq and all the world
To all who have a concern that Iraq could remain a country for all His Children
To all leaders of thought and opinion
To all who announce the freedom of the human being
To all protectors of the dignity of human beings and of religion
PEACE AND MERCY FROM GOD!
The control exercised by the Islamist Jehadists upon the city of Mosul, and their proclamation of it as an Islamic State, after several days of calm and expectant watching of events, has now come to reflect negatively upon the Christian population of the city and its environs.
The initial sign was in the kidnapping of the two nuns and 3 orphans who were released after 17 days. At the time, we experienced it as a flash of hope and as a clearing of the sky after the appearance of storm clouds.
Suddenly we have been surprised by the more recent outcomes which are the proclamation of an Islamic state and the announcement calling all Christians and clearly asking them to convert to Islam or to pay the jizya (the tax all non- Muslims must pay while living in the land of Islam) — without specifying the exact amount. The only alternative is to abandon the city and their houses with only the clothes they are wearing, taking nothing else. Moreover, by Islamic law, upon their departure, their houses are no longer their properties but are instantly confiscated as property of the Islamic state.
In recent days, there has been written the letter ‘N’ in Arabic on the front wall of Christian homes, signifying ‘Nazara’ (Christian), and on the front wall of Shiite homes, the letter ‘R’ signifying ‘Rwafidh’ (Protestants or rejecters). We do not know what will happen in future days because in an Islamic state the Al — sharia or Islamic code of law is powerful and has been interpreted to require the issuance of new I.Ds for the population based on religious or sectarian affiliation.
This categorization based upon religion or sect afflicts the Muslims as well and contravenes the regulation of Islamic thought which is expressed in the Quran which says, “You have your religion and I have my religion” and yet another place in Quran states, “There is no compulsion in religion”. This is exactly the contradiction in the life and history of the Islamic world for more than 1400 years and in the co — existence with other different religions and nations in the East and in the West.
With all due respect to belief and dogmas, there has been a fraternal life between Christians and Muslims. How much the Christians have shared here in our East specifically from the beginnings of Islam. They shared every sweet and bitter circumstance of life; Christian and Muslim blood has been mixed as it was shed in the defense of their rights and lands. Together they built a civilization, cities, and a heritage. It is truly unjust now to treat Christians by rejecting them and throwing them away, considering them as nothing.
It is clear that the result of all this discrimination legally enforced will be the very dangerous elimination of the possibility of co — existence between majorities and minorities. It will be very harmful to Muslims themselves both in the near and the distant future.
Should this direction continue to be pursued, Iraq will come face to face with human, civil, and historic catastrophe.
We call with all the force available to us; we call to you fraternally, in a spirit of human brotherhood; we call to you urgently; we call to you impelled by risk and in spite of the risk. We implore in particular our Iraqi brothers asking them to reconsider and reflect upon the strategy they have adopted and demanding that they must respect innocent and weaponless people of all nationalities, religions, and sects.
The Holy Quran has ordered believers to respect the innocent and has never called them to seize the belongings, the possessions, the properties of others by force. The Quran commands refuge for the widow, the orphaned, the poor, and the weaponless and respect “to the seventh neighbor.”
We call Christians in the region to act with reason and prudence and to consider and to plan everything in the best way possible. Let them understand what is planned for this region, to practice solidarity in love, to examine the realities together and so be able together to find the paths to build trust in themselves and in their neighbors. Let them stay close to their own Church and surround it; endure the time of trial and pray until the storm will be over.
© 2014 Assyrian International News Agency.
His Eminence Archbishop Joseph has been elected Metropolitan of New York and All North America by the Holy Synod of Antioch in its extraordinary session at Balamand, Lebanon, as a successor of His Eminence Philip Saliba of eternal memory.
His Eminence Archbishop Joseph was consecrated to the Holy Episcopacy on June 30, 1991 at the St. Mary Cathedral in Damascus, after many years of serving as a deacon and a priest. His Eminence was born in Damascus, Syria, in 1950. He completed his basic schooling at the St. John of Damascus and Al-ASiyeh schools in Damascus and then at Our Lady of Balamand Monastery in Koura, Lebanon. He completed his undergraduate studies at Lebanese University in Beirut and then earned his Master of Theology (M.Th.) with special studies in music and languages from Aristotle University in Thessaloniki, Greece. He was awarded an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree from St. Tikhon Seminary in South Canaan, Pennsylvania, in May, 2010. Patriarch Ignatius IV of Blessed Memory ordained him as a deacon in November, 1976, and priest in 1980. As priest, Fr. Joseph served as dean of St. Mary Cathedral in Damascus and as overseer of Holy Cross Church and other parishes in the suburbs of Damascus. He served as superintendent of the secondary school in Damascus from 1980 until 1983. Father Joseph then went abroad to pastor the Antiochian Orthodox Church in London, England from 1983 to 1986, and then the Antiochian Orthodox Church in Cyprus from 1986 until 1991, when he was elected as bishop.
His Grace was consecrated with the title, Bishop of Katana in Syria, and served as Patriarchal Assistant and Secretary of the Holy Synod of Antioch. In 1995, he was sent by H.B Patriarch Ignatius to America. Here, in our Archdiocese, Bishop Joseph was assigned to the West Coast Chancery by Metropolitan Philip. Later he was enthroned at St. Nicholas Cathedral by Metropolitan Philip as the first Bishop of the Diocese of Los Angeles and the West on September 12, 2004.
On December 11, 2011, at the Church of the Dormition of the Theotokos in the Patriarchal Monastery of Our Lady of Balamand in Lebanon, H.B Patriarch Ignatius elevated Bishop Joseph to the rank of Archbishop, in honor of his many years of service as a bishop both in our Archdiocese and in the Patriarchate of Antioch.
Sayidna is fluent in English, Arabic and Greek and is conversant in other European languages. His name day is the second Sunday after Pascha (Joseph of Arimathea).
Their Graces, the Metropolitan Archbishops of Great Britain and Europe have issued a joint invitation to the clergy of both Provinces of the canonical Old Roman Catholic Church to a unique and historic holy Synod to be held in Brighton on July 5th 2014, the feast of St. Willibald. Also in attendance will be His Excellency, Bishop William Myers of the Old Roman Catholic Church in America and the bishops of the Provinces.
Holy Mass will be offered by Metropolitan Jerome OSJV at the commencement of the holy Synod at the Brighton Oratory, followed by lunch. Metropolitan Douglas will chair the holy Synod in session, during which significant proposals will be presented, discussed and voted upon to consolidate the witness of canonical Old Roman Catholicism and the legacy of Msgr Mathew for the 21st Century. The holy Synod will be the culmination of two years of discussions between the Metropolitans in consultation with their clergy respectively about the unity and effective witness of canonical Old Roman Catholicism formally begun by the signing of the “Walsingham Declaration” on a joint pilgrimage to “England’s Nazareth” in 2012. A similar pilgrimage ‘of thanksgiving’ to Walsingham is anticipated later in the year following the outcome of the holy Synod.
The Metropolitans thank all those clergy, faithful and friends of the church for their prayers and Masses these past two years, and beg ever more fervent prayers for the success of the holy Synod and the continued guidance and intercession of Our Lady of Walsingham.
Metropolitan Jerome OSJV of Europe will make a pastoral visit to France this weekend (23-29 May) initially to preside at a family wedding in Colombières sur Orb in the Languedoc-Rousillon region and after various requests, to meet some of the faithful hopeful of establishing a mission in the region. His Grace will make a visit to the Dordogne area in July from the 9th-15th, in response to other similar requests. Anybody near to or in either region interested in meeting His Grace and/or to hear Mass during his visit should make contact through the Provincial website for details.
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