“I address you, my beloved ones, from this honorable residence in Beirut, as we are on a fraternal visit, as usual, to our dear and beloved brother in the Lord, His Eminence Bishop Elias, the Pastor of this archdiocese guarded by the grace of the Lord. What can one say in these difficult circumstances? Of course, the visit was an occasion and opportunity to overview with His Eminence Elias all that is happening at different levels in the country and the whole region in general. We also tackled on the church level and discussed some issues since the Holy Synod, God willing, is called to convene next week and debate many topics to be studied and discussed.
“In these circumstances, what can one say when we see bloodshed here and there surrounding us? What is happening in Gaza first, this painful catastrophe, and what we are witnessing, is ultimately the cause of this displaced and expatriated Palestinian people. For many years now, they have been suffering from racial discrimination policies. I hope this catastrophic incident will awaken the conscience of the world officials, the concerned authorities, and the UN organization to intervene quickly and stop what is happening. Perhaps the world would realize that a solution must be found for this cause, the cause of the Palestinian people.
From this honorable residence, I say: enough oppression against the Palestinian people! Enough scorn against all Arabs, I would say. Anyone who thinks or believes that by starving the Palestinian people, the Syrian people, or even the Lebanese people, they can conquer, anyone who thinks that this is the way to achieve their objectives, is mistaken. I would even say that they are committing a crime against these peoples. Peace does not come from the bodies of children, killed people, innocent people, and women. Peace comes when the decision-makers in this world realize that our people have dignity, as all the peoples of the world. We are not advocates of war; we reject violence and killing, and we are seekers of peace, but at the same time, we seek justice and have a right that we will not give up. This is what happened a few days ago in Syria, during the incident in Homs, where many were killed and many others were injured. His Eminence Elias and I have pondered together: in the event of all this anxious, difficult, sad, painful, delicate, and sensitive situation, where is Lebanon, and where are the officials in this country so dear to us? Isn’t it time, facing all that is happening, for everyone to return to themselves, to join hands, to rise above selfishness and personal interests, and to work all together for the benefit of Lebanon and the Lebanese people? Where is the dignity of the Lebanese person who is undergoing all this suffering and has lost a life’s income after they stole their money from banks and made them go through all the tragedies? We call out aloud for all concerned authorities to meet and carry out presidential elections. We hope this to be the basis for a whole reform process and fighting corruption somehow, for the Lebanese people to enjoy their dignity and for the good functioning of the constitutional bodies and the normal functioning of the entire country.
Next week, by God’s mercy, we shall cross the threshold of the Holy Antiochian Synod. Many issues are scheduled on the Synod’s agenda. There is a long list. Let me focus on three points: The first point, which is fundamental, is the family. It will be on our agenda; we shall study and emphasize the importance of the family and the difficulties that the family is facing today in our societies and the whole world, and everything related to the issue of father, mother, family, children, upbringing, and so on.
Another very important topic is humanitarian aid. The Church’s diligent, strong, and effective work is to stand by her children and the country without exception, to support her children for survival and living in dignity, especially in these difficult economic and living conditions. I shall not cite the details of what we are all suffering from.
Third is also an important matter to study the file of two reverend priests, Father Nicolas Khashe and his physical son Father Habib Khashe. They were martyred for the sake of the Orthodox faith: Father Nicolas in 1917 and Father Habib in 1948. This file has been under study for years in the Holy Synod of Antioch, and a complete document was prepared regarding the Reverend Fathers Khashe. We hope and pray that this file will be studied in the coming Synod to canonize the Fathers Khashe. Our Church of Antioch is this glorious, great Apostolic Church. It is this Church that has been bearing witness and has been martyred at the same time throughout history, from the early days, with all the great fathers and holy men, the Apostle Peter, who founded this church with the Apostle Paul. By the way, Antioch was the first church to be founded by the Apostle Peter, and after Antioch, the other churches historically followed. Ignatius of Antioch, John Chrysostom, John of Damascus, all these holy fathers are from our Church. This Church did not stop having saints among its people, whether monks or married, as evidenced by the Council’s decision to canonize these fathers. Therefore, the holiness of the Church of Antioch has never been interrupted, and the Khashe Fathers were married priests. They had a family, and despite this, the Church will declare their holiness.
In our conscience, in our inner being, we see what is happening in our country, what is happening in Lebanon, what is happening in Syria, what is happening in the entire region, in the Middle East; this wounded and tortured East for many, many years. Perhaps it will be a cry out, a call to all decision-makers in this world not to apply double standards. What is permissible here is not permissible there, and vice versa. Therefore, before the Holy Synod, we shall hold an international conference next Monday, October 16, about the history of the Church of Antioch, specifically the period between the fifteenth century and the eighteenth century. This period in the history of Antioch was delicate and sensitive. Unfortunately, history, even church history, is often not recorded by saints; white becomes black, and black becomes white. History becomes as if it were a point of view. Therefore, in order to be fair to the truth, to correct history, and to have a correct and real view of this sensitive period in the history of Antioch, this conference will be held on an international level to clarify the history of this period in our history in this homeland and country.
We pray together with His Eminence, our beloved ones, and all the members of our Church and people for peace in the entire world, for stability, and for the repose of the souls of those who have passed away. We prayed that the wounds of the sick be soothed, and they might recover, for the wounds of every hurting person, every bereaved mother, every brother, and every sister, for everyone’s wounds. We ask the Lord to protect us and grant us peace, asking that we all join hands in our country for the good of our homeland, the good of our people, and all humanity.