(30 November 2014 – 2 February 2016)
On 29 November 2014, Patriarch Gregorios III of Antioch and All the East, of Alexandria and of Jerusalem, opened the Year of Consecrated Life in Damascus with a prayer service shared by all the capital’s Catholic Churches and religious communities, in the presence of the city’s clergy, monks and nuns. The patriarch delivered a talk on this occasion.
For the Feast of the Meeting of Our Lord God and Saviour in the Temple, called Hypapante in Churches of the Byzantine Greek tradition, on Monday 2 February 2015, His Beatitude presided at a Divine Liturgy in the parish church of St. Cyril in the Qasaa’ district of Damascus.
Concelebrating were Archbishop Joseph Absi, Melkite Patriarchal Vicar in Damascus and several priests of the Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarchal Eparchy of Damascus.
Also present were Archbishop Mario Zenari, Apostolic Nuncio in Syria, Syriac Catholic Metropolitan Gregorios Elias Tabeh of Damascus, Maronite Archbishop Samir Nassar of Damascus and Chaldean Bishop Antoine Audo of Aleppo, President of Caritas Syria.
The church was full of priests, monks, nuns and other consecrated persons belonging to a variety of male and female religious congregations, together with many faithful from various parishes of Damascus.
A forty-day old baby girl was churched according to Eastern custom and carried into the sanctuary by the patriarch.
The patriarch gave a sermon in which he thanked the Holy Father for initiating this Year, and Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, Prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches for his letter to consecrated persons.
His Beatitude also referred to the splendid Apostolic Exhortation of Pope Francis Evangelii Gaudium about the consecration of persons, as well as His Holiness’ letter to Middle Eastern Christians on Christmas Eve, focusing on the presence, role and vocation of Christians in the East, which is the cradle of Christianity.
At the end of the Liturgy, His Beatitude blessed candles, then distributed them to the faithful, who lit theirs from his during the evening hymn, “Joyful Light.” Everyone prayed for the Lord to send labourers to his harvest, for the Saviour to increase religious vocations and for consecrated persons to remain witnesses to the Gospel of light, love and peace in our society.