The Assembly of the Catholic Hierarchy of Syria held its spring session in the course of one day, 12 March 2014. Due to difficult travel conditions inside Syria, the Assembly was held at the Melkite Greek Catholic patriarchal residence in Rabweh (Antelias, Lebanon.)
The meeting was chaired by Patriarch Gregorios III, President of the Assembly, in the presence of Patriarch Ignatius Joseph III Younan, Syriac Catholic Patriarch of Antioch, Archbishop Mario Zenari, Apostolic Nuncio to Syria, and the other hierarchs and members of the Assembly.
The Assembly dealt with the programme prepared by Chorbishop Mounir Sakkal, Secretary to the Assembly.
At the end of the meeting, the Assembly published the following press-release:
- The Syrian crisis is now in its fourth year. Our situation can be described in the words of the Second Vatican Council’s Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes: “The joys and the hopes, the griefs and the anxieties of the men of this age, especially those who are poor or in any way afflicted, these are the joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties of the followers of Christ. Indeed, nothing genuinely human fails to raise an echo in their hearts.”
- We pray for the repose of all victims. We pray for the healing of all sick, injured, handicapped or marginalised persons in distress. We remember the kidnapped, especially our two brother bishops, Gregorios Youhanna Ibrahim and Boulos Yazigi, the two priests, Michael Kayyal and Ishaq Mahfouz, and many other sons and daughters of our parishes.
- We declare our rejection of all forms of extremism, takfirism, murder and extortion, and all attacks on people and buildings. We condemn attacks on places of worship, whether churches or mosques. The number of damaged or destroyed churches of all denominations is now around one hundred.
- We should like to express solidarity with our beloved country, Syria, its people and government. We support all efforts towards a peaceful, just and rapid solution to the crisis, especially through a continuance of the Geneva talks. We want a united, free, democratic and pluralistic Syria, with the same citizenship criteria for everyone, and we want a worthy life for all constituents of Syrian society, irrespective of party.
- On the occasion of Great and Holy Lent, we invite our sons and daughters to fast and show solidarity, charity and collaboration in alleviating the sufferings of internally and externally displaced persons. We need the grace of fasting, prayer, spiritual strength, faith, hope and love. We must not give way to feelings of despair, frustration and fear, despite our tragic, terrible suffering that is daily increasing. We hear the voice of the Holy Father Pope Francis and thank him for his support, love and prayers for Syria. He tells us, “Let us never lose the courage of prayer!” He also says, “Let us never lose hope! Let us never allow it to die in our hearts.” We call upon everyone, especially Christians during Great Lent, to ensure that the whole of Syria become so many hands raised in prayer. May Lent cause the feelings and power of hope to spring up in us!
- We beseech the Lord to lead our tragic, bloody way of the cross towards the dawn and joy of the holy Resurrection. Let Syria return to its former state of peace, security, love, kindliness, communication, fellowship, mutual respect, living together, and a worthy life for all citizens.
- We appeal to all citizens, asking them to work for peace by all means, both local and international and emphasise the need for a cease-fire, dialogue, reconciliation and reconstruction. We all have the responsibility of working hard for peace.
- Our special thanks go to His Holiness Pope Francis, together with our congratulations on the first anniversary of his pontificate. We also thank all (especially Catholic) international institutions for their support offered with the aim of alleviating the suffering of all Syrian citizens.
May the Virgin Mary, our Lady of Damascus and Saidnaya, and all other Marian places of pilgrimage, keep Syria under her protection: may she spread peace and love throughout the country. We appeal to the conscience of all nations, and especially those countries capable of playing a decisive role in the Syrian crisis, to find a way to end the crisis.
With the Church we pray, “Commemorating our most holy, most pure, most blessed and glorious Lady, the Mother of God and ever-Virgin Mary, with all the saints, let us commend ourselves and each other and all our lives unto Christ our God.”
With the Lord we say to the sons and daughters of our parishes:
Be light, salt and leaven!”
Patriarch of Antioch and all the East, of Alexandria and Jerusalem
President of the Assembly of the Catholic Hierarchy of Syria