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Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch
 Archdiocese of the Western United States





Life of Jesus







His Holiness Meets Pope Francis during the First Official Visit to the Vatican

June,23 2015

On 19 June 2015, His Holiness Moran Mor Ignatius Aphrem II, and the delegation met Pope Francis at Vatican.

The other members of the delegation
His Beatitude Aboun Mor Baselios Thomas I
His Eminence Mor Theophilose George Saliba
His Eminence Mor Gregorios Joseph
His Eminence Mor Clemis Eugene Kaplan
His Eminence Mor Theophilose Kuriakose
His Eminence Mor Justinos Boulos Safar
His Eminence Mor Philoxenos Mattias Nayis
His Eminence Mor Dionysios Jean Kawak, Patriarchal Assistant
Very Rev Raban Joseph Bali, Patriarchal Secretary
Rev Fr Shanu Paulose
Rev Dn George Kiraz

Pope Francis and the Patriarch of the Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch expressed their desire to work toward full communion of the two churches. The pope met with Patriarch Ignatius Aphrem II at the Vatican Friday. This was Aphrem's first official visit with Francis.

The two church leaders spoke privately, after which each gave a public discourse. "We express our desire and readiness to look for new ways that will bring our churches even closer to each other, paving the way for Antioch and Rome, the only two apostolic sees where St. Peter preached, to establish full communion," Aphrem said.

The patriarch also expressed his church's readiness to come to an agreement to celebrate Easter on a common date. He said the Holy Synod of Antioch, motivated by the Second Vatican Council, adopted a resolution in 1981, expressing "the eagerness of our church" to celebrate Easter "on a fixed Sunday in April" in common with other Christian churches. The celebration of Easter "on two different dates is a source of great discomfort and weakens the common witness of the church in the world," he said, thanking Francis for recently "considering to take the initiative to lead the efforts on this matter."

The Patriarch also thanked Pope Francis for "courageously" speaking of the Armenian genocide and "opening the way for others to do the same." The Patriarch said about 500,000 Syriac speaking people died in the 1915 genocide, for which the community continues to seek healing and reconciliation. In addition, he noted the loss of life of Christians and others in the ongoing conflict in the Middle East, as well as the high number of refugees and the destruction of numerous religious buildings and monuments. His Holiness thanked Pope Francis for his prayers for the suffering Christians but urged the Vatican to engage in more diplomatic activity toward peace in the region. "We believe that the Vatican can initiate dialogue with certain European countries (which) may have influence on the regional government that are directly or indirectly supporting and funding the terrorists in the region," Aphrem said.

In his speech, Pope Francis urged the two churches to "further strengthen the bonds of friendship and fraternity" during this time of "difficult trial and suffering" for Christians and to "hasten our steps on the common journey, holding the gaze fixed on the day when we can celebrate our belonging to the one Church of Christ around the same altar of sacrifice and praise." The two churches should "exchange the treasures of our traditions as spiritual gifts because that which unites us is far greater than that which divides us," he said.

The Syriac Orthodox Church, has been "a church of martyrs" since its founding and is "still today in the Middle East" along with other Christian churches there. "It seems that the powerful in this world are incapable of finding solutions" to such suffering, he said. The pope asked Aphrem to pray with him for the two kidnapped Orthodox bishops of Aleppo, Syria, for the priests and lay faithful affected by the conflict and for the "grace to be always ready for forgiveness and to work for reconciliation and peace."

Source: the patriarchate site


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The Western Archdiocese of the Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch, providing spiritual guidance and leadership to the Syriac Orthodox community, is a 501 (c) (3) non-profit, tax-exempt organization comprised of 18 churches and parishes in 17 western states. It was established in 1952 as the Archdiocese of the Syrian Orthodox Church encompassing the entire United States and Canada. In November 1995 by the Holy Synod, the Western Archdiocese was formed to exclusively serve the 17 states of the western half United States.

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