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The Holy Synod of the Syrian Orthodox Church of Antioch held at St. Ephrem the Syrian Monastery, Ma‘arret Saydnaya/Damascus


At the previous meeting of the Holy Synod held on December 13, 2005, his holiness, our esteemed Patriarch Moran Mor Ignatius Zakka I, Iwas, along with their eminences, members of the Holy Synod, decided to hold the upcoming session of the Holy Synod on 9 – 13 October 2006.      

Based upon, his holiness invited their eminences, members of the Holy Synod and they all attended.  

On Tuesday October 10, 2006 at exactly 09:00 am the Holy Synod started the meeting with prayers. His holiness welcomed their eminences Mor Timotheos Mousa Alshamani, Archbishop of the Archdiocese of St. Matthew monastery, and Mor Severius Hazail Soumi, Archbishop and patriarchal vicar of Belgium and France, who were attending for the first time.  

Then his holiness asked that prayers be raised for the soul of departed bishop Mor Dioscoros Luka Shaya retired bishop of St. Matthew monastery who passed away to heaven last month.  

Then His Holiness addressed the Synod with spiritual words starting by the Lord’s saying, “Let not your heart be troubled. You believe in God, believe also in Me . . .”These days our hearts are troubled for lack of peace in the world and in churches. The Church everywhere is threatened especially in Iraq, but the Lord comforts us saying, “Let not your heart be troubled. I am the way, the truth and life . . . ”if we lost our sense of direction we know one thing, that is to go towards Jesus, the king of peace who said, “peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you”. Jesus suffered for our sake and the peace He gave us wasn’t the world’s. And how can we achieve it without hard work ? If we are with the Lord and the Lord is with us then we shall find peace in our souls. And that is the mere truth.    

We are Syrian Orthodox Christians and we do not follow any western denomination, and we will not surrender any principle or doctrine that we got. No peace except with the Lord Jesus. On this base we are in a grace and repentance situation. As clergy we are asked not to harden our hearts in order our repentance be accepted and that is by keeping and implementing God’s commandments... For our hope is strengthened only by Jesus to whom we offer glory and thanks for ever and ever.  

After his holiness finished his words, their eminences reviewed the minutes of the meeting and started the first session of this regular meeting, and they studied:  

1 – Syrian Archdioceses  

A ) Patriarchal Vicariate of Germany       

His Holiness said: After the Archdiocese of the patriarchal vicariate of Germany became vacant because of the patriarchal vicar Mor Dionysius Isa Gurbuz transfer to Switzerland and Austria on 01.02.2006, it was appropriate to fill the vacancy and study the situation of the Archdiocese. His Holiness declared that he sent an Episcopal committee to Germany consisting of : Mor Eustatheos Mathew Rohum Archbishop of Aljazira and Euphrates and Mor Justinos Poulos Safar patriarchal vicar of Zahle and Bekaa and Mor Severius Hazail Soumi patriarchal vicar of Belgium and France. The Episcopal committee visited Germany and presented a written report to His Holiness that included detailed explanation about the Archdiocese and was read by his eminence Archbishop Paulos Safar.  

His Holiness and members of the Holy Synod thanked the Episcopal committee for their hard work in clarifying the situation. His holiness then asked the members to give their opinions and views on said report. According to the constitution of the holy church and Synod, decision was taken by majority vote to divide the Archdiocese of Germany into three Archdioceses, patriarchal vicariates according to geographic and demographic distribution:  

1 – Northern Germany, centered in Berlin.

2 – Mid – Germany, centered in Gutersloh.

3 – Southern Germany, centered in Kirchhausen.

  His Holiness will appoint the patriarchal vicariates for these Archdioceses according to church constitution. His Holiness will also work with the appointed Archbishops and people in responsibility to arrange location centers from which to administer these Archdioceses.  

B ) Holland   

The Holy Synod discussed the situation in Holland after the departure of his eminence Mor Julius Çicek. It is absolutely necessary to have an Archbishop, patriarchal vicar, to take care of its spiritual and administrative affaires since it was without a patriarchal vicar so far.  

His Holiness had previously sent an Episcopal committee to Holland and a written report was submitted to him. His holiness decided after studying the report and many referrals to choose the method of Referendum and voting in the Archdiocese on all stages supervised by an Episcopal committee who would travel to Holland and consult with clergy and laity and get full information and elect one of the two monks nominated for this position by all parishioners.  

2 – Old Archdioceses - Adıyaman                    

Members of Holy Synod then moved to study the situation of the Old Archdioceses in Adıyaman, Harput, Elaziz, Gerger, Malatya, Edessa and others.   

His eminence Mor Philoxenos Yusuf Çetin, patriarchal vicar of Istanbul, reported that many of those who left the church and changed their religion are coming back to their  Syrian Orthodox faith and are asking fervently the church in Istanbul and Izmir to care for them. They are the original inhabitants of this area who they left behind in addition to the people still living there. His eminence had visited them many times and had sent a priest on several occasions to extend spiritual services for them.  

Upon a patriarchal order, his eminence had sent Raban Malki Ürek in 2001 to Adıyaman to stay and live among our people in the area and serve them directly, and to reside in Sts. Peter & Paul church in Adıyaman. The people in the region of Adıyaman who live in Istanbul and Europe are carrying out their duties in providing financial and moral support for the Raban and the church. They are constantly asking that this region become an Archdiocese, patriarchal vicariate, and to have an ordained bishop to make it prosper.  

His eminence promised his cooperation and full support to the Archdiocese and its bishop from Istanbul or abroad.          

His holiness then asked the members of the Holy Synod to give their input in that matter. There was a unanimous consent on the necessity of a new Archdiocese especially to confirm the faithful who would like to come back to their original Syrian Orthodox faith. A unanimous vote was taken to establish a new Archdiocese called the Archdiocese of Adıyaman and includes the cities of Harput, Elaziz, Gerger, Malatya, Edessa and others.  

His holiness nominated Father Raban Malki Ürek to become Archbishop, patriarchal vicar, for this new-old Archdiocese. It was agreed upon unanimously.   

3 – Great Britain   

His holiness explained the situation of the church in Britain and the parish of London based upon his personal knowledge and his multiple visits. A report prepared by the parish priest Raban Touma Dakkama was also read. His holiness stressed upon the importance of the United Kingdom in the world and also the importance of the Anglican church with which we have historic relations, and that it is necessary to have an Episcopal representative since our people are increasing in numbers and approaching 250 known families who mostly immigrated from Iraq. His holiness expressed his opinion to have the parish become an Archdiocese, patriarchal vicariate, and asked members of the Synod to give their views in the matter. It was a unanimous consent to establish the new Archdiocese. He then nominated Raban Touma Dakkama to become the bishop, patriarchal vicar for said Archdiocese and was agreed upon unanimously.  

4 – Other Matters

  His holiness nominated Raban Mathias Nayis the head of St. Ephraim Theological Clergy School in Ma’arrat Saidnaya to become a bishop, second patriarchal assistant, to reside in St. Ephraim monastery – M‘arrat Saydnaya, and administer St. Ephraim Theological College in Ma’arrat Saidnaya and supervise the endowments and patriarchal charitable institutions in AtchanehLebanon and be a member of the Holy Synod. The suggestion was agreed upon unanimously.      

  5 – Patriarchal institutions in AtchanehLebanon

  After accepting the resignation of his eminence Metropolitan Mor Philoxenos Matta Shemun from his duties in administrating the patriarchal institutions in Atchaneh due to reaching retirement age, His Holiness handed over the management of said institutions to Fr. Raban Daniel Kourieh who attends to the needs of the orphanage and old age home, to be suitable and to the benefits of the church.   

- St. Ephraim Theological College

  His holiness and their eminences, members of the Holy Synod studied the suggestion submitted by Fr. Raban Mathias Nayis the principal of St. Ephraim Theological College in Ma’arrat Saidnaya, which included a study and explanation of College affaires with regards to rules of admission, most importantly :

  1. Student should have completed high school.

2. Student should be between 17 – 23 years of age.

3. There should be coordination between their eminences Metropolitans of the Archdioceses and the administration of College under the auspices of his holiness our esteemed Patriarch. His holiness and members of the Holy Synod praised the report and urged all faithful to encourage their children to join St. Ephraim Theological College.  

There was a lengthy discussion about monasticism and the role of monks in servicing monasteries and churches in different Archdioceses. According to the constitution of the church all monks/nuns affaires are directly linked to his holiness.  

- Affaires of the Church of India

  His holiness invited his eminence Mor Athanasius Georgis the second patriarchal vicar of India who resides at the patriarchate, to attend the Holy Synod. He read a detailed report about the situation of the church of India since the ordination of his beatitude Catholicos Mor Baselius Touma II in 2002 up till today.  

In the report he stressed that the dissented enemies of the church are practicing all kinds of pressure and creating many problems  to our church there by constantly contacting officials of government and in courts, thus disturbing the peace of our congregation.  

We thank God for our church had won the case in Kerala state court. It is now appealed to the high court in New Delhi. We hope the church will also be victorious. The final verdict of the high court will be delivered in the upcoming month of November.      

It is worth mentioning that a noticeable renaissance is taking place among their eminences, clergy, Institutions, organizations and laity.  

The Syrian Name in Iraq

  His eminence Metropolitan Severius Hawa stated that Iraq constitution did not include the Syrian name in the list of congregations. He suggested to his holiness to again write to the officials in charge in Iraq especially the President and the Prime Minister and the Head of the people’s Council and others to insist  and stress upon inclusion of the Syrian name in the constitution of Iraq. His eminence will coordinate with his holiness in following up the matter.

  Jerusalem & The Holy Land  

  His eminence Mor Severius Malki Murad submitted a report about the affaires of the Archdiocese of Jerusalem, Jordan and the Holy Land. He advised that the Jordanian Hashemite Kingdom has donated to our church a land of Four Thousands (4000) Square Meters in the area of Maghtas on the East bank of the Jordan River same as all other denominations in order to build a church upon. This is not only important to the Syrian parishioners in the Holy Land but also worldwide. He wished that donations will start coming to execute this project by the blessings of his holiness our esteemed Patriarch and the efforts of all eminences and the Syrian world. He also presented other projects and suggestions for which all members expressed their best wishes.

  The Syrian Television (Suryoyo Sat)

  His eminence Archbishop Benjamin Atas displayed a presentation and acknowledgment of establishing a Syrian Television in Sweden shared by the church, institutions, and some laity. It was named Suryoyo Sat. Its goal is to serve the Syrian World: Church, People, Language and Education. His holiness and their eminences praised the project and thanked every supporter and worker.  

- Rituals and Church ranks   

Members of the Holy Synod studied other matters like the clergy retirement, rituals, church ranks, and the necessity to register churches and endowments in the name of the Syrian Orthodox Church all over the world and to adjust the real estate registry wherever needed, and other matters.  

- Final Session   

His holiness ended the meeting by the following spiritual words :

We thank the Fathers, members of the Holy Synod who attended and participated in the activities of the Holy Synod. Each one expressed his views freely, responsibly, and in good conscience. Each suggested what was suitable for the progress and prosperity of the church.  

In spite of the difficult circumstances and hard times in our area in Palestine, Lebanon, and Iraq, we live on the hope of peace in the world and mostly in our area.  

We, as Christians, do not fear death because the parishioners of the Syrian Orthodox Church are the children of the martyrs. Our fathers gave us the ideal example for martyrdom. Blessed is he who leaves this world as a martyr of the faith.    

His holiness continued saying : We remember Rev. Fr. Poulos Iskandar Behnam who departed this world as a martyr in the city of Mosul. And we pray that his soul will be in heaven with the righteous clergy and martyrs. We offer our condolences to our church in general and to the Archdiocese of Mosul in particular and to his blessed family members.  

His holiness concluded by praying for the church and its faithful, granting his apostolic blessings to the metropolitans, clergy, laity, and the whole world.

The Holy Synod had issued a statement soon after the martyrdom of Reverend Father Poulos Iskandar Behnam. It stated:  

Declaration issued by the Holy Synod of the Syrian Orthodox Church.


“During the sessions of the Holy Synod of the  Syrian Orthodox Church of Antioch held in Damascus under the patronage of His Holiness Patriarch Moran Mor Zakka I, Iwas, and the participation of the metropolitans of the  Syrian Orthodox Church worldwide, we were advised by heads of the Christian denominations in Iraq of the painful and most horrible news of the martyrdom of Reverend Father Poulos Iskandar Behnam, one of our priests in Mosul who was slain by extremist terrorists, an act that goes against all spiritual, ethical and humane values.  

While our Holy Synod expresses the utmost sorrow that this unspeakable shameful crime took place, which touches every noble citizens of beloved Iraq, the Synod denounces this horrible deed and calls upon the world (international) conscience represented by the decision makers to put an end to the dreadful sufferings of the Iraqi people. We invite upon all those in position of responsibility (authority), influence and leadership to continue their diligent efforts in spreading peace and security, so that the citizens (of Iraq) may resume their normal life in their historic homeland within a framework of national unity.  

May God protect Iraq and its people from all kinds of adversities and afflictions, and may He fill their upcoming days with peace, love, fraternity, and prosperity”.



Source & English translation: SOC-WUS

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Gabriel Rabo
Copyright 2006