Greeting to His Holiness Ignatius Aphrem II, the Syriac Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch and All East, at the occasion of the celebration of his enthronement, Beirut 01.06.14
Dear brother in Christ,
This is the day that the Lord has made! Let us rejoice and be glad in it!
It is my honour to convey the warm and joyful greetings of the World Council of Churches at the occasion of your enthronement as the 123rd Syriac Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch and all the East, and the Supreme Head of the Universal Syriac Orthodox Church. The fellowship of our member churches is thankful to the Triune God, the God of life, that you are called to this significant ministry of leadership. You have been provided with your many gifts of wisdom, knowledge, communication, courage, friendliness and joy to fill this role. Your enthronement is a sign of hope to your church, and a sign of hope for many, particularly in these difficult and challenging times for Syria and the whole Middle East region.
Your leadership is already widely recognized in this region and worldwide, not only in your church, but also in the ecumenical fellowship of churches. We are grateful for Your Holiness’ active participation in the ecumenical movement. You have already participated in three of the WCC Assemblies, you have been a member of the WCC’s central and executive committees, but also a committed participant in the National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA and a founding member of the Christian Churches Together in the USA. We trust that you also in the times ahead will be offering leadership to the ecumenical movement at the national, regional and global levels.
Your Holiness, your enthronement day coincided with the blessed feast of the Ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ. The same Christ is the one who promised his disciples to be with them to the end of the ages. In the Gospels and The Book of the Acts of the Apostles we are told how the first disciples were encouraged through his ascension to go into the whole world and share the good news of new life in Jesus Christ. In the difficulties they faced as they were doing this, they were able to see that the promise of Jesus Christ, to go with them, was true.
We pray that His Kingdom come, and His will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Therefore, since the first day of Ascension, we are as Christians those who are “on the way”. We are seeking the Kingdom of God and praying and working that it shall come. In the WCC we now ask God to lead us together on a pilgrimage of justice and peace.
In this task - and in times like these - we need leaders like you, Your Holiness. We are confident that under your spiritual counsel and your wise guidance, the faithful of the Syrian Orthodox Church, and the Christians in the Middle East in general, will be encouraged to transfigure fears to hope. We pray they will be able to transform their societies, together with all people of good will in the region, into places where peace and justice will prevail and where freedom and human dignity are celebrated.
My presence here today with you, with your Church and with the ecumenical family gathered around you, is a symbolic sign that the WCC and its fellowship of Churches stands in strong solidarity with you in this pilgrimage. We pray with the faithful around the world that God will strengthen you, to guide you and to accompany you in your new ministry, as you walk with your community in this pilgrimage. We also are keeping in our prayers our dear two kidnapped Archbishops, Youhanna Ibrahim and Boulos Yazigi of Aleppo, hoping that their release will come soon.
May our Lord keep Your Holiness and your church in the region in His endless love.