March 1999
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Editorial Staff


Synodal Session Held at Damascus

March 11, 1999

DAMASCUS. On Thursday, March 11, 1999, His Holiness Patriarch Mor Ignatius Zakka I, Iwas, summoned their Eminences the Metropolitans of Syria and Lebanon to a meeting at St. Ephrem Monastery, Saydnaya for Synodal session. The session was attended by Mor Athansius Aphrem Barsoum, Metropolitan of Beirut and Zahle, Mor Gregorios Yohanna Ibrahim, Metropolitan of Aleppo, Mor Theophilus George Saliba, Metropolitan of Mount Lebanon, and Mor Ostatheos Matta Rohom, Metropolitan of Jazirah and Euphrates who attended in their capacity as members of the Central and Preparatory Committee for the celebrations of the Millennial Jubilee of the Lord's nativity in flesh and the Universal Syrian Orthodox Convention. His Grace Mor Iwannis Paulos Alsouky was absent being away in Istanbul for personal reasons.

His Holiness opened the meeting with prayer, and then asked that the agenda be read. After approval, the agenda were as follows:

  1. The 7th General Assembly of the Middle East Council of Churches to convene in Lebanon, April 27-30, 1999.
  2. The eight hundredth anniversary of the departure of Mor Michael the Great.
  3. Celebrations of the 2nd Millenium Jubilee.
  4. Telegram to president Hafez Al-Asad on the occasion of taking the Constitutional Oath.

After discussing each subject separately and fully and analyzing and studying the available information, the following were resolved:


The delegation consists of their Eminence Mor Athanasius Aphrem Barsoum, Mor Gregorios Yohanna Ibrahim, Mor Theophilus George Saliba and Mor Ostatheos Matta Rohom; and Mr. Edward Asmar, Beirut, Mr. George Hazo, Amman, Mrs. Marcel Taraqji, Damascus and Miss Alia Bashir, Iraq.

It was decided that their Eminences Metropolitan Yohanna Ibrahim and Metropolitan George Saliba be appointed as permanent members and Mor Athansius Aphrem as reserve member in the Executive Committee of the MECC. This was decided upon following His Eminence Metropolitan Aphram Barsoum’s request to be replaced as he had been serving on the Committee for the past 25 years.

The other nominees and their roles are as follows:
  • Christian Education: H.E. Metropolitan Matta Rohom
  • Life and Service: H.E. Aphram Barsoum
  • Faith and Unity: H.E. Yohanna Ibrahim
  • Information : H.E. George Saliba
  • Administration and Finance: Mr. Edward Asmar.

When the new structure of the Middle East Council of Churches is established, the above mentioned members will be appointed to the appropriate Committees in accordance with the new organization and titles.


His Holiness our exalted Patriarch will issue an Apostolic Bull calling the faithful to celebrate this memory, and declare the year 1999 as the year of Patriarch Mor Michael the Great. The Bull is to be read in all Syrian Orthodox Churches on Sunday May 23, 1999, which is the Sunday before the Pentecost. The Sunday October 17, 1999, which marks the memorial of his departure, is to be dedicated to soliciting his intercession, and to giving speeches on his biography as narrated in the Patriarchal Bull and the ecclesiastical history.

Further, the International Symposium on "Mor Michael the Syrian and the Histography of the Near East" previously scheduled to convene in Aleppo between 1-8 October, 1999, is to be moved to St. Ephrem Monastery in Ma’arrat Saydnaya.


The celebrations of the 2nd millenium jubilee of the nativity of our Lord in flesh will start September 1 through 14, 2000 AD, as decided upon in the Holy Synod which convened last year, September 2-26, 1998. Each day will be dedicated to the activities of one of our church organizations as follows:

FridaySeptember1, 2000: Meeting of the Boards of the Centers of Religious Education
Saturday2, 2000: Women's Day
Sunday3, 2000: Sunday Schools (Religious Teaching, Childhood)
Monday4, 2000:
Tuesday5, 2000: For the elderly, the handicapped and the retarded
Wednesday6, 2000:
Thursday7, 2000:
Friday8, 2000:
Saturday9, 2000: For Scouts
Sunday10, 2000: Choir groups
Monday11, 2000:
Tuesday12, 2000: The Universal Syrian Convention. The Parish Councils, Societies, Institutions and Clubs
Wednesday13, 2000: The Universal Syrian Convention
Thursday14, 2000: The Feast of the Cross and the Anniversary of the enthronement of His Holiness the Patriarch and the conclusion of the festivities and celebrations.

The attendants delegated His Eminence Metropolitan Yohanna Ibrahim to prepare a draft program for these celebrations to be presented to this Body in its meeting in Lebanon, April 27-30, 1999, for discussion. These celebrations will be crowned with Holy Masses and prayers along with other activities, religious book-fairs and religious artifacts exhibitions, seminars, visits to religious and archaeological sites and the like.

All Archdioceses are asked to prepare their Committees and appoint people to be in charge of these activities so that they may submit their proposals to the Patriarchate and duly participate in commemorating this historical event (Responses are to be directed to the venerable Patriarchate).


His Holiness sent a telegram on his behalf and on behalf of the attendants to President Hafez Al-Asad on the occasion of his taking the Constitutional Oath for the 5th term in office. The telegraph read as follows:

President Hafez Al-Asad, the Honorable President of the Syrian Arab Republic.

In our name and on behalf of their Eminences the Metropolitans, the Heads of our Syrian Orthodox Archdioceses in Syria and Lebanon, who are assembled in the Monastery of St. Ephrem the Syrian in Ma’arrat Saydnaya to discuss the religious and worldly matters of our children, we find it our duty to convey to you our love and greeting and also to express admiration to your excellency in your pioneering decisions in the interest of the Arab homeland. We especially refer to your commitment to walk in the Syrian-Lebanese path in facing the challenges put forth by the enemies of the nation. It gives us pleasure, on the day of your taking the Constitutional Oath for a blessed 5th term, to congratulate ourselves and the masses of the great Syrian Arab people, who love you and have pledged allegiance to you with faith and hope that you may carry the burden of leading the country in this historical junction. We pray to God the Most High and Almighty to guide your steps and protect your triumphant march. We further pray that you may be in good heath and have a long life, wishing the beloved Syria, as a homeland and people, continuous progress and success. May God keep you a treasure for the entire Arab nation that its wishes in liberation, unity and progress at all fronts may be fulfilled.

Patriarch Zakka I, Iwas
The Supreme Head of the Universal Syrian Orthodox Church.

On Friday March 12, 1999, the minutes of the meeting of the previous day were read, accepted and signed by the attendants. His Holiness closed the meeting with prayers giving his Apostolic benediction.

Source: Mor Clemis Eugene Kaplan.

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