April 2000


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The Holy Synod approves the name "Syriac Orthodox Church" in English

April 3, 2000

Damascus. H.H. Moran Mor Ignatius Zakka I, Patriarch of Antioch and all the East, convened a general Synodal session for the Church in the Middle East and its diaspora between March 28 and April 3, 2000 at the Patriarchal center in Ma'arat Saydnaya, near Damascus. All Archbishops of the Church attended with the exception of H.E. Mor Yulios Shabo, Archbishop of Sweden and the Scandinavian Countries who could not attend due to personal reasons.

The meeting began with prayers by His Holiness who then encouraged the members of the Synod to consider the future of the church as we enter the new millennium.

The Patriarch welcomed the Fathers of the Church, and thanked them for attending the Synod. H.H. extended a special welcome for Mor Silwanos Butros (Peter) al-Ni`meh, the newly consecrated Archbishop of Homs, who attended the Synod for the first time.

H.H. anounced that "as Mor Malatius Barnaba, the former Archbishop of Homs, has retired due to his old age, H.E. Mor Dioscoros Luka Shaaya, Archbishop of Dayro d-Mor Matay and the most senior among the bishops, becomes the Dean of the Synod."

The Fathers discussed many issues relating to the Church and accomplished the following:

  • The Patriarch asked that the revised Constitution be reviewed during the sessions for any final revisions. After approval by H.H., the Constitution will be published.
  • H.H. is to write a letter to the Archbishops of the church, asking them to encourage the faithful to collect any manuscripts and church vessels that originally belonged to the monasteries and churches and now are being held by private parishioners. The faithful will be urged to hand over any such manuscripts and vessels to their respective Archdiocese as these are the property of the Church, to be taken care of by the respective archbishops.
  • The Synod discussed the issue of educational syllabuses for schools and educational centers. H.E. Mor Theophilos George Saliba of Mount Lebanon was assigned responsibility for the project, establish a committee, and complete it within two years.
  • The Archbishops of the United States, Mor Clemis Eugene Kaplan and Mor Cyril Aphram Karim, requested that the Church be called "Syriac Orthodox Church" in English. The recommendation was motivated by the current realities in English-speaking countries where the term "Syrian" is widely recognized as referring to the nation of Syria. While noting the historical antecedents for the use of the term "Syrian Orthodox Church" (Syr. `idto suryoyto treeysath shubho), the Synod approved the recommendation and declared that the Church should be called the "Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch" in English. This name will be adopted gradually by the Church. (ed. The names of the Church in other languages were not considered by the Holy Synod).
  • H.E. Mar Athanasius Afram Barsoum has resigned from the Archdiocese of Zahlah and Bikaa (Lebanon). The Archdiocese will become a Patriarchal Vicarate as it was before being united with the Archdiocese of Beirut.
  • The Synod discussed various issues pertaining to the development of the Church and assigned Archbishops to form various new committees for this purpose:
    • The Ecumenical Relations Committee, headed by Mar Gregorios Yuhanna Ibrahim of Aleppo.
    • The Spiritual Courts Committee, headed by Mar Athanasius Afram Barsoum of Beirut.
    • The Religious Education Committee, headed by Mar Theophilos George Saliba of Mount Lebanon.
    • The Syriac Language and Heritage Committee, headed by Mar Clemis Eugene Kaplan of the Western United States.
    • The Liturgical Committee, headed by Mar Timotheos Samuel Aktash of Dayro d-Mor Gabriel.
    • The Monasteries Committee, headed by Mar Dionysius Isa Gorbüz of Germany.

    The heads of these committees are to contact other bishops, clergy and lay people who are specialists in their domains to form the respective committees and put forward plans to be approved by H.H.

  • The Synod studied the General Constitution of Boards of Trustees, to be submitted for approval by H.H.
  • The Synod studied the issue of encouraging lay people to participate actively in the service of the Church and decided to form a General Body from all the Archdioceses. An episcopal committee, comprising the bishops of Syria, Lebanon and Jordan, in addition to Mor Clemis Eugene Kaplan and Mor Dionysius Isa Gorbüz, is to prepare a draft for forming this new Body. The Episcopal committee will meet in Ma'arat Saydnaya on 16 May 2000.
  • The Year 2000 Jubilee celebrations are to take place between 10-14 September 2000. A committee comprising of Mor Matta Rohom of the Jazireh, Mor Butros al-Ni`meh of Homs and Mor Boulos al-Suki of Damascus will plan the celebrations in coordination with other bishops.
  • The Synod studied and revised the Canon Law pertaining to the faithful (marriage, divorce, inheritance, etc.), and submitted it for approval by H.H.

On April 1, The Patriarch and the Holy Synod proceeded to Antioch for the historic celebration of the Holy Qurbono at the Church of St. Peter. The Holy Synod reconvened on April 3 after returning from Antioch. His Holiness concluded the Synodal Session by blessing the participants and the faithful of the Syriac Orthodox Church.

Source: H.E. Archbishop Mor Clemis E. Kaplan

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