Memorial Homily on His Eminence Philip, Metropolitan of New York and of All North America


By His Beatitude Patriarch John X 

Dear Beloved Ones, our dear children in the Archdiocese of New York and of All North America, after nearly half a century, the knight (the origin of the name Philip) dismounted from his horse and departed to meet the everlasting and loving God. Philip Saliba stepped down from his earthly du- ties and departed from among us. But as a vigilant soldier, he will not forget us in his prayers. Even after death, Philip Saliba's spiritual heart is still beating with prayers for the Church of Antioch, in her homeland and in her dewy branches abroad, solidly strengthened by their Antiochian roots, blossoming and growing for the glory of God.

Today he departs from among us: the son of Al-Matin in Mount Lebanon, an Orthodox School student in Homs, a pupil of the School of Asieh in Damascus, an offspring of Balamand Monastery, and the angel of the Archdiocese of New York and of All North America. Today, a sweet breath from history and the lands of Antioch, a fragrance of the Cedars of Lebanon, departs from among us. He was revered by all good people, and was adored by those who love the jasmine flowers of Damascus. He was known as a friend by those who dwell in the old neighborhoods of Homs, and by the hearty men of Syria. A true breath of life, he journeyed to all the corners of the earth, and like the bee of Saint Basil the Great, he extracted honey from their flowers. Finally, he landed in New York, and he poured forth his nectar through loving all people, and there he showed self-sacrifice in his service to America, as well as his love of the Motherland.

We are not masters of the art of writing tributes, nor do we lament our departed ones with lofty verse, but we are competent in the skill of gratitude. Gratitude does not justify anyone before the Lord, but rather it produces within us the spirit of service and emulation of him in his service. We who are in Antioch, we exalt this man and honor him, who furthered Antioch in the heart of America through building and benevolence. He was chosen by the providence of God in the mid-1960s of the last century to shepherd our beloved ones in the Archdiocese of North America. He was consecrated by the hands of the late Patriarch Theodosius and the Metropolitans to be an ambassador for the love of Antioch toward her children in America.

In America, the then-young Metropolitan received into his care the Antiochian vine which was tended, as directed by the Holy Spirit, by his predecessors St. Raphael Hawaweeny and Antony Bashir. He watered it with his own blood and sweat for nearly half a century. He continued the journey of his forefathers, and by his care of the parishes, he handed back in talents five times what he received. Through his vision, he knew how to unite the Archdioceses in North America in 1975, and he brought them together as they had first begun.

O Sayidna, you have doubled the talent and made it to grow new parishes, and you raised up Antiochian Village! All this, while remembering the Archdiocese in America as the green branch coming forth from the Church of Antioch, with its trunk deeply rooted in history. You planted in the hearts of your children the love of the Church and the love of the hospitable motherland. All these things draw you near to the heavenly throne, saying with the psalm, "Here I am, along with the children that God hath granted me." O my God, be with them, strengthen, and fortify them, since Thou art always with them!

The uniqueness of this man expressed itself in his making good use of the gift of the Holy Spirit given to him, and thus he was able to instill the love of the Church of Antioch in the heart of the North American land. This love was manifested in his missionary work and in his massive enlargement of the Archdiocese, in the number of the parishes and in pastoral activities. He was not satisfied with merely one ethnic group, but He integrated all our brethren in the Archdiocese, and transmitted to them the flame of faith, as he placed them under the Antiochian tree which has sprouted in America now for more than a hundred years. The uniqueness of this departed one is that he knew how to be intimate, not only to one generation or special group, but to be a father to all in his Archdiocese. He knew the precious worth of the youth, appreciated the importance of the family, and developed in the children the seeds of faith, by instilling in the hearts of all his children the values of Eastern earnestness, all in most beautiful harmony and wonderful openness to all segments of society and in a loving convergence among all the churches both in the West and the East for the glory of the Christ, our Bridegroom.

Philip Saliba departed from Antioch geographically, but Antioch still lived in his heart. He dwelt in America, but he transmitted to it and to its leaders the anguish of this Orient, as well as the pleasant memories of the time he spent in its lands. The people of El-Koura, Lebanon, re- member him, the young and the old of Antioch remember him, and the stones of the Monastery of Balamand remember him, as well as the bells which rang with joy and gladness when they saw him in 1970 standing next to His Beatitude, Elias of thrice-blessed memory and eternal repose, fulfilling the efforts of his predecessor, and achieving the dream of the Church of Antioch, in building the theological school at Balamand, to be one of the first faculties upon which the University of Balamand was established, to which he contributed as well.

O Sayidna, Balamand hill, with its monastery, school, and seminary, remembers you! The University of Balamand remembers you, for you con- tributed toward its construction for the benefit of the countries in this region, and for the glory of Lebanon and for the good people of this Orient. This university, which is sheltered by the age-old Monastery of Balamand, knew you, as Vice President of its Board of Trustees, a faithful executor of the heritage of Orthodox Christians everywhere, and a benefactor of incarnate love in the building of this scientific edifice of knowledge, so that all religious groups may be able to share in the crucible of the love of God and the homeland. Your tranquil village of Abu-Mizan remembers you, and the headquarters of the Patriarchate remembers you, as you were contemporary with Patriarchs Alexandros the Third, Theodosius the Sixth, Elias the Fourth, up through Ignatius the Fourth.

In the heart of Philip Saliba, there lived every tormented person, and in his spirit, there echoed the voice of the marginalized. Palestine, the pre- dicament of the world, resided in his heart. There also the Palestinian refugees dwelt, and from his tongue the voice of truth in support of its people sounded forth, and in support of every neglected person. He articulated every truth hidden in shadow. In the heart of Philip Saliba, Lebanon dwelt and still dwells; its mountains and valleys infused him; and in his soul the purity of its snow was reflected, as a love of the motherland and a power of hope rising from the ashes of war. He grew weary seeing Lebanon an arena of vicious war; this exhausted his strength, but he was elated when he saw Lebanon recovering and rising again as the phoenix. Now he prays from beyond the curtain of time for the homeland and for the most beautiful mountain which was instilled in his soul, and which molded his nature to the love of the Creator and the service of his people. In the heart of Philip Saliba, Syria lived, and still lives, and in him dwelt its good people who are even now subjected to the senselessness of violence, terrorism and accusation of infidelity. In his heart, he joined the streets of Homs with the old Straight Street in Damascus and in his depths lived the memories of the good people whom he loved and by whom he is loved, and in his words the sound of truth gleamed forth, and he gave audience of this to the decision-makers in America and all over the world, in the East and the West: "Enough of your meddling in Syrian affairs, and in the peace of Syria!" All the Orient resided in his heart.

On this day, we join our prayers to the prayers of our beloved in the United States and Canada, and we petition the Divine Mercy on behalf of the lost leader of Orthodoxy, of Antioch, and of eastern Christianity: "We commend unto God your soul which guided many souls and established them firmly by your love. To Thee, O God, we entrust a Father and brother, and servant of Thine Altar, who offered his life as a fragrant incense pleasing to Thee! We commend unto Thee a soul that was entrusted with souls, watching over and seeing to the growth of the parishes."

My heartfelt peace and warm condolences to you, our children in North America and Canada! Peace be to you in Christ, for you have implanted His name in your hearts! You are the branches of the Antiochian vine for which our departed brother labored so diligently. May God strengthen you and bless you all!

Now as for you, O dear departed brother, we bid you farewell in the hope of the resurrection, when we encounter the light of the Lord. We ask you to pray from where you are to keep the brilliant lamp of Antioch blazing in America as a flame of love towards everyone, and may the Antiochian presence remain a witness to the faith of those who were called after the name of Christ in Antioch. Pray, O Sayidna, for your children in North America and in Canada! Pray for me and for our brother-bishops, so that God may illumine our path amid the acts of violence that ravage our homelands and their good people.

Ask the Saviour to pour His streams of peace upon the Orient! Tell him that the homes of the Orient have grown weary from the language of destruction, and souls yearn for sweet peace! Pray to him, as you have always done, to preserve Lebanon and to protect its cedars and strengthen human coexistence despite the weaknesses of man! Ask Him to silence the voice of turbulence in Syria, to apply to the hearts of its children the ointment of reconciliation, and to inspire minds with His genuine peace.

We bid you farewell with earthly sadness and with resurrectional joy, and we implore Christ the Lord through the intercessions of his Virgin Mother and His disciple Philip to establish you where the light of His holy countenance shines. Blessed and glorified be His name forever and ever, amen.

Christ is risen; truly, He is risen! 

+John X, Patriarch of Antioch and all the East