TO BE READ FROM THE PULPIT AND PRINTED IN THE BULLETIN
Beloved Hierarchs, esteemed members of the Board of Trustees, members of our Archdiocesan Organizations and all faithful of our God Protected Archdiocese,
Greetings and blessings to you in the spirit of this Holy and Great Lent. I am certain that you have been following the tragic events in Syria from where many of us have originated. Besides our cultural and historical roots which are planted in Syria, Syria has a great spiritual significance to all of us and all Christians. Damascus is considered the most ancient city in the world. Syria and the entire Fertile Crescent gave the world its first known civilization.
Damascus is a holy city for us. It has been the center of our Patriarchate since the Patriarchate moved from Antioch. Our venerable Patriarch lives on the Straight Street where St. Paul walked to be baptized after his conversion to Christianity. (Acts 9:11)
Dear brothers and sisters,
For more than one year, Syria, the land of saints and martyrs, has been victimized by external and internal evil forces. Syria refused to be a tool in the hands of great powers. The purpose of this letter is not to analyze the political situation in Syria; others have done that. We intend from this letter to direct your attention to the extent of the tragedy in Syria: thousands of people have lost their lives, many children have become orphans, thousands of women have been widowed, and thousands of homes have been destroyed. All of us have our spiritual roots in Syria, and many do come from Syria, and they are our brothers and sisters.
Your Archdiocese has always extended a helping hand to victims of natural and social catastrophes. I would like to mention but a few of them: The natural disasters in our own country, i.e., hurricanes and tornadoes, the earthquake in Mexico, the Chilean earthquake, starvation in Africa, the victims of the uncivil war in Lebanon, the ongoing Palestinian tragedy, and many others throughout the world. We have helped many people throughout the years, especially through our Food for Hungry People program .
My dear brothers and sisters,
For more than one year, Syria has been plagued by a wave of extremists just like the extremists who caused the destruction and death of Americans on September 11, 2001. We cannot wash our hands from the Syrian blood. I appeal to you in the spirit of this Great Lent and in the spirit of the suffering Christ and His glorious Resurrection to respond generously to this appeal, and send your contribution to our Archdiocese as soon as possible earmarked Syrian Appeal. May the rest of your journey to the empty tomb be spiritually rewarding.
Your father in Christ,
Metropolitan Philip, Primate
Self-Ruled Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America
P.S. We have learned that one of our Orthodox Priests was murdered in the city of Hamat and another Orthodox Deacon was shot in Homs, both by terrorists. Please pray for the repose of their souls.