His Holiness Patriarch Mor Ignatius Aphrem II, Patriarch of Antioch and all the East, and Supreme Head of the Universal Syriac Orthodox Church, hosted an official reception in honor of His Excellency Mr. Hammouda Sabbagh, Speaker of the Syrian Parliament, who is the first Syriac Orthodox, and the first Christian to hold the post since the 1940s.
The reception was held in the Patriarchate headquarters in Bab Touma in Damascus, and was attended by: His Beatitude Joseph Absi, Greek Catholic Melkite Patriarch of Antioch and All the East, His Grace the Grand Mufti of Syria Dr. Ahmad Badreddine Hassoun, Her Excellency Dr. Bouthaina Shaaban, Political and Media Adviser to the Syrian Presidency, His Excellency Advisor Dr. Iskandar Luqa, their Eminences and Excellences bishops of Damascus, a number of priests and monks, their Excellences Syrian Ministers: Dr. Rima al-Qadiri, Minister of Social Affairs, Dr. Atef Naddaf, Minister of Higher Education, Dr. Abdullah al-Gharbi, Minister of Internal Trade and Consumer Protection, Dr. Faisal Mekdad, Syrian Deputy-Foreign Minister, as well as several members of the Syrian Parliament. His Excellency Mr. Jayez Al-Moussa, Governor of Hassakeh, also attended the reception.
From our Syriac Orthodox Church, their Eminences: Mor Selwanos Petros Al-Nemeh, Archbishop of Homs and Hama, Mor Timotheos Matta Al-Khouri, Patriarchal Vicar for the Patriarchal Archdiocese of Damascus, Mor Timotheos Matthew, Patriarchal Secretary for Indian Affairs, and Mor Maurice Amsih, Archbishop of Jazeera and Euphrates, and Very Rev. Raban Boutros Kassis, Patriarchal Delegate of the Archdiocese of Aleppo and Environs, Patriarchal Delegate to Aleppo, as well as monks and deacons of the patriarchate attended the reception.
His Holiness welcomed his guests at the Syriac Patriarchate. He then spoke about the significance of electing a Christian to head the Syrian Parliament. His Holiness said that this assures the harmonious nature of the Syrian Society, which lived a unique experience for thousands of years, for it has welcomed people from different races, and become a beautiful rich and harmonious painting. This is what gave it strength to resist this global war that is set against us and that uses terrorism and religion trying to destroy our country”. His Holiness added that “this step is a confirmation of the role of Christians in the society that is of a Muslim majority; it is possible for all talented and experienced people to serve this dear country”. His Holiness considered the election of a Christian to this office as a sign of intellectual and political maturity because the colleagues consider the interest of the country before any other consideration. His Holiness spoke about the family of Mr. Sabbagh who come from a noble Syriac background and is known for its nationalistic role in the Syrian Jazirah as well as in Damascus.
Then, His Excellency the Grand Mufti of Syria Dr. Ahmad Badreddine Hassoun spoke about the role of the Christians in Syria and considered Syria to be the model for a country where everyone can live despite their differences. His Excellency pointed out that, in Syria, offices are not given according to denominations but according to abilities, because Syria is a country where all citizens are equal. He gave the example of the election of a Christian to the office of the Speaker of the Syrian Parliament because of his talent and ability. He called to the love of God and country and to be attached to the roots. His Excellency thanked His Holiness for this welcoming reception and wished Mr. Hammouda a fruitful and successful mission.
In turn, His Excellency Mr. Sabbagh, Speaker of the Syrian Parliament, thanked His Holiness for this honorary reception and expressed his pride to be a member of the Syriac Orthodox Church. He also expressed his pride and honor to be given this trust from the President of the Syrian Arab Republic, His Excellency Dr. Bashar Assad. He added that we were brought up in this country where the people are one; this is shown by the unity despite the crisis which lasted 7 years but could not destroy Syria. The conspiracy may be great, but our determination to resist it is greater”. Mr. Sabbagh hoped that the year 2018 is the year of complete victory which “can be celebrated in the squares of Damascus and throughout the country”.
Then, the guests were seated to a banquet in honor of Mr. Sabbagh.