In the presence of His Excellency General Michel Aoun, President of the Lebanese Republic, on the occasion of the inauguration of the new Patriarchal Residence in Atchaneh, their Holinesses Heads of the Oriental Orthodox Churches: Mor Ignatius Aphrem II, Patriarch of Antioch and All the East, Pope Tawadros II, Pope of Alexandria and Patriarch of Saint Mark Episcopate, Catholicos Aram I of the Great House of Cilicia, celebrated the Holy Qurobo at Virgin Mary Church.
His Excellency arrived at Atchaneh at 10 am where he received by their Eminences Mor Theophilus Georges Saliba, Archbishop of Mount Lebanon and Tripoli, and Mor Clemis Daniel Kourieh, Metropolitan of Beirut, as the music of the army played the song of glorification, then the Lebanese Anthem. Then, His Excellency and their Eminences entered the church where he was received with applause, just before the beginning of the Holy Qurobo.
Their Beatitudes Patriarchs: Cardinal Mar Bechara Boutros Al-Rai, Maronite Patriarch of Antioch and All the East, Mor Ignatius Joseph III Younan, Syriac Catholic Patriarch, John X, Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch and All the East, Gregoire Bedros XX, Armenian Catholic Catholicos Patriarch, Joseph Absi, Greek Catholic Patriarch of Antioch and All the East.
Rev. Salim Sahiouni, Head of the Evangelical Synod, heads of the Chaldean, Assyrian and Latin churches in Lebanon, as well as His Excellency Ivan Santos, Charge d’affaires of the Apostolic Nunciature in Lebanon, also attended the Qurobo, beside their Eminences and Excellencies Archbishops from various churches.
The Qurobo was also attended by His Excellency Amine Gemayel, former Lebanese President, and their Excellencies Members of the Lebanese Parliament: Ibrahim Kanaan, Agop Bakradounian, Elias Bou Saab, Eddie Abi Al-Lamaa, Antoine Pano, Asaad Hardan, as well as Ambassadors of Egypt, Syria, Hungary, Romania, and Armenia. His Excellency Ghassan Mukhaiber, Former Member of Lebanese Parliament, and Mr. Badri Daher, Director General of Customs, and Qa’em Maqam of Metn Mareline Haddad, and Mr. Habib Ephrem, President of the Syriac League, in addition to a large crowd of faithful of our Syriac Orthodox Church in Lebanon, were also present.
After the Holy Bible reading, His Holiness Patriarch Mor Ignatius Aphrem II, gave a sermon in which he welcomed His Excellency the President and their Holinesses, Beatitudes, and Excellencies, as well as all the faithful attending “this holy Qurobo which was celebrated according to the rite of our Antiochian Syriac Church; It is the first time in Christian history that Heads of the Oriental Orthodox Churches in the Middle East celebrate the Holy Qurobo together. I thank our Merciful God who gave us this great blessing and made us worthy to celebrate this Holy Qurobo”.
His Holiness thanked “His Excellency President of the Republic of Lebanon, for attending this Holy Qurobo, and for being the auspice of the inauguration of our new Patriarchal Residence, which the Lord helped us to build from the contribution of the faithful, in order that it becomes a headquarter of our church here in the dear Lebanon which has embraced faithful of our Syriac Orthodox Church since the first centuries, even though we are called today as minorities; however, Lebanon, holding its Syriac name Lebnon, that is, the heart of God, will remain in the hearts of every single Syriac wherever he goes all over the world.”
He assured that “what our dear East is passing through will not discourage us from continuing to give the living testimony of Christ as well as to provide the service possible to our spiritual children as well as to our Muslim brothers whom with we share the love of this land.” He stressed “the terrible hands that were extended to our churches and our monasteries and kidnapped our priests, first of who are the two dear Archbishops of Aleppo, Boulus Yaziji, and Youhanna Ibrahim, will be paralyzed by our assurance and strengthening of bonds of love between the citizens of one nation and by our strong will to remove the effects of this unprecedented barbarism that has come upon human beings as well as upon stone”. For those “who plan to uproot us” His Holiness said “our will to stay is stronger than your attempt to uproot us.”
His Holiness then noted that it is “an honor that your Excellency (Mr. President) is the auspice of this historic event, for you hold in your hearts and on your shoulders and from this dear country Lebanon the concerns of all Oriental Christians even before your election as president.”
He assured to His Excellency that “We commend and support your efforts to make Lebanon a center for religious dialogue and an example of coexistence. We also pray that God will help you to achieve your noble goals in safeguarding the dignity of our Oriental people, especially in Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq.”
He concluded offering “thanks on behalf of himself and their Eminences Archbishops of our Church, to our dear brothers Pope Tawadros II, Pope of Alexandria and Patriarch of Saint Mark Episcopate, Catholicos Aram I of the Great House of Cilicia, for their participation in celebrating this Holy Qurobo and the inauguration of our new Patriarchal Residence.”
After the Qurobo, His Excellency president, as well as the patriarchs and all those present, moved to the new patriarchal residence, where His Excellency unveiled the inaugural plaque and as well as the memorial of Sayfo. Then, he and the heads of the oriental Orthodox Churches cut the ribbon inaugurating the residence. After they entered, His Excellency wrote a word for the occasion in the golden book.
All then entered the Patriarchal Hall were His Excellency gave a speech in which he expressed his joy to “be present for the inauguration of the new residence of the Syriac Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East, for what the signs this historical event carries as to remaining fixed to the land and the roots, existence and identity. It is a reply to all trials to empty the east from some of its components, and a clear message for those who kidnapped the two dear archbishops Youhanna Yaziji, member of this church, and Boulos Yaziji.” He considered that the Syriacs have offered this land “hundreds of thousands of martyrs, and so had Armenians and the Christians o Mount Lebanon […]; however, this humanly bleeding should stop, and the political and religious authorities should what is due to forbid emptying the land from its people.”
He noted that “it is wrong to approach the Lebanese state as minorities and majorities, for this country was ever since the dawn of history a land for meeting together of various peoples and religious groups, fleeing from persecution and seeks safe refuge; how many majority became minority and vice versa? In fact, we are all minorities, bound together by citizenship and identity, and we are all a major component of the Lebanese people.”
“This is why” His Excellency added “I have always sought, even when I was head of the Change and Reform bloc, that Syriacs and all other components considered as minorities, be represented fairly in the parliament, and I will continue to seek this until none of the components of our society feels injustice and that its rights in the country is not equal to the rights of others.”
Before he left, His Excellency congratulated His Holiness and the Syriac Orthodox Church for this historic event.