Speech of His Holiness
Mor Ignatius Aphrem II
Patriarch of Antioch and All the East
and Supreme Head of the Universal Syrian Orthodox Church
at the Opening of the General Synod of the Church of Sweden
October 2nd, 2018, Uppsala Cathedral, Uppsala – SWEDEN
Your Royal Highness,
Sisters and brothers in Christ,
It gives us a profound spiritual joy to be able to be with you all during the opening session of the General Synod of the Church of Sweden.
On behalf of my brothers the Archbishops, clergy and entire faithful of the Syrian Orthodox Church of Antioch, I greet you all in the precious name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the author and finisher of our faith who brings us together today as members of His body in order to present to the world a credible witness to His great work of salvation among us that all may believe and come to know Him.
From the straight street of Damascus and gate of St. Paul, I bring to you all the greetings and best wishes of the Syrian people who are anxiously waiting to see once again peace and tranquility prevail in their country that they may be allowed to rebuild their lives and their country which has been heavily destroyed by the barbaric war driven by hatred and fanaticism.
Since the 1960s, members of our ancient Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch arrived in this blessed country Sweden in search of peace freedom and prosperity. I am glad to say that they have found what they were looking for.
They were totally embraced by the Swedish people and especially by the Church of Sweden. Here in Sweden, they established their parishes, practiced their faith and preserved their Syriac language and culture.
They, in turn, made good contributions to the society by being hardworking people who succeeded in their businesses and got integrated into the society to a great extent, even in the political life and public services. The election of several members of our church to the Swedish parliament and local municipalities is a testimony to that.
All this would not have been possible without the tolerance and the hospitality of the people of Sweden. Therefore, we are eternally thankful to Sweden and to the Church of Sweden.
We are here today together with our brother Archbishops to express our joy for the very cordial relations and mutual respect existing between our churches. And specifically thank the Church of Sweden for:
- Helping our people to settle here.
Many of our people still remember the times when they would hide and take refuge inside church buildings and parsonages of the clergy of the Church of Sweden. During these times of vulnerability and weakness, the Church of Sweden did not make any attempts to take away our people from their Church or practice proselytism among them. On the contrary, it offered church buildings for them to conduct their services and practice their faith according to their ancient traditions.
2- We thank the Church of Sweden for its active role in the life of the ecumenical movement which seeks the visible unity of Christ’s Church here on earth for we know we will be united in heaven. One cannot forget the efforts of Archbishop Nathan Soderblom of Lund who organized the first major ecumenical conference bringing together several Protestant and Orthodox Churches in Stockholm in 1925. The Stockholm Conference on Life and Work was a major step in paving the ground for the establishment of the World Council of Churches in Amsterdam in 1948, which held its General Assembly in 1968 in this very city Uppsala.
We are also very aware of the continuous financial support of the Church of Sweden for the ecumenical endeavors in many places in the World.
- We also wish to thank the Church of Sweden for its active involvement in the relief efforts in disastrous areas and where human suffering exists.
The engagement of the International Department of the Church of Sweden in project funding, and through capacity-building, is making a real impact on the lives of so many people in the world who are desperate to rebuild their lives and their livelihoods. By doing this, the church of Sweden is following the example of the early church of the Holy Apostles as we read in the Book of Acts.
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
We wish to take this opportunity to raise our humble prayers to our Lord Jesus Chris to bless Sweden, the Royal family, the Church of Sweden and the entire people of this great country, that He may bless them with peace from above and prosperity, that they may continue the good work they are doing throughout the world for the Glory of God and the wellbeing and dignity of all human beings.
May the Triune God, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit bless you all.