A joint paschal encyclical letter has been issued by two Patriarchs of Antioch,His Holiness Mor Ignatius Aphrem II;and His Beatitude John X,the Syriac Orthodox and Greek Orthodox Patriarchs of Antioch and All the East,respectively.This was done in light of the grave crisis of war and terrorism enveloping the region,the Holy Land of Christ's birth,life,death and resurrection,which therefore has a place in the hearts of all Christians.Here are some memorable excerpts from this extraordinary missive:
Beloved spiritual brethren and children:
Christ is risen,truly He is risen.
Christ is risen and the East is bleeding.Christ is risen and our people of all faiths pay with their own lives the cost exacted by selfish interest.Christ is risen and the destiny of our brothers-archbishops Paul and John-is still unclear.Pascha falls this year close to the day of their abduction,the twenty-second of April.This fourth anniversary is perhaps the most appropriate time for us to raise our voice once more,and to put in the ears of our believers and of all the world the voice of our pain in the Church of Antioch,and the voice of all those who are afflicted in this East.*
We are being crucified in this East,suffering this great ordeal.The world looks at the cross of our agony,and is satisfied merely by expressing grief over us.Nevertheless,the power of this world will not drive us out of our land,because we are the sons of the cross and the resurrection.We have been displaced throughout history,and we are still being displaced to this day;but each of us is called to remember that the land of Christ will not be emptied of His beloved ones;and of those who were named after Him two thousand years ago.*
We are deeply rooted in the womb of this East.We are determined not to leave our land;furthermore,we will defend it with our own blood and lives.*
There is a war,unfortunately,imposed upon us as Syrians;and there are consequences that burden us as Lebanese.And there is a price which we pay as Easterners all over the Middle East stemming from the results of all wars,as though bets are being wagered on our land.Our summons today reflects upon events,as we cry enough!into the face of those who feed our land with terrorism,takfirism and blind extremism.Our summons today is a cry enough!in the face of those who finance the terrorist;but feign blindness to his existence,and later rush to fight him,or to make a claim to fight him.
In this Holy Paschal season,we supplicate the risen Lord to remove the stone from our hearts and to break with His spear the war of this world.In these holy days,we pray again for our abducted archbishops,repeating our call for their release.*
On this occasion,we call on everyone,here and abroad,to work hard toward the liberation of the Archbishops of Aleppo and toward closing of this case,which has been suspended by international amnesia.However,this issue is always present in our souls and in the souls of all our children,Christian and Muslim,as well as all those of good will.*
We are in the days of remembering the resurrection of Christ,even though mingled with a heartache that has not been healed for four years.We pray today to the risen Lord to instill His hope in our hearts,granting to them His Holy Spirit;and bestowing upon us the gift of the release of all the kidnapped,so that we may always cry:
Christ is risen and the angels are exultant.
Jesus is risen and the bars of Hades are destroyed.
Christ is risen and life is renewed;to whom is due all glory and dominion unto ages of ages.Amen.
Christ is risen,truly He is risen.