Patriarch Ignatius Aphrem II visits Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin : Meets Catholicos-Patriarch Karekin II

Syriac – Armenian Orthodox Churches
Oriental Orthodox Unity – October 2014

On the evening of October 10, by invitation of His Holiness Karekin II, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians, His Holiness Mor Ignatius Aphrem II, Syriac Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch and All the East, made a fraternal three-day visit to Armenia. The Patriarch of the Syriac Orthodox Church was accompanied by Archbishop H.E. Mor Theophilos George Saliba, Archbishop of Mount Lebanon and General Secretary of the Holy Synod; Archbishop H.E. Mor Selwanos Petros AL-nemeh, Archbishop of Homs; Archbishop H.E. Mor Timothius Matta AlKhori, Patriarchal Secretary; Father Charles Babi and Father Joseph Bali.

The Patriarch of the Syriac Orthodox Church, and his delegation, was greeted at the Zvartnots International Airport by member of the Brotherhood of Holy Etchmiadzin, led by His Holiness Karekin II, Catholicos of All Armenians; His Emminence Archbishop Nathan Hovhannisian; His Grace Bishop Hovakim Manoukian; Director of Inter-Church Relations Department of Mother See, Primate of the Diocese of Artic; His Grace Bishop Moushegh Babayan, Director of Administration of the Mother See; and Rev. Fr. Zakaria Baghumian; Supervisor of the office of Sacramental procedures of the Inter-Church Realtions Department.

In the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin, the delegation from the sister church was led by procession under the singing of the Hrashapar Hymn and ringing of bells to the to the Mother Cathedral and the Holy Altar of Descent, where a united prayer of thanksgiving was offered.

After the prayer, Karekin II, Catholicos of All Armenians, addressed his welcoming remarks to the Patriarch of Antioch and All the East and his delegation. Expressing great joy on the occasion of the arrival of the Supreme Head of the Sister Church to Armenia and spiritual center of All Armenians, His Holiness said in part: “Our joy is all the greater because we know you to be a courageous and self-sacrificing leader, a true friend and brother, whom we now host as a spiritual leader. Your visit commences with the Hrashapar Service of Welcome and with prayer in this cathedral. Our united prayer is a witness to the unity of the faith of our sister Churches and embodies the spirit of Christian testimony, founded upon the same faith and sacred tradition passed down to us by our holy fathers. We, as the true children of one heavenly Father, address the Lord our God together, in the words of the Apostle Paul, as “Brothers, sons of the promise.” (Galatians 4:28).

The centuries-old relations of the Armenian Church and the Syriac Orthodox Church have been marked by a spirit of Christian love, brotherhood and cooperation. Your visit, as the newly elected patriarch of our sister church, confirms this fact. The strengthening of our mutual relations is an imperative of our sister Churches, especially in these times when our two Churches, the Syriac Orthodox Church and the Armenian Apostolic Holy Church confront grave situations, which threaten our faithful and is of great concern to the whole world.

Dear Brother in Christ, despite the on-going war in Syria and difficult situations in the Middle East, you as a devoted and selfless servant and courageous shepherd, have returned from the United States to your native Syria to undertake a heavy responsibility, and to serve with further devotion during this historical period. Your presence in Syria and your efforts internationally in the name of peace are an encouragement for all people of faith, whose highest purpose and yearning is for the immediate restoration of peace and the triumph of justice over against the evils of war and terror. Through our prayers to God on High we express solidarity with your Holiness and through you with the faithful of our sister church in Syria, for the immediate end to hostilities so that the people of Syria may return to their homes and rebuild their lives in peace and prosperity”.

Welcoming the Syrian Church patriarch in the name of the Armenian Apostolic Holy Church, the Supreme Spiritual Council, the members of the brotherhood and staff of the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin, and all of the faithful, the Armenian Pontiff prayed that Beneficient God protect and keep Syria and the Republic of Armenia, the Syriac Orthodox and Armenian Apostolic Churches under the protection of His Almighty Right Hand. “May He bless the fruitfulness of our mutual relations and cooperative efforts and may the pious children of the Armenian and Syrian brother peoples be granted the abundant graces and heavenly gifts of the Holy Spirit.” His Holiness also wished that God grant His Holiness Mor Ignatius Aphrem II, a healthy life and a long pontificate.

His Holiness Mor Ignatius Aphrem II, reflected on his visit to Armenia and the Mother See. Expressing gratitude for the warm reception, the Supreme Head of the Syriac Orthodox Church emphasized with happiness that following his enthronement, he was making the first pastoral visit to the Sister Church of the Armenian Apostolic Church. “We renew our oath in this place, where 1700 years ago the Only-begotten Son descended and filled the soul of the Armenian nation with His Glory. We are happy to visit the Armenian Church and Your Holiness, because we share with you not only the faith, but also the blood. … We have come to express our gratitude to you on these days; for your spiritual guidance for the Armenians, we have come to pray not only for Syria, but also for world peace”, the Syriac Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch and All the East. His Holiness Mor Ignatius Aphrem II, also spoke about the challenges facing the Christians in Syria and the Middle East; adding, that during these hard times the responsibility of the religious leaders is to inspire hope in their communities. “The Faith in Christ and confidence towards our spiritual brothers strengthens us to continue our Christian witness”, stressed His Holiness Aphrem II, expressing his gratitude on this occasion to the Catholicos of All Armenians; the pious people of Syria and particularly the Syriac Orthodox Church for unwaveringly providing support.

The welcoming service ended with a united prayer.

After the ceremony, in the reception hall of the old Pontifical Residence, a meeting was held with the participation of the delegations of the two Churches and the bishops of the Mother See, during which the Catholicos of All Armenians, once again expressed his gratitude on the occasion of the visit by the Supreme Head of the Syriac Orthodox Church, emphasizing with confidence that it would promote closer relations between the two sister Churches.