Syrian Orthodox Church Patriarchal Encyclical
We extend our apostolic benediction, best wishes and greetings to our venerable brothers, His Beatitude Mor Baselius Paulos II, Catholicos of the East, and Their Eminencies the Metropolitans; to our spiritual children: the honorable archdiocesan vicars, chor-episcopii, monks, priests and deacons; and to all our esteemed Syrian Orthodox people. May the divine providence of the Lord be bestowed upon them through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, and all the martyrs and saints. Amen.
After inquiring about your well being… It is our pleasure to inform you that we held our Syrian Orthodox Holy Synod of Antioch between the third and fifteenth day of Second Tishrin (November) 1981 at the headquarters of our Apostolic See in Damascus, Syria, where we placed the benefit of our Church and its advancement as our main concern, regardless of the efforts which it may require or the sacrifices which may have to be endured to achieve this, following the footsteps of our blessed predecessors.
In order for the outcome of the Synod to be at the level of our spiritual aspiration, and in order for the Holy Synod to become a milestone in the modern history of our Church, each of its members took on his behalf his historical duties. Starting with our pastoral responsibilities, the salvation of souls, the maintenance of the true Orthodox faith and tradition, the revival of our Holy Syriac language, and the resurrection of our glorious Syrian Antiochean tradition, we studied a condensed agenda which included various matters: The budget of the Patriarchate, its internal organization, its endowments and institutions, and all what relates to its affairs. We looked into the case of St. Ephrem's Seminary in Atshane, Lebanon, and the importance of advancing it spiritually and educationally in order to bring it to a good academic level; for this, we appointed a bishopric committee under our chairmanship. We also studied the affairs of our Church in India and its relation to our Apostolic See of Antioch in the presence of His Beatitude, the Catholicos, and our bishops in India during a General Synod which we held in the headquarters of our Apostolic See from the seventeenth day of Second Tishrin (November) till the twenty seventh of the same month, during which we wrote a constitution for our Church in India, stating its relation with our Apostolic See.
Further, we discussed the relation of our Church with sister Orthodox Churches and other Churches and communities, as well as the role of our Church in the ecumenical movement. The Synod then looked into the issue of the date of Easter and decided to keep it according to the tradition of our Church, raising no objections against changing it once all the Churches in the Middle East agree on a specific Sunday in the month of Nisan (April). The Synod then made the final touches to the Constitution of our Holy Church and the Canons of Personal Affairs, taking into consideration the requirements of the modern age. It also examined the affairs of the archdioceses in general, pointing out the role of the priest in the Church and the importance of the individual; in this respect, it declared that the Sunday of Priests of every year is to be dedicated for supplications for priests. It also declared the Sunday which follows the Feast of the Cross, the anniversary of our installation, to be the Patriarchal Day. The Holy Synod insisted on the importance of preparing a new generation filled with faith, as well as spiritual, humanitarian and patriotic values, where individuals learn religion at religious centers and Sunday schools which are associated with the leadership of each archdiocese. The Synod also found it appropriated to reexamine the liturgical texts and to publish them; for this purpose, it appointed a special committee. Here, we take the opportunity to order our children, the priests, to perform the Church rites in dignity, to observe fasting and perform prayers at the designated times according to the traditions of the Church, and to visit the faithful continuously creating a spiritual atmosphere in each family during such visits. We also urge our children, the deacons, to master the rites, practicing them with faith, piety and obedience, and to be committed to serving the house of God according to their spiritual mission.
The Holy Synod paid special attention to the issue of the true name of our Church. The Synod is of the following opinion: it is well established that from the very dawn of Christianity, and since St. Peter, Head of the Apostles, established its See in Antioch-Syria until this day, our Church is known as the Syrian Orthodox Church of Antioch (`idto suryoyto orthodoxoyto dantiokh), and its language is known as the Syriac language; (leshono suryoyo), and its people by the Syrian people (`amo suryoyo). By this name of noble origin, which stems from our ancient history, our Apostolic faith, and our proud civilization, we are known as a Church, our language is known, and we are known as people amongst all religious, educational and social circles, locally and internationally. We do not accept any other name.
What appeared and appears contrary to this name is not only alien and foreign, but also a distortion, falsification and forgery of the historical truth. We, in our Apostolic power, declare our distress and disapproval to the new names which have appeared lately and which have been attached to our Church and our people such as 'Assyrian', 'Aramaean' and the like. These names aim at distracting the existence of our Church, dividing its children, destroying the landmarks of its glories, and annihilating its civilization and its spiritual and humanitarian traditions. But Christ is in its midst and she is unshakable; its shepherds are vigilant and awake, protecting its walls, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. Therefore, we warn all the faithful of our Church, especially priests and deacons, regardless of their hierarchical offices, against adopting these ideologies which are in opposition to the Holy Church and its faith, and which are disgraceful to its reputation. We notify you that our Holy Synod granted power to the heads of archdioceses to take the appropriate ecclesiastical actions to deter those who entice so that they return to the path of truth, especially in archdioceses in which these ideologies have started to appear and have become dreadful, turning into grave danger for the Church.
Our dear spiritual children: In the endeavor to maintain the unity of our Church, vigilantly caring for our children, and out of our fatherly love to you, we appeal to you all, clergy and people, to care of your spiritual and social responsibilities, and to appreciate the sacrifices which your blessed forefathers endured to keep the jewels of faith which were entrusted unto us, and to maintain the sacred things which our Church prides itself with. We also appeal to you to distinguish the voices of the true shepherds and to stay away from the wolves which aims at ravaging you, you the blessed flock of Christ. And we advice, for the second time, those who entice and have gone astray from the Church to return to its bosom and to live side by side with their brothers in love and trust as members of one Syrian Orthodox [the original reads: suryaaniyya] family.
And the Grace of the Lord be with you all the time. Amen.
Issued from our Patriarchal Residence in Damascus, Syria, on the 29th day of Second Tishrin (November) 1981, the second year of our Patriarchate.