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Damascus, 15 November 2011

On 15 November the Christmas Fast begins, according to the tradition of our Melkite Greek Catholic Church. Other Churches start it on 10 December.

In view of the tragic circumstances and dangers that beset our Arab world in general and Syria in particular, I am calling upon all our faithful in our Church, in Damascus and eparchies in Syria, to begin a voluntary fast, especially on Wednesdays and Fridays, from 15 November until the Feast of Christmas. Fasting should be accompanied by prayer, so that prayers go up in homes, churches, monasteries and convents, at the start of confraternity meetings and all parish activities.

In that way we shall be obeying the command of our Lord, who said, “This kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting,” (Matthew 17: 21) and fulfilling our national and Christian duty to our Arab homelands.

We beseech our Lord to preserve our homeland of Syria, all our countries and our fellow-citizens from the dangers of riots, conspiracies and divisions. We pray too for needful reforms and appropriate changes to be implemented at all levels, for a better future for Syria, our homeland, and for all Arab countries.

Further to this letter we suggest some prayers (litanies) be sung during the liturgy in monasteries, parishes and homes, asking for divine mercy and for God to preserve us from dangers and perils. We beseech the Virgin Mary, our Mother, to unite and reconcile all Syria’s sons and daughters in love, dialogue, harmony, concern and brotherhood.

With my affection and blessing,

 Gregorios III

Patriarch of Antioch and All the East
  Of Alexandria and of Jerusalem

Note: The litanies can be found in the Arabic language liturgy book.