- His Beatitude Gregorios III, Melkite Greek-Catholic Patriarch Of Antioch and All the East, Of Alexandria and Of Jerusalem departed for the Middle East on Monday, 5 May, after eight days traveling in the US, a visit arranged at the request of and with the cooperation of the International Catholic Migration Commission (ICMC), of which he is Governing Committee Member for the Middle East.

The focus of his trip was to reinforce awareness of the urgent refugee situation in Syria, which continues unabated and is, in fact, worsening. To achieve this, the Patriarch undertook a grueling schedule of meetings and interviews. Shuttling among New York, Washington, and Boston, he was accompanied by John Klink, ICMC President.

While in New York, he was the guest of Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of the Brooklyn Diocese and served a Patriarchal Divine Liturgy for the parishioners of Virgin Mary Melkite Church in Brooklyn. On the afternoon of his arrival in Boston, Patriarch Gregorios visited St George Antiochian Orthodox Church, in Boston's West Roxbury neighborhood, to afford its parishioners an overview of the situation in Syria and describe the relief efforts of his colleague and counterpart, His Beatitude John X, Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch, Later that evening. the Patriarch's party was hosted at dinner by Bishop Arthur Kennedy, representing Boston's Cardinal Archbishop O'Malley, who was in Rome.

On Sunday, prior to a dinner event, His Beatitude served Divine Liturgies in English and Arabic at Our Lady of the Annunciation Cathedral, concelebrating with: Bishop Nicholas (Samra), Eparch of Newton of the Melkites; Bishop John (Elya), Emeritus Eparch; Father Archimandrite Philip Raczka, Rector of the Cathedral; and,  Father Georges El-Khalli, Pastor of Our Lady of the Cedars Maronite Church in the Jamaica Plain section of Boston.  

In homilies at both liturgies, Patriarch Gregorios addressed the urgent need for peace in the Middle East, stressing the urgency of both spiritual and material support to that end and to deal with the post-crisis needs of the hundreds of thousands of persons displaced by conflict between government and rebel forces.  He reported that 91 churches, Catholic and Orthodox, have been destroyed and many more have been damaged, as have important parts of the nation's spiritual infrastructure, such as schools and other community resources.  Included in that number are 24 villages which have been entirely obliterated.

His Beatitude noted that, while each of the Catholic and Orthodox Churches separately operate relief services, they all work together cooperatively in trying to meet the needs of both Christians and Moslems who have, in many cases, lost everything. He pointed out that the massive population displacement has had a tremendous effect  not only on Syria, but on neighboring countries, particularly Lebanon and Palestine, which are struggling to absorb those fleeing the strife. The Patriarch spoke of his gratitude for the generosity of the Melkite faithful in the US, who have donated more than $300,000.00 to assist in the Patriarchate's relief efforts.
Speaking of His Holiness Francis, His Beatitude praised the Pope's call for Catholics to pray and fast for peace in Syria, the Middle East, and elsewhere throughout the world. Voicing hope that hostilities would soon cease, he asked that all devote their prayers toward that end, while reminding the congregants that, even then, a tremendous amount of effort will be required to rebuild, once the armed crisis has been resolved. His Beatitude pledged that the Church will work closely with Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and Western nations in that era to create an environment of peace in the Middle East that will benefit all of its inhabitants, Christian and non-Christian alike.

In concluding, the Patriarch voiced this Prayer for Peace in Syria and Assistance for its Refugees:

  • Almighty and Merciful God, grant that just as You made Yourself known to Saul on the road to Damascus, that You may soon convert hearts to peace in Syria, and that its people who have fled may soon return to their homeland.
  • We ask Your blessing on those who, like Your Son, have become refugees and have no place to call their own. Look with mercy on those who today are fleeing from danger, homeless and hungry.
  • Bless those who work to bring them relief; inspire generosity and compassion in all our hearts; through Jesus Christ, Our Lord. Amen.

Article by Neil Foley

Teachings of Christ

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly." (John 10:10 ESV)


Rejoice, O Mother of God, Virgin full of grace. * From you has risen the Sun of Righteousness, Christ our God, * shining upon those who are in darkness. * Rejoice also, you righteous Elder; * for you received in your arms the Deliverer of our souls, * Who has given us resurrection. (Troparion, Tone 1)

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever and to the ages of ages. Amen.

O Christ God, through Your birth You sanctified the Virgin's womb; * and blessed, as it was proper, the hands of Simeon. * Now, having come, you saved us. * Give peace to Your commonwealth in times of war * and strengthen our civil authorities, whom You have loved, O You who alone loves mankind. (Kontakion, Tone 1)

(The Feast of the Encounter is February 2nd - the 40th Day of Christmas)

Random Proverb

"Go to the ant, O sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise. Without having any chief, officer, or ruler, she prepares her bread in summer and gathers her food in harvest." (Proverbs 6:6-8 ESV)

Pray Without Ceasing

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Wisdom from the Church Fathers

No one on this earth can avoid affliction; and although the afflictions which the Lord sends are not great men imagine them beyond their strength and are crushed by them. This is because they will not humble their souls and commit themselves to the will of God. But the Lord Himself guides with His grace those who are given over to God's will, and they bear all things with fortitude for the sake of God Whom they have so loved and with Whom they are glorified for ever. It is impossible to escape tribulation in this world but the man who is giver over to the will of God bears tribulation easily, seeing it but putting his trust in the Lord, and so his tribulations pass.

Archimandrite Sophrony