The following is an English translation of a statement by Patriarch John X and the Patriarchate of the Greek Orthodox Church of Antioch made in response to some statements made by the nuns of Mar Tekla (St. Thecla) monastery after their release from captivity about the conditions of their captivity. Their comments ran counter to the narratives of the Patriarchate, the state-run media in Syria, many Antiochian Orthodox Christians in the diaspora, and others.
The page address where this statement may be found (in Arabic) on the website of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East is here: http://antiochpatriarchate.org/ar/page/372/
The Patriarchate’s website promises an English translation, but since March this has not appeared on their English version of the website.
Our Beloved Sons, Kindred, and Daughters,
On March 10, 2014, the fabric of the Syrian heart of which the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch forms a united party, celebrated in the arrival and return of the monastic sisters of Mar Tekla to peaceful soil after a much condemned kidnapping that lasted more than three months.
However, the joy of our sisters’ arrival is troubled by what came from the tongue of some of these monastic sisters upon their release from their forcible kidnapping.
Indeed, His Beatitude the Patriarch of Antioch and all the East of the Greek Orthodox Church emphasizes to all Syrians—Christians and Muslims, sons and daughters—that these statements do not reflect the position of the Church, but were the result of a lengthy kidnapping. We are not here to justify them [the sisters] nor to analyze the circumstance of their release.
His Beatitude and the Church have followed repercussions [consequences/impact] of what happened [nuns statements?]; these defections [nuns’ unauthorized statements?] which overshadowed the event and authorization were therefore an affront to the whole Christian presence, which everyone realizes his [Patriarch John] role as a humanitarian to the nation.
“His Beatitude affirms that the affront does not reflect the positions of the Syrians and their patriotism, for this Church is known by its patriotism and by what its sons undertake for their country in way of opinions, actions, and testimony. They remain in the same manner as their sisters in patriotism.”
Indeed, we hope that our people in the nation will work and support one another for the deliverance from suffering and to not resort to language that does not express our spiritual and civic values, but instead to raise to the level of sacrifice.
We affirm that the Patriarchate, just as it was at the beginning of Christianity, will continue to defend all Syrians and Easterners, wherever they are, to work for the bringing of peace and security in place of killing, destruction, and charge of disbelief, and to work on the emancipation of all those who are kidnapped without distinction so they return to their families.
Since the start of the crisis in Syria, the Syrian people–whether Muslim or Christian–suffered under the cross of misery [which characterizes] the East. The Antiochian Patriarchate like others, did not hesitate to rightly name this misery. It condemned and condemns all terrorism, charges of disbelief, kidnapping, and violence, which strike the territories in Syria and razes the mosque as well as the church. For kidnapping and the vulnerability of the holy places are the two sides of the same coin and and has one name, and it is terrorism.
In the midst of its joy in the freeing of its nuns and in the pain from what came from some statements, the Patriarch of Antioch and all the East condemns all terrorism, charges of disbelief, and kidnapping which touches every strand of the fabric of our society, which pays an expensive price for strange ideologies to the values of this country, and the lives of its united sons and those who acknowledge its history, near and distant.
The Church of Antioch and all the East for the Greek Orthodox makes a point to affirm at all times that it is a daughter of the nation and is the abode in which they reside.
The bleeding of Syria is the bleeding of our heart. Its peace is the salve for our hearts. The glory of Syria is a laurel wreath on our heads. The Church, which produced Jules Jammal in the 1950s in defense of national honor, produced and continues to produce legions of martyrs
May God protect Syria, and may God protect its president and its people. May the peace which we yearn for from the depths of our hearts, return to it.