Voices from Russia

Monday, 11 November 2013

11 November 2013. News Roundup on the Two Abducted Bishops in Syria

00 Metropolitans Boulos and Gregorios. Syria. 10.11.13


A day after the Syrian Grand Mufti claimed that the two kidnapped bishops were in Turkey, Lebanese Maronite Bishop Boulos Nabil al-Sayah said that there isn’t any clear information regarding the whereabouts of two bishops abducted in Syria earlier this year. On Monday, he told al-Mada radio, “There’s no clear information about the two abducted bishops in Syria, Boulos al-Yazigi and Youhanna Ibrahim, since they were kidnapped. Even Qatar doesn’t have a clear picture of the abductors and what they’re asking for in exchange for the bishops’ release”. In April, armed men abducted the bishops whilst they were en route to Aleppo from the Turkish border. Reports placed the bishops in the hands of a small group of rebels in the town of Bshaqtin, 20 kilometres (12.5 miles) northwest of Aleppo, but on Sunday, Syrian Mufti Ahmad Badr al-Din Hassoun said that they were in Turkey. Recently, Qatar promised to help resolve the case of the abducted bishops and try to secure their release. Bishop Boulos regretfully said, “The bishops were kidnapped and the countries supporting the gunmen are unable to determine their fate. The kidnappers have outside backing, so, it’s the duty of their backers to find out the fate of the bishops”.

28 October 2013

The Daily Star (Lebanon)



The Grand Mufti of Syria, Ahmad Badr al-Din Hassoun, the spiritual leader of Sunni Muslims in the country, claimed that he has information that the two Orthodox bishops of Aleppo, kidnapped in April, are alive and outside the country. Interfax-Religion reported on the story. Yelena Agapova, Vice President of the Imperial Orthodox Palestine Society, a Russian NGO that plays an active role in the Middle East and delivered aid to Syria stated, “According to information from the Mufti, they’re in Turkey”. Agapova stated that on 28 October Mufti Hassoun met in Moscow with representatives of the Imperial Orthodox Palestine Society. The Grand Mufti is of the opinion, “I see the hand of Chechen militants and Turkish special services behind the kidnappings”. The Mufti believed that the kidnapping might have a link to Ankara‘s request to transfer the seat of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and all the East from Syria to Turkey. During his visit to the Islamic University of Moscow {its web address still has the old “.su” suffix… fancy that: editor}, Mufti Hassoun complained that at least 2,000 Russians, mostly from the North Caucasus, are in the ranks of the armed Syrian opposition.

In April, a group of militants, who killed their driver, seized Metropolitan Boulos al-Yazigi (Greek Orthodox Church of Antioch) and Metropolitan Mar Gregorios Youhanna Ibrahim (Syriac Orthodox Church). The two Orthodox leaders were doing humanitarian work in the village of Kafr Da’el, near the Turkish-Syrian border. The MP expressed “deep concern” about their fate. Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev of Volokolamsk, chairman of the MP DECR, told AsiaNews in late August, “In all this time we haven’t any news of where they are and how they are. There are many rumours, but none of them have official confirmation”.

29 October 2013




According to a statement issued on Wednesday, the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs denied reports that two bishops kidnapped in Syria were in Turkey. Referring to earlier reports circulated on 12 August alleging that the bishops were in Turkey, the statement blamed the Syrian government for spreading false information, noting, “We’ve observed that similar allegations are now being repeated by Syrian officials in the context of their contacts with the Russian Federation. These accusations are completely baseless and untrue”.

In April, armed men abducted Greek Orthodox Archbishop Boulos al-Yazigi and Syriac Orthodox Archbishop Youhanna Ibrahim whilst they were en route to Aleppo from the Turkish border. Reportedly, they were on their way to negotiate the release of three missing priests. Reacting to reports that we now know who the kidnappers are, and that there’s evidence that at least one of the two bishops was alive, Lebanese Maronite Bishop Boulos Nabil al-Sayah reiterated that there was no indication pointing to their imminent release, saying, “There are no negotiations. If there were negotiations, there would’ve been the beginning of a resolution. This is what’s worrying, that there’s nothing”. He added that, so far, we don’t know whether the bishops are alive or who kidnapped them. Bishop Boulos went on to say, “The Emir of Qatar promised us explicitly to do his utmost to try and find who kidnapped them, where they are, and what their situation is, and if they have demands”, adding that the Qataris hadn’t yet followed up on their pledge. Boulos also observed that the Greek and Syriac Orthodox Churches of Antioch are following up on the issue, “What we find difficult to understand is that they [the bishops] were kidnapped by one or more factions fighting the [Syrian] government. Someone must be feeding these people money, arms, and support of all sorts. We don’t understand how the states that are arming these people can’t step in and [pressure] them [to release the bishops]”.

31 October 2013

The Daily Star (Lebanon)



Kathimerini understands that alleged comments made by Syrian Grand Mufti Ahmad Badr al-Din Hassoun last week over the fate of two Orthodox bishops abducted in the troubled Middle East country earlier this year raised hopes that the two clerics are still alive. According to the Russian media, during a visit to Moscow on Tuesday, Hassoun said that he had information that Greek Orthodox Archbishop Boulos al-Yazigi and Syriac Orthodox Archbishop Youhanna Ibrahim are alive and that they’re in Turkey. Subsequently, the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs denied the allegations. Bishop Luka al-Khoury, a representative of Patriarch Youhanna al-Yazigi of Antioch and all the East {he’s the brother of the abducted Greek Orthodox bishop: editor}, told Kathimerini that the Patriarchate was aware of the comments, but it didn’t have any firsthand information about their whereabouts, noting, “We hear all sorts of things, but all we can do right now is pray for them”. In April, gunmen seized the two clerics near the northern commercial and industrial hub of Aleppo, contested by rebels and forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The Syrian government suggested that anti-Assad rebels carried out the abduction. Comments made by Lebanese intelligence chief Abbas Ibrahim on Tuesday reinforced optimism about their fate, as he said that he knew the whereabouts of the two bishops, adding that he was negotiating for their release.




There one has it. The only thing known is that the bishops are now in their eighth month of captivity, with no news whatsoever of where they are and who’s holding them. There’s nothing more one can say on the matter, kids… they’re in limbo. Light a candle and pray… that’s all that’s left to us.




Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Patriarch Kirill: We Feel the Suffering of the Syrian People as Though it’s Happening to Us

00 Patriarch Kirill with Syrian bishops. 09.10.13


Today, I know there’s much disorder in your Syrian homeland. Before the eyes of the entire world, the country’s crumbling. Some time ago, it was hard to imagine that such was possible. It was a peaceful quiet country, with a well-developed economy, where people of different religions lived together in peace… Orthodox, Catholics, and Muslims. When I visited Syria after more than a decade’s absence, I didn’t recognise it… things had changed for the better. Then, due to someone’s wicked desire, disaster occurred… allegedly, in the name of democracy, they began to kill people, destroyed a peaceful national household, and persecuted the Christian population. We know that those who commit these terrible crimes receive weapons and money from abroad, from those who seek to destroy Syria.

Of course, you know the position of our Church; we’ve held it since the very first shots sounded in the country.  When the war started, I went to Syria and Lebanon in order to support the people, who’ve borne such a scourge. Then, there was still hope that we could bring it all to a halt. Today, the conflict has grown to enormous proportions. We’re very pleased that Russia issued proposals to help stop the bloodshed. To the best of our ability, we provide humanitarian assistance, including the mobilisation of Russian NGOs, especially, those which worked in the area previously, in particular, the Imperial Orthodox Palestine Society, which helped the Arab people since the 19th century. It built schools and hospitals; today, together with the Church, it’s doing its utmost to alleviate the suffering of the Syrian people.

Another vexing problem associated with the Syrian crisis was the abduction in April in northern Syria of two bishops, Metropolitan Boulos al-Yazigi of Aleppo, a hierarch of the Antiochian Greek Orthodox Church, and Metropolitan Mar Gregorios Youhanna Ibrahim, of the Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch. It saddens us deeply that, so far, there’s no news of our two brother Metropolitans. As soon as this disaster occurred, I asked President Putin to help with the search efforts. I also appealed to US President Obama. In a message to him, I insisted that no outside powers should intervene in Syria, that no one should initiate aggression there. I also approached Mr Erdoğan. So far, unfortunately, we don’t have accurate information about the fate of our brothers, but there’s indirect evidence that they’re alive. We hope that it’s so. As long as they’re held captive, we won’t rest.

I was very glad when I found out that you wanted to come to Russia. I’m always ready to meet you. In 2011, during my visit to Syria and Lebanon on a peace mission, I went to the Patriarchate of Antioch and all the East, confabbing with then-Patriarch Ignatius Hazim of Antioch and meeting with the bishops of the Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch. I spoke with Maronite Patriarch Mar Bechara Boutros al-Rahi and members of the Council of Catholic Patriarchs of the East. I came just when all the Catholic bishops gathered for a meeting. I was able to speak to them; I found out that we were unanimous on the matter of Syria and Lebanon, on all topics concerning the Middle East.

We thank God that, at this very difficult time, He chose His servant Youhanna al-Yazigi. We hope that the Patriarch, despite the current difficult circumstances, will carry out his duty, supporting his people, keeping the faith in the hearts of people. As no one else understands how terrible a threat hands over Christians in the Middle East, I hope that all Christian hierarchs and clergy in Syria and Lebanon would work together as one for the sake of ending the war in Syria, so that this conflict doesn’t spread to other countries, especially, Lebanon, Jordan, and Palestine. If that happens, the worst that could result from it would be the disappearance of Christians from the Middle East, the cradle of Christianity. I’m willing, together with Syrian Christians, to work to end the war as soon as possible, so that refugees can return home, to rebuild everything that was destroyed, restoring a peaceful life to the region.

I’d like to point up that one of the oldest Christian churches in the world, located in Homs, suffered serious damage because of barbaric attacks. Just recently, many Russian pilgrims visited it to pray before a relic from the Belt of the Most Holy Mother of God. After all, Christianity originated in the Middle East, in Palestine, Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan.  Our Lord Jesus Christ walked there; it’s where the Church of Jerusalem is, the Mother of All Churches. Today, what do we see? Tens of thousands of Christians flee the Middle East, and if the conflict spreads, there’ll be no Christians left there. Who needs it? For what cause do they destroy houses today, for what cause do they annihilate Christians? For what cause, why is there fighting in the ancient Christian town of Ma’loula today? Well, they tell us that they do this in the name of democracy and freedom… we reject such arguments. This so-called “democracy” is despicable… it throws the blood of tens of thousands of innocent people upon the scales when it uproots Christians from their homes.  At a time when many Christians suffer and die in the Middle East, the world’s leading media are silent. What is this a sign of? What does this mean? Who is the prince of this world?

I’d like to assure our Syrian brothers that we feel the suffering of the Syrian people as though it’s happening to us. Likewise, in our country, they destroyed churches and shed the blood of tens of thousands of Christians, yes, in the name of “liberty, equality, and fraternity”. We’ve been through it all too. By the grace of God and with the active participation of the Russian state, I hope very much that we can prevent the complete expulsion of Christians from Syria. We pray for it, we’ll do our best to aid the forces that help you, my brothers, and we’ll work hard to ensure that the Lord shows His mercy to Syria and the Middle East.

00 03.11.12. Patriarch Kirill8 October 2013

His Holiness Kirill Gundyaev

Patriarch of Moscow and all the Russias


Official MP Website


Editor’s Note:

Both the OCA and the ROCOR official websites are silent on the issue of Syria. As all know, both the OCA and the ROCOR were on the “Langley dole” during the Cold War… both took money from Western intel agencies (Lebedeff said as much, “We were grateful for it”). Interestingly enough, at the time, on the popular level, we silly wabbit people thought that ROCOR (then, usually called “the Synod”) was feeding at the CIA slop chute, whilst the OCA was taking gelt from the Organy. BOTH WERE ON THE SAME SIDE! APRIL FOOL, SUCKERS! How much of the post-1965 Church War was a sham, and how much was real? We’ll never know, as Schmemann and Grabbe, the two main protagonists never talked, and they’re both dead and beyond all human questioning. This is what bothers me… factions like SVS and Jordanville were nasty beyond words at that time (as were people such as Lyonyo and Gan, interestingly enough… now, they’re great pals and deny everything that they did and said then). Not a one has expressed repentance for it… it’s, “Only the little people suffered. To hell with ‘em”.

Likewise, the konvertsy are all allied with the worst factions on the American Right… but they’re all “Pro-Life”, dontcha know! You see a John Whiteford, who had (or still has) links to the anti-Christian websites of Rush Limbaugh and Sarah Palin. Both of these groups seem to be heeding their secular “Master’s Voice”. None of them raise their voices in a serious way for their oppressed fellows in the Orthosphere. They don’t want to upset their political pals, I guess. Both oca.org and the official ROCOR website are mostly silent on the Syrian Golgotha, but they’re quick to put up attacks on Stalin and quick to praise anti-Orthodox “Pro-Life” US congressmen (shame on Tikhon Mollard for inviting Mr Smith to his installation… Smith is an unreconstructed pro-Unia papist and supporter of American aggression throughout the world).

This isn’t just about Syria… it’s about the soul of our Church here in the diaspora. Shall we follow HH or shall we follow Langley? The Lady or the Tiger? Shall we choose Christ or shall we choose the Prince of This World? It’s up to us…


Saturday, 28 September 2013

Patriarch Youhanna and General Ibrahim Discuss Kidnapped Syrian Bishops

00 Patriarch Youhanna al-Yazigi of Antioch. 28.09.13


On Thursday, Patriarch Youhanna al-Yazigi of Antioch and all the East discussed recent developments in the case of two kidnapped bishops in Syria with Major General Abbas Ibrahim, head of General Security. The two held talks at Beirut’s Rafik Hariri International Airport for 20 minutes before Youhanna departed for the Vatican. Patriarch Youhanna told reporters at the airport in response to questions about his meeting with Ibrahim, “We thank everyone for their efforts, particularly, General Abbas Ibrahim, for the efforts he’s exerted in the case of the kidnapped two bishops. We’ll remain hopeful. God willing, soon, we’ll all celebrate the presence of Bishops Boulos and Youhanna amongst us”.

In April, armed men abducted Aleppo’s Greek Orthodox Archbishop Boulos al-Yazigi and Syriac Orthodox Archbishop Youhanna Ibrahim whilst they were on their way to Aleppo from the Turkish border. Patriarch Youhanna shall hold talks with the Pope of Rome to discuss the situation in Syria and Christians in the Middle East. He said, “Wherever we go, we carry the concerns of our people and the region so there’ll be deliberations about the situation in our countries in the east, Syria and Lebanon”. He also thanked Pope Francisco for the call for peace he made earlier this month for the world and in Syria.

Patriarch Youhanna also discussed the situation of the predominantly-Christian Syrian village of Ma’loula, which came under attack by radical rebel groups who reportedly destroyed and looted churches, forcing dozens of families to flee. The patriarch said that he made an appeal earlier this week for Ma’loula in order to give the village a respite from more clashes and to spare it damage. The village is of great significance to Christianity as many of its inhabitants speak Aramaic, the language reputedly spoken by Jesus.

Youhanna said, “The appeal was also for all international organisations, the International Red Cross, the Red Crescent, and government and non-government organisations to help the village from a humanitarian aspect, to provide it with water, electricity, and food for the 40 individuals, including nuns and orphans in the Mar Takla monastery”. He noted that the nuns weren’t hostages, but they refused to leave the monastery. Asked about the presence of Christians in the Middle East, which many argue is under threat, the patriarch said that Christians and Muslims in this region share a similar history and fate, and “we’ve always lived side by side despite some circumstances”.

26 September 2013

The Daily Star


Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Maronite Patriarch Rejects Military Action in Syria

01 Private Mercenary Armies cartoon


Maronite Patriarch Mar Bechara Boutros al-Rahi rejected any military action against Syria in remarks Sunday following his meeting with Greek Orthodox Patriarch Youhanna al-Yazigi of Antioch and all the East. At Balamand Monastery near Tripoli, Rahi said, “We’re against any foreign military intervention in Syria or other [means] that could include weapons and strikes. The crisis in Syria should be resolved with diplomacy and the tragedies we’re seeing are unacceptable”. He said that the sides in the Syrian conflict should look to resolve their disputes through peaceful means, saying, “Not everything can be resolved using iron and fire. We don’t want war to erase what we’ve built in this region, and we don’t want this region to be a means to war”. Rahi also demanded the release of two Syrian bishops kidnapped near a rebel area. Armed men kidnapped Aleppo’s Greek Orthodox Archbishop Boulos al-Yazigi and Syriac Orthodox Archbishop Youhanna Ibrahim in April as they were on their way to Aleppo from the Turkish border.

Meanwhile, Rahi also said that rival Lebanese leaders failed to launch reconciliation or speed up the formation of a new government after recent car bombings in the past two months. He said in a Sunday sermon in Dimane, in northern Lebanon, “If [politicians] had taken courageous and responsible steps on the road to sectarian and political reconciliation, a new government, the restart of national dialogue, and security measures to limit the proliferation of arms, at least, it would’ve consoled the relatives of the martyrs of Beirut and Tripoli”.

1 September 2013

The Daily Star (Lebanon)


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