Patriarch John of Antioch: It is time for the world to recover from its misstep
Brothers and loved ones,
We gather together today at this medical institution, the Patriarchal Hospital of al-Hisn, to lay the cornerstone for the new expansion of the hospital. If anything, this shows the will to live that we and the people of this generous Valley have.
The will to live held by the Middle Eastern heart guarantees that light is planted in us and spread to the entire world: “Let us say to the world that we in this Middle East and in this land are deeply-rooted because we are children of light.”
The light does not know submission to the catacombs of darkness.
As we lay the cornerstone, let us say that this Valley and like it every corner of Syria pulses with the power of life. It pulses life into its surroundings, despite all the tragedies.
The Hospital of al-Hisn is a single name and a single expression for love that is incarnate in deeds.
It is a spot of light that does not claim perfection, which belongs to God alone.
It was founded by the al-Hisn league in the diaspora and is maintained by the Church. In doing so, she says to mankind that she is its primary locus of spiritual and bodily feeling.
The sciences, and at their head the medical sciences, aim to best preserve the body’s power to remain alive. They must be connected on the one hand to the soul through divine truth and on the other hand to this world, since the human being– body, soul and spirit– is the greatest harmonious arrangement of cells with distinct functions, integrated for producing harmonious movement, thought and sensation.
This is the human being, who is in the image of the Creator in love and in His likeness in character and in preserving the material world, that treasure over which God gave him authority in order to protect it and develop the good that is planted there, so that he might discover sublime perfection, abundant beauty, the best morals, and good and helpful thought, which, in its final dimension, is the utmost degree of illumination, purity and sanctity.
Some might wonder what the Church has to do with hospitals. The Church works in the Spirit and preaches morals and values. She works for spiritual healing more than for bodily, temporal healing.
However, we say that the Church in general and the Antiochian Church in particular is always and constantly called to be a comfort for both soul and body.
The Church is the Church of the incarnate Lord who was not satisfied with commandments engraved upon stones but rather came down Himself to engrave His love for us upon each of our hearts. He dwelt in this land, not far from where we are today. He approached our sicknesses, treated our pain and sympathized with our suffering.
The Church of Antioch is a church of souls and bodies because her Lord and Creator is the merciful one who came down from on high and healed the pain of those suffering, opened the eyes of the blind and swept hearts with His love.
He did not offer this love only spiritually and he did not save it for himself, but rather he poured it forth in healings and miracles.
This hospital is an outpost of love despite all the hardships. It is the glow of godly zeal that radiates from the giving of our children in the diaspora so as to say, “This Valley and this nation will not leave the hearts of their children even if the earth shook below them.” Here, from the heart of this Valley, we send our apostolic blessing to her children in the diaspora who are always in our heart and our prayer.
Today we come together to complete the path of our predecessors and lay the cornerstone for new wings. Here I would like to express my profound gratitude to Mr Georges Makhoul, a son of this Valley where he grew up. Here his love permits me to say, he grew up in the shadow of Zuwaytina’s olive trees and the oil from her olives remained in his heart as an expression of an authenticity and love that have always been manifest in the most glorious forms, in fulfillment of the Lord’s words, “It is better to give than to receive.”
Your right hand has been blessed, Georges, and blessed is this family, which I have gotten to know and in which I am pleased to see that authenticity of faith mixed with love for people and the nation.
We place the cornerstone here as we recall the words of our late predecessor, Ignatius IV Hazim. In our recalling his words, we send the apostolic blessing to our people in Mhardeh, which now is paying the price of the cruelty of these days, the same price paid by this Valley and all parts of Syria as the world watches, Mhardeh of valor, which, through the help of God almighty and the work of our young people, shall remain not as a challenge to anyone, but as the jasmine perfume of Syria’s peace. We recall the words of that son of Mhardeh, Ignatius Hazim when he laid the foundation of Balamand University at a time when horrors were intensifying: “If the power of some people is to destroy, then our power is to build and to remain.”
Syria will be rebuilt through the help of benevolent people who come together in love for the nation.
Syria is faithfulness to God upon the neck of her children. She has never known takfirism, terrorism, the kidnapping of priests, the murder of sheiks, and the imprisonment of bishops.
Syria will prevail through her children’s giving, according to the logic of reconciliation and the coming together of her children.
It is time for the world to recover from its misstep and honestly look at what is happening.
It is time for governments and international forums to deal with with innocent people who have fallen according to a logic of compassion and not a logic of interests.
We say all this with trust in God and certain hope that Syria will rise like the phoenix, despite all the horrors. Syria’s dawn approaches through the tenacity of her people and the steadfastness of her leaders, army and people.
I express my gratitude to His Eminence Nicholas Baalbaki for the labors he has undertaken for this edifice. In closing, I would like to thank all of you and wish success to the administrative and medical staff. I would like to thank the media, especially Syrian Arab Television and Noursat-Telelumière for transmitting this event.
Be with us, O Lord, in the service of Your human person. Strengthen this hospital by Your presence.
May Your blessed right hand work in it through the hands of its doctors and Your consolation in the smiles of its nurses.
Strengthen, O Lord, the hearts of its patients and anoint their souls and bodies with your healing power, for You are blessed unto ages of ages.
Translated from the Arabic.