Patriarch of Antioch in Cairo - October 2002 (English)


 (11-14 October 2002)

 By H.G. George, Bishop of Nilopolis

His Beatitude Ignatius IV, Patriarch of Antioch and all the East officially visited the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria and All Africa between October the 11th and the 14th, 2002.


Patriarch Ignatius arrived in Cairo Friday afternoon, October 11th for a four day visit.

At the VIP lounge of the international airport of Cairo he was welcomed by His Beatitude Petros VII, Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria and All Africa; H.E. Nicholaos, Metropolitan of Hermopolis (Tanta - Egypt); H.E. Dimitrios, Metropolitan of Cameroon; H.G. Alexios, Bishop of Nitria, Patriarchal Vicar in Cairo; H.G. Theophylaktos; H.G. George, Bishop of Nilopolis, Patriarchal Vicar of Alexandria; H.E. Dimosthenis Konstantinou, Ambassador of Greece; H.E. Youssef Ahmed, Ambassador of Syria; H.E. Samy Kronfl, Ambassador of Lebanon; Mr. Hercules Asteriadis, Consul General of Greece; Mr. Robert Hosny, President of the Arab speaking Orthodox Community in Cairo and the local clergy.

Members of Patriarch Ignatius' entourage were: H.E. Damaskinos, Metropolitan of Sao Paolo; H.G. Bishop Ghattas Hazim, Patriarchal Vicar in Damascus and Dr. Youssef Hazim.

That evening the two Heads of the Churches met and discussed various issues (i.e. the relationship between the two Patriarchates, the problems that torment the Middle East and support for the Patriarch and the Patriarchate of Jerusalem).


On Saturday, October 12th, 2002, Patriarch Ignatius visited the Holy Patriarchal Church of St. Nicholaos in Hamzawi, Cairo. He was welcomed by Patriarch Petros, Hierarchs and clergy of the Patriarchate of Alexandria, the Greek Ambassador, the Consul General of Greece, the Presidents of the Greek and Arab speaking Orthodox Communities in Cairo and many faithful.

After the Doxology service Patriarch Petros welcomed Patriarch Ignatius to the land of Egypt. In his welcome speech he also said the following: 'Your presence in Cairo is a sign of the good relationship and corporation of the two Churches throughout the centuries. This relationship is based on understanding and mutual respect. Throughout history the two Patriarchates have worked together for peace in the whole world and the stability of the Holy Churches of God while respecting the lands of their residence.'

Patriarch Ignatius referred to the long friendship between himself and Patriarch Petros, praised Patriarch Petros' precious work in Africa and remarked that Patriarch Petros is a man of action and not of merely words. He continued to say that through Patriarch Petros' own experience Patriarch Petros himself has learnt how to be an outstanding shepherd in Africa and he expressed his thanks at being invited to Egypt. Finally he referred to the last sentence of the 'feme' of  Patriarch Petros 'the Judge of the Universe' and said the following: 'We expect from you Your Beatitude to contribute to resolving all the problems that the Orthodox Church encounters'. 

Patriarch Petros presented Patriarch Ignatius with a pastoral staff made of ivory.

A reception followed at the reception hall of the Vicariate.

At noon the two Patriarchs visited the Holy Patriarchal Monastery of St. George in Old Cairo and the Museum located within the premises of the Monastery. Later on Patriarch Petros hosted a luncheon there in honor of Patriarch Ignatius. Among the distinguish guests were the Ambassadors of Greece, Lebanon and Syria.

In his speech Patriarch Petros expressed his joy at receiving the Head of the Patriarchate of Antioch in Egypt, referred to the close relationship between the two Patriarchates, highlighted the necessity for peaceful coexistence not only among the faithful of various Christian traditions but between the various religions as well. He remarked that those  younger like him should have  Patriarch Ignatius as an example knowing  full well his contribution and struggle for a progressive dialogue among the Christians and the various Churches.

The same evening the two Patriarchs attended a dinner hosted in their honor by the Orthodox Center of Heliopolis.


On Sunday, October 13th, 2002 the two Patriarchs concelebrated at the Divine Liturgy at the Holy Church of Archangels in Daher, Cairo. Concelebrants were also the following Hierarchs: H.E. Damaskinos, Metropolitan of Sao Paolo; H.E. Serafim, Metropolitan of Johannesburg and Pretoria; H.E. Nichoalos, Metropolitan of Hermopolis; H.E. Dimitrios, Metropolitan of Cameroon; H.G. Bishop Ghattas Hazim; H.G. Theophylaktos,  Bishop of Babylon; H.G. Alexios, Bishop of Nitria; H.G. George, Bishop of Nilopolis. The Divine Liturgy was attended by a great number of Arab and Greek speaking faithful.

Patriarch Petros in his speech also said the following: 'Your Beatitude, we feel you are like a brother and member of our family. The concelebration today proves that. The faithful attending the mass today are an integral part of our Patriarchate, the Church of St. Mark. We might call our Patriarchate Greek (other historic Patriarchates do this as well) however its character is a multi national and bilingual one. The Church of Christ is against any discrimination. Everybody belongs to the Orthodox family, the Orthodox Church. The language; the descent, the various cultures never separate people within Orthodoxy. The Church of St. Mark proclaims the message of the Gospel to the entire African continent that Orthodoxy makes no distinction between people of different descent race or language. The results are positive and heartening. As a result we hope that the word of God will bring about love, mutual respect and reconciliation in the heart of man. We pray unceasingly for the peace in the whole world. I know very well that worry a lot and feel distressed in these anguishing times. Please pray to our Lord of mercy and love to relieve His people and grant peace to our flock and to all people.'

Patriarch Ignatius  thanked  Patriarch Petros for the invitation to visit Egypt; remarked that from the time of  his arrival he felt that he was among people who loved Him. He referred to the work of Patriarch Petros and his pastoral care for people of different descent and highlighted the need to strengthen the relationship between the Orthodox Churches.

Patriarch Petros presented t Patriarch Ignatius with a silver icon of St. Athanasios.

A luncheon followed at the Church courtyard.

That evening the two Patriarchs attended a dinner hosted in their honor by Mr. Robert Hosni, President of the Arab speaking Orthodox Community in Cairo at the 'Le Pascha'. Among the guests were the Ambassadors of Lebanon and Syria and many members of the Arab speaking Orthodox Communities in Cairo and Alexandria.


On Monday evening, October 14th, 2002, H.B. Ignatius IV, Patriarch of Antioch and All The East completed his official visit to the Patriarchate of Alexandria.

The same morning the two Patriarchs met with H.H. Shenounda, Patriarch of the Coptic Church. The three Heads of Churches discussed issues relating to the Orthodox and Coptic Church; and the function and the future of the Middle East Council of Churches. It was a unanimous decision to call a meeting of the current and former Presidents of the four families of the MECC to discuss various issues before the General Assembly that will take place in November, 2003.

Later they met with Mr. Youssef Ahmed, Ambassador of Syria and Mr. Samy Kronfl, Ambassador of Lebanon.

At noon, Patriarch Petros hosted a farewell luncheon in honor of Patriarch Ignatius at the Marriott hotel. Patriarch Petros thanked the Head of the Church of Antioch for his visit, which although short, was very successful. He again emphasized the strong relationship that exists between the two Patriarchates; and the need for this to continue in the future not only for the benefit of the Orthodox Church in Middle East and Africa but also for the benefit of the entire Orthodox Church.

Patriarch Ignatius expressed his appreciation and gratitude for the warm hospitality that he and his entourage received in Cairo; expressed his joy at Patriarch Petros' work in Africa, which he does for everyone without discrimination. Finally he stressed that the personality of Patriarch Petros contributes to the good relationship between the two Patriarchates.

That evening Patriarch Ignatius departed form Cairo to Damascus, Syria. He was accompanied by Patriarch Petros, Hierarchs and clergy of the Church of Alexandria to the international airport of Cairo.