HEMTO, Syria — “This is the day God made. Let’s rejoice and cheer.” With this phrase, the people of the western countryside of Hemto (Hama), Syria, welcomed the Greek (Melkite) Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch and All the East. The people of Hemto expressed their gratitude for the Patriarch’s ecclesiastical attitude that has given them spiritual and moral support to remain in their homeland.
Patriarch John X began his visit in the town of Al-Bayadiyah, where he held a thanksgiving prayer at St. George’s Cathedral and delivered a speech expressing his love for the people of the town, commending their steadfastness in their land. He commended the sacrifices of the people and their endurance of difficulties, persevering through their faith in the Lord Jesus. The Patriarch asked God to be with them and strengthen their faith.
In Ayn Halakim, the Syriac Maronite neighborhood of Mor Elias prepared a reception for Patriarch John X in the town square. The Patriarch then made his way to the town of Hazzour, where he gifted Father Khristo Issa an icon of the Antioch Virgin in honor of his service to the Church.
Patriarch John X also visited the parishes in the towns of Barshime and Tin al-Sabil, where he was greeted by the people by ringing bells, scout bands, and welcoming signs. At the end of the visit, under the heading “O symbol of peace”, the children of the parish paid tribute to the Patriarch’s historic visit by singing a variety of songs and hymns.