Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land - 05/05/2001 info: custodia@netvision.net.il

Welcome speech by the President of Syria

Damascus Airport: 05.05.2001
Speech of President Bashar Al-Assad
Welcoming His Holiness Pope John Paul II on his arrival in Damascus

Your Holiness Pope John Paul II,

On behalf of the Syrian Arab people, on my own behalf and on behalf of the Government of the Syrian Arab Republic, I warmly welcome Your Holiness and I whish you a happy stay in our country, which enjoys your visit.

Your Holiness,
While visiting Syria you are treading the land of history, the homeland which hosted the most ancient civilizations in the world, and was a beacon which spread its light towards humanity throughout many centuries during which most regions of the world obtained guidance from its light. From Syria, which protect Christianity after Jesus Christ, the Apostle Paul proceeded, preaching, with the other disciples of Christ, the new religion in various parts of the world and calling for fraternity, justice and equality.

From Syria as well Islam spread throughout the world advocating justice, love and equality among human beings with no distinction between one and another except by God fearing.

Today, Your Holiness arrive as a dear guest among a people all of them worship the only God, solicit the help of the Almighty, live together in amity and harmony, work for the high standing and prosperity of their homeland, and are proud of their ancient past and of the several civilizations of their ancestors which left for them a rich historic heritage that made of Syria a homeland of tolerance and love and sanctuary for the persecuted as well as a meeting point of heavenly religions that have spread incessantly throughout history. This is confirmed by the many relics of worship houses in various parts of Syria, the pontification of eight Popes from Syria to the Holy See in the Vatican, and the presence of the headquarters of three Oriental Patriarchates in Damascus.

Almighty God, praise be to him, sent to us Apostles and Prophets to teach us how to avert going astray and to guide us to the straight path. His will was that their journey be one of struggle and suffering for the sake of consolidating the principles to which they were devoted. All of us have learnt a great deal of the suffering and agony of Jesus Christ at the hands of those who resisted the divine and human principles and values He preached, in the forefront of which are love, tolerance and equality among human beings. Jesus Christ wanted his Disciples to sustain these principles and to protect people from a suffering such as His.

As Heads of the Holy See in Rome, Your Holiness embody the summit of responsibility for maintaining those values, especially that there are those who invariably attempt to subject all people once and again to the journey of ailments and agony. Therefore, our brethren in Palestine are being murdered and tortured, justice is being violated, and as a result territories in Lebanon, the Golan and Palestine have been occupied by those who even killed the principle of equality when they claimed that God created a people distinguished above all other peoples. We notice them aggressing against Moslem and Christian Holy Sites in Palestine, violating the sanctity of the Holy Mosque (Al-Aqsa), of the church of Sepulcher in Jerusalem and of the Church of Nativity in Bethlehem. They try to kill all the principles of divine faiths with the same mentality of betraying Jesus Christ and torturing Him, and in the same way that they tried to commit treachery against Prophet Mohammad (peace be upon Him).

The application of heavenly tenets requires taking a stand against those who oppose them. Equality means that dealing with other peoples should not be governed by psychological complexes or claims of distinction above other peoples. Justice means restoration of rights to those who deserve them. Land and houses in Lebanon, Syria and Palestine belong to their owners. It also means return of the refugees to their homeland. Love means refraining from killing Arabs out of hatred, and to teach children not to bear malice against others. Truth is realized by refraining from distorting current and historical facts and from claiming rights and history which have no basis.

Thus we say that we are committed to just and comprehensive peace which restores the land in full to its owners in accordance with UN Security Council resolutions, allows the return of the refugees to their homes and leads to the establishment of the independent state of Palestine, with Jerusalem as its capital. Our rights are confirmed by heavenly laws, by history and by international resolutions.

Your Holiness, we highly appreciate your efforts for the benefit of humanity, and for spreading love among people, as well as your efforts in defence of the victims of injustice. We feel that in your prayers when you recall the agony of Jesus Christ you will remember the peoples of Lebanon, the Golan and Palestine who are tormented and they suffer from suppression and persecution. We expect Your Holiness to be on their side in their endeavor to regain what was unjustly usurped from them.

Again I warmly welcome Your Holiness in Syria.
Thank You.



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