On January 21, His Beatitude Patriarch John X of Great Antioch and All the East and Metropolitan Anthony of Volokolamsk, Chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate's Department for External Church Relations, visited the Compound of the Russian Orthodox Church in Damascus. In the church of the Compound, consecrated in the name of the Holy Martyr Ignatius the God-Bearer, a prayer service was served to this saint, at which the hierarchs of the Antiochian Patriarchate, Bishops Moses of Darai, John of Sergiopolis, Arseny of Philadelphia, Moses of Larissa and Roman of Seleucia, members of the delegation of the Russian Orthodox Church, Archpriest Nikolai Balashov, adviser to the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Kirill, Archpriest Igor, deputy Chairman of the DECR Yakimchuk, representative of the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia to the Patriarch of Antioch and All the East Archimandrite Philip (Vasiltsev) and assistant to the DECR Chairman Priest Alexander Ershov, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Russia to Syria A.V. Efimov, Executive Director of the Foundation for the Support of Christian Culture and Heritage Egor Skopenko.
Welcoming the distinguished guests, Archimandrite Philip (Vasiltsev) expressed confidence that Metropolitan Anthony's first visit to the Antiochian Church as the new DECR chairman would certainly strengthen the relations of love between the two fraternal Local Churches. He asked His Beatitude Patriarch John to always pray for His Holiness Patriarch Kirill, Metropolitan Anthony of Volokolamsk, for the community of the church and for the entire Russian Orthodox Church.
In his speech, the Chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate's Department for External Church Relations stressed the importance of the Church of the Russian Orthodox Church in Damascus, which, on the one hand, is a place of prayer and spiritual consolation for Russian–speaking compatriots in Damascus, where they can come and pray in their native language, on the other hand, serves to build a special spiritual bridge between the two Churches. Metropolitan Anthony warmly thanked His Beatitude Patriarch John for his attention and care for the Compound, for the unwavering support of the Russian Orthodox Church, for his firm testimony of the truth and commitment to the sacred canons by which the Orthodox Church has lived for thousands of years.
His Beatitude Patriarch John of Antioch expressed his joy at the presence of the delegation of the Russian Orthodox Church in the church and asked to convey deep respect and great love to His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia. According to His Beatitude, the presence of the Representative Office of the Moscow Patriarchate in Damascus, the same Representative Office of the Patriarchate of Antioch in Moscow and the Metochion of the Russian Orthodox Church in Beirut is evidence of friendship between the two Churches. His Beatitude Patriarch John expressed gratitude to Metropolitan Anthony of Volokolamsk, the Russian Ambassador to Syria, representatives of the Russian state and, in their person, to the entire Russian people for the help and support that the Antiochian Orthodox Church is constantly providing at this difficult time. "I want to say that you are always in our hearts and in the hearts of the peoples of Syria and Lebanon," concluded the Primate of the Orthodox Church of Antioch.
After the prayer service, His Beatitude Patriarch John, the DECR Chairman and the persons accompanying them got acquainted with the activities of the Children's Rehabilitation and Prosthetics Center operating at the Compound. The meeting with the management, staff, parents and young patients of the Center was attended by the Governor of Damascus, Muhammad Krishati, and the Ambassador of the Russian Federation to the Syrian Arab Republic, A.V. Efimov.
Parents of children who received help at the Center noted that thanks to the activities of this institution, the health of their children is noticeably improving. "It is very difficult for us to express in words how important a role you have played in the lives of our children", "We have not seen other such medical institutions, and the appearance of this center has illuminated and changed our lives in Syria", "Thank you very much! We want to wish you all the best and, in your person, the whole of Russia," said the mothers of the children who received mine–explosive injuries and lost limbs during military operations. They also expressed their wishes that similar rehabilitation centers be opened not only in Damascus, but also in other regions of Syria.
The head of the Center, Dr. Hassan Nasrallah, thanked everyone who took part in the organization of this medical institution at the Representation of the Russian Orthodox Church in Damascus, who supports its activities. He stressed that the assistance provided here to Syrian children affected by the war "leads to the fact that the victims receive treatment, and traces of blood are erased from their faces." In less than a year since its opening, the Center has already been able to treat more than three hundred children, more than sixty of them have undergone prosthetics. "Many types of assistance have been provided through our center to children, and we are working to expand our activities so that all possible medical areas are represented here," Hassan Nasrallah stressed. Among the areas of rehabilitation that have recently appeared in the center is art therapy, which helps to restore mental balance to children who have received serious injuries.
Then the word of His Beatitude Patriarch John X of Antioch and All the East was heard . Welcoming the delegation from the Russian Orthodox Church, headed by the DECR Chairman Metropolitan Anthony of Volokolamsk, as well as other participants of the meeting, including children undergoing treatment at the Center for Prosthetics and Rehabilitation, His Beatitude stressed: "It is very important that this Center was created with the direct participation of the people of the Russian Federation, who accomplished this great deed in an effort to help the brotherly Syrian people. This was done so that you, our dear children, would rejoice, so that your health would improve. On behalf of you and on my behalf, on behalf of our Church, I will say words of deep gratitude to Vladyka Anthony. Thank you, Russia! May the Lord preserve you and give you strength. We are very glad that you are with us today. We also cannot forget all those who work at this center and ensure its activities: the director and all members of his team. I wish you help from the Lord!"
In response, Metropolitan Anthony of Volokolamsk, Chairman of the Department for External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate, stressed: "It is a great joy for me and for all members of the delegation who arrived on Syrian soil from Russia to visit here and see all of you. The Russian state and the Russian Orthodox Church, all our people have made it possible to open this center and its functioning. One of the reasons why this was done is that we sincerely believe and know that the peoples of Russia and Syria are friends and brothers. And between friends and brothers it should always be like this: if one brother rejoices, then the other rejoices with him, and if one brother is experiencing difficulties, then the other brother, his friend, should help him. This Center is one of the many signs of our friendship, our fraternal relations. And today it was very nice to hear that more than three hundred children have already been treated within these walls."
The Archpastor called it symbolic that the Center is organized at the Representation of the Russian Orthodox Church in Damascus. "Many doctors know that when it comes to healing the sick, a lot depends on the doctor, but a lot also depends on God's help. Therefore, miracles are performed within these walls not only by the hands of doctors, but also a prayer is being made that you, dear children, receive healing as soon as possible," Metropolitan Anthony said, addressing children undergoing treatment and rehabilitation.
As the executive director of the Foundation for the Support of Christian Culture and Heritage Egor Skopenko noted, the meeting with the parents of young patients of the Center for Children's Rehabilitation and Prosthetics demonstrated how much the activities of this institution are in demand. He noted that the Foundation plans to continue financing the activities of the Center in the future, including plans to expand the functionality of this rehabilitation institution, where the injured Syrian children receive invaluable assistance so that they can return to normal life, despite their severe injuries. He thanked the staff of the Center for their work and wished the children and their parents success in rehabilitation.
Then a concert was held, at which children undergoing treatment at the Center performed, gifts were distributed to all of them.
The guests were offered a tour of the medical institution, at the end of which Dr. H. Nasrallah and the DECR Chairman, in the presence of His Beatitude Patriarch John of Antioch and Governor M. Krishati, signed an additional agreement to the agreement between the Center and the Russian Orthodox Church on the gratuitous temporary use of medical equipment.
His Beatitude Patriarch John, the Governor of Damascus and Metropolitan Anthony of Volokolamsk answered questions from correspondents of the Syrian media.
The work on providing assistance to children affected by the Syrian conflict began under the patronage of the DECR back in 2018 with the blessing of the Primates of the Russian and Antiochian Orthodox Churches. Within the framework of this program, prosthetics and rehabilitation of children who lost limbs as a result of the explosion of bombs and mines were carried out. In 2019, ten children from Syria were brought to Moscow, where they successfully underwent rehabilitation, and in March 2020, a Center for child rehabilitation and Prosthetics was established on the basis of the Russian Orthodox Church's Compound in Damascus. The grand opening of the Center took place on March 6, 2022 during the visit of the DECR Chairman Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk to Damascus.