Closure of the Year of Saint Paul

On Sunday 7th. June, in the evening, His Beatitude Patriarch Gregorios III, together with four bishops, celebrated the Divine Liturgy at Mismiyeh, where Saint Paul is traditionally thought to have stayed during his three years spent in the Hauran wilderness, meditating on his experience of Christ and working as a tent-maker. Some four thousand people, including troops of scouts, attended the Liturgy.

In the evening of Monday 8th. June, His Beatitude led a pilgrimage, accompanied by prayers and hymns, from the Melkite Greek Catholic Church of Saint Joseph, Damascus, to the sanctuary of Memorial Saint Paul, not far from Bab Sharqi, where he presided at a service initiated by the Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarchate. The Memorial, which is in the care of the Franciscans, was founded by the late Pope Paul VI after his pilgrimage to the Holy Land and his fraternal meeting with the late Patriarch Athenagoras in 1964. The grotto in the garden of the Memorial is traditionally venerated as the place where Saint Paul rested after escaping in a basket down from the walls of the city.


Closure of the Year of Saint Paul – Damascus Program

(26-30 June 2009)

Friday 26 June 2009
Delegations arrive. Accommodation in two hotels in the Old City
2000 Concert by the Syrian National Symphony Orchestra in the Greek Orthodox Patriarchal Cathedral
Saturday 27 June
0800 Holy Mass in the Church of Saint Ananias
0930 Hotel breakfast
1030-1230 Study sessions in the Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarchate on the following topics:
  • Paul, spiritual son of Damascus
  • Christian remains in Syria : churches and other ancient buildings
1230 Departure for Saidnaya (visiting the Greek Orthodox monastery of the Mother of God) and Maaloula (visiting the Greek Catholic Monastery of Saints Sergius and Bacchus) Restaurant lunch
2000 Recital of Christian music at the Damascus Opera, by different communities in indigenous languages
2200 Dinner at a villa on the Damascus hills
Sunday 28 June
0700-0900 Holy Mass at the Memorial Saint Paul
0930-1015 Hotel breakfast
1030-1230 Study session in the Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarchate:
  • The Church in Syria today (round table)
1300 Restaurant lunch
1500 Visit to the Umayyad Mosque and the Old City of Damascus (from Bab Touma to Bab Sharqi)
1700 Visit of His Beatitude Ignatius IV (Hazim), Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch
1800 Vespers at the Greek Orthodox Monastery of Tel Kawkab in the presence of the Greek Orthodox and Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarchs and of civil authorities
2100 Dinner hosted by the Minister of Awqaf (Islamic charitable endowments)
2215 Showing of the Syrian film on Saint Paul , Damascus, at the Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarchate
Monday, 29 June
0830-900 Hotel breakfast
0915 Leaving Bab Sharqi for the audience granted by His Excellency the President of the Syrian Arab Republic (1000) to His Eminence Cardinal Antonio María Rouco Varela, Envoy of the Holy Father, and the Representatives of the Episcopal Conferences
Free time
Restaurant lunch (if wished)
1700 Solemn Divine Liturgy in the Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarchal Cathedral of the Dormition, in the presence of His Eminence, Cardinal Antonio María Rouco Varela (Archbishop of Madrid and President of the Spanish Episcopal Conference), Representative of the Holy Father, of the Apostolic Nuncio, the Right Reverend Archbishop Mario Zenari and of Bishops of Syria and other countries (delegated by their Episcopal Conferences), then a procession to Saint Ananias’ and Saint Paul-on-the-Wall. Patriarch’s Sermon on the Closure of the Year of St. Paul
2000 Cocktail buffet at the Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarchate
2100 Concert at the Citadel of Damascus
Tuesday, 30 June