The Church of Antioch was established by the Apostles Paul and Barnabas in 42 A.D., with St. Peter the Apostle serving for the next eight years as its first bishop. The Patriarchate of Antioch has had an unbroken presence in Syria and the Middle East from that time.
The Bible states in Acts 11:26 “And the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.”
It is the oldest jurisdiction for Arab Christians in the world and is one of the four ancient Patriarchates of the Orthodox Christian Church –the others being Alexandria,(Egypt), Constantinople(Istanbul, Turkey), and Jerusalem.
The Patriarchate has spiritual and administrative responsibility for Arab Orthodox churches throughout the World from the Middle East, to Europe, to Australia, and North and South America.
Head of the Patriarchate is the Patriarch of Antioch, currently John X. Since the 13th century, the Patriarchate has been housed in Damascus, Syria.
While in the United States for the enthronement of Metropolitan Joseph, the Patriarch of Antioch, His Beatitude John as well as Metropolitan Joseph sat down with Ancient Faith Radio for conversations about a wide range of subjects including Syria, the Assembly of Bishops, evangelism, and the future vision for the Antiochian Orthodox Church.
December 5, 2014 Length: 53:12
On December 5, 2014, Ancient Faith Radio visited the headquarters of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese in Englewood, New Jersey, for the rare privilege of interviewing the Patriarch of Antioch and All the East, His Beatitude John, as well as the newly consecrated Metropolitan of the North American Antiochian Church, His Eminence Archbishop Joseph. Patriarch John came to the U.S. to participate in the enthronement of the new metropolitan on the feast of St. Nicholas at St. Nicholas Orthodox Cathedral in Brooklyn. We’re delighted to bring you these interviews as a conversational glimpse into the historic and venerable Antiochian Orthodox Church, with its holy see in Damascus, Syria.
Mr. John Maddex: Well, thank you for this opportunity, Your Beatitude John, to speak with Ancient Faith Radio on the occasion of the enthronement of the new North American primate, Metropolitan Joseph.
His Beatitude John X, Patriarch of Antioch and All the East: Thank you very much always, John.
Mr. Maddex: Your Beatitude, you represent an ancient and venerable Christian see and tradition, the holy see of Antioch.
His Beatitude John: Yes.
Mr. Maddex: One of the five original Christian churches founded by Ss. Paul and Peter, where followers of Christ were first called Christians. What would you characterize as being the most distinctive aspects of the Antiochian Christian tradition?
His Beatitude John: The Church of Antioch is the Church of the Incarnation. Incarnation, you know, Christ is incarnated as a human being, to give the human being the joy, the meaning of their life. Our Church, first of all, is the Church of Incarnation, to give this joy to all the world.
Mr. Maddex: So, a church that gives joy to all the world.
His Beatitude John: And the meaning of life.
Mr. Maddex: Through Jesus Christ.
His Beatitude John: Yes.
Mr. Maddex: Here in North America, how would those values translate into 21st century North America? What are some practical ways that that would take root right here in North America?
His Beatitude John: As you know, a very big, huge Archdiocese in North America, the Antiochian Archdiocese of North America and Canada. We have about 270 churches, parishes; 500 clergymen, deacons and priests; and so many bishops, assistant bishops with the metropolitan. This Archdiocese of Antioch, we are very [proud] about our Archdiocese in North America, and how you will have joy as a mother church when you see this, our Archdiocese, flourishing and bringing fruit, a lot of faithful. This is a big joy for us.
Mr. Maddex: Last week, Pope Francis visited Istanbul and met with the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew. In the course of that meeting, a resolution was signed by both men to “intensify our efforts to promote the full unity of all Christians and above all between Catholics and Orthodox.” Your Beatitude, what is your reaction to this resolution, as well as your assessment of Roman Catholic and Orthodox relationship?
His Beatitude John: We all agree, we all agree. We all try to find our unity, our love. The Church is one Church, one family. We have some difficulties and differences between us as Catholic and the Church, but the Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church, we try, truly, in fact, to find solutions for these difficulties and differences, what we have between us. This result is very blessed, from all our churches, the Catholic and the Orthodox.
Mr. Maddex: So you are encouraging dialogue with the Catholics.
His Beatitude John: Yeah, oh, absolutely. Without dialogue—nothing. Nothing. We can find all our peace and what we need to do with the other by dialogue, by dialogue.
Mr. Maddex: Yes, yes. Sayidna, in 1977, the Antiochian Patriarch Elias IV of blessed memory was asked, “What do you foresee for the future of Orthodoxy in the regions of the so-called diaspora, particularly in North America?” His answer was: “Our position is clear. There must be established independent churches, in Eastern Europe, North America, etc.” A similar question was raised for your immediate predecessor, Ignatius IV, also of thrice-blessed memory, in 1985, in The Word magazine. His response was that autocephaly should be granted to Western Europe, America, and Australia.
Realizing that these are different days and different times, how would you answer that question today? What is your response to the question about the future of the Orthodox Church here in America?
His Beatitude John: I think the same way, the same way with what they say, our predecessor, his memory blessed, Patriarch Ignatius and Patriarch Elias, but, you know, we have some difficulties. In our inter-Orthodox Church for this topic, this diaspora. Now at least we have the Assembly of the Orthodox Bishops, in all the diaspora—in Europe, in America, in Brazil, in Latin America. This is a state, not the final state, but a state to prepare for [having] local churches maybe in the future. We hope in 2016 we will have the big Council for the Orthodox Church. We hope to discuss, like this, matters in the future, yes.
Mr. Maddex: So, in talking a little bit more about the Episcopal Assembly process… Of course, we should mention here that you were the main representative for the Antiochian patriarch at the meeting at Chambésy in 2009, which actually set up the Episcopal Assemblies. You were also a member of the Assemblies of Bishops in Britain, France, Germany. In light of this, how practical is it to consider administrative unity here in North America, given the wide range of small-t traditions that exist among the various jurisdictions?
His Beatitude John: No problem, no problem. Each church—for example, the Antiochian, the Russian, the Greek, the Romanian—has their local tradition, and it is not a problem in our Orthodox Church, but for the administrative side, [for] that we have now the Assembly of the Orthodox Bishops, and it is a good step to collaborate or to gather to work together, to try to have one message, unity, one message of the Orthodox Church, to our people and to all the world.
Mr. Maddex: One of your recent initiatives as the patriarch of the see of Antioch was to bring Orthodox laity and clergy from various international Antiochian dioceses to Lebanon, at Balamand, under the banner of “Antiochian unity.” Some people saw this as perhaps a minor course adjustment from the agenda of Metropolitan Philip of thrice-blessed memory, which appeared to be for increasing independence of the diocese here in North America. Is it Your Beatitude’s sense that there was not sufficient unity within the Archdiocese here in North America?
His Beatitude John: Yes, yes, absolutely. All our archdioceses, all our people, in all the world, I think, they belong to the Church of Antioch, and our people in America, for example, they are American now, but they are Antiochian at the same time, Antiochian believers from the ecclesiastical point of view. The same in Europe, the same in Australia, the same in Lebanon, the same in Syria. The mother church, our homeland in Antioch, in Syria, in Lebanon, in Iraq, in all the Arabic countries, you know, and our archdioceses in the diaspora are united, all together. The patriarch, the residency of the patriarch in Damascus in the patriarchate. When we will have a holy synod or conference for all laity and the clergymen, it is a very good idea to take this in our patriarchate, in the residence of the patriarch in our center. We had a very fruitful conference last June, and it [took] place in Lebanon, in Balamand, because we have our center there in the monastery, the university, that campus, and we have used all these to have a successful conference.
Mr. Maddex: Many of us here in North America have come into the Orthodox Church from other Christian backgrounds. We were warmly welcomed here by Metr. Philip, again, of thrice-blessed memory, saying, “Welcome home.” I just wonder what is your vision for outreach and evangelism as the Antiochian patriarchate.
His Beatitude John: Yes, our missions and the missionary of our archdioceses, not only in America, but in all the diaspora. Evangelism in our Archdiocese, this beloved Archdiocese of North America and Canada, is really like the spirit of Antioch. We do not distinguish between cradle and convert. All we are one in the chalice of love.
Mr. Maddex: Beautiful, beautiful. Could we switch gears now and talk about the situation in Syria? You have publicly said in an interview that it is very important to make known to others about the truth of what is happening, and not to leave it to the deception of the misleading media. What do we need to know about the situation on the ground with regard to the emergence of ISIS or ISIL and the situation in general that Western media is not telling us or misinforming us of?
His Beatitude John: This is a big topic, and our people in Syria, people need or ask for peace, a peaceful people, a gentle people, and we do not want war or to fight together. What is happening in Syria, what happened in Syria now, what we see, we are seeing in Syria takfirism and extremism. We do not have it in Syria like this takfirism and terrorism before. This strange spirit we believe that we have to leave altogether, Muslims and Christians, all together. I can tell you that, till now, we as Christians in the patriarchate and all the Christians have a very good relationship with the Muslims of Syria and Lebanon, for example. Till now, yes. We hope to, all the governments and outside and inside, to push to find a solution through a peaceful way, not through another way.
Mr. Maddex: Your Beatitude, we saw this firsthand when we visited Damascus about three or four years ago, with a group of American clergy, and the peaceful co-existence between Christians and Muslims was very obvious. It is sad to see what has been portrayed here in North America about that situation.
His Beatitude John: Yes, that’s a struggle.
Mr. Maddex: So many in the West fear for the very survival of Christianity in Syria and Iraq now that there are so many outside forces influencing the region. What do you think is the realistic future in the Middle East and the Persian Gulf states for Christianity?
His Beatitude John: I believe, not me only, we all in Syria and Lebanon and in the Levant and in the Middle East believe—and Muslims—they say that we cannot see the Middle East without the Christians. It is a shame for us, and for all the world, to leave the Christian people, to leave all outside. We in Syria now, about two million Christians in Syria these days, Orthodox and Catholic and all the Christians, about two millions, and in Lebanon and in Iraq, and we push our people to remain, to be there. This is our homeland. This is our family, this is our churches, our monasteries, our mosques, our civilizations, and we try to help our people to remain in their houses.
Mr. Maddex: Is there anything you can report on the case of the two kidnapped bishops, one of whom is your brother, Metropolitan Paul of Aleppo?
His Beatitude John: Unfortunately, we do not have anything new in this matter, and I can say our people and we, we are tired about attitudes used as slogans till now. We speak about a human right, about democracy. Who can tell me where is the democracy and where is the human right when you have two, for example—a lot of kidnapped, but two metropolitans kidnapped now—and we see the silence of international silence. This is a shame for all of us who hope that governments will try to, at least to know where they are.
Mr. Maddex: Your patriarchate in Damascus has been leading the way in providing help and assistance for refugees, through cooperation with IOCC, our good friend, Samer Laham. Can you tell us about that work and how is it continuing today?
His Beatitude John: Yes, when you say to your people or to your people the Muslims and the Christians, to remain and to be there and to stay in their houses, it is not enough only to say good words. You have to express this, to push them, to express this in fact, practically. And we try: we have a department for relief and development in the patriarchate. And we try with different international NGOs, we say, to help. To help our people in Syria, and we help all who have a need there, Muslims and Christians. And here’s an opportunity to express our/my thanks to the IOCC and all the others who help us in the patriarchate, if we can give a little hope to our people.
Mr. Maddex: Any final comments you would like to our pan-Orthodox audience?
His Beatitude John: I can say that Orthodoxy is full of joy, and this is big mission to our people and outside, to give Christ, who is the important and the [true] meaning of our life; that is our mission. What we say now—we are before Nativity—glory to God in the highest, and in the earth, peace and good will among men. This is our mission.
Mr. Maddex: We want to thank you, Your Beatitude John, for speaking with our pan-Orthodox audience today. Many years, Master.
His Beatitude John: Thank you very much, and for you, for your help. Thank you very much. God bless you.
After spending some time with Patriarch John, we were also blessed to have some unhurried time with Metropolitan Joseph, for an extended interview on his vision for the Archdiocese, as well as the values which will govern his leadership.
Mr. Maddex: Your Eminence, allow me to join the many who congratulate you on your enthronement on this God-protected Archdiocese.
His Eminence Metropolitan Joseph, Archbishop of New York and Metropolitan of All North America: Thank you, John. Good to have you.
Mr. Maddex: It’s a busy week for you, I know, with the enthronement and the visit of the patriarch from Antioch, from Damascus. Can you tell us a little bit about the enthronement itself? I mean, you’re already the metropolitan—that happened recently—so what is the distinction between what happened and the enthronement coming?
His Eminence Metr. Joseph: As you said, that I’ve been the Archbishop for many years, and a bishop for many years, and what’s the difference now between before and now? The holy synod of the see of Antioch elected me as the new metropolitan to replace Metropolitan Philip [of] blessed memory. So on July 3, in that monastery in Lebanon, the elections took place.
Now, what’s the difference between before July 3 and after? The nature of episcopacy is the same, and my ministry before the election and after the election is the same. But now the title is different, the size of the ministry is bigger than before. In the past, as you know, I used to take care of two dioceses: California and Arizona, and all the West Coast, but considered as two dioceses. One we called Los Angeles, and the other one is Pacific Northwest. Every interim takes one week or two weeks or one month or one year. My interim took 20 years and still continues.
The significance of this enthronement [is] not only for me, but for the entire Church, so that people now will get to know that they have a new metropolitan, and the people will be proud of being Orthodox and being in the Church, especially that holy father, the patriarch of Antioch and of All the East, is coming to present and to bless and to inaugurate, if you like, and to preside over this weekend. I think it never happened over the centuries—and let me say it as a joke, with a sense of humor, but it is real: the patriarch, our father in Christ, Patriarch John X, he said to me, because of the pressure on him in Syria and the Middle East, it’s better for him not to come at this time; he is so, so under pressure and busy and [with a] million of things; people are getting killed and he has to be with his people. My response was, on the phone: “If there is no patriarch, there is no enthronement,” and I meant that. Celebration and banquet and speeches and presentations and gifts and whatever—that is the last thing I needed for myself. Now it’s time to act for the Lord. But now, because of that patriarch’s visit, it has a different flavor. It is historical, and it’s a joy and a blessing not only to me but to all Orthodox people within this Archdiocese and to other jurisdictions.
Mr. Maddex: Well, it connects us, doesn’t it, to the past, to our historical roots in the Christian faith. In Antioch, where they were first called Christians. Now we have this tie, directly, with you and with the rest of the faithful in the Archdiocese. So important.
His Eminence Metr. Joseph: The successor of Ss. Peter and Paul is visiting the United States. Imagine.
Mr. Maddex: Yeah. Think about it.
His Eminence Metr. Joseph: So, think about it. This is the whole meaning of the Bible.
Mr. Maddex: Yes, that’s right.
His Eminence Metr. Joseph: We read about the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch, and now [when] most of the people read about Antioch, they don’t even know where Antioch is. So now, people will understand that Antioch does exist and now the holy father of Antioch is visiting the new shores.
Mr. Maddex: What would you say, Your Eminence, is the primary message that you want the Antiochian faithful to hear from you in your new role as the metropolitan?
His Eminence Metr. Joseph: I will give my message on Saturday evening in the church, and you will be there, right?
Mr. Maddex: Yes. Oh, yes.
His Eminence Metr. Joseph: Then is your time to grasp and to digest everything.
Mr. Maddex: [Laughter] We look forward to that.
His Eminence Metr. Joseph: My message is small and my message is so, so brief, but it [is] full of meat: Ministry. Service. One incident tells you… It answers your question. LAX, Los Angeles, the airport of Los Angeles: I was traveling one day without any deacon or without any priest. I had my crown carry-on. And he said—TSA—“Can we scan it?” I said, “By all means.” He said to me, “It looks round container. What’s that? What’s in it?” I said, “This is my hat,” and he was laughing: “It doesn’t look like a hat.” I said, “Whatever you call it.” I thought maybe one simple question and it’s over.
He said to me, “Can we open it? Can we look at it?” Fine. “Wow,” he said. “Wow. It’s beautiful. Are these real stones?” I said, “I wish.” [Laughter] And he said to me, “We know that only princes and kings wear crowns. Who are you? Are you a prince?” I said, “Higher.” [Laughter] All spontaneous, you know. He said to me, “What comes after a prince? A king? Are you a king?” I said, “Higher.” So finally he said to me, “Really, who are you?” And I couldn’t find a better definition than of calling myself a servant. I said to him, “I am a servant in the Orthodox Church.”
If [I], the new metropolitan, or any other bishop or any other priest, doesn’t have the spirit of diakonia, the Church doesn’t need him, or the people do not need him. I am a servant. You give me million titles, thank you very much, but I am a servant in the Antiochian Church.
Mr. Maddex: You kind of answered my next question, but I would still like to hear you say it. How would you describe, then, your leadership style as a servant-leader?
His Eminence Metr. Joseph: Yeah, you know, like God always chooses leaders and apostles and prophets and teachers, according to their ability, according to their talent. So that’s why we need leaders to lead us, like imagine the United States without a leader. Where do we go from here? Nowhere. Imagine a family without a head or without a leader, father or mother or both together? Where do we go from there? The children…
The Bible tells us that any nation without a leadership, without a head, without a vision, it perishes. My understanding of leading the people, leading the Archdiocese, is not to control but to lead them. Lead them to where? To a better place, to a better philosophy, to a better understanding, to better ideas and thoughts and visions, and to help them. This is what we call leadership. Leadership in my mind is not like to be controlling and to be micromanaging everything. Believe me, now in my ministry, I respect every deacon, every subdeacon, every altar boy. I correct, if I have to correct, I correct myself and I correct others gently and friendly, but I don’t control them or micromanage them.
Mr. Maddex: Many of us came into the Orthodox Church, and we were welcomed in by His Eminence Metr. Philip, and we felt like we were welcomed as Christians who were embracing the fuller reality of the Christian faith. We were Christians before, but now we are experiencing the fullness. What would you say to people right now who are considering coming into the Orthodox Church from their Baptist or from their Catholic or from their Pentecostal background?
His Eminence Metr. Joseph: You know, Orthodoxy is universal. Orthodoxy is not for the metropolitan only, or for this bishop or that priest only, but for everyone. So everyone is ready to embrace Orthodoxy. The doors are open, and the arms are open, as Metr. Philip did. Because of his vision, because of his great leadership, because of his love for the people to find the truth, so that’s why he sailed against the wind. Because of your coming, because of your conversion, you know how much criticism he received?
Mr. Maddex: I can imagine.
His Eminence Metr. Joseph: When no one dared to do it, he did it, with the blessing, of course, of our blessed father in Christ, Patriarch Ignatius IV. The Church has become completely different, has become a real evangelical… In the past, before that conversion, before this journey, God rest his soul, Fr. Peter Gillquist and Fr. Richard Bellew, God rest his soul, and others and others, Orthodoxy used to be theoretical, just like… Orthodox people listening to each other, to themselves.
As we say about the apostles, that their voice went all over, to the entire world, so exactly now, with the converts. I don’t like the word “converts,” by the way, because the moment you embrace Orthodoxy, whether one minute before me or a hundred years before me, you are Orthodox. You have the fullness. Last year in Alaska when I said, “I am the only one who was born in the faith, but I am a convert like you,” and they were so amazed, and their eyebrows went up, too. They didn’t understand what I meant by that, but finally I said, “I have even [though] I was born in the Orthodox faith, but I have to convert to Orthodoxy daily.” So we are converts.
So we will continue, John, to answer your question more precisely. We will continue this. We are not afraid; we are not ashamed to do it. Maybe some radicals do not like it, do not understand it; it’s their problem, but Orthodoxy is not only for me. Orthodoxy [is] universal. Orthodoxy is universal, and the doors and the hearts and the minds and the arms will be open for anyone ready to embrace Orthodoxy.
Mr. Maddex: Thank you. So let’s spin forward maybe five or ten years from now. What will the Antiochian Archdiocese of North America look like? What will distinguish it here in North America?
His Eminence Metr. Joseph: Needless to say how much Metr. Philip [of] blessed memory accomplished, but the man for 48 years, he worked tirelessly and unceasingly, and he accomplished a lot. He accomplished a lot, and look at the Archdiocese now. It has a big reputation. Of course, we have many mistakes, we have many weak areas, we have many… you know, we are imperfect, but, but look at what he did. What he did. Now, sorry to say it. I’m not saying it to disregard or to undermine other jurisdictions, but I dare to say that other jurisdictions, they are jealous maybe, or they are looking at us. Let me give you one example to understand what I am saying.
When I have, before my election, and even after my election, this coming next year in February, every February I have… I did it for 20 years, and I will continue doing that, even [if] I am busier than before and I am more engaged and traveling and whatever, but I will continue doing it. This coming next year, at the beginning of the year, like in February, I will have, I will continue to have something called clergy seminar in the West, in California. 150 clergy. It’s not fair, me, as a father of them, to ignore them and ignore their needs. So now, for 20 years, I’ve been doing that. I invited the most wonderful speakers: monastics, theologians, professors and scholars and any other. And 150 clergy, they were so eager and so, so proud and so… They wanted that. They wanted that.
Other jurisdictions do not, are not doing that. Sometimes clergy from other jurisdictions, they come and participate with us. They said they never had this, like the bishop himself, the archbishop to sit with them the whole week like a student. Therefore, when there is a will, there is a way. So even [though] I am now in New York, in New Jersey, everywhere, but I have [to] make time for everything, and God will strengthen me. When you put your trust in God, God will never leave you alone, will never abandon you. This is my faith. The reason, the key for my success is not because of my skill: because of God’s mercy in what I am doing.
Mr. Maddex: Let’s think for a minute about the work of the Assembly of Bishops, representing all the canonical Orthodox jurisdictions. You are obviously participating in that. You are sitting right next to Archbishop Demetrios as the vice-chairman of the Assembly of Bishops. What is your assessment of their work and the upcoming Great and Holy Council of 2016?
His Eminence Metr. Joseph: This is a big question, interesting; an interesting question. I believe in the conciliarity of working together, and I love to work with Archbp. Demetrios. I love to work with all the bishops. In September, [this] past September when we were in Dallas, so the budget… They were expressing that the budget is not doing well. Because of my belief in what we are doing, this conciliarity and this Assembly, so I offered the Antiochian Village. I said: You’re crying for money. We don’t need to go to fancy hotels. Let us go to the Village. Okay, if you are allergic to the Village, let us go to any of the monasteries. I wish I had any of the monasteries to invite all of them, but I don’t. So, later, maybe a few years from now, you will ask me this question, when I have monasteries. So now, all [that] I have [is] Antiochian Village, and we have a beautiful facility: two churches there, and we have room for everyone. So I am offering this Antiochian Village in order to accomplish, not to keep nagging for money and say we have some obstacles in our way.
I believe in this Assembly, but this Assembly still needs a lot of communication and a lot of love and a lot of sincerity, a lot of trust. So that’s why, if we continue the way we are doing it now, maybe it will not bear many fruits, but if we work on the mutual respect, sincerely, and we trust each other sincerely, I have faith and I have hope that this Assembly can bear many, many good fruits.
Mr. Maddex: It sounds like this is going to take some time, though.
His Eminence Metr. Joseph: Absolutely, because trust, building trust, is not going to happen between day and night.
Mr. Maddex: So we need patience and prayers, good faith.
His Eminence Metr. Joseph: Yeah, absolutely. Like when I am asking them to go to a monastery, not to see the building but to be in prayer, because prayer can lead us to more trust and deep trust.
Mr. Maddex: Some of the bishops probably didn’t even know each other, did they?
His Eminence Metr. Joseph: Exactly.
Mr. Maddex: As the new Metropolitan, what would be one or two things that you would like to see quickly changed in the Archdiocese?
His Eminence Metr. Joseph: You know, someone visited me in the Antiochian Village in July, just like upon my arrival from my election from Lebanon, and I went straight to San Francisco first for the Parish Life Conference, and then straight to the Antiochian Village for the first—for me as the new Metropolitan—for the first clergy symposium. And someone from this Archdiocese, he worked for the Archdiocese for many years, and he said to me the following, like he was tense when he came to me. He said to me, “We know that all the bishops before you accomplished a lot, business, money, building, history, [etc.],” and I was listening. “And you,” with his finger. He said to me, “You. What you going to do?” I said, “How about to save souls this time?” And tears started coming from his eyes. He said to me, “Wow. I never heard such a thing.” I said, “You never heard it before, but let us do it together this time.” And he was so… When he left with tears, but his smile was like from here to here.
So this is my first priority, that to be with the people, not to be behind doors, not to be in an ivory tower, not to be isolated from the people. I have a fancy office, by the way. Did you see my new office?
Mr. Maddex: Yes, yes.
His Eminence Metr. Joseph: Okay. Fancy. But you won’t see me here. When you call me next time and million of times, you will see me on the road. So I will be behind or after the lost sheep. I don’t feel tired, John. I don’t feel… like some difficulties in my—in one of your questions—“obstacles” and difficulties and challenges and whatever, but always you will see me with a big smile and relaxed, and this is my nature. This is my nature. I talk to the people, not with words, but God has given me this gift, this gift to talk to the people by being so friendly to them and by smile and by touching their life.
Especially—I’m talking in general about the people of the Archdiocese and the people at the airport, everywhere, I meet them—but especially our youth. I will be after the youth until I bring as many as I can back to the faith.
Mr. Maddex: So important that we think about the future of the faith, about the next generation. Could you expand a little bit more about your vision for the youth? What can we do that would be significant and life-changing to help our youth stay in the Church?
His Eminence Metr. Joseph: I’m working on two projects at the same time, since day one of my election. The first one, I was in Idaho after my election. All that took place after my coming back from Lebanon. So I was in Idaho, in Washington state, in San Francisco, in here, in clergy symposium. So I heard about 125 young people; they called themselves the Orthodox Young Professionals. Did you hear about that?
Mr. Maddex: I did, yes.
His Eminence Metr. Joseph: I left everything in Idaho and Washington. I took two planes in order to arrive on time in San Diego to be with them for the weekend. You can’t imagine their joy being together first, being learning something about their faith and how to be committed and how to be together and whatever, but the new metropolitan was there with them the whole weekend. That was… left a great impact on them. And I already met with the two organizers, and I spoke to them: if they are ready to do it again, and they said, “Please don’t. It’s consuming, and it took all the time.” After five minutes talking to them, they said they are ready to do it again. I said to them, “No matter where, you decide where. My Archdiocese [is] in all North America. If you decided in Alaska, fine with me. If you decided back East, fine with me. If you decided to be in Canada, fine with me. If you go to the moon, we will find a way there.” This is what I said to them: “I will be with you. I will not leave you alone.”
Mr. Maddex: Makes a huge statement to the youth, doesn’t it?
His Eminence Metr. Joseph: Exactly. And when they hear it from me like this, you know? And I spoke to everyone, I listened to everyone. They never met with… They saw a bishop, you know, from a distance, but they never talked to him within this distance, and they were not afraid. They were relaxed, and they asked me some personal questions and confession or whatever, and I was open to answer all their questions.
So the other part of your question: what new things will I bring to them. The other thing, the other project I’m working, we have the Christian education. We have booklets in our bookstore and in our… So if you give now to any young people to read it, they won’t read it, because they heard it from parents, from home, from grandparents, from some clergy, million of times. Now they need something related to that 21st century. So I will speak their language. I will speak their mind, but in order to put it in a Christian way. Now, all the bioethics, for example, talking about 2016, if now 2016 comes, will tell us, will issue some statement about our faith, about unity, about nothing new—we talk about it all the time.
Now yesterday our father in Christ, Patriarch John, with meeting with Fr. Behr and Fr. Chad, we were talking about that: bioethics. This is the most depressing, this is the most important topic [which] has to be addressed, without any shame but in a Christian way. So we say that we have this problem; what’s the answer? So this project, I will put it not on booklets and bury it in some bookstores. I will put it on the iPad, on the media, so to be available to everyone to read it, talking about smoking. If we talk about smoking, like: “Son, don’t do it again,” like a mother like at home and we do it this way, no one is listening any more. So tell him the advantages and the disadvantages of smoking. Talking about sex, for example; talking about everything, without any taboo, without anything, to put it in a Christian way. So this is my…
Mr. Maddex: Yes, communication.
His Eminence Metr. Joseph: It’s communication.
Mr. Maddex: It’s key. It sounds like your heart is to communicate where they are and to come into their world of technology and language so that they can understand the Christian faith and apply it to everyday life. We talked a little bit about monasteries, but maybe you could expand about the possibility of having more monasteries in North America. Where is that in the level of importance with all the other things that need to be done?
His Eminence Metr. Joseph: In July again, after my election and when I was in the Antiochian Village, after the clergy symposium, I met with the Antiochian Women, and they welcomed me in the room very warmly and friendly. Every time Metr. Philip, blessed memory, he said, “We have this project,” and he made them on fire again and again, and they started with enthusiasm about what they are doing. So this time I did the same. They said to me, “What project or projects do you have for us?” I said, “I have two. I already have two for you. The first one is youth, and the second one is monastics.” And you cannot imagine their joy. And they promised me to work on these two projects, and immediately they started: communication and raising funds and everything.
So monastics, monasteries. We have one at this moment, like a house. We call it St. Thekla Convent or Monastery. It is somewhere in Pennsylvania. We have only two nuns so far, but my idea, my philosophy, my vision is to expand that, to have more and more. Like, God bless them, two nuns now; they are looking at each other all day long, but little by little, with patience, as I said, and with God’s mercy, we’ll grow, and we will have… As I said, we are not producers yet, because we have clergy, we have seminarians, fine; seminarians, good quality of clergy, but we have to become producers of monastics in order to guarantee future bishops. Now if I need a bishop now to replace me in California and in the West, I don’t have it. I don’t have him. If we need someone for Pacific Northwest, I don’t have it. So we have to become producers.
And let me quote our father Patriarch Elias IV, in the ‘70s when he visited here. After his visit to here three months, he went back to the monastery where I lived and we’re so eager and so happy to see him back and we thought he will share with us about the super-power United States and whatever. And his lecture to us about his visit was one sentence, only one sentence. He said, “In America, they have everything, but they need monasteries.” I was twelve years old when I heard that, and [it’s] still here.
Mr. Maddex: Still there.
His Eminence Metr. Joseph: So I will fulfill his dream. We need monasteries in America.
Mr. Maddex: You’ve touched on an important point, and that is: Where are we going to get our bishops? And what is the situation right now with our clergy? Do we have enough clergy? Are we in need of more? Do you find yourself struggling to find someone to place in an empty parish? What’s the situation with…?
His Eminence Metr. Joseph: No, I’m not struggling, because we have fine, good, enough clergy so far, and we have all our seminarians, but 99%, 99.9%, they are married. They are married, I respect that and we need that. We need that: married clergy and single clergy both, they go side-by-side to Christ. There is [not] any difference, let’s say. But we need monastics, and we need monasteries. We need to become producers, as I said, not only to use what we have, but we have to plant the seeds for monasticism, because the significance of monasteries and monastic life, not only to have bishops, but also prayer, constant prayer for us. Family life is so sacred to us and so dear, blessed by our Lord Jesus Christ. Priesthood is blessed, is a blessing, but priesthood beside prayer, like they do business in the church, like all of us, but these monastics, they have nothing to do but to pray for the peace from above and for the salvation of our souls and bodies and for the rest of the world. So that’s why we need this prayer to be continuous.
Mr. Maddex: We do. Your Eminence, you’ve been very gracious with your time, and we greatly appreciate it, but I just wonder if there is anything on your heart now that you would like to share with the Ancient Faith Radio audience.
His Eminence Metr. Joseph: You know, I appreciate Ancient Faith Radio and those who are laboring with you, so I can’t thank you enough, John, and your colleagues. Until this morning I haven’t done anything for you, but as I said before when we met the first time in California, give me some time to put my feet where they have to be, and after that you come here and your colleagues—I don’t know how many are you—but I am more than happy to have you here or in the Village, wherever you like, and we talk and we put some strategy, we have some strategy, because I believe, I strongly believe in what you are doing. And you will see, I will express my gratitude and appreciation, too, not only inwards but in actions also.
Mr. Maddex: Just knowing we have your support means more than you can even know, Your Eminence.
His Eminence Metr. Joseph: God bless you all.
Mr. Maddex: Many years.