Oriental Orthodox Christians Gather in Philadelphia for Second Annual Regional Concelebrated Liturgy
Philadelphia – Orthodox clergy and faithful from the Greater Philadelphia area (including the states Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware) gathered last Saturday, March 29, 2014, at St. Peter’s Syriac Orthodox Cathedral for an annual celebration of their complete unity in Christ through the sharing of the Holy Eucharist. Participating parishes included St. Anthony Coptic Orthodox Church of Medford NJ (represented by Fr. John Bishara and his deacons), St. Gabriel’s Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church of Orange, NJ (represented by Fr. Melake Ganet Tesfa Eyesus), St. Paul’s Syriac Orthodox Church of Broomall, PA (represented by Fr. Paul Parambath and his deacons), St. George Coptic Orthodox Church of Norristown, PA (represented by Fr. Mina Shaheid), St. Mary’s Knanaya Syriac Orthodox Church of Philadelphia (represented by Fr. Chacko Punnoose Chirayil ), St. Gregory the Illuminator Armenian Apostolic Church of Philadelphia (represented by Fr. Nerses Manoogian), St. John’s Knanaya Syriac Orthodox Church of Chingavanam, Kerala, India (represented by Fr Jacob Philip Nadayil), Archangel Michael Coptic Orthodox Church of Howell, NJ (represented by a delegation of deacons), and St. Mary’s Syriac Orthodox Church of Bergenfield, NJ (represented by a delegation of deacons). The hosting parish, St. Peter’s Syriac Orthodox Cathedral of Philadelphia was represented by its priests Fr. Joy John and Fr. Jose Daniel Paitel and their deacons. In addition to the laity of the above-mentioned churches, faithful Orthodox Christians from other local parishes – including members of the local Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo community – participated in the service.
Matthew Galey, a deacon from St. Anthony Coptic Orthodox Church, described the event as follows: “To be surrounded in such an atmosphere, I expected to be a foreigner and stranger in the different cultural surroundings; but instead I found myself to be home in our heaven-on-earth, surrounded by brothers and sisters in Christ”. Other youth described the event in equally glowing terms: “Attending the Philadelphia Concelebrated Liturgy was like experiencing the glory and majesty of the Early Church breaking through into the present” and “Praying in the Syrian rite was like being in Heaven”.
The Liturgy was followed by a youth conference, featuring a keynote speech on the topic of Repentance and Confession in the Parable of the Prodigal Son by V. Rev. Fr. Melake Ganet Tesfa Eyesus and a memorial service for the recently departed Patriarch of Antioch and all the East, H.H. Moran Mor Ignatius Zakka I Iwas of thrice-blessed memory. The latter event was attended by Philadelphian clergy of a variety of confessions who came to pay their respects to the much-beloved and world-renowned Mor Ignatius Zakka. After a brief respite, the Orthodox clergy and faithful later reconvened to celebrate a Lenten vespers service.