While we were in Syria, We had the distinct honor, privilege, and joy to meet His Beatitude Patriarch Ignatius IV, the leader of the ancient Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East, founded by Saints Peter and Paul.
His Beatitude is 90 years old, clear of mind, and speaks with gentle firmness and a twinkle in his eye. Incidentally, he speaks perfect English, among many other languages. We were blessed to meet him and engage in an hour long conversation.
Since the Antiochian Orthodox Church follows the "New Calendar," they celebrate Christmas on December 25th. So to His Beatitude, to His Grace Bishop Joseph, who organized our pilgrimage, and to all the people with whom we traveled and whom we met: Merry Christmas!
The Patriarchate in Damascus is deep within the bustling old city.
Plain on the outside, within the courtyards are pristine and peaceful.