Beirut -- The Syriac [Assyrian] Orthodox Patriarchate said Sunday that it had no plans to relocate from its official residence in Damascus, despite ongoing battles between rebel and government forces in the Syrian capital. "There is no plan to move the official residence of the Apostolic See of Antioch from Damascus to any other place. Moving the seat is something that Patriarch Ignatius Zakka I Iwas, as well as the holy synod of the Syriac Orthodox Church and the Syriacs worldwide refuse," the patriarchate said in a statement carried by the state news agency SANA.
The patriarchate is based in St. George's Cathedral, in the Christian neighborhood of Bab Touma in the Old City of Damascus.
An explosion struck Bab Touma in June in what Syrian state television said was a suicide bombing. It was the first major blast reported inside the Old City since the beginning of the civil war.
The Syriac body made no mention of the country's bloody conflict in the statement, but stressed that if it left Damascus the church "might lose its legal and legitimate rights."
It is important "to keep Syriacs in Syria, and in all parts of the Syrian territories," it said.