Patriarch Ignatius Hazim of the Greek Orthodox Church of Antioch and all the East Dies in Beirut

Beirut,6 December 2012: The Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and all the East announced that on Wednesday,5 December 2012, His Beatitude Patriarch Ignatius IV Hazim of Syria, the long-time leader of the second-largest Christian church in the Middle East and one of the oldest in the world, died in Beirut at the age of 92. His Beatitude Patriarch Ignatius Hazim’s funeral will be held Sunday at 12 p.m at Mariameh Cathedral and Patriarchate Cemetery, Damascus. Services will also be held at St Nicholas Church in Beirut.

The Patriarch Ignatius, who was born on 28 August 1921, died in Beirut’s St George Hospital University Medical Centre on Wednesday morning after suffering a stroke. Ignatius Hazim led the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and all the East, since 1979.The Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and all the East is one of 14 autocephalous churches under the Orthodox communion. It counts around a million members, the majority of them Christians in Syria. The country’s 1.8-million-strong Christian community has stayed on the sidelines of the nearly 21-month conflict against the rĂ©gime of President Bashar al-Assad. Lebanon, which has a large Greek Orthodox community, declared the patriarch’s funeral a national day of mourning.

His Beatitude Patriarch Ignatius IV (Hazim) was born in 1920 in the village of Muharda, near the city of Hama Syria. In 1936, he moved to Beirut, where he became an altar server. Years later, upon taking monastic vows, he became a hierodeacon. In 1945 he graduated from the American University of Beirut, and from 1949 to 1953 studied at the Saint Sergius Theological Institute in Paris. On his return to Lebanon, the young theologian with a master's degree was ordained hieromonk. In 1942, he became one of the founders of the influential Orthodox Youth Movement in Lebanon and Syria, which has done much to renew youthful participation in Church life. In 1953, His Beatitude became one of the organizers of Syndesmos the worldwide Brotherhood of Orthodox Youth. In 1961 he was ordained Bishop of Palmyra and Patriarchal Vicar, and in the following year, he was sent to the monastery of Balamand as superior and as dean of the Theological Seminary founded, which in 1988 was transformed into an Orthodox University, the first in the Middle East. He has published a series of theological books and numerous articles. His Beatitude is an honorary doctor of Sorbonne and Saint-Petersburg (1981) and Minsk (2003) Theological Academies. In 1970, the future Patriarch was appointed Metropolitan of Latakia (Laodicea). On 2 July 1979, he was elected Primate of the Church of Antioch. on 8 July of the same year, under the name of Ignatius IV, he enthroned the Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch, the third ranking hierarch of the Orthodox Church after the Patriarchs of Constantinople and Alexandria.

His death was reported to and published exclusively via the Syrian state news agency SANA. Patriarch Ignatius IV of Antioch did not support the Syrian rebel uprising of 2011-2012 and called for a peaceful political dialogue.

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