On Wednesday, Patriarch Ignatius Hazim, the long-time leader of the second-largest Christian church in the Middle East and the oldest in the world, died in Beirut after suffering a stroke earlier this week. The death of Ignatius comes just months after Pope Shenouda, the head of the largest Christian church in the Middle East, Egypt’s Coptic Church, died in March after having led the church’s eight million members for 40 years. His successor, Tawadros II, 60, was elected in a conclave in Cairo on 4 November.
Ignatius’ death comes at a particularly trying time for Orthodox Christians in Syria, who are the world’s oldest Christian communion, as the now 15-month old civil war threatens to destabilise a peaceful relationship the Church has had with Syrian rulers since the 14th century. Lebanon‘s Deputy Parliament Speaker Farid Makari said in a statement, “The Orthodox community lost a historic great man who led his people with great wisdom in a difficult phase of the region’s history. Fortunately, we assure him that his community will be fine… and that its role will remain one that is primarily aimed at building a new democratic Syria and in strengthening stability in Lebanon and nation-building”.
Saad Hariri, Lebanon’s former prime minister, said, “Lebanese lost a great national and spiritual pillar, as they look forward for the Greek Orthodox Church to remain a source of giving and love, which can remain loyal to its heritage in the Arab world”. Until recently, Ignatius had been active, visiting the USA in October, presiding over ecclesiastical meetings, and leading worship services.
Ignatius was born in the village of Mhardeh, in Hama Governorate in Syria, and at age 16, he moved to Beirut, where he took monastic vows. After graduating from the American University of Beirut, he studied theology at St Sergius Theological Institute in Paris. He became a bishop when he was 41, and on 2 July 1979, he became patriarch. Globally the Eastern Orthodox Church, of which the Antiochian Church is one part, has about 300 million members, making it the second-largest Christian communion after the Roman Catholic Church.
5 December 2012
International Business Times
The Patriarchate of Antioch and all the East announced that on Wednesday, Greek Orthodox Patriarch Ignatius Hazim of Syria died in neighbouring Lebanon at the age of 92 after a stroke. The Damascus-based patriarchate confirmed to AFP that Ignatius, who was born on 28 August 1921, “died (on Wednesday morning) at St George Hospital in Beirut after a stroke”. 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 régime of President Bashar al-Assad. Lebanon, which has a large Greek Orthodox community, declared the patriarch’s funeral a national day of mourning, although the date hasn’t yet been specified.
Ignatius graduated in philosophy from the American University of Beirut in 1945, and went on to study theology in France in 1949. On returning to Lebanon, he founded the University of Balamand, in the north of the Mediterranean country. He received episcopal ordination in 1962, and became Antioch’s 157th patriarch on 2 July 1979. In March 2012, a year on from the outbreak of a popular revolt against Assad, the pro-régime Syrian newspaper Al-Watan quoted Ignatius as warning against any foreign intervention in Syria, saying it’d be bad for “both Christians and Muslims”.
On Wednesday, The Syrian National Council, one of the country’s main opposition coalitions, issued a statement offering its condolences over the death of Patriarch Ignatius, saying, “He played an exceptional role in national and public life, in Syria and in all countries of the East”. SNC chief George Sabra, himself a Christian, said in a statement, “All Syrians boast that this Church has always been one of the key supporters of public action in Syria… making efforts to consolidate values of freedom, sovereignty and the national unity of the Syrian people”. The SNC added that Ignatius died “at a time when the country is steeped in terrible suffering because of the regime’s criminal practices, acts of destruction… and the death of tens of thousands” of Syrians. More than 41,000 people have been killed in violence in Syria since the outbreak of a revolt against Assad in March 2011, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
5 December 2012
As quoted in the Khaleej Times
Greek Orthodox Patriarch Ignatius Hazim of Syria died in neighbouring Lebanon at the age of 92. Syria’s state news agency, Sana, reported that Patriarch Ignatius died in Beirut’s St George Hospital University Medical Centre on Wednesday after suffering a stroke. His remains would be brought from Lebanon to Syria for burial, it added. Ignatius led the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and all the East, the largest Arab Christian Church in the Middle East, since 1979. There are believed to be about a million members, the majority of whom are Syrians. The Church is one of 14 autocephalous (ecclesiastically independent) Eastern Orthodox patriarchates, third in honorific rank after the Local Churches of Constantinople and Alexandria. Since the 14th Century, the patriarch has resided in Damascus.
Patriarch Ignatius was born in 1920 in the village of Mhardeh, near Hama. In 1961, he was ordained Bishop of Palmyra, in central Syria. Nine years later, he became Metropolitan of Latakia, on the Mediterranean coast. Syria’s minority Christian community hasn’t joined the revolt against President Bashar al-Assad. Many Christians are fearful for their future if the country’s majority Sunni Muslim community chooses an Islamist leadership to replace decades of secular rule.
5 December 2012
His Beatitude Patriarch Ignatius Hazim, First Hierarch of the Greek Orthodox Church of Antioch and all the East, has died. He was 91 and had been ailing for some time. In the past year, he challenged fellow Christians and Muslims to end the civil war. The patriarch was famous in Lebanon and Syria for his pastoral work among young Orthodox. In recent months, he had made several appeals for peace in Syria, devastated by civil war between Bashar al-Assad’s army and the rebel Free Syrian Army. Local sources remembered his ceaseless work to stop the slaughter, along with Catholic prelates and Muslim leaders. In one of his appeal, he said, “A countless number of Arab Muslims and Christians, men, women and children, fall victims of bombs every day. Hospitals are full of injured people”. As Arabs of Syria, “regardless of our religion, we have the right to live in peace in our country. [. . .] We invite all Syrians in the name of the one true God, to decide to live together in our blessed home. We hope that all international organisations help us to ensure peace, stability, and reconciliation”.
The patriarch was born in 1920 in the village of Mhardeh, in Hama Governorate in Syria. In 1936, he moved to Beirut, where he became an altar server in a local parish. In 1945, he graduated from the American University of Beirut, and from 1949 to 1953, he studied at the St Sergius Theological Institute in Paris. On his return to Lebanon, he was ordained a 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 youth participation in Church life. After returning from France in 1953, His Beatitude became one of the organisers of Syndesmos, the worldwide Brotherhood of Orthodox Youth. In 1961, he was ordained Bishop of Palmyra and patriarchal vicar. In 1970, the future patriarch became Metropolitan of Latakia (Laodicea). Nine years later, On 8 July 1979, the Hoy Synod elected him the First Hierarch of the Church of Antioch. During his life, Ignatius published many books and articles on theology. For this, the Sorbonne and the University of Minsk (Belarus) awarded him honorary doctorates.
5 December 2012
On Wednesday, Lebanese political and religious leaders lamented the death of Greek Orthodox Patriarch Ignatius Hazim as a great loss for Lebanon and the Arab world, praising him as “a man of moderation, dialogue, and reconciliation” who defended Muslim-Christian coexistence. Ignatius died at a Beirut hospital Wednesday morning, a day after suffering a stroke. He was 92. Hazim, who served as Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch and all the East for 33 years, was admitted to St George Hospital University Medical Centre in Achrafieh Tuesday with cerebral failure. Soon after news of Ignatius’ death spread, churches in the northern region of Koura tolled their bells as Lebanese officials, including Lebanese President Michel Sleiman, visited St Nicolas Church in Beirut to offer condolences. On Thursday, the Patriarchate will name its locum tenens. According to a statement released by the Patriarchate, a Pannikhida for Ignatius will be at noon Sunday at St Nicolas Church in Achrafieh before the transportation of his body to the Mariamite Cathedral in Damascus. Ignatius’ funeral will be at the Mariamite Cathedral at 14.00 Monday, after which his burial will be at the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate’s cemetery in Damascus.
Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati issued instructions declaring the day of the funeral as a national day of mourning. Sleiman said in a statement that Ignatius’ death was “a loss not only for his sect, but also for Lebanon and Arabs, given his wisdom, courage, and repeated calls for dialogue”. He later visited St Nicholas Church to offer condolences, writing in the golden condolences book, “With Ignatius’ death, a glorious page of the life of a man of faith, dialogue, and knowledge has been turned”.
Mikati said Ignatius’ death was “a great loss” not only for the Greek Orthodox Church, but also for all of the Lebanese, Arabs, and Eastern churches. Describing Ignatius as an example to be followed in spiritual, humanitarian, and social work, Mikati said in a statement released by his office, “With the passing of Patriarch Ignatius, Lebanon and the Arab world lost a man of moderation and reconciliation, who always believed in dialogue amongst all sects, religions, and civilisations as well as in [sectarian] coexistence, away from fanaticism and isolation”. Mikati, who is currently in Italy, also praised Ignatius’ role in defending Arab causes, particularly, the cause of the Palestinians and their right to an independent state with Jerusalem as its capital, saying that his struggle for this issue made him deserve the title of “Patriarch of the Arabs”.
Former Prime Minister Saad Hariri lauded Ignatius as a man who called for inter-Lebanese dialogue, safeguarding unity and renouncing violence. Hariri said in a statement released by his office, “With the loss of Patriarch Ignatius, Lebanese lost a great, national, and spiritual pillar. They look forward to the Greek Orthodox Church to remain a source of giving and love, to be faithful to its heritage in this Arab East”.
The head of the Future Movement said Hazim confronted several challenges in Lebanon and the region with “solid stances that safeguarded the values of [sectarian] coexistence, moderation, and openness”. Former Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, head of the Future parliamentary bloc, said with Ignatius’ death, Lebanon and the Arab world lost “a major pillar of moderation and wisdom”. Siniora went on to say in a statement, “Patriarch Ignatius was a keystone of openness and coexistence in Lebanon and the Arab world. He was also a fundamental sponsor and guarantor of [inter-Lebanese] reconciliation. His stances were based on reason; he sought calm and stability, he was committed to Arab and Lebanese interests”.
Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai offered condolences over Ignatius’ death, saying in a telegram that the late patriarch had led his church with “much enthusiasm, dedication, and wisdom”. Grand Mufti Sheikh Mohammad Rashid Qabbani expressed deep regret over Ignatius’ death, saying the late patriarch was “one of the great religious and Arab symbols in Lebanon and the world”, describing Ignatius as “a man of moderation, openness, dialogue, love, and coexistence between Muslims and Christians”. Qabbani called on Beirut Metropolitan Greek Orthodox Archbishop Elias Audi to offer condolences. Sheikh Abdel-Amir Qabalan, deputy head of the Higher Shiite Council, and Druze spiritual leader Sheikh Naim Hasan also called on Audi to offer their condolences. Deputy Parliament Speaker Farid Makari described Ignatius as “a great man” who led the Greek Orthodox community through a difficult time in the region. He said Ignatius had always called for unity and dialogue and was a “resounding voice of freedom”.
Born in the village of Mhardeh in Hama Governorate in Syria in 1921, Ignatius was part of an Arab Orthodox family. After finishing school in Hama, Syria, he moved to Beirut where he studied literature and started serving the Orthodox Church in Lebanon. Ignatius founded the University of Balamand in Lebanon, which he then served for many years as dean. In 1971, he became Orthodox Metropolitan of the Syrian city of Latakia. He became Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch and all the East in 1979.
6 December 2012
The Daily Star: Lebanon News