Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Syria Ignatius IV Dies

Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Syria Ignatius IV Dies

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Patriarch of Syria Ignatius IVGreek Orthodox Patriarch Ignatius IV Hazim died on Wednesday, December 5, 2012, at a hospital in Lebanon’s capital city of Beirut, NOW Lebanon reported.

On Tuesday, local news editions announced that Hazim was received at the Saint George Hospital in Beirut, after suffering a stroke.

Patriarch Ignatius IV Hazim, who was born in Hama’s Syria in 1921, was elected Metropolitan of Latakia and later, in July 1979, he was elected Patriarch of Antioch and All The East.

Ignatius was born Habib Hazim in 1921 in the village of Mhardeh near Hama in Syria. He is the son of a pious Greek Orthodox family and from an early age was attracted to service within the Church.

While studying in Beirut, Lebanon, for a literature degree, he entered the service of the local Orthodox diocese, first by becoming an acolyte, then a deacon. During his studies at the American University of Beirut, young Habib was influenced by his outstanding philosophy professor Charles Malik. Malik influenced his students tremendously on matters of philosophy and spirituality—many of whom (i.e. many of Hazim’s classmates) became ordained ministers and friars in various ecclesiastical orders under Malik’s influence.

In 1945 he went to Paris where he graduated from the St. Sergius Orthodox Theological Institute. From his time in France onwards he has been moved not only by a desire to pass on the deposit of the faith, but also to take Orthodoxy out of its unhistorical ghetto by discovering in its Holy Tradition living answers to the problems of modern life.

On his return to the Eastern Mediterranean, he founded the University of Balamand in Lebanon which he then served for many years as dean. As Dean he sought to provide the Patriarchate with responsible leaders who had received a good spiritual and intellectual training and who were witnesses to an awakened and deeply personal faith.

While his native language is Arabic, he also speaks fluent English and French. He was one of the founders of the active Orthodox Youth Movement of Lebanon and Syria in 1942, through which he helped to organise and lead a renewal of Church life in the Patriarchate of Antioch.

The movement worked at the heart of the Church helping ordinary believers to rediscover the personal and communal meaning of the Eucharist through a practice of frequent Communion which had become extremely rare. Following on from this in 1953 he helped to found Syndesmos, the world fellowship of Orthodox Youth and Theological Schools.

He was consecrated to the episcopacy in 1961 and elected Metropolitan of Lattakia in Syria in 1970. His style as metropolitan broke with the former tradition of episcopal grandeur and he inaugurated an authentic practice of frequent communion. On July 2, 1979, under the name of Ignatius IV, he became the Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch, the third ranking hierarch of the Orthodox Church after the Patriarchs of Constantinople and Alexandria.

During an official visit to the patriarch’s residence in May 2010, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev awarded the patriarch the Russian Order of Friendship.