The news of the death of H.B. Patriarch Ignace IV Hazim, Primate of the Orthodox Church of Antioch and All the East, yesterday, 5 December, in a Beirut hospital, was greeted with profound sorrow.
The Patriarch, whose health had been seriously deteriorating for some time, in recent months launched numerous appeals for peace in Syria and, alongside the Catholic bishops and Muslim religious leaders, was deeply committed to encouraging reconciliation in the region. Messages of condolences and participation in the grief of the Christian community are arriving from all over the world. The Patriarch, who was born on 4 April 1920 in Muharda, near Hama, Syria, moved to Beirut in 1936, where in 1945 he graduated from the American University. He went on to study theology in France. He was ordained a priest in Lebanon where he subsequently also founded the Orthodox Youth Movement. In 1961 he was appointed Bishop of the Diocese of Palmira and Patriarchal Vicar, and, in 1970, Metropolitan of Latakia. He was appointed Patriarch of Antioch in 1979.
Hundreds of messages are arriving, as mentioned, paying tribute to the witness borne by the Primate. “On behalf of the Russian Orthodox Church”, the message signed by Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia says, “I would like to express deep sorrow for the bereavement that has afflicted the Orthodox Church of Antioch”. Patriarch Ignace IV, the message continues, “was at the helm” of the community “in a period of harsh trials”, and “his wisdom and profound biblical humility make him one of the major religious leaders who did much for peace and well-being in the Near East”.