Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Statement by the Orthodox Bishops of France on the Repose of Ignatius IV Hazim

French original, in pdf, here.

Great grief has struck the entirety of the Orthodox Church in the world!

His Beatitude, Ignatius IV, primate of the Church of Antioch and All the East was born in heaven at Saint George's Hospital in Beirut, on this day when we commemorate Saint Sabbas the Sanctified.

The Orthodox Church of Antioch, where Christians were first called by this name (Acts 11:19-26) and which was founded by the chiefs of the Apostles, Saints Peter and Paul, now loses her primate and spiritual guide during the very sorrowful period through which the Middle East and particularly Syria are passing. Thus the entirety of the Orthodox Church loses in Ignatius IV of Antioch one of its greatest and most prominent leaders.

Born in 1921 in the village of Mhardeh, in the province of Hama, Syria, Ignatius IV of Antioch was elected Orthodox patriarch of Antioch in 1979, during a pivotal and sensitive period in the life of that Church, in a Middle East constantly menaced and shaken by wars, unrest, and greed. With great dignity, but also with unfailing courage and determination, he directed the renaissance and positioning of that eminent Orthodox Church of Antioch, whose roots go back to apostolic times and whose leaders are the successors of Saints Peter and Paul.

Ignatius IV, who often loved to repeat that, "without love we are corpses and our world, cemeteries," was a great pastor, a guide for the Christians of the Middle East, but also a tireless builder. His contributions to the spread of the Orthodox Church of Antioch are many and innumerable, as they are for the entirety of the Orthodox Church in the world. He was notably one of the founders in 1942 of the Orthodox Youth Movement of the Patriarchate of Antioch, which contributed to the renewal of the spiritual and liturgical life of the Patriarchate of Antioch. Then, he founded the Saint John of Damascus Institute of Orthodox Theology at Balamand, Lebanon, as well as Balamand University, which has since become one of the most important academic and university campuses in the Middle East. He was also one of the founders of the world Orthodox Youth Movement, Syndesmos. The late patriarch was also close to France, a country that he often liked to visit, from the time he began his theological studies in 1945 at the Saint Serge Institute of Orthodox Theology in Paris.

The Orthodox bishops of France share the Orthodox Church of Antioch's pain. They relate to her grief and address our deepest brotherly condolences to all the hierarchs, pastors, and faithful of the Orthodox Church of Antioch, particularly His Eminence Metropolitan John (Yazigi), as well as his auxiliary bishops, including His Excellency Ignatius (El Hochi) in Paris, and all the clergy and faithful of the Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese of Europe.

The bishops and all the Orthodox faithful of France share in the prayer of the Orthodox Church of Antioch for the repose of the spirit of His Beatitude Patriarch Ignatius IV of Antioch.

Memory eternal!

Paris- December 5, 2012

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