Antiochian Orthodox Metropolitan PHILIP dies, church grew under his 48-year leadership

The Most Rev. Metropolitan PHILIP Saliba, head of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese in North America, died March 19, according to the church’s chancery in Englewood, New Jersey. He was 83.

Saliba is credited with building the Antiochian Orthodox Church through his outreach and welcome to all, particularly to Evangelical Christian congregations.

The Christian names of Antiochian Orthodox metropolitans are customarily spelled capitalized. The role of metropolitan is parallel to that of archbishop in this branch of the Orthodox Church.

Saliba served as head of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese in North America (United States and Canada) since 1966. Described as a visionary, Saliba was the longest serving bishop in any branch of Orthodoxy in the United States—having been in his role for nearly half a century, since the age of 35.

Arab Christian immigrants from Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Palestine were the primary founders of the Antiochian Orthodox Church, over 100 ago. Under Saliba’s guidance, this branch has grown to include a wide variety of Americans of all backgrounds.

In 1975, Saliba accomplished the unification of two Antiochian Orthodox Archdioceses into one in North America. The “jewel” of the Archdiocese was the purchase and establishment of the Antiochian Village, a summer camp and conference center, in the Laurel Mountains of Western Pennsylvania.

During the 1980s, it was Saliba who worked closely with leaders of the 1970s Campus Crusade for Christ in bringing them and their established congregations into the Orthodox Church, most coming from Evangelical Christian backgrounds. “Others turned them away because they didn't know what to do with them," said the Rev. Thomas Zain, Vicar General for the archdiocese. “He took the bold step to say, ‘Come home.’”

Saliba was born on June 10, 1931, in Abou Mizan, Lebanon, the fourth of five children to Elias and Saleema Saliba. After completing his primary education at the Shouier Elementary School, he entered the Balamand Orthodox Seminary, near Tripoli, at the age of 14. He subsequently attended and graduated from the Orthodox Secondary School in Homs, Syria, and the Assiyeh Orthodox College in Damascus, Syria.

He attended the Kelham Theological School at the University of London. In 1956, he arrived in the United States and enrolled at Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology in Brookline,

Massachusetts. Assigned to a position at St. George Church in Detroit, he entered Wayne State University, from which he was graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1959.

Viewing will be from 1-9 p.m. on Wednesday March 26, Thursday March 27 and Friday March 28. The Funeral service will be held at 11:30 a.m. on Saturday March 29. All services will be held at St. Nicholas Orthodox Christian Cathedral, 355 State Street in Boerum Hill. The Metropolitan will then be buried at Antiochian Village, the church’s retreat center, Ligonier, PA, near Pittsburgh. His final resting place will be near the gravesite of St. Raphael of Brooklyn.

The schedule of events, along with all current information can be found at the website of the Archdiocese www.antiochian.org. The Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese in North America is headquartered in Englewood, New Jersey and has a membership of over 150,000 in North America. It is a part of the worldwide Eastern Orthodox Church, which is the second largest Christian denomination in the world with over 250 million members.