By Francesca Norsen Tate
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Ignatius IV (Hazim), Patriarch of Antioch and all the East has died in Lebanon at age 92.
Syria’s state news agency, Sana, reported last week that Patriarch Ignatius died in Beirut’s St George's hospital in Beirut, Lebanon on December 5 after suffering a stroke. The report indicated that the Patriarch’s remains would be brought from Lebanon to Syria for burial.
A BBC news report erroneously referred to Ignatius IV as being “the Patriarch of Syria” and even “the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Syria.” Actually, the Orthodox Church in the world has separate branches, among them: Greek Orthodox, Russian Orthodox, and Antiochian Orthodox. Patriarch Ignatius had led 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 in this branch, the majority of whom are Syrians.
The Antiochian Church is one of 14 autocephalous (ecclesiastically independent) Eastern Orthodox patriarchates, third in honorific rank after the 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 Murhada, 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. The BBC reports that Syria's minority Christian community has not 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.