Damascus (AsiaNews) - His Beatitude Patriarch Ignatius IV (Hazim), primate of the Greek-Orthodox of Antioch and All the East, has died. He was 91 and had been ailing for some time. In recent months, he had made several appeals for peace in syria, devastated by civil war between Bashar al-Assad's army and the rebel Free Syrian Army.
Local sources remember his ceaseless work to stop the slaughter, along with Catholic prelates and Muslim leaders. In one of his appeal, he said, "A countless number of Arab Muslims and Christians, men, women and children, fall victims of bombs every day. Hospitals are full of injured people." As Arabs of Syria, "regardless of our religion, we have the right to live in peace in our country. [. . .] We invite all Syrians in the name of the one true God, to decide to live together in our blessed home. We hope that all international organizations help us to ensure peace, stability and reconciliation."
The patriarch was born in 1920 in the village of Muharda, near the city of Hama, Syria. In 1936, he moved to Beirut, where he became an altar server in a local parish.
In 1945 he graduated from the American University of Beirut, and from 1949 to 1953 studied at the Saint Sergius Theological Institute in Paris.
On his return to Lebanon, he was ordained hieromonk. In 1942, he became one of the founders of the influential Orthodox Youth Movement in Lebanon and Syria, which has done much to renew youthful participation in Church life.
After returning from France in 1953, His Beatitude became one of the organisers of Syndesmos, the worldwide Brotherhood of Orthodox Youth. In 1961, he was ordained bishop of Palmyra and patriarchal vicar.
In 1970, the future patriarch was appointed metropolitan of Latakia (Laodicea). Nine years later, On 8 July 1979, he was elected primate of the Church of Antioch.
During his life, Ignatius IV published many books and articles on theology. For this, he was made an honorary doctor by the Sorbonne and the University of Minsk (Belarus).