Beirut (AsiaNews) - Youhanna Yazigi, who took the name of Youhanna X, is the new patriarch of the Greek-Orthodox Church of Antioch and the entire East. The youthful 57-year-old was elected yesterday at Balamand Monastery, near Tripoli, Lebanon. He succeeds Ignatius IV Hazim, who passed away two weeks ago at the age of 92.
In his first statement at a press conference, he reiterated the right of Christians to remain in the Middle East. He equally stressed the importance of dialogue with other Churches and with Muslims. "Christians are staying," he said. "This is their land."
"We believe in dialogue. Relations with other Christian Churches for us are important. We are also open to our Muslim brothers," he said. "We are one family and our fate is shared."
Born in Latakia, Syria, and brother of Boulos, archbishop of Aleppo, the new patriarch was metropolitan of Western and Central Europe.
In 1983, he graduated from the theological faculty of the University of Thessaloniki, in Greece. In that same year, he graduated in music studies and was ordained into the priesthood.
He later taught theology at Balamand University and served as the bishop of Wade el-Nasser, where he founded a religious order and a seminary.
A keen observer of ecumenical issues, he took part in various congresses around the world.
Eighteen of the 20 who could vote took part in the ballot, with12 or two thirds choosing Youhanna.
"This service is my cross," he said. "I ask you for your prayers and brotherly love so that the Church of Antioch can be a worthy image of the Bride of Christ."
"I ask for your prayers to be faithful to the ministry that was given me. Let us be part of this land, this ground. It is part of our being."