The Word Magazine September, 1979 Page 10-11


On Monday, July 2, 1979, the Holy Synod of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East convened in Damascus, Syria, to elect a successor to His Beatitude Patriarch ELIAS IV who suffered a fatal heart attack on June 21. According to the Canons of the Antiochian Patriarchate, the Synod must convene no later than the tenth day following a vacancy on the Patriarchal Throne.

The Metropolitans met for their preliminary session in the Grand Salon of the Patriarchal Residence at 11:30 AM. Those in attendance were: Metropolitans MELETIOS (Swaity) of Argentina; IGNATIUS (Forzley) of Brazil; BASIL (Samaha) of Hauran, Syria; ILYAS (Kurban) of Tripoli, Lebanon; IGNATIUS (Hazim) of Lattakiyeh, Syria; PHILIP (Saliba) of North America; SPYRIDON (Khoury) of Zahle, Lebanon; ATHANASIUS (Skaff) of Hama, Syria; CONSTANTINE (Papastephanou) of Baghdad, Iraq; ALEXIS (Abdel-Karim) of Homs, Syria; GEORGE (Khodre) of Mount Lebanon, Lebanon; and ELIAS (Youssef) of Aleppo, Syria. The session was chaired by ILYAS of Tripoli, the Locum Tenens of the Patriarchal Throne. ALEXIS of Homs acted as Secretary.

The agenda for this first session included a review of the brilliant reign of the late Patriarch ELIAS IV. Following an extended discussion aimed at “formulating a vision for the future,” initiated and led by Metropolitan PHILIP of North America, the Synod proceeded to nominate three candidates. At 1:40 PM the preliminary session was adjourned and the members of the Holy Synod proceeded to the nearby Patriarchal Cathedral of the Dormition of the Mother of God for the election session.

After the doors of the Cathedral were closed, the Metropolitans cast their secret ballots. Metropolitans IGNATIUS of Brazil and MELETIOS of Argentina, the senior members of the Synod, tabulated the votes and informed the Locum Tenens of the name of the new Patriarch. The doors of the Cathedral were opened and Metropolitan ILYAS announced to the waiting crowds the name of the new Patriarch: His Beatitude IGNATIUS IV (Hazim). As bells rang throughout the city Patriarch IGNATIUS IV ascended the Patriarchal Throne and delivered his first address. On Sunday, July 8, His Beatitude was officially enthroned as the 165th successor to St. Peter the Apostle on the Antiochian Throne. The ceremony was attended by representatives of the other Orthodox Patriarchates and religious leaders from throughout the world.

His Beatitude IGNATIUS IV was born in 1920 in the town of Maharda, Syria, near the city of Hama. His name, prior to entering the ranks of the clergy, was Habeeb Ibn-Assad Hazim. He received his early education in his home town and in 1936 went to Beirut where he was ordained sub-deacon and enrolled in the American University of Beirut (AUB). In 1942 he received a Baccalaureate II in Philosophy from the University, and in 1945 he graduated with a BA. in Philosophy. In that same year he was ordained to the Holy Diaconate, taking the name of Ignatius.

He entered the Saint Serge Orthodox Theological Academy in Paris, France, in 1949. Following his graduation from Saint Serge in 1953, he returned to Beirut where he was ordained to the Holy Priesthood and appointed principal of the Orthodox School of the Annunciation. In 1961 he was elected and consecrated Bishop of Palmyra and named Patriarchal Vicar to His Beatitude THEODOSIUS VI. At this time he was also appointed Superior of the Dormition Monastery and Balamand Theological Academy near Tripoli, Lebanon.

Upon the death of Metropolitan GABRIEL (Damian) of Lattakiyeh in 1965, IGNATIUS was elected Metropolitan Archbishop and enthroned as Primate of this Archdiocese. As Metropolitan of this important Syria port city, IGNATIUS became well known in international circles as a result of his attendance at numerous Pan-Orthodox Consultations and assemblies and conferences of the World Council of Churches. He served as Metropolitan of Lattakiyeh until his election to the Patriarchal Throne on July 2, 1979.

His Beatitude is the author of many books, including The Resurrection and Modern Man (in French), and An Orthodox Catechism and two volumes of sermons (in Arabic). He is fluent in Arabic, French, and English, and has a working knowledge of Greek and Russian.

As Patriarch of Antioch and All the East, His Beatitude IGNATIUS IV has spiritual jurisdiction over 1,500,000 Orthodox Christians located mainly in Syria and Lebanon, with large communities in North, Central and South America, and Australia.