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Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Syrian Orthodox Church

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 The Syriac Orthodox Church has elected a new patriarch to lead one of the world's oldest Christian sects, Lebanon's national news agency said Monday.The announcement of the election of Cyril Aphrem Karim, a 48-year-old Syrian, was made by the Syrian Orthodox Church's Lebanese headquarters in the village of Atshaneh northeast of the capital Beirut.


Karim, who served as bishop in the United States, replaces Patriarch Ignatius Zakka Iwas, who died March 21 in a hospital in Germany at the age of 80.

Karim's official title will be the Patriarch of Antioch and All the East. His church, known as the Syrian Orthodox Church, was founded in the year 452 after a schism with the bulk of the world's Christians. There are more than 4 million members, living in Syria, Lebanon and Iraq although there are also significant communities in Germany, Sweden and in the United States, where immigrants from the Near East introduced the faith in the late 19th century.


The new patriarch was born in Qamishli, the capital of a northeastern Syrian province, wedged between the borders of Turkey and Iraq. He studied in St. Ephrem's Theological Seminary in Atchaneh, Lebanon in 1977. In the 1980s, he served the Syriac Orthodox Archdiocese of Aleppo and pursued higher education at the Coptic Theological Seminary in Cairo, Egypt. He was ordained as a monk in 1985 in Egypt.

He also studied in Ireland and served in Damascus, where his church is based, before his predecessor, Iwas, appointed him bishop of the east coast of the United States in 1996. Since then, Karim has been living in Teaneck, New Jersey. It was not clear if Karim will be based in Syria or in Lebanon as patriarch.

He is taking the church's leadership role at the time of great uncertainty for Christians in the Middle East.
Thousands have left Iraq, following the 2003 U.S-led invasion of the country that unleashed unprecedented sectarian violence.

In Syria, recent assaults on predominantly Christian towns by rebels fighting against President Bashar Assad's rule have fueled fears among the country's religious minorities about the growing role of Islamic extremists in the revolt.


Patriarch  Late


                               HH Moran Mor Ignatius Zakka I Iwas                                  


Ignatius Zakka I Iwas (Syriac: ܐܝܓܢܐܛܝܘܣ ܙܟܝ ܩܕܡܝܐ ܥܝܘܐܨ, Arabic: إغناطيوس زكا الأول عيواص‎, Zakkà ‘Äªwāṣ, born Sanharib Iwas (Arabic: سنحريب عيواص‎) on 21 April 1933) is the 122nd reigning Syriac Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch and All the East and, as such, Supreme Head of the Universal Syriac Orthodox Church. Also known by his traditional episcopal name, Severios, he was enthroned as patriarch on 14 September 1980 in St. George's Patriarchal Cathedral in Damascus. He succeeded Ignatius Ya`qub III. As is traditional for the head of the church, Severios has adopted the name Ignatius.

Iwas is known for his involvement in ecumenical dialogue. He is a president of the World Council of Churches[citation needed] and is also a prolific author. He was an observer at Second Vatican Council before becoming metropolitan bishop of Mosul. At the time of his election as patriarch, Iwas had been archbishop of Baghdad and Basra.

As patriarch, he established a monastic seminary, met with Pope John Paul II during the Roman Pope's trip to Syria in 2001, and installed numerous metropolitans, including Baselios Thomas I as Catholicos of India. He celebrated his Silver Jubilee in 2005.

Early life and studies

Iwas was born on 21 April 1933 in Mosul, Iraq.[1] His parents named him Sanharib Iwas at birth after the ancient Assyrian King and Christian convert Sennacherib II.[2] He completed his elementary studies at the school of Our Lady's Parish and was transferred to St. Thomas Syriac Orthodox Church School, both in Mosul. In 1946, he began his theological studies in the city's Mor Ephrem seminary. At the seminary, his birth name was replaced by the name Zakka. There, in 1948, he was ordained as a deacon with the rank of Reader. In the year 1953, he was promoted to the rank of half-deacon. The following year saw Iwas take monastic vows. He left Mosul at that time to become secretary to the patriarchs, Afram Barsoum and then Ya`qub III. In 1955 he was promoted to the rank of deacon.[1]

On 17 November 1957, Patriarch Ya`qub III ordained Iwas a priest and, two years later, gave him the pectoral cross as rabban. In 1960, Iwas pursued further study in New York. There, he studied oriental languages and completed a master's degree in English at City University and a further master's in pastoral theology at the General Theological Seminary.

Metropolitan bishop and patriarch

Following the death of Patriarch Ya`qub III on 25 June 1980, Iwas was elected by the synod of the church to be the 122nd Syriac Patriarch of Antioch. He was enthroned as patriarch on 14 September, the feast of the Cross, by Baselios Paulose II, Catholicos of the East, in St. George's Patriarchal Cathedral in Damascus.[1] As is traditional for the head of the church, he adopted the name Ignatius at this time. Being the first patriarch to be named Zakka, his name is often written as Ignatius Zakka I Iwas. His full titulary is: His Holiness Ignatius Zakka I Iwas, Patriarch of Antioch and All the East, and Supreme Head of the Universal Syriac Orthodox Church