In Memoriam: His Beatitude Patriarch Ignatius IV (Hazim) of Antioch and All the East

5 December 2012 • In Memoriam • Virginia Nieuwsma

Memory Eternal!His Beatitude Patriarch Ignatius IVMemory Eternal!His Beatitude Patriarch Ignatius IVHis Beatitude Patriarch Ignatius IV (Hazim) of Antioch and All the East, fell asleep in the Lord at St. George Orthodox Hospital in Beirut, Lebanon, after suffering a stroke. Immediately following the Patriarch's repose, His Beatitude The Most Blessed Tikhon, primate of the Orthodox Church in America (OCA), sent condolences to the Holy Synod of the Patriarchate of Antioch, assuring them of the prayers of the members of the Holy Synod of Bishops and the clergy and faithful of the OCA.

On October 21, 2012, during his recent visit to the United States, the Patriarch presided over Matins and Liturgy at St. Nicholas Cathedral in Brooklyn, New York. October 2012: Patriarch Ignatius with seminarians in Brooklyn, NYOctober 2012: Patriarch Ignatius with seminarians in Brooklyn, NYSeveral Antiochian seminarians from St. Vladimir's Seminary participated in the service with His Beatitude. Wrote third-year student Richard Ajalat after the event, "It was a blessing to sense how our spiritual 'father of fathers' loves and cares for his children in North America." On the evening of December 5, the community of St. Vladimir's Seminary gathered in Three Hierarchs Chapel and prayed a panikhida service for His Beatitude.

Patriarch Ignatius began life in the village of Mhardey near Hama in Syria in 1920. His family nurtured him in the Orthodox faith, and after finishing school in Hama, the young Mr. Hazim moved to Beirut in 1936 to study literature. While in Beirut, he started his journey of service to the Church by serving as an acolyte. In 1945, His Beatitude graduated from the American University of Beirut, and from 1949 to 1953 he studied at the St. Sergius Theological Institute in Paris. Returning  to Lebanon, he was ordained hieromonk, and also became one of the founders of the influential Orthodox Youth Movement in Lebanon and Syria. During this chapter of his life, His Beatitude also collaborated with other Orthodox clergy and laity to organize "Syndesmos," a worldwide community of Orthodox youth.

In 1961, His Beatitude became the Bishop of Palmyra and Patriarchal Vicar, and in the following year, he moved to the monastery of Balamand, where he served as superior and as dean of the Balamand Orthodox Theological Seminary. In 1970, the future Patriarch was appointed Metropolitan of Latakia (Laodicea). Later in that same decade on July 2, 1979, he was elected primate of the Church of Antioch, and was enthroned as world Orthodoxy's third-ranking hierarch (after Constantinople and Alexandria) the following week, on July 8.

As a scholar, Patriarch Ignatius published a series of theological books as well as numerous articles. In 1985, he published a book with SVS Press titled The Resurrection and Modern Man, on the centrality and promise of the Resurrection. He wrote, "It is up to us whether the New Creation remains hidden and meaningless, or whether it deifies man and transfigures the world. Such is our responsibility in the quest for authentic renewal." At St. Vladimir's Commencement Exercises in May of that same year, the Seminary's Board of Trustees conferred an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree on His Beatitude. Other degrees were awarded by the Sorbonne and Saint-Petersburg (1981) and Minsk (2003) Theological Academies.

Anne Glynn Mackoul, former executive chair of the seminary's board of trustees and a representative of His Beatitude and the patriarchate of Antioch to the World Council of Churches, recalled Patriarch Ignatius. "His Beatitude was a religious leader whose steadfast loving faith and humility inspired generations of Christians. His faith was formed in the rich soil of the east where the continuous presence of Christians from the time of Christ provides a compelling image to Christians worldwide. He worked urgently to maintain the presence of Christians in Syria and Lebanon, throughout the Middle East and in Palestine integrated peacefully in their diverse communities. He was committed to ecumenical and inter–faith dialogue, reflecting the particular witness of the patriarchate of Antioch living for centuries as neighbors face to face with Islam, and side by side with other Christian churches. Such a presence, as His Beatitude has written, is informed by the witness of a church that 'is sharing fully the suffering of our peoples, in patience but also in courage, a church that does not maintain itself in a survivalist conservatism and in an ethnic and linguistic particularism, a church dispersed like salt, seeking its identity in its vocation'."

"His Beatitude inspired and encouraged humanitarian outreach from the patriarchate to all in need. His passing is a tremendous loss for the Church and for the world," she concluded. Concurred Seminary Dean The Very Rev. Dr. John Behr, "We are deeply saddened by this immense loss, and are praying for His Beatitude and the church of Antioch."

Added The Very Rev. Dr. Chad Hatfield, chancellor/CEO, "His Patriarchal 'watch' has been on some of the most tumultuous times both ecclesiastically and in the civil realm of the Middle East. He will be remembered as one who kept things stable through these difficult times and his voice will be deeply missed. May he rest in peace and rise in glory."

Visit the Antiochian Archdiocese Memorial page. 

Listen to Ancient Faith Radio's interview about the Patriarch's life and repose, featuring The Very Rev. Thomas Zain, lecturer of Liturgics at St. Vladimir's Seminary, and dean of St. Nicholas Antiochian Orthodox Cathedral in Brooklyn, NY.

Order His Beatitude's book, The Resurrection and Modern Man.