29 May 2014 • Hierarchical News • Maarat Saydnaya, Syria
 On this Feast of the Ascension the entire St. Vladimir's Seminary community offers special congratulations to His Holiness Moran Mor Ignatius Aphrem II  upon his installation as the 123rd Patriarch of Antioch and All the East and Supreme Head of the Universal Syriac Orthodox Church (SOC). Prior to his election as the new Patriarch, His Holiness served as Archbishop of the Eastern United States (SOC). Seminary leaders and students bid His Holiness farewell at celebratory occasions prior to his departure to Syria and his installation at the Cathedral of St. Peter and St. Paul at St. Aphrem's Monastery in Maarat Saydnaya.
St. Vladimir's Dean The Very Rev. Dr. John Behr attended a farewell banquet for His Holiness in Paramus, NJ on May 9, hosted by the Archdiocese for the Eastern United States . Father John presented His Holiness with several gifts from the Seminary and expressed his wishes to visit His Holiness in Damascus. Commenting on the evening, Fr. John remarked that "It was a wonderful occasion: His Holiness is manifestly loved very much by his flock, who are grieved to see him leave, but know that in his hands, guided by God, their church will undoubtedly flourish. I look forward to building ever stronger connections between St. Vladimir's and the Syriac Orthodox Church."
Seminary Chancellor/CEO The Very Rev. Dr. Chad Hatfield attended a May 13 luncheon in honor of the Patriarch-elect , hosted by Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, primate of the Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Church of America. His Holiness Karekin II, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians, presided over the gathering at the Armenian Church's Diocesan Center, having recently returned from meetings with Pope Francis in Rome, Italy, and Patriarch Kirill in Moscow, Russia.
"Our seminary has a long history of service to the Oriental Orthodox Communities and now new and stronger bonds have been formed with both old friends and new leadership in these difficult days for all Christians in the Middle East," noted Fr. Chad.
Seminarian Dn. Shiryl Mathai and his wife Asha attended "Patriarch Appreciation Night", an evening devoted to the youth of the Archdiocese. Deacon Shiryl is a first-year student with the Malankara Archdiocese of the Syrian Orthodox Church in North America ; the archdiocese is under the Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch. The American primate, Archbishop H.E. Mor Titus Yeldho, is a St. Vladimir's graduate of the Class of 2003.