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Friday, 30 May 2014

Syriac Orthodox Patriarch Ignatius Aphrem II enthroned in Damascus, welcomed by Greek-Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch John

His Holiness Moran Mor Ignatius Aphrem II,

123rd Prince Patriarch of Antioch and All the East, enthroned, 29 May 2014
Moran Mor Ignatius Aphrem II (Syriac: ܡܪܢ ܡܪܝ ܐܝܓܢܛܝܘܣ ܐܦܪܝܡ ܬܪܝܢܐ Moran Mor[y] Ignaṭius Afrem Trayono, Arabic: مار إغناطيوس أفرام الثاني Mār Iġnāṭīūs Afrām al-Ṯānī; born as Saʿid Karim on May 3, 1965) is the patriarch of the Syriac Orthodox Church. He is the 123rd Syriac Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch. He was enthroned as patriarch in Damascus on May 29, 2014.

Before his election to the patriarchate in 2014, he was Archbishop for the Eastern United States of America, and known as Mor Cyril Aphrem Karim in that post.

 Saʿid Karim was born in Qamishli, north-eastern Syria, on May 3, 1965, the youngest son of Issa and Khanema Karim. His family are Syriacs, who came originally from the village Ehwo (Turkish: Güzelsu) in the Tur Abdin region of Mardin Province, Turkey. After primary schooling in Qamishli, in 1977, Karim received his religious secondary education St. Ephrem's Theological Seminary in Atchaneh, Bikfaya, Lebanon. On leaving school in 1982, he worked in Aleppo, Syria, as an assistant to the Archbishop Mor Gregorios Yuhanna Ibrahim. From 1984 to 1988, he pursued his university education at the Coptic Theological Seminary in Cairo, Egypt, receiving a BA degree in Divinity upon graduation.The young Deacon Aphrem Karim (later Patriarch Ignatius Aphrem II) with his predecessor Patriarch Ignatius Zakka I Iwas, taken in 1985.

In 1985, Saʿid Karim took the vows of a monk, and changed his name to Aphrem (in honor of the 4th-century Syriac poet-theologian Ephrem the Syrian, and of former patriarch Aphrem I Barsoum). He was ordained deacon, and, later that year, was elevated to the sacred priesthood. From 1988 to 1989, he served as both the secretary to his patriarchal predecessor, Ignatius Zakka I Iwas, and as a teacher at St. Ephrem’s Theological Seminary in Damascus, Syria.  In 1989, he entered St Patrick's College in Maynooth, Ireland, from where he received a Licentiate of Sacred Theology(1991) and Doctor of Divinity (1994). His doctoral thesis is titled The Symbolism of the Cross in early Syriac Christianity. During that time, he also served as a priest to the Syriac Orthodox Community in the United Kingdom.  Karim speaks Classical Syriac (Kthobonoyo) as well as Turoyo (a colloquial Neo-Aramaic spoken in his ancestral Tur Abdin), as well as Arabic, French and English.

Photo: 29 May'14
United in Christ................In 1995, following the death of Archbishop Mor Athanasius Yeshue Samuel, who had established the Archdiocese of the United States and Canada to minister to the Syriac Orthodox diaspora in 1957 (after his appointment as patriarchal vicar in 1952), it was decided to divide the territory into three new archdioceses: the Eastern United States, Los Angeles and Environs, and Canada. It was to the first of these that Monk Aphrem Karim was appointed as new bishop.  On January 28, 1996, Aphrem Karim was consecrated as Metropolitan Archbishop and Patriarchal Vicar of the Archdiocese for the Eastern United States by Patriarch Ignatius Zakka I Iwas at St. Mary’s Syriac Orthodox Church in his home town of Qamishli. Taking the episcopal name Cyril, he arrived in the United States on March 2, 1996, and was officially installed at St. Mark’s Syriac Orthodox Cathedral in Teaneck, New Jersey, as Mor Cyril Aphrem Karim.

On March 21, 2014, Patriarch Ignatius Zakka I Iwas died in hospital in Kiel, Germany, after a long illness. Following his death, the Holy Synod of the Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch was convened to elect a successor. The synod was held at St Jacob Baradeus Monastery in Atchaneh, Lebanon, presided over by Mor Baselius Thomas I Catholicos of India and Mor Severius Jamil Hawa Archbishop of Baghdad and Basra and Patriarchal Locum Tenens (Syriac: ܩܝܘܡܐ Qoyumo, Arabic: قعم مقام Qaʿim Maqām, colloquially قيمقام Qaymaqām; most senior of the bishops by his 1970 consecration), with the latter making the public announcement of the election. The synod duly elected Cyril Aphrem Karim to be the 123rd successor of St. Peter in the Apostolic Sea of Antioch. He was enthroned on May 29, 2014, at St Ephrem's Monastery, Maarat Saidnaya, near Damascus, Syria.

Following the tradition of the church, Karim took the patriarchal name Ignatius (to replace his episcopal name Cyril), and, being the second patriarch to bear the monastic name Aphrem (the first being Ignatius Aphrem I Barsoum), his name became Ignatius Aphrem II. Unlike both Aphrem I Barsoum and Zakka I Iwas, but following older convention, Aphrem II is not using his family name, Karim, in his official title.

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