The community of Hellenic College Holy Cross joins Christians and others around the world in mourning the falling asleep of His Beatitude Ignatius IV Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch and all the East. Patriarch Ignatius died December 5 at St. George Orthodox Hospital in Beirut, Lebanon after suffering a stroke earlier in the week. A Trisagion was sung for His Beatitude at the Vespers service for St. Nicholas in the Chapel of the Holy Cross on the HCHC campus.
Born in 1920 in the village of Muharda, near the city of Hama, Syria, Patriarch Ignatius moved to Beirut when he was sixteen where he later took monastic vows and was ordained a hierodeacon. A man of learning, he graduated from the American University of Beirut in 1945, and studied at the prestigious Saint Sergius Theological Institute in Paris from 1949 to 1953. From an early age, he was active in regional and international Orthodox youth movements, beginning in 1942 as one of the founding members of the Orthodox Youth Movement in Lebanon and Syria and, in 1953, played an important role as a founding member of Syndesmos, the international Brotherhood of Orthodox Youth. His commitment to education and youth continued when in 1962 he was appointed as dean of the Theological Seminary at the monastery of Balamand (Lebanon). One year earlier, he had been ordained as Bishop of Palmyra and Patriarchal Exarch. In 1970, the future Patriarch was appointed Metropolitan of Latakia (Laodicea) and on 2 July 1979, he was elected the 166th Patriarch of the Church of Antioch.
Upon learning of the death of Patriarch Ignatius, the Rev. Dr. Thomas FitzGerald, Dean of Holy Cross, said: “Presbytera Kyriaki and I were blessed to have many opportunities to visit with Patriarch Ignatius at the Patriarchate in Damascus. He was truly a faithful and humble man who had a very positive vision of the witness of the Orthodox Church in today’s world. Deeply devoted to Our Lord, he was an advocate of dialogue and renewal. He spoke boldly about Orthodox unity and about the unity of the Christian churches. He supported inter-faith discussions and the reconciliation of peoples especially in the Middle East. I vividly remember these concerns being presented by him at a significant meeting of Orthodox women in Damascus in 1996. May his memory be eternal.”
Patriarch Ignatius IV leaves a lasting legacy of spiritual, ecumenical, and educational leadership for the Church of Antioch. He is the author of many books and theological articles and is the recipient of several honorary doctorates. His influence has been felt on the campus of Hellenic College Holy Cross most tangibly through the presence of the many seminarians and students of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America. At his Beatitude’s October 2012 visit to the United States, HCHC seminarian Rassem El Massih (Hellenic College 2010) served as protopsalti at the Divine Liturgy presided over by His Beatitude at the Antiochian Orthodox Cathedral of St. Nicholas in Brooklyn, NY.
May his memory be eternal.