Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, general secretary of the World Council of Churches (WCC), extended greetings from the worldwide fellowship of churches to His Holiness Moran Mor Ignatius Aphrem II during a celebration in Beirut on 1 June following his enthronement as Syriac Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch and All East, and Supreme Head of the Universal Syriac Orthodox Church.
Ignatius Aphrem II, formerly Archbishop Mor Cyril Aphrem Karim of the Eastern United States of America from 1996 to 2014, was enthroned as patriarch in Damascus on 29 May. His predecessor, Patriarch Igatius Zakka I Iwas, had died on 21 March after a long illness.
Speaking on behalf of the WCC, Tveit said, “The fellowship of our member churches is thankful to the Triune God, the God of life, that you are called to this significant ministry of leadership. You have been provided with your many gifts of wisdom, knowledge, communication, courage, friendliness and joy to fill this role.”
Tveit added that this enthronement is to be taken as “a sign of hope”, especially in such “difficult and challenging times for Syria and the whole Middle East region.”
The new patriarch was born on 3 May 1965 in Qamishli, Syria. He was educated at St Ephraim’s Theological Seminary in Lebanon, Coptic Theological Seminary in Cairo, Egypt and St Patrick’s College in Maynooth, Ireland.
The WCC general secretary noted that, as a Syriac Orthodox archbishop in the United States, the newly enthroned patriarch represented his church at three WCC Assemblies and has served on the central and executive committees of the WCC, as well as in the leadership of other ecumenical bodies such as Christian Churches Together and the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A.
Tveit concluded by offering prayers for the patriarch, for the Syriac Orthodox Church throughout the world, and particularly for the release of two Orthodox archbishops, Youhanna Ibrahim and Boulos Yazigi, who were kidnapped near Aleppo, Syria more than a year ago.