DAMASCUS: In the Old City district of Damascus, the Greek Orthodox Church of Syria held a funeral Monday for Ignatius IV Hazim, patriarch of Antioch and All the East. The ceremony was attended by a large number of religious leaders of several faiths, including Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarch Gregory III Laham, as well as government officials.
Hazim was 92 when he died in Beirut Wednesday following a stroke. His body was transferred to Damascus Sunday after a service in Beirut.
Christian schoolchildren paid their respects Sunday and Monday morning at Saint Mary’s Cathedral, where the funeral was held.
At the end of the funeral ceremony, religious dignitaries accompanied by young scouts carried Hazim’s coffin to the Cave of the Patriarchs, which is situated in the cathedral. The patriarch was buried there.
Syria’s parliament speaker Jihad Lahham attended the ceremony alongside several ministers.
In a statement to Syrian state television, Information Minister Omran Zohbi paid homage to the patriarch, describing him as a man of importance to Syria and the world: “His death is a loss for humanity.”
Born in 1920 in Mharde, near the central Syrian province of Hama, Hazim studied philosophy at the American University of Beirut.
He then traveled to France in 1949, where he studied liturgy.
On returning to Lebanon, he founded the University of Balamand in Koura.
He was consecrated as a bishop in 1962, and chosen to become Antioch’s 157th patriarch on July 2, 1979.
In March 2012, a year on from the outbreak of a popular revolt against President Bashar Assad, Hazim was quoted by pro-regime daily Al-Watan as warning against any foreign intervention in Syria, saying it would be bad for “both Christians and Muslims.”