(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Saturday accepted the resignation of the Melkite Greek Patriarch of Antioch, His Beatitude Gregory III Laham, from his pastoral office. A letter from the Holy Father to the Patriarch-emeritus and all the Melkite bishops explains his resignation during the course of a special audience with the Holy Father in February, and that the Holy Father has decided to accept the resignation.
In the letter, Pope Francis thanks the 83 year-old Patriarch-emeritus, "a zealous servant of the People of God, for the generous service to his church and for keeping the international community's attention focused on the tragedy of Syria."
The Holy Father goes on to write, "I invoke upon you all the intercession of the Holy Mother of God and willingly give the Apostolic Blessing to our dear Greco-Melkite Church as a sign of grace and encouragement for the future of communion and witness of The Gospel. "
To His Beatitude Gregory III Laham
Patriarch of Antioch of the Greco-Melkites
and to all the Bishops of this Church
Beatitude and Venerable Brothers in Christ,
In my solicitude for all the Churches, I address myself to you, grateful for your service to the People of God and aware of your responsibility as Pastors.
Since the meeting of the Synod of Bishops last February, His Beatitude, at the hearing I granted him, spontaneously presented me with his renunciation of the patriarchal office, asking me to decide the most favorable moment for accept it. After praying and reflecting attentively, I consider it opportune and necessary for the good of the Greco-Melkite Church to welcome today its renunciation.
In thanking His Beatitude, a zealous servant of the People of God, for the generous service of his Church and for keeping the international community's attention focused on the tragedy of Syria, I invoke upon you all the intercession of The Holy Mother of God and willingly gives the Apostolic Blessing to our dear Greco-Melkite Church as a sign of grace and encouragement for the future of communion and witness of the Gospel.
From the Vatican, May 6, 2017