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CWN - Greek Orthodox Patriarch Ignatius IV of Antioch, honored as the third-ranking prelate within Eastern Orthodoxy after the Patriarchs of Constantinople and Alexandria, has died at the age of 91.

Born in Syria as Habib Hazim, he was consecrated a bishop in 1961 and was enthroned as patriarch in 1979. The patriarchate, which is one of 14 autocephalous Orthodox churches and is based in Damascus, has 750,000 members, principally in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Kuwait, Iran, Australia, Europe, and the Americas, including 250 parishes and missions in the United States and Canada.

Patriarch Ignatius IV promoted frequent Holy Communion and, in the words of L’Osservatore Romano, “launched numerous appeals for peace in Syria and, alongside the Catholic bishops and Muslim religious leaders, was deeply committed to encouraging reconciliation in the region.”

There are four other Patriarchs of Antioch. The heads of the Syriac Catholic Church, the Maronite Catholic Church, and the Melkite Greek Catholic Church are all in full communion with the Holy See and follow the Antiochene, Maronite, and Byzantine liturgical traditions respectively. The head of the Syrian Orthodox Church ceased to be in full communion with the Holy See following the Council of Chalcedon in 451 and is the head of one of the six Oriental Orthodox churches.

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