Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese of the British Isles and  Ireland
"the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch."

[Acts 11:26] 

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continued - All About Antioch - 7 (final)

The 20th / 21st Century Antiochian Renaissance

In 1899 the faithful and clergy of the Antiochian Patriarchate were successful in freeing themselves from the imposed Greek Hierarchy which had ruled Antioch since the eighteenth century. MELETIOS II (Doumani), a devout and learned Arab Orthodox, was elected to the Antiochian Throne. He was followed by the saintly GREGORY IV (Haddad) whose reign lasted from 1906 until his death in 1928. With the administration and initiative returned to the capable hands of its own people, the Antiochian Patriarchate experienced a reawakening from the dark hours of schism, political intrigue and foreign occupation. Patriarch ALEXANDER III (Tahan), who occupied the Antiochian Throne from 1930 until his death in 1958, enthusiastically set about to revitalize the parishes, monasteries and the theological seminary at Balamand. Perhaps the most important factor to consider in this spiritual renaissance is the Orthodox Youth Movement which was founded in 1942 by a group of dedicated laymen. The stated goal of the Movement is a renewal of the Patriarchate of Antioch through the study of Holy Scripture and increased participation in the sacramental life of the Church. To foster this renewal, they sought to encourage education among both the clergy and the laity. The founders were fully conscious of the fact that in spite of the hardships visited upon the See of Antioch, the Patriarchate had a great and glorious past and had made tremendous contributions to Christian theology, liturgy and spirituality. The Orthodox Youth Movement has proven to be in the best tradition of the See of Antioch and has given to the Church many highly educated monks and nuns (residing in monasteries established by the Movement itself), hierarchs, clergy and laymen.

The successor of ALEXANDER III, Patriarch THEODOSIOS VI, (Abourjaily), led the Patriarchate from 1958 until 1970. In that same year the Antiochian Patriarch, His Beatitude ELIAS IV (Muawad) was elected and enthroned. He continued to oversee the renaissance and brought distinction to the Antiochian Throne by his own fiery faith, power of oratory and active pastoral and administrative ministry.

The present Patriarch of Antioch, (from 2 July 1979), His Beatitude, IGNATIOS lV (Hazim), was born in 1921 in the village of Mhardey near Hama in Syria. He is the son of a pious Arab Orthodox family and from an early age was attracted to service within the Church. Whilst studying in Beirut, Lebanon, for a literature degree, he entered the service of the local Orthodox diocese, first by becoming an altar server, then a deacon. In 1945 he went to Paris where he graduated from the St. Sergius Theological Institute. From his time in France onwards he has been moved not only by a desire to pass on the deposit of the Faith, but also to take Orthodoxy out of its unhistorical ghetto by discovering in its Holy Tradition living answers to the problems of modern life. On his return to the Middle East, he founded the Orthodox Theological Seminary in Balamand, Lebanon which he then served for many years as Dean. As Dean he sought to provide the Patriarchate with responsible leaders who had received a good spiritual and intellectual training and who were witnesses to an awakened and deeply personal faith.

Whilst his native language is, of course, Arabic, he also speaks fluent English and French. He was one of the founders of the very active Orthodox Youth Movement of Lebanon and Syria in 1942, through which he helped to organise and lead a renewal of Church life in the Patriarchate of Antioch. The movement worked at the heart of the Church helping ordinary believers to rediscover the personal and communal meaning of the Eucharist through a practice of frequent Communion which had become extremely rare. Following on from this in 1953 he helped to found SYNDESMOS, the world fellowship of Orthodox Youth and Theological Schools.

He became bishop in 1961 and Metropolitan of Lattaquiey in Syria in 1970. The new Metropolitan was a reserved and friendly man, who manifested a deep and courageous straightforwardness; he was simple, direct and down to earth. His style broke with the former tradition of episcopal grandeur and he inaugurated an authentic practice of frequent Communion. On 2 July 1979, under the name of Ignatios lV, he became the Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch, the third ranking hierarch of the Orthodox Church after the Patriarchs of Constantinople and Alexandria. After his election as Patriarch he said:

"I know that I will be judged if I do not carry the Church and each one of you in my heart. It is not possible for me to address you as if I were different from you. No difference separates us. I am an integral part of you; I am in you and I ask you to be in me. For the Lord comes, and the Spirit descends on the brothers gathered, united in communion, as they manifest a diversity of charisms in the unity of the Spirit.

As Patriarch he has given a new dynamism to the Holy Synod and seen it name Bishops who are close to the people and who are motivated to develop the Church's ecclesial and spiritual life, detached from political factions. Above all, the Patriarch has sought and still seeks pastors who are as dedicated to their spiritual calling as he is himself.

The last word in this history from the Patriarch himself has been, in effect, its word from the beginning. Under its inspiration the Antiochian Church has developed internationally and not least in those western countries amongst those who have come to know in the Orthodox faith their true home.

"The Orthodox Church is not only for one nation, one civilisation, one continent. It is like God Himself, for all and for every place."

His Beatitude, Ignatios 1V, Patriarch of Antioch


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