New Syriac Patriarch of Antioch Elected

Will Greet John Paul II During His Visit to Syria

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VATICAN CITY, FEB. 25, 2001 ( John Paul II has sent his congratulations to His Beatitude Ignace Pierre VIII, the newly elected Syriac patriarch of Antioch.

The patriarch had informed the Pope of the former´s election Feb. 16 by the bishops´ synod of the Syriac-Catholic Church.

The new patriarch is replacing His Beatitude Ignace Moussa I Daoud, recently made a cardinal, who quit his patriarchal post following his appointment as prefect of the Vatican Congregation for the Oriental Churches.

The new patriarch will greet John Paul II when he goes to Syria on pilgrimage in May. On this same trip, the Pontiff might visit Malta and Athens, Greece, following in the footsteps of the Apostle Paul.

Ignace Pierre VIII (Pierre Abdel-Ahad) was born in Aleppo, Syria, on June 28, 1930. After studying in the Syriac-Catholic Patriarchal Seminary of Jerusalem, he completed his studies in the major seminary of Charfet, Lebanon. He has been a priest since 1954, and worked for many years in the minor seminary of Charfet. Later, he was appointed parish priest in Bethlehem.

During the Middle East wars of 1967 and 1973, he was involved in the humanitarian assistance and pastoral care of prisoners. In 1979, he was appointed patriarchal vicar, that is, exarch of Jerusalem.

He established a house for pilgrims in Bethlehem, and the Church of St. Thomas of Jerusalem, which has a youth center. Elected bishop by the Syriac-Catholic synod on June 29, 1996, he has kept the post of patriarchal exarch of Jerusalem.

As is traditional in this Church, the new patriarch took the name Ignace, in honor of his predecessor, St. Ignatius of Antioch.

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