Greek-Melkite Patriarch Maximus Hakim V Dies at 93

Led Church From 1967 to 2000

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VATICAN CITY, JULY 1, 2001 ( Patriarch Emeritus Maximus Hakim V´s great legacy is the promotion of unity among the faithful of the Greek-Melkite rite worldwide, John Paul II stated on the occasion of the 93-year-old´s death.

Patriarch Emeritus Hakim of the Greek-Melkites of Antioch was leader of the Greek Catholic church for more than 30 years.

Hakim died Friday at Saint Georges Hospital southeast of Beirut, where he was admitted in October, the month he retired, according to a statement from the Greek Catholic church. The cause of death was not disclosed.

Upon hearing the news of the death, John Paul II sent a telegram to express his spiritual closeness to the community the patriarch led for many years. He sent the telegram to acting Patriarch Gregorius Laham III in the See of Damascus.

From 1967 until last October, Maximus Hakim V was the 20th patriarch of the Catholic Greek-Melkites. This Church of Antioch returned to communion with Rome in 1724, following the schism that divided Orthodox Churches at the beginning of the second millennium.

The Melkite rite numbers about 2 million Catholic faithful, including 1.3 million in North and South America.

During his recent visit to Syria, John Paul II visited the See of the Greek-Melkite Patriarchate in Damascus. On May 7, during their meeting with the Pope, and in the presence of Gregorius III and Greek Orthodox Patriarch Ignace Hazim IV of Antioch, Syrian youth urged their pastors to make every effort to overcome the scandal of division among Christians.

The funeral will be held Wednesday in the Greek-Melkite Cathedral in Damascus, in the presence of Cardinal Ignace Moussa I Daoud, prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, the papal representative.

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