VATICAN CITY, JUNE 8, 2001 (Zenit.org).- When he received the new Syriac patriarch of Antioch today, John Paul II described the discreet but decisive contribution of the Syrian-Catholic Church as leaven in the dough.
His Beatitude Ignace Pierre VIII Abdel-Ahad, 71, arrived at the Vatican accompanied by a pilgrimage of faithful and ecclesiastics of this Christian community. He is succeeding Cardinal Ignace Moussa I Daoud, whom the Pope last year appointed prefect of the Vatican Congregation for the Oriental Churches.
Ignace Pierre VIII was appointed patriarch canonically Feb. 16 by the Synod of Syrian-Catholic Bishops. A few days later he received the papal approval of his election. The Pope does not choose the patriarchs of the Oriental Churches.
Now, as a sign of recognition, the patriarch, whose see is in Lebanon, visited the Pontiff. He also confirmed his obedience and fidelity to Rome, a peculiarity of this Eastern Church, which returned to communion with Rome at the end of the 18th century, separating itself from the Syrian-Orthodox Church.
Found in Lebanon since the 17th century, the Syrian-Catholic rite is followed by 30,000 Catholics in the region, along with emigrants who reside primarily in the American continent. This Church´s liturgy uses an Aramaic dialect, similar to the one used by Jesus.
John Paul II encouraged the Syrian-Catholics to combine profound theological study with the education of youth and the formation of new priests.