Middle East

Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Syria Ignatius IV dies

Ignatius IV (Hazim) in 2010
Image caption Patriarch Ignatius was born in 1920 in the village of Murhada, near the city of Hama

The Greek Orthodox patriarch of Syria, Ignatius IV (Hazim), has died in neighbouring Lebanon at the age of 92.

Syria's state news agency, Sana, reported that Patriarch Ignatius died in Beirut's St George's hospital on Wednesday after suffering a stroke.

His remains would be brought from Lebanon to Syria for burial, it added.

Ignatius had led the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All The East, the largest Arab Christian Church in the Middle East, since 1979.

There are believed to be about a million members, the majority of whom are Syrians.

The Church is one of 14 autocephalous (ecclesiastically independent) Eastern Orthodox patriarchates, third in honorific rank after the churches of Constantinople and Alexandria.

Since the 14th Century, the patriarch has resided in Damascus.

Patriarch Ignatius was born in 1920 in the village of Murhada, near Hama.

In 1961, he was ordained Bishop of Palmyra, in central Syria. Nine years later, he became Metropolitan of Latakia, on the Mediterranean coast.

Syria's minority Christian community has not joined the revolt against President Bashar al-Assad. Many Christians are fearful for their future if the country's majority Sunni Muslim community chooses an Islamist leadership to replace decades of secular rule.