Our Antiochian Patriarch
His Eminence the Metropolitan Archbishop of Western and Central Europe has been elected Patriarch of the Great City-of-God Antioch and all the East. The Patriarch-elect Youhanna X (Yaziji) was elected by the members of the Holy Synod earlier today, December 17, during a special session held at the Balamand Patriarchal Monastery of the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos.
The Patriarch-elect was born in 1955 in the city of Latakiya, Syria into a pious Orthodox home. His father was Syrian and was a professor of Arabic Language. His mother is Lebanese. He has four brothers, with his brother Paul being the current Metropolitan of Aleppo, and he has one sister who is a nun. During his early studies, he played a key role in the leadership of Orthodox youth, and organized many choirs to sing in the local churches.
The Patriarch-elect received his primary, secondary and university education in Latakiya, Syria graduating with a degree in civil engineering. He earned a degree in theology in 1978 from the St. John of Damascus School of Orthodox of Theology at the Balamand University and a doctorate in theology (emphases in liturgy and Byzantine music) in 1983 from the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in Greece. He was tonsured a monk at the Athonite Monastery of St Paul on the Holy Mountain, was ordained to the holy diaconate in 1979 and to the holy priesthood in 1983, and in 1981 became professor of Liturgical Studies at the St. John of Damascus School of Orthodox Theology at the Balamand University. He assumed the position of dean of that theological school from 1988-1991 and again from 2001-2005. He was elected and consecrated to the sacred episcopacy in 1995 with the title Bishop of al-Hosn. He has served as superior of the Monastery of St George al-Humayrah in the Christian Valley (Wadi al-Nasara) in Syria, superior of the Our Lady of Balamand Monastery, and spiritual father to the Convent of the Dormition in Blemmana, Syria. In 2008 he was elected and enthroned as the Metropolitan of the Archdiocese of Western and Central Europe.
The Patriarch-elect has had strong influence in the Middle East and other areas , having participated in many international Orthodox and ecumenical conferences in countries such as Greece, Italy, Switzerland, Cyprus, Russia, and Great Britain. His love of music has led him to translate many selections of liturgical music. He is the author of a work on the principles of Byzantine Music which he first wrote in 1990, with a second edition having been published in 2001. In 1999 he lectured at the Balamand University on the subject of the contribution of the Church of Antioch to liturgical development in the 6th and 7th centuries. He has written scholarly works on the life of St. Nektarios The Wonderworker, the role of marriage in the life of Orthodox clergy, the life of St. Macrina, St. Gregory Nazianzus, and a comprehensive work on the life of the saints published in 1984. In 2002, he lectured at Oxford University on the topic of the Church in the Middle East, and also at the biennial Clergy Symposium for the Archdiocese of North America.
The date of His Beatitude’s Enthronement has not yet been announced. Eis polla eti dhespota!
Our Antiochian Orthodox Metropolitan
His Eminence, Metropolitan Joseph, was consecrated to the Holy Episcopacy on June 30, 1991 at St. Mary Cathedral in Damascus, after many years of serving as a deacon and priest. His Eminence was born in Damascus, Syria, in 1950. He completed his basic schooling at the St. John of Damascus and al-Assiyeh schools in Damascus and then at Our Lady of Balamand Monastery in Koura, Lebanon. He completed his undergraduate studies at the Lebanese University in Beirut and then earned his Master of Theology (M.Th.) with special studies in music and languages from Aristotle University in Thessaloniki, Greece. He was awarded an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree from St. Tikhon Orthodox Seminary in South Canaan, Pennsylvania in May, 2010.
With the blessing of Patriarch Elias IV of blessed memory, Metropolitan Panteleimon (Rodopoulos) ordained him to be a deacon on December 4, 1976 in Thessaloniki, Greece, and Patriarch Ignatius IV, of blessed memory, ordained him a priest on December 10, 1980 in Damascus, Syria. The priest Joseph served as dean of St. Mary Cathedral in Damascus and as overseer of Holy Cross Church and other parishes in the suburbs of Damascus. He served as superintendent of the secondary school in Damascus from 1980 until 1983. He then went abroad to pastor the Antiochian Orthodox Church in London, England, from 1983 to 1986 and the Antiochian Orthodox Church in Cyprus from 1986 until 1991, when he was elected to be a bishop.
Bishop Joseph was consecrated with the title, Bishop of Katana in Syria, and served as Patriarchal Assistant and Secretary of the Holy Synod of Antioch. In 1995, he was sent by Patriarch Ignatius to America. Here, in our Archdiocese, Bishop Joseph was assigned to the West Coast Chancery by Metropolitan Philip of blessed memory. Bishop Joseph was enthroned at St. Nicholas Cathedral in Los Angeles, California by Metropolitan Philip as the first Bishop of the Diocese of Los Angeles and the West on September 12, 2004.
On December 11, 2011, at the Church of the Dormition of the Theotokos in the Patriarchal Monastery of Our Lady of Balamand in Lebanon, Patriarch Ignatius IV elevated Bishop Joseph to the rank of Archbishop, in honor of his many years of service as a bishop both in our Archdiocese and in the Patriarchate of Antioch.
On July 3, 2014, Archbishop Joseph was elected to become the Archbishop of New York and Metropolitan of all North America by the Holy Synod of Antioch.
Metropolitan Joseph’s achievements in apostolic ministry over the course of almost 20 years of diakonia as Bishop of the Diocese of Los Angeles & the West, as well as the locum tenens of the Diocese of Eagle River & the Northwest, form a solid testimony to his spiritual, ethical, and personal leadership qualifications. Over this vast expanse of the western United States and Canada, including Alaska, Metropolitan Joseph has tirelessly and unrelentingly maintained a personal apostolic presence in the more than 60 parishes under his care. His Eminence has maintained a personal culture of contact, by direct phone, with all his clergy. Many of the clergy and laity testify that Sayidna always remembers and acts on any important issue placed before him. This unique combination of traits, sobriety and blameless familiarity form the bedrock for his personal effectiveness with all.
Based upon his solid spiritual, ascetical, intellectual, and cultural formation and education, His Eminence has effectively established solid and meaningful Annual Clergy Seminars, and deepened the spiritual and educational experience of both clergy and laity at the annual Parish Life Conferences. He has brought in many and diverse Orthodox authors, leaders, and teachers to enrich the clergy and the laity of his two western dioceses. This has served to promote a strong sense of clergy brotherhood, inter-parochial exchanges, and has become the envy of other Orthodox jurisdictions everywhere. Guest speakers and visitors constantly remark that Metropolitan Joseph’s clergy are outstanding in their consistent and active involvement in such events. His Eminence has labored intensely to deepen the spiritual life of his clergy, by encouraging frequent confession, personal prayer, continual education, and a heightened sense of the fullness of our Orthodox Christian tradition of interior and ascetical transfiguration in Christ.
His Eminence has demonstrated episcopal hospitality in his way of life and has led the way in cultivating an active pan-Orthodox community in the western United States and Canada. All of the canonical Orthodox hierarchs of the West relate to Metropolitan Joseph in a personal way as an episcopal concelebrant. This episcopal brotherhood has increasingly been reflected in the inter-parochial interaction of the priests and laity of all the parishes, across the western states and provinces.
Metropolitan Joseph has taken care in establishing a strong, clear, and straightforward liturgical guidance for all his parishes. He pioneered the use of the internet in publishing the entire text of all the Sunday and festal services of the Church throughout the year. His love for the divine services inspires him to improve the liturgical praxis of all the clergy, through constant interactions and special teachings. In addition, he constantly promotes the spiritual climate of the dioceses under his care with such things as “the thought of the day.”
Sayidna Joseph is fluent in English, Arabic and Greek and is conversant in other European languages.
His name day is the second Sunday after Pascha (Joseph of Arimathea).
Our Diocesan Bishop
His Grace Bishop Alexander was consecrated to the Holy Episcopacy on December 5, 2004. His consecrating bishops included His Beatitude Ignatius IV at the Patriarchal Cathedral in Damascus, Syria. He was enthroned as the first Diocesan Bishop of Ottawa, Eastern Canada, and Upstate New York at St. Elias Cathedral in Ottawa on June 12, 2005.
Bishop Alexander served as priest of St. Mary’s Antiochian Orthodox Church in Hunt Valley, Maryland from 2000-2004.
Bishop Alexander was born into an Orthodox Christian family in north Lebanon in 1956. He attended Tripoli Boys’ School and after passing the Lebanese Baccalaureates I and II, he enrolled in the American University in Beirut. Due to fighting in Lebanon, he was unable to continue his education there and instead moved to the U.S. to attend the University of North Texas. He graduated with a B.A. in 1978 and an MBA in 1980. He returned to Lebanon, where he worked from 1981 to 1985 for a company that imported raw materials for factories.
In October 1985, he returned to the U.S. and found work as a supply manager at Prince George’s Hospital in the Washington, D.C. area. After eight years in that job, he worked for a local company that exported medical supplies to the Middle East and then in 1995 was hired by Federated Stores to work as a sales associate for Bloomingdale’s in Rockville, Maryland. While there, he wrote to Metropolitan Philip requesting his blessing to enter seminary. He was directed to attend St. Vladimir’s Theological Seminary in Crestwood, New York, from which he graduated in 2000.
Bishop Alexander was ordained to the Diaconate on January 9, 2000 and to the priesthood on April 9, 2000. He was elevated to the Archimandrite on July 4, 2004. On December 5, 2004, he was consecrated to the episcopacy by Patriarch Ignatius IV (Hazim) of Antioch in Damascus, Syria, and he has served as the Bishop of Ottawa, Eastern Canada, and Upstate New York since that time.
Bishop Alexander’s namesday is August 30 (St. Alexander, Archbishop of Constantinople).
Beloved in Christ, daughters and sons of the Church and inheritors of the Holy Grace:
The wise teachings of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, prepares for us the fruitful path to His heavenly Kingdom and tells us that He awaits us at the end side of the road.
No matter how difficult, lengthy and turbulent this road might have been, seek Him constantly, ask for His guidance and pray that He may remain dwelling in His holy temple and deep within your soul. Through persistent prayers, patience and continuous knocking, He shall respond by opening the door to His Heavenly Kingdom.
Living inside the church in unity, peace and great love for one another is the perfect opportunity for God almighty to bless us with His Grace. Let us aim high towards the Heavenly Light, and continue to focus on building our church through the power of love, the love that gathers everything in His blessed name. Let us grab one another’s hand and seek Him, knock at His door, and ask for His leadership as we walk together towards a constructive and fruitful path where the Lord sits in His majestic Glory.
May the heavenly peace dwell in your heart and my God bless and protect your family.