The ancient Greek Orthodox Church of Antioch has elected Metropolitan John Yazigi to succeed Pope Ignatius IV Hazim as its patriarch, the Egyptian daily Al-Ahram reported.
Born in Latakia, Syria in 1955, Yazigi brings renewed hope and promise to the beleaguered ancient church, which oversees over a million estimated Christians largely in Syria, Iraq Lebanon. Yazigi, who is fluent in English and French and has a PhD in Christian theology, recently served as archbishop to Paris’s Arab Christian community. He was viewed as a modern leader for the church at a time when many Christians fear the uncertainty of the Syrian civil war and rise of Islamism in the region.
Antioch, known today as the Turkish city Antakya, has tremendous historical significance for Christians. According to the Bible, the city was the first place where the followers of Jesus were referred to as “Christians,” and it became the seat of the Patriarch of Antioch. However, today there are few Christians left in modern Antakya, so the patriarchal seat has been based in Damascus, which had been relatively safe for Christians until the recent civil war that has caused an estimated 100,000 to flee.
While there are a number of different claims to the ancient title, Yazigi—who will become John X—will join Ecumenical Patriarch of Istanbul and Patriarch Kirill of Moscow as joint leaders of the world’s Orthodox Christians, according to the Economist.