Mor Ignatius Aphrem II, the newly elected patriarch of the Syriac Orthodox Church, accepting blessings Saturday at St. Mark’s Cathedral in Teaneck. Since 1996, he had been serving in Teaneck as archbishop of the church’s Eastern United States Diocese. Photograph: Marko Georgiev / Staff Photographer
Teaneck archbishop is named patriarch of Syriac Orthodox Church by Chris Harris. North Jersey, The Record, April 5, 2014.
TEANECK — Hundreds of enthusiastic well-wishers gathered outside St. Mark’s Cathedral on Saturday afternoon to congratulate and welcome back Cyril Aphrem Karim, the new worldwide patriarch of the Syriac Orthodox Church.
Karim, 48, who had been serving as archbishop of the church’s Eastern United States Diocese since moving to Teaneck in 1996, was elected March 31 to head one of the world’s oldest Christian sects.
Karim — whose official title will be Mor Ignatius Aphrem II, Patriarch of Antioch and All the East — returned Saturday from Damascus, where he was installed this week as the 123rd successor to St. Peter the Apostle.
He will reside in Syria.
During a service following his arrival, Karim asked those in attendance to pray for him and for peace in the church’s war-torn country of origin.
“There are formidable challenges we face as a church,” Karim said. “There is unprecedented turmoil in Syria. Pray for our beloved Syria to have peace again. Pray for peace in our homeland.”
His arrival had been eagerly anticipated by the crowd outside the Teaneck sanctuary.
“Here he comes!” a woman shouted as the Rolls-Royce Phantom carrying Karim and being escorted by Passaic and Bergen County Sheriff’s Department patrol cars made its way toward St. Mark’s.
A crush of the faithful from near — Paramus, Hackensack, Long Island — and far — Canada, Boston, Florida — swarmed around the arriving vehicle, showering it and the police cars with rice.
Most of the well-wishers were wearing pins adorned with Karim’s visage.
“I’m excited for him; he’s now patriarch,” said New Milford’s Paul Kas, a 20-year deacon at St. Mark’s. “But I am sad to see him go; I have known him for so long and he’s just a great, holy guy.”
Upon arriving outside his church, Karim — flanked by security — was draped in ornate robes while a garland of red flowers was placed around his neck.
The new patriarch, wearing three medals, slowly made his way to the sanctuary, smiling broadly and greeting his people, who kissed a large, golden key he was carrying.
At the steps of the church, he was met by various clergyman, strode along a red carpet to the doors, and disappeared inside.
Karim — who will appoint his own successor in Teaneck in the coming months — was saluted by a number of the church’s dignitaries.
Karim, who was born in Syria in 1965, succeeds Patriarch Ignatius Zakka Iwas, who died March 21 in a hospital in Germany at 80.
His elevation comes at a turbulent time for Syrian Christians.
There have been recent assaults on mostly Christian towns by rebels fighting against President Bashar Assad’s rule — which the rebels see Christians as supporting.
Karim said he will work closely with the heads of other churches “to promote Christian unity” and told his people he felt “lucky to have been your bishop and your servant.”
He said that while he immediately started identifying his weaknesses after learning of his election, he knows “this divine calling does not come without divine help.”
He closed his remarks by asking for the faithful to “pray for me as I do pray for you.”
The Syriac Orthodox Church has more than 4 million members. Though many live in Syria, Lebanon and Iraq, there are also significant communities living in Germany, Sweden and here in the United States.
\ã-'sir-é-ä\ n (1998)
1: an ancient empire of Ashur
2: a democratic state in Bet-Nahren, Assyria (northern
Iraq, northwestern Iran, southeastern Turkey and eastern Syria.)
a democratic state that fosters the social and political rights to all of
its inhabitants irrespective of their religion, race, or gender
4: a democratic state that believes in the freedom of
religion, conscience, language, education and culture in faithfulness to the
principles of the United Nations Charter —
Ethnicity, Religion, Language
Israeli, Jewish, Hebrew
Assyrian, Christian, Aramaic
Saudi Arabian, Muslim, Arabic
\ã-'sir-é-an\ adj or n (1998)
1: descendants of the ancient empire of Ashur
2: the Assyrians, although representing but one single
nation as the direct heirs of the ancient Assyrian Empire, are now
doctrinally divided, inter sese, into five principle
ecclesiastically designated religious sects with their corresponding
hierarchies and distinct church governments, namely, Church of the
East, Chaldean, Maronite, Syriac Orthodox and Syriac Catholic.
These formal divisions had their origin in the 5th century of the
Christian Era. No one can coherently understand the Assyrians
as a whole until he can distinguish that which is religion or church
from that which is nation -- a matter which is particularly
difficult for the people from the western world to understand; for
in the East, by force of circumstances beyond their control,
religion has been made, from time immemorial, virtually into a
criterion of nationality.
the Assyrians have been referred to as Aramaean, Aramaye, Ashuraya,
Ashureen, Ashuri, Ashuroyo, Assyrio-Chaldean, Aturaya, Chaldean,
Chaldo, ChaldoAssyrian, ChaldoAssyrio, Jacobite, Kaldany, Kaldu,
Kasdu, Malabar, Maronite, Maronaya, Nestorian, Nestornaye, Oromoye,
Suraya, Syriac, Syrian, Syriani, Suryoye, Suryoyo and Telkeffee. —
1: a Semitic language which became the lingua franca of
the Middle East during the ancient Assyrian empire.
2: has been referred to as Neo-Aramaic, Neo-Syriac, Classical
Syriac, Syriac, Suryoyo, Swadaya and Turoyo.