Pope Benedict XVI has formally accepted the election of a new head of the Syrian Catholic Church.
Bishop Joseph Younan, 64, who was appointed to head the Newark-based Syrian-rite diocese in the United States and Canada in 1995, was elected as the new patriarch of Antioch in a synod held in Rome Jan. 18-20. He took the name Patriarch Ignace Joseph III Younan.
As is customary for the patriarchs of the Eastern churches in union with Rome, the newly elected head of the church requested communion with the pope, who granted it with a congratulatory letter, the Vatican said Jan. 23.
The new patriarch, who speaks Arabic, English, French, Italian and German, was born in Syria. He was ordained in 1971 and, after attending school in Rome, served as a priest for several years in Lebanon. The ancient see of Antioch has its headquarters in Beirut, Lebanon.
In 1986, he was sent to the United States, where he ministered in Syrian Catholic communities. In 1995, Pope John Paul II named him the bishop of the first U.S. Syrian-rite diocese, Our Lady of Deliverance of Newark of the Syrians.
He succeeds Syrian Patriarch Ignace Pierre VIII Abdel-Ahad of Antioch, who retired in 2008.
The Syrian Catholic Church has archdioceses in Iraq, Syria, Egypt and Sudan, and there are approximately 150,000 Syrian Catholics around the world in places such as the Holy Land, Turkey, Venezuela, the United States and Canada.
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