Ignatius Aphrem II

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His Holiness Moran Mor
Ignatius Aphrem II
Patriarch of Antioch
Patriarch Moran Mor Ignatius Aphrem II standing
Native name ܐܝܓܢܛܝܘܣ ܐܦܪܝܡ ܬܪܝܢܐ
Church Syriac Orthodox Church
See See of Antioch
Elected March 31, 2014
Installed May 29, 2014
Predecessor Ignatius Zakka I Iwas
Ordination 1985
Consecration January 28, 1996
by Ignatius Zakka I Iwas
Rank Patriarch
Personal details
Birth name Saʿid Karim (Syriac: ܣܥܝܕ ܟܪܝܡ‎, Arabic: سعيد كريم‎)
Born (1965-05-03) May 3, 1965 (age 50)
Qamishli, Syria
Nationality Syrian; American
Denomination Syriac Orthodox
Parents Issa and Khanema Karim
Previous post Metropolitan and Patriarchal Vicar of the Archdiocese of the Eastern United States
Alma mater St Patrick's College, Maynooth, Coptic Theological Seminary

Moran Mor Ignatius Aphrem II (Syriac: ܡܪܢ ܡܪܝ ܐܝܓܢܛܝܘܣ ܐܦܪܝܡ ܬܪܝܢܐMoran Mor[y] Ignaṭius Afrem Trayono, Arabic: مار إغناطيوس أفرام الثانيMār Iġnāṭīūs Afrām al-Ṯānī; born as Saʿid Karim on May 3, 1965) is the patriarch of the Syriac Orthodox Church. He became the 123rd Syriac Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch when he was enthroned as patriarch in Damascus on May 29, 2014. Before his election to the patriarchate, he was Archbishop for the Eastern United States of America, and known as Mor Cyril Aphrem Karim in that post.[1] In that role, he established 11 new parishes, introduced a number of new programs for the youth, and worked for inter-church unity.[2]

Early life and education[edit]

Saʿid Karim was born in Qamishli, north-eastern Syria, on May 3, 1965, the youngest son of Issa and Khanema Karim.[3] His family are Arameans[1] who originally came from the village Ëḥwo (Turkish: Güzelsu) in the Tur Abdin region of Mardin Province, Turkey.[4]

After finishing primary schooling in Qamishli in 1977, Karim received his religious secondary education at St. Ephrem's Theological Seminary in Atchaneh, Bikfaya, Lebanon. After completing school in 1982, he worked in Aleppo, Syria, as an assistant to the Archbishop Mor Gregorios Yuhanna Ibrahim.[5] From 1984 to 1988, he attended the Coptic Theological Seminary in Cairo, Egypt, receiving a Bachelor of Arts degree in Divinity.[2]

The young Deacon Aphrem Karim (later Patriarch Ignatius Aphrem II) with his predecessor Patriarch Ignatius Zakka I Iwas; taken in 1985.

In 1985, Saʿid Karim took the vows of a monk, and changed his name to Aphrem in honor of the 4th-century Syriac poet-theologian Ephrem the Syrian and former patriarch Aphrem I Barsoum. He was ordained deacon, and, later that year, was elevated to the sacred priesthood. From 1988 to 1989, he served as both the secretary to his patriarchal predecessor, Ignatius Zakka I Iwas, and as a teacher at St. Ephrem’s Theological Seminary in Damascus, Syria.[2]

In 1991, he entered St Patrick's College in Maynooth, Ireland, from where he received a Licentiate of Sacred Theology (1992) and Doctor of Divinity (1994). His doctoral thesis was titled The Symbolism of the Cross in early Syriac Christianity.[3] During that time, he also served as a priest to the Syriac Orthodox Community in the United Kingdom.

Metropolitan Archbishop of the Eastern United States[edit]

In 1995, following the death of Archbishop Mor Athanasius Yeshue Samuel, who had established the Archdiocese of the United States and Canada, it was decided to divide the territory into three archdioceses: the Eastern United States, Los Angeles and Environs, and Canada. Aphrem Karim was appointed archbishop of the Eastern United States territory.[6]

On January 28, 1996, Aphrem Karim was consecrated as Metropolitan Archbishop and Patriarchal Vicar of the Archdiocese for the Eastern United States by Patriarch Ignatius Zakka I Iwas at St. Mary’s Syriac Orthodox Church in his home town of Qamishli.[1] Taking the episcopal name Cyril, he arrived in the United States on March 2, 1996, and was officially installed at St. Mark’s Syriac Orthodox Cathedral in Teaneck, New Jersey, as Mor Cyril Aphrem Karim.[2]

During his time as Metropolitan Archbishop, Cyril Aphrem Karim oversaw the creation of 11 new parishes, bringing the total parishes in the archdiocese to 20. He created an advisory council to aid in oversight and administration of the archdiocese. He created the Syriac Orthodox Archdiocesan Youth Organization to coordinate youth activities across the archdiocese's parishes, and oversaw a number of youth conferences as he sought to grow the church. He organized a special youth liturgy in the New York/New Jersey area and created a choral society.[2]

Cyril Aphrem Karim oversaw the creation of the Archdiocesan Sunday School Committee to unite lesson plans across the archdiocese. He created a pre-marriage counseling program which afforded couples-to-be the chance to meet with him personally. He also established an annual liturgy service to recognize and appreciate the elderly members of the community. He worked for inter-church unity, serving on the World Council of Churches. Cyril Aphrem Karim played a significant role in founding Christian Churches Together.[2]

Patriarch of Antioch[edit]

On March 21, 2014, Patriarch Ignatius Zakka I Iwas died after a long illness. Following his death, the Holy Synod of the Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch was convened to elect a successor. The synod was held at St Jacob Baradeus Monastery in Atchaneh, Lebanon, presided over by Mor Baselios Thomas I Catholicos of India and Mor Severius Jamil Hawa Archbishop of Baghdad and Basra,the Patriarchal Locum Tenens. The synod elected Cyril Aphrem Karim to be the 122nd successor of St. Peter in the Apostolic See of Antioch. He was enthroned on May 29, 2014, at St Ephrem's Monastery, Maarat Saidnaya, near Damascus, Syria.[7] Baselios Thomas I oversaw the ceremony.[8]

Karim took the patriarchal name Ignatius, replacing his episcopal name Cyril, and, being the second patriarch to bear the monastic name Aphrem (the first being Ignatius Aphrem I Barsoum), his name became Ignatius Aphrem II. Unlike his immediate predecessors, but following older convention, Aphrem II chose not to use his family name, Karim, in his official title.

Pastoral Visits[edit]

Since his enthronement, Ignatius has made many visits between Kurdistan and Syria to assist Christians displaced by the advance of Daesh and the general turmoil caused by the Syrian Civil War. The Patriarch celebrated New Year 2015 with refugees and displaced Christians in Northern Iraq. Patriarchal Liturgy was served along with special prayers. Visit to the Displaced

Ignatius undertook a pastoral visit to India from 7-19 February 2015.Holy Apostolic Visit to India 2015


The titulary of patriarchs is somewhat complex and changeable. He is often called "His Holiness", a special distinction given to the leaders of some churches (Syriac: ܩܕܝܫܘܬܗQaddišuṯeh, Arabic: قداسةQadāsa). This is often then followed by the unique Syriac title Mor (ܡܪܝ), often doubled to Moran Mor (ܡܪܢ ܡܪܝ). The title, in its singular form, literally means "my lord", and is given to all male saints and bishops. The term Moran means "our lord", and, used alone refers only to Jesus Christ, but is combined with Mor in the titles of patriarchs. Patriarchs are addressed as either Mor or Moran Mor.[9]

Patriarchs take the patriarchal name Ignatius in honor of the martyr Ignatius of Antioch, starting with the accession of Ignatius Behnam of Hadl in 1445.[10] Ignatius Aphrem II chose a different spelling of the name Ignatius by omitting the Syriac letter olaph from the spelling of the "a" vowel. This is followed by the patriarch's personal monastic name Aphrem, and the regnal number "II" to distinguish him from Ignatius Aphrem I Barsoum. Ignatius Aphrem II does not use his family name, "Karim", in his patriarchal title, although he is informally referred to as "Ignatius Aphrem II Karim".

The patriarch is Patriarch of Antioch, to which is added "and All the East" as that see governs the church in the east. He is also Supreme Head of the Church, a similar title to those used by other denominational leaders.[10][11]

An ancient title of Syriac patriarchs still sometimes used is "Thrice Blessed" (Syriac: ܬܠܝܬܝ̈ ܛܘܒܐ̈Tlithoy Ṭuḇe), usually placed instead of "His Holiness".[11] The patriarch is often greeted in Arabic as سيدنا Sayyidnā ("our lord").

Title of Ignatius Aphrem II
English His Holiness Moran Mor Ignatius Aphrem II, Patriarch of Antioch and All the East and Supreme Head of the Universal Syriac Orthodox Church
Syriac ܩܕܝܫܘܬܗ ܕܡܪܢ ܡܪܝ ܐܝܓܢܛܝܘܣ ܐܦܪܝܡ ܬܪܝܢܐ ܦܛܪܝܪܟܐ ܕܐܢܛܝܘܟܝܐ ܘܕܟܠܗ̇ ܡܕܢܚܐ ܘܪܝܫܐ ܓܘܢܝܐ ܕܥܕܬܐ ܣܘܪܝܝܬܐ ܬܪܝܨܬ ܫܘܒܚܐ ܒܟܠܗ̇ ܬܐܒܠ
Qaddišuṯeh ḏ-Moran Mor[y] Iḡnaṭius Afrem Trayono Paṭriarḵo ḏ-Anṭiuḵia waḏ-Kuloh Maḏĕnḥo w-Rišo Gawonoyo ḏ-ʿItto Suryoyto Triṣaṯ Šuḇḥo ḇ-Kuloh Tiḇel
Arabic قداسة مار إغناطيوس أفرام الثاني بطريرك لأنطاكية وسائر المشرق ورئيس أعلى للكنيسة السريانية الأرثوذكسية في العالم
Qadāsa Mār ʾIġnāṭīūs ʾAfrām al-Ṯānī Baṭriyark li-ʾAnṭākya wa-Sāʾir al-Mašriq wa-Raʾīs ʾAʿlā lil-Kanīsa al-Suryāniyya al-ʾUrṯūḏaksiyya fī al-ʿĀlam

Personal names[edit]

At various points in his life, Ignatius Aphrem II was known as

  • Saʿid Karim (1965–1985)
  • The Reverend Monk Aphrem Karim (1985–1996)
  • His Eminence Mor Cyril Aphrem Karim (1996–2014)
  • His Holiness Moran Mor Ignatius Aphrem II (2014–present)

Personal life[edit]

Ignatius Aphrem II speaks Classical Syriac (Kthobonoyo), Turoyo (a colloquial Neo-Aramaic spoken in his ancestral Tur Abdin), Arabic, French and English.[2]


In 2003, Cyril Aphrem Karim published the Book of the Order for the Burial of the Clergy. He also saw to the reprint of works including the Shorter Catechism of the Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch (1999) by former Patriarch Ignatius Aphrem I Barsoum, and the Book of Scripture Readings for Sundays and Feasts Days (2000), originally published by Mor Philoxenus Yuhanon Dolabani of Mardin. Cyril Aphrem Karim encouraged the American Foundation for Syriac Studies to publish a quarterly entitled Syriac Studies and helped co-sponsor a series of public lectures by scholars and intellectuals on Syriac culture, history, literature and theology. In 2004, Cyril Aphrem Karim wrote Symbols of the Cross in the Writings of the Early Syriac Fathers. He has also published two children's books: In The Tree House and Animals from the Bible.[2]


  • Barsom, Murad Saliba (2000). Samuel, Mor Athanasius Yeshue, ed. Book of the Order for the Burial of the Clergy (liturgical book). Foreword by Mor Cyril Aphrem Karim; biographical sketch by Chorepiscopus John P. Meno. New Jersey: Archdiocese of the Syriac Orthodox Church for the Eastern USA. ISBN 0-9744442-0-0. 
  • Barsoum, Patriarch Ephrem I (1999). Karim, Cyril Aphrem, ed. The Shorter Catechism of the Syrian Orthodox Church of Antioch. Translated into English by the Very Rev. Fr. Elias Sugar. New Jersey: Archdiocese of the Syriac Orthodox Church for the Eastern USA. 
  • Dolabani, Philoxenos Yuhanon (2000). Karim, Cyril Aphrem, ed. Scripture Readings for Sundays & Feast Days: According to the Tradition of the Syrian Orthodox Church of Antioch. New Jersey: Archdiocese of the Syriac Orthodox Church for the Eastern USA. ISBN 1-59333-146-0. 
  • Karim, Cyril Aphrem (2004). Symbols of the Cross in the Writings of the Early Syriac Fathers. New Jersey: Gorgias Press. ISBN 1-59333-230-0. 
  • — (2004). "The Liturgy in the Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch". In Best, Thomas F.; Heller, Dagmar. Worship Today: understanding, practice, ecumenical implications. Geneva: WCC. 
  • — (2011). In The Tree House (children's book). New Jersey: Parables & Books. ISBN 0983318808. 
  • — (2013). Animals from the Bible (children's book). New Jersey: Parables & Books. ISBN 1939682053. 


  1. ^ a b "Metropolitan Mor Cyril Aphrem Karim Elected as the 123rd Patriarch of Antioch and All East". Orthodoxy Cognate PAGE – Media Network. March 31, 2014. Retrieved April 28, 2014. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h "Mor Cyril Aphrem Karim". Syrian Orthodox Church. Retrieved May 31, 2014. 
  3. ^ a b "Mor Cyril Aphrem Karim". Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch: Archdiocese for the Eastern United States. Retrieved April 28, 2014. 
  4. ^ Mike Schneider interview of Mor Cyril Aphrem Karim. New Jersey Today with Mike Schneider (television production). NJTV News. 
  5. ^ "Assyrian Orthodox Church of the Virgin Mary, Important Updates". Retrieved April 28, 2014. 
  6. ^ "About". Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch: Archdiocese for the Eastern United States. Retrieved April 28, 2014. 
  7. ^ "The official announcement about the newly elected Patriarch Mor Ignatius Aphrem II". Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch: Archdiocese for the Eastern United States. Retrieved April 29, 2014. 
  8. ^ "Aphrem II enthroned as Patriarch of Antioch". Times of India. May 30, 2014. Retrieved May 31, 2014. 
  9. ^ Sebastian P. Brock (2006). An Introduction to Syriac Studies. Gorgias Press. ISBN 978-1-59333-349-2. 
  10. ^ a b Patriarch Ignatius Zakka I Iwas (1983). "The Syrian Orthodox Church of Antioch At A Glance". Retrieved May 31, 2014. 
  11. ^ a b "The Departure of the His Holiness Mor Ignatius Zakka I Iwas, Patriarch of Antioch and All the East, of Thrice Blessed Memory". Coptic Orthodox Diocese of the Southern United States. March 25, 2014. Retrieved May 31, 2014. 

External links[edit]

External media
Official English letter announcing of the election of Ignatius Aphrem II as patriarch
Announcements of New Patriarch Moran Mor Ignatius Aphrem II by Mor Severus Hawa the Locum Tenens on YouTube
Preceded by
Ignatius Zakka I Iwas
Syrian Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch
Succeeded by