MORAN MOR IGNATIUS APHREM-II is the 123rd Patriarch of the See of Antioch & All The East adorning the Throne of St. Peter, the Chief of Apostles, and the Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Syrian Orthodox Church.  His Holiness was chosen to lead the Holy Church at the Universal Synod held on Monday 31st March 2014  at Lebanon after the demise of blessed Patriarch Ignatius Zakka-I Iwas and was installed as the supreme head of the Syriac Church at a divine ceremony presided over by Aboon Mor Baselios Thomas-I, the Catholicos of India and assisted by the metropolitans of the Universal Church, held at the St. Peter & St. Paul’s Cathedral in the monastery of Mor Aphrem in Ma`arat Sayyidnaya near Damascus, Syria on 29th May 2014, the remembrance day of Ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ.

  A brief biography of  H.H. Ignatius Aphrem-II, the  123rd Patriarch of Antioch & All The East

Moran Mor Ignatius Aphrem-II was born in Qamishli, Syria, on May 3, 1965 as the youngest child of Issa and Khanema Karim. The family were originally from Ehwo, a small town in the Turabdin region within the Province of Mardin in S.E. Turkey and was later shifted residence to Qamishli in northeastern Syria at the time of Christian persecution in the region.

Sa’id Karim, as he was known in his childhood days, lost his father at an early age and was raised by his late and loving mother. At a very young age itself he had a great passion for the service of God. He entered St. Ephrem’s Theological Seminary in Atchaneh, Lebanon, in 1977 following his primary schooling in Qamishli. Starting in 1982, the young Aphrem served the Syriac Orthodox Archdiocese of Aleppo, Syria, for two years under His Eminence Mor Gregorios Yuhanna Ibrahim. From 1984 to 1988, he pursued higher studies at the Coptic Theological Seminary in Cairo, graduating with a BA Degree of Divinity.

In 1985, he took the vows of a monk, and put himself in the service of the Church. Upon installation, he received the monastic name of Ephraim (Aphrem) in honor of the great Syriac Doctor of the Church, St. Ephraim the Syrian, who remained a simple ascetic deacon all his life. He was ordained to the deaconate in Egypt, and later the same year, to the sacred priesthood in Qamishi, his hometown.

From 1988 to 1989, Mor Cyril served as both, the secretary of His Holiness, Moran Mor Zakka-I Iwas, the Syrian Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch and all the East, and as a teacher at St. Ephrem’s Theological Seminary in Damascus, Syria.

In 1991, he entered St. Patrick’s College in Maynooth, Ireland, where he received a License of Sacred Theology Degree, in 1992, and a Doctor of Divinity Degree in 1994, following a defense of his doctoral thesis on Symbolism of the Cross in Early Syriac Christianity. During that time, he also served as the vicar of Syriac Orthodox Church in London. He was instrumental in arranging for the purchase of a house property for the parish.

As the hierarch of  the Eastern United States

On Sunday, January 28, 1996, the monk-priest Aphrem was consecrated as Archbishop under the Episcopal name Mor Cyril (Kyrillos) at St. Mary’s Syrian Orthodox Church in Quamishli, Syria and became the Patriarchal Vicar of the new created Archdiocese of the Syriac Orthodox Church for the Eastern United States. Mor Cyril Aphrem Karim arrived in The United States on March 2, 1996, and was officially installed to his position at St. Mark’s Cathedral in Teaneck, New Jersey.

During his years as hierarch of the Archdiocese of the Syriac Orthodox Church for the Eastern United States, he has overseen the establishment of several new parishes which includes the churches in Washington DC, Florida, New Jersey, Virginia, Indiana and Texas. He recently led the efforts to purchase a beautiful 5-story building on a 5.27 acres of land to serve as an Archdiocesan Center.  On a regular basis, he has visited all the parishes, and formed a new Archdiocese Advisory Council to assist with the administration of the Archdiocese and its various programs; working closely with the parish boards and clergy to see that the spiritual and church needs of the faithful are fulfilled. Thanks to Almighty God and to His Eminence’s fatherly and tireless leadership, the Archdiocese has attained new heights during his tenure.

The youth of the Archdiocese was always of special concern for His Eminence; in his first year as an Archbishop, he established the Syriac Orthodox Archdiocesan Youth Organization (SOAYO), which coordinates the ministry of all youth organizations of the parishes of the Archdiocese. His commitment to them was shown right from the start, when he immediately held a number of youth gatherings and conferences, as well as being instrumental in establishing an Archdiocesan Scholarship Program to benefit the students. His Eminence shared the youth with the Church’s deep concern for them, and fielded many questions related to faith and other specific concerns they had. He encouraged them to do their best to work together as one family for the growth and advancement of the Holy Church. Mor Cyril, likewise, helped organize Annual Youth Retreats throughout the Archdiocese, for both younger and older youth. He was also responsible for the creation of a special Monthly Youth Liturgy, to bring the young people of the various parishes in the New Jersey/New York area, to give them a chance to participate fully in the Eucharistic Celebration. Consequently, His Eminence called for the establishment of the Archdiocesan Choral Society, comprised of musically talented children from different parishes of the Archdiocese. This group performed in several concerts and produced two Hymnal recordings; one for Christmas and the other for Maundy Thursday Service.

The Syriac Orthodox Scouts of America is another organization of the youth that was dear to His Eminence’s heart, and he did his best to attend all their activities and he always appealed to our people to encourage them. Likewise, His Eminence had showed his great concern to the adult members in our community. Under his guidance and leadership, a Pre-marital Counseling Program has been created in the parishes of the Archdiocese, to help young people prepare for their Christian married life. This includes an opportunity for them to meet with His Eminence and local clergy, to discuss matters of common concerns, that help assure lasting and successful marriages.

Mor Cyril also realized how important is to respect and honor the elderly. In this regard, he established an Annual Elderly Liturgy Service, that brings together the elderly members of local parishes to share in the Celebration of the Lord’s Supper, and to spend a special time of recognition and appreciation.

In the field of education, Archbishop Mor Cyril blessed and encouraged the establishment of the Archdiocesan Sunday School Committee; a body of Sunday School principals and teachers, who had been working together with His Eminence and local clergy, in the creation of a Unified Sunday School Program for the parishes. As a result of the Committee’s outstanding efforts, a series of unified lesson plans and materials have been prepared, and have proven invaluable in helping to introduce students to the Orthodox faith and traditions of the Holy Church.

Moreover, His Eminence Mor Cyril Aphrem Karim, has been responsible for the publication of a series of books and articles related to the Church:

  • Essays on Syriac Theology and Spirituality. This series included English translations of various articles written by His Holiness, the Patriarch, as well as  articles contributed by local clergy.
  • New Liturgical Books, to help the people follow and more actively participate in the Holy Liturgy.
  • The Church’s Morning and Evening Prayers for the use and convenience of the faithful.
  • The Book of the Order for the Burial of the Clergy, the last of the series of liturgical texts produced under the editorship of the late Mor Athanasius Yeshue Samuel of blessed memory. The volume was published as a special memorial to the remembrance of the late beloved Archbishop.
  • The Shorter Catechism of the Syrian Orthodox Church of Antioch (1999) by the late Patriarch Ephrem I Barsom.
  • The Book of Scripture Readings for Sundays and Feasts Day (2000), originally published by the late Mor Philoxenus Yuhanon Dolabani of Mardin.
  • The Symbols of the Cross in the Writings of the Early Syriac Fathers, authored by His Eminence and published by Gorgias Press in (2004).

Mor Cyril encouraged the American Foundation for Syriac Studies to publish several issues of a quarterly entitled “Syriac Studies”, and helped in co-sponsoring a series of public lectures by outstanding scholars on Syriac Theology, culture, history, and literature. In addition to his many talents, Archbishop Karim is fluent in both Classical and Vernacular (Touroyo) as well as in Arabic, French, and English.

Over the past decade, Mor Cyril established himself as an ecumenist, very much concerned about Christian Unity. He has served on both, the Executive and Central Committees of the World Council of Churches, attending the 1991 Canberra, Australia WCC General Assembly, the 1998 WCC General Assembly in Harare, Zimbabwe and the 2006 Assembly of Porto Alegre, Brazil, as a member of the Syriac Orthodox delegation. Moreover, he has been an active member of the Executive and Governing Boards of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA, and he also serves as a Vice- Chairman of the Standing Conference of the Oriental Orthodox Churches in America. In recent years, His Eminence has been instrumental in the establishment of a new and promising ecumenical body, Christian Churches Together in the USA, of which the Syriac Orthodox Church is a founding member. In all his ecumenical activities, Mor Cyril has most capably represented the Holy Church and has won the admiration and respect of his colleagues and confreres.

Elevation towards the highest order in the Church

On 31st May 2014, following the demise of Patriarch Ignatius Zakka-I Iwas in Germany on March 21st after a period of long illness, Mor Cyril Aphrem Karim was chosen to the Patriarchate as the 123rd successor of St. Peter in the Apostolic See of Antioch.  The Holy synod to elect the new Patriarch was convened at the 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 and Patriarchal Locum Tenens. Upon election, he 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.


The official installation ceremony as the supreme head of the Syriac Orthodox Church was held at the St. Peter & St. Paul’s Cathedral in the monastery of Mor Ephrem in Ma`arat Sayyidnaya near Damascus, Syria on 29th May 2014, the annual day of celebration of the Ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ.  The divine ceremony was presided over by Aboon Mor Baselios Thomas-I, the Catholicos of India and assisted by the metropolitans of the Universal Syrian Church. A large delegation of eminent religious heads of sister churches, religious organizations and government officials were present during the ceremony. During the installation ceremony His Holiness Ignatius Aphrem-II used the Episcopal Staff of Patriarch Elias-III, the Eskimo of Patriarch Aphrem-I, the Staff of Office of Patriarch Jacob-III, and the Cross and Icons of Patriarch Zakka-I.

The Holy Synod held on 30th May 2014

On 30th May 2014, a one day special session of the Holy Synod was convened at St. Ephrem Monastery in Syria under the auspices leadership of Patriarch Aphrem-II.  At the Synod His Holiness expressed his deep concern over the absence of his mentor Mor Gregorios Yuhanon of Aleppo who has been kidnapped by the terrorists a year ago along with Greek Orthodox Bishop. H.H. also expressed his keen desire  to sustain and improve the Catholicity (Universality) of the Syriac Orthodox Church: Patriarch of Antioch and all the East.  His Holiness said that the enthronement service of the Syriac Orthodox Patriarch, The ‘Order of Mor Cleemis’ ( St Clement) was divided into 26 parts and it was read in 13 languages.

SOURCE: www.suriyanikkarudearadhana.com/