Beirut, Lebanon, Jun 22, 2017 / 11:07 am America/Denver (CNA).
The synod of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church elected on Wednesday Archbishop Youssef Absi as the Church's new patriarch, who received ecclesiastical communion from Pope Francis the following day.
Elected June 21, Patriarch Absi, 71, succeeds Patriarch Gregorios III Laham, who retired May 6 at the age of 83.
The new patriarch was born in Damascus in 1946. He was ordained a priest of the Missionary Society of St. Paul in 1973. He became superior general of the society in 1999, and two years later was appointed curial bishop of the Melkite Patriarchate of Antioch. In 2007, he was appointed the Patriarchal Vicar of of the Melkite Archdiocese of Damascus.
The Melkite Greek Catholic Church is an Eastern Catholic Church of the Byzantine rite, and it consists of some 1.5 million members. It is based in Syria and Lebanon, and most of its eparchies are in the Arab world. It also has structures to serve the Melkite diaspora in Australia, Turkey, Canada, Mexico, the United States, Argentina, Brazil, and Venezuela.
The Melkite Church traces its roots to the earliest days of Christianity, when Sts. Peter and Paul first evangelized the peoples of Syria, where followers of Christ were first called “Christians.”