Orthodox Church Sees the Light with New Patriarch
By: Ghassan Saoud
Published Tuesday, December 18, 2012
“The Holy Spirit yesterday chose Youhanna Yazigi (b. 1955), Archbishop of Europe, as Patriarch of the Orthodox Church of Antioch.”
On 16 December 2012, Patriarch Yazigi had lunch with the Archbishop of Kaslik, Antonios al-Shidrawi. The latter spoke about his candidacy and agenda for the church in case he won, but Yazigi chose not to disclose his intentions.
That night, Shidrawi slept assured of his nomination as patriarch. His calculations did not compel him to pray too much. The bishops woke up believing in a virtual stability in the two opposing groups that would decide on the next patriarch.
One group nominated Archbishop of Houran Saba Isbir, with six assured votes. The other supported Shidrawi, also with six votes and likely to gain the remaining six votes.
Yet as soon as the council started its meeting, the “Holy Spirit” – as the church describes it – began doing its business. This means that if the other bishops had prayed for their own electoral campaigns, they might have heard the Holy Spirit urging them to withdraw in favor of Yazigi.
Shidrawi’s first shock was followed by another one. Some of the bishops he considered on his side switched to Yazigi, presumably under the directions of the “Holy Spirit.” It must be that the cosmic lights shone upon him.
The first round to narrow down the list of patriarch contenders ended with the nomination of Archbishop of Houran Saba Isbir, Archbishop of Kaslik Antonios al-Shidrawi, and Archbishop of Central and Western Europe Youhanna Yazigi.
Saba decided to pass the majority of his votes to Yazigi, who in turn had convinced several Shidrawi supporters to vote for him.
They are: his brother the Boulos Yazigi Archbishop of Aleppo who had withdrawn his candidacy in favor of Shidrawi; his maternal uncle Archbishop of Argentina Salwan Moussa; his friend Archbishop Ghattas Hazim; and his godfather Archbishop Youhanna Mansour.
Mansour had anointed Yazigi as deacon in 1979, and then as priest in 1983 in the Latakia diocese. So to ensure that his candidate reached the main chair in Antioch, the “Holy Spirit’ did not forsake the family’s feelings.
One can say, therefore, that Shidrawi and his group were duped into thinking that Isbir was Archbishop of Mount Lebanon George Khodor’s only candidate. Shidrawi and Boulos Yazigi’s calculations were based on this.
Regardless of the smart electoral move, and whoever is behind it, Archbishop Khodor succeeded, for the second time in a row, in allowing someone who can be said to have graduated from the Orthodox Youth Movement to become patriarch.
Patriarch Yazigi is graduate of Greek institutions and was the head of the Patriarchal Monastery of Balamand between 2001 and 2005. Four years ago, he lived in a small apartment in Paris while his diocese was under construction. He finally had to rent a church to conduct an Orthodox mass.
In his first statement as Patriarch of Antioch, he said, "Christians will remain in Syria and the land is their land.” He called for dialogue to solve crises, but some of those who know him politically say that his position will not exceed the low ceiling set by former Patriarch Hazim.
This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.