NCC Congratulates Mor Cyril Aphrem Karim on his election as Syrian Patriarch

Washington, April 3, 2014 - Mor Cyril Aphrem Karim, archbishop and patriarchal vicar of the diocese of the Eastern USA, Syrian Orthodox Church of Antioch and all the East, has been elected Syrian Patriarch. He has assumed the name of Mor Ignatius Aphrem II.

“We in the United States know Aphrem II very well and celebrate the election of this good man,” said Jim Winkler, General Secretary and President of the National Council of Churches USA.

“Aphrem II has been a committed member of the Council’s governing board and a clear voice of concern on important matters such as our Muslim-Christian dialogue,” Winkler said. “He has shown a wisdom and compassion that serves as a model for all church leaders."

Aphrem II, 48, is known as a warm and accessible leader who has been active in the ecumenical movement all his life. As a young man, he was a communication steward at the World Council of Churches Canberra Assembly in 1991.

He is also known for his prompt responses to telephone calls and to email messages. His emails include the quotation, “Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. John 4:8”

“The ecumenical community, in the United States and throughout the world, will uphold Aphrem II in our prayers,” said Dr. Antonios Kireopoulos, the NCC’s associate general secretary, Faith & Order and Interfaith Relationships. “We certainly renew our commitment to him to be his partners in faith and Christian cooperation, and to work with him in the cause of peace, in Syria and elsewhere.”

Aphrem II, who is the 123rd Patriarch of Antioch, was born in Qamishli, the capital of a northeastern Syrian province. He studied in St. Ephrem's Theological Seminary in Atchaneh, Lebanon in 1977. In the 1980s, he served the Syriac Orthodox Archdiocese of Aleppo and pursued higher education at the Coptic Theological Seminary in Cairo, Egypt. He was ordained as a monk in 1985 in Egypt.

He also studied in Ireland and served in Damascus, where his church is based, before his predecessor, Patriarch Ignatius Zakka Iwas, appointed him bishop of the east coast of the United States in 1996. Since then, he has been living in Teaneck, New Jersey.

Patriarch Iwas died March 21 in a hospital in Germany at the age of 80.


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Since its founding in 1950, the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA has been the leading force for shared ecumenical witness among Christians in the United States. The NCC's 37 member communions -- from a wide spectrum of Protestant, Anglican, Orthodox, Evangelical, historic African American and Living Peace churches -- include 45 million persons in more than 100,000 local congregations in communities across the nation.

NCC News contact:  Philip E. Jenks, 646-853-4212 (cell), cruzandjenks@gmail.com