His Holiness Mor Ignatius Aphrem II
Biography of His Holiness
Moran Mor Ignatius Aphrem II was born in Kamishly, Syria, on May 3, 1965. He lost his father at an early age and was raised by his late and loving mother Khanema. He entered St. Ephrem’sTheological Seminary in Atchaneh, Lebanon, in 1977, following his primary schooling in Kamishly. 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, submitting himself in the service of the Church. He was then ordained to the diaconate in Egypt, and later that same year, to the sacred priesthood in Kamishly. From 1988 to 1989, the monk - priest Aphrem served as both the secretary of the late Patriarch Mor Zakka I Iwas 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 our Syriac Orthodox Church in London. He was instrumental in arranging for the purchase of a house property for the parish.
On Sunday, January 28, 1996, the monk-priest Aphrem was consecrated as Archbishop under the episcopal name Mor Cyril 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.
Within a year as an Archbishop, he gathered the youth of the archdiocese and was instrumental in establishing an Archdiocesan Scholarship Program to benefit students. During his tenure, he established a number of new parishes in the Archdiocese 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.
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.
On March 31, 2014, following the passing away of Mor Ignatius Zakka I, the Holy Synod of the Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch convened and elected Mor Cyril Aphrem as Patriarch of Antioch and All the East and Supreme Head of the Universal Syriac Orthodox Church, and assumed the name Mor Ignatius Aphrem II. He is the 123rd successor of St. Peter in the Apostolic Sea of Antioch. He will be enthroned in Damascus, Syria, on May 29th,2014.