Patriarch Joseph Absi

“The Christians of the East,” he said, “are all in the same boat, and confront the same struggle. They cannot be disinterested each in the other.”

The new patriarch holds licentiates in philosophy and theology, and a doctorate in musical sciences and Byzantine hymnography from Holy Spirit University of Kaslik in Lebanon. He has taught philosophy, Greek, and musicology at the university level.

Pope Francis wrote to Patriarch Joseph the day after his election, congratulating him and granting him ecclesiastical communion.

The Pope also noted the tribulation facing Christians in the region.

“The election of Your Beatitude comes at the time of a delicate situation for the venerable Greek-Melkite Church and when many Christian communities in the Middle East are called to bear wit-ness in a special way to their faith in the dead and risen Christ,” the Roman Pontiff said. “In this particularly difficult time, pastors are called upon to manifest communion, unity, closeness, solidarity, and transparency before the suffering people of God.

“I am certain that your Beatitude, in fraternal harmony with all the Synod Fathers, will know, in all evangelical wisdom, how to be not only Pater et Caput [Father and Head] in the service of the faithful of the Greek-Melkite Church, but also a faithful and authentic witness to the Risen One.”

On Wednesday 21 June 2017, the Holy Synod of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church elected Archbishop Joseph Absi as the Church’s new patriarch. Hereceived ecclesiastical communion fromPope Francis the following day. Patriarch Joseph, aged 71, succeeds Patriarch Gregory III Laham, who retired 6 May at the ageof 83. The new patriarch was born in Damascus in 1946. He was or-dained a priest of the Missionary Society of St Paul in 1973. In 1999 he became superior general of the society, and two years later was appointed curial bishop of the Melkite Patriarchate of Antioch. In 2007, he was appointed the PatriarchalVicar of the Melkite Archdiocese of Damascus.

During the 2010 Synod on the Middle East, then Archbishop Joseph lamented the strife among the Eastern Catholic Churches, call-ing the struggle a “fount of impairment and false testimony,” according to Vatican Insider.