- Hierarchs -
Metropolitan Joseph (G. Al-Zehlaoui)
Joseph G. Al-Zehlaoui was born on November 2, 1950 in Damascus, Syria to Georgi and Mathil (Baghdan) Al Zehlaoui. He received his elementary education at the St. John of Damascus and Al Assiyeh schools in Damascus, and his secondary education at Our Lady of Balamand Monastery in Koura, Northern Lebanon. He then studied philosophy at Lebanese University in Beirut and theology, languages and music at Salonika University in Greece. He is fluent in Arabic, English and Greek.
Metropolitan Joseph was consecrated to the Holy Episcopacy on June 30, 1991 at the St. Mary Cathedral in Damascus, after many years of serving as a deacon and a priest. His Eminence was born in Damascus, Syria, in 1950. He completed his basic schooling at the St. John of Damascus and al-Alliyeh schools in Damascus and then at Our Lady of Balamand Monastery in Koura, Lebanon. He completed his undergraduate studies at Lebanese University in Beirut and then earned his Master of Theology (M.Th.) with special studies in music and languages from Aristotle University in Thessaloniki, Greece. He was awarded an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree from St. Tikhon Seminary in South Canaan, Pennsylvania, in May, 2010.
Patriarch Ignatius IV of Blessed Memory ordained His Eminence as a deacon in November, 1976, and priest in 1980. As priest, Fr. Joseph served as dean of St. Mary Cathedral in Damascus and as overseer of Holy Cross Church and other parishes in the suburbs of Damascus. He served as superintendent of the secondary school in Damascus from 1980 until 1983. Father Joseph then went abroad to pastor the Antiochian Orthodox Church in London, England from 1983 to 1986, and then the Antiochian Orthodox Church in Cyprus from 1986 until 1991, when he was elected as bishop.
His Grace was consecrated with the title Bishop of Katana in Syria, and served as Patriarchal Assistant and Secretary of the Holy Synod of Antioch. In 1995, he was sent by Patriarch Ignatius to America. Here, in our Archdiocese, Bishop Joseph was assigned to the West Coast Chancery by Metropolitan Philip of Blessed Memory. After self-rule status was awarded to our Archdiocese, Bishop Joseph was enthroned at St. Nicholas Cathedral by Metropolitan Philip as the first Bishop of the Diocese of Los Angeles and the West on September 12, 2004.
On December 11, 2011, at the Church of the Dormition of the Theotokos in the Patriarchal Monastery of Our Lady of Balamand in Lebanon, Patriarch Ignatius elevated Bishop Joseph to the rank of Archbishop, in honor of his many years of service as a bishop both in our Archdiocese and in the Patriarchate of Antioch.
On Thursday, July 3, 2014, the Holy Synod of Antioch, meeting in Balamand, Lebanon, elected Archbishop Joseph to be Metropolitan of all North America.
Metropolitan Joseph's achievements in apostolic ministry over the course of almost twenty years of diakonia as Bishop of the Diocese of Los Angeles and the West, as well as the Locum Tenens of the Diocese of Eagle River and the Pacific Northwest, form a solid testimony to his spiritual, ethical, and personal leadership qualifications. Over a vast expanse of the western United States and Canada, including Alaska, Metropolitan Joseph tirelessly and unrelentingly maintained a personal apostolic presence in the more than 60 parishes under his care in his years as Bishop of the Diocese of Los Angeles. His Eminence also maintained a personal culture of contact, by direct phone, with all his clergy. Many of the clergy and laity testify that Sayidna always remembered and acted on any important issue placed before him. This unique combination of traits—sobriety and blameless familiarity—has formed the bedrock for his personal effectiveness with all.
Based upon his solid spiritual, intellectual, and cultural formation and education, Metropolitan Joseph effectively established solid and meaningful Annual Clergy Seminars and deepened the spiritual and educational experience of both clergy and laity at the annual Parish Life Conferences. He brought in many and diverse Orthodox authors, leaders, and teachers to enrich the clergy and the laity of his two western dioceses. This served to promote a strong sense of clergy brotherhood, inter-parochial exchanges, and became the envy of other Orthodox jurisdictions everywhere. Guest speakers and visitors constantly remarked that Archbishop Joseph's clergy were outstanding in their consistent and active involvement in such events. His Eminence labored intensely to deepen the spiritual life of his clergy, by encouraging frequent confession, personal prayer, continual education, and a heightened sense of the fullness of our Orthodox Christian tradition of interior and ascetical transfiguration in Christ.
During these years, His Eminence also demonstrated episcopal hospitality in his way of life and led the way in cultivating an active pan-Orthodox community in the western United States and Canada. All of the canonical Orthodox hierarchs of the West related to Archbishop Joseph in a personal way as an episcopal concelebrant. This episcopal brotherhood was increasingly reflected in the inter-parochial interaction of the priests and laity of all the parishes across the western states and provinces.
Metropolitan Joseph also established a strong, clear, and straight-forward liturgical guidance for all his parishes. He pioneered the use of the internet in publishing the entire text of all the Sunday and festal services of the Church throughout the year. His love for the divine services inspired him to improve the liturgical praxis of all the clergy, through constant interactions and special teachings. In addition, he constantly promoted the spiritual climate of the dioceses under his care with such things as "the thought of the day."
Patriarch JOHN X (Yaziji)
His Beatitude Patriarch JOHN X was born in Lattakia, a town on the Mediterranean coast of Northern Syria. He grew up in a household atmosphere of faith, prayer and education. His father, the late Manah Yazigi, a Syrian teacher of Arabic language, was a poet. His mother Rose Moussi is a devout Lebanese woman. In their pious home, Manah and Rose raised a family of four children, two boys and two girls. Raising their children in the faith and educating them in the virtues yielded much fruits. Their children were dedicated to the service of the Church: one became the Patriarch of Antioch, the other a Metropolitan, and another joined a convent as a nun.
His Beatitude studied in the city schools and graduated with high honors. He earned a Bachelor in Civil Engineering from the University of Teshreen. During his studies, he played a key role with the youth and established several youth programs, thus becoming a well known youth leader. Since he excelled in Byzantine Music, he set up a Byzantine Music School and formed several choirs. By the grace of God, his work led to a great spiritual revival among his generation.
In 1978, His Beatitude graduated from the St. John of Damascus Institute of Theology, University of Balamand, with a Bachelor in Theology. In 1983, he earned with high honors his doctoral degree in Liturgics from the University of Thessaloniki, Greece. The tile of his thesis published in Greek is: "The Service of Holy Baptism: An Historical, Theological, and Liturgical Study." In 1981, and simultaneously with his doctoral studies, His Beatitude successfully earned a Diploma in Byzantine Music issued by the Conservatory of Byzantine Music in Thessaloniki, Greece.
His Beatitude was ordained a deacon in 1979 and a priest in 1983, by the laying on of hands of His Eminence Metropolitan John Mansour of the Archdiocese of Lattakia where he initially served.
Since 1981, His Beatitude became the Professor of Liturgical Studies at the St. John of Damascus Institute of Theology at Balamand. During the periods of 1988-1991 and 2001-2005 he served as the Dean of the Institute of Theology.
In the years 2001-2005, His Beatitude became the abbot of the Our Lady of Balamand Patriarchal Monastery, Lebanon. He was also appointed abbot of the St. George Al Humayrah Patriarchal Monastery, Syria, in the period of 1993- 2005, where he founded a monastic community and a school of ecclesiastic studies for the Patriarchate. In addition, His Beatitude contributed to the foundation of the Convent of our Lady of Blemmana in Tartous, Syria.
In 1995, the Holy Synod of Antioch elected him as the Bishop of Pyrgou, an area called in Arabic Wadi An-Nasara or Al-Hosn, in the Archdiocese of Akkar.. He faithfully served the parishes there till 2008, when was elected Metropolitan of Europe. On December 17, 2012, the Holy Synod of Antioch elected John Yazigi as the Patriarch of the Holy and Apostolic See of Antioch.
In addition to his pastoral ministry, His Beatitude was involved in many worldwide activities in the ecumenical, Christian and especially Orthodox Christian spheres. He participated in many international conferences, namely in Greece, Italy, Switzerland, Cyprus, United States of America, Russia, and the United Kingdom.
Patriarch JOHN X is well known for his insightful leadership and his clear vision. He has expressed his vision about various national, ecumenical, international and humanitarian issues through several international conferences and church and national gatherings. His Beatitude uses fairness and truthfulness as keys to all solutions. As a shepherd, he works on gathering the flock, and calls for reconciliation and dialogue among all people and parties, both nationally and internationally. His Beatitude’s personal characteristics are summarized in having good manners, notable interpersonal and listening skills, and his ever-readiness to serve with much dedication and integrity.
Throughout his priestly ministry, His Beatitude’s active presence has led to a notable Church revival. He has succeeded to be close to the youth, calling them to serve the Church and to be active in their society and nation. His Beatitude is also known for his strong administrative, institutional and team work skills. He has played an effective role in encouraging priestly vocations, and a leading role in the development of the St John of Damascus Institute of Theology at the University of Balamand.
Patriarch JOHN X is the author of several books on theology, education, Byzantine music, and liturgy. He edited the liturgical books of the Orthodox Church in Arabic, and more specifically the liturgical books of the archbishops, priests, deacons. Some of his main published works are: The Service of Baptism: A Historic, Theological and Liturgical Study, Thessalonica, 1983 [Greek] (His PhD Thesis); Principles of Byzantine Music, Balamand, 1990, Second Edition 2001; The Life of St. Nectarios the Wonderworker, Lattakya, 1990; Priesthood and Marriage of Priests, Lattakya, 1992; Baptism as a Sacrament of Initiation into the life in Christ, Lattakya, 1992; The Liturgikon, St. George Al-Humayrah Patriarchal Monastery, 2001, Second edition 2005; The Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, Al-Humayrah Patriarchal Monastery, 2001; The Archieratikon, Our Lady of Blemanna Convent, 2007; The Deacon Service Book, Our Lady of Blemanna Convent, 2007; Church Consecration Service, Archdiocese of Europe, 2011; Liturgical Series (Six Volumes), St. John of Damascus Institute of Theology, 2001-2004.
In addition, he translated several books, namely: The life of Our Holy Righteous Mother Makrina, by St. Gregory of Nyssa, An-Nour Publications, 1984; For Those Who Believe in Justification by Works, by St. Mark the Monk, Chapters in Prayers and Spiritual Life, Patristic Series, An-Nour, 1990.
His Beatitude also gave many lectures and participated in several international conferences in different universities churches and institutes, as follows: St Paul and the Antiochian Church, Conference on St Paul, Virea, Greece, 2007; Eucharist in the Byzantine Liturgy, A Conference on Liturgics, the Holy Sprit University, Kaslik, 2004; The Church and Sacraments, An International Conference on the meaning of the Church from an Orthodox perspective, Moscow, 2003; The Unmerceneries Healers of the Church. A Lecture in the occasion of the 125th Anniversary of the St. George Hospital, Beirut, 2002; The Church in the Middle East, University of Oxford, Cambridge, 2002. Meditations on the Meaning of the Church from an Eastern Theological Perspective, The Institute for Orthodox Studies Cambridge, 2002; Antioch: Its Theology and Pastoral Care, A Lecture in the occasion of the Annual priestly convention of the Antiochian Christian Archdiocese of North America, Pennsylvania, 2002; The Mystery of Repentance, Conference on Eastern Liturgics, Holy Spirit University - Kaslik, 2002; The Hymnographic Contribution of the Antiochian Orthodox Church to the Liturgy During the Sixth and Seventh Centuries. Conference on the Specificity of the Church of Antioch, University of Balamand, 1999.