“I was saddened to learn of the death this week of Patriarch Ignatius IV Hazim at the age of 91.
“His Beatitude died after serving for more than 33 years as the leader of the largest Arab Christian Church in the Middle East, the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch.
“Patriarch Ignatius was not only a great spiritual leader and religious scholar, he was also a prominent voice for ecumenical relations, co-existence, interfaith dialogue and religious freedom in an often-volatile area of the world.
“In 1988, he founded Lebanon’s University of Balamand, a leading institution of higher learning in the Middle East, dedicated to promoting freedom, tolerance, pluralism and human dignity throughout the region.
“His Beatitude was also known for a friendly and authentic personal style that inspired the members of his Church and helped broaden his influence in the larger community.
“He was committed to ensuring that the traditions and faith of the Greek Orthodox Church remain relevant to modern life. Addressing Church members after his election as Patriarch, he said:
“I know that I will be judged if I do not carry the Church and each one of you in my heart. It is not possible for me to address you as if I were different from you. No difference separates us. I am an integral part of you; I am in you and I ask you to be in me. For the Lord comes, and the Spirit descends on the brothers and sisters gathered, united in communion, as they manifest a diversity of charisma in the unity of the Spirit.
“As Canada’s Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, and on behalf of the Government of Canada, I extend sincere condolences to all Christians who mourn his passing at this sad time.”