Syrian Crisis Casts Shadow on Electing a Successor for Hazim

Electing a successor to replace the late Greek Orthodox Patriarch of the Levant and Antioch Ignatius IV Hazim, which is due on Monday, could be delayed “until the situation crystallizes in Syria”, As Safir daily said Saturday.

Metropolitan Saba Esper, who was elected as a temporary successor to Hazim, called earlier on Orthodox officials to meet on Monday to elect a successor for Hazim.

But some Orthodox bishops said they would prefer to delay the elections until the “situation in Syria crystallizes”, and a new regime replaces that of President Bashar Assad, sources following up closely on the preparations for the elections told the daily on condition of anonymity.

According to observers, the calls to delay the elections could be stemming from an attempt to exclude the bishops known for their moderate stances, particularly those with a good relationship with the Syrian regime, in the interest of bishops known for their strong rhetoric.

Hazim died at the age of 92 on December 5 after suffering a stroke. He was buried in Damascus after a Mass at Beirut’s St. Nicolas Cathedral.

The Greek Orthodox Church elected on December 7 Metropolitan Saba Esper as a temporary successor to Hazim.

In parallel with the suggestion of some bishops to only hold consultations on Monday and set a new date for the elections, other bishops stressed that a successor for Hazim should be elected next week and that the period between Hazim's death and the due date for the elections was enough for consultations.

On the other hand, sources from the Orthodox Church denied reports alleging an election delay, and they stressed that a successor for Hazim will be elected on Monday as previously agreed, Voice of Lebanon Radio (100.5) said on Saturday.

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