Moran Mor Ignatius Aphrem II (Syriac: ܡܪܢ ܡܪܝ ܐܝܓܢܛܝܘܣ ܐܦܪܝܡ ܬܪܝܢܐ Moran Mor Ignaṭius Afrem Trayono, Arabic: إغناطيوس أفرام الثاني Iġnāṭīūs Afrām al-Ṯānī; born 3 May 1965 as Sa'id Karim; Arabic: سعيد كريم, romanizedSaʽīd Kārīm) is a Syrian-American Christian prelate who is serving as the Patriarch of the Syriac Orthodox Church since 29 May 2014.

Ignatius Aphrem II
ܡܪܝ ܐܝܓܢܛܝܘܣ ܐܦܪܝܡ ܬܪܝܢܐ
إغناطيوس أفرام الثاني

123rd Patriarch of the Universal Syriac Orthodox Church
Native name
Syriac: ܐܝܓܢܛܝܘܣ ܐܦܪܝܡ ܬܪܝܢܐ Arabic: إغناطيوس أفرام الثاني
ChurchSyriac Orthodox Church
SeeHoly See of Antioch
Elected31 March 2014
Installed29 May 2014
PredecessorMoran Mor Ignatius Zakka I Iwas
Consecration28 January 1996
Personal details
Saʿid Karim (Syriac: ܣܥܝܕ ܟܪܝܡ, Arabic: سعيد كريم)

(1965-05-03) May 3, 1965 (age 59)
NationalitySyrian; American
DenominationSyriac Orthodox
ParentsIssa and Khanema Karim
Previous post(s)Metropolitan and Patriarchal Vicar of the Archdiocese of the Eastern United States

Teacher at St Ephrem’s Theological Seminary, Damascus

Secretary of Moran Mor Ignatius Zakka I Iwas
EducationB.A Divinity from Coptic Theological Seminary

STL from St Patrick's College, Maynooth
Doctor of Divinity from St Patrick's College, Maynooth

Doctor of Philosophy enrolled from Fordham University[1]
Alma materSt Patrick's College, Maynooth, Coptic Theological Seminary, Fordham University

Before his election to the patriarchate, he was the Syriac Orthodox Archbishop of the Eastern United States, and was known as Mor Cyril Aphrem Karim in that post.[2] In that role he established 11 new parishes, introducing a number of new programs for the youth, and worked for inter-church unity.[3][4]

Early life and education


Saʿid Karim was born in Qamishli, north-eastern Syria, on 3 May 1965, the youngest son of Issa and Khanema Karim.[5] His family are Syriac Orthodox Assyrians/Syriacs who originally came from the village Ëḥwo (Turkish: Güzelsu) in the Tur Abdin region of Mardin Province, Turkey.[6][7]

After finishing primary schooling in Qamishli in 1977, Karim received his religious secondary education at St. Ephrem's Theological Seminary in Atchaneh, Bikfaya, Lebanon. After completing school in 1982, he worked in Aleppo, Syria, as an assistant to the Archbishop Mor Gregorios Yuhanna Ibrahim.[8] From 1984 to 1988, he attended the Coptic Theological Seminary in Cairo, Egypt, receiving a Bachelor of Arts degree in Divinity.[4]

The young Deacon Aphrem Karim (later Patriarch Ignatius Aphrem II) with his predecessor Patriarch Ignatius Zakka I Iwas; taken in 1985.

In 1985, Saʿid Karim took the vows of a monk, and changed his name to Aphrem in honor of the 4th-century Syriac poet-theologian Ephrem the Syrian and former patriarch Aphrem I Barsoum. He was ordained deacon, and, later that year, was elevated to the sacred priesthood. From 1988 to 1989, he served as both the secretary to his patriarchal predecessor, Ignatius Zakka I Iwas, and as a teacher at St Ephrem's Theological Seminary in Damascus, Syria.[4]

In 1991, he entered St Patrick's College in Maynooth, Ireland, from where he received a Licentiate of Sacred Theology (1992) and Doctor of Divinity (1994). His doctoral thesis was titled The Symbolism of the Cross in early Syriac Christianity.[5] During that time, he also served as a priest to the Syriac Orthodox Community in the United Kingdom.

Metropolitan Archbishop of the Eastern United States


In 1995, following the death of Archbishop Mor Athanasius Yeshue Samuel, who had established the Archdiocese of the United States and Canada, it was decided to divide the territory into three archdioceses: the Eastern United States, Los Angeles and Environs, and Canada. Aphrem Karim was appointed archbishop of the Eastern United States territory.[9]

On January 28, 1996, Aphrem Karim was consecrated as Metropolitan Archbishop and Patriarchal Vicar of the Archdiocese for the Eastern United States by Patriarch Ignatius Zakka I Iwas at St. Mary's Syriac Orthodox Church in his home town of Qamishli.[2] Taking the episcopal name Cyril, he arrived in the United States on March 2, 1996, and was officially installed at St. Mark's Syriac Orthodox Cathedral in Teaneck, New Jersey, as Mor Cyril Aphrem Karim.[4]

During his time as Metropolitan Archbishop, Cyril Aphrem Karim oversaw the creation of 11 new parishes, bringing the total parishes in the archdiocese to 20. He created an advisory council to aid in oversight and administration of the archdiocese. He created the Syriac Orthodox Archdiocesan Youth Organization to coordinate youth activities across the archdiocese's parishes, and oversaw a number of youth conferences as he sought to grow the church. He organized a special youth liturgy in the New York/New Jersey area and created a choral society.[4]

Cyril Aphrem Karim oversaw the creation of the Archdiocesan Sunday School Committee to unite lesson plans across the archdiocese. He created a pre-marriage counseling program which afforded couples-to-be the chance to meet with him personally. He also established an annual liturgy service to recognize and appreciate the elderly members of the community. He worked for inter-church unity, serving on the World Council of Churches. Cyril Aphrem Karim played a significant role in founding Christian Churches Together.[4]

Patriarch of Antioch


On 21 March 2014, Patriarch Ignatius Zakka I Iwas died after a long illness. Following his death, the Holy Synod of the Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch was convened to elect a successor. The synod was held at St Jacob Baradeus Monastery in Atchaneh, Lebanon, presided over by Mor Baselios Thoma I Catholicos of India and Mor Severius Jamil Hawa Archbishop of Baghdad and Basra, the Patriarchal Locum Tenens. The synod elected Cyril Aphrem bin Karim to be the 122nd successor of St. Peter in the Apostolic See of Antioch. He was enthroned on 29 May 2014, at St Ephrem's Monastery, Maarat Saidnaya, near Damascus, Syria.[10] Baselios Thomas I oversaw the ceremony.[11]

Karim took the patriarchal name Ignatius, replacing his episcopal name Cyril, and, being the second patriarch to bear the monastic name Aphrem (the first being Ignatius Aphrem I Barsoum), his name became Ignatius Aphrem II. Unlike his immediate predecessors, but following older convention, Aphrem II chose not to use his family name, Karim, in his official title.

In 2016, Ignatius said "Russia has given hope to the people of Syria," in support of the Russian military intervention in Syria during the Syrian Civil War.[12]

Apostolic visits


Since his enthronement, he has made many apostolic visits between Iraq and Syria to assist Christians displaced by the advance of ISIS and the general turmoil caused by the Syrian Civil War. The Patriarch celebrated New Year 2015 with refugees and displaced Christians in Northern Iraq. Patriarchal Liturgy was served along with special prayers.[13]

He undertook a pastoral visit to India from 7–19 February 2015.[14] He consecrated churches like St Mary's Church in Marady, St Peter's Church in Peechanikkadu, St George Monastery in Malecruz, St Thomas Church in Madras (Chennai) etc. which are under Jacobite Syrian orthodox Church.



The titulary of patriarchs is somewhat complex and changeable. He is often called "His Holiness", a special distinction given to the leaders of some churches (Syriac: ܩܕܝܫܘܬܗ Qaddišuṯeh, Arabic: قداسة Qadāsa). This is often then followed by the unique Syriac title Mor (ܡܪܝ), often doubled to Moran Mor (ܡܪܢ ܡܪܝ). The title, in its singular form, literally means "my lord", and is given to all male saints and bishops. The term Moran means "our lord", and, used alone refers only to Jesus Christ, but is combined with Mor in the titles of patriarchs. Patriarchs are addressed as either Mor or Moran Mor.[15]

Patriarchs take the patriarchal name Ignatius in honor of the martyr Ignatius of Antioch, starting with the accession of Ignatius Behnam of Hadl in 1445.[16] Ignatius Aphrem II chose a different spelling of the name Ignatius by omitting the Syriac letter olaph from the spelling of the "a" vowel. This is followed by the patriarch's personal monastic name Aphrem, and the regnal number "II" to distinguish him from Ignatius Aphrem I Barsoum. Ignatius Aphrem II does not use his family name, "Karim", in his patriarchal title, although he is informally referred to as "Ignatius Aphrem II Karim".

The patriarch is Patriarch of Antioch, to which is added "and All the East" as that see governs the church in the east. He is also Supreme Head of the Church, a similar title to those used by other denominational leaders.[16][17]

An ancient title of Syriac patriarchs still sometimes used is "Thrice Blessed" (Syriac: ܬܠܝܬܝ̈ ܛܘܒܐ̈ Tlithoy Ṭuḇe), usually placed instead of "His Holiness".[17] The patriarch is often greeted in Arabic as سيدنا Sayyidnā ("our lord").

Title of Ignatius Aphrem II
English His Holiness Moran Mor Ignatius Aphrem II, Patriarch of Antioch and All the East and Supreme Head of the Universal Syriac Orthodox Church
Syriac ܩܕܝܫܘܬܗ ܕܡܪܢ ܡܪܝ ܐܝܓܢܛܝܘܣ ܐܦܪܝܡ ܬܪܝܢܐ ܦܛܪܝܪܟܐ ܕܐܢܛܝܘܟܝܐ ܘܕܟܠܗ̇ ܡܕܢܚܐ ܘܪܝܫܐ ܓܘܢܝܐ ܕܥܕܬܐ ܣܘܪܝܝܬܐ ܬܪܝܨܬ ܫܘܒܚܐ ܒܟܠܗ̇ ܬܐܒܠ
Qaddišuṯeh ḏ-Moran Mor[y] Iḡnaṭius Afrem Trayono Paṭriarḵo ḏ-Anṭiuḵia waḏ-Kuloh Maḏĕnḥo w-Rišo Gawonoyo ḏ-ʿItto Suryoyto Triṣaṯ Šuḇḥo ḇ-Kuloh Tiḇel
Arabic قداسة مار إغناطيوس أفرام الثاني بطريرك لأنطاكية وسائر المشرق ورئيس أعلى للكنيسة السريانية الأرثوذكسية في العالم
Qadāsa Mār ʾIġnāṭīūs ʾAfrām al-Ṯānī Baṭriyark li-ʾAnṭākya wa-Sāʾir al-Mašriq wa-Raʾīs ʾAʿlā lil-Kanīsa al-Suryāniyya al-ʾUrṯūḏaksiyya fī al-ʿĀlam

Personal names


At various points in his life, Ignatius Aphrem II was known as

  • Saʿid Karim (1965–1985)
  • The Reverend Monk Aphrem Karim (1985–1996)
  • His Eminence Mor Cyril Aphrem Karim (1996–2014)
  • His Holiness Moran Mor Ignatius Aphrem II (2014–present)

Personal life


Ignatius Aphrem II speaks Classical Syriac (Kthobonoyo), Turoyo (a colloquial Neo-Aramaic spoken in his ancestral Tur Abdin), Arabic, French and English.[4]

Suicide attack


On Sunday 19 June 2016, an ISIS affiliated suicide bomber tried to assassinate Ignatius Aphrem II during a special ceremony commemorating the 101st anniversary of the Ottoman genocide against Arameans, Armenians, Assyrians and Greeks. Three security officers were killed and five people injured; the Patriarch Mor Ignatius Aphrem II was unharmed.[18]

2018 missile strikes against Syria


In April 2018, Ignatius Aphrem II, together with Patriarch John X of Antioch issued a strong condemnation of the 2018 missile strikes against Syria. They said the bombing "were clear violation of the international laws and the UN Charter", and that the "unjust aggression encourages the terrorist organizations and gives them momentum to continue in their terrorism."[19]



In 2003, Cyril Aphrem Karim published the Book of the Order for the Burial of the Clergy. He also saw to the reprint of works including the Shorter Catechism of the Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch (1999) by former Patriarch Ignatius Aphrem I Barsoum, and the Book of Scripture Readings for Sundays and Feasts Days (2000), originally published by Mor Philoxenus Yuhanon Dolabani of Mardin. Cyril Aphrem Karim encouraged the American Foundation for Syriac Studies to publish a quarterly entitled Syriac Studies and helped co-sponsor a series of public lectures by scholars and intellectuals on Syriac culture, history, literature and theology. In 2004, Cyril Aphrem Karim wrote Symbols of the Cross in the Writings of the Early Syriac Fathers. He has also published two children's books: In The Tree House and Animals from the Bible.[4]


  • Barsom, Murad Saliba (2000). Samuel, Mor Athanasius Yeshue (ed.). Book of the Order for the Burial of the Clergy (liturgical book). Foreword by Mor Cyril Aphrem Karim; biographical sketch by Chorepiscopus John P. Meno. New Jersey: Archdiocese of the Syriac Orthodox Church for the Eastern USA. ISBN 0-9744442-0-0.
  • Barsoum, Patriarch Ephrem I (1999). Karim, Cyril Aphrem (ed.). The Shorter Catechism of the Syrian Orthodox Church of Antioch. Translated into English by the Very Rev. Fr. Elias Sugar. New Jersey: Archdiocese of the Syriac Orthodox Church for the Eastern USA.
  • Dolabani, Philoxenos Yuhanon (2000). Karim, Cyril Aphrem (ed.). Scripture Readings for Sundays & Feast Days: According to the Tradition of the Syrian Orthodox Church of Antioch. New Jersey: Archdiocese of the Syriac Orthodox Church for the Eastern USA. ISBN 1-59333-146-0.
  • Karim, Cyril Aphrem (2004). Symbols of the Cross in the Writings of the Early Syriac Fathers. New Jersey: Gorgias Press. ISBN 1-59333-230-0.
  • — (2004). "The Liturgy in the Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch". In Best, Thomas F.; Heller, Dagmar (eds.). Worship Today: understanding, practice, ecumenical implications. Geneva: WCC.
  • — (2011). In The Tree House (children's book). New Jersey: Parables & Books. ISBN 978-0983318804.
  • — (2013). Animals from the Bible (children's book). New Jersey: Parables & Books. ISBN 978-1939682055.


  1. ^ "Patriarch". Syrian Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch. 13 December 2015.
  2. ^ a b "Metropolitan Mor Cyril Aphrem Karim Elected as the 123rd Patriarch of Antioch and All East". Orthodoxy Cognate PAGE – Media Network. 31 March 2014. Archived from the original on 10 May 2014. Retrieved 28 April 2014.
  3. ^ "A need for leaders inspired by fraternal love - L'Osservatore Romano".
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h "Mor Cyril Aphrem Karim". Syrian Orthodox Church. Retrieved 31 May 2014.
  5. ^ a b "Mor Cyril Aphrem Karim". Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch: Archdiocese for the Eastern United States. Archived from the original on 9 April 2014. Retrieved 28 April 2014.
  6. ^ Moran Mor Ignatius Aphrem II about his homeland and Syriac-Aramaic origin, retrieved 28 April 2022
  7. ^ Mike Schneider interview of Mor Cyril Aphrem Karim. New Jersey Today with Mike Schneider (television production). NJTV News.
  8. ^ "Assyrian Orthodox Church of the Virgin Mary, Important Updates". Archived from the original on 9 May 2014. Retrieved 28 April 2014.
  9. ^ "About". Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch: Archdiocese for the Eastern United States. Retrieved 28 April 2014.
  10. ^ "The official announcement about the newly elected Patriarch Mor Ignatius Aphrem bin karim II". Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch: Archdiocese for the Eastern United States. Archived from the original on 7 April 2014. Retrieved 29 April 2014.
  11. ^ "Aphrem II enthroned as Patriarch of Antioch". Times of India. 30 May 2014. Retrieved 31 May 2014.
  12. ^ ERASMUS (18 December 2016). "Aleppo presents a moral dilemma for Christian leaders". The Economist. Retrieved 19 December 2016.
  13. ^ "Patriarch Ignatius Aphrem II visits Displaced Christians & Refugee Camps in Iraq". 23 August 2014. Archived from the original on 5 July 2018. Retrieved 19 March 2018.
  14. ^ "Holy Apostolic Visit to India 2015". Retrieved 19 March 2018.
  15. ^ Sebastian P. Brock (2006). An Introduction to Syriac Studies. Gorgias Press. ISBN 978-1-59333-349-2.
  16. ^ a b Patriarch Ignatius Zakka I Iwas (1983). "The Syrian Orthodox Church of Antioch At A Glance". Archived from the original on 3 March 2016. Retrieved 31 May 2014.
  17. ^ a b "The Departure of His Holiness Mor Ignatius Zakka I Iwas, Patriarch of Antioch and All the East, of Thrice Blessed Memory". Coptic Orthodox Diocese of the Southern United States. 25 March 2014. Retrieved 31 May 2014.
  18. ^ "Patriarch Ignatius, head of Syrian Orthodox church, escapes suicide bomb attack". Archived from the original on 5 July 2018. Retrieved 19 March 2018.
  19. ^ A Statement Issued by the Patriarchates of Antioch and all the East for the Greek Orthodox, Syrian Orthodox, and Greek-Melkite Catholic Damascus, 14 April 2018
External media
  Official English letter announcing of the election of Ignatius Aphrem II as patriarch
  Announcements of New Patriarch Moran Mor Ignatius Aphrem II by Mor Severus Hawa the Locum Tenens on YouTube
Preceded by Syrian Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch
Succeeded by