His Beatitude Gregorius III Laham
In November 2000, His Beatitude Maximos V Hakim retired as Patriarch and as Spiritual Protector of the Order because of the infirmities of old age (he was 92). He died on 29 June 2001, aged 93.
For the past 150 years the Patriarchs of the Melkite Catholic Church have served as the Spiritual Protectors of The Military and Hospitaller Order of Saint Lazarus of Jerusalem. By the grace of God, at the Electoral Synod of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church held at Rabweh, Lebanon, on November 27-29, 2000, the Most Reverend Archbishop Lutfi Laham, Patriarchal Vicar of Jerusalem was elected as the new Patriarch of Jerusalem, Alexandria, Antioch and all the East. The new Patriarch took a new name, as is the custom. He chose the name of Gregory III to follow Patriarch Gregory II Youssef, the great champion of Eastern traditions and of the rights of Patriarchs in the First Vatican Council (1870).
Patriarch Gregory III was born in Daraya, near Damascus, Syria, in 1933. The village of Daraya is known traditionally to be the place of the conversion of St. Paul on his way to Damascus.
His Beatitude entered the Seminary of the Holy Savior of the Basilian Salvatorian Fathers in the Shoof, Lebanon in 1944. He took his simple religious vows in the Basilian Salvatorian Order in 1949 and his solemn religious vows in 1954. He received his religious and philosophy education at the Holy Savior Seminary, Joun, Lebanon. He continued his Theological studies in Rome where he was ordained priest in 1959. He obtained the doctorate in oriental theology at the Pontifical Oriental Institute in Rome. He was superior of the Holy Savior Major Seminary in 1961-1964.
In 1962, His Beatitude founded the magazine "AI-Wahdah -Unity in Faith," the first ecumenical magazine to be published in the Arabic language. He founded, in the same year, the "Center for Young Girls" in several Lebanese villages in East Sidon. In 1966, he co-founded tthe Providence Home, at Salhiyeh, near Saida, Lebanon, as an orphanage and trade school for boys. In 1974, he became Administrator of the Patriarchal Vicanate of Jerusalem. In 1976, in Jerusalem, he founded the "Student Fund" to help needy students and in 1978 the Family Assistance Fund to help needy families in the troubled areas of his Diocese. In 1967, he founded at the Patriarchate the Oriental Library to promulgate the knowledge of Eastern traditions. He initiated many social projects such as repairing churches, opening clinics and building popular housing, including a guest house for pilgrims at the Patriarchal Center in Jerusalem.
In 1981, he was consecrated Archbishop and continued his work as Patriarchal Vicar of Jerusalem He is well known throughout the Middle East and Europe as an Ecumenist and Theologian. Appointed by Patriarch Maximos V Hakim as president of the Patriarchal Liturgical Commission, he edited "the Anthologion," the prayer book of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church in four volumes, and 'the Book of the Liturgies," a complete and updated compendium of the Divine Liturgy. As Secretary of the Ecumenical Commission of the Melkite Patriarchate, he has been very active in the Dialogue between the two Sister Churches, the Melkite Greek Catholic and the Greek (Antiochian) Orthodox Churches. He is also a member of the League of the Universities and institutes of Religious Studies in the Middle East.
He was installed as Patriarch November 29, immediately after his election by 30 Bishops assembled in special Synod. Present at the installation was His Beatitude Maximos V Hakim who resigned for reasons of health at 92 years of age.