Vatican City, 24 March 2014 (VIS) – The Holy Father has sent a telegram of condolences for the death of His Holiness Mar Ignatius Zakka Iwas, Syrian Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch and all the East on 21 March, at the age of 80. “The whole Christian world has lost one of its outstanding spiritual leaders, courageous and wise in leading people through very difficult times”, he writes. “Following his election as patriarch in 1980, His Holiness was an engaged witness of the successive violent conflicts that have brought untold death and suffering to the Middle East, especially Iraq and most recently Syria. His Holiness was a man of dialogue and peace with regard to the followers of all religious traditions”.
Pope Francis also mentions in the telegram the Patriarch's role as an observer at the Vatican Council II and gives thanks for his “extraordinary contribution to strengthening communion between Syrian Orthodox Christians and the Catholic faithful”.