DAMASCUS, Syria — The patriarch of the Syriac Orthodox Church, who led one of the world’s oldest Christian sects, was buried in a village near Damascus on Friday after an elaborate memorial service in the Syrian capital’s cathedral.
The bells of St. George’s Cathedral, located in the walled section of Damascus, rang out from the early morning as mourners dressed in black came to pay their respects to Ignatius Zakka Iwas, praising him for his loyalty to the church and the Syrian state. A large banner bearing the patriarch’s portrait hung on metal gates at the cathedral’s main entrance pledging that Christians will remain in Syria. “Syria is our eternal homeland,” it read. Iwas’ official title was the Patriarch of Antioch and All the East. The Syrian Orthodox Church was founded in the year 452 after a schism with the bulk of the world’s Christians. There are more than 4 million members living in Syria, Lebanon and Iraq.