BEIRUT, Lebanon (CNS) -- Amid cheers and ululation, the former head of the Syrian Catholic diocese in the U.S. and Canada was installed as patriarch of the Syrian Catholic Church.
Saying that he will "serve, not for personal interests, but to win Christ," Patriarch Ignace Joseph III Younan (see picture with the former pope John Paul XXIII) was installed Feb. 15 at a Mass steeped in rituals characteristic of the Catholic Church's Eastern rites.
People applauded and cheered and women ululated during the entrance procession at Our Lady of the Annunciation Syrian Catholic Church in Beirut. The veiled Patriarch Younan was led into the church by several Syrian Catholic bishops, including Cardinal Ignace Moussa Daoud, retired Syrian patriarch.
The new patriarch made his way past patriarchs, cardinals, bishops, priests and nuns of the Eastern and Latin churches, as well as the Orthodox churches. He took his seat under the crucifix behind the altar, where he remained covered in a lace veil, a symbol of Jesus' 40-day fast in the desert, until he was officially enthroned as patriarch just before Communion.
Cardinal Daoud celebrated the Mass in Arabic and Aramaic.
Immediately following his enthronement, Patriarch Younan blessed the faithful as he was lifted three times in his chair.
"Blessings ... long life," the faithful chanted in Arabic. Women in the choir ululated amid the cheers and applause.
Patriarch Younan said, "It is a great honor I don't deserve, but I put my whole trust in the one who said, 'You have not chosen me; I have chosen you.'"
Thanking those "who had traveled a great distance," the new patriarch praised "my dear friend," Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, retired archbishop of Washington, "who truly was my father in the faith since my very beginning as a missionary priest then as bishop in the United States."
"With his fraternal support and solicitude, His Eminence allowed our small Syrian Catholic community in Newark, N.J., to grow in size and grace," he said. Cardinal McCarrick served as archbishop of Newark from 1986 to 2000.
Worldwide there are an estimated 200,000 Syrian Catholics, including 60,000-65,000 in the United States and Canada. Patriarch Younan was sent to the United States to serve the Syrian communities there in 1986. From 1995 until his January election as the new patriarch of Antioch, Patriarch Younan was the head of the Newark-based Syrian-rite diocese in the United States and Canada.
Cardinal McCarrick, speaking in French, said Patriarch Younan was like a little brother "who I am proud to consider as my spiritual friend."
On the altar, Cardinal McCarrick sat alongside Cardinal Nasrallah P. Sfeir, patriarch of the Maronite Catholic Church.
In his address, Patriarch Younan expressed delight that his classmate from Rome, Syro-Malankara Bishop Abraham Kackanatt of Muvattupuzha, India, was able to attend.
"Your presence today is an urgent reminder for all of us to strengthen our ecclesial and liturgical communion," PatriarchYounan said.
In his remarks, Bishop Kackanatt said the patriarch was returning to the roots of the church, "the cradle of conviviality and spirituality."
"I pray that the patriarch will bring a new spirit to this church and all churches. May you bring more unity and love to all the churches thriving here today that, unfortunately, are not in full communion," Bishop Kackanatt said.
Drawing cheers from the estimated 150 people who came from Syria -- some from Patriarch Younan's home village, Hassake -- the patriarch noted he "was born in Syria, where my parents found refuge after fleeing" Turkey. A delegation of 35 people came from Istanbul, Turkey.
Some 70 people came from Iraq, and numerous Iraqi flags were visible throughout the church.
Father ST Sutton, who served as secretary to Patriarch Younan while he was a bishop in the U.S., said the new patriarch is "very intelligent, very collegial and open-minded. And he has a great sense of humor."
"He is a prayerful man. The ultimate climax of his prayer life is the Eucharist," the priest said.
Father Sutton said Patriarch Younan has a keen sense of the universality of the church.
"If anything, he is a bridge-builder and a healer. He has no personal agenda except to unite and serve the Lord," said Father Sutton.
The priest said the patriarch's departure from the United States is "bittersweet" and that the faithful are awaiting a new bishop, scheduled to be selected during the July synod.