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Greek Melkite Patriarch resigns

Leader of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church, the Patriarch of Antioch Gregory III Laham pictured, far left, during a spiritual meeting of the Patriarchs of Antioch and All East at the Greek Patriarchate of Damascus on June 8, 2015. (Photo: LOUAI BESHARA/AFP/Getty Images)

The Spiritual leader of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church retired on Saturday after Pope Francis accepted his resignation.

Melkite Greek Patriarch of Antioch, His Beatitude Gregory III Laham resigned from pastoral office on May 6.

A letter from the Holy Father to the Patriarch-emeritus and all the Melkite bishops explains that His Beatitude presented his resignation during the course of a special audience with the Holy Father in February, and that the Holy Father has decided to accept the resignation.

In the letter, Pope Francis thanks the 83 year-old Patriarch-emeritus, “a zealous servant of the People of God, for the generous service to his Church and for keeping the international community’s attention focused on the tragedy of Syria.”

The Holy Father goes on to write, “I invoke upon you all the intercession of The Holy Mother of God and willingly give the Apostolic Blessing to our dear Greco-Melkite Church as a sign of grace and encouragement for the future of communion and witness of the Gospel.”

Gregory III Laham was the spiritual leader of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church, elected on November 29, 2000, succeeding Patriarch Maximos V Hakim. He is author of several books and has spoken out on the issues facing Christians in Syria.