On Wednesday, March 19, Metropolitan Philip (Saliba) of New York & North America, Head of the Antiochian Archdiocese of North America and one of the senior-most Orthodox hierarchs in the U.S., reposed in the Lord. He was 82 years old.
Metropolitan Philip was born on June 10, 1931 in the mountain village of Abou Mizan, Lebanon. His parents had him baptized with the name Abdallah, which in Arabic means "servant of God." At the age of 14, Abdallah left home and attended Balamand Orthodox Seminary in Tripoli, Lebanon. At age 18, Philip (he was given this name when he entered the monastery and seminary) was ordained to the diaconate and fulfilled his obedience of secretary to Patriarch Alexander III of Antioch & All the East (who served at the beginning of the 20th century as abbot of the Antiochian Metochion in Moscow and Doctor of Theology at Moscow Theological Academy). When Fr. Philip was only 21 years old, he was appointed to teach Arabic and Literature at his alma mater, but was soon sent to continue his education at the University of London, after which he enrolled at Holy Cross Greek Seminary in the U.S. Ordained a priest, he attended and graduated St. Vladimir’s Seminary.
Abouna (in Arabic ‒ father) Philip served in parishes in Michigan and Ohio. Oftentimes, he would do so without any assistants. The younger brother of the future Metropolitan, Dr. Najib Saliba, recalled that it was only when he came on vacation to visit his brother that "I came to realize what priests endure in America. Not only do they minister to their parishioners spiritually, but also they serve as administrators, educators, psychologists, marriage counselors, missionaries, fund-raisers and public relations experts. My brother did all that. He was on the job twenty-four hours a day."
In 1966, Fr. Philip was elected Metropolitan, elevated to the episcopate and enthroned as Head of the Antiochian Archdiocese in North America ‒ one of the largest, most dynamic, and youngest Orthodox jurisdictions in the U.S. Today, there are 266 parishes and missions in the U.S. and Canada, more than 400 clergy, nine bishops, youth and women’s organizations, and publications in English and Arabic.
In 2001, Metropolitan Philip celebrated 45 years of episcopal service. Many years ago, in the beginning of the 1970s, when he underwent his first heart surgery, he recalled being mentally prepared to leave this life, though in his weak heart he never lost hope in the Lord.
…And the Lord granted the Metropolitan another 40 years of life and service. It is true that, in his final years, his health forced him to leave cold and windy New York for Florida in the winter months. But the Metropolitan would always return to his flock without fail for the feast of the Lord’s Nativity: he would prayerfully serve at St. Nicholas Cathedral in Brooklyn, preaching warmly and holding long talks with clergy and parishioners.
On Monday, March 10, His Eminence suffered a mild heart attack, but was said to be recovering quickly. Bishop Nicholas of Brooklyn returned from Florida to New York, fully certain of the Metropolitan’s speedy return to health. After serving Presanctified Liturgy in the cathedral, he went downstairs to the refectory, and listened to the voice message on the telephone: "Christ is risen! At 8:30 this evening, Metropolitan Philip reposed in the Lord..."
On behalf of the Eastern American Diocese, His Eminence, Metropolitan Hilarion, First Hierarch of the Russian Church Abroad, addressed the following letter of condolence to the clergy and faithful of the Antiochian Archdiocese:
To the Hierarchs, Clergy, and Faithful of the
Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese of North America
Reverend Fathers, beloved in the Lord brothers and sisters,
News of the repose of His Eminence, Metropolitan Philip, who was universally beloved, has brought the pain of grief to our hearts and to the hearts of many who have known your dear Archpastor. Metropolitan Philip was a true shepherd of his flock, dedicating his life to the strengthening of the Orthodox Faith in America. Thanks to his diligent labors, the Antiochian Archdiocese has grown flourished.
I pray for the repose of his soul in the abode of the righteous, and for the consolation of his orphaned flock. May the Lord strengthen "all who weep and suffer, desiring Christ’s consolation."
With love in Christ,
Metropolitan of Eastern America & New York
First Hierarch of the Russian Church Abroad
Memory eternal to Metropolitan Philip!