Training and priestly service
Metropolitan Joseph was consecrated to the Holy Episcopacy on June 30, 1991 at the St. Mary Cathedral in Damascus, after many years of serving as a deacon and a priest. His Eminence was born in Damascus, Syria, in 1950. He completed his basic schooling at the St. John of Damascus and al-Alliyeh schools in Damascus and then at Our Lady of Balamand Monastery in Koura, Lebanon. He completed his undergraduate studies at Lebanese University in Beirut and then earned his Master of Theology (M.Th.) with special studies in music and languages from Aristotle University in Thessaloniki, Greece. He was awarded an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree from St. Tikhon Seminary in South Canaan, Pennsylvania, in May, 2010.
Patriarch Ignatius IV of Blessed Memory ordained His Eminence as a deacon in November, 1976, and priest in 1980. As priest, Fr. Joseph served as dean of St. Mary Cathedral in Damascus and as overseer of Holy Cross Church and other parishes in the suburbs of Damascus. He served as superintendent of the secondary school in Damascus from 1980 until 1983. Father Joseph then went abroad to pastor the Antiochian Orthodox Church in London, England from 1983 to 1986, and then the Antiochian Orthodox Church in Cyprus from 1986 until 1991, when he was elected as bishop.
His Grace was consecrated with the title Bishop of Katana in Syria, and served as Patriarchal Assistant and Secretary of the Holy Synod of Antioch. In 1995, he was sent by Patriarch Ignatius to America. Here, in our Archdiocese, Bishop Joseph was assigned to the West Coast Chancery by Metropolitan Philip of Blessed Memory. After self-rule status was awarded to our Archdiocese, Bishop Joseph was enthroned at St. Nicholas Cathedral by Metropolitan Philip as the first Bishop of the Diocese of Los Angeles and the West on September 12, 2004.
On December 11, 2011, at the Church of the Dormition of the Theotokos in the Patriarchal Monastery of Our Lady of Balamand in Lebanon, Patriarch Ignatius elevated Bishop Joseph to the rank of Archbishop, in honor of his many years of service as a bishop both in our Archdiocese and in the Patriarchate of Antioch.
On Thursday, July 3, 2014, the Holy Synod of Antioch, meeting in Balamand, Lebanon, elected Archbishop Joseph to be Metropolitan of all North America.
Metropolitan Joseph's achievements in apostolic ministry over the course of almost twenty years of diakonia as Bishop of the Diocese of Los Angeles and the West, as well as the Locum Tenens of the Diocese of Eagle River and the Pacific Northwest, form a solid testimony to his spiritual, ethical, and personal leadership qualifications. Over a vast expanse of the western United States and Canada, including Alaska, Metropolitan Joseph tirelessly and unrelentingly maintained a personal apostolic presence in the more than 60 parishes under his care in his years as Bishop of the Diocese of Los Angeles. His Eminence also maintained a personal culture of contact, by direct phone, with all his clergy. Many of the clergy and laity testify that Sayidna always remembered and acted on any important issue placed before him. This unique combination of traits—sobriety and blameless familiarity—has formed the bedrock for his personal effectiveness with all.
Based upon his solid spiritual, intellectual, and cultural formation and education, Metropolitan Joseph effectively established solid and meaningful Annual Clergy Seminars and deepened the spiritual and educational experience of both clergy and laity at the annual Parish Life Conferences. He brought in many and diverse Orthodox authors, leaders, and teachers to enrich the clergy and the laity of his two western dioceses. This served to promote a strong sense of clergy brotherhood, inter-parochial exchanges, and became the envy of other Orthodox jurisdictions everywhere. Guest speakers and visitors constantly remarked that Archbishop Joseph's clergy were outstanding in their consistent and active involvement in such events. His Eminence labored intensely to deepen the spiritual life of his clergy, by encouraging frequent confession, personal prayer, continual education, and a heightened sense of the fullness of our Orthodox Christian tradition of interior and ascetical transfiguration in Christ.
During these years, His Eminence also demonstrated episcopal hospitality in his way of life and led the way in cultivating an active pan-Orthodox community in the western United States and Canada. All of the canonical Orthodox hierarchs of the West related to Archbishop Joseph in a personal way as an episcopal concelebrant. This episcopal brotherhood was increasingly reflected in the inter-parochial interaction of the priests and laity of all the parishes across the western states and provinces.
Metropolitan Joseph also established a strong, clear, and straight-forward liturgical guidance for all his parishes. He pioneered the use of the internet in publishing the entire text of all the Sunday and festal services of the Church throughout the year. His love for the divine services inspired him to improve the liturgical praxis of all the clergy, through constant interactions and special teachings. In addition, he constantly promoted the spiritual climate of the dioceses under his care with such things as "the thought of the day."