Archbishop Philip Saliba -- who led one of the largest groups of Eastern Orthodox Christians in the United States and Canada for half a century -- has died, the IB Times website reports today (March 20, 2014).
Saliba, 82, died last night of a heart attack while in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America said.
Saliba -- who held the titles of metropolitan and archbishop of New York and Metropolitan of All North America -- had led his church since 1966. He was born in Abou Mizan, Lebanon in 1931, but moved to the U.S. in 1956 to study at Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology in Brookline, Massachusetts.
Though born in Lebanon, Saliba worked zealously to build his church -- many of whose members come from or are descended from Christians in Syria, Palestine, and Lebanon -- into a unique North American body that welcomed all races and ethnicities. He was instrumental in attracting large numbers of Anglicans and evangelical Christians into the church. The Antiochian Orthodox Church had 65 parishes in 1965, but today it has more than 260 parishes in the United States and Canada.