by Alana Baranick
Plain Dealer Reporter


SYDNEY, Australia — Archbishop Gibran, leader of the Antiochian Orthodox Diocese of Australia and New Zealand, was known as Father Gibran J., when he was pastor of St. George Antiochian Orthodox Church on W. 14th St. in Cleveland in the late 1960s.

His assignments as an Antiochian Orthodox cleric also included stints in his native Lebanon, as well as in Syria,  Canada and Pennsylvania. He came to Cleveland as a parish priest in 1966 and taught philosophy at John Carroll University in 1968.

Archbishop Gibran, a former resident of Parma Heights, also served as president of the Greater Cleveland Council of Orthodox Clergy and as a chaplain at Case Western Reserve University.

In 1969, he was named bishop Australia. His consecration ceremonies were held at his Cleveland parish.

Archbishop Gibran, 67, died at his home in Sydney, Australia, on Jan. 14 after apparently suffering a heart attack.

"He combined the talents of an academic with a very warm, big-hearted pastoral approach," said the Rev. Vladimir Berzonsky, pastor of Holy Trinity Orthodox Church in Parma. Archbishop Gibran last visited Cleveland in September to participate in the consecration of Berzonsky’s new temple. "He was the kind of person you would expect to be a disciple of our Lord Jesus. He has left a hole in my heart."

Archbishop Gibran, who was born in Tripoli, received diplomas from three universities in Beirut, taught various college-level courses, served as personal secretary to two archbishops and produced a weekly religious pro gram on Lebanese National Radio.

He was ordained a priest in 1959. He was the parish priest for St. Nicholas Syrian Antiochian Orthodox Church in Montreal, Quebec, for a year before becoming pastor of St. Mary Antiochian Orthodox Church in Johnstown, Pa., in 1963. Also in Johnstown, he was president of the Council of Orthodox Clergy of Greater Johnstown and received a bachelor’s degree in theology from Christ the Savior Seminary. He taught at the seminary and at the Johnstown branch of the University of Pittsburgh. He later earned a doctorate in philosophy from Duquesne University.

Archbishop Gibran, who was fluent in English, French,  Arabic and Greek, took part in many ecumenical programs throughout his career. In 1980, he became the first person of a non-Anglo background to be elected president of the Australian national council of churches, a post he held for four years.

From 1976 to 1978, in addition to serving as a bishop in Australia, Archbishop Gibran served as deputy patriarch in Damascus. From 1978 to 1979, he was editor-in-chief of the Arabic newspaper, El-Telegraph. He wrote articles for church publications and published two books.

Archbishop Gibran is survived by two sisters in Australia and a brother in Lebanon.

Memorial services will be at 6:30 p.m. Saturday at St. George Antiochian Orthodox Church, 3204 Ridgewood Rd., Fairlawn.

From the Cleveland Plain Dealer 1/26/99