His Beatitude Gregorios III Laham - Spiritual Protector of the Order
Patriarch Gregorios was born Lutfy Laham in Darayya, Syria in 1933. He entered the Seminary of the Holy Saviour of the Basilian Salvatorian Order near Saida, Lebanon in 1943, taking his simple religious vows in 1949 and his solemn religious vows in 1954. He received his religious and philosophical education at the Holy Saviour Seminary, Joun, Lebanon, then continued his theological studies in Rome where he was ordained priest on February 15, 1959 in the Church of the Abbey of Grottaferrata. In 1961, he received the title of Doctor in Oriental Ecclesiastical Sciences from the Pontifical Oriental Institute run by the Jesuit Fathers in Rome.
In 1967 he founded at the Patriarchate the Oriental Library to promulgate the knowledge of Eastern traditions. After the arrest of Archbishop Hilarion Capucci by the Israeli authorities in 1974, His Beatitude Patriarch Maximos V Hakim appointed him Patriarchal Administrator, then Patriarchal Vicar, in Jerusalem. There he initiated a variety of social projects such as repairing churches, opening clinics and building public housing, including a guest house for pilgrims at the Patriarchal Centre in Jerusalem.
On August 30, 1981 he was named Archbishop by Patriarch Maximos V Hakim and on November 27 consecrated bishop by the patriarch and enthroned as titular Archbishop of Tarsus.
Patriarch Maximos resigned in 2000 at the age of 92 owing to failing health, and the episcopal synod of the Melkite Church met at the patriarchal residence in Raboueh on November 22, 2000, to elect a new patriarch. On November 29 the synod elected Archbishop Laham to that position. He chose the name Gregorios after the Patriarch Gregorios II Youssef, the last member of the Basilian Salvatorian Order to serve as head of the Melkite Church.
Following a tradition of the more than 900-years old Order of Knighthood, founded in Jerusalem to take care of lepers in the Hospital of St. Lazarus, Patriarch Gregorios III Laham is the Spiritual Protector of the international ecumenical Military and Hospitaller Order of St Lazarus of Jerusalem, as were his predecessors Maximos IV and Maximos V.