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OBITUARY: Archbishop Francis M. Zayek, 89

Founding bishop of Maronite diocese in U.S., who retired to Fort Lauderdale

BROOKLYN, N.Y. — A 40 Days Divine Liturgy will be celebrated here Oct. 27 for Archbishop Francis M. Zayek, founding bishop of the Maronite Eparchy (diocese) in the United States.

Archbishop Zayek, 89, died Sept. 14 in Lebanon. He had spent his retirement years in south Florida, living in Fort Lauderdale and helping out at Our Lady of Lebanon Maronite Catholic Church in Miami.

“The Maronite Church in the United States is deeply indebted to the archbishop for his zealous efforts in establishing the strong, vibrant Maronite community we have today,” wrote Bishop Gregory John Mansour, bishop of the Eparchy of St. Maron of Brooklyn, in a letter dated Sept. 14, the feast of the Holy Cross. “May Archbishop Zayek share in the glory of the Cross which we celebrate this day!”

Archbishop Zayek was one of the last surviving bishops who, as a bishop, attended all of the sessions of the Second Vatican Council.

He was born Oct. 18, 1920, in Manzanillo, Cuba, and in 1931 emigrated to Lebanon with his entire family. After seminary studies in Lebanon and Rome, he was ordained a priest on March 17, 1946 in Rome.

After completing a doctorate in canon law in Rome, he was appointed to serve the Maronite community in Cairo, Egypt, where he also worked in the apostolic nunciature. He later returned to Rome and served as the promoter of justice at the Roman Rota.

On May 31, 1962, Pope John XXIII appointed him bishop of the Maronite community in Brazil, and he was consecrated on Aug. 5, 1962 in Dimane, Lebanon.

On Jan. 10, 1966, Pope Paul VI established the Maronite Apostolic Exarchate in the United States and appointed Bishop Zayek as the first exarch. He was installed June 11, 1966 in Detroit, Mich., where he would establish his see.

Pope Paul VI raised the exarchate to the rank of diocese (eparchy) on Nov. 20, 1971, and appointed Bishop Zayek as the first bishop of the Eparchy of St. Maron, for all Maronites in the United States. He was installed on June 4, 1972 and the see was moved to Brooklyn, N.Y., in 1977.

In recognition of his pioneering work in the United States, Bishop Zayek was given the personal title of archbishop by Pope John Paul II on Dec. 10, 1982. He retired in 1996, upon reaching the canonical age of 75.

Archbishop Zayek is survived by one brother, Elias, who lives in Brazil, and a sister, Lydia, who lives in Lebanon, as well as several nieces and nephews.

Clergy, religious and laity of the Maronite Church, as well as those who knew Archbishop Zayek, are invited to pray for the repose of his soul at the 40 Day Divine Liturgy, which will take place Oct. 27, at 7 p.m. at Our Lady of Lebanon Cathedral, 109 Remsen St., Brooklyn, N.Y. A Meal of Mercy will follow in the cathedral hall.

Those wishing to attend should call the office of Bishop Mansour at 718-237-9913 or e-mail

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