The head of the Greek Melkite Catholic Church of Canada, bishop Sleiman Hajjar, drowned off the Florida coast yesterday. Bishop Hajjar, 51, who had arrived for a short holiday on Saturday, was found by friends floating unconscious near the shore. He was pronounced dead on arrival at Holy Cross Hospital in Fort Lauderdale. Mgr Gabriel Ghanoum, pastor of the St. Jude Melkite Catholic Church in Miami, said: "It is a big loss for us. It is a shock." Bishop Hajjar was named Archeparch for the Greek Melkites in Canada by Pope John Paul II in 1998. Based in Montreal, he led a growing church with 10 parishes and 11 priests. Bishop Hajjar was born in the Lebanon. He was ordained to the priesthood in 1979. In Lebanon, he helped open a vocational school for the poor. On receiving the news, church leaders in Montreal called an emergency meeting.
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