BEIRUT (CNS) — Bishop Joseph Absi was elected the new Melkite patriarch of Antioch, Alexandria, Jerusalem and All the East during the Melkite Catholic Synod at Ain-Traz, Lebanon.

Melkite leaders elected Bishop Absi June 21, one day after his 71st birthday. A native of Damascus, Syria, he has served as patriarchal vicar in the Archdiocese of Damascus since 2007.

On May 6, Pope Francis accepted the resignation of Patriarch Gregoire III Laham, 83, who had served in the position since 2000.

In 1973, Bishop Absi was ordained a priest and became chaplain of the Missionary Society of St. Paul. He was appointed curial bishop and auxiliary bishop in the Melkite Patriarchate.

No other details about the election were available from Melkite leaders.

The Melkite Catholic Church has about 1.2 million members around the world.