Moran Mor Ignatius Zakka I Iywaz was born on 21 April, 1933 in the city of Mosul, Iraq. He received his elementary education in the community schools. Afterwards he continued his study at Mor Ephrem theological School of Mosul. Here he completed his studies with success on the fields of history, philosophy, theology and church-law. He advanced in Syriac, Arabic and English languages, and received degrees in each of these fields. Soon after the graduation he joined the faculty of the seminary. A year later he was called to the Patriarchate by the then Patriarch Moran Mor Ignatius Aphrem I, one of the most erudite scholars and efficient administrators the church has seen in modern times; Zakka became the second, and later the first, Secretary to the Patriarch. After the demise of Mor Aphrem, he continued as first Secretary to the new Patriarch, Moran Mor Ignatius Yakoob III. On November 17, 1957, he was ordained a priest and later Rabban (Ramban). The next year he took diploma in journalism course.
In 1960, he joined the General Theological College of the Episcopal Church in New York in the United States, where he studied oriental languages, philosophy and pastoral theology and mastered in the English language. In 1962 and 1963 he was delegated by the late Patriarch to attend the two Sessions of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council as an observer.
On November 17, 1963, he was ordained Metropolitan for the Mosul Archbishopric with title 'Mor Severious' by the Patriarch Ya'qub III. The next year, on September 1, 1964, during the renovation of the Madboho of the ancient St.Thomas Church at Mosul, Mor Severious discovered the remains of Apostle Thomas in the sanctuary wall. It was the most memorable event in the Episcopal life of the Holy Father.
In 1969, Mor Severious became the Metropolitan of Baghdad & Basra Archdiocese, where he also served as the Head of Syriac Studies and a member of the educational academy. In the same year he was appointed to the membership of "Academy of Iraq Culture" and to the presidency of "Academy of Syrian Language and Culture", besides being the Chairman of its Syriac Section and an honorary member of the pro-Oriente Organization in Vienna, Austria. He has an Honorary Doctor's Degree in Syriac Literature from Sweden (Institute of Oriental Studies) and Diploma in Theology, Philosophy and Canon Law. Until 1980 he was a member of Central Committee of the World Church Union representing the Syrian Orthodox Church and later he became one of the presidents of the World Council of Churches.
On July 11, 1980, Mor Severious was unanimously elected by the Holy Synod to the Patriarch position which was vacant after Patriarch Ignatius Yakoob III's demise in 1979. On September 14, 1980, Mor Severious was enthroned as the 122nd Patriarch of Antioch & all the East, by name IGNATIUS ZAKKA I, in a rite officiated by the late lamented Catholicose of the East Aboon Mor Baselios Paulose II, along with the archbishops of the Universal Syrian Orthodox Church.
The two decades of Mor Ignatius Zakka's Patriarchate have been eventful and significant. For the Patriarchate and the Pontifical seminary he has acquired extensive lands in the suburbs of Damascus. The apostolic visits to India twice, in 1982 & 2002, and to the various Archdioceses in the Middle East, Americas and Europe have been most successful.
On July 26th 2002, His Holiness ordained the president of the Episcopal Synod of Indian Church, as the Catholicose of India with the title Mor Baselios Thomas I.
Though the Patriarchate office is situated in Bab Touma, in the city of Damascus, capital of Syria, His Holiness resides at the Mor Ephrem Monastery in Ma`arat Sayyidnaya, near Damascus, Syria.