Melkite Greek Catholic Church The Melkite Greek Catholic Church
: كنيسة الروم الملكيين الكاثوليك
, Kanīsat ar-Rūm al-Malakiyyīn al-Kāṯūlīk
: Μελχιτική Ελληνική Καθολική Εκκλησία; Latin
: Ecclesiae Graecae Melkitae Catholicae
) or Melkite Byzantine Catholic Church
, is an Eastern Catholic church
in full communion
with the Holy See
as part of the worldwide Catholic Church
. It is headed by Patriarch Youssef Absi
, headquartered in Cathedral of Our Lady of the Dormition
. The Melkites, Byzantine Rite
Catholics, trace their history to the early Christians
, formerly part of Syria
and now in Turkey
, of the 1st century AD, where Christianity was introduced by Saint Peter
The Melkite Church is related to the Greek Orthodox Church of Antioch
. It is mainly centered in Syria
Melkite Greek Catholics are present, however, throughout the world by migration due to persecution
. Outside the Near East
, the Melkite Church has also grown through intermarriage with, and the conversion of, people of various ethnic heritages as well as transritualism. At present there is a worldwide membership of approximately 1.6 million.
While the Melkite Catholic Church's Byzantine rite liturgical traditions are shared with those of Eastern Orthodoxy
, the church has officially been part of the Catholic Church since the reaffirmation of its union with the Holy See of Rome in 1724.
, from the Syriac
for "King" and the Arabic
, meaning "royal", and by extension, "imperial"),
was originally a pejorative
term for Middle Eastern Christians who accepted the authority of the Council of Chalcedon
(451) and the Byzantine Emperor
, a term applied to them by non-Chalcedonians.
Of the Chalcedonian churches, Greek Catholics continue to use the term, while Eastern Orthodox do not.
The term Catholic
acknowledges communion with the Church of Rome and implies participation in the universal Christian church. According to Church tradition, the Melkite Church of Antioch is the "oldest continuous Christian community in the world".
, the official language of the church,
it is called ar-Rūm al-Kathūlīk
: الروم الكاثوليك
). The Arabic word "Rūm
" means Roman, from the Greek word "Romaioi
" by which the Greek-speaking Eastern (called "Byzantine" in modern parlance) Romans had continued to identify themselves even when the Roman empire had ceased to exist elsewhere. The name literally means "Roman Catholic", confusingly for the modern English-speaker, but this does not refer to the Latin-speaking Western Catholic Church of Rome but rather to the Greek-speaking Eastern Orthodox "Byzantine" Roman heritage, the centre of gravity of which was the city of "New Rome" (Latin: Nova Roma, Greek: Νέα Ρώμη), i.e. Constantinople.
According to the Melkite Greek Catholic Church, its origins go back to the establishment of Christianity in the Near East.
As Christianity began to spread, the disciples preached the Gospel throughout the region and were for the first time recorded to be called "Christians" in the city of Antioch
11:26), the historical See
of the Melkite Catholic Patriarchate.
Scholars attribute the actual writing of the gospels in Koine Greek
to the Hellenized Christian population of Antioch, with authors such as St. Luke
and others. By the 2nd century, Christianity was widespread in Antioch and throughout Syria. Growth of the church did not stop during periods of persecution, and by the end of the 4th century Christianity became the official state religion.
Fallout of the Fourth Ecumenical Council
After the Fourth Ecumenical Council, the Council of Chalcedon
in AD 451, fifth-century Middle-Eastern Christian society became sharply divided between those who did and those who did not accept the outcome of the council. Those who accepted the decrees of the council, the Chalcedonians
, were mainly Greek
-speaking city-dwellers, and were called Melkites
(imperials) by the anti-Chalcedonians—who were predominantly Armenian
Fusion with Arabic Language and Culture
The Battle of Yarmuk
(636) took the Melkite homeland out of Byzantine control and placed it under the occupation of the Arab invaders.
Whereas the Greek language and culture remained important, especially for the Melkites of Jerusalem, Antiochene Melkite tradition merged with the Arabic language and culture. Indeed, there was Arabic Christian poetry
before the arrival of Islam
, but the Antiochene blending with Arabic culture led to a degree of distancing from the Patriarch of Constantinople
Despite the Arab invasion, the Melkites continued to exercise an important role in the Universal Church. The Melkites played a leading role in condemning the iconoclast
controversy when it re-appeared in the early 9th century, and were among the first of the Eastern churches to respond to the introduction of the filioque
clause in the West.
Communion with the Roman Catholic Church
Sylvester exacerbated divisions with his heavy-handed rule of the church as many Melkites acknowledged Cyril's claim to the patriarchal throne.
Jeremias and Sylvester began a five-year campaign of persecution against Cyril and the Melkite faithful who supported him, enforced by Ottoman Turkish troops.
The Melkite Greek Catholic Church has played an important role in the leadership of Arabic Christianity
It has always been led by Arabic-speaking Christians, whereas its Orthodox counterpart had Greek patriarchs until 1899. Indeed, at the very beginning of her separate existence, around 1725, one lay leader, theologian Abdallah Zakher
(1684–1748) set up the first printing press
in the Arab world
In 1835, Maximos III Mazloum
, Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarch of Antioch, was recognized by the Ottoman Empire
as the leader of a millet
, a distinctive religious community within the Empire. Pope Gregory XVI
gave Maximos III Mazloum the triple-patriarchate of Antioch, Alexandria and Jerusalem, a title that is still held by the leader of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church.
Expansion and participation at the First Vatican Council
In 1847, Pope Pius IX
(1846–1878) reinstituted the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem in the person of the 34-year-old, Giuseppe Valerga
(1813–1872), whom the indigenous hierarchy nicknamed "The Butcher" because of his fierce opposition to the Eastern Orthodox
churches of the Holy Land.
When he arrived in Jerusalem in 1847, there were 4,200 Latin Catholics and when he died in 1872, the number had doubled.
Under pressure from the Roman curia to adopt Latin Church
practices, Patriarch Clement Bahouth
introduced the Gregorian calendar used by the Latin and Maronite Churches in 1857; that act caused serious problems within the Melkite church, resulting in a short-lived schism.
Conflicts in the Melkite church escalated to the point where Clement abdicated his position as patriarch.
Clement's successor, Patriarch Gregory II Youssef
(1864–1897), worked to restore peace within the community, successfully healing the lingering schism.
He also focused on improving church institutions. During his reign Gregory founded both the Patriarchal College in Beirut in 1865 and the Patriarchal College in Damascus in 1875 and re-opened the Melkite seminary of Ain Traz
He also promoted the establishment of Saint Ann's Seminary, Jerusalem, in 1882 by the White Fathers
for the training of the Melkite clergy.
Following the Hatt-ı Hümayun of 1856
, decreed by Sultan Abdülmecid I
, the situation of Christians in the Near East improved. This allowed Gregory to successfully encourage greater participation by the Melkite laity in both church administration as well as public affairs.
Gregory also took an interest in ministering to the growing number of Melkites who had emigrated to the Americas. In 1889 he dispatched Father Ibrahim Beshawate of the Basilian Salvatorian Order in Saida, Lebanon, to New York in order to minister to the growing Syrian community there. According to historian Philip Hitte, Beshawate was the first permanent priest in the United States from the Near East from among the Melkite, Maronite
, and Antiochian Orthodox churches.
Gregory was also a prominent proponent of Eastern ecclesiology at the First Vatican Council.
In the two discourses he gave at the Council on May 19 and June 14, 1870, he insisted on the importance of conforming to the decisions of the Council of Florence, of not creating innovations such as papal infallibility, but accepting what had been decided by common agreement between the Greeks and the Latins at the Council of Florence
, especially with regard to the issue of papal primacy.
He was keenly aware of the disastrous impact that the dogmatic definition of papal infallibility
would have on relations with the Eastern Orthodox Church
and emerged as a prominent opponent of the dogma at the Council.
He also defended the rights and privileges of the patriarchs according to the canons promulgated by earlier ecumenical councils. Speaking at the Council on May 19, 1870, Patriarch Gregory asserted:
The Eastern Church attributes to the pope the most complete and highest power, however in a manner where the fullness and primacy are in harmony with the rights of the patriarchal sees. This is why, in virtue of an ancient right founded on customs, the Roman Pontiffs did not, except in very significant cases, exercise over these sees the ordinary and immediate jurisdiction that we are asked now to define without any exception. This definition would completely destroy the constitution of the entire Greek church. That is why my conscience as a pastor refuses to accept this constitution.
Patriarch Gregory refused to sign the Council's dogmatic declaration on papal infallibility. He and the seven other Melkite bishops present voted non placet
at the general congregation and left Rome prior to the adoption of the dogmatic constitution Pastor Aeternus
on papal infallibility.
Other members of the anti-infallibilist minority, both from the Latin church and from other Eastern Catholic churches, also left the city.
After the First Vatican Council concluded an emissary of the Roman Curia was dispatched to secure the signatures of the patriarch and the Melkite delegation. Patriarch Gregory and the Melkite bishops subscribed to it, but with the qualifying clause as used at the Council of Florence attached: "except the rights and privileges of Eastern patriarchs."
He earned the enmity of Pius IX for this. According to one account, during his next visit to the pontiff
, Gregory was cast to the floor at Pius' feet by the papal guard while the pope placed his foot on the patriarch's head.
This story, however, has been cast into doubt by more recent studies of the First Vatican Council. John R. Quinn
cites Joseph Hajjar
in his book Revered and Reviled: A Re-Examination of Vatican Council 1,
: "We have been unable to find any document to provide historical verification for such treatment by the Pope."
Orthodox historian A. Edward Siecienski reports that the historicity of this story "is now deeply suspect."
Despite this, Patriarch Gregory and the Melkite Church remained committed to their union with the Church of Rome. Relationships with the Vatican improved following the death of Pius IX and the subsequent election of Leo XIII
as pontiff. Leo's encyclical Orientalium dignitas
addressed some of the Eastern Catholic Churches' concerns on latinization
and the centralizing tendencies of Rome.
Leo also confirmed that the limitations placed on the Armenian Catholic patriarch by Pius IX's 1867 letter Reversurus
would not apply to the Melkite Church; further, Leo formally recognized an expansion of Patriarch Gregory's jurisdiction to include all Melkites throughout the Ottoman Empire
Vatican II conflicts over Latin and Melkite traditions
Patriarch Maximos IV Sayegh
took part in the Second Vatican Council
where he championed the Eastern tradition of Christianity, and won a great deal of respect from Orthodox observers at the council as well as the approbation of the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Athenagoras I
Following the Second Vatican Council the Melkites moved to restoring traditional worship. This involved both the restoration of Melkite practices such as administering the Eucharist
to infants following post-baptismal chrismation
as well as removal of Latin-rite elements
such as communion rails and confessionals. In the pre-conciliar days, the leaders of this trend were members of "The Cairo Circle", a group of young priests centered on the Patriarchal College in Cairo. This group included Fathers George Selim Hakim
, Joseph Tawil
, Elias Zoghby
, and former Jesuit Oreste Kerame
; they later became bishops and participated in the Second Vatican Council, and saw their efforts vindicated.
These reforms led to protests by some Melkite churches that the de-latinisation had gone too far. During the Patriarchate of Maximos IV
(Sayegh), some Melkites in the United States objected to the use of the vernacular in the celebration of the Divine Liturgy, a movement that was spearheaded by the future archbishop of Nazareth, Father Joseph Raya
of Birmingham, Alabama. The issue garnered national news coverage after Bishop Fulton Sheen
celebrated a Pontifical Divine Liturgy in English at the Melkite National convention in Birmingham in 1958, parts of which were televised on the national news.
In 1960, the issue was resolved by Pope John XXIII at the request of Patriarch Maximos IV in favour of the use of vernacular languages in the celebration of the Divine Liturgy. Pope John also consecrated a Melkite priest, Father Gabriel Acacius Coussa
, as a bishop, using the Byzantine Rite and the papal tiara as a crown. Bishop Coussa was almost immediately elevated to the cardinalate, but died two years later. His cause for canonization was introduced by his religious order, the Basilian Alepian Order
Further protests against the de-latinisation of the church occurred during the patriarchate of Maximos V Hakim
(1967–2000) when some church officials who supported Latin traditions protested against allowing the ordination of married men as priests. Today the church sees itself as an authentic Orthodox church in communion with the Roman Catholic Church. As such it has a role as a voice of the East within the western church, a bridge between faiths and peoples.
Attempts to unite the Melkite diaspora
Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarchal Cathedral in Damascus
Due to heavy emigration from the Eastern Mediterranean, which began with the Damascus massacres
of 1860 in which most of the Christian communities were attacked, the Melkite Greek Catholic Church today is found throughout the world and no longer made up exclusively of faithful of Eastern Mediterranean origin.
The Patriarchate of Maximos V saw many advances in the worldwide presence of the Melkite Church, called "the Diaspora": Eparchies
(the Eastern equivalent of a diocese) were established in the United States, Canada, Brazil, Australia, Argentina
and Mexico in response to the continued emptying of the Eastern Mediterranean of her native Christian peoples. Some historians state
that after the revolution in Egypt
in 1952, many Melkites left Egypt due to the renewed Islamic, nativist and socialist policies of the Nasser
regime. In 1950, the richest Melkite community in the world was in Egypt. In 1945 the most populous single diocese was Akko
and all Galilee
In 1967, a native Egyptian of Syrian-Aleppin descent, George Selim Hakim, was elected the successor of Maximos IV, and took the name Maximos V
. He was to reign until he retired at the age of 92 in the Jubilee Year of 2000. He reposed on the feast of Saints Peter and Paul, June 29, 2001. He was succeeded by Archbishop Lutfi Laham, who took the name Gregory III.
The Melkite Synod
of Bishops, composed of all of the church's bishops, meets each year to consider administrative, theological and church-wide issues.
The current Patriarch is Joseph Absi
who was elected on 21 June 2017.
The patriarchate is based in the Syrian
, but it formally remains one of the Eastern Catholic Patriarchs claiming the apostolic succession
to the Ancient see of Antioch, and has been permanently granted the styles of Titular Patriarch
of Alexandria and Jerusalem, two other patriarchates with multiple Catholic succession.
The patriarchate is administered by a permanent synod
, which includes the Patriarch and four bishops, the ordinary tribunal of the patriarch for legal affairs, the patriarchal economos
who serves as financial administrator, and a chancery
Current dioceses and similar jurisdictions
Throughout the rest of the world, the Melkite Greek Catholic Church has dioceses and exarchates for its diaspora
- Four Metropolitan Titular archbishoprics: Apamea in Syria, Cesarea in Palæstina, Edessa in Osrhoëne, Pelusium
- Six other Titular archbishoprics: Adana, Cesarea in Cappadocia, Damiata, Hama (united with current Melkite Greek Catholic Archeparchy of Homs), Hierapolis in Syria, Myra, Tarsus
- Two Episcopal Titular bishoprics: Jabrud (united with current Melkite Greek Catholic Archeparchy of Homs), Laodicea in Syria, Palmyra
Religious institutes (regular orders)
There are also several patriarchal organizations with offices and chapters throughout the world, including:
- the Global Melkite Association, a group which networks eparchies, monasteries, schools and Melkite associations
- Friends of The Holy Land, a lay charitable organization active in the diaspora which provides clothing, medicine and liturgical items for churches and communities in the Holy Land (Israel, Palestine, Jordan), Lebanon, Egypt, and Syria.
- Descy, Serge (1993). The Melkite Church. Boston: Sophia Press.
- Dick, Ignatios (2004). Melkites: Greek Orthodox and Greek Catholics of the Patriarchates of Antioch, Alexandria and Jerusalem. Boston: Sophia Press.
- Faulk, Edward (2007). 101 Questions and Answers on Eastern Catholic Churches. New York: Paulist Press. ISBN 978-0-8091-4441-9.
- Parry, Ken; David Melling, eds. (1999). The Blackwell Dictionary of Eastern Christianity. Malden, Massachusetts.: Blackwell Publishing. ISBN 0-631-23203-6.
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- Tawil, Joseph (2001). The Patriarchate of Antioch Throughout History: An Introduction. Boston: Sophia Press.
- Zoghby, Elias (1998). Ecumenical Reflections. Fairfax, Virginia.: Eastern Christian Publications. ISBN 1-892278-06-5.
- ^ a b Francis James Schaefer (1913). "Church of Antioch" . In Herbermann, Charles (ed.). Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.
- ^ a b Roberson, Ronald G. "The Eastern Catholic Churches 2017" (PDF). CNEWA. Catholic Near East Welfare Association. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2018-10-24. Retrieved 2019-05-19. Information sourced from Annuario Pontificio 2017 edition
- ^ "» The Melkites". melkite.org.
- ^ a b "Church History". Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarchate. Archived from the original on 2007-03-05.
- ^ Faulk (2007), pp. 9–10
- ^ a b Parry, (1999), p. 312
- ^ a b Dick (2004), p. 9
- ^ Faulk (2007), p. 5.
- ^ Martha Liles. "Unofficial History of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church".
- ^ Tawil (2001), pp. 1–3
- ^ Dick (2004), pp. 13-15
- ^ Tawil (2001), p. 21
- ^ Dick (2004), p. 21
- ^ Dick (2004, p. 21
- ^ Herbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "Melchites" . Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.
- ^ a b c Dick (2004), p. 38
- ^ Graham, James (2003-08-24). "History of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church". Melkite Greek Catholic Church Information Center. Retrieved 2008-12-24.
- ^ Raheb, Abdallah. "Patriarcat grec-melkite catholique d'Antioche. Naissance, évolution et orientations actuelles". Ekklesiastikos Pharos. 52 (s.II, III): 47–72.
- ^ Faraj, John. "History of the Melkite Community of New York". The Church of The Virgin Mary Melkite Catholic Church. Archived from the original on 2008-09-08. Retrieved 2008-12-24.
- ^ Dick (2004), pp. 109-111
- ^ a b Parry (1999), p. 313
- ^ Dick (2004), p. 110. Dick notes that his source is C. Patelos, Vatican 1st et les eveques uniates, Louvain: Nauwelaerts, 1981, 482-283
- ^ a b Descy (1993), p. 64
- ^ Zoghby (1998), p.83
- ^ Parry (1999), p. 313. See also the account given by Zoghby (1998), p. 83
- ^ Quinn, John R. (September 1, 2017). Revered and Reviled: A Re-Examination of Vatican Council I. Herder & Herder. p. 83. ISBN 978-0824523299.
- ^ Siecienski, A. Edward (2017). The Papacy and the Orthodox: Sources and History of a Debate. Oxford University Press. p. 357. ISBN 9780190245269.
- ^ a b Dick (2004), p. 39
- ^ Joffe, Lawrence (July 28, 2001). "Obituaries: Maximos V: Spiritual leader of a million Christians". The Guardian (London). p. 22.
- ^ Faulk (2007), pp. 5-7
- ^ a b The Melkite Handbook (2008), p. 12
- ^ "Joseph Absi elected patriarch of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church | News, Lebanon News | THE DAILY STAR". www.dailystar.com.lb.
- ^ "The Order of St. Nicholas". melkite.org.
- ^ "Short History of the Order of St Lazarus". 2003-04-17. Archived from the original on 2003-04-17. Retrieved 2018-08-25.
- ^ "Statut | OMCTH" (in Polish). Retrieved 2020-07-03.
- ^ "OMCTH | Ordo Militiae Christi Templi Hierosolymitani" (in Polish). Retrieved 2020-07-03.
Sources and external links
Last edited on 9 May 2021, at 02:47
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