The Syriac Orthodox Church
: ܥܺܕܬܳܐ ܣܽܘܪܝܳܝܬܳܐ ܬܪܺܝܨܰܬ݂ ܫܽܘܒܚܳܐ
, romanized: ʿIdto Suryoyto Triŝath Šuḇḥo
: الكنيسة السريانية الأرثوذكسية
: സുറിയാനി സഭ, romanized
: Suriyāni Sabḥa
officially known as the Syriac Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East
and informally as the Jacobite Church
is an Oriental Orthodoxchurch
, that branched from the Church of Antioch
. The bishop
, known as the Patriarch
, heads the church, claiming apostolic succession
through Saint Peter
: ܫܡܥܘܢ ܟܐܦܐ
, romanized: Šemʿōn Kēp̄ā
) in the c. 1st century
, according to sacred tradition
The church upholds miaphysite
doctrine in Christology
, and employs the Divine Liturgy of Saint James
, associated with James
, the "brother" of Jesus
. Classical Syriac
is the official and liturgical language
of the church.
Name and identity
have referred to themselves as "Ārāmāyē/Āṯūrāyē/Sūryāyē
" in native Aramaic terms based on their ethnic identity.
In most languages besides English
, a unique name has long been used to distinguish the church from the polity of Syria
. In Arabic
(the official language of Syria), the church is known as the "Suriania Church" as the term "Suriania
" identifies the Syriac language. Chalcedonians
referred to the church as "Jacobite" (after Jacob Baradaeus
) since the schism that followed the 451 Council of Chalcedon
English-speaking historians identified the church as the "Syrian Church". The English term "Syrian" was used to describe the community of Syriacs in ancient Syria
. In the 15th century, the term "Orthodox
" (from Greek
"; "correct opinion") was used to identify churches that practiced the set of doctrines believed by the early Christians. Since 1922, the term "Syrian" started being used for things named after the Syrian Federation
. Hence, in 2000, the Holy Synod ruled that the church be named as "Syriac Orthodox Church" after the Syriac language
, the official liturgical language of the church.
The church is not ethnically
exclusive, but two main ethnic groups
in the community contest their ethnic identification as "Assyrians
" and "Arameans
"Suryoye" is the term used to identify the Syriacs in the diaspora.
The Syriac Orthodox identity included auxiliary cultural traditions of the pagan Assyria
Church traditions crystallized into ethnogenesis
through the preservation of their stories and customs by the 12th century. Since the 1910s, the identity of Syriac Orthodoxy in the Ottoman Empire
was principally religious and linguistic.
In recent works, Assyrian-American
historian Sargon Donabed has pointed out that parishes in the USA
were originally using Assyrian
designations in their official English names, also noting that in some cases those designations were later changed to Syrian
, and then to Syriac
, while several other parishes still continue to use Assyrian
Patriarchate of Antioch
Given the antiquity of the Bishopric of Antioch and the importance of the Christian community in the city of Antioch, a commercially significant city in the eastern parts of the Roman Empire
, the First Council of Nicaea
(325) recognized the Bishopric as one of main regional primacies in Christendom, with jurisdiction over the administrative Diocese of the Orient
, thus laying the foundation for the creation of the "Patriarchate of Antioch and All of the East".
Because of the significance attributed to Ignatius of Antioch
in the church, most of the Syriac Orthodox patriarchs since 1293 have used the name of Ignatius in the title of the Patriarch preceding their own Patriarchal name.
Christological controversies that followed the Council of Chalcedon
(451) resulted in a long struggle for the Patriarchate between those who accepted and those who rejected the Council. In 512, pro-Chalcedonian patriarch Flavian II of Antioch
was deposed by Emperor Anastasius I
(d. 518), and new patriarch Severus of Antioch
(d. 538) was chosen to succeed him. On 6 November 512, at the synod of Laodicea in Syria
, a prominent miapyhsite theologian Severus the Great
was elected, and consecrated on 16 November at the Great Church of Antioch
In 518, he was exiled from Antioch,
by new emperor Justin I
(d. 527), who tried to enforce a uniform Chalcedonian
orthodoxy throughout the empire.
Those who belonged to the pro-Chalcedonian party accepted newly appointed patriarch Paul
, who took over the see of Antioch. The miaphisite patriarchate was thus forced to move from Antioch with Severus the Great
who took refuge in Alexandria
. The non-Chalcedonian community was divided between "Severians" (followers of Severus), and aphthartodocetae
, and that division remained unresolved until 527.
Severians continued to recognize Severus as the legitimate miaphysite Patriarch of Antioch until his death in 538, and then proceeded to follow his successors.
Bishop Jacob Baradaeus
(died 578) is credited for ordaining most of the miaphysite
hierarchy while facing heavy persecution in the 6th century. In 544, Jacob Baradeus
ordained Sergius of Tella
continuing the non-Chalcedonian succession of patriarchs of the Church of Antioch
That was done in opposition to the government-backed Patriarchate of Antioch held by the pro-Chalcedonian believers leading to the Syriac Orthodox Church being known popularly as the "Jacobite" Church, while the Chalcedonian believers were known popularly as Melkites—c
oming from the Syriac word for king (malka), an implication of the Chalcedonian Church's relationship to the Roman Emperor (later emphasised by the Melkite Greek Catholic Church
Because of many historical upheavals and consequent hardships that the Syriac Orthodox Church had to undergo, the patriarchate was transferred to different monasteries in Mesopotamia
for centuries. John III of the Sedre
was elected and consecrated Patriarch after the death of Athanasius I Gammolo
in 631 A.D., followed by the fall of Roman Syria
and the Muslim conquest of the Levant
. John and several bishops were summoned before Emir Umayr ibn Sad al-Ansari
to engage in open debate regarding Christianity and represent the entire Christian community, including non-Syriac Orthodox communities, such as Greek Orthodox Syrians.
The Emir demanded translations of the Gospels into Arabic
to confirm John's beliefs, which according to the Chronicle of Michael the Syrian
was the first translation of the Gospels into Arabic.
Transfer to new locations
the patriarchate was transferred from Antioch to Mor Hananyo Monastery
(Deir al-Za`faran), in southeastern Anatolia
, where it remained until 1933 and re-established in Homs
, due to the adverse political situation in Turkey. In 1959, the patriarchate was transferred to Damascus
. The mother church
and official seat of the Syriac Orthodox Church are now situated in Bab Tuma
, capital of Syria.
The 8th-century hagiography Life of Jacob Baradaeus
is evidence of a definite denominational and social differentiation between the Chalcedonians
The longer hagiography shows that the Syriac Orthodox (called "Syriac Jacobites" in the work: suryoye yaquboye
) self-identified with Jacob's story more than those of other saints.
Coptic historian and miaphysite bishop Severus ibn al-Muqaffa
(ca. 897) speaks of Jacobite origins, and on the veneration of Jacob Baradaeus. He explained that unlike the Chalcedonian Christians (who were labeled as "Melkites"), Miaphysite Jacobites never traded their Orthodoxy to win the favor of the Byzantine emperors, as the Melkites had done (malko
is derived from "ruler, king, emperor").
In Antioch, after the 11th-century persecutions, the Syriac Orthodox population was almost extinguished. Only one Jacobite church is attested in Antioch in the first half of the 12th century, while a second and third are attested in the second half of the century, perhaps due to refugee influx. Dorothea Weltecke thus concludes that the Syriac Orthodox populace was very low in this period in Antioch and surroundings.
In the 12th century, several Syriac Orthodox Patriarchs visited Antioch and some established temporary residences.
In the 13th century, the Syriac Orthodox hierarchy in Antioch was prepared to accept Latin supervision.
, an anonymous 1137 report speaks of the entire population consisting of Syriac Orthodox.
Before the advent of the Crusades
, the Syriacs occupied most of the hill country of Jazirah (Upper Mesopotamia
Early modern period
Moses of Mardin
(fl. 1549–d. 1592) was a diplomat of the Syriac Orthodox Church in Rome in the 16th century.
By the early 1660s, 75% of the 5,000 Syriac Orthodox of Aleppo had converted to Roman Catholicism following the arrival of mendicant missionaries.
The Catholic missionaries had sought to place a Catholic Patriarch among the Jacobites and consecrated Andrew Akhijan as the Patriarch of the newly founded Syriac Catholic Church
The Propaganda Fide
and foreign diplomats pushed for Akhijan to be recognized as the Jacobite Patriarch, and the Porte
then consented and warned the Syriac Orthodox that they would be considered an enemy if they did not recognize him.
Despite the warning and gifts to priests, frequent conflicts and violent arguments continued between the Catholic and Orthodox Syriacs.
Around 1665, many Saint Thomas Christians
, India, committed themselves in allegiance to the Syriac Orthodox Church, which established the Malankara Syrian Church
, reuniting with the See of Antioch for the first time since the schism of the Church of the East
from the jurisdiction of Antioch in 484 after the execution of Babowai
. The Malankara Church
consolidated under Mar Thoma I
welcomed Gregorios Abdal Jaleel
, who regularised the canonical ordination of Mar Thoma I
as a native democratically elected Bishop of the Malabar Syrian Christians
Late modern period
In the 19th century, the various Syriac Christian denominations did not view themselves as part of one ethnic group.
During the Tanzimat
reforms (1839–78), the Syriac Orthodox was granted independent status by gaining recognition as their own millet
in 1873, apart from Armenians and Greeks.
In the late 19th century, the Syriac Orthodox community of the Middle East, primarily from the cities of Adana
, began the process of creating the Syriac diaspora
, with the United States
being one of their first destinations in the 1890s.
Later, in Worcester
, the first Syriac Orthodox Church in the United States was built.
The 1895–96 massacres
in Turkey affected the Armenian and Syriac Orthodox communities when an estimated 105,000 Christians were killed.
By the end of the 19th century, 200,000 Syriac Orthodox Christians remained in the Middle East, most concentrated around Saffron Monastery
, the Patriarchal Seat.
Further information: Seyfo
The Ottoman authorities killed and deported Orthodox Syriacs, then looted and appropriated their properties.
During 1915–16, the number of Orthodox Syriacs in the Diyarbakır province was reduced by 72%, and in the Mardin province by 58%.
In 1924, the patriarchate of the Church was transferred to Homs
after Kemal Atatürk
expelled the Syriac Orthodox Patriarch, who took the library of Deir el-Zaferan and settled in Damascus
The Syriac Orthodox villages in Tur Abdin suffered from the 1925–26 Kurdish rebellions and massive flight to Lebanon, northern Iraq and especially Syria ensued.
In 1959, the seat of the Syriac Orthodox Church was transferred to Damascus
In the mid-1970s, the estimate of Syriac Orthodox lived in Syria is 82,000.
In 1977, the number of Syriac Orthodox followers in diaspora dioceses was: 9,700 in the Diocese of Middle Europe; 10,750 in the Diocese of Sweden and surrounding countries.
The supreme head of the Syriac Orthodox Church is named Patriarch of Antioch
, in reference to his titular pretense to one of the five patriarchates of the Pentarchy
of early Eastern Christianity
. Considered the "father of fathers", he must be an ordained
bishop. He is the general administrator to Holy Synod
and supervises the spiritual, administrative, and financial matters of the church. He governs external relations with other churches and signs agreements, treaties, contracts, pastoral encyclicals (bulls), pastoral letters
related to the affairs of the church.
The priest is the seventh rank and is the one duly appointed to administer the sacraments
. Unlike in the Roman Catholic Church
, Syriac deacons
may marry before ordained
as priests; they cannot marry after ordained as priests. There is an honorary rank
among the priests that are Corepiscopos
who has the privileges of "first among the priests" and is given a chain with a cross and specific vestment decorations. Corepiscopos is the highest rank a married man can be elevated to in the Syriac Orthodox Church. The ranks above the Corepiscopos are unmarried.
In the Syriac Orthodox tradition, different ranks among the deacons
are specifically assigned with particular duties. The six ranks of the diaconate are:
- ‘Ulmoyo (Faithful)
- Mawdyono (Confessor of faith)
- Mzamrono (Singer)
- Quroyo (Reader)
- Afudyaqno (Sub-deacon)
- Evangeloyo (High deacon)
- Masamsono (Full deacon)
An ordained deaconess
is entitled to enter the sanctuary only for cleaning, lighting the lamps and is limited to give Holy Communion
to women and the children who are under the age of five.
She can read scriptures, Holy Gospel in a public gathering. The name of deaconess can also be given to a choirgirl. Deaconess is not ordained as chanter before reaching fifteen years of age. The ministry of the deaconess assists the priest and deacon outside the altar including in the service of baptizing women and anointing them with holy chrism
While this rank exists, it is rarely awarded.
Syriac Orthodox churches use the Peshitto
(Syriac: simple, common) as its Bible. The New Testament
books of this Bible are estimated to have been translated from Greek to Syriac
between the late 1st century to the early 3rd century AD.
The Old Testament
of the Peshitta was translated from Hebrew
, probably in the 2nd century. The New Testament of the Peshitta
, which originally excluded certain disputed books, had become the standard by the early 5th century, replacing two early Syriac versions of the gospels.
The Syriac Orthodox Church theology is based on the Nicene Creed
. The Syriac Orthodox Church teaches that it is the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic
Church founded by Jesus Christ
in his Great Commission
that its metropolitans
are the successors
of Christ's Apostles
, and that the Patriarch is the successor
to Saint Peter
on whom primacy
was conferred by Jesus Christ
The church accepted first three synods held at Nicaea
(381), and Ephesus
(431), shaping the formulation and early interpretation of Christian doctrines
The Syriac Orthodox Church is part of Oriental Orthodoxy
, a distinct communion
of churches claiming to continue the patristic and apostolic Christology before the schism
following the Council of Chalcedon
In terms of Christology
, the Oriental Orthodox (Non-Chalcedonian) understanding is that Christ
is "One Nature—the Logos Incarnate, of the full humanity and full divinity". Just as humans are of
their mothers and fathers and not in
their mothers and fathers, so too is the nature of Christ according to Oriental Orthodoxy. The Chalcedonian understanding is that Christ is "in two natures, full humanity and full divinity". This is the doctrinal difference that separated the Oriental Orthodox from the rest of Christendom. The church believes in the mystery of Incarnation
and venerate Virgin Mary
or Yoldath Aloho
(Meaning: ‘Bearer of God’).
The Fathers of the Syriac Orthodox Church gave a theological interpretation to the primacy of Saint Peter
They were fully convinced of the unique office of Peter in the early Christian community. Ephrem
, and Maruthas
unequivocally acknowledged the office of Peter. The different orders of liturgies used for sanctification of church buildings, marriages, ordinations etc., reveal that the primacy of Peter is a part of faith of the church. The church does not believe in Papal Primacy
as understood by the Roman See
, rather, Petrine Primacy
according to the ancient Syriac tradition.
The church uses both Julian calendar
and Gregorian calendar
based on their regions and traditions they adapted.
- Syriac language, as the most prominent variant of Aramaic language in the Christian era, is used by the Syriac Orthodox Church in two basic forms: Classical Syriac is traditionally employed as the main liturgical and literary language, while Neo-Aramaic (Neo-Syriac) dialect known as Turoyo is spoken as the most common vernacular language.
- Arabic had become the dominant language of Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, and Egypt by the 11th century. Syriac Orthodox clergy wrote in Arabic using Garshūni, a Syriac script in the 15th century and later adopted the Arabic script. An English missionary in the 1840s noted that the Arabic speech of the Syriacs was intermixed with Syriac vocabulary. They chose Arabic and Muslim-sounding names, while women had Biblical names.
- Greek language was historically used (along with Syriac) in the earliest periods, during and after the separation (5th-6th century), but its use gradually declined.
- English: Used Globally along with Syriac.
- Malayalam, Tamil, Kannada are presently used in India. Suriyani Malayalam, also known as Karshoni or Syriac Malayalam, is a dialect of Malayalam written in a variant form of the Syriac alphabet which was popular among the Saint Thomas Christians (also known as Syrian Christians or Nasranis) of Kerala in India. It uses Malayalam grammar, the Maḏnḥāyā or "Eastern" Syriac script with special orthographic features, and vocabulary from Malayalam and East Syriac. This originated in the South Indian region of the Malabar Coast (modern-day Kerala). Until the 19th century, the script was widely used by Syrian Christians in Kerala.
- Swedish, German, Dutch, Turkish, Spanish, Portuguese are used in diasporas along with Syriac.
- Evening or Ramsho prayer (Vespers)
- Night prayer or Sootoro prayer (Compline)
- Midnight or Lilyo prayer (Matins)
- Morning or Saphro prayer (Prime or Lauds, 6 a.m.)
- Third Hour or tloth sho`in prayer (Terce, 9 a.m.)
- Sixth Hour or sheth sho`in prayer (Sext, noon)
- Ninth Hour or tsha` sho'in prayer (None, 3 p.m.)
Liturgical vestments of clergy.
The clergy of the Syriac Orthodox Church has unique liturgical vestments with their order in the priesthood: the deacons
, the priests, the chorbishops
, the bishops, and the patriarch
each have different vestments.
usually wear a black or a red robe with a red belt. They should not wear a red robe in the presence of the patriarch, who wears a red robe. Bishops visiting a diocese outside their jurisdiction also wear black robes in deference to the bishop of the diocese, who alone wears red robes. They carry a crosier
stylised with serpents representing the staff of Moses
during sacraments. Corepiscopos
wear a black or a purple robe with a purple belt. Bishops and corepiscopos have hand-held crosses.
A priest also wears a phiro
, or a cap, which he must wear for the public prayers. Monks also wear eskimo
, a hood. Priests also have ceremonial shoes which are called msone
. Without wearing these shoes, a priest cannot distribute Eucharist to the faithful. Then there is a white robe called kutino
symbolizing purity. Hamniko
or stole is worn over this white robe. Then he wears a girdle
, and zende
, meaning sleeves. If the celebrant is a bishop, he wears a masnapto
, or turban
(different from the turbans worn by Sikh
men). A cope called phayno
is worn over these vestments. Batrashil
, or pallium
, is worn over the phayno
by bishops, like hamnikho
worn by priests.
The priest's usual dress is a black robe
. In India, due to the hot weather, priests usually wear white robes except during prayers in the church, when they wear a black robe over the white one. Deacons
wear a phiro, white kutino(robe) and of rank Quroyo and higher wear an uroro 'stole' in various shapes according to their rank. The deaconess
wears a stole (uroro) hanging down from the shoulder in the manner of an archdeacon.
The Patriarchate was initially established in Antioch
, and Iraq
), due to the persecutions
followed by Muslim Arabs
, the Patriarchate was seated in Mor Hananyo Monastery
, in the Ottoman Empire
(1160–1933); following Homs
(1933–1959); and Damascus
, Syria, since 1959. Historically, the followers of the church are mainly ethnic Syriacs
who comprise the indigenous
pre-Arab populations of modern Syria, Iraq and southeastern Turkey.
has also spread from the Levant
, and Turkey
throughout the world, notably in Sweden
, United Kingdom
, United States
, and New Zealand
The number of Syriacs in Turkey is rising, due to refugees from Syria and Iraq fleeing ISIS, as well as Syriacs from the Diaspora who fled the region during the Turkey-PKK conflict
(since 1978) returning and rebuilding their homes. The village of Kafro
was populated by Syriacs from Germany
In the Syriac diaspora
, there are approximately 80,000 members in the United States, 80,000 in Sweden, 100,000 in Germany, 15,000 in the Netherlands, 200,000 members in Brazil, Switzerland, and Austria.
Jurisdiction of the patriarchate
The Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch originally covered the whole region of the Middle East
. In recent centuries, its parishioners started to emigrate to other countries over the world. Today, the Syriac Orthodox Church has several archdioceses and patriarchal vicariates (exarchates) in many countries covering six continents.
St. Mark's Cathedral, Paramus, NJ
The presence of the Syrian Orthodox faithful in America dates back to the late 19th century.
Middle East regions
Syriac Orthodox Church in the Middle East
and the diaspora, numbering between 150,000 and 200,000 people in their indigenous area of habitation in Syria, Iraq, and Turkey according to estimations.
The community formed and developed in the Middle Ages. The Syriac Orthodox Christians of the Middle East speak Aramaic. Archbishoprics in the Middle East include regions of Jazirah
, Euphrates, Aleppo
, Mount Lebanon
Syriac Orthodox Church of Malankara (India)
The Jacobite Syrian Christian Church
, one of the various Saint Thomas Christian
churches in India
, is an integral part of the Syriac Orthodox Church, with the Patriarch of Antioch
as its supreme head. The local head of the church in Malankara (Kerala
) is Baselios Thomas I
, ordained by Patriarch Ignatius Zakka I Iwas
in 2002 and accountable to the Patriarch of Antioch
. The headquarters of the church in India
is at Puthencruz
near Ernakulam in the state of Kerala
in South India
. Simhasana Churches and Honavar Mission is under the direct control of Patriarch. Historically, the St. Thomas Christians
were part of the Church of the East
, based in Persia
which was under the Patriarch of Antioch
until Council of Seleucia-Ctesiphon
(410 AD.) and reunited with Syriac Orthodox Patriarchs of Antioch
Syriac monks Mar Sabor and Mar Proth
arrived at Malankara between the 8th and 9th centuries from Persia.
They established churches in Quilon
, and Akaparambu
Altar of St.Mary's Knanaya Syriac Church Kottayam.
Syriac Orthodox Church is an archdiocese under the guidance and direction of Archbishop Severious Kuriakose
with the patriarch as its spiritual head. They are the followers of the Syrian merchant Knāy Thoma (Thomas of Cana
) in the 4th or 8th century, while another legend traces their origin to Jews
in the Middle East
Evangelistic Association of the East
E.A.E Arch Diocese
is the missionary association of Syriac Orthodox Church founded in 1924 by Geevarghese Athunkal Cor-Episcopa at Perumbavoor
This archdiocese is under the direct control of the patriarch under the guidance of Chrysostomos Markose
, It is an organization with churches, educational institutions, orphanages, old age homes, convents, publications, mission centers, gospel teams, care missions, and a missionary training institute. It is registered in 1949 under the Indian Societies Registration Act
. XXI of 1860 (Reg. No. S.8/1949ESTD 1924).
Earlier in the 20th century many Syrian Orthodox immigrated to Western Europe diaspora, located in the Sweden
, and Switzerland
for economic and political reasons.
Dayro d-Mor Ephrem in Netherlands is the first Syriac Orthodox monastery in Europe established in 1981.
Dayro d-Mor Awgen, Arth
,Dayro d-Mor Ya`qub d-Sarug, Warburg
are the other monasteries
located in Europe.
The church has various seminaries, colleges, and other institutions.
Patriarch Aphrem I Barsoum
established St. Aphrem's Clerical School in 1934 in Zahlé
. In 1946, the school was moved to Mosul
, where it provided the church with a selection of graduates, the first among them being Patriarch Ignatius Zakka I Iwas
and many other church leaders. In 1990, the Order of St. Jacob Baradaeus was established for nuns. Seminaries have been instituted in Sweden
and in Salzburg
for the study of Syriac theology, history, language, and culture. Happy Child House project started in 2019 provides childcare
services in Damascus
. The church has an international Christian education center for religious education.
The Antioch Syrian University was established on 8 September 2018 in Maarat Saidnaya
, near Damascus.
The university is offering engineering, management and economics courses.
The confusions and schisms that occurred between their Churches in the later centuries, they realise today, in no way affect or touch the substance of their faith, since these arose only because of differences in terminology and culture and in the various formulae adopted by different theological schools to express the same matter. Accordingly, we find today no real basis for the sad divisions and schisms that subsequently arose between us concerning the doctrine of Incarnation. In words and life, we confess the true doctrine concerning Christ our Lord, notwithstanding the differences in interpretation of such a doctrine which arose at the time of the Council of Chalcedon.
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Ecumenical relations with the Catholic Church
Relating to Syriac Orthodox Church
Relating to Malankara Jacobite Syrian Orthodox Church
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