|Syriac Maronite Church of Antioch|
Eastern Catholic Churches
|Primate||Bechara Boutros al-Rahi|
|Territory||Lebanon, Syria, Cyprus, Canada, United States, Israel, Australia, Argentina, Brazil, Mexico|
|Possessions||Approximately one third of Lebanese territory|
|Language||Arabic (Lebanese Arabic · Cypriot Maronite Arabic); Liturgical: Aramaic (Syriac)|
The Syriac Maronite Church of Antioch (ܥܕܬܐ ܣܘܪܝܝܬܐ ܡܪܘܢܝܬܐ ܕܐܢܛܝܘܟܝܐ ʿīṯo suryoiṯo morunoiṯo d'anṭiokia; Arabic: الكنيسة الأنطاكية السريانية المارونية al-Kanīsa al-Anṭākiyya al-Suryāniyya al-Mārūniyya; Latin: Ecclesia Maronitarum) is an Eastern Catholic Church in full communion with the Pope, Bishop of Rome. It traces its heritage back to the community founded by Marun, a 4th-century Syriac monk venerated as a saint. The first Maronite Patriarch, Saint John Maron, was elected in the late 7th century.
Before the conquest by Arabian Muslims reached Lebanon, the Lebanese people, including those who would become Muslim and the majority who would remain Christian, spoke a dialect of Aramaic. Syriac (Christian Aramaic) still remains the liturgical language of the Maronite Church.
In the face of Byzantine hostility and Arab expansion many of the Maronites moved from Syria to the relative security of the mountains of Lebanon, where they built a thriving community. With the arrival, centuries later, of Crusaders from the West, contact was re-established with the Latin Church. Maronites both studied and taught at universities in Europe. They also developed close contact with the French through trade. These helped provide some relative protection against Abbasid and Ottoman overlords, but also led to increased latinization of the church.
Although reduced in numbers today, Maronites remain one of the principal ethno-religious groups in Lebanon, and smaller minorities of Maronites are also found in western Syria, Cyprus, Israel, Jordan. The Maronite Church asserts that since its inception, it has always remained faithful to the Church of Rome and the Pope. In November 2012, Pope Benedict appointed Maronite Patriarch Bechara Boutros al-Rahi as a Cardinal.
In the later 20th century, some efforts have been made to reverse this trend and enhance the eastern traditions of the Maronite Church. Maronite immigrants have brought their faith to distant lands, but still regard Lebanon as their spiritual home.
- 1 Overview
- 2 History
- 3 Organization
- 4 Population
- 5 See also
- 6 References
- 7 Further reading
- 8 External links
Maron is considered the Father of the spiritual and monastic movement now called the Maronite Church. This movement has had a profound influence in Lebanon, and one to a lesser degree in modern-day Syria, Jordan and Palestine. Saint Maron spent all of his life on a mountain in Syria. It is believed that the place was called "Kefar-Nabo" on the mountain of Ol-Yambos, making it the cradle of the Maronite movement.
There are six major traditions of the Catholic Church: Alexandrian, Antiochene, Armenian, Chaldean, Constantinopolitan (Byzantine), and Latin (Roman). The Maronite Church follows the Antiochene Tradition. A Roman rite Catholic may attend any Eastern Catholic Liturgy and fulfill his or her obligations at an Eastern Catholic Parish. A Roman rite Catholic may join any Eastern Catholic Parish and receive any sacrament from an Eastern Catholic priest, since all belong to the Catholic Church as a whole. Maronites who do not reside within a convenient distance to a local Maronite Church are permitted to attend other Catholic churches, but, nevertheless, retain their membership in the Maronite Church.
The Maronite Patriarchal Assembly (2003-2004) identified five distinguishing marks of the Maronite Church:
- It is Antiochene.
- It is Chalcedonian, in that the Maronites were strong supporters of the Council of Chalcedon of 451.
- It is Patriarchal and Monastic.
- It is faithful to the See of Peter in Rome.
- It has strong ties to her spiritual homeland off Lebanon.
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Maron, a fourth-century monk and the contemporary and friend of St. John Chrysostom, left Antioch for the Orontes River in modern-day Syria to lead an ascetic life, following the traditions of Anthony the Great of the Desert and Pachomius. Many of his followers also lived a monastic lifestyle.
Following the death of Maron in 410 AD, his disciples built a monastery Beth-Maron in his memory at Apamea (present day Qalaat al-Madiq. This formed the nucleus of the Maronite Church. In 452, after the Council of Chalcedon, the monastery of St. Maron was expanded by the Byzantine emperor Marcian.
The Maronite movement reached Lebanon when Saint Maroun's first disciple, Abraham of Cyrrhus, who was called the "Apostle of Lebanon", set out to convert the non-Christians to Christianity by introducing them to the way of Saint Maron.
The Maronites held fast to the beliefs of the Council of Chalcedon in 451 AD. Monophysites of Antioch slew 350 monks, and burned the monastery, although Justinian I later restored the walls. Correspondence concerning the event brought the Maronites papal and orthodox recognition, indicated by a letter from Pope Hormisdas (514–523 AD) dated February 10, AD 518. Representatives from Beth-Maron participated in the Constantinople synods of 536 and 553.
An outbreak of civil war during the reign of the emperor Phocas brought both riots in the cities of Syria and Palestine, and incursions by the Persian King Khosrow II. In 609 the Patriarch of Antioch, Anastasius II was killed either at the hands of Persian soldiers or locals. This left the Maronites without a leader, a situation which continued because of the final and most devastating Byzantine–Sassanid War of 602–628.
In the aftermath of the war, the Emperor Heraclius propagated a new Christological doctrine in an attempt to unify the various Christian churches of the east, who were divided over accepting the Council of Chalcedon. This doctrine, the unity of Christ's will with God's, was meant as a compromise between supporters of Chalcedon, such as the Maronites, and opponents, such as the Jacobites. The doctrine was endorsed by Pope Honorius I to win back the Monophysites but problems soon arose (see his anathematization).
Instead, the unity of Christ's will with God's (mia-thelitism) was misunderstood as Monothelitism (that Christ and God have only one will) which caused even greater controversy, and was declared a heresy at the Third Council of Constantinople in 680–681. The Council condemned both Honorius and Patriarch Sergius I of Constantinople, but did not mention the Maronites.
Contemporary Greek and Arab sources misrepresented the miathelite Maronites as having rejected the third council and accepted monothelitism, and that the miathelites in fact maintained monothelitism for centuries, only moving away from it in the time of the crusades in order to avoid being branded heretics by the crusaders. The Maronite Church, however, rejects the assertion that the Maronites were ever monothelites or apart from the Roman Catholic Church; and the question remains a matter of controversy to this day. Elias El-Hāyek attributes much of the confusion to Eutyches of Alexandria, whose Annals contain a good deal of erroneous material regarding the early Maronite Church, which was then picked up by William of Tyre and others.
First Maronite Patriarch
The Patriarch of Antioch, Anastasius II died in 609, and Constantinople began to appoint a series of titular patriarchs, who resided not in Antioch but in Constantinople. In 685 the Maronites elected Bishop John Maron of Batroun as Patriarch of Antioch and all the East. Through him, the Maronites of today claim full apostolic succession through the Patriarchal See of Antioch. While this installation of a patriarch was seen as a usurpation by the Orthodox hierarchy, John received the approval of Pope Sergius I, and became the first Maronite Patriarch of the oldest see in Christianity.
In 687, as part of an agreements with Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan, Byzantine emperor Justinian II sent 12,000 Christian Maronites from Lebanon to Armenia, in exchange for a substantial payment and half the revenues of Cyprus. There they were conscripted as rowers and marines in the Byzantine navy. Additional resettlement efforts allowed Justinian to reinforce naval forces depleted by earlier conflicts. The Maronites struggled to retain their autonomy against both imperial power and Arab incursions on the part of the Caliphate based in Damascus.
John Maron established himself in the remote Qadisha Valley in Lebanon. In 694, Justinian sent troops against the Maronites in an unsuccessful attempt to capture the Patriarch. John Maron died in 707 at the Monastery of St. Maron in Labanon. Around 749 the Maronite community, in the relative security of the Lebanon mountains, built the Mar-Mama church at Ehden. Meanwhile, caught between the Byzantines and the Arabs, the monastery at Beth-Maron struggled to survive.
After they came under Arab rule following the Muslim conquest of Syria (634–638), Maronite immigration to Lebanon, which had begun some time before, increased, and intensified under the Abbasid Calif al-Mamoun (813-33). The Maronites experienced an improvement in their relationship with the Byzantine Empire. Emperor Constantine IV (reigned 668–685) provided direct ecclesiastical, political, and military support to the Maronites. The new alliance soon coordinated devastating raids on Muslim forces, providing a welcome relief to besieged Christians throughout the Middle East.
During this period the region were dominated by the Abbasids, whose rule was often severe and who persecuted the Maronites. Around AD 1017 a new Muslim sect, the Druze, emerged. At that time the Maronites, as dhimmis, were required to wear black robes and black turbans, so as to be easily identified; they were also forbidden to ride horses.
In an effort to eliminate internal dissent, from 1289 to 1291 Egyptian Mamluk troops descended on Mount Lebanon, destroying forts and monasteries.
Following the Muslim conquest of Eastern Christendom outside Anatolia and Europe and after the establishment of secured lines of demarcation between Islamic Caliphs and Byzantine Emperors, little was heard from the Maronites for 400 years. Secure in their mountain strongholds, the Maronites were re-discovered in the mountains near Tripoli, Lebanon by Raymond of Toulouse on his way to conquer Jerusalem in the Great Crusade of 1096–1099. Raymond later returned to besiege Tripoli (1102–1109) after the conquest of Jerusalem in 1099, and relations between the Maronites and European Christianity were re-established.
The Maronites assisted the crusaders and affirmed their affiliation with the Holy See of Rome in 1182. To commemorate their communion, Maronite Patriarch Youseff Al Jirjisi received the crown and staff, marking his patriarchal authority, from Pope Paschal II in 1100 AD. In 1131, Maronite Patriarch Gregorios Al-Halati received letters from Pope Innocent II in which the Papacy recognized the authority of the Patriarchate of Antioch. Patriarch Jeremias II Al-Amshitti (1199-1230) became the first Maronite Patriarch to visit Rome when he attended the Fourth Council of the Lateran in 1215. The Patriarchate of Antioch was also represented at the Council of Ferrara in 1438.
Peter-Hans Kolvenback notes, "This contact with the Latin Church enriched the intellectual world of Europe in the Middle Ages. Maronites taught Oriental languages and literature at the universities of Italy and France."
In the Ottoman Empire indigenous concentrated religious communities dealt mainly with the provincial administration. Officially, Maronites had to pay the jizya tax as non-Muslims, but sometimes the monks and clergy were exempt as being considered "poor".
Fakhr-al-Din II (1572 – 1635) was a Druze prince and a leader of the Emirate of Chouf District in the governorate of Mount Lebanon. The Maronite Abū Nādir al-Khāzin was one of his foremost supporters and served as Fakhr-al-Din's adjutant. Phares notes that "The emirs prospered from the intellectual skills and trading talents of the Maronites while the Christians gained political protection, autonomy and a local ally against the eve-present threat of direct Ottoman rule." In 1649 Patriarch Yuhanna al-Sufrari placed the Maronites under French protection, and the French opened a consulate in Beirut.
The Khāzin sheiks increased in power and influence, and in 1662, with the mediation of some Jesuit missionaries, Abū Nawfal al-Khāzin was named French consul, despite complaints by Marseille merchants that he wasn't from Marseille. The Church prospered from the protection and influence of the Khāzins, but at the expense of interference in church affairs, particularly ecclesiastical appointments, which the Khāzins saw as an extension of their political influence.
In 1610, the Maronite monks of the Monastery of Saint Anthony of Qozhaya imported one of the first printing presses in what is known as the Arabic-speaking world; however, that press printed in the Syriac language, not Arabic. The monasteries of Lebanon would later become key players in the Arabic Renaissance of the late 19th century as a result of developing Arabic, as well as Syriac, printable script.
Bachir Chehab II was the first and last Maronite ruler of the Emirate of Mount Lebanon. A convert from Sunni Islam, his rivalry with the Druze leader Bashir Jumblatt which caused tension between the two communities. In the 1822 war between Damascus and Acre, they backed opposite sides.
In the spring of 1860, war broke out between the Druze population and the Maronite Christians. The Ottoman authorities in Lebanon could not stop the violence, and it spread into neighboring Syria, with the massacre of many Christians. In Damascus, the Emir Abd-el-Kadr protected the Christians there against the Muslim rioters. Napoleon III felt obliged to intervene on behalf of the Christians, despite the opposition of London, which feared it would lead to a wider French presence in the Middle East. After long and difficult negotiations to obtain the approval of the British government, Napoleon III sent a French contingent of seven thousand men for a period of six months. The troops arrived in Beirut in August 1860, and took positions in the mountains between the Christian and Muslim communities. He then organized an international conference in Paris, where the country was placed under the rule of a Christian governor named by the Ottoman Sultan, which restored a fragile peace.
Synod of Mount Lebanon (1736)
Respected Maronite orientalist Joseph Simon Assemani presided as papal legate for Pope Clement XII. The synod drafted a Code of Canons for the Maronite Church and created a regular diocesan structure for the first time. The Council of Luwayza accomplished two goals. It led to a more effective church structure to address the needs of an increasingly diversified and diverse community; and to gradual emancipation from the influence of powerful Maronite families. Education was declared a major task. Through the joint efforts of the Church and French Jesuits, literacy became wide-spread.
Having had closer ties with the Latin Church, the Maronite Church is considered to be among the most Latinized of the Eastern Catholic Churches, although there have been moves to return to Eastern practices.
Contacts between the Maronite monks and Rome date to the 5th century and were revived during the time of the Crusades. While maintaining the richness of their own tradition, with contact with the Latin Church restored, the Maronites introduced to Eastern Churches Western devotional practices such as the rosary and the stations of the cross. Late in the 16th century, Gregory XIII sent Jesuits to the monasteries of Lebanon to endure that their practice conformed to decisions made at the Council of Trent. The Maronite College in Rome was established by Pope Gregory XIII in 1584. The Maronite missal (Qurbono) was first printed between 1592 and 1594 in Rome, although with fewer anaphoras. The venerable Anaphora(Eucharistic Prayer) Sharrar, attributed to St. Peter, was eliminated from later editions.
Patriarch Stephan al-Duwayhî (1670-1704), (later declared a "Servant of God"), was able to find a middle ground between reformers and conservatives, and re-vitalized Maronite liturgical tradition.
The Synod of Mount Lebanon sought to incorporate both traditions. It formalized many of the Latin practices that had developed, but also sought to preserve ancient Maronite liturgical tradition. The Synod did not sanction the exclusive use of the Roman ritual in the administration of Baptism. However, in the Eastern tradition, the Oil of catechumens is blessed by the priest during the baptismal rite. This blessing was now reserved to the Chrism Mass of Holy Thursday. A practice common among all the Eastern Churches is to administer First Communion immediately after Baptism. As in the Latin Rite Holy Communion is to be given only to those who have attained the age of reason, priest were forbidden to give Communion to infants.
In Orientale lumen, the Apostolic Letter to the Churches of the East, issued May 2, 1995, Pope John Paul II quotes Orientalium Ecclesiarum, the Second Vatican Council's Decree on the Eastern Catholic Churches:
It has been stressed several times that the full union of the Catholic Eastern churches with the church of Rome which has already been achieved must not imply a diminished awareness of their own authenticity and originality. Wherever this occurred, the Second Vatican Council has urged them to rediscover their full identity, because they have "the right and the duty to govern themselves according to their own special disciplines. For these are guaranteed by ancient tradition and seem to be better suited to the customs of their faithful and to the good of their souls."
Cardinal Sfeir's personal commitment accelerated liturgical reforms in the 1980s and 1990s, bearing fruit in 1992 with the publication of a new Maronite Missal. This represents an attempt to return to the original form of the Antiochene Liturgy, removing the liturgical Latinization of past centuries. The Service of the Word has been described as far more enriched than in previous missals, and it features six Anaphoras.
In the promulgation of the 2005 missal Patriarch Sfeir stated that Sacrosanctum concilium and the Roman liturgical changes following Vatican II apply to the Maronite Church. Sancrosanctum Concilium states, "Among these principles and norms there are some which can and should be applied both to the Roman rite and also to all the other rites. The practical norms which follow, however, should be taken as applying only to the Roman rite, except for those which, in the very nature of things, affect other rites as well."
The Consecration is sung in Aramaic. The sign of peace is different from the Latin Rite. The priest kisses the altar, places his hands on the chalice, then passes God's peace to the deacon, who then gives it to the acolyte, who passes it to the first person in the pews, who passes it to the next person, an so on. Holy Communion is given only by intinction. There is no Communion in the hand and there are no Eucharistic ministers. Chrismation (confirmation) is administered along with Baptism.
The Holy Father encourages Roman rite Catholics to visit the Eastern Catholic churches, although Eastern Catholics are discouraged from going to Roman rite parishes, as it is the will of Rome that Eastern Catholics retain the rich heritage and support their own parishes. Eastern Catholics who attend a Roman rite parish because there is no Eastern parish for them to attend still remain Eastern Catholics of their own particular rite.
Maronites share the same doctrine as other Catholics, but they retain their own liturgy, theology, spirituality, discipline and hierarchy. The Maronite church belongs to the Antiochene tradition and is a West Syro-Antiochene Rite. Syriac is the liturgical language.
The head of the Maronite Church is the Maronite Patriarch of Antioch, who is elected by the Maronite bishops and resides in Bkerké, close to Jounieh, north of Beirut (the Maronite Patriarch resides in the northern town of Dimane during the summer months).
The current Patriarch (since March 2011) is Cardinal Mar Bechara Boutros Rahi, while Cardinal Mar Nasrallah Boutros Sfeir is Patriarch Emeritus. When a new patriarch is elected and enthroned, he requests ecclesiastical recognition by the Pope, thus maintaining their communion with the Holy See. As an Eastern patriarch, the patriarch is usually created a Cardinal by the Pope in the rank of a Cardinal Bishop; he does not receive a suburbicarian see because he is a head of a sui iuris Church.
Celibacy is not strictly required for Maronite deacons and priests of parishes outside of North America; monks, however, must remain celibate, as well as bishops who are normally selected from the monasteries. Due to a long-term understanding with their Latin counterparts in North America, Maronite priests in that area have traditionally remained celibate. However, in February 2014, Wissam Akiki was ordained into the priesthood by Bishop A. Elias Zaidan of the U.S. Maronite Eparchy of Our Lady of Lebanon at St. Raymond's Maronite Cathedral in St. Louis. Deacon Akiki is the first married man to be ordained to the Maronite priesthood in North America and will not be expected to uphold a vow of celibacy.
- In Lebanon:
- Immediately Subject to the Patriarch
- In the Holy Land:
- Maronite Catholic Archeparchy of Haifa and the Holy Land, in Israel whose Archeparch holds the offices of Patriarchal Vicar of:
- Patriarchal Exarch of the Maronite Catholic Patriarchal Exarchate of Jerusalem and Palestine in the Palestinian Territories and
- Maronite Catholic Patriarchal Exarchate of Jordan in (Trans)Jordan
- Maronite Catholic Archeparchy of Haifa and the Holy Land, in Israel whose Archeparch holds the offices of Patriarchal Vicar of:
- In Syria:
- In Cyprus: Maronite Catholic Archeparchy of Cyprus in Nicosia
- In Egypt: Maronite Catholic Eparchy of Cairo
- Immediately Subject to the Patriarch
In North and Central America:
- Maronite Catholic Eparchy of Saint Maron of Montreal in Canada
- Mexico: Maronite Catholic Eparchy of Our Lady of the Martyrs of Lebanon in Mexico
- In the USA:
In South America:
- Maronite Catholic Eparchy of San Charbel in Buenos Aires in Argentina, suffragan of the Latin Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Buenos Aires
- Maronite Catholic Eparchy of Our Lady of Lebanon of São Paulo in Brazil, suffragan of the Latin Roman Catholic Archdiocese of São Paulo
- Exempt, i.e. immediately subject to the Holy See
In Africa : Maronite Apostolic Exarchate of Western and Central Africa, with cathedral see Church of Our Lady of the Annunciation, in Ibadan, Oyo, in Nigeria
Maronite Religious Institutes (Orders)
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The exact worldwide Maronite population is not exactly known, being estimated at more than 3 million, according to the Catholic Near East Welfare Association.
Based on a 2007 report, there are approximately 930,000 Maronites in Lebanon, where they constitute up to 22 percent of the population. Syrian Maronites total 51,000 and they follow the archdioceses of Aleppo and Damascus and the Diocese of Latakia. There is also a Maronite community in Cyprus of about 10,000, which speaks Cypriot Maronite Arabic. A noticeable Maronite community exists in northern Israel (Galilee), numbering 7,504, being famous for its preservation attempts of the Aramaic language and Aramean ethnic identity.
Immigration of Maronite faithful from the Middle East to the United States began during the latter part of the nineteenth century. When the faithful were able to obtain a priest, communities were established as parishes under the jurisdiction of the local Latin bishops. In January 1966, Pope Paul VI, established the Maronite Apostolic Esarchate for the Maronite faithful of the United States. In a decree of the Sacred Congregation for the Eastern Churches, Bishop Francis Mansour Zayek was appointed the first Exarch. The see, in Detroit, Michigan, with a cathedral under the patronage of Saint Maron, was suffragan to the Archdiocese of Detroit. In 1971, Pope Paul VI, elevated the Exarchate to the status of an Eparchy, with the name of Eparchy of Saint Maron of Detroit. In 1977, the see of the Eparchy of Saint Maron was transferred to Brooklyn, New York, with the cathedral under the patronage of Our Lady of Lebanon. The name of the Eparchy was modified to Eparchy of Saint Maron of Brooklyn.
In 1994, the Eparchy of Our Lady of Lebanon was established with the cathedral at Los Angeles, California, under the patronage of Our Lady of Lebanon. John George Chedid, auxiliary bishop of the diocese of Saint Maron of Brooklyn, was ordained as the first Bishop of the Maronite Catholic Eparchy of Our Lady of Lebanon of Los Angeles at the Our Lady of Lebanon Cathedral in Los Angeles, California, where served until he reached the mandatory retirement age of 80. In December 2000, Robert Joseph Shaheen succeeded Chedid as eparch. The eparchial see was moved to St. Louis, Missouri that same year and St. Raymond was named a co-cathedral.
The two eparchies in the United States have issued their own "Maronite Census", designed to estimate how many Maronites reside in the United States. Many Maronites have been assimilated into Western Catholicism as there were no Maronite parishes or priests available. The "Maronite Census" was designed to locate these Maronites. There are also eparchies at São Paulo in Brazil, as well as in Argentina, France, Australia, South Africa, Canada and Mexico.
The history of the Lebanese community in South Africa goes back to the late 19th century, when the first immigrants arrived in Johannesburg, the biggest city in the Transvaal coming from Sebhel, Mesyara, Becharre, Hadath El-Joube, Maghdoushe and other places. It is recorded that in the year 1896 the first Maronite and Lebanese immigrants arrived in Durban, Cape Town and Mozambique, and congregated around their local Catholic Churches.
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- The Divine Office for Lent is a Maronite document from 1695
- Article on the Maronite Catholic Church by Ronald Roberson on the CNEWA web site
- Maronite Rite diocese based in Sydney, Australia
- Eparchy of Saint Maron of Brooklyn
- Eparchy of Our Lady of Lebanon
- Eparchy of Saint Maron of Canada - Montréal, Canada