The Orthodox & Catholic Byzantine Church of the East
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The Byzantine Church of the Apostolic Sees of Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem by Mgr. Joseph Nasrallah [concise history]
The Imperial Church — Court Church of Constantinople

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Introductory commentary:

In the early centuries of Christianity, the original patriarchates were those of Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, Jerusalem and Rome. In the minds of believers, particularly in the east, those patriarchates were autocephalous churches (autonomous) though in full communion with each other. Centuries later, sadly the major schism took place and the Patriarch of Constantinople and the Pope -- the Patriarch of the West --exchanged excommunications against one another.

The Melkites
Constantine's Peace 
The Patriarchate
The Patriarchs
The Melkite Church was among the earliest, if not the earliest, translator of the Bible into Aramaic in 527 A.D., more than a thousand years before the popular King James Bible. In 969 A.D. when Antioch became a centre for the Melkite Christians, Aramaic continued to be their language.

From a legalistic view point, especially since the eastern churches considered themselves autocephalous, the excommunication of the Patriarch of Constantinople did not apply to the Patriarchs of Alexandria, Jerusalem and Antioch but exclusively to the patriarchate of Constantinople. This was the case, even though the patriachates of the east were "emotionally" and physically closer to the Patriarch of Constantinople. These three patriarchs became de facto separated from the papacy and considered the Patriarch of Constantinople, First Among Equals, and leader of the Church in the east without any authority or jurisdiction over their autocephalous patriarchates.

Despite dialogue, visible communion with the west did not come about with the said three patriarchates, even though legalistically they were not officially separated from the "Patriarch of the West" (the Pope). The split between those who recognized the papacy and those who did not resulted in two separate patriarchs, the Greek Orthodox and the Greek Catholic (Melkite). The subject is covered in the essay that follows.

-- Salim George Khalaf, Author of this

Source: Doctorate thesis of Mgr. Ignatius Abdalla Rahib, ex-Superior Abbot of the St. Basil Order of Aleppo, Sarba, Lebanon.

[Consice] History of The Melkites 
For a comprehensive study of the Greek Melkite Catholics, please visit linked page in this site. Also, for the immediate history before the advent of the Melkite Catholics in Antioch, please see Orthodox Antioch in this site:

Here are some extracts taken at length from a synthesis made by Mgr Joseph Nasrallah, the Exarch in Paris, of his "HISTOIRE de L'EGLISE MELCHITE des ORIGINES à NOS JOURS" (History of the Melkite Church from its Origins to the Present Day).

Unlike the other oriental churches, Catholic or Orthodox, the Melkite Church is not a national church. In the canonical acceptation of the word it is a particular Church, spread throughout the Middle East and throughout a diaspora of ever increasing extent. It is the legitimate heir of the three apostolic sees of Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem. Its origins are inextricably bound up with the preaching of the Gospel in the Greco-Roman world of the Eastern Mediterranean and with the extension of Christianity beyond the limits of the Empire. The setting up of the patriarchates of Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem, the first two at the Council of Nicaea (325 A.D.) and the third at Chalcedon (451 A.D.), gave it its form and made of it a territorial and juridical entity.

The Melkite Church owes its character as a particular church to two loyalties, one to the Empire of Byzantium and the other to the first seven ecumenical councils. However, it was only towards the end of the fifth century that it took the name of Melkite. This appellation, which was invented by its Monophysite detractors to stigmatize its fidelity to Marcian the Emperor (=malka in Syriac) and to the council which he had called at Chalcedon, is the distinguishing label marking its orthodoxy in relation to the cattolica. In our day, sociologically speaking the Melkite Church offers an astonishing ethnic homogeneity; its patriarch, its episcopate, its clergy both regular and secular, its faithful, are mostly Arabic speaking, even though with the large emegration of the Christian population from the Middle East, the faithful of the Melkite church now speak the languages of their new homelands in America, Latin America, Europe, Australia and elsewhere.

With the Arabo-lslamic conquest of the seventh century, the world of the Melkite patriarchates passed under non-Christian domination; Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem were part of the Islamic world up to and including the Ottoman domination, which started in 1516. With rare exceptions during the Mameluke rule, the Christians did not undergo persecution so much as a regime of vexation and subjection; they were now dhimmis or protected people. They assumed with resignation and courage their new role as witnesses to Christ in the territory of Islam. As they were no longer able to play a political role, the Melkites, like the Jacobites and Nestorians, turned towards the liberal professions, especially medicine, and were the artisans of the translation into Arabic of the philosophical, medical and scientific heritage of ancient Greece.

The Byzantine reconquest of Antioch lasted no more than a century, from 960 to 1085 A.D. It had as consequence the Byzantinization of the liturgy of the three patriarchates, and the adaptation of the liturgical usage and customs of the imperial city was more or less accomplished at Antioch by the end of the thirteenth Century.

Branches of the original ethnic branches of the Apostolic Churches. Click to view a large version.

But there was something which not even the halo surrounding the ecumenical throne of Constantinople had been able to do, and that was the dragging of the Melkite Church into schism; now, however, the Crusaders prepared the way for it. What happened was that Latin patriarchs and bishops replaced the Melkite hierarchy everywhere except at Alexandria. The local Church was forced to submit to a foreign Church. A kind of estrangement grew up between the two, without the former however actually breaking off its relations with Rome.

The reign of the Mamelukes from 1250 to 1516 not only put an end to the existence of Frankish possessions in the East, but was itself a crucial period for the Christian communities; persecutions, destruction and massacres were their almost daily lot. It was during the reign of these slaves invested with authority that the number of Christians went sharply down, with whole regions either Islamized or emptied of their population. However, the faithful few held on to their mission, which took on more and more a character of witness and of fidelity to Christ. Confessors and martyrs were not lacking.

The Ottoman conquest (1516 to 1918) was no more clement, at least until the seventeenth century. For a long time now, Christians had no longer been considered as "protected" persons but were viewed as no better than infidels. The Pashas were under no restraint in their dealings with this category under their administration, a category which had no legal means of protest.

Now all the East was under one authority alone, that of the Sultan, who knew how to get the most out of the situation. Constantinople became not only the political capital of an immense empire, but also the religious capital of the East, in the same way as Rome was of the West. The Ecumenical Patriarch was now given complete authority over the members of the Melkite hierarchy. Their confirmation and sometimes even their election depended on the Phanar. The hierarchies of Alexandria and Jerusalem were in consequence completely Hellenized, and from 1534 down to the present day their episcopal charges have been given to Greeks. So it was that the two patriarchates cut themselves off from the cattolica to embrace schism. Hellenism had no hold on Antioch, whose patriarchs were chosen from among the native clergy, and for the most part maintained some links with 14 Rome. Basically, the Patriarchate never faltered in its belief, even when one or other of its chief hierarchs happened to be more favorable to Constantinople than to Rome. A Church is formed of more than its head; it is composed also of bishops, clergy and people. The faithful bear within themselves a sense of the truth, a sure instinct which allows them to recognize it. Simply because Pope Honorius leaned towards monothelitism, has anyone ever seriously deduced that the Church of the West actually embraced this heresy?

The failure of the Union attempted at Florence served as a lesson for Rome. The establishment of formal communion with an oriental Church would have to be brought about by work at the base and not at the summit. During an early stage, various missionaries, including Jesuits, Capuchins, Carmelites and Franciscans, put themselves at the disposition of the local hierarchy and worked in co-operation with it. Pastors who were not in formal communion with Rome encouraged their flocks to turn to the missionaries. The people felt the need for a deeper understanding of the traditional faith which they followed despite one thousand years of repression. They hoped to gain this from a clergy more instructed than their own. On both sides, the feeling was that there was one and the same faith which they shared. However, there was a fraction of the population which felt drawn by the high reputation of western culture and took over the Latin contribution in its entirety.

So it was that after some decades there appeared a new way of conceiving the traditional faith. The behavior of these new «Catholics» was viewed as treason by the group of those attached to their past and as a 15 deformation of their ancestral law. Consequently, communion in one faith with the cattolica, which had never ceased to flourish in the Patriarchate of Antioch, was called into question and two different conceptions of it made their appearance. The Antiochean identity became lost. one fraction of the faithful leaned towards Byzantium and became more Constantinopolitan than Antiochean, while the other fraction tended towards Rome, with a relationship that was Roman rather than faithful to the belief of the local Church The result was that at the death of Patriarch Athanasius in 1724, a double lineage of patriarchs came into existence, one Orthodox and the other Catholic. Both lines have lasted down to the present day.

1724 was indeed a fateful year; from now on there were two parallel hierarchies, two sister communities, riven apart under the complacent eye of the Turks, who granted the patriarchal and episcopal sees to those who offered them the most. Both sides had their martyrs and confessors. Henceforth, the two Churches, Catholic and Orthodox, followed two divergent ways and two different destinies.

The first one, the one which we are to talk about, namely the Melkite Greek Catholic Church, pushed on with its own internal organization. New monastic orders were founded and a clergy educated in Rome taught in the newly founded schools. A seminary was opened in Aïn Traz in 1811. Despite the difficulties of the period of growth, which lasted until the end of the eighteenth century, due above all to antagonisms between the new monastic congregations, the Melkite Church could stand on its own feet; local Church councils endowed it with a solid organization and so it extended and developed. Then in the nineteenth century, Providence provided it with two great patriarchs, Maximos Mazioum (1833 to 1855), and Gregory Joseph Sayour (1864 to 1897).

Three years after his election, Mazloum put the finishing touches to the canonical legislation of his Church, confirmed at the Councils of Aïn Traz in 1835 and of Jerusalem in 1849. He extended his care to the Patriarchate of Alexandria, for in their efforts to flee persecution at the hands of the Orthodox, many Catholics from Syria and Lebanon had emigrated to Egypt. Mazloum consecrated a bishop for them, sent them priests and provided the new parishes with churches and charitable foundations, and did as much for the Patriarchate of Jerusalem. But Mazloum is above all famous for having obtained from the Sultan recognition of the complete independence of his Church from both the civil and ecclesiastical points of view, in the year 1848.

The long patriarchal reign of Gregory Joseph was both glorious and fertile. For thirty-three years, balancing his actions against their possible consequences on the capital work of the union of the Churches, he strove for the application of his great plan for the restoration of his Church. He wished for this to be done according to the pure oriental tradition and this explains his opposition to Vatican I for its declaration of the dogmas of the Primacy and Infallibility of the Pope in the meaning given them by the majority of the Fathers present, as he considered declaration of these dogmas to be inopportune. He struggled against Protestantism, which was penetrating the area in force, by founding the patriarchal colleges of Beirut in 1865 and of Damascus in 1875. In 1866 he re-opened the seminary of Aïn Traz, but most important of all it was he who was behind the founding of the seminary of St. Anne of Jerusalem in 1882. He took a most important part in the Eucharistic Congress of Jerusalem in 1893. His suggestions had in addition an important influence on the elaboration of the encyclical Orientalium Dignit as a veritable charter for the oriental Churches by which Pope Leo XIII ordered the strictest respect for the rights of the patriarchs and for the oriental discipline, correcting on several points the spirit of the majority of the Latin missionaries.

We all remember the outstanding personality of Maximos IV (1947-1967) and his action at Vatican II. It has been truly said of him that he was one of the Fathers who made the Council, to which he imparted many of the orientations that it took. Perhaps, when one considers the small number of the faithful of his Church, his audacity may appear to have bordered on temerity. But he was strongly aware that he was speaking on behalf of the "absent brother", the great Orthodox Church, which counts no less than two hundred million faithful. He drew his force and his effectiveness from the conception which he had of his Church as a bridge between Rome and Orthodoxy. Since his election to the Patriarchate on November 22, 1967, his successor, His Beatitude Maximos V Hakim, the present head of the Melkite Church, has firmly followed the way traced by his predecessors, while paying particular attention to the problem of the Diaspora of his Church; for in fact most of its members live outside the limits imposed on our Patriarchate.

J. Nasrallah, Patriarcal Exarque, Paris


When, in the fullness of time and "awaited by all the peoples" Christ was born of the Virgin Mary in Palestine(1), most of the world was under the civilizing influence of the "lex romana" and Antioch, situated where the Orontes returns between its banks, was the second most important city in the Empire(2). There are very interesting descriptions of Antioch, the ancient capital of the Kingdom of Seleucia, later to become the Roman province of Syria. This city, with a population of over 200,000, often received the imperial court and was the true capital of what was then called the East
Two important men of letters from Antioch, Liban and Saint John Chrisostomos, have testified in their writings to the greatness and beauty of the city. Of that former splendor, of the elegant villas described by Chrisostomos, the streets paved with marble and illuminated at night for which Antioch was renowned, nothing but memories and ruins remain.

Today, Antakia, as it is now known, is an unpretentious rural centre on Turkish soil. Then, however, when for the first time on earth the tidings that the Word had been made flesh and the coming of the Saviour were received, this city, notorious for its riches and even more so for its degenerate morals, could not be overlooked by the Twelve.

From Antioch, a center of international trade, great highways led to Damascus and Jerusalem, to Asia Minor and Egypt, to Persia and India. Antioch's connecection with the beginning of the preaching of the gospel is of great significance: it was from here that the good tidings were brought to Syria and Persia, from here that Paul undertook his first apostolic journeys, here that Peter established his Bishopric before he went to Rome; and it was in Antioch that "Christians" were first so named. The fact that this most scandalous city of the East should become the Seat of the Prince of the Apostles is really philosophically Christian, in the words of Juvenal, that "vice should flow into the Tiber from the Orontes". Thus, a fresh stream began to flow from the Orontes to the Tiber, whose murmurings brought words of Hope and Love until the Word was preached on the very banks of the Tiber, from Rome itself, chosen as the new Seat of the throne of Peter.

The same was to happen with the cross which, on the Hill of Golgotha in Jerusalem, was used to "execute" Christ, now became the symbol of salvation; and the ignominious instrument of condemnation became the sign of holiness and honor.

(1) cf. rise Holy Bible.

(2) GLANVIllE DOWNEY, A History of Antioch in Syria, Princeton, 1961, with an extensive bibliography.

The Melkites

With freedom secured (in 313), the Church possessed a well defined territorial organization based on the civil administration (1).

On the occasion of the first Ecumenical Council in Nicaea in the year 325, the existing situation received juridical confirmation. According to the provisions of the various canons, specific powers were granted to the "metropolitans", i.e. to the bishops of the "metropolises", or capitals of the "provinces". The rights of the bishops having jurisdiction over the "metropolises" were also laid down. Canon 6(2) granted Alexandria special privileges in Egyptian territory, similar to those enjoyed by Rome in Italy. Antioch was granted primacy over the East and Canon 7 conferred a similar privilege on Jerusalem.

In 527 A.D., the Melkites translated the Greek scriptures and other writings into their local Aramaic dialect — Western Aramaic — which the people of the area were still speaking in the 6th century. In fact, even later in 969 A.D. when Antioch became a centre for the Melkite Christians, Aramaic continued to be their language.

In this way, the government of the Church was based on the jurisdictional powers held by the Sees of Rome, Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem over the territories assigned to them, the overall primacy being attributed to the Holy See of Rome.

The title of the Bishops of these four Seats was that of Patriarch.

With the transfer of the capital of the empire to Constantinople, the city of Constantine gained considerable importance also within the ecclesiastical administration and eventually became a Patriarchal see. In the year 381, the second Ecumenical Council decreed that Constantinople should be honored with a primacy that was second only; to that of Rome, which would remain the See of the Successor of Peter.

The five patriarchal Sees formed the so called "Pentarchy", their Patriarchs being known as the five luminaries of the universe, the five heads and supports of the Church, the five senses of the ecclesiastic body of which Rome represented the eyes

Under Justinian, imperial authority and the rights of the Patriarchs were consolidated. The Novella 123(3) set the order of precedence of the Patriarchal Seats as follows: Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem. Furthermore, the consecration of metropolitan bishops and the convening of local councils would remain with the Patriarchs, as well as judicial rights and the right of control over the entire Patriarchate and that of dispatching personal ambassadors to other Patriarchates. In addition, the Patriarchs were granted the right to maintain a permanent Synod, a union of Bishops, to carry out and direct the main business of the Patriarchate.

The Pentarchy, which was virtually tantamount to a government by five territorial Popes, one of whom, the Pope of Rome, had universal primacy, collapsed in 1054 with the schism of Constantinople.

Centuries earlier, at the time of the Ecumenical Council of Chalcedony in 451, the Patriarchate of Antioch had undergone a severe crisis which led to a split in the Patriarchate itself. This crisis had been created by the Dyophysitic definition (4). The Monophysites, who acknowledge only one person in Christ, were condemned by the Council. They persisted in holding to their doctrine principally for political, anti-byzantine motives, since the emperor had become the Guarantor of the "orthodox"  doctrine. To challenge the Council of Chalcedony signified a form of protest against imperial authority, against Constantinople. The term  "Melchgite" (5) was thus coined to refer to the true believers, those who remained faithful to the Council doctrine and who followed imperial orthodoxy. The "orthodox" Patriarchate of Antioch has been called "Melkite" ever since.

The same occurred in Alexandria (6) and the Patriarch and the faithful who accepted the official doctrine were called "Melkites".

With the schism between Constantinople and Rome in 1054 the entire East virtually broke away from the West and the Eastern Patriarchates, up to that time in close contact with Rome, mostly rallied round the ideas of the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople. In order, however, to distinguish themselves from the heretics, whom they had always condemned and repudiated, the Church of the East, though now separated from Rome, insisted on calling themselves "orthodox", that is to say faithful to the true doctrine just as, in order to stress the universal character of its Primacy, the Holy See of Rome called itself "Catholic". Thus, in time,  "orthodox" came to be applied to Christians belonging to a Church of the East that had broken away from Catholicism.

(1) In the year 292, Diocletian had divided the empire into 12 "Diocesess". In 395, Theodosius had decreed the division into the Eastern and Western empires, each which were divided into "Provinces". According to the "Notitia dignilatam" the Roman Empire around the end of the 4th century thus consisted of: The Empire of the East with the eastern Prefecture, comprising the "Dioceses" of Egypt (capital Alexandria) East (Antioch), Asia (Ephesus), Thrace (Heraclea) Pontus and the Prefecture of llliria with the two "Dioceses" and Macedonia, the Empire of the West with the Italian Prefecture, comprising the Italian, African and Illyrican Prefectures and the Prefecture of Gaul with the "Dioceses" of Spain, Gaul and Britain.

(2) "Antiqua consuetudo servetur per Aegyptum, Lybiam et Pentapolim ita ut Alexandrinus episcopus horum omnium habeat potestatem, quia et urbis Romae episcopo parilis mos est. Similiter autem et apud Antiochiam ceterasque provincias sua privilegia serventur ecclesiis". Cfr. B. KURTSCHEID, Historia iaris canonici vista ria Institutorum Roma 1951.

(3) "Novella" is the name given the legal provision of the great legislator Justinian, author of the "Corpus iuris dVili5 ".

(4) That is, that the human and the divine in Christ constitute two natures.

(5) From "Melek" which in Syrian signifies King, Emperor.

(6) It was in Alexandria, in 460, that the expression "Melkite" was first used, to designate the "orthodox" faithful of the legitimate Patriarch of Alexandria, Times them Solofaciolo, who had the support of Emperor Leo 1

Constantine's Peace

After the first three hundred years of preaching Christianity, which were the most dangerous and difficult for the ecclesiastical community, peace finally came. Previously, after an initial period of tolerance, the imperial authority had enacted the infamous laws of repression and condemnation of the preaching or acceptance of the gospel. Any violation of the law was punished by death. There were hosts of martyrs, that is, those "criminals" who confessed their faith and preferred to die rather than be condemned to losing their peace in Christ.

By now, most of the Empire's subjects were Christians and the time was ripe for a reconciliation between Church and State.

It was thus that Constantine the Great, in the year 313, promulgated his famous edict of Milan on tolerance for Christians after his famous vision of the flaming cross standing out against the sky with the words "IN HOC SIGNO VINCES", and following the victory of Maxentius at Ponte Milvio.

Through the wisdom of this young Serbian emperor, born in 280 in the town known today as Nish, peace between Church and State was accomplished. This peace was dependent, however, on the proviso that the Church recognize and support the authority of the State(1).

Constantine fell more and more under the Christian influence until, in the year 330, he transferred the imperial court to Byzantium and changed its name to Constantinople, thereby founding the Christian capital of the empire in deliberate opposition to Rome where pagan traditions were still rife. In 391, under Theodosius, Christianity was adopted as the religion of the State.

The imperial power was therefore considered the Garantor of doctrinal orthodoxy and the Protector of the organized community of the believers in Christ.

(1) An extensive study ot the Roman Empire of the East has been made by GEORG STROGORSKY, Storia dell'lmpero bizantino, Torino 1968. 

Important Notice: Beyond this point in the study the Greek Antiochine Orthodox branch of the church is not covered. The author regrets not having this information and would welcome contributions from Orthodox scholars to make this study all inclusive of that larger part of the Melkite church in Orthodoxy.

The Patriarchate

Already in the 16th and 17th centuries, efforts toward a return to unity had been made by various Melkite Patriarchs of Antioch, now residing in Damascus where the See had been transferred in the 15th century after the destruction of Antioch by a violent earthquake.

Jesuit and Capuchin missionaries did everything they could to foster good will and, finally, in 1709, Patriarch Cyril V formally recognized the authority of the Pope.

One of his successors, Cyril VI Thanas ( 1724-1759) completed the work of unification, but a Greek monk, Sylvester, had himself nominated Patriarch by the Patriarchate of Constantinople, thereby forcing Cyril VI to flee from Damascus and take refuge in Lebanon.

Henceforth, events could only move in one direction. Although an orthodox Malachite Patriarchate remained in Antioch, a new "Greek-Melkite-Catholic" Patriarchate also grew up there which was linked to the Holy See of Peter.

The Pope granted the Patriarch of Antioch and all the East in communion with Rome the "ad personam" title of "Patriarch of Alexandria and Jerusalem".

On November 26, 1967, H.B. cardinal Maximos IV Sayegh, who distinguished himself by the enthusiasm and the content of his doctrinal intervention at the various sessions of the Vatican Council, was succeeded by the present Patriarch H.B. Maximos V, a man of broad outlook, whose sharp intellect is combined with great energy and strength of mind. H.B. Maximos V, due to his bad health, resigned of his many important responsabilities as head of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church.

The Holy Synod met at Raboueh, patriarchal residence in Lebanon, on 22 November 2000 to accept the resignation of the Patriarch. On 29 November 2000, the Holy Synod elected Archbishop Lutfi Patriarch of Antioch and all the East, of Alexandria and of of Jerusalem. He took the name of Gregorios III. The Greek name Gregory means the “vigilant”

Although to a lesser extent in the West, the dignity of the office of the Patriarch is always considered of the highest prestige everywhere in the East. The Pope himself is, however, the "Patriarch of the West". Of this there remains little evidence, such as the inscription "Patriarchium" in the marble of the Palace of Lateran, the Seat of the Bishop of Rome, indicating that this Seat, with its designation "Basilica patriarcalis", was always attributed to the Roman Basilicas of St. Peter's of St. John's of the Lateran, of St. Paul's outside the walls and St. Salary Major.

In almost all of the predominantly Islamic countries, or, more precisely, those which were previously part of the Ottoman Empire and still earlier part of the Roman Empire of the East --- Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, and Egypt(1) --- the Patriarch is recognized as the supreme civil and legal authority of the ecclesiastical community. In other words, the Statute accepted by the Ottoman rulers recognizing the Patriarch as the head of the "Nation of Catholic Pilgrims" (Roum Kâtholik milleti) remains in force. Without going into matters lying beyond the scope of this brief historical outline, the Patriarchate may be said to be an "international juridical entity". From the standpoint of internal ecclesiastical law, the Patriarch enjoys a broad canonical independence within the limits imposed by the relationship with the Holy See of Rome.

It is interesting to note that in religious ceremonies in Byzantine rites (2) the Patriarch is referred to as "Patriarch of the cities of Antioch, Alexandria and Jerusalem, of Cilicia, Syria, Iberia, Arabia Mesopotamia, Pentapolis, Ethiopia, of all of Egypt and the entire East, Father of Fathers, Pastor of Pastors, Bishop of Bishops, the Thirteenth of the Holy Apostles".

Patriarchal authority was discussed during the second Vatican Council, and steps were taken to settle the matter with the decree "Orientalium Ecclesiarum", that is to say, the question of the Catholic Church of the East. This Church is so little known to the people of the West today that many think that all the Eastern peoples are Moslems. The truth is that in this land, whence came the "good tidings" to us, there are many Christian Catholics, whose faith is extremely fervent despite the comparative poverty in which they live. The following quotation of Canon 9 of "Orientalium Ecclesiarum" is an indication of how the second Vatican Council considered it necessary to stress the extremely important role the Patriarchs have played in the Catholic Church and will continue to do so on an increasing scale in future.

"By virtue of a most ancient tradition of the Church, a special honor is due to the Patriarchs of the Churches of the East who, as Fathers and leaders, preside over their respective Patriarchates".

"This Holy Council thereby decrees the restoration of their rights and privileges, in conformity with the ancient traditions of each Church and the resolutions of the Ecumenical Councils. "These rights and privileges are those which were in effect during the period of unity between the East and the West, although they may require some modification in order to meet present day requirements" .

(1 Turkey is an exception because of the well known anti-religious restrictions imposed by President Kemal Ataturk as a result of "laicization" of the Republic of Turkey.

(2) Side by side with the term "Melchites", "Byzantine" was and is still used to designate the Christian communities of the East who have rejected heresy and hold the true faith. Members of the Greek-Catholic Church are also called a uniates.

 The Patriarchs

Patriarchs of Antioch and All the East *




      • Apostle Peter
      • Euodios
      • Ignatius
      • Eros
      • Cornelius
      • Eros II
      • Theophilos
      • Maximinos
      • Serapion
      • Asclepiads
      • Philetos
      • Zebinnos Ozniophios
      • Babylas
      • Fabios
      • Demetrianos
      • Amphilokhos
      • Paul of Samosota
      • Domnus
      • Timaeos
      • Cyrillus
      • Tyrannos
      • Vital
      • Philogonos
      • Paulinos
      • Eustathios
      • Paulinos
      • Eulalios
      • Euphronios
      • Flakillos
      • Stephen
      • Leontios
      • Eudoxios
      • Meletios 354
      • and in 373
      • Eudoxios
      • Annanios
      • Aphzoios
      • Dorotheos
      • Pazilios
      • Vitalios
      • Flavianos
      • Porphyry
      • Alexander
      • Theodotos
      • John
      • Domnus II
      • Maximos
      • Basil
      • Akakios
      • Martyrios
      • Peter Sabbagh
      • Julian
      • Peter Sabbagh II
      • John II
      • Stephen II
      • Stephen III
      • Kalendonion
      • John II
      • Palladios
      • Flavianos II
      • Severos
      • Paul II
      • Euphrates
      • Ephrem
      • Domnus III
      • Anastasios the Cincinnatian
      • Gregory
      • Anastasios the Cincinnatian II
      • Anastasios II
      • Gregory II
      • Anastasios III
      • Makedonios
      • Georges
      • Makarios
      • Theophanes
      • Sephastianos
      • Georges II
      • Alexander II
      • Stephen IV
      • Theophylakt
      • Theodore
      • Joh . IV
      • Job
      • Nicholas
      • Simeon
      • Elijah (Elias)
      • Theodosios
      • Nicholas II
      • Michael
      • Zechariahs
      • Georges III
      • Job II
      • Eustratios
      • Christopher
      • Theodore II
      • Agapios
      • John V
      • Nicholas III
      • Elijah (Elias) II
      • Georges Laskaris
      • Makarios (the Honest)
      • Alphtharios
      • Peter
      • John IV
      • Emilianos
      • Theodosios II
      • Nikephoros
      • John VII
      • Johm VIII
      • Ephthimos
      • Makarios II
      • Athanasios
      • Theodore III
      • Elijah (Elias) III
      • Christopher II
      • Theodore IV
      • Joachim
      • Dorotheos
      • Simeon II
      • Ephthimos II
      • Theodosios IV
      • Theodosios V
      • Arsenios
      • Dionysios
      • Marc
      • Ignatius II
      • Michael II
      • Pachomius
      • Nilos
      • Michael II
      • Pachomius II
      • Joachim II
      • Mark II
      • Dorotheos II
      • Michael IV
      • Mark III
      • Joachim III
      • Grogory III
      • Dorotheos III
      • Joachim IV
      • Michael V
      • Joachim V
      • Joachim VI
      • Dorotheos IV
      • Athanasios III
      • Cyrillus - the brother
      • Ignatius III, son of Atieh
      • Ephthimos III, son of Kermeh
      • Ephthimos IV - Sakzi
      • Makarios III, son of Zaim
      • Cyrillus III, son of Zaim
      • Newphietios Sakzi (Greek)
      • 45
      • 53
      • 68
      • 100
      • 127
      • 151
      • 169
      • 188
      • 192
      • 212
      • 220
      • 232
      • 240
      • 253
      • 256
      • 262
      • 267
      • 270
      • 273
      • 277
      • 299
      • 308
      • 314
      • 324
      • 325
      • 332
      • 332
      • 333
      • 334
      • 341
      • 345
      • 350
      • 362
      • 381
      • 354
      • 357
      • 360
      • 370
      • 371
      • 376
      • 381
      • 404
      • 408
      • 418
      • 427
      • 427
      • 450
      • 456
      • 459
      • 461
      • 465
      • 466
      • 474
      • 475
      • 490
      • 493
      • 495
      • 495
      • 497
      • 505
      • 513
      • 518
      • 521
      • 526
      • 546
      • 561
      • 571
      • 594
      • 599
      • 610
      • 620
      • 628
      • 640
      • 656
      • 681
      • 687
      • 690
      • 695
      • 742
      • 848
      • 767
      • 797
      • 810
      • 826
      • 843
      • 840
      • 852
      • 860
      • 879
      • 890
      • 902
      • 917
      • 938
      • 960
      • 966
      • 977
      • 995
      • 1000
      • 1003
      • 1010
      • 1015
      • 1023
      • 1028
      • 1051
      • 1062
      • 1075
      • 1084
      • 1090
      • 1155
      • 1159
      • 1164
      • 1166
      • 1182
      • 1182
      • 1184
      • 1185
      • 1199
      • 1219
      • 1245
      • 1260
      • 1269
      • 1276
      • 1285
      • 1293
      • 1308
      • 1342
      • 1353
      • 1386
      • 1393
      • 1401
      • 1410
      • 1411
      • 1426
      • 1436
      • 1454
      • 1462
      • 1476
      • 1483
      • 1511
      • 1524
      • 1555
      • 1567
      • 1568
      • 1585
      • 1617
      • 1617
      • 1635
      • 1635
      • 1647
      • 1674
      • 1688
      • 1720-1724
    Schism into Greek Orthodox and Greek Catholic (Melkite)

Greek Orthodox*

  • Selvestros the Cyprian
  • Philimon
  • Daniel
  • Anthimos
  • Seraphim
  • Methodios (from Naxos)
  • Erethios (from Ghanakhora)
  • Grasimos (from Mora)
  • Speredon (from Cyprus)
  • Meletios II (Doumani)
  • Gregory IV (Haddad)
  • Alexander III (Tahhan)
  • Theodosios VI (Abou Rjeili)
  • Elijah (Elias) IV (Mouawad)
  • Ignatius IV (Hazim)


  • 1724-1766
  • 1766-1767
  • 1767-1793
  • 1793-1813
  • 1813-1832
  • 1832-1850
  • 1850-1885
  • 1885-1891
  • 1891-1899
  • 1899-1906
  • 1906-1931
  • 1931-1958
  • 1958-1970
  • 1970-1979
  • 1979

Greek Catholic -- Melkite**

  • Cyrille Vl Tanas
  • AthanaseIV Jawhar
  • Maximos II Hakim
  • Théodose V Dahan
  • Athanase IV Jawhar
  • Cyrille Vll Siage
  • Agapios II Matar
  • Ignace IV Sarrouf
  • Athanase V Matar
  • Macaire IV Tawil
  • Ignace V Cattan
  • Maximos lIl Mazloum
  • Clément Bahous
  • Grégoire II Youssef-Sayour
  • Pierre IV Géraigiry
  • Cyrille Vl l l Geha
  • Dimitrios I Cadi
  • Cyrille IX Moghabghab
  • Maximos IV Saïgh
  • Maximos V Hakim
  • Gregory III Laham


  • 1724-1759
  • 1759-1760
  • 1760-1761
  • 1761-1788
  • 1788-1794
  • 1794-1796
  • 1796-1812
  • 1812-1812
  • 1813-1813
  • 1813-1815
  • 1816-1833
  • 1833-1855
  • 1856-1864
  • 1864-1897
  • 1898-1902
  • 1902-1916
  • 1919-1925
  • 1925-1947
  • 1947-1967
  • 1967-2000
  • 2000-

* Source: Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East (excluding **)

Line of succession of Antiochine Patriarchs was complied by the author of this site.

Reproduced without permission

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Additional references, sources and bibliography (Please don't write and ask me for references. You can find them at the end of article or in Bibliography)

Phoenicia, A Bequest Unearthed -- Phoenician Encyclopedia

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