The Orthodox & Catholic Byzantine Church of the East
Byzantine Church of the Apostolic Sees of Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem
by Mgr. Joseph Nasrallah [concise history]
Imperial Church — Court Church of Constantinople
[Consice] History of The Melkites
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.
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 Phoenicia.org
Source: Doctorate thesis of Mgr. Ignatius Abdalla Rahib, ex-Superior Abbot of the St. Basil Order of Aleppo, Sarba, Lebanon.
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
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
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.
Nasrallah, Patriarcal Exarque, Paris
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
(1) cf. rise Holy
(2) GLANVIllE DOWNEY,
A History of Antioch in Syria, Princeton, 1961, with an extensive bibliography.
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 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
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
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.
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
(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
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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".
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
(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
Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East (excluding **)
Line of succession
of Antiochine Patriarchs was complied by the author of this site.
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