Phoenician Church was one of the most ancient or the original churches
which came into being during the Apostolic Age. Early Church Fathers and
scholars left written accounts of the valiant spirit which early Phoenician
Christians maintained in their new faith. At the beginning of Christ's
ministry, and later during the beginning of Apostolic evangelization,
the new faith was reserved for the Jews. Nevertheless, Phoenicians of
all walks of life accepted the new faith and the Church recognized them
as valid Christians particular after the first council of Jerusalem.
Phoenician Bishops Consecrated by the Apostles
Among the earliest
records which indicate that Bishops of Phoenicia where consecrated very
early in the Christian era is the following record by Pope St. Clement
I (88-89 A.D.) disciple of St Peter. He indicates that St. Peter
appointed John Mark Bishop of Byblos and also designated a Bishop for
Although the Christian
communities in Phoenician cities, during the first 3 centuries of the
Christian Era, paganism remained preponderant until Constantine the Great
(306-337 A.D.). During these 3 centuries, the Christian Church became
radiant with many saints and martyrs.
For example, Saints Perpetua and
Felicity (martyred in 203 A.D.), Christina of Tyre (martyred in 300
A.D.), Theodosia of Tyre, Aquilina of Byblos (martyred in 293 A.D.), Barbara
of Baalbeck Heliopolis (martyred in 237 A.D.).
must not fail to mention that one of the first gentiles to believe in
Jesus was a Canaanite woman from Sidon; and out of Tyre
came a major saint and icon of the church, Phoenician
Saint Frumentius, Apostle of Abyssinia and
Bishop of Axum who brought the gospel to modern day Ethiopia.
as Emperors with Phoenician origins ruled the wide Roman Empire in its
glory and majesty, so the historians tell us that religious leaders with
Phoenician lineage occupied the highest ranks in the Catholic Church,
and have assumed the highest responsability in the Church - The Holy See.
They have ruled the universal church from the Vatican.
have spoken of the first Pope from the Middle East: Anicitus, who lived
in the second century. Five others in the seventh and eight centuries.
Holiness Pope Anicitus (155-166 )
the death of His Holiness Pope St. Pius I., 155, the high leaders met
in the capital of the Catholic Church, and after having consulted the
clergy and the people, they appointed (elected) a successor, a Bishop
of Phoenician-Lebanese birth. He was very well known in Rome, where he
lived the longest part of his life.
Holiness, who is known by the name of Anicitus I, was famous for his hermit
lifestyle, his humility, and his love for a simple, poor life. He was
the first who taught the priests to cut their hair and wear long black
robes. It was he who forbid the clergy to wear flashy, colorful clothing,
allowing such dress only in religious celebrations.
the time of his papacy, St. Policarpus, the Bishop of Smyrna, traveled
to Rome for discussions with the Pope concerning differences of opinion
between the various Christian groups. One of the most important issues
being the set up of a common date for the celebration of Easter; at the
Eastern and Western Church. But agreement was not reached.
years later, His Holiness Pope Victor I (189-199), tried to solve this
case. Neither could he reach a positive solution.
The uniting of Easter celebrations was not reached
during the second century. Since that time and until today. Christ�s Church
celebrates the resurrection twice each year (mostly).
History tells that
Pope Anicete I decided that the feast of Easter should be a Sunday.
agreed on the Word of God and disagreed on the words of men. Their bells
do not ring on one celebration day. The Messiah dies in one denomination
and is resurrected in another. While one weeps remembering His death,
the other celebrates His resurrection.
most of the years, the difference between the Easter of those who are
called �Western� and those who are called �Eastern� is a week, or two,
or three, or even four; as occurred this year. It is indeed a rare occasion
when Easter falls on the same day for both the Western and Eastern Churches.
time has come for us to get rid of an unclear astrological calculation
which is based on the appearance of the moon after the beginning of spring,
which has caused seemingly eternal differences. It is now time to unanimously
appoint and agree on a firmly based glorious Easter. It is best if it
be in the month of April.
the reign of the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius, His Holiness Pope Anicitus
was martyred (in the year 166). His body was transported, through many
churches. In the year 1617 it stopped and it remained in a gold covered,
marble coffin, in Rome. This coffin, had previously been used to keep
the late Emperor Alexander Severus who was also of Phoenician origin.
On the seventeenth day of April, each year, the church remembers Saint
John V was born in Antioch which in antiquity was part of Phoenicia
Maritima around the year 630. He later moved to Rome where he lived for
most of his life.
the year 680, His Holiness the Pope Aghato sent him (John V) to be his
personal representative in the Sixth Universal Council which is the Third
Council of Constantinople called for by the Emperor Constantine IV. He
had a special role in this Council. Because of it, his reputation grew
in the East and West as a deep thinker and theologian.
five years, on the 23rd July 685, His Holiness Pope Benedictus II was
succeeded by His Holiness Pope John V to Saint Peter�s throne.
must reorganizes achievements are inclusion of the churches of Sardinia
into the sphere of the main church of Rome.
During his short reign, which only lasted a year,
Emperor Constantine the Great died succeeded by his son Justinian II,
who was a fierce enemy of the rebels (Marada) and also of Saint John Maroun,
the first Patriarch of the Maronite Church.
V, died on the 1st of August 686.
Sergius I (687-701)
the death of His Holiness the Pope John V, the papacy passed to Saint
Sergius I in 687.
was born in the year 620, in Palermo, from a Phoenician family that had
migrated from the East. He became very famous in Rome, where he was educated
and where he taught in higher learning academies, before he was elected
to the highest rank in the Church.
election to the papacy took place in the midst of violent troubles in
the Church. Two �fake� popes aspired to arrive at the papacy by illegal
means. One of them being Theodorus, who backed up and submitted after
a short period of time. The second was Pascal, who showed great stubbornness
and was accused of practicing occult and magic. He was imprisoned in a
convent where he died five years later, without reconciling with the Church.
papal authority at the end of the seventh century grew and prospered greatly
at the expense of the authority of the Emperor Ravenne, who�s power declined
gradually. His Holiness was the first to establish the earthly authority
of the papacy.
Diehl said in this respect: �From all the Byzantine East, and Italian
cities, and the Mediterranean island and from Africa itself, the people
turned to the Archbishop of Rome for refuge and protection... Among the
representatives of the Emperor and Pope, their choice was known beforehand...
In the seventh century, Rome did not know a master with full authority
but the Pope�.
reality did not please the Emperor Justinian II. So, he called for a Council
to be held in the year 691-692 in his castle in Constantinople. 208 Eastern
Bishops took part in the Council - neither the Western Bishops nor the
Pope were allowed to attend. The participants of the council considered
it the continuation and conclusion of the Sixth Universal Council. Historians
named it The Foreign Council of Constantinople..
Holiness Pope Sergius did not hesitate, not even for a second, to go against
the decisions taken by The Foreign Council of Constantinople. He then
forbade any mention of it and declared it annulled. He preferred death
rathen than surrender to it.
angered the Emperor, who was known for his harshness, pride, and arrogance.
Justinian II ordered Ravenne to go to Rome to capture the Pope and bring
him as a prisoner to Constantinople.
moment Justinian�s actions became public, the people were agitated. The
army, and even the platoon that Ravenne was heading, defected and joined
the cause of the defenders of His Holiness the Pope. Ravenne feared for
his life. He tearfully repented and begged the Pope for forgiveness and
protection. Pope Sergius protected him in bis own room and allowed him
to travel to Constantinople safely and easily.
the people hated the Emperor Justinian II for his iron fist and his many
evils. For this reason a revolution erupted. It led to his fall from the
throne. Exile was his fate, his nose was amputated in the year 695.
year prior to this incident, Justinian II went into violent war with Saint
John Maroun, the First Patriarch of the Maronite Church.
for His Holiness the Pope Saint Sergius I, he had doctrinal disagreements
with the Emperor and completely understood the situation of the Eastern
Churches, as he was of Phoenician descent. It was probably through the
representative of the Pope in Jordan that John Maroun was elected as the
first Maronite Patriarch over Antioch.
stand of the Pope Sergius inspired one of his successors, Pope Benedictus
XIV, to say: �At the end of the seventh century, while the heresy was
saddening the Patriarchy of Antioch, the Maronites, to protect themselves,
decided to choose a patriarch approved by Their Holinessess�.
originally Phoenician Pope, like other Easterners, also became famous
for his spreading of the cult of the Virgin Mary. He ordered great festivities
in her honor, for example The Celebration of the Day of Annunciation,
the Birth of the Virgin, and Her Ascension in Flesh and Spirit to Heaven.
This worship was not yet a doctrine of the faith.
an abundant life full of good deeds, God took him on the seventh of September
in the year 701. Later, he was canonized and his feast was set on the
ninth of September.
Holiness Pope Sisinius (708)
Holiness Pope John VII passed away to a better life on the 17th of October
707. About three months later Pope Sisinius born in Tyr (Lebanon) was
elected (18th of January 708).
priority of this old and ailing Pope was the fortification of Rome. Its
walls were on the verge of tumbling down due to repeated Barbarian attacks.
In the month of February, however, death surprised him quickly, before
he could complete his important project; while he was at the beginning
of his restoration project.
Holiness Pope Constantine I (708-715)
His Holiness the Pope Constantine I was born in Tyre, as was his
predecessor. He took hold of his Apostolic mission in the month of March
of the year 708. He completed what the Pope Sisinius had started in the
restoration of the walls of Rome. He then concentrated especially on the
religious and theological subjects and condemned the doctrine that claimed
that Christ had one nature which is inadmissible to the belief of the
tell us that Justinian II, the number-one enemy of the Maronites, after
ten years of exile, with the help of the Bulgarian people, returned to
Constantinople and took back the power - reflecting his harsh totalitarianism
insisted on meeting Pope Constantine I in Constantinople to discuss the
last Council of Constantinople, of which the Pope Sergius I had refuted
the decisions taken.
some hesitation, the Pope left Rome toward the capital of the Empire on
the 5th of October of the year 71. He was received in every city he passed
through with all honor and hospitality. This arrival to Constantinople
was comparable to a great victory.
Holiness Pope Constantine was able to convince Justinian II to modify
some of the decisions taken at the Council. About a year later, His Holiness
the Pope returned to his base safe, strong, and victorious.
after his return, the Emperor attempted to go back on the modifications
that had been agreed upon. But he did not find support from the Clergy
and the people. Moreover, those responsible in the army did not allow
enough time for this arrogant king to proceed. They revolted against him
and killed him in 717.
for the pope Constantine I, he died on the ninth of April of 715 and was
buried in Saint Peter�s Cathedral in the Vatican.
Holiness the Pope Gregorius III (731-741)
After the death of His Holiness Pope Gregorius II in the year 731,
the people chose as his successor a bishop of Phoenician decent. He took
the name of Gregorius III. As for the Roman authorities they simply accepted
the people�s choice . The people called him: �The friend of the poor and
miserable�. His qualities and high culture made him famous even before
his accession to Peter�s throne.
Gregorius III started his work as the Head of the
Church by cultivating his relationships with the religious and civil leaders.
He sent his endorsement to the bishop Saint Bonifacius and asked of him
to form new bishoprics in Germany. These bishoprics did not move to the
authority of the Roman apostolic throne before the year 1000.
pope called for a Council in Saint Peter�s Cathedral in the Vatican. 193
bishops attended. They upheld an opposite position to that of the Byzantine
Emperor Leon III who had ordered the destruction of all the icons and
images. Of the most important decisions taken were that whoever disfigures
the image of Christ, that of his mother the Virgin Mary, or that of the
Saints and Apostles would be excommunicated.
the Pope�s representative was on his way to Constantinople to hand the
Emperor the decisions taken by the Council, he was arrested and imprisoned
by the Byzantine army, as were the other representatives of the Pope,
in different Italian cities, where they were sent to publish the decisions
taken by the Council.
Emperor�s negative position toward the icons and religious images and
those who made and distributed them provoked the emigration of the artists
to Rome. That is how the Byzantine Eastern art was transported to the
west and especially to the capital of Catholicism where it received strong
encouragement from the Pope and the church authorities.
Emperor Leon III tried to minimize the authority of the Pope and take
over the properties of the Church in the cities of Sicily, Calabria, and
others. For that purpose he sent a navy to declare war on the cities that
still refused his authority. He then spread the authority of the Patriarch
of Constantinople to all the provinces of the south of Italy, only leaving
the Northern provinces to the Pope. And even that, the Lombardians attacked.
this point the Pope sought help from Charles Martel, the King of France.
Papal possessions were placed under the protection of the French, and
he was asked to recover Italy. The King of France, after his victory over
the Arabs at Poitiers, in a battle that eternalized his name, sent a message
to the Pope Gregorius telling him of the victory of the Christian army.
He also wanted to make it clear to all of Gregorius�s enemies � among
them Leon III - that he, Charles Martel, was the son of Christianity and
its protector, and that he would not allow any humiliation, not even the
slightest, against the representative of Christ on Earth.
of the kings of the West respected this new force, which started to grow
with God�s help, according to the understanding of the European people
of that time.
the year 739, His Holiness the Pope Gregorius III tried to get strong
and firm support from the French King against the nations striving to
get hold of the possessions of Papal dominion. He named the French leader
� The Righteous Christian King� and sent him the keys to the apostles
grave. This present had important symbolic significance.
for Charles Martel, he did not reply with a direct support, but he planted
the idea of a covenant between the papacy and the French rule. He let
this idea grow gradually in the hearts and minds.
the days of the pope with Phoenician decent, the king of the Saxons went
on a pilgrimage to Rome. When he returned to his country he established
a yearly tax which he called �Saint Peter�s Dinar�. This tax remains to
this day, and the bishoprics pay it to His Holiness the Pope to be used
as charity where needed.
Holiness Pope Gregorius passed away on the 27th of November of the year
741 after being at the head of Christ�s Church for ten years, nine months
and twelve days, in difficult times and during complex international changes.
He was later canonized. The church celebrates in his honor on the 28th
of November. It is written about him in the books of the Roman Popes:
�He would add to wisdom the knowledge of the holy books and he was an
outspoken preacher and an eloquent speaker.
- Father Emile Eddeh,
The Catholic Center of Information.
- The Catholic Encyclopaedia