The Evolution of the See of Antioch into Patriarchate(s)
by Chorbishop John D. Faris
The Old City Wall of Damascus near where traditon holds Paul escaped in a basket
Patriarchal status. Because of the prominence of Antioch, it was natural that the bishops of the Roman provinces surrounding it (collectively known as the “East”) gravitated toward the city and looked to its bishop for guidance. In 325, the Ecumenical Council of Nicaea I (canon 6) declared that it was already an ancient custom for the bishops of Antioch to exercise a certain jurisdiction over the other bishops of the region.
This arrangement was reaffirmed in canon 2 of the Council of Constantinople in 381. The Council of Ephesus also addressed the status of Antioch in 431, which declared the bishops of Cyprus to be emancipated from the bishop of Antioch.
Similarly, the Council of Chalcedon in 451 emancipated the bishop of Jerusalem from the bishop of Antioch and assigned the 58 bishoprics in the provinces of Palestine to him.
Concelebrated Mass in Melkite Chapel of St. Paul at the Wall, Damascus
The title assigned to the bishop of Antioch was patriarch, a term that might be strange to Western Christians although it is quite familiar to the Eastern Christian world. The word patriarch is of Greek origin and was used in the Bible and early church to designate prominent members of a society. After Christianity had acquired public recognition in the fourth century, the title patriarch was employed as a sign of respect to various bishops who enjoyed a certain superiority, either because of their personal prestige or pre-eminence or the importance of the local church over which they presided.
By the sixth century, the title of patriarch came to be reserved to the bishops of the five principal sees in the Christian world: Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem. All five sees claimed some connection to Peter and his ministry.
Dismemberment of the patriarchate. The evolution of the Patriarchate of Antioch can most aptly be described as “dismemberment,” resulting in numerous claimants to this title.
The first division took place as a consequence of the condemnation of Nestorius at Ephesus in 431. The supporters of Nestorius fled the Roman Empire for Persia, eventually declared themselves to be independent of Antioch and established a patriarchate in Seleucia, later Baghdad. Today this community of 400,000 is known as the Assyrian Church of the East, whose head, Mar Dinkha IV, bears the title of Catholicos-Patriarch.
The condemnation of Monophysitism at the Council of Chalcedon resulted in further dismemberment of the Antiochene patriarchate. The Christians of the countryside generally rejected the council and came to be known as Jacobites, after Jacob Baradai, a bishop who ordained numerous bishops. Those who adhered to the doctrine of the council lived in the metropolitan areas and were closely aligned with the imperial court at Constantinople. For this reason, they called themselves Melkites from the Syriac malek, or king. From the middle of the sixth century, both factions fought over the patriarchate.
The successors of the Jacobites, today known as the Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch, with its 500,000 faithful, are governed by Patriarch Ignatius Zakka I, who resides in Damascus, Syria.
Because of the Arab invasions in the middle of the seventh century, the Melkite patriarch fled to Constantinople. In 960, the Byzantines recaptured the region and re-established the Melkite patriarch in Antioch. Because of their close bonds with Constantinople, the Melkites of Antioch gradually abandoned Antiochene rites in favor of Byzantine rites. The same close bonds between Constantinople and Antioch meant that when Constantinople and Rome excommunicated each other in 1054, Antioch followed.
At the end of the 11th century, the Crusaders conquered Antioch and, at first, reinstated the Melkite Orthodox Patriarch, John IV, to the see. However, he soon withdrew to Constantinople. The Latin Christians then elected their own patriarch; there was a Latin patriarch in Antioch until the Mamluks conquered the city in 1268.
The popes continued to appoint titular, or honorary, Latin patriarchs of Antioch until the middle of the 20th century. Pope Paul VI later abolished the practice.
When the Latin Kingdom fell, the Melkite Orthodox patriarch returned to Antioch, but transferred his see to Damascus in the next century because Antioch had declined under Turkish rule. Today, the Melkite successor, the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch, Ignatius IV, governs a church with approximately 750,000 faithful.
This multiplication of titleholders does not yet end. During the first half of the seventh century, the Arabs had not recognized any Melkite patriarch. In order to fill the void, the monks of the Monastery of St. Maron elected their own patriarch. The Maronite Patriarch of Antioch, Nasrallah Peter Cardinal Sfeir, today resides in Bkerke (a suburb of Beirut, Lebanon) and heads a church of four million followers.
In the 17th century, through the efforts of Latin Catholics, members of the Melkite Orthodox community embraced full communion with Rome. Eventually, it became difficult to differentiate between Catholic and Orthodox Melkites; members from both communities were elevated to the episcopate.
In 1724, Cyril VI, a Catholic, was elected as the Melkite Patriarch of Antioch by Melkites, Orthodox and Catholic. Although he had been elected with the intention of being the patriarch for all Melkites, Orthodox rivals were soon elected.
Rome was at first reluctant to recognize Cyril as the Catholic titleholder to Antioch, but eventually did so in 1729. In 1772, the authority of the Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarch of Antioch was extended over the Greek Catholics residing in Jerusalem and Alexandria. Today, Gregory III, who was elected in 2000, governs the Melkite Greek Catholic Church. He resides in Damascus.
Outside the house of St. Ananias, who baptized Saul/Paul, Damascus, Syria
Some attribute the establishment of the Syriac Catholic Antiochene Patriarchate to the elevation in 1662 of Andrew Akhidjan, who had been ordained a bishop by the Maronite patriarch in 1656. Akhidjan’s death in 1677 brought an end to the Syriac Catholic Patriarchate. The enthronement of Syriac Catholic Michael Jarweh in 1782 re-established this patriarchate. Today, Ignatius Peter VIII governs the Syriac Catholic Church, with its 138,000 faithful. The previous Syriac Catholic patriarch, Ignace Moussa I Cardinal Daoud, is today the Prefect of the Congregation for the Eastern Churches.
Presently, there are five titleholders to the See of Antioch: one is Syriac Orthodox, one is Greek Orthodox and three are Catholic. While all take pride in the title “Patriarch of Antioch,” it is ironic that none resides in the city from which the title is drawn.
Reunification movements. The wounds of division caused by the dismemberment (and the consequent multiplication of titleholders) of the Patriarchate of Antioch have not yet healed. Yet, there are signs of hope. One of the great legacies of Vatican II is the ecumenical movement, the desire that all those baptized in Christ be one.
Quite often the ecumenical movement is understood as a dialogue between the Church of Rome and the various Orthodox churches. Such dialogues are attempts at establishing full communion between the Church of Rome and one of the Eastern non-Catholic churches. However, ecumenical dialogue also takes place in the form of a dialogue among the Eastern churches themselves.
This form of dialogue is a manifestation of the desire to reintegrate the patriarchate itself. For example, a few years ago the synods of the Melkite Greek Catholic and the Greek Orthodox Church of Antioch signed an accord. Although this effort met with serious objections, the fact that it was even attempted reveals the desire of the Antiochene churches for full communion.
Another more practical example of the pursuit for full communion is the construction of the Church of St. Paul at Doummar, near Damascus. This parish church, built with financial help from CNEWA, serves as a place of worship for both the Melkite and Orthodox communities.
The glories of imperial Antioch have long since faded. The faith of Peter’s spiritual descendants, however, has not.
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Annual Knights of Columbus Dinner Held April 17 in Vanier
The Head Table at the KofC Archbishop's Dinner, Vanier, April 17, 2010
On Saturday evening, the Archdiocesan KofC held their spring dinner in which, by tradition, they present the Archbishop of Ottawa with a donation for his charitable works. Well over 300 Knights, Ladies, Deacons and Priests were in attendance, especially as the Knights wished to honour the priests who serve them so devotedly. A wonderful evening, at the close of which, besides a cheque, the Knights presented me with a white chasuble and stole.
The new KofC chasuble
Some additional photos courtesy of Paul Lauzon:
Hamming it up with Father Tim Devine, CC
Greeting the KofC membership, guests
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This evening at 7:30 PM, I will preside at a memorial Mass at Notre Dame Cathedral Basilica, Sussex Drive, for the President of Poland Lech Kaczynski who was killed in a plane tragedy along with the First Lady Maria Kaczynska, many senior state officials, members of the Polish delegation and the plane crew.
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Tomorrow morning, April 21 at 10am at St. Patrick's Basilica, I will preside at the concelebrated Funeral Liturgy for Father Gerald Gahagan.