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Christianity / Orientations / Roman Catholic / Eastern Rite /
Syrian Catholic Church



Deir Mar Musa al-Habashi monastery north of Damasus, Syria.
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Deir Mar Musa al-Habashi monastery north of Damascus, Syria. Photo: James Gordon.

Syrian Catholics by country
Last column: % Syrian Catholics of the population
Egypt 2,000 <0.1%
Iraq 100,000 0.4%
Israel 11,000 0.2%
Jordan 10,000 0.1%
Kuwait 1,000 <0.1%
Lebanon 25,000 0.8%
Syria 30,000 0.2%
Total *) 180,000 0.04%
Other countries 30,000

*) Calculated for the total population of North Africa and the Middle East, approx. 460,000,000.

His Beatitude Patriarch Ignace Antoine 2 Hayek, who retired in 1998.
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His Beatitude Patriarch Ignace Antoine 2 Hayek, who retired in 1998.

Syrian Catholic Church, in Basra, Iraq.
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Syrian Catholic Church, in Basra, Iraq.

Syrian Catholic church in Aleppo, Syria.
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Syrian Catholic church in Aleppo, Syria. Photo: Chris Hill.

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Mass in another Syrian Catholic church in Aleppo, Syria. Photo: zz77.

Syrian Catholic Church, in Baghdad, Iraq.
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Syrian Catholic church, in Baghdad, Iraq.

Semi-autonomous Christian church, which is affiliated to the Roman Catholic Church through the Eastern Rite. By this, the Syrian branch is allowed to retain its customs and rites, even when these differ from the traditions of the Roman church.
They follow the liturgy of St. James, which even today is performed in Syriac. Syriac is still spoken in some few communities in eastern Syria and northern Iraq, but for most, Arabic is the vernacular language.
The official centre of their church is Antakya, Turkey, but the Patriarch has not been there for centuries, when he moved between several cities in Syria and Lebanon. Today, he has his headquarters in Beirut, Lebanon. The Patriarch always takes the name "Ignatius" added to his other names.
Despite its name, the Syrian Catholic Church is today strongest in Iraq and Lebanon.
Many Syrian Catholic priests are today married, even if they legally are bound to celibacy since 1888.

History
13th century: Attempts from the Catholic Church to make a reconciliation with the Syrian Orthodox Church.
1626: Jesuit and Capuchin missionaries start working from Aleppo.
1662: Many Syrian Christians receive the communion with Rome.
1667: Two opposing Patriarchs are elected, resulting in the effective break of the Syrian Church. One group becomes affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church, and accepts the Pope in Rome as the highest authority. The other part continues as an independent church.
18th century: The Syrian Catholics suffers from much persecution from the Ottoman rulers, as they considered the Syrian Orthodox to be the true Syrian Christians.
1782: The office of the Syrian Catholic Patriarch of Antioch is formalized, after Patriarch Micheal Jarweh took refuge in Lebanon.
1829: The Syrian Catholic Church receives legal recognition inside the Ottoman Empire.
1831: The residence of the Patriarch is established in Aleppo.
1850: Facing hardship from the locals in Aleppo, the patriarch's headquarters are moved to Mardin (modern Turkey).
1920's: The Patriarch moves the headquarters to Beirut, Lebanon.
2001: Ignatius Peter 7 is elected Patriarch.




By Tore Kjeilen