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Syriac Catholic Church

Founder Apostle St. Peter Patriarch Michel Jarweh
Independence 1662
Recognition 1783 with the Roman Catholic Church
Primate Ignace Joseph III Younan
Headquarters Beirut, Lebanon
Territory Near-East
Possessions United States, Canada, France, Sweden, Venezuela, Brazil and Australia
Language Syriac, Arabic, French, English.[1]
Adherents 100,000+ worldwide; 20,000 in Iraq[2]
Website ?

The Syriac Catholic Church, or Syrian Catholic Church, is a Christian church in the Levant having practices and rites in common with the Syriac Orthodox Church. They are one of the Eastern Catholic Churches following the Antiochene rite, the Syriac tradition of Antioch, along with the Maronites and Syro-Malankara Christians. This is distinct from the Greek Byzantine rite of Antioch of the Melkites, both Orthodox and Catholic. Their head, the Syriac Catholic Patriarch of Antioch, lives in Beirut. They have a separate church organization from the Melkites, Maronites, and Chaldeans, which are other communities of the Levant in communion with Rome.

The Patriarch of Antioch of this church has the title of Patriarch of Antioch and all the East of the Syrians[3] and resides in Beirut, Lebanon.

In 2009, the newly-elected Patriarch Ignace Joseph III Younan became the head of the Syriac Catholic Church.


The Syriac Catholic Church belongs to the See of Antioch (which, prior to his departure to Rome, Saint Peter had established) and extends it roots back to the origins of Christianity in the Orient. And in the Acts of the Apostles we are told that it is in Antioch where the followers of Jesus for the first time were called "Christians" (Acts 11:26).

In the time of the first Ecumenical Councils, the Patriarch of Antioch held the ecclesiastical authority over the Diocese of the Orient, which was to be extended from the Mediterranean Sea to the Persian Gulf. Its scholarly mission in both languages: the Greek and Syriac was to provide the world and the Universal Church with eminent saints, scholars, hermits and pastors. Among these great people are Saint Ephrem (373), Doctor of the Church, Saint Jacob of Sarug (521) Dionysius Bar Salibi (1171) and Gregorius X Bar Hebraeus (1286).

In modern history the leaders of the Syriac Catholic Church have been among others: Patriarch Michael III Jarweh, Archbishop Clemens Daoud, Patriarch Ephrem Rahmani, Vicomte de Tarrazi, Monsignor Ishac Armaleh, Ignatius Gabriel I Tappouni, Chorbishop Gabriel Khoury-Sarkis, Ignace Antoine II Hayek, Ignace Moussa I Daoud,Ignace Pierre VIII Abdel-Ahad and presently Ignace Joseph III Younan

The Patriarch of Antioch and all the East of the Syrians presides upon the Patriarchal Eparchy of Beirut and leads spiritually all the Syriac Catholic Community around the world.

The community includes two archdioceses in Iraq, four in Syria, one in Egypt and Sudan, a Patriarchal Vicariate in the Holy Land, a Patriarchal Vicariate in Turkey and our Diocese of Our Lady of Deliverance in the United States and Canada.

The Syriac Rite is rooted in the old tradition of both the churches of Jerusalem and Antioch and has ties with the ancient Jewish Berakah and is usually called the Western Syriac Rite. The main Syriac Liturgy is called the "Anaphora of Saint James" (brother of the Lord).

Their ancient Semitic language is known as Aramaic (or "Syriac" after the time of Christ since the majority of people who spoke this language belonged to the province of "Syria"). It is the same language that was spoken by Jesus, Mary and the Apostles and is still the language used during the liturgy. Many of the ancient hymns of the Church are still maintained in this native tongue although several have been translated into Arabic, English, French and other languages to benefit the faithful.

Syriac is still spoken in some few communities in eastern Syria and northern Iraq, but for most, Arabic is the vernacular language.[1]

The Syriac Catholic Church was formally and officially united with Rome in 1781.

Our Lady of Deliverance Syriac Catholic Diocese in the United States and Canada has nine parishes; seven in the United States and two in Canada.

The formation of the Church

During the Crusades there were many examples of warm relations between Catholic and Syriac ("Syrian") Orthodox bishops. Some of these bishops seemed favourable to union with Rome, but no concrete results were achieved. There was also a decree of union between the Syriac Orthodox and Rome at the Council of Florence November 30, 1444 but the effects of this decree were rapidly annulled by opponents of the union among the Syriac hierarchy.

Jesuit and Capuchin missionaries began to work among the Syriac Orthodox faithful at Aleppo in 1626. So many of them were received into communion with Rome that in 1662, when the Patriarchate had fallen vacant, the Catholic party was able to elect one of its own, Andrew Akhidjan, as Patriarch of the Syriac Church. This provoked a split in the community, and after Akhidjan's death in 1677 two opposing patriarchs were elected, one being the uncle of the other, representing the two parties (one pro-Catholic, the other anti-Catholic). But when the Catholic Patriarch died in 1702, this very brief line of Catholic Patriarchs upon the Syriac Church's See of Antioch died out with him.

The Ottoman government supported the Syriac Orthodox's agitation against the Syriac Catholics, and throughout the 18th century the Syriac Catholics underwent suffering and much persecution. There were long periods when no Syriac Catholic bishops were functioning, and the community was forced to go entirely underground.

In 1782 the Syriac Orthodox Holy Synod elected Metropolitan Michael Jarweh of Aleppo as Patriarch. Shortly after he was enthroned, he declared himself Catholic and in unity with the Pope of Rome. After this declaration Jarweh took refuge in Lebanon and built the still-extant monastery of Our Lady at Sharfeh. Since Jaroueh there has been an unbroken succession of Syriac Catholic Patriarchs.

In 1829 the Turkish government granted legal recognition to the Syriac Catholic Church, and the residence of the Patriarch was established at Aleppo in 1831. Catholic missionary activity resumed. Because the Christian community at Aleppo had been severely persecuted, the Patriarchate was moved to Mardin (now in southeast Turkey) in 1850.

The steady Syriac Catholic expansion at the expense of the Syriac Orthodox was ended by the persecutions and massacres that took place during World War I (Assyrian genocide). More than half of the 75,000 Syriac Catholics were massacred by Turkish nationalists (especially so-called Young Turks). In the early 1920s the Catholic Patriarchal residence was therefore moved to Beirut, to which many Syriac Catholics had fled from Turkish and intra-Syria terror.

The Syriac Catholic Patriarch always takes the name "Ignatius" in addition to another name. Although Syriac Catholic priests were bound to celibacy by the Syriac Catholic local Synod of Sharfeh in 1888, there are now a number of married priests. A patriarchal seminary and printing house are located at Sharfeh Monastery in Lebanon.


The Syriac Catholic Church uses the West Syrian Rite.


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Particular churches sui iuris

of the Catholic Church

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Roman cross and Byzantine Patriarchal cross
Particular churches are grouped by rite.
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Alexandrian Rite
Coptic · Ethiopian · Eritrean
Armenian Rite
West Syriac Rite
Maronite · Syro-Malankara · Syriac
East Syriac Rite
Chaldean · Syro-Malabar


  • Patriarchal Archeparchy of Beirut
  • Metropolitan of Damascus
  • Metropolitan of Homs
  • Archeparchy of Aleppo
  • Archeparchy of Hassaké and Nisibi
  • Archeparchy of Baghdad and Kuwait
  • Archeparchy of Mosul
  • Eparchy of Cairo
  • Patriarchal Exarchate of Bassorah and Kuwait
  • Patriarchal Exarchate of Jerusalem and the Holy Land
  • Patriarchal Exarchate of Turkey
  • Patriarchal Territory of Sudan

Rest of the World

  • Eparchy of Our Lady of Deliverance of Newark (United States and Canada)
  • Apostolic Exarchate of Venezuela
  • Patriarchal Vicariate of Brazil
  • Patriarchal Vicariate of Australia and New Zealand
  • Patriarchal Vicariate of Sweden
  • Patriarchal Vicariate of France
  • Patriarchal Procurate vis-a-vis the Holy See in Rome

See also


  • Claude Sélis, Les Syriens orthodoxes et catholiques, Brepols (col. Fils d'Abraham), Bruxelles, 1988, OCLC 20711473
  • Jean-Pierre Valognes, Vie et mort des Chrétiens d'Orient, Fayard, Paris, 1994, ISBN 2-213-03064-2


  1. 1.0 1.1 Syrian Catholic Church
  2. World Christian Encyclopedia, edited by David B. Barrett, and published by Oxford Press, Oxford, New York, 1982 [1]
  3. The title of Patriarch of Antioch is also claimed by four other churches.

External links

Eparchies, Churches and Monasteries