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Syriac Catholic Church


Syriac Catholic Church

Syriac Catholic Church
Founder Traces ultimate origins to Apostle St. Peter. Patriarchs Ignatius Andrew Akijan (1662) and Ignatius Michael III Jarweh (1782)
Independence Apostolic Era
Recognition 1662 with the Catholic Church
Primate Patriarch of Antioch and all the East of the Syrians Ignatius Joseph III Yonan
Headquarters Beirut, Lebanon
Territory Near-East
Possessions Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Turkey, United States, Canada, France, Sweden, Venezuela, Brazil and Australia
Language Syriac, Aramaic[1]
Members 158,000[2]
Website (Arabic)

The Syriac Catholic Church (Classical Syriac: ܥܕܬܐ ܣܘܪܝܝܬܐ ܩܬܘܠܝܩܝܬܐ ʿīṯo suryaiṯo qaṯolīqaiṯo) is a Christian church in the Levant having practices and rites in common with the Syriac Orthodox Church. Being one of the 23 Eastern Catholic Churches the Syriac Catholic Church has full autonomy and is a self-governed sui iuris Church.

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.

Mor Ignatius Joseph III Younan became patriarch in 2009.


  • History 1
    • Until 600 CE 1.1
    • Since the Crusades 1.2
  • Organisation 2
    • Leadership 2.1
    • Jurisdiction 2.2
    • Current hierarchy 2.3
  • Liturgy 3
    • Distinction between the Anaphora and the Liturgy 3.1
    • Fans 3.2
    • Thurible 3.3
    • Symbols 3.4
    • Liturgy of the Hours 3.5
    • Liturgical ranking 3.6
      • Major Orders 3.6.1
      • Minor Orders 3.6.2
    • Language 3.7
  • Martyrs 4
    • Syriac Catholics in Iraq 4.1
  • See also 5
  • Bibliography 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8
    • Syrian Religious Relations and the Roman Catholic Church 8.1
    • Eparchies, Churches and Monasteries 8.2


Until 600 CE

Seat of the Syriac Catholic Church in Damascus

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, martyrs and pastors. Among these great people are Saint Ephrem (373), Doctor of the Church, and Saint Jacob of Sarug (521).

Since the Crusades

Eminent Syriac saints, scholars, hermits, martyrs and pastors since 1100 include Dionysius Bar Salibi (1171), Gregorius X Bar Hebraeus (1286) and more recently Bishop Mor Flavianus Michael Malke.

During the Crusades there were many examples of warm relations between Catholic and Syriac 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 Akijan, as Patriarch of the Syriac Church. This provoked a split in the community, and after Akijan’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 Jarweh there has been an unbroken succession of Syriac Catholic Patriarchs.

In 1829 the Ottoman government granted legal recognition to the Armenian Catholic Church, and in 1845 the Syriac Catholic Church was granted its own civil emancipation. Meanwhile, the residence of the Patriarch was shifted to Aleppo in 1831. However, after the riots in 1850, the Patriarchal See was shifted again to Mardin in 1854.

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). In that context, the Syriac Catholic Patriarchal See was therefore moved to Beirut, to which many Ottoman Christians had fled from massacres.

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.



As of 2013 the Patriarch was Moran Mor Ignatius Joseph III Younan, resident in Beirut, Lebanon

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 Tappuni, Chorbishop Gabriel Khoury-Sarkis, Ignatius Antony II Hayyek, Ignatius Moses I Daoud, Ignatius Peter VIII Abdalahad, and Ignatius Joseph III Yonan.

The Syriac Church leadership has produced a variety of scholarly writings in a variety of topics. For example, Patriarch Ephrem Rahmani was widely praised for his work in Syriac and is responsible for Pope Benedict XV recognising Saint Ephrem as a Doctor of the Church.[4] Likewise Patriarch Ignatius Behnam II Beni is known for imploring eastern theology to defend the Primacy of Rome.[5]

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 Israel, a Patriarchal Vicariate in Turkey and the Eparchy of Our Lady of Deliverance in the United States and Canada.


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

Current hierarchy

  • Moran Mor Ignatius Joseph III Younan (Patriarch of Antioch)
  • Jihad Mtanos Battah (Curial Bishop of Antioch and Titular Bishop of Phaena)
  • Basile Georges Casmoussa (Archbishop {personal title} and Curial Bishop of Antioch)
  • Flavien Joseph Melki (Curial Bishop of Antioch and Titular Archbishop of Dara dei Siri)
  • Jules Mikhael Al-Jamil (Auxiliary Bishop of Antioch and Titular Archbishop of Tagritum)
  • Gregorios Elias Tabé (Archbishop of Damascus)
  • Théophile Georges Kassab (Archbishop of Homs; deceased)
  • Denys Antoine Chahda (Archbishop of Aleppo)
  • Jacques Behnan Hindo (Archbishop of Hassaké-Nisibi)
  • Youhanna Boutros Moshe (Archbishop of Mossul)
  • Ephrem Yousif Abba Mansoor (Archbishop of Baghdad)
  • Athanase Matti Shaba Matoka (Archbishop Emeritus of Baghdad)
  • Clément-Joseph Hannouche (Bishop of Cairo)
  • Yousif Benham Habash (Bishop of Our Lady of Deliverance of Newark)
  • Timoteo Hikmat Beylouni (Apostolic Exarch of Venezuela and Titular Bishop of Sabrata)
  • Iwannis Louis Awad (Apostolic Exarch Emeritus of Venezuela and Titular Bishop of Zeugma in Syria)
  • Michael Berbari (Patriarchal Vicar of Australia and New Zealand)

As of 2010 the Church was estimated to have 159,000 faithful, 10 bishops, 85 parishes, 106 secular priests, 12 religious-order priests, 102 men and women in religious orders, 11 permanent deacons, and 31 seminarians.[6]


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 Syriac Catholic Church follows a similar tradition to other Eastern Catholic Churches who use the West Syrian Rite, such as the Maronites and Syro-Malankara Christians. This rite is clearly distinct from the Greek Byzantine rite of Antioch of the Melkite Catholics and their Orthodox counterparts.

The Liturgy of the Syriac Catholic church is very similar to their Orthodox Counterparts

Distinction between the Anaphora and the Liturgy

Often when compared with the Latin Church the meaning of Anaphora and Liturgy can be mixed up. However, there is a clear distinction in the Syriac Church. The Liturgy of St James the Just is the skeleton of the whole Qurbono Qadisho with all the prayers before the Anaphora being exactly the same no-matter which anaphora used. The Liturgy of St James the Just comprises:

  1. The First Service
  2. Prosthesis
  3. The Second Service
  4. Reading from the Holy Books
  5. The Trisagion
  6. Antiphon before the Pauline Epistle (Galatians 1:8-9)
  7. The Epistle of Saint Paul
  8. The Third Service
  9. The Husoyo (Liturgy of Absolution)
  10. The Proemion
  11. The Sedro (Main Prayer)
  12. The Etro (Fragrance/incense prayer)
  13. The Anaphora
  14. The Kiss of peace
  15. Veiling and placing of the hands prayer
  16. The Dialogue
  17. Preface
  18. Sanctus (Qadish)
  19. Words of Institution
  20. Anamnesis
  21. Epiclesis
  22. Petitions
  23. Fracturing
  24. Liturgy of Repentance
  25. Lord's Prayer (Abun dbashmayo)
  26. Invitation to Holy Communion
  27. The Procession of the Holy Mysteries
  28. Prayer of Thanksgiving
  29. The Dismissal of the Faithful
  30. In the books of the Patriarchal Sharfet seminary, this order is clearly strict, with the Deacon and Congregation prayer being the same no matter which Anaphora is used. The only prayer that changes when a different Anaphora is used is that of the priest.


    The Syriac Catholic Church uses fans with bells on them and engraved with seraphim during the Qurbono. Usually someone in the minor orders would shake these fans behind a Bishop to symbolise the Seraphim. They are also used during the consecration where two men would shake them over the altar during moments in the epliclesis and words of institution when the priest says "he took and broke" and "this is my body/blood".

    The Syriac Catholic Fans look similar to this but with bells on the edges


    The thurible of the Syriac Catholic Church consists of 9 bells representing the 9 levels of angels.


    Liturgical symbols are used when a bishop is not present and used at similar times to when the fans are used.

    Liturgy of the Hours

    The Liturgy of the Hours is exactly the same as in the Syriac Orthodox. There are two versions of this the Phenqitho and the Shhimo. The former is the more complicated 7 volume version. While the latter is the simple version.

    Liturgical ranking

    Likewise the ranking of clerics in the Syriac Church is extremely similar to that of the Syriac Orthodox Church. The most notable differences are:

    • Not all celibate Priests take on monastic vows. In the Syriac Orthodox Church all celibate priests are monks.
    • There is a solid distinction between the major orders and minor orders in the Syriac Catholic Church:
    • A man is tonsured as soon as he receives his first minor order of Mzamrono (Cantor).

    Major Orders

    Minor Orders


    The liturgical language of the Syriac Catholic Church, Syriac, is a dialect of Aramaic. The Qurbono Qadisho (literally: Holy Mass or Holy Offering/Sacrifice) of the Syriac Church uses a variety of Anaphoras. With the Anaphora of the 12 Apostles being the one mostly in use with the Liturgy of St James the Just.

    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 language spoken by Jesus, Mary and the Apostles. 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.

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


    Throughout the History of the Syriac Church there have been many martyrs. A recent example is Flavianus Michael Malke.

    Syriac Catholics in Iraq

    On 31 October 2010, 58 Iraqi Syriac Catholics were killed by Muslim extremists while attending Sunday Mass, 78 others were wounded. The attack by Muslim terrorists on the congregation of Our Lady of Deliverance Syriac Catholic Church was the bloodiest single attack on an Iraqi Christian church in recent history.[7]

    Two priests, Fathers Saad Abdallah Tha'ir and Waseem Tabeeh, were killed.[8] Another, Father Qatin, was seriously wounded but recovered.[9][10]

    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. ^ a b Syrian Catholic Church
    2. ^
    3. ^ The title of Patriarch of Antioch is also claimed by four other churches.
    4. ^
    5. ^
    6. ^
    7. ^
    8. ^ article at, 2010-11-03 (in French), Retrieved on 2010-11-04. "Trois prêtres (Saad Abdallah Tha'ir, Waseem Tabeeh et Raphael Qatin) et des dizaines de chrétiens ont été tués."
    9. ^ "erratum: le père Raphael Qatin n’est pas décédé" 2010-11-05 (in French). Retrieved 8 November 2010.
    10. ^ "Iraqi Christians Hold Mass In Assaulted Church", 2010-11-07. Retrieved 8 November 2010.

    External links

    • Website of the Syriac Catholic Patriarcate
    • Article on the Syrian Catholic Church by Ronald Roberson on the CNEWA web site
    • page on the Catholic Patriarchate of Antioch
    • Opus Libani site: Syriac Catholic Church in Lebanon (French)
    • Encyclopaedia of the Orient – Syrian Catholic Church
    • Catholic Churches (German)

    Syrian Religious Relations and the Roman Catholic Church

    • ), Encyclical, 1755On the observance of Oriental Rites (Allatae SuntPope Benedict XIV,
    • Addresses of Pope Paul VI and His Holiness Mar Ignatius Jacob III, 1971
    • Common Declaration of Pope John Paul II and His Holiness Mar Ignatius Zakka I Iwas, 1984
    • Address of John Paul II on Occasion of the Visit to the Catholicos of the Malankarese Syrian Orthodox Church, 1986

    Eparchies, Churches and Monasteries

    • Mass times and information of Syriac Catholic churches
    • Archdioceses of Syriac Catholics, Iraq
      • Mar Yousif Syriac Catholic Diocese (Al Mansour, Baghdad, Iraq)
    • Eparchy Our Lady of Deliverance North America
      • St. Ephrem Syriac Catholic Church (Jacksonville, Florida)
      • St. Joseph Syriac Catholic Church (Toronto, Canada)
      • Mar Touma Syrian Catholic Church, Michigan
    • Syrian Catholic Archbishopric (Aleppo, Syria)
    • Syriac Catholic Monastery of Mar Musa, Syria
    • St. Jan Apostel van Syrische Katholieken, Netherlands
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