Home Page Synod for the Middle East 2010

Catholic Churches

Comunità ecclesiastiche anglican
 The Catholic Church in the Near and Middle East
Maronite Church
Greek Catholic or Melkite Church
Chaldean Catholic Church
Coptic Catholic Church
Armenian Catholic Church
Syrian Catholic Church
Catholic Church of Latin Rite
Information from the Dossier published by the catholic Bishops' Conference of France (CEF)

Compared with the Orthodox Churches, the Christians linked to the Roman Church and to the Pope are a minority in the East, except in Lebanon (the Maronites make up 70% of the Christians) and in Iraq (80% of the Christians).

1) Maronite Church
The Maronites are present mainly in Lebanon, with an important Diaspora of nearly half of them. From the Convent of St. Maron (Apamea in Syria), a small monastic community went in the 5th Century to settle in the Lebanese Mountains in order to escape from the hostility of the Monophysite community. The Crusades enabled the Maronites to seal their union with Rome (1182). The Maronite Church is the only oriental Catholic Church which was not born of a breakaway from an Orthodox Church. In 1860, during the massacres against the Maronites, the latter asked the Pope’s intervention, but it was France who responded and led the Ottoman Empire to recognise the autonomy of the country. The Lebanese confessional political system will lead to two bloody civil wars (1958 and 1975-1989) resulting in the Taef Agreement (1989). This Agreement has diminished the powers of the President (Maronite Christian) in favour of those of the Prime Minister (Sunni Muslim) and of the President of the Parliament (Shia Muslim). The Church, its hierarchy and the monastic orders have an important role in the economy and politics.

  • Population (in 2006): 3,112,000 (2 thirds in Diaspora)
  • Patriarch of Antioch and of all the Maronite East (Residence: Bkerké, See: Dimane, Lebanon): Nasrallah Cardinal Sfeir (b. 1920, elected in 1986)

2) Greek Catholic or Melkite Church
This Church started in 1724 as a breakaway from the Melkite Church (which comprised the Christians of Byzantine rite, from the Patriarchates of Antioch, Alexandria and Jerusalem, faithful to the Council of Chalcedon) when a Catholic was elected Patriarch of Antioch by the Christians of Damascus. The Melkites can be found in all countries of the Near and Middle East; they are the main Catholic group in Syria and Israel.

  • Population (in 2006): 1,350,000 (2 thirds in Diaspora, with 420 thousand in Brazil)
  • Catholic Greek Melkite Patriarch of Antioch and of all the East, of Alexandria and of Jerusalem (See: Damascus, Syria, since the return of Antioch by France to Turkey): Grégoire III Lahham (b. 1933, elected in 2000).

3) Chaldean Catholic Church
The Chaldean Church is present mainly in Iraq where she represents the main body of Christians (87% of the Catholics who make up 80% of the Christians). Since the 13th Century, thanks to the thrust of the Dominican and Franciscan missionaries, many Assyrian bishops convert to Catholicism. As time went by, the Chaldean Church (so called since 1830) was adhered to by most Assyrians. The Chaldeans have suffered many persecutions, with tens of thousands victims in the World War I in Turkey.

  • Population (in 2006): 351 thousand (190 thousand in Iraq; the Diaspora is mainly in France, Sweden, the United States and Australia)
  • Chaldean Patriarch of Babylon (See: Baghdad, Iraq): Emmanuel III (Emmanuel-Karim Delly) (b. 1927, elected in 2003).

4) Coptic Catholic Church
This Church accounts for most of the Catholics of Egypt (77% of the Catholics who represent 2.5% of the Christians in the country). This Church was born after the missions of the Capuchins and the Franciscans in Egypt in the 17th Century. In 1895, the Apostolic Vicariate has been elevated to the rank of Patriarchate.

  • Population(in 2006): 265 thousand
  • Coptic Patriarch of Alexandria (See: Cairo, Egypt): Antonios Naguib (b. 1935, elected in 2006)

5) Armenian Catholic Church
This Church, having become Catholic during the Crusades, has joined Rome since 1635 when she was constituted as Patriarchate. The Armenian genocide of 1915 by the Turks has also affected the Catholic Armenians.

  • Population(in 2006): 375 thousand of whom a large majority is in Diaspora (United States, Canada, Europe with 30 thousand in France, Australia, Argentina, etc.)
  • Armenian Patriarch of Cilicia (See: Beirut, Lebanon): Nersès Pierre XIX (b. 1940, elected in 1999)

6) Syrian Catholic Church
This Church, established as Patriarchate since 1783 and recognised by Pope Pius VI (after earlier attempts in 1656), represents but 12% of the Catholics in Syria. She too suffered from massacres in Turkey against Christians at the end of World War I.

  • Population(in 2006): 132 thousand
  • Patriarch of Antioch of the Syrians (See: Beirut, Lebanon): Mar Ignazio Youssef III Younan (b. 1944, elected in 2009)

7) Catholic Church of Latin Rite
Founded in 1099, during the Crusades, the Latin Patriarchate was restored in 1847. It has under its jurisdiction the Holy Land, Lebanon, Cyprus and Jordan (where it is the main Catholic group). The process of Arabisation of the Patriarchate culminated with the election of a Palestinian Patriarch in 1987.

  • Population(in 2003): 85 thousand
  • Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem (See: Jerusalem): H.B. Mgr Fouad Twal (b. 1940, successor of Mgr Michel Sabbah, of whom he has the Coadjutor for two years, in 2008)

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