Syrian-Maronite Church of Antioch

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Syrian-Maronite Church of Antioch

Coat of arms of the Maronite Patriarchate

Basic data
Jurisdiction status Patriarchal Church
rite west syrian
Liturgical language Old Syriac-Aramaic , Arabic
Establishment date 7th century (united since 1182)
Seat Bkerke
Hierarch Maronite Patriarch of Antioch and of the whole Orient Béchara Pierre Raï
Jurisdictions 28
Believers 3,381,733
Bishops 41
Parishes 1033
Diocesan priest 876
Religious priest 483
Permanent deacons 61
Friars 690
Religious sisters 1136
Stand 2013

The Syrian-Maronite Church of Antioch ( Aramaic ܥܕܬܐ ܣܘܪܝܝܬܐ ܡܪܘܢܝܬܐ ܕܐܢܛܝܘܟܝܐ ʿĪṯo suryaiṯo māronaiṯo d'anṭiokia ), short Maronites (ܡܪܘܢܝܶܐ Moronoye , Arabic موارنة, DMG Mawārina even Maronite Catholic Church ), is one with Rome Uniate , Christian Church, the Roman pope recognizes as leader. The Maronites are one of the largest and oldest religious communities in Lebanon ; their church language is West Syriac .

The Maronites attribute the founding and name of their church to St. Maron , a Syrian-Aramaic monk . You see yourself through the bishopric of Antioch in apostolic succession .


Traditional costumes: a chestnut from Lebanon (left) next to a resident of the Jebel and a Christian woman from Lebanon from the late 19th century (illustration from The history of costumes by Braun & Schneider, 1861–1880 Munich)
Ludovico Wolfgang Hart: Maronite woman from Zūq al Kabīr near Aleppo, 1865

middle Ages

The Maronites originally spoke Syriac Aramaic and emerged in the 7th century as a split from the Syrian Orthodox Church from Antioch . Its name comes from the holy Marron ( Arabic مارون, DMG Mārūn , Latin Maro , Syrian Maron ), who lived as a monk on the lower Orontes (today Syria).

As supporters of monotheletism , they were excommunicated as heretics in 681 after the Third Council of Constantinople . Monotheletism said that Jesus Christ had a divine and a human nature, but only a divine will; Theologically he stood between Monophysitism and the two-natures doctrine of Christ laid down at the Council of Chalcedon , the traditional creed of the Eastern Roman Empire , as well as of today's Catholic, Orthodox and Reformation Christian churches and, according to the ultimately unsuccessful plans of Emperor Herakleios, was supposed to reintegrate the Monophysite churches Armenians, Syrians and Copts serve in the Imperial Church. Since the approach of the Maronites to the Roman Catholic Church in the 12th century, the Maronites have abandoned the monotheletic doctrine.

Justinian II was defeated in 694 in the fight against the Maronites, who were thereby able to maintain their independence. In the following clashes in 707 with the Islamic caliph al-Walid I , they were driven into the mountain areas and suffered a defeat by the Abbasid occupiers in 759 .

After destruction of the monastery of St.. Maroun by Syrian Muslims fled in the 10th century under the leadership of Patriarch John Maroun I. in Lebanon where the Maronite Christianity spread also among the local Greek, Phoenician and Arab population. The mountains of the Lebanon Mountains between Tripoli and Beirut and the villages in front of them on the Mediterranean coast are still the only larger contiguous area in the Arab world in which an almost exclusively Christian population was able to survive.

In the 12th century the Maronites sided with and under the protection of the Crusaders . It was from this encounter that she became attached to the Roman Catholic Church in 1182 . This support was punished by the Mameluks after the withdrawal of the crusaders: Maronites, but also Druze and Shiites , experienced a period of military persecution. Nevertheless, the Maronites managed to maintain and expand their connection to the Catholic Church. In 1445 they confirmed their affiliation at the Council of Florence and have since been officially regarded as the "Eastern Church united with Rome". They form the only church in their branch that submitted itself as a whole to the Pope .

Emirate of the Druze

In the Ottoman Empire , the Maronites were able to maintain their autonomy in the remote mountainous areas, partly in cooperation with Druze feudal lords such as the Emir Fachr ad-Dīn II. Under the Emirate of the Druze from 1585–1635, Druze and Maronites were able to achieve extensive independence for Lebanon. In this context, Lebanon does not refer to the current state, but to the mountain regions of the Lebanon Mountains, excluding the coastal cities. Thanks to the Maronites' excellent relations with Europe, especially France and Italy , Lebanon experienced a cultural boom during this period. Among other things, Maronite monks introduced the first Arabic printing presses, and until 1729 Arabic was written exclusively by hand in the Islamic world. On the Bosporus, this culturally progressive development was viewed with suspicion, and the Ottoman counter-attack culminated in the execution of the emir in Constantinople . France then declared in 1638 that all Catholics (and thus also the Maronites) of the Ottoman Empire were under its protection. Nevertheless, Lebanon was under Ottoman rule until the end of the 18th century. It was only as a result of Napoleon's Egyptian campaign that the emirs of Lebanon succeeded in regaining an autonomy that lasted until the 1840s. In the 17th century the Shihab dynasty inherited the emirate from the Maans, the Schihabs had come to Lebanon in the 10th century and were originally Sunni Muslims from the Koreishite tribe in Mecca. The Emir Bashir Shihab II , who ruled Lebanon at the beginning of the 19th century from his magnificent residence, the Beit ed-Din palace , was secretly baptized Maronite and his family, a process that is still unusual in the Orient today. The commander of the Lebanese armed forces fighting on the Allied side with de Gaulle and Eisenhower in the Mediterranean area from 1942 to 1945 and later President Fuad Schihab came from Emir Bashir II .

In the middle of the 19th century, this second Druze emirate in Lebanon went under in the course of the conflict between Muhammad Ali in Cairo and the Ottoman leadership in Constantinople. France and Britain, trying to use the weakening of the Ottoman Empire to expand their own sphere of influence, incited Maronites and Druze against each other in Lebanon. This period is impressively portrayed in the novel The Rock of Tanios by Amin Maalouf , which was awarded the Prix ​​Goncourt in France .

Lebanese self-employment and World War I

Following the civil war in the Lebanon Mountains in 1860, in which a total of 20,000 Christians were killed in Syria and Lebanon, France and Great Britain enforced the autonomy of the Lebanon Mountains province , which was considerably smaller than today's Lebanon. As a result of this step, Lebanon was administered independently by an Ottoman governor, who was usually a Christian, mostly a Catholic Armenian from the Ottoman leadership elite in Constantinople. The autonomy of Lebanon was monitored by a European commission. At the beginning of the First World War , this independent administration was abolished and Lebanon was placed under Turkish military administration. The last Ottoman civil governor almost fell victim to the Armenian genocide himself and escaped to Italy at the last minute. The Allied sea blockade and food requisitions from the German and Turkish army units operating in Lebanon resulted in famines and epidemics, as a result of which around 100,000 of the 450,000 people living in Lebanon at that time, mainly Maronite Christians, perished. During the First World War, the German authorities allied with Turkey watched the fate of the Lebanese Christians largely inactive. Individual German politicians like the Catholic center politician Matthias Erzberger were committed to the Christians in the Ottoman Empire. By contrast , there were protests, especially in the USA , organized by Lebanese emigrants such as Khalil Gibran , among others . Many Maronites emigrated during this time, especially to the USA, Canada , Latin America , Australia and South Africa .

After the First World War, France took over the League of Nations mandate for Syria and Lebanon . The self-government of the Maronites since 1920 was followed by their constitutionally secured role in independent Lebanon. In the National Pact of 1943, which was modified by the 1989 Taif Agreement , 23 of the 128 seats in parliament were assigned to the Maronites; the President, who, however, has a mainly representative function, traditionally also has to be a Maronite.

Development from 1970

In the Lebanese civil war , most of the Maronite family clans supported the right-wing pro-Western camp led by the Kataeb , individual "left" Maronites, especially members of the communist party, but fought on the side of the "left" camp and Fatah in the first years of the civil war. Especially after the murder of Kamal Jumblatt , next to Yassir Arafat head of the “left” civil war camp in Lebanon, the “political” but increasingly turned into an “ethnic-religious” war, as a result of which also Maronite families, who until then had been the socialist PSP of Kamal Jumblatt, whose predominantly Druze militias were expelled from the Schuf and some of them fell victim to gruesome massacres. As early as the late 1970s, there were also bloody clashes between rival Maronite family clans, in which sometimes entire families of the clan chiefs ( Tony Frangieh , Dany Chamoun ) were brutally murdered by the "competition". Especially in the last phase from 1985 to 1990, the civil war increasingly turned into a conflict over the influence of Syria, which ultimately led to a final split in the Maronite camp after the end of the term of office of the Maronite President Amin Gemayel , with heavy fighting between the army units of the Maronite General Michel Aoun against the Maronite militia Forces Lebanaises , which emerged from the Kataeb and led by Samir Geagea , which killed thousands of civilians in the Christian areas of Lebanon. In Lebanon, this terrible phase of its own history has not been adequately dealt with, neither historically nor legally.

Church organization and patriarchy

Maronite Saint Elias Cathedral in Aleppo , Syria

The head of the Maronite church, Béchara Pierre Raï since 2011, has the title of Maronite Patriarch of Antioch and the whole of the Orient . Its seat is in Bkerké in Lebanon .

The term Mar means "Lord" in Syrian (cf. French Monseigneur ). Throughout the Syrian tradition, the name is also given to saints. The first patriarch was John Maroun I (687-707).

The Maronite Patriarch held since the Middle Ages always nicknamed Boutros as a middle name, which translates Petrus or Peter means as a tribute to Peter , the founder of the Church of Antioch .

The designation Patriarch of Antioch is also claimed by four other churches, namely by the

The patriarch of the Syrian-Maronite Church of Antioch has his seat today in the Bkerké monastery in Jounieh , on the northern outskirts of Beirut . After his election, he must be confirmed by the Pope in Rome. Patriarch Béchara Pierre Raï has been head of the church since 2011 (see also the list of the Maronite Patriarchs of Antioch ). Despite their Catholic ties, the Maronites have their own hierarchy and an Eastern Church liturgy . These stem from the origin of the Maronites in the West Syrian Antioch tradition. The liturgical language is the Syrian language , an Aramaic dialect. Priests can be married; of celibacy is required only of priests who are still single at the consecration.

The Bishop of the Maronite diocese of Notre-Dame du Liban , based in Paris, is responsible for the Maronite Christians in Western Europe and North America . Since the so-called Eparchy was founded in July 2012, this has been Nasser Gemayel . The Pontifical Maronite College for seminarians and priests of the Maronite Church has existed in Rome since 1584 .


The Maronite worship is essentially a variant of the Antiochian Rite . The older tradition shows a particular proximity to the liturgy of the Syrian Orthodox Church.

The Maronites have been part of the Roman Catholic Church since 1580/1596 and are therefore also subject to the influence of Latin rites. However, they continue to consciously call their rite Syrian-Maronite in order to underline their roots in the common heritage of all Syrian-Antiochene churches. Efforts are currently being made to underline the peculiarity of a Maronite rite and at the same time to implement the principles of the Roman Catholic liturgical reform of the Second Vatican Council .

The Order of Mass of the Syrian-Maronite Church consists of five parts:

  1. Preparatory part
  2. Opening part
  3. Word worship
  4. Pre-anaphora
  5. Anaphora

After the Second Vatican Council , the order of the Mass was changed in such a way that there is now a comprehensive range of texts and the active participation of the faithful is made possible. On the first Sunday of November 1992, new reading regulations came into force.

The focus of preaching in the liturgy of the Eucharist is now based on the church year and no longer on the calendar of saints as it used to be.

The liturgical year is divided into Christmas time, theophany time, Lent and the weeks of suffering, Easter time, the time after Pentecost and the time after the Feast of the Cross.


According to the Maronite Church, there are around 6 million Maronites worldwide.

The Arabic-speaking majority lives in the Middle East. The largest group of around 1,000,000 is found in Lebanon ; there they make up almost a third of the population and, according to the Lebanese constitution, are the president. In addition, about 424,000 Maronites live in Syria (as of 2005); these are subordinate to the Archdiocese of Aleppo and Damascus and the Diocese of Latakia .

A Cypriot Maronite community is generally traced back to migrations during the course of the Crusades . Its members are strongly integrated into the political and social life of Cyprus.

In the late 19th and 20th centuries, Maronite emigrants established churches in Europe , North and South America .

Many Maronites see themselves as descendants of the Phoenicians, see main article : Phoenicianism . There are similar trends among members of the Assyrian Church of the East who consider themselves Assyrians, as well as among members of the Chaldean Catholic Church who consider themselves Chaldeans, and among members of the Syrian Orthodox Church who profess to be Arameans . There is a similar phenomenon among the Coptic Orthodox Christians in Egypt, who prefer to call themselves Copts (instead of being called Arabs).

Since 2003 there have been Maronite communities in Germany (Frankfurt, Hanover, Hamburg, Bremen, Berlin, Düsseldorf) and Austria (Vienna). Depending on the location, the services, which take place once or twice a month, are also attended by Christians from other oriental churches. In 2005 there were around 6,000 Maronites in Germany.

Maronite saints

Three Maronite saints, who have long been an integral part of Lebanese popular piety, were officially canonized by the Roman popes:

Maronite Blessed

Religious orders

The Capuchins , Carmelites and Jesuits settled in Lebanon between 1620 and 1665 . Up until then, there were numerous individual Maronite monasteries and hermitages that maintained the old monastic and hermit traditions. Individual Maronites had affiliated themselves to the Latin religious orders and so there were also foundations of orders based on the western model of the Catholic religious institutes . At the end of the 17th century, three Maronites from Aleppo founded the first "Lebanese Congregation". Since 1706 it existed under the name " Lebanese Maronite Order - Baladites " , the members created their own statutes and worked according to the Antonius rules . They were also in the possession of the Marian monastery in al-Luwayza, where the "Lebanese Synod" took place in 1736.


The monks known as Baladites were settled in cities, but mostly in the countryside. In 1747 the Congregation of the Aleppine Antonians was formed from this, which has been known as the “Maronite Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary” since 1969 and is known today as the Mariamite Order of the Maronites . From this a female branch was formed in 1736. Another group emerged from the Lebanese Congregation, founded around 1765, which was initially known as the "Antonians of the Monastery of Mar Ischaya (Isaiah)" and later as the " Maronite Antonians " . Another religious order came into being in the 19th century, known today as the " Congregation of Lebanese-Maronite Missionaries " .


  • Ray Jabre Mouawad, Les Maronites. Chrétiens du Liban , Brepols Publishers, Turnhout, 2009, ISBN 978-2-503-53041-3
  • Pierre Dib: Histoire des Maronites. Beyrouth, Librairie Orientale, ISBN 9953-17-005-3
  • Harald Suermann: The founding history of the Maronite Church. Harrassowitz, Wiesbaden 1998, ISBN 3-447-04088-2
  • Michael Breydy: History of the Syro-Arab literature of the Maronites from VII. To XVI. Century. Westdeutscher Verlag, Opladen 1985, ISBN 3-531-03194-5
  • Joseph Mahfouz : Precis d'Histoire de l'Eglise Maronite. Kaslik, Lebanon, 1985
  • Jean-Pierre Valognes: Vie et mort des Chrétiens d'Orient. Fayard, Paris, 1994, ISBN 2-213-03064-2
  • Peter H. Görg: The Maronites - Eastern Church in Union with Rome. In: Der Fels 12/2006, 346–349.
  • Alfred Schlicht: France and the Syrian Christians 1799–1861 , Berlin 1981, ISBN 3-922968-05-8
  • Andreas Heinz : The Holy Mass according to the rite of the Syrian-Maronite Church, Trier 1996, ISBN 3-7902-1451-5
  • Mariam de Ghantuz Cubbe: Le XIVe siècle maronite . In: Orientalia Christiana Periodica 84 (2018) 421-467.

Web links

Commons : Maronites  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ The Eastern Catholic Churches 2013. (PDF) Catholic Near East Welfare Association, accessed January 21, 2015 .
  2. ^ Hans Dieter Betz: Religion in the past and present . Ed .: Hans Dieter Betz. 4th edition. tape 5 . Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen 1989.
  3. a b c d e Andreas Heinz: The Holy Mass according to the rite of the Syrian-Maronite Church . 1st edition. tape 28 . Paulinus Verlag, Trier 1996, ISBN 3-7902-1451-5 .
  4. ↑ Numbers of members: Orthodox, Oriental and United Churches in the Religious Studies Media and Information Service .
  5. The Maronites - Timeline ( PDF )
  6. See address by Pope John Paul II on the Anniversary of the Maronite Church (2000)
  7. ^ The oriental Christianity, Volume 29, Part 2 by Wolfgang Hage

Coordinates: 33 ° 58 ′ 4 "  N , 35 ° 38 ′ 2"  E