Although it's been in communion with Rome since 1724, the Greek Catholic Church remains greatly concerned about its autonomy and prizes its Eastern traditions.

Melinée Le Priol | October 7, 2017 | international.la-croix.com

When was the Greek Catholic Church, known as the Melkite Church, born?

This church began in 1724 as a result of a split in the Greek Church of Antioch. Some of these Christians, Catholicized by (Jesuit and Franciscan) missionaries then present in the Middle East, opted to enter into communion with the Holy See. 

This is how the Greek Catholic (Melkite) Church started. It followed Byzantine rites and was directly linked to Rome.

The Greek Catholics immediately chose an Arab patriarch, whereas the Antioch seat had until then been reserved for a Greek patriarch and Greek bishops. A double line of patriarchs was thus instituted, one Orthodox, the other Catholic. However, it was only a century later, in 1834, that the Ottoman Empire fully recognized this Church. The patriarch was then installed in Damascus, where he resides to this day.

The current Melkite patriarch of Antioch, Archbishop Joseph Absi, hails from Damascus and was elected in June last. He bears the title of "Patriarch of Antioch and All the East, Alexandria and Jerusalem" and has jurisdiction over many dioceses. Archbishop Absi succeeded Patriarch Gregory III Laham, who was opposed by some of his bishops for his authoritarianism and mismanagement.

What does the word "Melkite' mean?

This denomination dates back to the 5th Century. It comes from the Syrian word "malka", meaning "king" or "emperor" and designated Christians from the patriarchies of Jerusalem, Alexandria, and Antioch who had accepted the Council of Chalcedon and were thus faithful to the Emperor of Constantinople. 

These Christians consider Christ as both man and God, contrary to the monotheists, who say Christ has only one nature: divine.

“Today, only four Churches are monophysitic,” says Rev. Rafic Greiche, spokesperson of the Conference of Bishops of Egypt. They are the Coptic Orthodox, Syrian Orthodox, Armenian Orthodox and Ethiopian Churches. 

“All other Churches are, strictly speaking, Melkite, but the Greek Catholics are the only ones to have taken the name for their Church,” he notes.

How many are they?

The Greek Catholics number about 1.5 million worldwide. They are thus far fewer than the 14 million Greek Orthodox Christians. About half of the Melkites live in the Middle East, mainly in Syria, Lebanon, and the Holy Land. Where nationality is concerned, the Melkite Church defines itself as Arab and asserts its Arab nature, according to Joseph Yacoub, a specialist on the Christians of the Orient and Honorary Professor of the Catholic University of Lyon.

The Melkite diaspora lives mainly in Latin America (Brazil, Argentina, Mexico and Venezuela) and North America, to which Middle Eastern Christians fled from persecution by the Ottoman Empire from the end of the 19th Century. France also has a community of 10,000 persons, mainly in Marseille, where their church, built in 1821, is one of the oldest oriental Churches in Europe.

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“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied." (Matthew 5:6 ESV)

Joachiam and Anna Rejoice

Today the bonds of childlessness are loosed, * for God has heard Joachim and Anna * and He promises manifestly that they, against all hope, would give birth to the Maiden of God * from whom the Uncircumscribed One Himself would be born, becoming man, * and he commanded the Angels to cry out to her: * “Rejoice, O Full of Grace, the Lord is with you!” (Troparion - Tone 4)

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and to the ages of ages. Amen.

Today the whole world celebrates * the conception of Anne which was brought about by God, * for she gave birth to the one who, beyond understanding, * gave birth to the Word. (Kontakion - Tone 4)

Holy Forefathers

Through faith, O Christ, you justified the Forefathers, * betrothing through them in advance the Church of the gentiles. * The Saints exult in glory, * for from their seed came forth a glorious fruit: * she who gave birth to You without seed. * Through their prayers, O Christ God, have mercy on us. (Troparion, Tone 2)

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and to the ages of ages. Amen.

You did not honor a hand-depicted image, O thrice-blessed ones, * but defended by the undepicted Being you were glorified in a trial by fire. * And, standing in the midst of unbearable flame, you called upon God: * “Hasten, O Compassionate One, and speed to our help, * for You are merciful and You can do whatever you will.” (Kontakion, Tone 6)

(Second Sunday Before Christmas)

Saint Nicholas of Myra

The truth of your deeds has revealed you to your flock, * as a rule of faith, an image of meekness, and a teacher of abstinence. * Therefore, you attained the heights through humility, * and riches through poverty. * O Father and Hierarch Nicholas, * pray to Christ God that our souls may be saved. (Troparion, Tone 4)

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and to the ages of ages. Amen.

In Myra, You were shown to be a servant of the sacred things, O Holy Nicholas, * for, fulfilling the Gospel of Christ, you, O Venerable, laid down your life for your people, * and saved the innocent from death. * Therefore, you were sanctified as a great initiate of the grace of God. (Kontakion, Tone 3)

Random Proverb

"Hear, O sons, a father's instruction, and be attentive, that you may gain insight, for I give you good precepts; do not forsake my teaching." (Proverbs 4:1,2 ESV)

Pray Without Ceasing

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Wisdom from the Church Fathers

Seek, my child, the nobility of the soul, for it is truth; that of the body is false. Do not seek honor from men, for this injures one; but rather, seek heavenly glory . . . . You are to be sympathetic with all the brethren and help them as much as possible; and, you are to minister to them that are unable or weak. Do not desire to live by another's labors . . . . Never ridicule anyone, and especially when they are in misfortune. When you hear that a certain brother is disorderly, supplicate God to correct his life. Visit and help the sick, and serve the brethren as their servant; so you might be a friend of Christ Who, for your sake, became a servant and minister. Always heed, my child, not to fall into temptations. However, if it happens that you should fall, immediately rise up and amend yourself with repentance, and again hasten to prayer. In this manner, live your life, my child, and God shall always come to you and help you in soul and body.

St. Theodora of Alexandria, "The Lives of the Spiritual Mothers: An Orthodox Materikon of Women Monastics and Ascetics