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The term "Melkite" (/ˈmɛlkt/), also written "Melchite", refers to various Byzantine Rite Christian churches and their members originating in the Middle East. The word comes from the Syriac word malkoyo (ܡܠܟܝܐ‎), and the Arabic word Malakī (Arabic: ملكي‎, meaning "royal", and by extension, "imperial").[1] When used in an ecclesiastical sense, it refers specifically to the Eastern Rite Catholic Patriarchate of Antioch.[2]

Melkites view themselves as the first Christian community, dating the Melkite Church back to the time of the Apostles.[3] This first community is said to have been a mixed one made up of individuals who were originally Greek, Roman, Syriac, and Jewish. After the Islamic conquests of the Levant in the 7th century, the Melkite community started incorporating Arabic language in the liturgical traditions as the Middle East became gradually Arabized.[3]

Melchite Hirmologion written in Syriac Sertâ book script (11th century, Saint Catherine's Monastery, Mount Sinai.

The term Melkite was originally used as a pejorative term after the acrimonious division that occurred in Eastern Christianity after the Council of Chalcedon (451). It was used by non-Chalcedonians to refer to those who backed the council and the Byzantine Emperor (malko and its cognates are Semitic words for "king"). "It was only towards the end of the fifth century that it took the name of Melkite".[4] The Melkites were generally Greek-speaking city-dwellers living in the west of the Levant and in Egypt, as opposed to the more provincial Syriac- and Coptic-speaking non-Chalcedonians. The Melkite Church was organised into three historic patriarchatesAlexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem — in union with the Patriarch of Constantinople. After the Council of Chalcedon, over the ensuing centuries those Churches which rejected this council recognised different patriarchs in Alexandria (Coptic Orthodox Church) and Antioch (Syriac Orthodox Church). The Nubian kingdom of Makuria (in modern Sudan) in contrast to their Non-Chalcedonian Ethiopian Orthodox neighbours, was also Chalcedonian, from c. 575 until ca. 710 and still had a large Melkite minority until the 1400s.

From 1342, Roman Catholic clergy were based in Damascus and other areas, and worked toward a union between Rome and the Orthodox. At that time, the nature of the East-West Schism, normally dated to 1054, was undefined, and many of those who continued to worship and work within the Melkite Church became identified as a pro-Western party. In 1724, Cyril VI (Seraphim Tanas) was elected in Damascus by the Synod as Patriarch of Antioch. Considering this to be a Catholic takeover attempt, Jeremias III of Constantinople imposed a deacon, the Greek monk Sylvester to rule the patriarchate instead of Cyril. After being ordained a priest, then bishop he was given Turkish protection to overthrow Cyril. Sylvester's heavy-handed leadership of the church encouraged many to re-examine the validity of Cyril's claim to the patriarchal throne.

The newly elected Pope Benedict XIII (1724–1730) also recognised the legitimacy of Cyril's claim and recognized him and his followers as being in communion with Rome. From that point onwards, the Melkite Church was divided between the Greek Orthodox (Greek Orthodox Church of Antioch), who continued to be appointed by the authority of the Patriarch of Constantinople until the late nineteenth century, and the Greek Catholics (Melkite Greek Catholic Church), who recognize the authority of the Pope of Rome. However, it is now only the Catholic group who continue to use the title Melkite; thus, in modern usage, the term applies almost exclusively to the Arabic-speaking Greek Catholics from the Middle East.

Some typically Grecian "Ancient Synagogal" priestly rites and hymns have survived partially to the present, notably in the distinct church services of the Melkite and Greek Orthodox communities of the Hatay Province of Southern Turkey, Syria and Lebanon. Members of theses communities still call themselves Rûm which literally means "Roman" or "Asian Greek" in Arabic (that is, those of the (Eastern) Roman Empire, what English speakers often call "Byzantine"). The term "Rûm" is used in preference to "Ionani" or "Yāvāni" which means "European-Greek" or Ionian in Classical Arabic and Biblical Hebrew.

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Dick (2004), p. 9
  2. ^ Sebastian P. Brock (2006). An introduction to Syriac studies (2, revised, illustrated ed.). Gorgias Press LLC. ISBN 9781593333492. 
  3. ^ a b David Little, Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding. Peacemakers in action: profiles of religion in conflict resolution (illustrated ed.). Cambridge University Press, 2007. ISBN 9780521853583. 
  4. ^ History of the Melkite Church from its Origins to the Present Day, by Mgr. Joseph Nasrallah, Melkite Exarque in Paris. http://phoenicia.org/melkites.html

References[edit]

  • Dick, Iganatios (2004). Melkites: Greek Orthodox and Greek Catholics of the Patriarchates of Antioch, Alexandria and Jerusalem. Boston: Sophia Press. 

Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Melkite — Please support Wikipedia.
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2458 news items

The Tablet (subscription)

The Tablet (subscription)
Wed, 19 Nov 2014 06:03:45 -0800

Greek Melkite Patriarch greets newly ordained priest Pope Francis has approved lifting the ban on the ordination of married men to the priesthood in Eastern Catholic Churches outside their traditional territories, including in the United States, Canada ...

The Tablet (subscription)

The Tablet (subscription)
Wed, 19 Nov 2014 03:48:45 -0800

Greek Melkite Patriarch greets newly ordained priest Pope Francis has approved lifting the ban on the ordination of married men to the priesthood in Eastern Catholic Churches outside their traditional territories, including in the United States, Canada ...

Catholic World Report (blog)

Catholic World Report (blog)
Sat, 22 Nov 2014 14:07:30 -0800

Stained glass window at the Melkite Catholic Annunciation Cathedral in Roslindale depicting Christ the King with the regalia of a Byzantine emperor. (January 2009 photo by John Stephen Dwyer; Wikipedia). Readings: • Ezek 34:11-12, 15-17 • Psa 23:1-2, ...

Catholic Herald Online

Catholic Herald Online
Tue, 18 Nov 2014 01:53:03 -0800

“We are overjoyed with the lifting of the ban,” Melkite Bishop Nicholas Samra of Newton, Massachusetts, told the American Catholic News Service. The Vatican decree explained that in response to the “protests” of the Latin-rite bishops in the United ...

Crossmap

Crossmap
Sat, 22 Nov 2014 12:26:15 -0800

Washington D.C., Nov 20, 2014 / 04:41 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Knights of Columbus is putting more than $2 million toward new homes for Iraqi and Syrian refugees fleeing violence, and not a moment too soon, said Supreme Knight Carl Anderson.

Georgia Bulletin

Georgia Bulletin
Thu, 21 Aug 2014 14:22:17 -0700

As the spiritual leader of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church in the United States presented him with the clothing of a deacon, the crowd in the church shouted in Arabic, Greek, and English, “He is worthy!” Deacon Hanna replaced his white garments with ...

Asharq Alawsat English

Asharq Alawsat English
Wed, 19 Nov 2014 08:17:59 -0800

The event is being attended by a number of religious figures from the region including the Grand Muftis of Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon, and the Patriarchs of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church and the Chaldean Catholic Church, as well as the Patriarch of ...
 
New Haven Register
Wed, 19 Nov 2014 14:30:00 -0800

The Melkite Catholic Archdiocese of Aleppo, Syria, will receive $200,000 in aid. Advertisement. “This is a concrete response to the unfolding humanitarian crisis in Iraq and to the urgent appeals from the region as well as Pope Francis' request for ...
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