Maronites

The only fully Roman Catholic Uniate church in the East. The name is derived from Maron, a Syrian solitary who died around 423. According to their tradition, Maronites have always been orthodox and in union with Rome, but in fact they were originally Monothelites* who followed Sergius* of Constantinople. In the last quarter of the seventh century they formed their own hierarchy. After associating with Crusaders they entered a rather unstable union with the Roman see in the thirteenth century. This union was strengthened at the Council of Florence in 1445 and at later synods, particularly one in 1736. A Jesuit named John Eliano worked hard at cementing the union, and due to his effort Rome has had a Maronite college since 1584. At a council in 1616 the Maronites moved against abuses in their fellowship; and again at a council between 1733 and 1742 under Patriarch Joseph IV they attacked abuses and inserted the Filioque in the creed.

Maronites have communed under one species since 1736. They follow a W Syriac liturgy. Their patriarch, with his auxiliary bishops living at his side, was known as “Patriarch of Antioch and All the East.” Two cloisters, Bkirki and Kannobin near Beirut, serve as his residence. Dioceses were first established in 1736; diocesan clergy usually are married. Since 1926 the Maronite faith has been the chief confession of the Lebanese state, although Maronites make up only 30 per cent of the population (Muslims number 50 per cent). No census has been taken since 1932, to avoid trouble. The Lebanese president is always a Maronite. About 470,000 Maronites reside in Lebanon, and 380,000 in North and South America, the majority in the south. Other Maronites are found in Palestine, Syria, and Egypt. Congregations in the diaspora are subject to local Latin Rite bishops, but the Maronite patriarch remains their true head.