5 Patriarchs of Antioch


Can someone shed some light in this subject? It seems very strange that we have 5 patriarchs of Antioch, from the Syriac Orthodox Church (Oriental Orthodoxy), the Greek Orthodox Church of Antioch (Eastern Orthodoxy), the Syriac Catholic Church, the Melkite Greek Catholic Church and the Maronite Church (the last three Eastern Catholics).

I mean, even those in communion within the Catholic Church has multiple claims. This seems strange.

Why is that? Who has the better claim? Which church is the largest, most traditional there? And also, why no patriarch has its see or live in Antioch? I mean, Turkey is not a Christian country, but wouldn’t it be symbolic important to actually be in Antioch? The Patriarch of Constantinople lives in Constantinople even if there is very few Christians there.

From Wikipedia, regarding membership (approximate):
Syriac Orthodox Church (Oriental Orthodoxy/West Syriac) 500,000 (not sure/excluding Jacobites)
Greek Orthodox Church of Antioch (Eastern Orthodoxy/Byzantine) 4,300,000
Syriac Catholic Church (Eastern Catholic/West Syriac) 200,000
Melkite Greek Catholic Church (Eastern Catholic/Byzantine) 1,500,000
Maronite Church (Eastern Catholic/West Syriac) 3,500,000


There is a Roman Catholic bishop of Pittsburgh, and a Ruthenian (Byzantine) Catholic bishop of Pittsburgh.

Maronites are original Church of Antioch.

Melkites were established when one Maronite Patriarch of Antioch died, and Greek Emperor of Byzantium wanted to have control over Antiochian Patriarchate- so he appointed Greek Bishop as Patriarch. This was done contrary to local custom where they elected Maronite Patriarch. There were two Patriarchs- one supported by Emperor (Melkite, Greek) and one supported by local population and the Pope- Maronite. Over the time, Maronites had to move. Melkite literally means “of the King (Emperor)”- as ones appointed by Emperor, not the local Church…

After Chalcedon, Syriac Orthodox Church split from Maronite Church after they rejected the Council, and as such new Patriarch was elected. This is Oriental Orthodox line of Antioch born from Maronites.

After Muslim conquests, Maronites had to move their Patriarchate and while they are technically original line of Antioch, they no longer reside there, but in Lebanon.

After Schism of 1054, Melkites remained united with Emperor and Greeks, as Melkite Patriarchs were appointed by the former. Maronites were separated and did not even know about Great Schism. Later on, when Crusaders found Maronites, Maronites affirmed their loyalty to Pope of Rome and therefore reaffirmed their union with Rome- Maronites never ceased to be Catholic, but they were separated from Church and could not communicate with other Christians.

Syriac Catholic Church is born out of missionary efforts of Catholic Church in Syria- some Oriental Orthodox population wanted to unite with Catholic Church. However, even Union of Florence did not last there and was short-lived. Later on, Syriac Orthodox Church elected a Patriarch who decided to unify with Rome. This provoked many revolts and after Patriarch died, Ottomans persecuted Syriac Catholics (Syriac Orthodoxy can be controlled by appointing right Patriarch, but having them united to Western Christian world and be united to Pope was dangerous politically). Syriac Catholic Church went underground and functioned without Patriarchs for a while. However, another man who wanted to be Catholic was elected as Syriac Orthodox Patriarch. He fled to Lebanon and declared himself Catholic, forming what is called “Ignatius Line” of Patriarchs of Antioch. To this day, this unbroken line of Patriarchs exists in Syriac Catholic Church.

Around 1720 or such, Melkites elected Patriarch who was very pro-Catholic. This Patriarch wanted union with Rome and Catholic Church. Some Bishops protested, and Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople consecrated one Deacon to Bishop and appointed him as Patriarch of Antioch. Ecumenical Patriarch also probably had hand in Ottoman Persecution of Melkites, as he wanted to stop the union with Catholic Church from happening. After situation eased down, Melkites were recognized as Sui Iuris Church in communion with Holy See. Those led by Deacon-now-Patriarch formed “Greek Orthodox Church of Antioch”. This is the final and youngest line of claimants to Patriarchate of Antioch.


The Catholic Patriarchs have their seats where their Cathedral is:

Syriac Catholic Church

  • Patriarch Ignace Youssif III Younan – seat is Beyrouth, Lebanon

Maronite Catholic Church

  • Cardinal Patriarch Béchara Pierre Raï – seat is Bkerké, Lebanon

Melkite Greek Catholic Church

  • Patriarch Youssef Absi – seat is Damas, Syria

So, to sum it up:
Original Line = Maronite /(Schism)/ Syriac Orthodox /(Schism)/ Syriac Catholic (union with Rome)
Greek Line = Melkites (appointed by Emperor over Maronite Patriarch) -> Greek Orthodox (appointed by Ecumenical Patriarch to maintain Orthodox Church of Antioch artificially).

Wow, this was a history lesson. Thank you. Very very interesting.

Since you know so much about this topic, do you think there is any intention of any one of them to return to Antioch? Or an idea of who, in an hypothetical communion, would be kept as the patriarch?

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Probably multiple. Apparently Melkites stated that they would like to resign in favor of Greek Orthodox Church of Antioch, were communion between Catholic and Orthodox Church restored. I don’t really see Maronites giving up their claim (as they have the best one really), neither Syriac Orthodox/Catholics (as their claim may actually be as good as Maronites). Melkites also have multiple Patriarchates under themselves, not just Antioch. I don’t really see one Patriarch resigning in favor of others. There were 2 Patriarchs of Antioch (Melkite and Maronite) before the Schism- maybe there can be 3-4 after Schism is mended too :smiley:

Also, if I understand this correctly, Antioch is mostly destroyed or buried. City does not exist anymore, and hence I don’t see chances of anyone coming back to reside there to be very high- even if someone does build Cathedral there, reasons for residing in middle of nowhere, in Non-Christian country, are just not good.

Though, Istanbul does exist and it is capital country- logistics in this city are much better than in city buried in sand. Lebanon is just much more practical for most of these Churches, as well as having historical significance of being where their people ran from persecution :slight_smile: Also, fact Ecumenical Patriarch was chosen to be Patriarch of Constantinople in the past was because of practical reasons even if contrary to tradition (heart of Empire and all that)- ironically, right now it is probably worst position Ecumenical Patriarch could reside at, and is held only because of tradition :thinking:.

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Oh well :rofl: that’s what I get for just googling Antioch and not reading entire thing. Thanks for the info.

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In that vein, I’ve long suggested moving the US capitol someplace thoroughly unpleasant–perhaps the most humid part of Arizona we can find, and ban any form of air conditioning.

The purpose, of course, would be to get Congress to go home as quickly as possible, instead of having around DC inflicting damage year round . . .


The syriac Orthodox Church (Oriental) claims to be the original. There was sporadic union with them from Chalcedon up until the end of the sixth century. They were always more sympathetic to the Oriental theology. There were patriarchs who were deposed when the Roman Empire was less sympathetic to their cause but the Orientals never accepted the deposition of the patriarch. They have a continuous line of patriarchs.

The antiochian Orthodox Church is a later development. The Melkite are part of this development. The antiochian patriarch of the Orthodox Church was established later and they united with Rome in the 16th century. The Orthodox appointed a new patriarch of Antioch after this.

I don’t think the maronites had a patriarch until the 13th century or later. They aren’t equivalent to the whole of west Syriac Christianity (which includes the Syriac Orthodox Church). The maronites are a very specific group of Christians from the mountains of Lebanon that didn’t really have contact with the rest of Christianity from the sixth century until the crusades.

The Syriac Catholic Church like the Melkite church joined the Catholic Church later. It isn’t the original.

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Syriac Orthodox Patriarchs once left SO to become and form Syriac Catholic Church. Im not saying either is original, but their line of Patriarchs kinda continues into this. Also, Maronites have pretty good claim to be original too. Hard to work this out between those, really.

I’m not exactly sure about that- I thought Maronites had a “Patriarch” (Bishop of Antioch) who would supervise Church in area where Maronites were located. Thing is, Maronite Patriarch was appointed by local populace- yet Constantinople tried to intervene and have their (Melkite) Patriarch appointed. Maronites were later forced to move out and technically Patriarchal status was not attributed to them by the rest of the Church (because others simply forgot Maronites exist and thought they are just Syriac Orthodox).

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So here is the history in a much clearer fashion:

All five churches recognise a single sequence of bishops until 518. In that year, Severus, who rejected the Council of Chalcedon, was deposed by the Byzantine Emperor Justin I and replaced by the Chalcedonian Paul the jew, but Severus and his followers did not recognize his deposition. This led to two rival sequences of patriarchs: Severus and his successors, recognized by the two Syriac churches (Syriac Catholic and Syriac Orthodox); and Paul and his successors, recognized by the Antiochan Orthodox, Melkite, and Maronite Churches. It was the successors of Paul who were recognized as legitimate by the Byzantine government.

Based on this; Emperors have no ecclesiastical authority and thus the deposition of Severus was not canonical. As such The line of Severus holds legitimacy and the two Syriac churches hold the best claims as they succeed from Severus.

The line of Severus was one until the election of Mar
Ignatius Michael III Jarweh in 1781. The clergy and laity met in the Dayr al-Zafaran monastery and elected Ignatius Michael III Jarweh as Patriarch; he accepted only after the reading and the approval of a Catholic declaration of faith in the Church of the Forty Martyrs, Mardin. He was enthroned in Mor Hananyo Monastery on 22 January 1783 and took the traditional name of Ignatius III.

His election was confirmed by the Pope on September 14, 1783, and he received the Pallium, the sign of patriarchal authority, on December 15 of the same year.

Two Syriac bishops opposed his election and two days after Michael’s enthronement, they took the money of the monastery and paid a group of Kurds who attacked Mardin making fatalities, however, Michael survived.

In the meantime one of these two Syirac Orthodox bishops, Mar Matta ben Abdel-Ahad Saalab, consecrated to bishop four of his monks in order to hold a second election and thus he was elected Syriac Orthodox patriarch and the modern Syriac Orthodox descend from this line.

Thus the legitimate patriarch of Antioch is the Syriac Catholic Patriarch of Antioch. The listing of best claims is as follows :

  1. Syriac Catholic
  2. Syriac Orthodox
  3. Maronite
  4. Melkite
  5. Antiochan Orthodox

As a note of interest: All legitimate lines of patriarchs are found in the Catholic Church:

  • The Syriac Orthodox result from a rival election to oppose the legitimate patriarch of the Syriac Church and thus are a rival line to the legitimate line of Syriac Catholic Patriarchs.

  • The Antiochan Orthodox line also is a result of Constantinople opposing the legitimate Melkite Orthodox Patriarch, Cyril VI Tanas, who together with his synod declared union with Rome. In response to the Melkite Synod becoming catholic the Ecumenical Patriarch appointed Sylvester, a Greek monk, as the rival patriarch and the modern Antiochan Orthodox Church descends from this line.

  • The Maronites have no Orthodox counterpart.

Thus, Antioch has truly reunited with the Catholic Church.


Just leave it where it is geographically and still ban air conditioning for the actual Member wherever they happen to be (office, home, restaurant, etc.). Then require them to stay for the entire term of office, except for constituency visits of no more than 5 days in each month (use it or lose it). I wonder how many seats would end up with no one wanting to fill them.

Probably a thoroughly unworkable plan when really looked at, but I think it sounds sufficiently vengeful on the surface…

That is a good summary of the history.

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