What do Maronites believe?


I was just curious as to what Maronites believe, and if it is the same as the Melkites? I know Melkite Catholics agree with a lot of Eastern Orthodox teachings, so would the same be true of Maronites?

Thank you kindly :slight_smile:

The Syriac Maronite Church of Antioch (Classical Syriac:‎ ʿīṯo suryaiṯo māronaiṯo d’anṭiokia; Arabic: الكنيسة الأنطاكية السريانية المارونية‎ al-Kanīsa al-Intākīyya al-Seryānīyya al-Mārwnīyya; Latin: Ecclesia Maronitarum) is an Eastern Catholic Church in full communion with the Holy See of Rome. It traces its heritage back to the community founded by Maroun, a 4th-century Syriac monk venerated as a saint. The first Maronite Patriarch, Saint John Maron, was elected in the late 7th century.

Although reduced in numbers today, Maronites remain one of the principal ethno-religious groups in Lebanon. The Maronite Church asserts that since its inception, it has always remained faithful to the Church of Rome and the Pope. In November 2012, Pope Benedict appointed Maronite Patriarch Bechara Boutros al-Rahi as a Cardinal.

Before the conquest by Arabian Muslims reached Lebanon, the Lebanese people, including those who would become Muslim and the majority who would remain Christian, spoke a dialect of Aramaic. Syriac (Christian Aramaic) still remains the liturgical language of the Maronite Church. The members of the Maronite Church are a part of the Syriac people; though they have, over time, developed a distinctive Maronite character, this has not obscured their Antiochene and Syriac origin.

Well. Theoretically, Maronites emerged from the same theological and spiritual school as the Syriac Orthodox Church; though there are a few East Syriac and Greek strands of thought that pop up here and there. The Maronites, of course, are Chalcedonian; though the extent to which a Maronite and a Miaphysite Oriental Orthodox will disagree when speaking about such things in Syriac is probably nonexistent, we can thank the Greeks for any disagreement. :stuck_out_tongue:

In practice…well you’d be hard pressed to find a Maronite who doesn’t have a more Latin mindset than most Latins. :frowning:

I was actually curious about the whole Chalcedonian thing too! That’s interesting.

I remember reading somewhere that the Maronites used to believe in monotheletism. Is that no longer the case, or how did that happen when returning to communion with Rome?

The followers of Jesus Christ first became known as “Christians” in Antioch (Acts 11:26), and the city became a center for Christianity - especially after the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. According to Catholic tradition, the first Bishop was Saint Peter before his travels to Rome. The third Bishop was the Apostolic Father Ignatius of Antioch. Antioch became one of the five original Patriarchates (the Pentarchy) after Constantine recognized Christianity.

Maron, a fourth-century monk and the contemporary and friend of St. John Chrysostom, left Antioch for the Orontes River to lead an ascetic life, following the traditions of Anthony the Great of the Desert and Pachomius. Many of his followers also lived a monastic lifestyle. Following the death of Maron in 410 AD, his disciples built a monastery in his memory and formed the nucleus of the Maronite Church.

The Maronites held fast to the beliefs of the Council of Chalcedon in 451 AD. When the Monophysites of Antioch slew 350 monks, the Maronites sought refuge in the mountains of Lebanon. Correspondence concerning the event brought papal and orthodox recognition of the Maronites, which was solidified by Pope Hormisdas (514-523 AD) on February 10, AD 518. A monastery was built around the shrine of St. Maro after the Council of Chalcedon.

The martyrdom of the Patriarch of Antioch in the first decade of the seventh century, either at the hands of Persian soldiers or local Jews, left the Maronites without a leader, a situation which continued because of the final and most devastating Byzantine–Sassanid War of 602–628. In the aftermath of the war, the Emperor Heraclius propagated a new Christological doctrine in an attempt to unify the various Christian churches of the east, who were divided over accepting the Council of Chalcedon. This doctrine, monothelitism, was meant as a compromise between supporters of Chalcedon, like the Maronites, and opponents, like the Jacobites. Instead this new doctrine caused greater controversy, and was declared a heresy at the Sixth Ecumenical Council in 680-681. Contemporary Greek and Arab sources, however, claimed that the Maronites accepted monothelitism, rejected the sixth council and continued to maintain a belief in the largely discredited monothelete doctrine for centuries, only moving away from monothelitism in the time of the crusades in order to avoid being branded heretics by the crusaders. The modern Maronite Church, however, rejects the assertion that the Maronites were ever monothelites, and the question remains a major controversy to this day.

In 687 AD, the Emperor Justinian II agreed to evacuate many thousands of Maronites from Lebanon and settle them elsewhere. The chaos and utter depression which followed led the Maronites to elect their first Patriarch, John Maroun, that year. This, however, was seen as a usurpation by the Orthodox churches. Thus, at a time when Islam was rising on the borders of the Byzantine Empire and a united front was necessary to keep out Islamic infiltration, the Maronites were focused on a struggle to retain their independence against imperial power. This situation was mirrored in other Christian communities in the Byzantine Empire and helped facilitate the Muslim conquest of most of Eastern Christendom by the end of the century.

After they came under Arab rule following the Muslim conquest of Syria, the Maronites experienced an improvement in their relationship with the Byzantine Empire. The imperial court, seeing its earlier mistake, saw an advantage in the situation. Thus, Byzantine Emperor Constantine IV provided direct ecclesiastical, political and military support to the Maronites. The new alliance soon coordinated devastating raids on Muslim forces, providing a welcome relief to besieged Christians throughout the Middle East. Some of the Maronites relocated to Mount Lebanon at this time and formed several communities that became known as the Marada. That is from the view of 17th century Patriarch Estephan El Douaihy (also known as Stephane Al Doueihi Arabic: أسطفان الدويهي, “The Father of Maronite History” and the “Pillar of the Maronite Church”).

Another view is of Ibn al-Qilaii, a Maronite scholar from the 16th century, who proposed that Maronites fled Muslim persecutions of the Umayyads in the late 9th century AD.

The most widely accepted theory postulates that the Maronites fled Jacobite monophysite persecution, because of Monothelite heresy as advanced by Sergius of Tyr, a scholar of the 10th century AD. It is most probable, because nearly all the denominations became Monothelite after that it was introduced by Patriarch Sergius I of Constantinople. The Maronite migration to the mountains took place over a long period, but its peak must have been during the 7th century.

Around AD 1017, a new Muslim sect emerged calling themselves the Druze. At that time, the Maronites, as dhimmis, were required to wear black robes and black turbans, so as to be easily identified; they were also forbidden to ride horses.

Following the conquest of Eastern Christendom outside of Anatolia and Europe by the Muslims, and the establishment of secured lines of control between Islamic Caliphs and Byzantine Emperors, little was heard from the Maronites for 400 years. Secure in their mountain strongholds, it was not until the crusader Raymond of Toulouse on his way to conquer Jerusalem in the Great Crusade that the Maronites were re-discovered in the mountains near Tripoli, Lebanon. Raymond later returned to besiege Tripoli after his conquest of Jerusalem and relations between the Maronites and European Christianity were re-established.

It was late in the 11th century when the Crusaders made their way to the lands of the Levant to overthrow Islamic rule; on their way, they passed through mount Lebanon, where they came across the Maronites. The Maronites had been largely cut off from the rest of the Christian world for around 400 years. The Church in Rome had been unaware that the Maronites were still in existence. The crusaders and Maronites established ties and from this point provided each other with mutual assistance.

During the Crusades in the 12th century AD, Maronites assisted the Crusaders and affirmed their affiliation with the Holy See in 1182 AD. Consequently, from this point onwards, the Maronites have upheld an unbroken ecclesiastical orthodoxy and unity with the Catholic Church. To commemorate their communion, Maronite Patriarch Youseff Al Jirjisi received the crown and staff marking his patriarchal authority, from Pope Paschal II in 1100 AD. In 1131, Maronite Patriarch Gregorios Al-Halati received letters from Pope Innocent II in which the Papacy recognized the authority of the Patriarchate.

For a long time Maronites had been effectively isolated from Christians of the Byzantine Empire and Western Europe. As a result, they appointed their own Patriarch, starting with John Maron, who had been a bishop of Batroun, Mount Lebanon. Through him, the Maronites of today claim full apostolic succession through the See of Antioch. Nonetheless, controversy surrounds this claim as some Maronites had been accused of having fully adopted the Monothelite heresy; this led to a number of civil wars (e.g. 1282 and 1499 AD).

If someone is going to quote (actually copy & paste from) wikipedia verbatim, one would think at least a reference would be in order.

Following the defeat of the Mamelukes by the Ottoman Empire, and to reward their new Druze ally who fought with them in the battle of Marj Dabek (1516), the Ottomans rewarded Prince Fakher el Din al Maani I, with the Principality of Lebanon, where he established a Druze-Maronite alliance lasting for hundreds of years; this prosperous principality would be the base of the modern Lebanese Republic.

The Maronites were partners in governing the new principality; often the post of Moudabbir (roughly Prime Minister) and the post of Army Commander were given to a Maronite, usually a Khazen or a Hobeich of Keserwan. During this period (1516-1840), the Maronites started returning to southern Mount Lebanon, where they had lived before they were almost exterminated by the Mamelukes in 1307. Thus, the historic Keserwan and all the Druze mountains were repopulated. It was this love and affection between the Maronites and Druze that helped establish the Lebanese identity.

On July 15, 1584, a Maronite college was established in Rome, with Pope Gregory hosting the grand opening.

Fakhr-al-din II, who was said to have been brought up by a Maronite el Khazen family, fought for Lebanese independence for over 50 years. In the mid-16th century, 25,000 Ottoman troops launched an attack on Lebanon. During the ensuing battles, Fakhr and three of his sons were captured; they were subsequently executed in Istanbul on the 13th day of April 1635.

In 1638, France declared that it would protect all Catholics within the Ottoman Empire, including the Maronites.

In the 17th century AD Western religious groups started settling in Lebanon. The migration began in 1626 with the Capuchins, followed by the Jesuits. The groups moving at this time did this in order to serve the Lebanese, opening schools for the Maronite people until there was a school next to each church. This made it possible for the Maronites to acquire a formal education. The Maronites were on the forefront of the cultural Renaissance in the Middle East.

However, connection to Rome was arduously maintained and through diplomacy and maneuvering, European powers helped keep the Maronite community from destruction. Eventually, a Maronite College was established at Rome on July 5, 1584. From this college, the Maronite community obtained some valuable assistance in maintaining their Christian identity. In 1610, the Maronite monks of the Monastery of Saint Anthony of Qozhaya imported one of the first printing presses in what is known as the Arabic-speaking world; however that press was printing in the Syriac language and not Arabic. The monasteries of Lebanon would later become key players in the Arabic Renaissance of the late 19th century as a result of developing Arabic, as well as Syriac, printable script.

In 1856 the Maronites’ uprising took place against governor (Dawood Pasha). Youssef Karam was the son of Sheikh Boutros Karam, at that time the Sheikh was lord of Ehden and surrounding district.

In 1997, Pope John Paul II visited Lebanon to give hope to Lebanese Catholics. He said, “Lebanon is more than a country, it is a message.”

You would think…

Tiresome … not to mention a total waste of bandwidth.

I understood the Maronites were never out of Communion with Rome. If they previously held to monothelitism, it seems that they abandoned it practically as soon as learning Rome’s condemnation of it.

That’s quite some loyalty.

I remain indifferent at the whole thought. It is fairly inconsequential. I also find the whole argument for perpetual communion to be a bit naive and unnecessary.

The history of relations between the Maronites and Rome is more colorful than some would lead others to believe. Believe it or not there was a good deal of resistance to Rome during certain time periods.

We haven’t always been the lapdogs of the Vatican… :wink:

Nor should you be. I certainly hope the history of Larin-Maronite relations would be colorful. I was always puzzled by how blandly the relationship tends to be presented. Unfortunately, info about the Maronite Church has been difficult for me to come by.

Would you, perchance, be able to direct me toward a proper primer? (Catechism or theological resource written my a Maronite - in English :o)

I know this is an old post, but this still I thought this might be helpful.

First both the Maronites and Melkites are chuches that developed out of the Church of Antioch, which originally had the Syriac rite which Maronites still use today. It is often stated that the Maronite rite is the oldest liturgical tradition in the Catholic Church.

The Maronites formed around the monastery of Bet Maroun in Syria and from there spread to Lebanon. Later when there were various troubles with both the See of Constantinople and the Muslims the Maronites fled into the Lebanese mountains. There they were discovered by passing Crusaders in the 12th century.

The Maronites have never been out of communion with Rome nor have they ever been monothelites.

The Melkite Church on the other hand is a church that split in the 18th century, forming both the Melkite Greek Catholic Church and the Greek Antiochian Orthodox Church. The parent Church which was known as the Melkite Church adopted the Byzantine liturgy around the 8th century as the See of Anitoch was in an area which had been conquered by Muslims. At this point the Church of Antioch was greatly diminished and little more than a vassal Church of Constantinople, hence the change in liturgy.

So in short today they are both Catholic Antiochene churches who split apart in the 6th century but who continued to exist side by in Syria and Lebanon for most of that time–although remember the Melkite Catholic Church didn’t technically form until the 18th century, and the Maronite church was basically in seclusion until the 12th century (from the 12th to the 18th century it was the parent Melkite Greek Orthodox Church that Maronites coexisted with).

Today it is recognized that there are five distinguishing characteristics of the Maronite church:

First and foremost Maronites are Antiochene and share a historical, liturgical and spiritual heritage with all the other Catholic and Orthodox Antiochene Churches. Maronites are also heirs of Syriac cultural and religious heritage, whose language, poetry, and hymnody were the means used to express the mystery that God is beyond all descriptions yet has come close to us in Christ.

Second, Maronites are Chalcedonian, meaning they were staunch supporters of the Council of Chalcedon, convened in 451 A.D., which taught that Jesus was true God and true man. In this formula, Maronites found a balance and way of life that placed them forever in the communion of the universal Church.

Third, the Maronite Church is Patriarchal and Monastic. Saint Maron was a hermit-priest. The first Maronites were monks, priests and laity associated with the monasteries of Saint Maron in the 5th - 8th centuries. Her first Patriarch, Saint John Maron, was chosen from among the monks.

Fourth, the Maronite Church is known for Her love and devotion to the See of Peter in Rome. This relationship has allowed Maronites to fully express the Catholic faith held from the beginning, and at the same time be part of the balance between East and West.

Fifth, the Maronite Church is tied to Lebanon, Her spiritual homeland and the land of Her Patriarch and people.

I believe that you have that backwards.

In the 18th Century, the newly elected Melchite Patriarch, with the support of most of the synod, requested communion with Rome. In the aftermath, the dissenting bishops requested help from Constantinople, which then formed the Antioch Orthodox Church.

(Similarly, the Church in Ukraine entered communion with Rome; the Orthodox church(es) there are the later creations).

In most other cases, the Catholic group has broken off of the Orthodox group, but in these, it was the Orthodox who broke away.

Yes, you are right about the facts. Nevertheless, the salient point is that there was a split in the 18th century that created both the Melkite Greek Catholic Church (which obviously couldn’t have existed before or else a return to communion with Rome wouldn’t have been necessary) and the Greek Orthodox Antiochian Church and the particular details weren’t (to me) really worth quibbling over. I am tempted to say that I can somewhat understand how for a Melkite they may be, but if I were a Melkite today I still wouldn’t be particularly concerned about stressing the details.

Hi MysticalSelah. I realize your question has been answered already; but I’d like to offer this thought: you may understand the answers better if you take a bit of time to try to answer the question “What do Latin Catholics believe?”

Very Informative.

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