the patriarchal throne.20 There are at present some 130,000 Syrian Catholics worldwide, with many communities in Lebanon, Iraq and Syria. There is a Syrian Catholic diocese for the USA and Canada, which was established in 1996, and a chaplain for Syrian Catholics in Australia.
The origins of the Maronite Church are shrouded in mystery. At some point in the twelfth century this church of mountain-dwelling monks entered into a formal union with Rome,22 but with the fall of the crusader states contact with Latin Christendom became intermittent, until the Maronites were 'rediscovered' in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries by Franciscan friars residing in Palestine.23 From this period onwards, several legates were sent to Mount Lebanon to restore relations with the Maronites. In 1470 the first Maronite priest was sent to Rome for theological and scholarly training. The priest, Gabriel Ibn al-Qila'l, had been recruited by the Franciscan Order in Palestine, and after his stay in Rome and a short intermezzo in Mount Lebanon in 1493 he settled in Cyprus as the prior of the Franciscan convent until his death in 1516. He becomes an important figure in the creation of a Maronite historiography.24
There were recurring accusations that the Maronite Church was deliberately obscuring its, presumed, heretical origins. These were refuted in the seventeenth century thanks to a scholarly campaign led by Patriarch Isüfan al-Duwayhî (1670-1704), who also played an important role in consolidating ties with Rome and France and who acquired high esteem among the Maronites as a spiritual leader and a scholar.25 He laid the groundwork for the synod of
20 The liturgy and the later meeting of the pope and Syrian Catholic bishops is described briefly in Eastern Churches Journal 8 (2001), 306-7.
21 See H. Suermann, Die Gründungsgeschichte der maronitischen Kirche [Orientalia biblica et christiana 10] (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 1998); Suermann, 'Die Lage des Klosters Mar Maron', Parole de l'Orient 13 (1986), 197-223.
22 See Charles Frazee, 'The Maronite middle ages', Eastern Churches Review 10 (1978), 88100; Kamel Salibi, 'The Maronite Church in the middle ages and its union with Rome', Oriens Christianus 42 (1958), 92-104; R. Hiestand, 'Die Integration der Maroniten in die römische Kirche, zum ältesten Zeugnis der papstlichen Kanzlei (12 Jahrhundert)', OCP 54 (1988), 119-52.
23 M. Roncaglia, 'Le relazioni della Terra Santa con i Maroniti del Monte Libano e di Cipro dal 1564 al 1569', Archivum Franciscanum Historicum 46 (1953), 417-47.
24 H. Douaihy, Un théologien maronite: Ibn Al-Qila'i, éveque et moine franciscain (Kaslik: Bibliothèque de l'Université Saint-Esprit de Kaslik, 1993).
25 R. van Leeuwen, 'The crusades and Maronite historiography', in East and West in the Crusader States, ed. K. Ciggaar, A. Davis and H. Teule (Leuven: Peeters, 1996), 51-62; Sarkis Tabor, 'Les relations de l'église maronite avec Rome au XVIIe siècle', Parole de l'Orient 9 (1978-80), 255-75.
Lebanon (30 September to 2 October 1736), which marked a major turning point in the reform of the Maronite Church.26 For the first time, definitive diocesan boundaries were established, creating eight dioceses: six in Lebanon, one for Cyprus and one for Aleppo.27 Many significant Latin practices were either introduced or formally accepted, including the prohibition of chrisma-tion and Eucharist as part of the rite of Christian initiation for children and the prohibition against the laity receiving the eucharistic wine at the liturgy, two practices that offended the Roman liturgical tradition. Also, the powers and privileges of the Maronite patriarch over and against the other Maronite bishops were greatly extended. In 1741 the decisions of this council received formal papal approval and acquired the force of pontifical law.
It was at this time that two Maronites, members of the Assemani (as-Sim'anî) family, Joseph Simon (1687-1768) and Stephen Evodius (1709-82), came to prominence in both church affairs and Syriac scholarship.28 Pope Clement XII (1730-40) appointed Joseph Assemani apostolic visitator to the synod of Lebanon. He took this opportunity to collect the oriental manuscripts which form the nucleus of the Vatican Library's oriental manuscript collection. The contents of these Syriac manuscripts he set forth in his Bibliotheca orientai Clemento-Vaticana, which remains a point of reference for modern Syriac scholarship. Succeeding Joseph as prefect of the Vatican Library was his nephew Stephen, who continued his work and published an edition of its Persian, Turkish and Arabic manuscripts. Other members of this industrious and gifted family held various positions of importance in the Vatican.
The Propaganda Fide at Rome sought the rigorous implementation of all the decrees of the Mount Lebanon synod and was especially insistent on the observance of regulations about the residence ofbishops and on the abolition of mixed monasteries. However, the various synods held after 1736 at the request ofthe Propaganda failed to meet its demands. The Maronites did not see things in the same light as the curia, largely because they followed the Arabic text of the decrees of the Mount Lebanon synod, supposing it to be identical with the Latin. It turned out that the Arabic version was substantially different from the Latin text printed in Rome in 1820. There was a long-drawn-out dispute that lasted from 1830 until 1833, when Patriarch Joseph Hobaîs (1823-45), a firm
26 P. Rouhana, 'Histoire du synode libanais de 1736', Parole de l'Orient 13 (1986), 111-64; Rouhana, 'Identiteé eccleésiale maronite deès origines aè la veille du Synode libanais', Parole de l'Orient i5 (i988-89), 2i5-60.
27 W. de Vries, 'Note sur la date de la fondation du sieège archieépiscopal des Maronites aè Alep', L'Orient Syrien 5 (i960), 351-8.
28 P. Raphael, Le role du collège maronite romain dans l'orientalisme aux XVIIe et XVIIIe siècles (Beirut: Universite Saint Joseph de Beyrouth, 1950).
Was this article helpful?