Patriarchate of Antioch:
Founded by Saints Peter and Paul
most famous scriptural reference concerning Antioch relates that it was
in this city that the followers of Christ were first mockingly referred
to as "Christians" (Acts 11:26). In the Book of Acts, which
offers an account of the first years of the Church, we discover that
Antioch is the second most frequently mentioned city. Nicholas, one of
the original seven deacons was a convert from Antioch and perhaps the
first Christian from that city (Acts 6:5). During the persecution which
occasioned the death of Saint Stephen the First Martyr, members of the
fledgling Christian community in Jerusalem fled to Antioch for refuge.
Church tradition maintains that the See
of Antioch was founded by Saint Peter the Apostle in A.D. 34 . Peter was
either followed or joined by the Apostles Paul and Barnabas who preached
there to both Gentiles and to Jews, who seem to have been numerous in
the city. It was in Antioch that one of the first conflicts within the
Church developed between Peter and Paul. This conflict regarded the
necessity of circumcision for male Gentile converts to Christianity. It
was the resolution of this conflict at the Council of Jerusalem under
Saint James the Apostle that determined the direction of the Antiochian
mission to the Gentiles, and the dynamic nature of that Christian
community in its missionary outreach. It was from Antioch that Paul and
Barnabas departed for their great missionary journeys to the Gentile
lands (Acts 13:1).
The Apostles directed a truly universal
ministry. After spending some seven years in Antioch, Peter left for
Rome. To succeed him as bishop of Antioch he appointed Euodius, who is
thus counted in early episcopal lists as the first successor to the
Antiochian Throne of Peter. The multiple Apostolic foundation of the See
of Antioch, the early missions centered there and the active nature of
the community, as recorded in the New Testament, have been a unique
heritage to all who trace their spiritual and ecclesiastical roots to
the Antiochian Patriarchate.
See of Antioch continued its glorious contributions to the universal
Church by the numerous outstanding personalities it nurtured. Saint
Ignatius of Antioch for example, is revered as both a victorious martyr
during the reign of Emperor Trajan (early second century) and as a
reliable historical source for the structure of Church life. Ignatius
was the second successor to Peter and may actually have been consecrated
by that Apostle or Saint Paul.
The Church of Antioch has maintained a
succession in the Apostolic Faith
down to the present. The current Bishop/Patriarch of Antioch is His
Beatitude Ignatius IV.
PATRIARCHATE OF ANTIOCH
The city of Antioch
on-the-Orontes was the most important city of the Roman Province of
Syria, and, as such, served as the capital city of the Empire's civil
"Diocese of the East." The Church in Antioch dates back to the
days of the foremost apostles, SS. Peter and Paul, as is recorded in the
Acts of the Apostles. Scripture refers to Antioch as the place where the
followers of Jesus Christ were first called "Christians" (Acts
11.26), and records that Nicholas, one of the original seven
deacons, was from that city -- and may have been its first convert (Acts
6.5). During the persecution of the Church which followed the death
of St. Stephen the Proto-Martyr, members of the infant community in
Jerusalem sought refuge in Antioch (Acts 11.19), and while St.
Peter served as the first bishop of the city, SS. Paul and Barnabas set
out on their great missionary journeys to Gentile lands (Acts 13.1)
-- establishing a tradition which would last for centuries, as from
Antioch missionaries planted churches throughout greater Syria, Asia
Minor, the Caucasus Mountains, and Mesopotamia.
At the first Ecumenical Council,
convened in the city of Nicaea in the year 325 by Emperor Constantine
the Great, the primacy of the bishop of Antioch over all bishops of the
civil Diocese of the East was formally sanctioned.
Following the third Ecumenical Council,
held in Ephesus in the year 431, the first of several divisions occurred
in the Patriarchate of Antioch. The followers of Nestorius
disputed the council's definition of the nature of Christ, and formed a
separate, parallel hierarchy. Most Nestorians lived outside the
Byzantine Empire in Persia, today known as Iran.
At the fourth Ecumenical Council,
held in Chalcedon in the year 451, the Bishop of Antioch was
"promoted" to the rank of "Patriarch". Thereafter,
continuing disputes about the nature of Christ caused another portion of
the ancient Patriarchate to separate, forming a hierarchy often referred
to as the "Jacobites" after their theological leader,
Jacob Baradai. Today they are usually known as the "Syrian Orthodox
Church". They are a member of the Oriental Orthodox family of
churches. The Orthodox were termed "Melkites" --
meaning followers of the [Byzantine] Emperor.
From the seventh century onward,
many Christians living in isolation on Mount Lebanon identified
themselves with the Monk Marun, and came to organize another separate
hierarchy, the Maronites. In the twelfth century the Maronites
became the first part of the Patriarchate to unite with Rome.
The "Great Schism"
of 1054 resulted in the separation of Rome, seat of the Patriarchate of
the West, from the four Eastern Patriarchs of Constantinople,
Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem. In 1724 a portion of the Orthodox
Patriarchate vowed allegiance to Rome and appropriated for themselves
exclusively the ancient name "Melkite", joining the
family of "Greek-Catholic" or "Uniate" churches. The
Orthodox continued to be known as the "Greek-Orthodox" -- or
"Rum" in Arabic.
During the reign of the Egyptian Mamelukes, conquerors
of Syria in the 13th century, the Patriarchal residence was transferred
to the ancient city of Damascus, where a Christian community had
flourished since apostolic times (Acts 9), and which had
succeeded earthquake-prone Antioch as the civil capital of Syria. The
Patriarchate has jurisdiction over all dioceses within its ancient
geographic boundaries (Syria and Lebanon) as well as others in the
Americas, Australia, and Western Europe. Its headquarters is located in
Damascus on the "Street called Straight" (Acts 9.11).
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