Melkite Greek Catholic Church

Emblem of the Holy See
Melkite Greek Catholic Church
كنيسة الروم الملكيين الكاثوليك (in Arabic)
Melkite Greek Catholic Church, Damascus, Syria.jpg
ClassificationEastern Catholic
PrimatePatriarch Youssef Absi
RegionEgypt, Israel, Palestine, Jordan, Lebanon, Sudan, Syria, Iraq, Argentina, Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, Canada, France, Mexico, United States, Venezuela and Sweden
LanguageArabic, Greek
Diaspora: English, Portuguese, Spanish
LiturgyByzantine Rite
HeadquartersCathedral of Our Lady of the Dormition, Damascus, Syria
FounderApostles Peter and Paul, by Melkite tradition
Members1,522,802 [1]

The Melkite (Greek) Catholic Church (Arabic: كنيسة الروم الملكيين الكاثوليك‎, Kanīsat ar-Rūm al-Malakiyyīn al-Kāṯūlīk) is an Eastern Catholic Church in full communion with the Holy See as part of the worldwide Catholic Church. It is headed by His Beatitude Youssef Absi, S.M.S.P., headquartered in Cathedral of Our Lady of the Dormition, Damascus, Syria. The Melkites, Byzantine Rite Catholics, trace their history to the early Christians of Antioch, formerly part of Syria and now in Turkey, of the 1st century AD, where Christianity was introduced by Saint Peter.[2][3]

The Melkite Church is related to the Greek Orthodox Church of Antioch, from which it separated de facto in the mid-18th century. It is mainly centered in Syria, Lebanon, Israel and Palestine.[4] Melkite Greek Catholics are present, however, throughout the world by migration due to persecution. Outside the Near East, the Melkite Church has also grown through intermarriage with, and the conversion of, people of various ethnic heritages as well as transritualism. At present there is a worldwide membership of approximately 1.6 million.[5][6] While the Melkite Catholic Church's Byzantine rite liturgical traditions are shared with those of Eastern Orthodoxy, the Church has been part of the Catholic Church since the affirmation of its union with the Holy See of Rome in 1724.[7]


Melkite, from the Syriac word malkā for "King" and the Arabic word Malakī (Arabic: ملكي‎, meaning "royal", and by extension, "imperial"),[8] was originally a pejorative term for Middle Eastern Christians who accepted the authority of the Council of Chalcedon (451) and the Byzantine Emperor, a term applied to them by non-Chalcedonians.[8] Of the Chalcedonian churches, Greek Catholics continue to use the term, while Eastern Orthodox do not.

The Greek element signifies the Byzantine Rite heritage of the church, the liturgy used by all the Eastern Orthodox Churches.[9]

The term Catholic acknowledges communion with the Church of Rome and implies participation in the universal Christian church. According to Church tradition, the Melkite Church of Antioch is the "oldest continuous Christian community in the world".[10]

In Arabic, the official language of the church,[4] it is called ar-Rūm al-Kathūlīk (Arabic: الروم الكاثوليك‎). The Arabic word "Rūm" means Roman, from the Greek word "Romaioi" by which the Greek-speaking Eastern (called "Byzantine" in modern parlance) Romans had continued to identify themselves even when the Roman empire had ceased to exist elsewhere. The name literally means "Roman Catholic", confusingly for the modern English-speaker, but this does not refer to the Latin-speaking Western Catholic Church of Rome but rather to the Greek-speaking Eastern Orthodox "Byzantine" Roman heritage, the centre of gravity of which was the city of "New Rome" (Latin: Nova Roma, Greek: Νέα Ρώμη), i.e. Constantinople.

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