The Syriac Catholic Church was established by Saint Peter prior to his departure to Rome, and extends it roots back to the origins of Christianity in the Orient; in the Acts of the Apostles we are told that it is in Antioch where the followers of Jesus for the first time were called "Christians" (Acts 11:26).
In the time of the first Ecumenical Councils, the Patriarch of Antioch held the ecclesiastical authority over the Diocese of the Orient, which was to be extended from the Mediterranean Sea to the Persian Gulf. Its scholarly mission in both languages: the Greek and Syriac was to provide the world and the Universal Church with eminent saints, scholars, hermits, martyrs and pastors. Among these great people are Saint Ephrem (373), Doctor of the Church, and Saint Jacob of Sarug (521).
During the Crusades
During the Crusades there were many examples of warm relations between Catholic and Syriac Orthodox bishops. Some of these bishops favored union with Rome, but there was no push to unify until a decree of union between the Syriac Orthodox and Rome was signed at the Council of Florence September 30, 1444- but the effects of this decree were rapidly annulled by opponents of it in the Syriac Church's hierarchy.
Split with the Syriac Orthodox Church
Jesuit and Capuchin missionaries evangelizing in Aleppo caused some local Syriac Orthodox faithful to form a pro-catholic movement within the Syriac Orthodox Church. In 1667, Andrew Akijan, a supporter of union with the Catholic Church, was elected as Patriarch of the Syriac Orthodox Church. This provoked a split in the community, and after Akijan’s death in 1677, two opposing patriarchs were elected, with the Pro-Catholic one being the uncle of Andrew Akijan. However, when the Catholic Patriarch died in 1702, this very brief line of Catholic Patriarchs upon the Syriac Orthodox Church's Patriarchate died out with him. After the death of the Akijan line, The Ottoman government supported the Syriac Orthodoxy's agitation against the Syriac Catholics, and throughout the 18th century the Syriac Catholics underwent suffering and much persecution. Due to this, there were long periods when no Syriac Catholic bishops were functioning, so a Patriarch could not be elected, and the community was forced to go entirely underground. However, in 1782, the Syriac Orthodox Holy Synod elected Metropolitan Michael Jarweh of Aleppo as Patriarch. Shortly after he was enthroned, he declared himself Catholic and in unity with the Pope of Rome. After this declaration Jarweh took refuge in Lebanon and built the still-extant monastery of Our Lady at
Sharfeh, and by that act became the Patriarch of the Syriac Catholic Church. Since Jarweh there has been an unbroken succession of Syriac Catholic Patriarchs, which is known as the Ignatius Line.
After the split up until modern times
In 1829 the Ottoman government granted legal recognition to the Armenian Catholic Church, and in 1845 the Syriac Catholic Church was also granted its own civil emancipation. Meanwhile, the residence of the Patriarch was shifted to Aleppo in 1831. However, after the Massacre of Aleppo in 1850, the Patriarchal See was shifted to Mardin in 1854.
After becoming officially recognized by the Ottoman Government in 1845 the Syriac Catholic Church expanded rapidly. However, The expansion was ended by the persecutions and massacres that took place during the Assyrian genocide of World War I. After that, the Syriac Catholic Patriarchal See was moved to Beirut away from Mardin, to which many Ottoman Christians had fled the Genocide. In addition to its see in Beirut, The patriarchal seminary and printing house are located at
Sharfeh Monastery in