Maximos IV Sayegh

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His Beatitude and Eminence
Maximos IV Sayegh
Cardinal Patriarch (Melkite Greek) of Antioch
Church Melkite Greek Catholic Church
See Antioch
Elected 30 October 1947
Installed 21 June 1948
Term ended 5 November 1967
Predecessor Cyril IX Moghabghab
Successor Maximos V Hakim
Other posts Bishop of Damas
Ordination 17 September 1905
Consecration 30 August 1919
by Demetrius I Qadi
Created Cardinal 22 February 1965
by Pope Paul VI
Rank Patriarch, Cardinal-Bishop
Personal details
Birth name Massimo Sayegh
Born (1878-04-10)10 April 1878
Aleppo, Aleppo Vilayet, Ottoman Syria
Died 5 November 1967(1967-11-05) (aged 89)
Beirut, Lebanon
Denomination Melkite Catholic
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Maximos IV Sayegh (or Saïgh) (April 10, 1878 – November 5, 1967) was Patriarch of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church from 1947 until his death in 1967. One of the fathers of Second Vatican Council, the outspoken patriarch stirred the Council by urging reconciliation between the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches. For these contributions to Christian ecumenical relations he was honored with the cardinalate.


Massimo Sayegh was born on April 10, 1878 in Aleppo. He was ordained a priest on September 17, 1905. On August 30, 1919 he was appointed archbishop of Tyre, Lebanon and consecrated bishop by patriarch Demetrius I Qadi.[1] In 1933 he was named archbishop of Beirut.

The Synod of Bishops of the Melkite Church elected Maximos Patriarch of Antioch on 30 October 1947, succeeding the recently deceased Cyril IX Moghabghab.

Following an old tradition of the more than 900-year old Order of Knighthood, founded in Jerusalem to take care of lepers in the Hospital St. Lazare, he was the Spiritual Protector of the international ecumenical Military and Hospitaller Order of St. Lazarus of Jerusalem.

Participation in Second Vatican Council[edit]

Patriarch Maximos IV took part in the Second Vatican Council. There he championed the Eastern tradition of Christianity and won a great deal of respect from Eastern Orthodox observers at the council and the approbation of the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Athenagoras I.

As a participant in Vatican II, Patriarch Maximos spoke forcefully against the latinization of the Eastern Catholic churches, and urged a greater receptivity to the eastern Christian traditions, especially in the area of ecclesiology. He stated that

We have, therefore, a twofold mission to accomplish within the Catholic Church. We must fight to ensure that Latinism and Catholicism are not synonymous, that Catholicism remains open to every culture, every spirit, and every form of organization compatible with the unity of faith and love. At the same time, by our example, we must enable the Orthodox Church to recognize that a union with the great Church of the West, with the See of Peter, can be achieved without being compelled to give up Orthodoxy or any of the spiritual treasures of the apostolic and patristic East, which is opened toward the future no less to the past. [1]

Also at Vatican II, Patriarch Maximos successfully advocated use of vernacular languages for liturgical services, noting that:

Christ offered the first Eucharistic Sacrifice in a language which could be understood by all who heard him, namely, Aramaic. … Never could the idea have come to them [the Apostles] that in a Christian gathering the celebrant should read the texts of Holy Scripture, sing psalms, preach or break bread, and at the same time use a language different from that of the community gathered there … because this language [Latin] was spoken by the faithful of that time, Greek was abandoned in favor of Latin. … Why, then, should the Roman Church cease to apply the same principle today?

Speaking at the Council on the matter of indulgences, he noted that "the practice of indulgences too often favors in the faithful a sort of pious bookkeeping in which one forgets what is essential, namely, the sacred and personal effort of penance".

Becoming cardinal[edit]

Patriarch Maximos IV accepted the title of cardinal on February 2, 1965.[citation needed] Previously he had refused three times the honor on the grounds that "for a Patriarch to accept a cardinalate is treason".[2] Patriarch Maximos IV's objections were rooted in history and ecclesiology: he argued that the Patriarchs of the Eastern Churches were heads of their respective churches and successors to their respective apostolic sees only subordinate to the Roman Pontiff but were not subordinate to the cardinals whose position was that of being members of the principal clergy of the diocese of Rome. Patriarch Maximos IV also argued that the rank of patriarch being only subordinate to the pope had been repeatedly confirmed by past ecumenical councils and never explicitly revoked by any pope. As such it would be inappropriate for him or other Eastern Catholic Patriarchs to accept the rank of cardinal which implied being made a titular member of the Latin Church with a subordinate clerical rank as opposed to their being leaders of their respective churches and successors to their respective apostolic sees united under the leadership of the Supreme Pontiff.

On February 11, 1965, Pope Paul VI issued the motu propio Ad Purpuratorum Patrum which decreed that Eastern Patriarchs who are elevated to the College of Cardinals would belong to the order of cardinal-bishops, ranked after the suburbicarian cardinal-bishops, but would not be part of the Roman clergy and would not be assigned any Roman suburbicarian diocese, church or deaconry, their patriarchal see instead becoming their cardinalitial see.[3][a] Pope Paul VI's decree satisfied many of the concerns of Patriarch Maximos and he finally decided to accept the cardinalate. Patriarch Maximos IV Saigh was created cardinal-bishop patriarch in the consistory of February 22, 1965 and received the red biretta on February 25, 1965.[2]

The patriarch's acceptance of the cardinalate however was protested by Elias Zoghby, the Patriarchal Vicar for the See of Alexandria, Cairo and the Sudan.[2] The vicar opposed the acceptance of a Roman cardinalate by the Melkite patriarch, on the grounds that "the leader of an Eastern Catholic church should not hold a subordinate Latin-rite office" and in protest of Patriarch Maximos' acceptance of the cardinalate the vicar resigned his position.[2] The patriarch gave a speech on March 14, 1965 clarifying his reasons for accepting the cardinalate and why the pope's decree about Eastern Patriarchs being elevated to the cardinalate was changing the nature of the cardinalate: the cardinals were no longer just an institution within the Latin Church but was now the senate of the entire Catholic Church. Also, under the new rules, an Eastern Catholic Patriarch becoming cardinal no longer meant that the patriarch was accepting a subordinate position in the clergy of the Latin church but was now a way for the Pope to further extend to the Eastern Patriarchs an additional role in helping him govern the universal church.

On November 22, 1965, he was assigned the church of Santa Maria in Cosmedin for religious celebrations while he was in Rome.[2] In accordance with the motu propio Ad Purpuratorum Patrum, he was not assigned the Roman deaconry title associated with the church—the title of cardinal-deacon of Santa Maria in Cosmedin was retained by Cardinal Francesco Roberti, who held the titular church from December 15, 1958 until June 26, 1967.[2]

Maximos IV Sayegh died in 1967 of cancer in Beirut, Lebanon at the age 89. He was succeeded by Maximos V Hakim.


  1. ^ The rule that Eastern Catholic Patriarchs who would be made cardinals would have their patriarchal sees as their cardinalatial sees was confirmed by Pope John Paul II in the Code of Canon Law of 1983 Canon 350 §3.[4]

See also[edit]

Specific references[edit]

  1. ^ "Maximos IV Cardinal Saigh, S.M.S.P.". David M. Cheney. Retrieved 23 January 2015. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f "SAIGH, M.S.S.P., Maximos IV". The Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church. Retrieved 2013-11-04. 
  3. ^ "Ad Purpuratorum Patrum". The Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church. Retrieved 2013-05-27. 
  4. ^ 1983 Code of Canon Law - Canon 350 §3

General references[edit]

  • Dick, Ignatios (2004). Melkites: Greek Orthodox and Greek Catholics of the Patriarchates of Antioch, Alexandria and Jerusalem. Roslindale, MA.: Sophia Press. 

External links[edit]