Syriac Orthodox Church
||This article's lead section may not adequately summarize key points of its contents. (April 2012)|
|Syriac Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East|
Emblem of the Church
|Primate||Ignatius Aphrem II|
|Headquarters||Historically Antioch, Officially Damascus, Presently Beirut|
|Territory||Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Iraq, Iran, southeastern Turkey|
|Possessions||Eastern Mediterranean, United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Western Europe, South America, Australia, and India|
|Language||Syriac (liturgical), and local languages: Malayalam, Turoyo-Aramaic, Arabic, Turkish, Hebrew, English, Dutch, Swedish, German, Spanish, Portuguese, French, Hindi and Tamil|
|Members||5,500,000 around the World, with 2,600,000 in India; 2,000,000 in Latin America (mainly in Guatemala), 600,000 living in Syria, 50,000 in Iraq, 5,000 in Jordan and the Holy Land, 300,000 in diaspora (150,000 in the USA 80,000 in Sweden, 100,000 in Germany, and 3,000 in the UK).|
|Website||Official website of the Syriac Orthodox Church|
The Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch (Classical Syriac: ܥܕܬܐ ܣܘܪܝܝܬܐ ܬܪܝܨܬ ܫܘܒܚܐ), also known as the Syrian Orthodox Church of Antioch is an autocephalous Oriental Orthodox church based in the Eastern Mediterranean, with members spread throughout the world. It employs the oldest surviving liturgy in Christianity, the Liturgy of St. James the Apostle, and uses Syriac as its official and liturgical language. The church is led by the Syriac Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch. The Syriac Orthodox Church traces its history to one of the first Christian communities in Antioch, described in the Acts of the Apostles (New Testament, Acts 11:26) and established by the Apostle St. Peter in AD 37.
The Church belongs to the Oriental Orthodox family of churches, which has been a distinct church body since the schism following the Council of Chalcedon in AD 451 but its roots date back to the first founded church outside Jerusalem in Antioch in AD 37 when and where the followers of Jesus Christ were first called Christians. The precise differences in theology that caused the split, "arose only because of differences in terminology and culture and in the various formulae adopted by different theological schools to express the same matter", according to a joint declaration by the last head of the Syriac Orthodox church, Patriarch Mar Ignatius Zakka I Iwas, and Roman Catholic Pope John Paul II in 1984. However, this view is not held by the Eastern Orthodox Church, one of the participants in the Council of Chalcedon (see: History of Oriental Orthodoxy). The Syriac Orthodox Church participates in ecumenical discussions, being a member of the World Council of Churches since 1960, where the last Patriarch Mor Ignatius Zakka I Iwas served as a president, and a member of the Middle East Council of Churches since 1974.
- 1 History
- 2 Worship
- 3 Priesthood
- 4 Global presence
- 5 Jurisdiction of the Patriarchate
- 6 See also
- 7 References
- 8 External links
The Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch claims the status as the most ancient Christian church in the world. According to Saint Luke, "The disciples were first called Christians in Antioch," (New Testament, Acts 11:26). St. Peter and St. Paul the Apostle are regarded as the cofounders of the Patriarchate of Antioch in AD 37, with the former serving as its first bishop and he is considered as the first Patriarch of the Syriac Orthodox Church.
- As Jewish Christianity originated at Jerusalem, so Gentile Christianity started at Antioch, then the leading center of the Hellenistic East, with Peter and Paul as its apostles. From Antioch it spread to the various cities and provinces of Syria, among the Hellenistic population as well as among the Hellenistic Jews who, as a result of the great rebellions against the Romans in A.D. 70 and 130, were driven out from Jerusalem and Palestine into Syria.
When St. Peter left Antioch, Evodios and Ignatius presided over the Patriarchate. Because of the prominence of St. Ignatius in the church's history, almost all of the Syriac Orthodox Patriarchs since 1293 were named Ignatius.
Patriarchate of Antioch
The spiritual care of the Church was vested in the Bishop of Antioch from the earliest years of Christianity. Given the antiquity of the bishopric of Antioch and the importance of the Church in the city of Antioch which was a commercially significant city in the eastern parts of the Roman Empire, the First Council of Nicaea (325) recognized the bishopric as a Patriarchate along with the bishoprics of Rome, Alexandria, and Jerusalem, bestowing authority for the Church of Antioch and All of the East on the Patriarch.
Even though the Synod of Nicaea was convened by the Roman Emperor Constantine, the authority of the ecumenical synod was also accepted by the Church in the Persian Empire which was politically isolated from the Churches in the Roman Empire. Until 498, this Church accepted the spiritual authority of the Patriarch of Antioch. The Church also maintained a smaller non-Chalcedonian church under a Catholicos (Katholikos), known by the title Maphryono, until the 1860s. This Catholicate was canonically transferred to India in 1964 and continues today as an integral part of the Syriac Orthodox Church with the Syriac Orthodox Patriarch as its head.
The Christological controversies that followed the Council of Chalcedon in 451 resulted in a long struggle for the Patriarchate between those who accepted and those who rejected the Council. In 518, Patriarch Mar Severius was exiled from the city of Antioch and took refuge in Alexandria. On account of many historical upheavals and consequent hardships which the church had to undergo, the Patriarchate was transferred to different monasteries in Mesopotamia for centuries. In the 13th century it was transferred in the Mor Hananyo Monastery (Deir al-Za`faran), in southeastern Turkey near Mardin, where it remained until 1933. Due to an adverse political situation, it was transferred to Homs, Syria and in 1959 was transferred again to Damascus.
The Patriarchate office is now in Bab Tuma, in Damascus, capital of Syria; but the Patriarch resides at the Mar Aphrem Monastery in Ma`arat Sayyidnaya located about twenty five kilometers north of Damascus.
The Church of Antioch played a prominent role in the first three Synods held at Nicaea (325), Constantinople (381), and Ephesus (431), shaping the formulation and early interpretation of Christian doctrines.
In terms of Christology, the Oriental Orthodox (Non-Chalcedonian) understanding is that Christ is "One Nature—the Logos Incarnate, of the full humanity and full divinity". Just as humans are of their mothers and fathers and not in their mothers and fathers, so too is the nature of Christ according to Oriental Orthodoxy. The Chalcedonian understanding is that Christ is "in two natures, full humanity and full divinity". This is the doctrinal difference which separated the Oriental Orthodox from the rest of Christendom.
By the 20th century the Chalcedonian schism was not seen with the same relevance, and from several meetings between the authorities of Roman Catholicism and the Oriental Orthodoxy, reconciling declarations emerged in the common statement of the Oriental Patriarch (Mar Ignatius Zakka I Iwas) and the Pope (John Paul II) in 1984.
|“||The confusions and schisms that occurred between their Churches in the later centuries, they realize today, in no way affect or touch the substance of their faith, since these arose only because of differences in terminology and culture and in the various formulae adopted by different theological schools to express the same matter. Accordingly, we find today no real basis for the sad divisions and schisms that subsequently arose between us concerning the doctrine of Incarnation. In words and life we confess the true doctrine concerning Christ our Lord, notwithstanding the differences in interpretation of such a doctrine which arose at the time of the Council of Chalcedon.||”|
The Syriac Orthodox Church is very active in ecumenical dialogues. It has been a member church of World Council of Churches since 1960 and the Patriarch, Mor Ignatius Zakka I Iwas is one of the presidents of World Council of Churches. The Syriac Orthodox Church is also actively involved in ecumenical dialogues with the Catholic Church and Eastern Orthodox churches. There are common Christological and pastoral agreements with the Catholic Church. It has also been involved in the Middle East Council of Churches since 1974.
Since 1998, the heads of the three Oriental Churches in the Eastern Mediterranean i.e. the Syriac Orthodox Church, the Coptic Orthodox Church and the Armenian Apostolic Church (Catholicate of Cilicia, Antelias, Lebanon) meet regularly each year.
- Evening or Ramsho prayer (Vespers)
- Night prayer or Sootoro prayer (Compline)
- Midnight or Lilyo prayer (Matins)
- Morning or Saphro prayer (Prime or Lauds, 6 a.m.)
- Third Hour or tloth sho`in prayer (Terce, 9 a.m.)
- Sixth Hour or sheth sho`in prayer (Sext, noon)
- Ninth Hour or tsha` sho'in prayer (None, 3 p.m.)
The liturgical service, which is called Holy Qurbono in Syriac Aramaic and means 'Eucharist', is celebrated on Sundays and special occasions. The Holy Eucharist consists of Gospel Reading, Bible Readings, Prayers, and Songs. During the celebration of the Eucharist, priests and deacons put on elaborate vestments which are unique to the Syriac Orthodox Church. Whether in the Eastern Mediterranean, India, Europe, the Americas or Australia, the same vestments are worn by all clergy.
Apart from certain readings, all prayers are sung in the form of chants and melodies. Hundreds of melodies remain and these are preserved in the book known as Beth Gazo. It is the key reference to Syriac Orthodox church music.
Bible in Syriac tradition
Syriac Orthodox Churches use the Peshitta (Syriac: simple, common) as its Bible. The Old Testament books of this Bible were translated from Greek to Syriac between the late 1st century to the early 3rd century AD.
The Old Testament of the Peshitta was translated from the Hebrew, probably in the 2nd century. The New Testament of the Peshitta, which originally excluded certain disputed books, had become the standard by the early 5th century, replacing two early Syriac versions of the gospels.
In the Syriac Orthodox tradition, different ranks among the deacons are specifically assigned with particular duties. The six ranks of diaconate are:
- ‘Ulmoyo (Faithful)
- Mawdyono (Confessor of Faith)
- Mzamrono (Singer)
- Quroyo (Reader)
- Afudyaqno (Sub-deacon)
- Mshamshono (Full Deacon)
Only a full deacon or Masamsono can take the censer during the Divine Liturgy to assist the priest. However, in Malankara Church, because of the lack of deacons, altar assistants who do not have any rank of deaconhood assist the priest. The deacons in Malankara Church are allowed to wear a phiro, or a cap.
The priest is the seventh rank and is the duly one appointed to administer the sacraments. Unlike in the Roman Catholic church, Syriac deacons can marry before ordained as a full priest; however he cannot marry after ordained as priest.There is another honorary rank among the priests that is Corepiscopos who has the privileges of "first among the priests" and are give a chain with cross and specific vestment decorations. Corepiscopos is the highest rank a married man can be elevated in the Syriac Orthodox Church. Any ranks above the Corepiscopos are unmarried.
Episcopos is a word that means "the one who oversees". In the Syriac Orthodox Church, an episcopos is a spiritual ruler of the church. In episcopos too there are different ranks. The highest and the supreme is the Patriarch, who is the "father of fathers". Next to him is the Maphriyono or Catholicos of India who is the head of a division of the Church. Then there are Metropolitans or Archbishops and under them there are Episcopos or Bishops.
The clergy of the Syriac Orthodox Church have unique vestments that are quite different from other Christian denominations. The vestments worn by the clergy vary with their order in the priesthood. The deacons, the priests, the bishops, and the patriarch each have different vestments.
The priest's usual dress is a black robe, but in India, due to the harsh weather, priests usually wear a white robe. However, during prayers in the church, they wear a black robe over the white one. Bishops usually wear a black or a red robe with a red belt. They do not, however, wear a red robe in the presence of the Patriarch who wears a red robe. Bishops visiting a diocese outside their jurisdiction also wear black robes in deference to the bishop of the diocese, who alone wears red robes. Priests also wear phiro, or a cap, which he must wear for all the public prayers. Monks also wear eskimo, a hood. Priests also have ceremonial shoes which are called msone. Without wearing msone, a priest cannot distribute holy Eucharist to the faithful. Then there is a white robe called kutino symbolizing purity. Hamniko or Stole is wore over this white robe. Then he wears girdle called zenoro and zende meaning sleeves. If the celebrant is a bishop, he wears a masnapto, or turban (Very different from turban worn by Sikh men). A cope called phayno is worn over these vestments. Batrashil, or Pallium, is worn over the Phayno by Bishops (Very similar to Hamnikho worn by priests). An important aspect is that Bishops and Cor-Episcopas have handheld crosses while ordinary priests have none.
Primacy of Saint Peter
The Fathers of the Syriac Orthodox Church tried to give a theological interpretation to the primacy of Saint Peter. They were fully convinced of the unique office of Peter in the primitive Christian community. Ephrem, Aphrahat and Maruthas who were supposed to be the best exponents of the early Syriac tradition unequivocally acknowledge the office of Peter.
The Syriac Fathers following the rabbinic tradition call Jesus “Kepha” for they see “rock” in the Old Testament as a messianic Symbol. When Christ gave his own name “Kepha” to Simon he was giving him participation in the person and office of Christ. Christ who is the Kepha and shepherd made Simon the chief shepherd in his place and gave him the very name Kepha and said that on Kepha he would build the Church. Aphrahat shared the common Syriac tradition. For him Kepha is in fact another name of Jesus, and Simon was given the right to share the name. The person who receives somebody else’s name also obtains the rights of the person who bestows the name. Aphrahat makes the stone taken from Jordan a type of Peter. He says Jesus son of Nun set up the stones for a witness in Israel; Jesus our Saviour called Simon Kepha Sarirto and set him as the faithful witness among nations.
Again he says in his commentary on Deuteronomy that Moses brought forth water from “rock” (Kepha) for the people and Jesus sent Simon Kepha to carry his teachings among nations. Our Lord accepted him and made him the foundation of the Church and called him Kepha. When he speaks about transfiguration of Christ he calls him Simon Peter, the foundation of the Church. Ephrem also shared the same view. The Armenian version of De Virginitate records that Peter the rock shunned honour Who was the head of the Apostles. In a mimro of Efrem found in Holy Week Liturgy points to the importance of Peter.
Both Aphrahat and Ephrem the Syrian represent the authentic tradition of the Syrian Church. The different orders of liturgies used for sanctification of Church building, marriage, ordination etc. reveal that the primacy of Peter is a part of living faith of the Church.
It is estimated that the church has over 5,000,000 members globally. This includes 3,000,000 members in India and Indian diaspora. The majority of the remaining 2,000,000 members are ethnic Syriacs.  There is another orthodox faction in India "Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church", which has about 2,600,000 members, this church is independent and has its own Catholicos in India. There are 800,000 Syriac Orthodox members in Syria and 15,000 in Turkey, 1,750 in Palestine (500 in Jerusalem and 1,250 Bethlehem) (numbers among the Assyrians in Iraq are unknown). In Lebanon they number up to 50,000. In the diaspora, there are approximately 80,000 members in the United States, 80,000 in Sweden, 100,000 in Germany, 15,000 in the Netherlands, 200,000 members in Brazil, Switzerland, and Austria and around 2,000,000 in Central America, including a large number of indigenous Mayan converts in Guatemala.
Since the church has never been the officially-adopted religion of a modern-day country, a unique name had long been used to distinguish the church from the polity of Syria in most languages besides English. This includes Arabic (the official language of Syria), where the Church has always been known as the "Syriani" church; the term "Syriani" being the same word used to identify the Syriac language in Arabic. The meaning of this term is entirely unique from the term for "Syrian" in Arabic, which is translated as, literally, "Syrian". Being the lone exception up until the year 2000, English identified the church as the "Syrian Orthodox Church"; with "Syrian" being derived from the term "Syrian church" used by English-speaking historians to describe the community in ancient Syria prior to the ecumenical divisions (see: Christianity in Syria). The confusion between "Syrian" and "Syriac" in English led to some nationalists favoring the term "Syrian Orthodox" and some ethnic Assyrians favoring the term "Assyrian Orthodox", as the names Syria and Syriac are now generally accepted as having been originally derived from Assyria (see Name of Syria). However, the term "Syrian Orthodox" failed to distinguish the church as in other languages and the term Assyrian Orthodox Church led to confusion with the Assyrian Church of the East. Hence, in 2000, a Holy Synod ruled that the church should be named after its official liturgical language of Syriac (i.e. Syriac Orthodox Church), as it is in most other languages. The official name of the church in Syriac is pronounced ʿĒdtō Suryōytō Triṣaṯ Šuḇḥō; this name has not changed, nor has it changed in any language other than English. The church is often referred to as Jacobite (after Jacob Baradaeus), but it rejects this name.
The church today has two seminaries, and numerous colleges and other institutions. Among those there are several religious institutions which are noteworthy. Patriarch Aphrem I Barsoum (†1957) established St. Aphrem's Clerical School in 1934 in Zahlé, Lebanon. In 1946 it was moved to Mosul, Iraq, where it provided the Church with a good selection of graduates, the first among them being Patriarch Mor Ignatius Zakka I Iwas and many other Church leaders. Also the church has an international Christian education centre which is a centre for religious education. In the year 1990 he established the Order of St. Jacob Baradaeus for nuns and renovated St. Aphrem's Clerical building in Atshanneh, Lebanon for the new order.
Jurisdiction of the Patriarchate
The Syrian Orthodox Church in the Middle East has several Archdioceses and Patriarchate Vicariates in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Turkey, Jordan, Palestine, Israel, UAE and the Arab States of the Persian Gulf.
- The Patriarch of Antioch and All the East, the Supreme Head of the Universal Syrian Orthodox Church His Holiness Ignatius Aphrem II.
- Patriarchal Office Director in Damascus Archbishop H.E. Mor Dionysius Jean Kawak.
- Patriarchal Secretary in Damascus Archbishop H.E. Mor Timothius Matta AlKhori.
- Archbishopric of Jazirah and Euphrates under the spiritual guidance and direction of Archbishop H.E. Mor Eustathius Matta Roham.
- Archbishopric of Aleppo under the spiritual guidance and direction of Archbishop H.E. Mor Gregorios Yohanna Ibrahim.
- Archbishopric of Homs & Hama under the spiritual guidance and direction of Archbishop H.E. Mor Selwanos Petros AL-nemeh.
- Patriarchate Vicariate for the Archdiocese of Damascus under the spiritual guidance and direction of Archbishop H.E. Ivanius Paulose Al-Souky.
- Archbishopric of Mount Lebanon under the spiritual guidance and direction of Archbishop H.E. Mor Theophilos George Saliba.
- Patriarchate Vicariate of Zahle under the spiritual guidance and direction of Archbishop H.E. Mor Yostinos Boulos Safar.
- Archbishopric of Beirut & Benevolent institutions in Lebanon under the spiritual guidance and direction of Archbishop H.E. Mor Clemis Daniel Malak Kourieh.
- The Patriarchal Institutions in Lebanon under the spiritual guidance and direction of Archbishop H.E. Mor Chrysostoms Michael Shimon.
- Archbishopric of Baghdad and Basrah under the spiritual guidance and direction of Archbishop H.E. Mor Severius Jamil Hawa.
- Archbishopric of Mosul, Kirkuk and Kurdistan under the spiritual guidance and direction of Archbishop H.E. Mor Nicodimus Dawood Sharaf. Served previously by the retired Archbishop but currently Patriarch Advisor H.E. Mor Gregorius Saliba Shamoun.
- Archbishopric of St Matthew's "Matta" Monastery under the spiritual guidance and direction of Archbishop H.E. Mor Timothius Mousa A. Shamani.
- Archbishopric of Istanbul and Ankara under the spiritual guidance and direction of Archbishop H.E. Mor Filüksinos Yusuf Çetin.
- Patriarchate Vicariate of Mardin under the spiritual guidance and direction of Archbishop H.E. Mor Filüksinos Saliba Özmen.
- Patriarchate Vicariate of Turabdin under the spiritual guidance and direction of Archbishop H.E. Mor Timothius Samuel Aktaş.
- Archbishopric of Adiyaman under the spiritual guidance and direction of Archbishop H.E. Mor Gregorius Melki Ürek.
- Holy Land
The Jacobite Syrian Christian Church, one of the various Saint Thomas Christian churches in India, is an integral part of the Syriac Orthodox Church, with the Patriarch of Antioch as its supreme head. The local head of the church in Malankara (Kerala) is the Catholicos of India (sometimes erroneously called Catholicos of the East), currently Baselios Thomas I, ordained by the Patriarch in 2002 and accountable to the Patriarch of Antioch. The headquarters of the church in India is at Puthencruz near Ernakulam in the state of Kerala in South India. Another church, the Indian or Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church, functions independently in schism. The Knanaya Syrian Orthodox Church is an archdiocese under the same patriarchate.
Unlike most other patriarchal churches abroad, the language of the Syriac Orthodox Divine Liturgy in India is mostly in Malayalam along with Syriac. This is because almost all Syrian Christians in India hail from the State of Kerala, where Malayalam is the mother tongue of the people.
The Syriac Orthodox Church has four Archdioceses and Patriarchate Vicariates in North America, one Archdiocese in Central America and the Caribbean Islands and two Patriarchate Vicariates in South America.
- Patriarchate Vicariate of the Eastern USA under the spiritual guidance and direction of Archbishop H.E. Mor Cyril Aphrem Karim now the Patriarch His Holiness Ignatius Aphrem II.
- Patriarchate Vicariate of the Western USA under the spiritual guidance and direction of Archbishop H.E. Mor Clemis Eugene Kaplan.
- Malankara Archdiocese of North America under the spiritual guidance and direction of Archbishop H.E. Mor Titus Yeldho Pathickal.
The Syriac Orthodox Church in Europe has seven Archdioceses and Patriarchate Vicariates.
- United Kingdom
- Dioceses of the Syriac Orthodox Church
- List of Orthodox Churches
- List of Patriarchs of Antioch — to 518
- List of Syriac Orthodox Patriarchs of Antioch — list from 518
- Malankara Jacobite Syriac Orthodox Church (Church in India)
- Saint Thomas Christians (Syrian Malabar Nasrani)
- Ignatius Aphrem II
- Ignatius Zakka I Iwas
- Ignatius Afram I Barsoum
- Ignatius Jacob III
- Ignatius Elias III
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- Patriarchate of the Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch
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- Margonitho: Syriac Orthodox Resources
- Article on Syrian Orthodox Church by Ronald Roberson on CNEWA website
- Malankara Syriac Orthodox Church / Jacobite Syrian Church, AD 52
- Jacobite Online: Online Community of Jacobite Syrian Church
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- Malankara Vision: TV Of Jacobite Syrian Church
- Malankarese Giacobita siriano Chiesa
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Syrian Religious Relations and the Roman Catholic Church
- Pope Benedict XIV, Allatae Sunt (On the observance of Oriental Rites), Encyclical, 1755
- Addresses of Pope Paul VI and His Holiness Mar Ignatius Jacob III, 1971
- Common Declaration of Pope John Paul II and His Holiness Mar Ignatius Zakka I Iwas, 1984
- Address of John Paul II on Occasion of the Visit to the Catholicos of the Malankarese Syrian Orthodox Church, 1986
- Shroro: The Syriac Christian Digest
- Syriac Music Online
- Noohro "The Light" Weekly Bulletin
- Syrian Liturgy description and photos