Maronite Christianity in Lebanon
|Christianity (Maronite Catholic)|
The Lebanese Maronite Christians are believed to constitute about 22% of the total population of Lebanon. Lebanon's constitution was intended to guarantee political representation for each of the nation's ethno-religious groups.
The cultural and linguistic heritage of the Lebanese people is a blend of both indigenous Phoenician elements and the foreign cultures that have come to rule the land and its people over the course of thousands of years. In a 2013 interview the lead investigator of the National Geographic Society's Genographic Project, Pierre Zalloua, pointed out that genetic variation preceded religious variation and divisions: "Lebanon already had well-differentiated communities with their own genetic peculiarities, but not significant differences, and religions came as layers of paint on top. There is no distinct pattern that shows that one community carries significantly more Phoenician than another."
The followers of Jesus Christ first became known as "Christians" in the ancient Greek city of Antioch (Acts 11:26), and the city became a center for Christianity - especially after the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. According to Catholic tradition, the first Bishop was Saint Peter before his travels to Rome. The third Bishop was the Apostolic Father Ignatius of Antioch. Antioch became one of the five original Patriarchates (the Pentarchy) after Constantine recognized Christianity.
The Maronite Christianity derived its name and religious identity from Saint Maron whose followers migrated to the area of Mount Lebanon (present day Republic of Lebanon) from their previous location of residence around the area of Antioch (an ancient Greek city within present day Hatay Province, Turkey), establishing the nucleus of the Maronite Church.
More specifically, Maron, a fourth-century monk and the contemporary and friend of St. John Chrysostom, left Antioch for the Orontes River to lead an ascetic life, following the traditions of Anthony the Great of the Desert and Pachomius. Many of his followers also lived a monastic lifestyle. Following the death of Maron in 410 AD, his disciples built a monastery in his memory and formed the nucleus of the Maronite Church.
The Maronites held fast to the beliefs of the Council of Chalcedon in 451 AD. When the Monophysites of Antioch slew 350 monks, the Maronites sought refuge in the mountains of Lebanon. Correspondence concerning the event brought the Maronites papal and orthodox recognition, which was solidified by Pope Hormisdas (514-523 AD) on February 10, AD 518. A monastery was built around the shrine of St. Maro (Marun) after the Council of Chalcedon.
The martyrdom of the Patriarch of Antioch in the first decade of the seventh century, either at the hands of Persian soldiers or local Jews, left the Maronites without a leader, a situation which continued because of the final and most devastating Byzantine–Sassanid War of 602–628. In the aftermath of the war, the Emperor Heraclius propagated a new Christological doctrine in an attempt to unify the various Christian churches of the east, who were divided over accepting the Council of Chalcedon. This doctrine, monothelitism, was meant as a compromise between supporters of Chalcedon, such as the Maronites, and opponents, such as the Jacobites. Monothelitism was actually endorsed by Pope Honorius I (625-638) of the Catholic Church to win back the Monophysites. Instead, this new doctrine caused greater controversy, and was declared a heresy at the Sixth Ecumenical Council in 680-681. Contemporary Greek and Arab sources, however, claimed that the Maronites accepted monothelitism, rejected the sixth council, and continued to maintain a belief in the largely discredited monothelete doctrine for centuries, only moving away from monothelitism in the time of the crusades in order to avoid being branded heretics by the crusaders. The modern Maronite Church, however, rejects the assertion that the Maronites were ever monothelites apart from the rest of the Catholic Church; and the question remains a major controversy to this day.
In 687 AD, the Emperor Justinian II agreed to evacuate many thousand Maronites from Lebanon and settle them elsewhere. The chaos and utter depression which followed led the Maronites to elect their first Patriarch, John Maroun, that year. This, however, was seen as a usurpation by the Orthodox churches. Thus, at a time when Islam was rising on the borders of the Byzantine Empire and a united front was necessary to keep out Islamic infiltration, the Maronites were focused on a struggle to retain their independence against imperial power. This situation was mirrored in other Christian communities in the Byzantine Empire and helped facilitate the Muslim conquest of most of Eastern Christendom by the end of the century.
The Maronites belong to the Maronite Syriac Church of Antioch (a former ancient Greek city now in Hatay Province, Turkey) is an Eastern Catholic Syriac Church that had affirmed its communion with Rome since 1180 A.D., although the official view of the Church is that it had never accepted either the Monophysitic views held by their Syriac neighbours, which were condemned in the Council of Chalcedon, or the failed compromise doctrine of Monothelitism (the latter claim being found in contemporary sources). The Maronite Patriarch is traditionally seated in Bkerke, north of Beirut.
Geographic distribution within Lebanon
Lebanese Maronite Christians are concentrated in the north Beirut, northern part of Mount Lebanon Governorate, southern part of North Governorate, parts of Beqaa Governorate and South Governorate.
The last Census in Lebanon in 1932 put the numbers of Maronites at 29% of the population (227,800 of 791,700). A study done by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in 1985 put the numbers of Maronites at 16% of the population (356,000 of 2,228,000).
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- Habib Pacha Es-Saad
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- Christianity in Lebanon
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- Protestantism in Lebanon
- Religion in Lebanon
- Roman Catholicism in Lebanon
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Maronites.|
- Baladites: Official website of the Lebanese Maronite Order
- Antonins: Official website of the Lebanese Antonin Order
- Aleppians: Official Website of the Mariamite Maronite Order (O.M.M.) (in Arabic)
- Kreimists or Lebanese missionaries: Official website of the Congregation of Maronite Lebanese Missionaries