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The Melkite Catholic Church

At the Second Vatican Council, Melkite Patriarch Maximos IV Sayegh 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. The Melkite Holy Synod has stated that, in the event of a reconciliation between the Orthodox and Catholic churches, the Melkite Church should be reintegrated into the Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch. A bilateral commission for dialogue between the Melkites and Antiochian Orthodox was established in 1995, and both sides have expressed the firm intention to heal the schism of 1724 [see the Patriarchate of Antioch].

St. Anne’s Seminary in Jerusalem, under the direction of the White Fathers (now called the Missionaries of Africa), was the main seminary for the Melkite church until it was closed in 1967 because of the political situation. There are now three major seminaries in the Melkite church: the patriarchal seminary of St. Anne in Rabouß, Lebanon; Holy Savior Seminary in Beit Sahour, Israel, for dioceses in Israel, Jordan, the West Bank and Gaza; and St. Gregory the Theologian Seminary in Newton, Massachusetts, USA, for the United States and other English-speaking countries.

There are several religious orders in the Melkite Greek Catholic Church. The most prominent is the Basilian Salvatorian Order, which was founded by Antiochian Orthodox bishop Eftimios Sayfi in 1683, one year before he became Catholic. The community, whose motherhouse is at St. Savior monastery in Saida, Lebanon, serves in Melkite parishes around the world, and has a special mission to promote ecumenical and interreligious dialogue. The Melkite Paulist Fathers direct an important theological institute at Harissa and administer a well-known publishing house. Altogether there are 131 Melkite priests who belong to religious orders, 108 brothers, and 532 women religious.

After the Maronites, the Melkite Catholic Church is the largest and most prosperous Catholic community in the Middle East. The majority of its faithful live in Syria, Lebanon, Israel and occupied territories, and Jordan.

Ongoing emigration from the Middle East in recent years has created flourishing Melkite communities in the West. Archbishop Cyrille Salim Bustros presides over the Diocese of Newton of the Melkites in the United States (19 Dartmouth Street, West Newton, Massachusetts 02165) with 35 parishes and 25,000 members. In Canada, the diocese of Saint-Sauveur de Montréal, under the guidance of Bishop Ibrahim Ibrahim (34 Maplewood, Montréal, Québec H2V 2M1), has eight parishes and missions, and 33,000 faithful. Archbishop Issam John Darwish heads the diocese of St. Michael's of Sydney in Australia (80 Waterloo Road, Greenacre N.S.W. 2190), which has 13 parishes for 45,000 Melkite Catholics. There is also a parish in London. In addition, there has been a large Melkite Greek Catholic emigration to Latin America. There are dioceses based in Sao Paulo and Mexico City, and Apostolic Exarchates in Buenos Aires and Caracas, with a total of about 450,000 faithful.

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