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Eastern Christianity

The Maronite Church

Doctrines - The Maronites belong to the Uniate churches. The term Uniate was applied to those eastern churches that affiliated themselves to the Roman Catholic Church while retaining their own liturgy and practices. The Maronites are distinguished from other Christian groups through their adherence to Monothelitism, a seventh century doctrine which claims that although Christ had two natures (divine and human) he had only one will.

History The Maronites trace their origins to a fourth century monk called Maron. Condemned and persecuted for their monothelite beliefs, the Maronites sought refuge in the mountains of Lebanon. The crusades of the twelfth century enabled the Maronites to communicate with Rome and eventually to accept papal authority. In 1736 they adopted a new church constitution which formally defined their affiliation with Rome.
More recent times have witnessed intense hostility between Maronites and their Muslim neighbours. In 1860 Maronite communities were massacred by local Druses, an extremist Shi'ite Muslim group. In 1975 tensions within the state of Lebanon erupted into civil war. Order was restored in 1988 when Syrian troops occupied Beirut.

Symbols The body and blood of Christ are symbolised in the bread and wine of the eucharist. Ashes are blessed on the first Monday in Lent as a symbol of penance. Palms are blessed to commemorate Christ's triumphal entry into Jerusalem.

Adherents  - There are Maronite communities in the following countries: Cyprus, 8,500; Egypt, 5,800; Israel, 7,000; Lebanon, 1,864,805; and Syria, 3,625 (Europa Publications Limited 1995, 1:964, 1:1073, 1:1610, 2:1867,2:2940). There are also Maronite communities in Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, South Africa, United States, and Uruguay.

Main Centre
 Maronite patriarchate, Bkerk6; tel. (9) 915441; fax (9) 938844.