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Eastern Christianity

The Melkite Church

Doctrines The Melkites are Uniate Christians who acknowledge, firstly, the authority of the papacy and, secondly, the authority of the Melkite Catholic patriarch of Antioch and of All the East.

History The term "Melkite" derives from the Syriac word malka, meaning "king" or "emperor". It was used by anti-Chalcedonian Christians to describe those Christians within the patriarchates of Alexandria, Antioch or Jerusalem who supported the emperor's christological position after Chalcedon. After the Arab invasion of eastern Christendom in the seventh century the Melkites came to place themselves increasingly under the jurisdiction of Constantinople and to adopt the Byzantine rite.
Historically, Melkites sought to ally themselves to both Rome and Constantinople. But in 1724 a Catholic Melkite Church was set up in Antioch to rival the Orthodox Melkite Church. This Catholic Melkite Church suffered bloody persecution at the hands of the Ottoman Turks during the early decades of the nineteenth century. However, the patriarch Maximos Ill Mazlum (1833-1855) managed to persuade the Turkish government complete independence for his church. Today the patriarch of Antioch has jurisdiction over all the regions of the former Ottoman empire and Egypt.

Symbols The cross to commemorate the death and resurrection of Christ; bread and wine to commemorate Christ's last supper; and water to commemorate Christ's baptism and to symbolise the cleansing of sins.

Adherents There are some 924,202 Melkite believers (Harris et al. 1994, 144). There are Melkite communities in the following countries: Egypt, 7,500; Iraq, 340; Israel, 3,000; Jordan, 18,288; Lebanon, 339,225; Syria, 166,500 (Europa Publications Limited, 1:1073, 1:1569, 1:1610, 1:1713, 2:1867, 2:2940). There are also Melkite communities in Australia, Canada, Mexico, and U.S.A.

Main Centre
 The patriarch resides in Damascus, but spends part of the year in Alexandria and Jerusalem.