The hermit Maron (Maroon) lived on a mountain in the region of Apamea (Aphamiah) the actual Qal'at Al-Modiq, capital of Syria Secunda. His biographer, Theodoret, bishop of Cyr (d. 458), says that he pursued a life of prayer and that he had consecrated a pagan temple as a church (Religiosa Historia 16, 21; Patrologia Graeca 82:1418–31). Later historians (see P. Dib, Histoire …4) place his death in 410. The group of disciples who gathered around Maron during his lifetime and, after his death, around the monastery erected to his memory formed the nucleus of the Maronite Church.
Monastery of St. Maron. This was located on the banks of the Orontes in northern Syria and, according to
the Arabic historian Ma‘soudi [Livre de l'avertissement, et de la révision (Kitāb at-Tanbīh Wal-Ischrāf), ed. M. J. de Goeje, in Bibliotheca geographorum arabicorum, v. 8 (Leiden 1894) 153], by the tenth century was of considerable size and wealth, a necessary stop on the imperial road from Antioch to Damascus.
During the early sixth century, the Maronite monks were foremost among the defenders of the doctrine of chalcedon, in defense of which 350 monks were slain and many monasteries burned by the monophysites. (They are commemorated by the Maronite Church on July 31.) This is known by a memorandum sent to Pope Hormisdas by the monks of Syria Secunda and signed by Alexander, archimandrite of St. Maron (dated 517; J. D. Mansi, Sacrorum Conciliorum nova et amplissima collectio, 31 v. [Paris 1889–1927; repr. Graz 1960— ] 8:425–429, 1023–30). The pope replied on Feb. 10, 518. Papal recognition of the Maronites is revealed in these documents, which also make it clear that the grand monastery of St. Maron was foremost among the monasteries of Syria Secunda and that together they formed a cohesive group.
The grand monastery was enlarged during the time of the Emperor Marcian (452) and under Justinian I. Until the mid-seventh century, the monastery of St. Maron was the stronghold of the Chalcedonians and the center of missionary activity in northern Syria. The preaching monks traveled about the villages, calling for a spiritual renewal and strengthening the faith of the people who often came to them for guidance. The attempted suppression of the Chalcedonians by civil and religious authorities served to strengthen the unity between the Maronite monks and their lay followers. This was further strengthened by the use of the Syriac language in the liturgy for this was the language of the people in the villages outside of the larger cities. On the eve of the formation of the Maronite patriarchate, the monachal way of life had shaped Maronite society. The heads of the monasteries
were usually invested with the episcopal character, and the people of the surrounding area were under the direct jurisdiction of the monasteries. Over a period of time, the religious life of the people was shaped by monachal customs and traditions. This became an important and an enduring characteristic of the Maronite Church, and its canon law and church government still bear the marks of this influence. The jurisdiction and power of the Maronite patriarchs through the centuries have their origin and meaning in the power and jurisdiction given to the superior of St. Maron's Monastery. This monastic origin explains the influence, to the present day, of the patriarch in civil and religious matters, making him in fact an actual leader of his people who often acts as the representative of the whole Maronite "nation."
Constitution of the Maronite patriarchate and the monothelite controversy in Syria. Patriarch Anastasius II, the last Chalcedonian patriarch to reside in Antioch, was killed in 609. Titular patriarchs of Antioch were appointed by Constantinople until 702, but after that the see remained vacant until 742, when the caliph Hisham allowed the elected patriarch, Stephen III, to take possession (see C. Karalevski, Dictionnaire d'histoire et de géographie ecclésiastiques, [Paris 1912— ] 3:563–703). During the vacancy, the Chalcedonian group was leaderless and the Maronite patriarchate was formed. Maronite monks had elected a bishop from their monastery before 745. See La Chronique de Michel le Syrien ou le Grand (1166–1199 ), ed. J. B. Chabot (1899–1910) 2:511; this text lends solid proof to the Maronite tradition that the patriarchate had been established in the last years of the seventh century. [See Al-Douaihi, Chronology of the Maronite Patriarch, ed. Shartooni (Rashid, Beirut 1902); Le Quien, Oriens Christianus, v. 3; P. Chebli, Biographie du Patriarche Étienne Douaihi (Beirut 1913) 210]. Maronite sources place the election of the first Maronite patriarch, St. John Maron, in 685.
With the Antiochene see vacant, the Maronite monks realized the need for a leader and elected a bishop from their monastery to fill the vacant see. The election was certainly canonical; had it not been so, the Holy See would have condemned it as it did in the case of Macedonius, patriarch of Constantinople in 649 (J. D. Mansi, Sacrorum Conciliorum nova et amplissima collectio, 31 v. [Paris 1889–1927; repr. Graz 1960— 10:811). All available documents indicate that the Maronite patriarchs from the beginning held the title of "Antioch" (e.g., a document from the year 1141 in J. A. Assemani, Bibliotheca Orientalis 1:307).
Historically, the Maronites were the staunchest defenders of the Council of chalcedon, although in the eighth century they had never been informed officially of the condemnation of monothelitism at the Council of Constantinople in 680 (see Dib, Histoire …, 40). The annals of Eutyches (Sa‘Id Ibn Batriq), Monophysite patriarch of Alexandria (933–940), contain many erroneous passages concerning the origin of the Maronites, including the actual dating of the life of St. Maron and the date of the Monothelite heresy itself. Unfortunately, Eutyches misled many later writers, such as William of Tyre, the standard authority on the Crusades (Historia Rerum in Partibus Transmarinis Gestarum; Patrologia Latina, 217 v. [Paris 1878–90] 201:855–856). William attributes Monothelitism to the Maronites and St. Maron and says that at the sight of the Crusaders they were divinely inspired to reject their ancient heresy and to enter the Catholic Church with their patriarch and bishops. Specifically citing Eutyches as his source, William merely repeats his errors (ibid. ).
The position of the Maronites on the question of the two wills in Christ is best understood against the background of the circumstances in Syria at that time. On the eve of the Arab invasion, the Byzantine emperors were attempting to unify their subjects by offering a compromise acceptable to both Chalcedonians and Monophysites, founded in the duality of nature in Christ and the oneness of will. This doctrine was published in the Ecthesis (638) and displeased both parties. Some Chalcedonians had appealed to the pope, and although the pope had approved the project of the Ecthesis, the Ecumenical Council of Constantinople (680) condemned Pope Honorius and Patriarch Sergius and their Monothelite followers, without, however, any mention of the Maronites. The position of the Maronite party concerning the issue remained as it was prior to the council as the Maronites had not been informed of the council's actions. They learned of the council only through prisoners of war captured by the Arabs. The oldest Maronite documents prove that, in spite of a material Monothelitism, the Maronites believed that in Christ, ontologically speaking, there are two wills (see Dib, Histoire …, 30). When speaking of one will in Christ, they mean one practical will, which is equivalent to action in the terminology used by Bishop Thomas Kephartab [Ten Chapters, manuscript Syr. 203, fol. 21,v. 31, dated 1089; Metropolitan David, Kitāb al-Hudā, or Book of Guidance, 1059, ed. P. Fahed (Aleppo 1935) 44–48]. All of these texts stress the unity of action in Christ in that it is not possible to contemplate two opposing wills in Him. What was regarded as heresy was merely controversy over semantics.
The Maronites, under persecution by the caliphates of Damascus and Baghdad aided by the Maximites, began some time in the early eighth century to seek refuge from Muslim attacks in the inaccessible mountains of Lebanon, cut off from all contact with both old and new Rome.
Early middle ages. The juridical literature of the Maronite Church of the Middle Ages has been reduced to the compilation of the nomocanon known as Kitāb al-Hudā (Book of Guidance). The only copies available are written in Karshuni (Arabic written in Syriac characters). P. Fahed edited Kitāb al-Hudā at Aleppo in 1935, giving all the variant readings of the text in footnotes.
The Nomocanon is prefaced by a letter written by the priest monk Joseph, dated from 1058 to 1059, asking Metropolitan David to translate the canons into Arabic. The book is composed of two sections. The first 13 chapters treat doctrine, morality, and liturgy. Chapters 14 to 57 reproduce previous juridical sources.
The Maronites in Lebanon: First contact with Rome through the crusades. It is apparent from a study of the text of the Arab historian Mas‘oudi (d. 956) that before the first half of the tenth century the bulk of the Maronites had left northern Syria. The first Maronite Church in the mountains of Lebanon was established around 749. Safeguarded by the mountains, they organized a feudal system of government under the combined leadership of clergy and nobility. The patriarch appears to have been the supreme head in religious and civil matters, aided by bishops who acted as his vicars.
When the crusaders journeyed along the Levantine coast en route to Jerusalem, the Maronites greeted them as natural allies and close relations grew from the first. The Maronites occupied the first place after the Franks [see Ristelhueber, Les Traditions françaises au Liban (Paris 1925) 58]. The crusades made possible the first contact of the Maronites as an independent Church with the Holy See. The last communication had been the reply of Pope Hormisdas to the Maronite monks in 518; since then the Muslim tide had inundated all of Syria and half of Asia Minor, and the eleventh century had witnessed the Great Schism between East and West. The sixth-century persecution of the Maronites had faded from the memory of the West, and it considered the entire East as either heretic or dissident. The so-called return of the Maronites, which took place in Tripoli (1180–81) and was reported by William of Tyre (op. cit., Patrologia Latina, 217 v. [Paris 1878–90] 201:855–856), was apparently a profession of faith in recognition of the jurisdiction of Alexander III against an antipope. It seems highly unlikely that any church would, as a unit, leave the unity of the Catholic Church and return to it without any member remaining in heresy; it seems even stranger for the Maronites, after their cordial reception of the crusaders, to delay a century to make the so-called return, especially during a period when the Frankish Empire was divided from within and on the very eve of disaster.
Jeremias Al-Amshitti (1199–1230), who personally attended the Lateran Council (1215), was the first Maronite patriarch to visit Rome and take part in an ecumenical council. He returned to Lebanon in 1216 and received the bull Quia Divinae Sapientiae, signed by Innocent III, and the pallium. The Maronites began to strengthen their ties with the Holy See, remaining steadfast despite the persecutions suffered after the departure of the crusaders. The Latinizing of the Maronites began during this period.
Period of the crusades (1098–1291). There is a lack of documents concerning the juridical and ecclesiastical life of the Maronites in these times because members of the Maronite hierarchy, especially the patriarch, were the targets of persecution by the civil authorities. The patriarch lived in hiding. Many times he was discovered and jailed. Consequently the only documents that refer to the existence and activity of a few patriarchs of the eleventh and twelfth centuries are contained in notes found on the marginal spaces of certain manuscripts. The principal documents concerning the relations of the Maronites with the popes can be found in T. Anaissi's Bullarium Maronitarum. This edition is not critical, but it is the only one in existence. Other documents are found in Anaissi's Collectio documentorum Maronitarum. The first part of this collection relates to a period prior to the relations with the Holy See, and the second is made up of documents covering modern times until 1913. These are cataloged according to numerical order: the Bullarium bears Roman numerals, and the Collectio, Arabic numerals. This article will refer to these publications by abbreviations: AB to indicate the Bullarium; AC, the Collectio.
Pope Innocent III. Two bulls of Innocent III concerned the Maronites (AB 1–2). The first, dated April 18, 1213, convoked the forthcoming ecumenical council (1215). The second bull, dated January of 1216, was addressed to Patriarch (or Primate) Jeremias (Al-Amshitti), to the archbishops and bishops, men of note, clergy, and Maronite people. This bull enumerated a few points of doctrine and discipline that the Holy See wished to introduce into the Maronite Church: in the triple baptismal immersion, the Holy Trinity should be invoked only once; confirmation should be conferred only by the bishop, and Holy Chrism should be made of balm and oil; the faithful should go to confession once a year to their own priests and receive Holy Communion three times; there are two wills in Christ; chalices should not be made of glass or wood but only of gold, silver, or tin; and the churches should have bells.
In the Eastern Christian tradition, priests had had the power to confirm. Holy Chrism was made of various aromatic substances. In spite of the recommendation made to the Maronites to go to Confession and Communion once a year, it was not evident that this was not the practice among the Maronites. The notion of a proper pastor was not known in oriental canon law. Bells were not used in the East; instead the custom was to use a mallet on a wooden or iron board to announce the time of prayer.
The bull imposed on the Maronite bishops the use of the Latin vestments and enumerated the Maronite sees, two archbishoprics and three bishoprics. Jeremias Al-Amshitti (1199–1230) was granted the pallium, but with the stipulation that it was to be given to him by the Latin patriarch of Antioch. It extended the privilege of the canon (decreed by canon 15 of the Lateran Council, 1135) to the Maronites, but the patriarch was given the power of lifting the excommunication incurred by the violation of this privilege. It is noteworthy that the pope, while granting all these concessions, recognized the validity of customs and laws approved by the patriarch and his predecessors in the Church of Antioch. This bull, in spite of its expression of the benevolent attitude of the pope, constituted the first attempt at Latinization of Maronite canon law.
Pope Alexander IV. The same prescriptions of Innocent III were sent by Alexander IV (1254–64) in 1256 to Patriarch Simon (1245–77). In this bull the pope limited the power of the patriarch to absolve the censure incurred by violation of the privilege of the canon. Each case had to be referred to Rome (AB 3–4). These attempts at Latinization encountered partial success in the Maronite Church; however, it seems that the Maronite Church followed the practice of the Latin Church only in certain prescriptions. In making Holy Chrism it started to use only oil and balm; in the consecration of a bishop, the imposition of the miter was introduced. Certain ordinations were modeled after the Latin Pontifical. It is to be noted that none of these bulls of Innocent III and Alexander IV prescribed the use of the unleavened bread. Rather they expressed a general invitation to conform the liturgical usages of the Maronite Church to those of the Church of Rome.
Some of the Crusaders, after their defeat and the fall of their Syrian Empire, took refuge among the Maronites and were warmly welcomed by Patriarch Simon, who received a letter of thanks from Pope Alexander IV, addressing him as "Maronite Patriarch of Antioch." Benedict XIV confirmed the title in 1744.
The Mamelukes tightened their watch on the Levantine coast after the departure of the crusaders in order to prevent a return; this rendered contact with the Holy See extremely difficult. Pontifical emissaries were sent to the Maronites during the fifteenth century, and under the government of the Moogaddameen they enjoyed a semi-independent political life.
Mamelukes (1291–1516). The Mamelukes were slaves of the Turks brought by the sultans of Egypt to be officers in their army. One of them succeeded in taking over the sultanate, becoming the first of a long line. The last Mameluke sultan was put to death by Salim I, the sultan of Constantinople, in 1517. The Mamelukes practiced a policy of devastation and destruction in order to impede the return of the crusaders. Thus the cities on the Lebanese coast were sacked and destroyed. The Maronites of this period lived in isolation and enjoyed an autonomous political life. This strengthened the judicial power of the patriarch and bishops over their subjects. The Book of Guidance, or Kitāb al-Hudā, became insufficient to guide them in their new role. The Maronites then adopted the Collection of Canons of the Coptic Ibn Al-‘Assāl, whose second book treats the private law of Christians. A critical edition of this Nomocanon was published at Cairo, Egypt, in 1900 by Philouthaous 'Awad.
The relations of the Maronite patriarchate with the Holy See were interrupted because of the watching eye of the Mamelukes, who had occupied all the sea coast of Lebanon. During this period, the Maronites were grouped in the northern part of Lebanon in the regions of Bat-room, Jobail, Ehden, and Besharree. Some of them had taken refuge on the islands of Rhodes and Cyprus, where their community was prosperous at the time of the Lusiganans (1192–1489).
In spite of the new prescriptions that Innocent III and Alexander IV introduced, and which the Maronites partially followed, it seems that the discipline and the liturgy of the Maronite Church kept its oriental physiognomy. It is probable that the Maronites at that time took back some of the oriental customs that they had somewhat abandoned at the time of the crusades. The danger of Latinization became less imminent because of the interruption of communication with Rome and the West.
Relations with the Holy See were reestablished during the reign of Patriarch John Al-Jaji (1404–45), who sent his profession of faith to Pope Eugene IV. The pope answered in general terms (AB 6). Another bull of Pope Eugene IV, dated Aug. 7, 1445 (AB 7), contained the following disciplinary prescription: the dough to make the Eucharistic bread should not be mixed with oil; the patriarch should replace Maronite liturgical and disciplinary custom with those of the Latin Church. It was after the Maronites abided by these prescriptions that the power was granted to Maronite bishops to excommunicate and absolve in the external forum, both clergy and faithful of the Maronite Church. This was the first time Rome asserted officially, although indirectly, the personal jurisdiction of the Maronite bishops. At the same time, the Maronite clergy were allowed to celebrate Mass in Latin churches and the Latin clergy to celebrate Mass in Maronite churches. Maronite clergy and laity were allowed to be buried from a Latin church. They were allowed to marry Latins, but the ceremony of marriage was to be held in the liturgical rite of the Latin Church.
Pope Paul II was the first pope to mention the title of Antioch used by the Maronite patriarch (Patriarchae Maronitarum Antiochaeno nuncupato ). The bull is dated 1469 (AB 11). During the thirteenth century, the title of Antioch had been given only to the Latin patriarch; but when the crusaders left Syria, the title of patriarch of Antioch was given to a prelate who resided in Rome. During the sixteenth century, the general principle of unity of jurisdiction was abandoned; however, some popes addressed the Maronite patriarchs as patriarch of the Maronites; and others, for example, Pius IV, as patriarch or primate. Paul V, in his bull of 1608, was the first to address Joseph Al-Reezzee as Patriarchae Maronitarum Antiocheni (AB 55). In the four bulls addressed to his successor, John Makhloof, the same title was used, as it was in all other bulls that followed.
In August of 1515 Pope Leo X answered a letter from Patriarch Simon and told him that his profession of faith did not contain the filioque (the procession of the Holy Spirit from the Father and Son) and that the rule prescribed once to Patriarch Jeremias in the making of Holy Chrism was not observed. He indicated also that the Maronites should go once a year to confession and Communion. Pope Leo finally confirmed Simon in his dignity as patriarch of the Maronites and granted him the pallium.
Turkish domination. The period that followed was marked by the conquest of Syria and Cyprus by the Ottoman Turks under Salim I and by the rise to power in Lebanon of the Ma‘nee family (1516–1697). It was marked religiously by the Catholic renewal of the Church through the Council of Trent and the introduction of its decisions into the Maronite canon law.
Modern times: 1515–1918. The Turks, under Sultan Salim I, in 1516 conquered all of Syria, Lebanon, and Egypt; in 1527 the patriarch, offering the aid of 50,000 troops, unsuccessfully asked Charles V, the Holy Roman Emperor, for aid in liberating the land [Rabbath, Documents inédits pour servir à l'histoire du Christianisme en Orient, v. 2 (Paris, Leipzig 1905–21) 616–623]. In 1562 Pius IV urged Patriarch Moses to follow the Roman Rite in the administration of the Sacraments and prescribed that the Maronite patriarchs should, thenceforth, after their elections, send with the letter of obedience a profession of faith (AC 32). In the last years of the sixteenth century, the Holy See sent three missions to the Maronites; at the suggestion of the papal legates, the Maronite patriarchs held three synods (1580, 1596, and 1598).
It was under the reigns of the three patriarchs of the Al-Reezzee family that the decrees of Trent were introduced into the Maronite Church through the successive missions sent by the pope to Lebanon. Michael Al-Reezzee was elected patriarch in 1567. Ten years later he sent emissaries to Rome to present his profession of faith (AC 42). Gregory XIII answered on Feb. 14, 1578 (AB 33), reminding the patriarch of the reforms that the popes wanted to introduce into the Maronite Church. It was the old request: the phrase "who was crucified for us" was to be suppressed from the Trisagion; Holy Chrism was to be made in the Latin style; conferring of Confirmation was to be reserved to the bishops; Holy Communion was not to be given to little children; and the Latin impediments to marriage of consanguinity and affinity were to be adopted.
Synods. John Baptist Eliano and John Bruno were pontifical legates to Lebanon when a synod was held at Qannoobeen from Aug. 15 to 18, 1580. The delegates had prepared a slightly modified text of the decrees. The first nine chapters treated dogma and the Sacraments; these were inspired principally by the Council of Florence with a few additional canons concerning the situation of the Maronites. The reform proposed by Gregory XIII was taken into consideration; but relative to the marriage impediments, only the complicated impediment of affinity was suppressed. Chapter 10 treated discipline and was inspired mainly by the Council of Trent. These decrees remained "dead letters" because it was practically impossible to change well-established customs among the Maronites.
Pope Gregory XIII in his brief Humana Sic Ferunt (1584) erected the Maronite College in Rome, under the Jesuit Fathers. This institution played an important role in the Maronite Church and in fostering oriental studies in the West. gabriel sionita (1577–1648), biblical scholar and linguist, abraham ecchellensis (d. 1644), and Joseph Simon assemani (1687–1768), famous orientalist and custodian of the Vatican Library, are among its most famous students.
In 1584 Gregory XIII erected a college for the Maronite students in Rome and gave its direction to the Jesuits (AB 43–45; AC 55). The next pontifical delegation sent to the Maronites was headed by Jerome Dandini, SJ, who was accompanied by Father Fabio Bruno. Both delegates brought with them 200 copies of the new Missal (strongly Latinized) edited in Rome in 1592. Not knowing the oriental languages, they used as interpreters some Maronite students of the Roman college. The first session was held from Sept. 22 to 28, 1596, and decreed 21 canons. In comparison with the legislation of 1580, this one was fragmentary and lacked systematization; conferring Confirmation was definitely reserved to the bishops and the use of the new Maronite Missal was imposed; Communion under both species was still allowed; and the use of the unleavened bread was imposed. There is no record that this synod was ever approved by Rome. After the death of Patriarch Michael, his nephew Joseph was elected on Nov. 13, 1596. The new patriarch promulgated six canons that encouraged the celibacy of the secular clergy. They decreed also that monasteries and convents be under separate administration.
Patriarch Joseph Al-Reezzee held a new synod at the village of Da’yat Moossa in 1598, which decreed 31 canons. The major part of these canons treated the Sacraments and repeated the prescriptions of 1580 and 1596. Another canon reduced the time of the three periods of fasting used in the East. The acts of this synod were not sent to Rome.
Clement VIII sent a letter to Patriarch Joseph, dated Aug. 17, 1599 (AB 52), in which he defined the extent of the Latin impediments of consanguinity, affinity, spiritual relationship, public propriety, and crime, and he asked the patriarch to introduce them into Maronite canon law, granting the patriarch broad faculties of dispensation. Patriarch Joseph tried in 1606 to impose the Gregorian calendar on the Maronite Church. He succeeded in Lebanon but failed in Cyprus. The other reforms were not accepted or enforced. These synods did not treat the organization of the hierarchy. As before, the bishops remained as delegates of the patriarch and not residential prelates.
After his election in 1644, Patriarch Joseph Al-Aqoori called a synod in Hrash. The canons of this synod were divided into 7 sections: Baptism, 6 canons; Confirmation, 6; marriage, 22; priesthood, 7; Extreme Unction, 3; inheritance, 3; and commandments of the Church, 6. The complicated way of computing the impediment of affinity was taken back along with the marriage impediments; the reduction of the three fasting seasons was maintained. There is no record of any other synods held in the seventeenth century.
The later half of the seventeenth century saw an era of religious toleration during which monasteries multiplied and many European missions were established. Under the reign of Patriarch Al-Douaihi, the Maronite Order of St. Anthony was established (1700; see antonines), along with the Antonine Order of St. Isaias (1704).
From 1697 to 1841. A number of canonical collections were made in the early eighteenth century. Simon Awad, nephew of the patriarch James Awad, in collaboration with Joseph Assemanni, edited a collection in four parts: the number and authority of the patriarchs, their relationship with the Holy See and with the bishops, and the list of the patriarchs of the four great sees. Peter Toulawi, a Maronite priest, translated (c. 1720) the acts of the Council of Trent with its history and added to it the decisions of the two Maronite synods of 1596, underscoring their relationship with the Council of Trent. Abdulla Qarā’āli (1716–42) wrote a resume of civil law based on the ancient oriental canons, but it also contained some Muslim jurisprudence. This resume was divided into 31 chapters. Qarā’āli also wrote a manual of civil law in the form of questions and answers entitled Al-Fatawui or Pandectes. Both books were inspired by Ibn Al-‘Assāl.
Synod of Mt. Lebanon. In July of 1734 Patriarch Joseph Al Khazen, with his bishops, requested the Holy See to send them an apostolic visitor in order to help them reform their Church. They suggested the name of Joseph Simon Assemani, who was prefect of the Vatican Library. Assemani was sent by the pope as his personal legate to call a synod of the Maronite hierarchy and to take part in it with the right to vote (AB 111–114).
Assemani prepared, in Latin, a wide project of canons to be adopted by the future synod. He had the Maronite priest Andrew Scandar translate it into Arabic (Vatican Manuscript Syr. 399, in Karshuni). It was the work of a scholar, containing learned dissertations inspired by Eastern and Western sources, for example, the Trent legislation and that of the 1720 Synod of Zamost. Assemani also used the correspondence of popes and patriarchs and the acts of the 1596 Synod of Qannoobeen. Reference was made to the Book of Guidance and to the Nomocanon of the priest George.
The synod was opened at Ryfoon on Sept. 14, 1736; but because of dissensions, the patriarch left the assembly the following day. The synod then moved to Louaizee on September 30 of the same year and remained in session until October 2. Before the assembly adopted any canons, Assemani had to modify his project in many ways. The canons of this synod marked the ratification of liturgical and canonical Latinization that the Holy See had tried to introduce into the Maronite Church since the time of the crusades. The first part treated faith, feast days, and fasting; the reduction of the three seasons of fast was definitively approved; the compilation of collections of civil and canon law for use in the diocesan tribunals was decreed; and a decision was made to revise all liturgical books. The second part treated the Sacraments: most of the marriage legislation of the Latin canon law was accepted; the use of the unleavened bread was imposed; for the forms of Baptism, Confirmation, and Extreme Unction both Latin and oriental formulas were accepted, but for the form of absolution only the Latin formula was tolerated; finally, that part of the ritual of Al-Douaihi dealing with ordination was accepted. The third part dealt with the hierarchical organization: bishops became true hierarchs of eparchies; rights of the patriarch were made precise and limited; he was to be elected by bishops only and through secret ballot; election by acclamation was valid only when there was unanimity; he was answerable only to the pope; and the number of eparchies was limited to eight, with their limits drawn by mutual accord. The fourth part dealt with the churches, monasteries, convents, and schools: the obligation of keeping registers in the parishes was introduced; monasteries and convents had to be separated; and the constitutions of autonomous monasteries (which did not join the Lebanese congregation of the Antonines) were added to the acts of the synod. At the end of October of 1736, Assemani published an instruction containing a resume of the essential prescriptions of the synod concerning secular clergy, laymen, and churches.
On Sept. 1, 1741, Benedict XIV approved in forma specifica the Latin text of the decrees of the synod of 1736, after making some 15 minor corrections in it (AB 118–119). In another constitution dated Feb. 14, 1742, he approved the accord of the Maronite bishops concerning the eight Maronite eparchies (AB 120). Finally, on Oct. 15, 1742, the pope approved in forma specifica the declarations of the superiors of the Maronite congregations of St. Anthony, made in 1737, that their constitutions would be adjusted to the new legislation of the synod (AB 122). Because of the scarcity of copies of the synod proceedings and because of the opposition that it encountered in many fields, its decrees remained in practice unobserved.
Subsequent Synods. Patriarch Simon Awad and the Maronite bishops had made a very important decision on July 19, 1744: In civil matters the bishops had to use the two works on civil law by Qarā’āli. Benedict XIV, anxious to see the canons of the Synod of Mt. Lebanon applied, called this decision to the attention of Patriarch Simon. Simon called a synod from Nov. 28 to 30, 1755, which decreed 15 canons; the pontifical prescriptions of Benedict XIV were renewed and some new prescriptions were given, and the ritual of Al-Douaihi was to be observed, not the Book of the Priestly Rites, the work of Peter Moubarack, a Maronite Jesuit (d. 1742).
Another synod held by Tobias Al-Khazen at Beq’ata (Aug. 25 to 31, 1756) promulgated 18 canons. Patriarch Joseph Estephan held a synod at Ghosta (Sept. 16 to 21, 1768) attended by a Franciscan delegate of the Holy See to establish peace among the members of the Lebanese congregation. Among the important decisions of this synod was the decree requesting the patriarch to appoint two examiners before whom all candidates for the priest-hood, secular and regular, would be examined. In the same synod, the separation between Lebanese and Aleppian congregations was decreed and later approved by Clement XIV on July 19, 1770 (AB 168).
A synod called by Bishop Michael Al-Khazen was held at Mayfooq (July 21 to 28, 1780) in the presence of the apostolic delegate. It promulgated 13 new canons, one of which was the condemnation of superstitious practices. The other canons referred to matters of discipline for the clergy and laymen. Patriarch Estephan held a synod in Ain-Shaqiq (Sept. 6 to 11, 1786), attended by few bishops and some of the Maronite nobility. The most important decision of this synod was to return to the old custom of having the bishops reside with the patriarch. On Dec. 15, 1787, Pius VI condemned this synod and asked Germanos Adam, Melkite bishop of Aleppo, to hold another synod in the name of the Holy See (AB 179). It was held at Bkerke from Dec. 3 to 18, 1790. Patriarch Estephan and his bishops attended it. Bishop Adam made them revoke the decisions of Ain-Shaqiq that were contrary to the decisions of the Synod of Mt. Lebanon. The synod reached a compromise decision concerning the juxtaposition of monasteries and convents. The Congregation of the Propagation of the Faith (AC 106) made a pronouncement about each one of the synod's disciplinary canons and ordered complete separation of religious houses for men and women.
On Nov. 1, 1816, Pius VII complained to the Maronite hierarchy about the abuses of the juxtaposition of religious houses for men and women, especially of autonomous monasteries unaffiliated with the Lebanese congregations (AB 188), and about bishops not residing in their eparchies despite the reinforcement of this obligation made in 1790. He ordered them to hold a synod in the presence of the apostolic delegate and to abolish these two abuses. The synod was held at Louaizee (April 14 to 15, 1818) and decreed 19 canons. The synod reserved certain convents to the nuns and ordered them to follow the rules decreed in 1736 for the autonomous convent of Hrash, with the exception of the rising at night for prayer. It assigned, for residence of the bishops, a monastery located in their eparchy. On March 25, 1819, Pius VII transmitted to the Maronite hierarchy a decree of the Congregation of the Propagation of Faith reproducing and making precise the decisions of this synod (AB 192–193).
In 1820 the Holy See edited an official Latin text of the Synod of Mt. Lebanon. In 1833 the Congregation of the Propagation of Faith declared that only the Latin edition of the Synod of Mt. Lebanon had force of law. It imposed in 1839 and 1840 a new edition of the Maronite ritual, which was a strongly Latinized edition, in major part inspired by that of Peter Moubarack.
From 1841 to 1955. At the request of the pope, Patriarch Paul Massad convoked a synod at Bekerke (April ll to 30, 1856), but the acts of this synod were never approved by the Holy See.
In 1891 Leo XIII, with Bishop Elias Hoyek (later patriarch), erected the new Maronite College in Rome; the original college had been suppressed by the armies of Napoleon in 1808. In 1895 the same bishop founded the Congregation of the Sisters of the Holy Family, a teaching order. In 1900 Bishop Joseph Nejm edited in Arabic a translation of the Synod of Mt. Lebanon, conforming to the Latin original. Father George Manaš published in Aleppo in 1925 The Canon Law of the Maronites, a comparison of the three editions of the Synod of Mt. Lebanon (1796, 1820, 1900). Elias Az-Zaynati published in Beirut in the following year The Canon of the Lebanese Synod, a systematic presentation of the canons of the synod similar to those of the Latin code.
The Maronite patriarch is held in great esteem and exercises great influence among Christians and non-Christians alike. His residence is at Bkerke during the winter and at Deeman during the summer.
Maronite church in the United States In the 1880s and 1890s, Maronite Catholics were already to be found throughout the United States. They had immigrated primarily from Lebanon but also from Syria and other parts of the Middle East. By the beginning of World War I, Maronite communities were to be found all over the United States, and there were at least 22 permanent Maronite parishes. Ten years later, the Maronite presence had grown to 37 churches and 46 priests.
Through the efforts of Maronite clergy and laity, and the assistance of the achbishop of Washington, Our Lady of Lebanon Maronite Seminary was established in Washington, D.C in 1961. In 1966 the Holy Father established the Maronite Apostolic Exarchate for the United States and appointed Bishop Francis Zayek as the exarch. The see city was Detroit, Michigan. In 1971 the exarchate was raised to the rank of diocese, and the see was transferred to Brooklyn, N.Y. in 1978. At the time of the exarchate's establishment, there were 43 Maronite parishes in the United States.
To solidify Maronite identity and to respond to the needs of the new generations of American Maronites, a vast program of liturgical reform and translations was inaugurated in the 1970s. This resulted in the publication in English of a Maronite Lectionary, Book of Anaphoras, several editions of the books of the Divine Liturgy, Ritual, Divine Office, and liturgical music. Catechetical texts for all twelve grades based on the Maronite tradition have been published.
On March 1, 1994, as a sign of the progress of the Maronite Church in the United States, the Holy Father established a second eparchy or diocese. The new Eparchy of Our Lady of Lebanon of Los Angeles incorporates all the territory west of the Ohio-Pennsylvania border. Bishop John Chedid, who had been auxiliary bishop since 1980, was named eparch of the new jurisdiction. The new eparchy comprises 24 parishes and 9 missions. The Eparchy of St. Maron of Brooklyn consists of 33 parishes and 5 missions. With the retirement of Archbishop Zayek, Stephen Hector Doueihi was appointed as the second bishop of the Eparchy of St. Maron.
Aside from second-and third-generation American Maronites, many Maronite parishes today have experienced a large influx of immigrants who have come to the United States and to other countries since the fighting began in Lebanon in 1975 and have chosen to remain. They are not only a significant presence, but have brought with them a new injection of contemporary Maronite and Lebanese culture.
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