WHO ARE THE MELKITES?
The Melkite story goes back to the beginning of Christianity itself. The Melkites, or Byzantine (Greek) Catholics of Middle Eastern origin, are descendants of the early Christians of Antioch (cf. Acts 11:26). As Rome was the most powerful city in early Western Europe and spread her manner of worship throughout the surrounding area, so too the Greek capital, Constantinople (originally called Byzantium), spread her traditions and customs to the countries closest to her. Therefore, our Church uses the Byzantine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom.
Today the term Melkite is used to refer to those Catholics whose ancestry is Middle Eastern and who follow the Byzantine Tradition in worship, theology, and spirituality.
In the Western world our Church is called Melkite Greek-Catholic (Grec Melchite Catholique). In the Middle East we are generally known as Room Katuleek, literally “Roman Catholic”, just as those whom we call Antiochian or Greek Orthodox here are known as Room Orthodox (“Roman Orthodox”) there. However the Rome they are referring to in these titles is not the Rome in Italy, but Constantinople, which the ancients called New Rome. Those whom North Americans call Roman Catholics are known as Lateen (Latins) in the Middle East.
An explanation of the names Melkite, Greek, and Byzantine follows:
MELKITE: The term comes from the Semitic words for king, “melko” or “melek”. The king in this case was the Byzantine emperor who supported the teachings of the Council of Chalcedon, held in 451. The opponents of this council, most of whom were in the Middle East, called its supporters “The Royalists” (Malikiyeen). So the name, which today refers to the Byzantine Catholics of the Middle East, originally was an insult aimed at all Christians, both Eastern and Western, who supported the Council of Chalcedon.
GREEK (“ROOM” in Arabic): This word refers to the spiritual tradition of the Greek Fathers which our Church follows. At the time of Christ, Greek was the spoken language in the major cities of the Middle East. The New Testament and the writings of the most important Church Fathers were composed in Greek. In contrast, people in the rural areas spoke Aramaic or Syriac until the Muslim conquest.
BYZANTINE: The word refers to the city of “New Rome” originally known as Byzantium. It is chiefly known in history as Constantinople, the “city of Constantine”. Its present name is Istanbul, the Turkish pronunciation of the Greek words for “to the city”. Our Church follows the ritual of the Great Church of Constantinople for the Divine Liturgy.
We are governed by a successor of the Apostles in the person of His Beatitude Gregory III Laham, the Patriarch of Antioch and All the East, of Alexandria and Jerusalem. He presently resides in Damascus, Syria. We relate directly to him and to the Holy Synod of Melkite Bishops throughout the world.
Our Diocese, the Eparchy of Saint Sauveur, covers all of Canada. It was shepherded by the late Bishop Sleiman Hajjar who went to his eternal reward on March 10 2002. He was appointed bishop of Canada on June 30, 1998, consecrated a bishop on August 6, 1998 by Patriarch Maximos V Hakim, Archbishop Michel Hakim, and Bishop Issam Darwish, at the Holy Saviour Monastery near Sidon, Lebanon, and installed as Eparch on September 12, 1998.
His address is: 34 Maplewood/ Montreal, Quebec/ H2V-2M1.
(Our former Eparch was Archbishop Michel Hakim. He was born on April 21, 1921 in Maghdoucheh, Lebanon. He was ordained a priest on November 10, 1947 and a bishop on September 10, 1977. Prior to being appointed the Archbishop of Canada, he was the Archbishop of Sidon, Lebanon.)