Maronites (Marunoye ܡܪܘܢܝܶܐ in Syriac, Mawarinah in Arabic) are members of one of the Eastern Rites of the Catholic church. They trace their founding to St. John Maron and to St. Maron, while they also claim full apostolic succession through the See of Antioch. They are one of the main religious groups in Lebanon.
Preamble to Maronite history
As long ago as 1908, the Catholic Encyclopedia outlined the issues surrounding the Maronite Church and the status of its orthodoxy in the following neutral terms:
- All competent authorities agree as to the history of the Maronites as far back as the sixteenth century, but beyond that period the unanimity ceases. They themselves assert at once the high antiquity and the perpetual orthodoxy of their nation; but both of these pretensions have constantly been denied by their Christian -- even Catholic -- rivals in Syria, the Melchites, whether Catholic or Orthodox, the Syrian Orthodox, and the Catholic Syrians. Some European scholars accept the Maronite view; the majority reject it. So many points in the primitive history of the nation are still obscure that we can here only set forth the arguments advanced on either side, without drawing any conclusion.
Apparently Maronites originated from the Syrian Orthodox Church and were separated and excommunicated in the 5th century because of their support of Monothelite doctrine (the Monothelite heresy did not exist in the 5th century. it was condemned in the 6th council in 680). They gained some military help from Constantine IV and harassed the forces of Umayyad Dynasty so that in 677 the caliph decided to pay tribute to them in return for peace.
In 678 Maronites found themselves isolated from the Byzantine Empire and decided to appoint their own patriarch, John Maron, who had been a bishop of Batroun. Emperor Justinian II accused them of heresy. In 694 Maronites defeated Justinian's forces in Mount Lebanon. They also proceeded their raids against Muslims and in 707 Caliph al-Walid I sent a force to occupy Jarjuma and destroy it. The Maronites retreated to the mountains. In 759 forces of the new Abbasid dynasty defeated the Maronites in Baalbek.
During the Crusades in the 12th century, Maronites assisted the Crusaders and reestablished their affiliation with Catholicism in 1182. From this point the Maronites can prove an unbroken orthodoxy and unity with Rome. For example, in 1100 Maronite Patriarch Youseff Al Jirjisi received the crown and staff from Pope Paschal II. In 1131 Maronite Patriarch Gregorious Al Halati received letters from Pope Innocent II. That affiliation was to cost them dearly after Muslim rule returned. Anti-Christian Mamelukes destroyed their fields, houses and churches alongside with those of Druze and Shiites. Connection to Rome was arduously maintained and a Maronite college established at Rome in July 5, 1584.
At first, the Ottoman Empire left Maronites to their own devices in their mountain strongholds. However, from 1585-1635 Druze warlord Fakhr-al-Din II conquered and ruled the Greater Lebanon until he was defeated by Ottoman forces and executed at Constantinople on April 13, 1635.
[In 1610, during the reign of Prince Fakhr Eddine Maany the Great, Maronite Monks of the Monastery of Saint Quzhayya imported the first printing press in the Arabic speaking world. The second press of the whole East was that of the Monastery of Saint John Sabigh, The Showyri, Khunshara in 1734. This press was invented or made by Deacon Abdallah Zakhir and was documented by the magazine Al Sharq in 1900. The third press was Saint George’s Press of Beirut in 1751. The Monasteries of Lebanon & their Communities were key to Arab Renaissance because they made Arabic a printable script 300 years after Gutenberg] - from: A Bequest Unearthed, Phoenicia -- Encyclopedia Phoeniciana (http://phoenicia.org/zakhir.html,)
In 1638, France declared that it would protect the Catholics - including the Maronites - in the Ottoman Empire. In 1860 Maronites clashed with Druze until French intervention and Ottoman diplomacy stopped that. In 1866 Youssef Karam led a Maronite uprising in Mount Lebanon against governor Dawood Pasha. European intervention led to his exile to Algeria.
Maronites gained self-rule under the French mandate of Lebanon in 1920 and secured their position in the independent Lebanon in 1943. They were one of the three main factions in the Lebanese Civil War.
The head of the Maronite Church is the Maronite Patriarch of Antioch, who is elected by the bishops of the Maronite church and now resides in Jounieh north of Beirut. When a new patriarch is elected and enthroned, he requests ecclesiastic communion from the Pope, thus maintaining the Catholic Church communion. Although their doctrine is Catholic, they retain their own liturgy and hierarchy. Strictly speaking, the Maronite church belongs to the Antiochene Tradition and is a West Syro-Antiochene Rite. Syriac is the liturgical language, instead of Latin. Celibacy is not a requirement for deacons or priests with parishes, but monks are required to remain celibate, as are bishops which are normally selected from the monasteries.
Maronites total maybe 7.5 million, mostly in the Diaspora. 640,000 to 850,000 remain in Lebanon where they constitute up to 23% of the population. According to Lebanese constitution, the president must be a Maronite. Syrian Maronites total 40,000 and they follow archdioceses of Aleppo and Damascus and the Diocese of Latakia. There is also a Maronite community in Cyprus, probably descended from those who accompanied crusaders there.
In the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries, many Maronites emigrated to Europe, Australia and North and South America and founded Maronite parishes in those locations as well.
The Maronite Patriarch (http://www.bkerke.org.lb).