Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land - 28/04/2001 info:

Christian Communities in Syria

by Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land

It was in Syria that the disciples of Jesus were called 'Christians' for the first time. It was also in Syria that they came together, under the influence of St. Paul, to form the first centres of Gentile Christianity. From the year 37 A.D., and thanks mainly to the Christian centres of Damascus and Antioch, the new Religion spread throughout the Mediterranean coastal region and the Valley of the Euphrates. In fact, Syria conserves one of the most ancient churches in the world, the 'domus-ecclesia' of Dura Europos, situated on the banks of the Euphrates and dating back to the year 232 A.D.

At the present time, Syria has about 875,000 Christians, who represent about 10% of the population and are distributed among the Orthodox, Catholic and the Anglo-Protestant denominations. The Orthodox community is the most numerous of these (631,000 members) and is subdivided into four families: the Greek Orthodox family (425,000 members) is administered by the Patriarchate of Antioch with its Seat in Damascus; the Armenian Orthodox family (135,000 members) has as its Head the Patriarch of Etchmeadzin in Armenia; the Syrian Orthodox family (65,000 members) comes under the Authority of the Syrian-Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch, with its Seat in Damascus; and the Assyrian or Nestorian family (6,000 members) whose Head is the Assyrian Patriarch, with his Seat in the United States of America.

The Catholic community has 234,000 members and is composed of six different families: the Greek Catholics (150,000) who are administered by the Greek-Catholic Patriarchate of Antioch, Jerusalem and Alexandria, with its Seat in Damascus; the Syrian Catholics (30,000) who fall under the jurisdiction of the Syrian Catholic Patriarchate with its Seat in Lebanon; the Armenian Catholics (25,000) who come under the Authority of the Armenian Catholic Patriarchate of Cilicia, with its Seat in Lebanon; the Maronites (20,000) whose Head is the Maronite Patriarchate of Bikerke in Lebanon; the Latin Catholics (9,000) under the jurisdiction of the Latin Apostolic Vicariate of Aleppo. This family is distributed among ten parishes in the following localities: Aleppo, Bab Tuma, Salhiye, Latakia, Kenaye, Yacubiye, Ghassaniye, Sueyida, Homs and Deir ez-Zor, and includes several smaller centres directed by members of the Franciscan, Capuchin and Jesuit Orders. Finally, the smallest of the Catholic families is that of the Chaldean Catholics (4,000), who are administered by the Chaldean Patriarchate of Baghdad. The third Christian denomination represented in Syria is the Anglo-Protestant community, which has about 9,000 members.

The majority of Syrian Christians are concentrated in the cities of Damascus, Aleppo, Homs and Latakia. The rest live in three different mountainous regions of Syria: in the Hauran, to the South of Damascus; in Wadi en-Nasara (the Valley of the Christians), to the West of Homs; and finally in Jebel Qalamon, where the spoken language of some communities is still Aramaic, the language that Jesus spoke.

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Created / Updated Saturday, April 28, 2001 at 23:55:09 by John Abela ofm
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