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The Eastern Catholic Churches / The Syriac Catholic Church

The Syriac Catholic Church

Number of faithfulapprox. 120,000
Title of First HierarchPatriarch of Antioch of the Syrians
See of the First HierarchBeirut (Lebanon)
Current incumbent

Patriarch Ignatius Joseph III. (Younan), born 1944, in office since 2009

Bishops and dioceses18 bishops; 10 dioceses and 5 exarchates
RiteWest Syriac

Liturgical language

Aramaic, partly Arabic
Presence in Austriaapprox. 50 faithful; 1 priest
Presence in Germanyapprox. 2,500 faithful; 8 parishes, 4 priests

There is no exact date for the emergence of the Syriac Catholic Church. Already at the time of the crusaders and at the Council of Ferrara-Florence (1437-45), the first union initiatives took place, which, however, did not last. The first notable union attempt took place in the second half of the 17th century, due to a lengthy vacancy in the bishopric of Aleppo which was used to nominate a candidate willing to enter in union with Rome. In 1659, Pope Alexander VII recognized the Syrian Andreas Akidjan, who had been ordained bishop by the Maronite Patriarch, as Archbishop of Aleppo and gave him permission to celebrate in the West Syrian rite. But this union broke off with the death of his successor in 1702. In 1774, a Syrian Catholic hierarchy was reestablished when the Syrian Orthodox Bishop Michael Garweh converted to the Catholic faith. After the death of the Syrian Orthodox Patriarch, Michael Garweh was elected Patriarch in 1781 by the majority of Syrian Orthodox bishops, but failed to gain recognition from the Ottoman rulers, who supported the minority-appointed anti-Patriarch. Nevertheless, in 1783 the Pope recognized Garweh as Patriarch of the Syriac Catholic Church.

After the Ottoman rulers finally granted the Syrian Catholics the status of their own millet in 1830, the seat of the patriarch was moved to Aleppo. Due to the increasing persecution of Christians in the final phase of the Ottoman Empire, the patriarchate was moved to Mardin in south-eastern Turkey in 1850 and finally to Beirut in Lebanon in 1920. After the founding of the Turkish state, the majority of Syrian Catholics settled in Syria and Lebanon, and some immigrated to the USA or in Latin America. Ignatius Antonius Hayek, who participated in the Second Vatican Council as Archbishop of Aleppo and presided over his church as Patriarch from 1968 to 1998, became a defining personality of the Syriac Catholic Church in the 20th century.


  • W. Hage, Die Syrisch-Katholische Kirche, in: ders., Das orientalische Christentum, Stuttgart 2007, 407-411.
  • K. Augustin, Die Syrisch-katholische Kirche. Die Problematik ihrer Entstehung und die gegenwärtige Situation. In: Ökum. Forum 23/24 (2000/01) 333-342.