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Voice of the International Maronites
Who are the Maronites?

The Maronites are members of the Maronite Church, one of the three original churches of Antioch, whose spiritual head is the Patriarch of Antioch who resides in Bkerke, Lebanon. Maronites are part of the Roman Catholic Church and recognize the Pope of Rome as Supreme Pontiff. The present Patriarch, His Beatitude Nasrallah Butros Sfeir, is a member of the College of Cardinals.

Antioch was converted to Jesus Christ by Apostles Paul and Barnabas and became one of the great original patriarchates, namely Rome, Contantinople, Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem. Maronites take their name from the Hermit priest St. Maron who died in the year 410. St. Maron’s disciples converted the inhabitants of Mount Lebanon at the end of the fifth century. In the 7th century they organized into a formal church and the first Maronite Patriarch, St. John Maron, was appointed in 687.

A significant turn to the West occurred at the time of the Crusades. Sharing the same faith as the Church of Rome, it was natural for them to turn to the West for support and to reinforce their independence.

Since that time, the Maronites have played a central historic role in Lebanon. Through the centuries, they represented free Christian witness in the Middle East, especially in Lebanon where they readily assimilated with the non-Christian population. Their linkage with Rome provided many opportunities to introduce western values and culture to Lebanon. Among many firsts is the first printing press in the Middle East and women’s suffrage. In 1584, Pope Gregory inaugurated the Maronite College in Rome, which continues to operate up to the present.
After the Ottoman withdrawal, the Maronites led the movement toward independence for Lebanon. In the 1919 Peace Conference at Versailles, Lebanon was represented by Patriarch Elias Howayek who was delegated by all Lebanese people to demand independence on their behalf; a mission which he successfully accomplished. After the interim French mandate, final independence was declared in 1943.

Today Maronites are present throughout the world, having a significant number in the United States. There are two Maronite Eparchies (dioceses) in the U.S. each having a bishop. Most Maronites have family and relatives in Lebanon and they maintain regular contact with them. Maronites have a strong interest in keeping Lebanon sovereign and independent where free Christian witness can continue to be heard. They also firmly believe that other Lebanese have the same right but this can only be preserved in a free democratic state which was given its modern life in 1943.

The survival and evolution of the Republic of Lebanon has been a great challenge to its various religious constituencies. It is the only country in the Middle East where Christians have at least an equal role in the political, economic and civic life of the country. It remains as a model of cooperation for the religions and constituencies of the Middle East.

Documento enviado por el Lic. Alejandro Kuri Pheres

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