The Christian Church is founded by Jesus Christ as is recorded in the Gospel of Saint Matthew: “… upon this rock I will build my Church” (Matthew 16:18)
Major Historical Events
Forty days after Christ’s Resurrection from the dead and ten days after His Ascension, the Apostles and Disciples were gathered together in Jerusalem as mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles: “And suddenly a sound came from heaven like the rush of a might wind … And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit.” After this time began the preaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This was Pentecost, the birthday of the Church!
Saint Peter established the Church in Antioch (then part of Syria), Saint Mark in Alexandria (Egypt) and Saint James in Jerusalem. Our Church dates back to these foundations. It was also in Antioch that the followers of Jesus Christ were first called “Christians” (Acts 11:26)
This marks the first recorded use of the words “Catholic Church”, employed by Saint Ignatius of Antioch to distinguish the Christians who adhered to the Church founded by Jesus Christ from those who joined the Churches of sectarians.
A dispute about who Jesus was is settled by a meeting of bishops held at Chalcedon. The Byzantine Emperor and the assembled bishops agreed that Jesus was both “true God and true man”. Those who followed the decisions of this Council were called Melkites or “King’s Men” from the ancient Syriac word for king “Malko” because they accepted the correct understanding of Jesus Christ which was shared by the Emperor.
Rome and Constantinople separate for a variety of reasons, political and cultural as well as doctrinal. This separation from Rome gradually takes hold throughout the other Eastern Churches. During this period, the Byzantine Emperors slowly extended their domination and influences. Byzantine models in ritual and administration become the norm for all Melkites.
Patriarch Cyril VI of Antioch, due to the efforts of Archbishop Eftimios (Saifi) of Saida and Type, affirms the union with Rome which has existed between East and West during the first thousand years of Christianity. From this time, the “Melkite” Church of Antioch is formally divided between Greek Orthodox (those not in union with Rome) and Greek Catholics (those in union with Rome). The term Melkite begins to be associated exclusively with Catholics.
The Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarch of Antioch, Theodosius VI, extends his jurisdiction over Melkite Catholics in the Churches of Alexandria and Jerusalem.
Melkite Greek Catholics begin to emigrate to North America.
An exarchate (temporary diocese) for Melkites in the United States is established with Bishop Justin (Najmy) of blessed memory as the first exarch. The Annunciation Parish in Roslindale, Massachussetts is designated as his cathedral.
The American exarchate becomes a full eparchy (diocese) under Archbishop Joseph (Tawil) of blessed memory.
Our Church exists to bring its people to the Lord … to be divinized. There are many for whom the style of Christian living practiced in our Church is more compatible. Our presence is also a witness to the universality of Christ’s Church.
We stand today as Christians seeking to bring ourselves and others closer to God in the Faith given to us by the Apostles. As Catholics of the Byzantine tradition, we stand as landmarks in the journey of the Churches toward full communion. We have a special responsibility given by God to show our faithfulness to the historic Catholic and Orthodox Faith as expressed in our own unique heritage so that we might in this way contribute to the healing of our fragmented world and the reunion of the fractured Body of Christ, the divided Christian Church.
Our Melkite Church is universal. It consists of those born into the spiritual heritage, those who marry into it and those who are attracted to it and who freely embrace it as their own style of life, worship and journey.