Melkites since the 18th century
Sent to the East by Pope Gregory XIII, the titular (Latin) bishop of Sidon, Leonardo Abel, Maltese, between 1583 and 1587 won to the Catholic faith the old patriarch emeritus of Antioch, Michael VII, who resigned in 1582 and retired to Aleppo. It is very likely that this mission of the Maltese bishop dates back to the constitution in Aleppo of a small Catholic nucleus, which gradually grew in number when the Jesuits and Capuchins (1625), then the Carmelites (1626) opened. residences in Aleppo. In 1634, the patriarch Euthyme II (Karmé) sent his profession of Catholic faith to Rome, but died before receiving papal confirmation. In 1653, there were some 7,000 Catholics in Damascus. In 1664, Macaire III (Zaim), patriarch of Antioch from 1637 to 1672, imitated the example of Euthyme II, but without declaring himself publicly, and without interrupting his relations with the other Orthodox patriarchs. In 1687, Athanase III (Dabbas), competitor of Cyrille V (Zaim), did the same, then retired in 1694 to Aleppo, city become the citadel of Catholicism in Syria. In 1701, the metropolitan of Beirut and the bishop of Baalbek formally adhered to the Catholic faith. Those who were in communion with Rome had become numerous enough for the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith (from Propaganda Fide) to openly name, in 1684, the metropolitan of Tire and Saida, Euthyme Saïfi (disciple of the Jesuits and Catholic at heart for a long time), as apostolic administrator of the Melkite Catholics scattered throughout the Patriarchate of Antioch; this metropolitan, founder of the Basilian order of the Holy Savior, was a great propagator of Catholicism in Syria outside Damascus and Aleppo. In 1716, the patriarch Cyrille V, hitherto opposed to Rome, having been won by his friend Poullard, consul of France in Saïda, sent his profession of Catholic faith to Rome, at the same time as the bishop of Seidnaya, Gerasimos, then died in 1720, leaving the Patriarchate to Athanasius III. The latter, although he had shown himself favorable to Catholics when he retired to Aleppo, then behaved differently. When he died in 1724, the Catholic party, which had become quite powerful, quickly chose as patriarch, failing the metropolitan Euthyme Saïfi (died in 1723), his nephew Seraphim Tanas, who took the name of Cyrille VI. The Greeks of Constantinople immediately opposed the Cypriot Sylvester to him, and a bitter struggle ignited for the possession of the Patriarchate. Expelled from Damascus, Cyrille VI found asylum in Lebanon, then semi-independent. The union with Rome could easily spread to Lebanon and always remained solid in Aleppo and Damascus, despite the sometimes violent persecutions; in the rest of Syria, the opposition of the orthodox hierarchy paralyzed the efforts, while the successors of Cyrille VI were all native Melkites, those of the Greek Sylvester were all Greeks until 1899, year during which the party native, supported by Russia, managed to exclude the Greeks. In the Patriarchates of Alexandria and Jerusalem, the Melkite Catholics, dispersed and in small numbers, were entrusted to the Franciscans of the Custody of the Holy Land. On May 19, 1772, at the request of the clergy and the faithful, Rome entrusted them, as apostolic administrator, to the Greek Melkite Catholic Patriarch of Antioch, then residing in Lebanon. In 1832, the Egyptians seized Damascus and all Syria, which they kept until 1841. Taking advantage of this, the patriarch Maximos III (Mazloum), elected in 1833, returned to Damascus in 1834; until his death in 1855, he spent a good part of his patriarchy preparing and then applying, not without vigorous struggles, the civil emancipation he obtained from the Sublime Porte for his Church in 1848. In 1838, he had obtained from Pope Gregory XVI the personal privilege of carrying, in addition to that of patriarch of Antioch, the titles of patriarch of Alexandria and Jerusalem. In 1894, Pope Leo XIII extended the jurisdiction of the Greek Melkite Catholic Patriarch, beyond the limits of the three Patriarchates, to his followers living throughout the rest of the Ottoman Empire. The too hasty introduction of the Gregorian calendar by the patriarch Clement I (Bahouth), in 1857, was the pretext of a small schism caused in reality by other reasons, and quickly absorbed by the wise administration (1864-1897) , cautious and energetic of the patriarch Gregorios II (Youssef-Sayyour), under whom the Greek-Melkite Catholic community made great progress, especially in the Tripoli regions of Lebanon and Jdeidet Marjeyoun; under his successors, from Pierre IV (Géraigiry) to Cyrille IX (Moghabghab), this progress extended in particular to Galilee, Transjordan and in the region of Homs, in compensation for the serious losses caused by the famine during the first world war and consequent emigrations. At the same time, these patriarchs had to face the consequences throughout the Near East of the decomposition of the Ottoman Empire and the two world wars of 1914-1918 and 1939-1945. Maximos IV (Saïgh), patriarch from 1947 to 1967, is especially remembered for the eminent role he had, with the support of the entire Greek-Melkite Catholic episcopate, at Vatican Council II, a role recognized and appreciated by all, in particular by popes John XXIII and Paul VI; he was the forerunner of several initiatives and developments contained in the documents of the council, notably on collegiality, on the place of the Eastern Churches in the Catholic Church, on ecumenism, on the liturgy, etc. His successor Maximos V (Hakim), from 1967 to 2000, great builder, set out to respond to the new challenges posed to the Greek Melkite Catholic Church, particularly in terms of pastoral assistance to the faithful in the diaspora, now more numerous than those of the Near East, and of dialogue with the Greek-Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch. Finally, the patriarch Gregorios III (Laham), elected on November 29, 2000, wants to be a continuation of his predecessors. with special emphasis on the place of Christians in Arab society and the need to stem emigration, dialogue with Islam, ecumenism, hard work in liturgy (chairman of the patriarchal liturgical commission from the epoch when he was patriarchal vicar in Jerusalem: renewal and publication of liturgical books, texts and psaltic annotation), as well as the clarification of the relations of the Greek-Melkite Catholic Church with the Apostolic Holy See in Rome. Currently, five patriarchs bear the title of Antioch; these are, in addition to the patriarch of the Greek Melkite Catholic Church: that of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch (His Beatitude Ignatius IV Hazim), that of the Syrian-Orthodox Church (His Holiness Ignatius Zakka I Iwas) of the Maronite Church (His Eminent Beatitude Cardinal Boutros Nasrallah Sfeir) and that of the Syrian-Catholic Church (His Beatitude Ignatius Joseph III Younan).