The Basilian Fathers of the Holy Savior, pioneers of the Melkite Catholic Church of Antioch, imbued with the spirituality of St. Basil the Great and animated by the spirit of their founder, Bishop EuthymeSaїfi, in 1683, did not abandon their faithful from the Near East emigrating to new horizons from 1880 onwards. Having followed them to North America as well, they provided them with a religious and community life around the churches they founded in several cities.
In Montreal, welcomed in November 1892 by His Excellency, Archbishop Edouard-Charles Fabre, Archbishop of the diocese, Father Pierre Chamy would first gather in prayer at the Church of Notre-Dame-du-Bon-Secours, the 400 or so pioneer immigrants of their community. He was then offered the Church of St. Petit as well as jurisdiction over all the Near Easterners, including the Greek Orthodox of Antioch until the arrival of the Pastor of the latter three years later.
In May 1911, Father Simeon Nasr succeeded Father Chamy, who had returned to Lebanon. He will have access to the Church of Saint James and the Church of Our Lady of Lourdes. Eleven years later, in 1922, following his tireless efforts, he succeeded in acquiring the old Anglican church erected in 1865 at the corner of Viger and St-Denis Streets, which will then become the Saint-Sauveur Church. Renewed and almost superhuman efforts for its restoration after a tragic fire.
In 1924, Father Raphael Gedah arrived as Father Nasr's assistant, and in 1932, Father Bishara-Thalg was appointed vicar of the parish. Elevated to the rank of archimandrite for his invaluable services, Father Nasr gave up his soul to God on June 22, 1939 after a long and cruel illness.
From January 1, 1940, Father Maximos Chataoui took over. At that time, the community had 4,000 members, many of whom were involved in intense parish life through associations, organizations, and movements that aimed, on the one hand, to maintain traditions and, on the other hand, to promote integration.
In 1953, it was Father Théophile Atallah's turn to be the parish priest with Father Elie Kwaiter, who arrived in 1955, as his assistant. Then, Father Paul Robhmod, appointed in 1958, faced a period of exceptional growth: between 1962 and 1964, the number of parishioners increased from 4,000 to 8,000 with the influx of immigrants, especially from Egypt. He was helped by Father Georges Coriaty, curate from 1960. But a heart attack took him away in February 1965, and Father Coriaty replaced him in April of the same year.
During the three decades of its first centenary, the Saint-Sauveur Parish of Montreal experienced a remarkable growth. As early as 1961, it was recognized as a common parish of the Catholics of the Near East and began to serve the faithful of five other rites - Armenian, Chaldean, Coptic, Maronite and Syriac - in addition to its own.
In addition to this religious mission, the following year, in 1962, the Society for Aid to Immigrants from the Middle East in Canada (SAIMOC) was created. This time, to offer indispensable support to those who face pressing needs upon their arrival, difficulties in integrating into the world of work or social integration in their new homeland.
A constant concern for mutual knowledge and cooperation with the Quebecers will mark the initiatives of the new parish priest, Father Coriaty, to whom His Beatitude Patriarch Maximos IV conferred the title of Archimandrite on November 26, 1965. Together with a pioneer of the French-speaking world, Jean-Marc Léger, he hastened to found "Amitié Québec-Proche-Orient". The same concern had led him to replace, as early as March 1964, the parish bulletin by the magazine "Trait d'Union" which will become another link between new Canadians and Canadians, and a messenger "to our brothers of the American continent and the Middle East".
Other preoccupations will dominate this period of great effervescence. The choir was taken in charge by Father Habib Kwaiter, who arrived in August 1965; "The youth group" and "Le Foyer", bringing together young households, were entrusted to Father Fouad Nasr, the parish vicar since October 1967; in 1968, a fundraising campaign was launched for the construction of a community center.
The three priests were no longer sufficient for the many and varied tasks, in addition to the daily life and pastoral visits to hundreds and hundreds of families separated by long distances on the great island of Montreal and its suburbs to the north and south. In October 1970, Father Michel Saydé joined the team. He was later named chaplain of the Bois-de-Boulogne Community and Cultural Center, which was finally completed, inaugurated in September 1974 and whose civil consecration, on May 31, 1975, was presided over by the much-lamented Robert Bourassa, Prime Minister of Quebec. And from October 1979, Father Jean Faraj served two groups of faithful, in the west and south of Montreal, the distances, once again, having forced the regionalization of religious services.
Beyond Montreal, other communities of Greek Melkite Catholics were also established in Quebec City, Ottawa, Toronto and Vancouver.
S. E. Michel Hakim, will be the first Eparch in Canada, starting in 1980. He will reside in Montreal, and the Church of Saint-Sauveur will be designated as a cathedral from now on. He will found and direct "Icône", a quarterly and trilingual magazine.
Eighteen years later, in 1998, he was succeeded by Father Sleiman Hajjar, vicar at Saints-Pierre-et-Paul Parish in Ottawa, after his episcopal ordination at Saint-Sauveur Convent in Lebanon. Called to God on March 10, 2002, he left behind a grieving eparchy that had great hopes for him.
Another painful trial had struck the community a few weeks earlier. On February 3, 2002, Bishop Georges Coriaty also left us a legacy of love, acceptance and tolerance.
In 1992, we celebrated our first centenary and published our 191-page souvenir album as well as the book by Father Elie Kwaiter, entitled "Une Paroisse Melkite Rayonnante", translated into English and Arabic.
In March 2002, the election of Bishop Michel Saydé, Economos since 1981, as diocesan administrator. June 18, 2003, appointment of Bishop Ibrahim Ibrahim, Provincial of the Basilian Salvatorian Fathers in the United States and Pastor of St. Elias Parish in Cleveland, Ohio, as the third Eparch of the Greek Melkite Catholic Church of Canada.
Two bishops of our Melkite community in the East have resided in Canada:
H.E. Archbishop Joseph Raya, Titular Archbishop of Scitopoli and Metropolitan of the Greek Melkite Catholics of Akko, Haifa, Nazareth and all Galilee, who died in Barry's Bay, Ontario, on June 10, 2005. He was 85 years old and had resided at Madonna House in Combermere, Ontario, since 1990.
Most Reverend Ignatius Raad, Archbishop of Saida and Deir El Kamar, died in Montreal, Quebec, on July 20, 1999. He resided in Outremont, Quebec, and presided over the Ecclesiastical Tribunal for Marriage Annulments since 1986
Saint Sauveur Cathedral:
On October 22, 1922, Holy Trinity Anglican Church was purchased by our community. This church, located at the corner of Viger and Saint-Denis streets, became our Saint-Sauveur church. In 1980, with the appointment of Bishop Michel Hakim as the first Melkite bishop in Canada, the church was consecrated a cathedral.
In 1997, liturgical celebrations began at Our Lady of the Angels Church located on Gouin Boulevard West, in Cartierville, after our departure from downtown. In 2000, the church on Viger was sold.
On June 15, 2004, the Corporation of the Greek Melkite Roman Catholic Bishop of Canada became the owner of the land (parking lot) belonging to the Saint Sauveur Parish as well as the building of the "Centre Communautaire et Culturel Bois-de-Boulogne".
On June 28, 2004, the Bois-de-Boulogne Community and Cultural Center became the "Melkite Center of Montreal". During the "Renaissance Ball" on October 30, 2004, Bishop Ibrahim Ibrahim, as a sign of completion of the mortgage payments on the building of the Melkite Center of Montreal, symbolically burns a copy of the balance of the mortgage loan.
On February 8, 2005, Bishop Ibrahim Ibrahim issues the decree of creation of "Our Lady of the Annunciation Parish for the Greek-Melkite Catholics of the West Island" of Montreal and appoints Father Makarios Wehbi as the first pastor.
On August 1, 2005, the City of Montreal approves the construction of the new Byzantine Melkite cathedral on the land adjacent to the Melkite Center of Montreal.
On July 16, 2006, our Patriarch Gregorios III Laham presides over the groundbreaking ceremony surrounded by Bishop Ibrahim Ibrahim and the Melkite Catholic bishops in the countries of immigration.
On August 6, 2007, the construction of the new cathedral began and the work was completed one year later.
On October 28, 2007, His Beatitude Gregory III Laham, Patriarch of Antioch and All the East, Alexandria and Jerusalem, presided over the Divine Liturgy of the dedication, in the presence of Archbishop Ibrahim M. Ibrahim, the Apostolic Nuncio of Canada, H.E. Luigi Ventura, the Prime Minister of Quebec, the Right Honorable Jean Charest, the representative of the Right Honorable Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of Canada, the Honorable Jason Kenney, and a large number of religious and civil dignitaries, members of our Melkite community in Canada and many friends.