Church of Antioch (Syriac)

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Antioch: Jacobite Indian

The Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch or Patriarchate of Antioch is one of the Oriental Orthodox churches. Prior to the Council of Chalcedon in 451 the Church of Antioch was united, but after the Council two lines of patriarchs arose, one supported by the East Roman Empire that favored Chalcedon and another persecuted by the East Romans that rejected Chalcedon. The Church is also known as the Jacobite Church after one of the more prominent leaders of the movement against Chalcedon, Jacob Baradaeus, and follows the West Syrian Rite.


The Syriac Orthodox Church is one of the oldest churches in the world, having its roots in the city of Antioch (modern Antakya, Turkey) where the disciples of the Lord were first called Christians. Antioch was one of the great cities of the East under the Roman Empire and played a central role in the life of the Church in Cilicia, Syria, and Mesopotamia. At the Council of Nicaea in 325 it was recognized as a patriarchate alongside Rome and Alexandria.

Although most Orthodox in Antioch spoke Greek, in the countryside Aramic (modern Syriac) was more widely spoken and consequently Syriac took its place as one of the ancient liturgical languages of the Church. It has the distinction of being the language spoken by the Lord, unlike the Greek used to write the Gospels and other books of the New Testament. While Antioch was the preeminent center of the Church of Antioch early in its history, the cities of Edessa (modern Urfa) and Nisibis (modern Nusaybin) also played a significant role in the development of Syriac Orthodoxy.

The Church of Antioch played a central role in the first three ecumenical councils that shaped the doctrine and structure of the Orthodox Church. After the split over Chalcedon a struggle developed within the Church for the control of the patriarchate, with the Roman emperors generally favoring those in favor of Chalcedon, but occasionally also supporting those who opposed it. In 518 the anti-Chalcedon patriarch, St. Severus of Antioch, was exiled from the city and never returned. Since then the patriarchs of the Syriac Orthodox Church have changed the seat of their patriarchate several times. Aleppo, Malatya, Diyarbakir, Mardin, and Homs all served as seats of the Patriarchs of Antioch, who only moved to Damascus in 1959.

Despite its glorious past the Syriac Orthodox Church is today a small remnant of what it once was due to the persecution of the East Romans in the 500s and 600s that was followed by the arrival of Islam, the atrocities of the Crusaders in the 1000s and 1100s, the depredations of the Mongols, and the genocides conducted under the Ottoman Turks and Kurds in the late 1800s and early 1900s in the heartlands of the Church in upper Mesopotamia (known as the Sayfo or Sword). Despite all of this the Church has continued to produce great scholars, theologians, and saints through the centuries, among them Sts. Jacob of Edessa and Gregory of Ebroyo ('Bar Hebraeus').

Church Worldwide Today

The Syriac Orthodox Church today is headquartered at Bab Touma in Damascus, Syria. Excluding the patriarchal Malankara Syriac Orthodox Church in India the Syriac Orthodox Church is divided into 27 archdioceses and patriarchal vicariates scattered across the globe. The current primate of the Church is Patriarch Ignatius Zakka I (Iwas) of Antioch and All the East.

Church of Antioch in India

The Malankara Syriac Orthodox Church recognizes the Patriarch of Antioch as its head in both a spiritual and an administrative sense, although the Patriarchate recognizes it as autonomous under its primate, the Catholicos of the East, who is also recognized as second in rank within the Church of Antioch and is responsible for enthroning the Patriarch of Antioch.

Structure (Outside India)

  • Archdiocese of Aleppo (Syria)
  • Archdiocese of Baghdad and Basra (Iraq)
  • Archdiocese of Beirut (Lebanon)
  • Archdiocese of Dayro d'Mor Mattai (Iraq)
  • Archdiocese of Homs and Hama (Syria)
  • Archdiocese of Jazirah and the Euphrates (Syria)
  • Archdiocese of Mosul (Iraq)
  • Archdiocese of Mount Abdin (Turkey)
  • Archdiocese of Mount Lebanon (Lebanon)
  • Archdiocese of Scandinavia
  • Patriarchal Vicariate of Adiyaman (Turkey)
  • Patriarchal Vicariate of Argentina
  • Patriarchal Vicariate of Australia and New Zealand (Oceania)
  • Patriarchal Vicariate of Belgium and France
  • Patriarchal Vicariate of Brazil
  • Patriarchal Vicariate of Canada
  • Patriarchal Vicariate of Constantinople (Turkey)
  • Patriarchal Vicariate of Damascus (Syria)
  • Patriarchal Vicariate of the Eastern United States
  • Patriarchal Vicariate of Great Britain
  • Patriarchal Vicariate of Jerusalem and the Holy Land (Israel, Jordan, and Palestine)
  • Patriarchal Vicariate of Mardin (Turkey)
  • Patriarchal Vicariate of the Netherlands
  • Patriarchal Vicariate of Northern Germany
  • Patriarchal Vicariate of Sweden
  • Patriarchal Vicariate of Switzerland and Austria
  • Patriarchal Vicariate of the Western United States
  • Patriarchal Vicariate of Zahle and Bekaa (Lebanon)

Hierarchy (Outside India)

  • Patriarch Ignatius Zakka I of Antioch and All the East
  • Metropolitan Mor Gregorios of Mosul
  • Metropolitan Mor Severios of Baghdad and Basra
  • Metropolitan Mor Gregorios of Aleppo
  • Metropolitan Mor Theophilos of Mount Lebanon
  • Metropolitan Mor Timotheos of Tur Abdin
  • Metropolitan Mor Filuxinos of Constantinople
  • Metropolitan Mor Julius of Sodertalje (Scandinavia)
  • Metropolitan Mor Ostatheos of Hassakah (Jazirah and the Euphrates)
  • Metropolitan Mor Ivanios of Damascus
  • Metropolitan Mor Clemis of Burbank (Western United States)
  • Metropolitan Mor Severios of Jerusalem
  • Metropolitan Mor Cyril of Teaneck (Eastern United States)
  • Metropolitan Mor Dionysius of Arth (Switzerland and Austria)
  • Metropolitan Mor Dioscoros of Sodertalje (Sweden)
  • Metropolitan Mor Silwanos of Homs and Hama
  • Metropolitan Mor Philoxenos of Mardin
  • Metropolitan Mor Athanasius of Montreal (Canada)
  • Metropolitan Mor Militius of Sydney (Australia and New Zealand)
  • Metropolitan Mor Timotheos of Dayro d'Mor Mattai
  • Metropolitan Mor Nicholovos of La Plata (Argentina)
  • Metropolitan Mor Yostinos of Zahle and Bekaa
  • Metropolitan Mor Clemis of Beirut
  • Metropolitan Mor Gregorios of Adiyaman
  • Metropolitan Mor Severios of Brussels (Belgium and France)
  • Metropolitan Mor Athanasius of London (Great Britain)
  • Metropolitan Mor Julius of Warburg (Northern Germany)
  • Metropolitan Mor Polycarpus of Dayro d'Mor Afrem (Netherlands)
  • Metropolitan Mor Severius, Auxiliary (St. Ephraim's Seminary in Mosul)
  • Metropolitan Mor Philexinos, Patriarchal Auxiliary (St. Ephraim's Seminary in Damascus)
  • Metropolitan Mor Dionysius, Patriarchal Auxiliary (Patriarchal Offices)

Official Name

In 2000 the Holy Synod ruled that the name of the Church in English should be the "Syriac Orthodox Church". Before this it was, and often still is, known as the "Syrian Orthodox Church." The name was changed to disassociate the Church from the polity of Syria. The official name of the Church in Syriac is ʿIdto Suryoyto Triṣuṯ Šuḇḥo, which was not changed in the 2000 ruling.

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