Eastern Catholic Patriarchs with the Pope in the Holy Land

The Eastern Catholic Patriarchs will accompany Pope Francis during his pilgrimage in the Holy Land, from May 24 to 26, 2014. These are the Patriarchs of the Greek, Maronite, Chaldean, Syrian, Coptic and Armenian rites. Four of the Patriarchs are expected to be with the Pope throughout his pilgrimage (Maronite, Chaldean, Syrian and Coptic) and the other two will accompany the Holy Father on part of the pilgrimage.

The Patriarch of the Syrian Catholic Church is His Beatitude Mar Ignatius Joseph Younan III. The Syrian Catholic Church is one of the smaller oriental Churches but his patriarchal territory extends to many countries in the Middle East. The term Syrian points to the nation and language of the Arameans after their conversion to Christianity in the 3rd century. Syriac, the language, is very close to Aramaic, the language of Christ. In Jerusalem, the Patriarch is represented by Grégoire Pierre Melki, Exarch of Jerusalem and he was ordained a bishop in Beirut on May 18, 2002.

Cardinal Mar Bechara Boutros Rai is the Patriarch of the Maronite Catholic Church. Having come from Antioch towards Lebanon in the 7th century, the Maronites constitute today one of the largest Catholic community in the Middle East (estimated to be about one million faithful). Based in Lebanon, this Church has spread throughout the world. It is a Church founded in a monastic tradition, tracing its origins to Saint Maroun. The language of the liturgy is Syriac and Arabic. In Jerusalem, the Patriarch is represented by Archbishop Moussa El-Hage, elected to the seat of archbishop of Haifa and of the Holy Land as well as becoming Exarch of Jerusalem, Palestine and Jordan in 2012.

With regard to the Chaldean Catholic Church, His Beatitude Louis Raphael I Sakko is the Patriarch. This Church originates from Mesopotamia. Emerging out of the Assyrian Church of the East, the Chaldean Church is the ancient Church of Persia, but composed of faithful who are united with Rome. In this Church, there are today five male religious orders as well as two congregations of women. Their liturgy is close to the Jewish synagogue liturgy and is in Syriac. There are almost no faithful in Israel or Palestine and Father Raymond Moussalli represents the Church in Jordan, where there are many Chaldeans who are refugees from Iraq.

The Greek Catholic Church has Patriarch Gregory IIII Laham at its head. This is one of the most important Catholic communities in the East, counting more than 1.3 million faithful, spread all over the world. The Church has a very important presence in the Holy Land. This Patriarchate is very close historically to the Patriarchates of Antioch and Jerusalem and preserves the Byzantine rite. The Greek Catholic Church has three representatives in the Holy Land. Archbishop Youssef Jules Zreyi is the Patriarchal Vicar in Jerusalem since 2008. The Archeparchy of Acre, Haifa and all the Galilee is vacant at present and the administrator is the Maronite Archbishop Moussa El-Hage. In Jordan, the Greek Catholics are headed by the Archbishop of Petra and Philadelphia, Yaser Al –Ayyash.

Patriarch Ibrahim Isaac Sidrak is the Patriarch of the Coptic Catholic Church. He carries the title of Patriarch of Alexandria because of the Egyptian origin of the Coptic Church. The Coptic Church is today the largest Church in the Middle East. Alongside a very numerous Coptic Orthodox population there are also smaller Coptic Catholic and Coptic Protestant Churches. The rite of the Coptic Church is of Alexandrian origin. The Church is not represented in the Holy Land and the few Coptic Catholics there are cared for by the Egyptian Franciscans.

The Patriarch of the Armenian Catholic Church is Nerses Bedros XIX Tarmouni. This Church, which is Armenian in language and culture, is spread throughout the Middle East. There is one congregation of women religious and two congregations of men. The Patriarchate is today situated in Lebanon. In Jerusalem, the representative of the Patriarch since 2014 is the Archpriest Georges Dankaye.