Syrian President Bashar al-Assad held a meeting with a new patriarch of the Melkite (Greek) Catholic Church, Joseph I Absi, and the bishops of this community in Damascus on 4 July.
During a meeting with the patriarch the President said that the church has been strengthening the sense of belonging to a unified nation in the face of extremist ideas. He noticed the Melkite Church (which mainly unites ethnic Arabs), like other Christian communities in Syria, played an important role at the national level during the Syrian conflict.
During the meeting with the Melkite hierarchs the spirit of the Syrian people was highly appreciated. The situation now is developing in Syria has also been raised.
A 71-year-old native of Damascus, Archbishop Joseph (Youssef) Absi was elected a Melkite patriarch at the Synod of the Greek Catholic Church on June 21.
Before the outbreak of the war about 250,000 Melkites lived in Syria. Many of them were forced to emigrate from the country.
The Melkite (Greek) Catholic Church (Arabic: كنيسة الروم الملكيين الكاثوليك, Kanīsat ar-Rūm al-Malakiyyīn al-Kāṯūlīk) is an Eastern Catholic Church in full communion with the Holy See as part of the worldwide Catholic Church. The Melkites, Byzantine Rite Catholics of mixed Eastern Mediterranean (Levantine) and Greek origin, trace their history to the early Christians of Antioch, formerly part of Syria and now in Turkey, of the 1st century AD, where Christianity was introduced by Saint Peter. It is headed by His Beatitude Patriarch Youssef Absi, MSP.
The Melkite Church has a high degree of ethnic homogeneity, and the church’s origins lie in the Near East, centered especially in Syria and Palestine. Melkite Greek Catholics are present, however, throughout the world due to migration. Outside of the Near East, the Melkite Church has also grown through intermarriage with, and the conversion of, people of various ethnic heritages as well as transritualism. At present there is a worldwide membership of approximately 1.6 million. While the Melkite Catholic Church’s Byzantine roots and liturgical practices are rooted in those of Eastern Orthodoxy, nonetheless the Church has maintained communion with the Catholic Church in Rome especially after its reaffirmation of its union with Rome in 1724