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Maronite Christianity in Lebanon

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Title: Maronite Christianity in Lebanon  
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Subject: Religion in Lebanon, Shia Islam in Lebanon, Mount Lebanon Mutasarrifate, History of Lebanon, Maronites
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Maronite Christianity in Lebanon

Lebanese Maronite Christians
Total population
Lebanese Arabic
Christianity (Maronite Catholic)
Related ethnic groups
Other Lebanese & Levantine Arabs  • Ghassanid Arabs  • Phoenicians  • other Mediterranean peoples
other Semitic people (Arameans  • Assyrians  • Arabs  • Jews)

Maronite Christianity in Lebanon refers to adherents of the Maronite Church in Lebanon, which is the largest Christian denomination in the country. The Lebanese Maronite Christians are believed to constitute about 22%[2] of the total population of Lebanon. Under the terms of an agreement known as the National Pact between the various political and religious leaders of Lebanon, the president of the country must be a Maronite.[3] Within the Lebanese context, especially political, the group is seen as an ethnoreligious group.[4][5]


An estimate of the distribution of Lebanon's main religious groups, 1991, based on a map by
Lebanon religious groups distribution
An estimate of the area distribution of Lebanon's main religious groups

The followers of Jesus Christ first became known as "Christians" in the ancient Greek city of Antioch (Acts 11:26), and the city became a center for Christianity - especially after the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. According to Catholic tradition, the first Bishop was Saint Peter before his travels to Rome. The third Bishop was the Apostolic Father Ignatius of Antioch. Antioch became one of the five original Patriarchates (the Pentarchy) after Constantine recognized Christianity.

The Maronite Christianity derived its name and religious identity from Saint Maron whose followers migrated to the area of Mount Lebanon (present day Republic of Lebanon) from their previous location of residence around the area of Antioch (an ancient Greek city within present day Hatay Province, Turkey), establishing the nucleus of the Maronite Church.[6]

More specifically, Maron, a fourth-century monk and the contemporary and friend of St. John Chrysostom, left Antioch for the Orontes River to lead an ascetic life, following the traditions of Anthony the Great of the Desert and Pachomius. Many of his followers also lived a monastic lifestyle. Following the death of Maron in 410 AD, his disciples built a monastery in his memory and formed the nucleus of the Maronite Church.

The Maronites held fast to the beliefs of the Council of Chalcedon in 451 AD. When the Monophysites of Antioch slew 350 monks, the Maronites sought refuge in the mountains of Lebanon. Correspondence concerning the event brought the Maronites papal and orthodox recognition, which was solidified by Pope Hormisdas (514-523 AD) on February 10, AD 518. A monastery was built around the shrine of St. Maro (Marun) after the Council of Chalcedon.[7]

The martyrdom of the Patriarch of Antioch in the first decade of the seventh century, either at the hands of Persian soldiers or local Jews,[8] left the Maronites without a leader, a situation which continued because of the final and most devastating Byzantine–Sassanid War of 602–628. In the aftermath of the war, the Emperor Heraclius propagated a new Christological doctrine in an attempt to unify the various Christian churches of the east, who were divided over accepting the Council of Chalcedon. This doctrine, monothelitism, was meant as a compromise between supporters of Chalcedon, such as the Maronites, and opponents, such as the Jacobites. Monothelitism was actually endorsed by Pope Honorius (625-638) of the Roman Catholic Church to win back the Monophysites. Instead, this new doctrine caused greater controversy, and was declared a heresy at the Sixth Ecumenical Council in 680-681. Contemporary Greek and Arab sources, however, claimed that the Maronites accepted monothelitism, rejected the sixth council, and continued to maintain a belief in the largely discredited monothelete doctrine for centuries, only moving away from monothelitism in the time of the crusades in order to avoid being branded heretics by the crusaders. The modern Maronite Church, however, rejects the assertion that the Maronites were ever monothelites apart from the Roman Catholic Church; and the question remains a major controversy to this day.[9]

In 687 AD, the Emperor Justinian II agreed to evacuate many thousand Maronites from Lebanon and settle them elsewhere. The chaos and utter depression which followed led the Maronites to elect their first Patriarch, John Maroun, that year. This, however, was seen as a usurpation by the Orthodox churches. Thus, at a time when Islam was rising on the borders of the Byzantine Empire and a united front was necessary to keep out Islamic infiltration, the Maronites were focused on a struggle to retain their independence against imperial power. This situation was mirrored in other Christian communities in the Byzantine Empire and helped facilitate the Muslim conquest of most of Eastern Christendom by the end of the century.



Maronite division among main Syriac Christian groups.

The Maronites belong to the Maronite Syriac Church of Antioch (a former ancient Greek city now in Hatay Province, Turkey) is an Eastern Catholic Syriac Church that had affirmed its communion with Rome since 1180 A.D., although the official view of the Church is that it had never accepted either the Monophysitic views held by their Syriac neighbours, which were condemned in the Council of Chalcedon, or the failed compromise doctrine of Monothelitism (the latter claim being found in contemporary sources).[10] The Maronite Patriarch is traditionally seated in Bkerke north of Beirut.


Modern Carole, Charles, Antoine, Joseph and Pierre.

Good News in reference to the Gospel). Other common names are Sarkis (Sergius) and Bakhos (Bacchus), while others are common both among Christians and Muslims, such as Youssef (Joseph) or Ibrahim (Abraham).

Some Maronite Christians are named in honour of Maronite saints, including the Aramaic names Maroun (after their patron saint, Maron), Nimtullah, Charbel and Rafqa (Rebecca).

Persecution and struggle

Maronite Christians felt a sense of alienation and exclusion as a result of Pan Arabism in Lebanon.[11][12] Part of its historic suffering is the Damour massacre by the PLO. The Maronite monks maintain that Lebanon is synonymous with Maronite history and ethos; that its Maronitism antedates the Arab conquest of Lebanon and that Arabism is only a historical accident.[13] The Maronites also felt mass persecution under the Ottoman Turks, who massacred and mistreated Maronites for their faith, disallowing them from owning horses and forcing them to wear only black clothing. The Turkish Ottoman Empire had slain upwards of 300,000 Maronites, and forced the remaining populations into the mountains (which spawned Mount Lebanon), and let another 100,000 die of starvation while stranded with no means of self-sufficiency. The Lebanese Druze also persecuted the Maronites for their identity, and massacred in excess of 50,000 of them in the mid-1800s. However, the Maronites later emerged as the most dominant group in Lebanon, a status they held until the sectarian conflict that resulted in the Lebanese Civil War.


Lebanese Maronites[14][15]
Year Percent

The last Census in Lebanon in 1932 put the numbers of Maronites at 29% of the population (227,800 of 791,700).[14] A study done by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in 1985 put the numbers of Maronites at 16% of the population (356,000 of 2,228,000).[14]

Lebanese Maronites constitutes 21% of Lebanon's population of approximately 4.3 million, which means they amount to 903,000 as of 2012.[15]

Notable people

See also


  1. ^ "There are 3,198,600 Maronites in the World". 1994-01-03. Retrieved 2013-06-13. 
  2. ^ Lebanon - International Religious Freedom Report 2008 U.S. Department of State. Retrieved on 2013-06-13.
  3. ^ Programme on Governance in the Arab Region : Elections : LebanonUnited Nations Development Programme : . Retrieved 25 January 2010.
  4. ^ David Levinson (1 January 1998). Ethnic Groups Worldwide: A Ready Reference Handbook. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 249.  
  5. ^ Michael Slackman. (9 November 2006) Christians Struggle to Preserve a Balance of Power The New York Times. Retrieved 28 December 2013.
  6. ^ Mannheim, I (2001). Syria & Lebanon handbook: the travel guide. Footprint Travel Guides. pp. 652–563.  
  7. ^ Attwater, Donald; The Christian Churches of the East
  8. ^ vol. 72 (1982), 202-4Jewish Quarterly ReviewJ. D. Frendo, "Who killed Anastasius II?" )
  9. ^ Matti Moosa, The Maronites in History (Syracuse, N.Y.: Syracuse University Press, 1986), 195-216.
  10. ^ Moosa, M (2005). The Maronites in History. Gorgias Press LLC. pp. 209–210.  
  11. ^ The war for Lebanon, 1970-1985 - Google Books. Retrieved 2010-10-14. 
  12. ^ Conversion and continuity ... - Google Books. Retrieved 2010-10-14. 
  13. ^ The Maronites in History – Google Books. Retrieved 2010-10-14. 
  14. ^ a b c "Contemporary distribution of Lebanon's main religious groups". Central Intelligence Agency. Retrieved 15 December 2013. 
  15. ^ a b "2012 Report on International Religious Freedom - Lebanon".  
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