OUR MELKITE CHURCH HISTORY MAIN EVENTS
Antioch was one of the first cities to become a center of the Christian faith. It was in Antioch that St. Paul started his first apostolic journey, and before Peter was in Rome, he was the head of the Church of Antioch.
In 325 AD at the Council of Nicaea the patriarchates of Alexandria and Antioch were established. The government of the church was held by the sees of Rome, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem. The bishops of these sees were given the title of Patriarch. After the capital of the Roman empire was moved to Constantinople, that city was also elevated to a Patriarchal see (381 AD). The Christians in the Middle East who accepted the decision of the Council of Chalcedon (451 AD) followed the lead of the Byzantine emperor and were dubbed Melkites or King's Men from the Aramaic word "melek" meaning King.
With the seventh century assault of the Islamic conquest of the Middle East, the Melkites were well treated, but they were frequently denied all civic and social responsibilities. When the Byzantine Empire re-conquered the Middle East, between 960 and 1085 AD, much of the imperial style of Constantinople became a part of the Melkite ritual.
The great strain between the Melkite Church and Rome happened because of the Crusader. When the Western Catholics came into the Holy Land they did not recognize the legitimacy of the Melkite clergy or worship. By the end of the Crusades there was an estrangement between the churches, but the Melkites never actually broke off relations with Rome.
The reign of the Mamelukes from 1250 to 1516 put an end to the Western occupation of the Middle East but it also brought destruction of religious sites, persecutions of clergy, massacres of faithful and depopulation of entire Christian communities. For at least two centuries after the Ottoman conquest in 1516, the persecutions continued unabated. The Turkish sultan wanted his capital, Constantinople, to be the religious capital of the East, so he gave the Ecumenical Patriarch complete authority over all the Melkite hierarchy. Some of the Melkite hierarchs were more disposed to Constantinople, while others favored the authority of Rome - but as "the church in the middle," the Melkites retained their allegiance to the Holy See.
In the 1600's western missionaries to the Middle East found fertile ground among the Melkites. Some of the Antiochian faithful looked to the West for salvation of their church, while others only saw the missionaries as outsiders. As a result in 1724 the church split in two. One faction under the influence of Constantinople became known as the Antiochian Orthodox, while the other group, loyal to Rome, became known as the Melkite Catholics.
Since the formal declaration of Roman/Melkite union in 1724, the Melkite Catholics are a small but vibrant voice within the Catholic Church; a voice calling upon the dignity of the orthodox faith and praying for the unity of the church of Christ.