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The term Melkite (also written Melchite) is used to refer to various Christian churches and their members originating in the Middle East. The word comes from the Syriac word malkāyâ (Syriac: ܡܠܟܝܐ), meaning imperial. In Arabic, the word is transcribed Mālikī (Arabic: ملكى‎).

The term melkite was originally used as a pejorative after the acrimonious division that occurred in Eastern Christianity after the Council of Chalcedon (451). It was used by anti-Chalcedonians to refer to those who backed the council and the Byzantine Emperor. It is unknown at what period the Melkites began to use the term for themselves. The Melkites were generally Greek-speaking city-dwellers living in the west of the Levant and in Egypt, as opposed to the more provincial Syriac- and Coptic-speaking anti-Chalcedonians. The Melkite Church was organised into three historic patriarchatesAlexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem — under the authority of the Patriarch of Constantinople. The anti-Chalcedonians set up their own patriarchs in Alexandria (Coptic Orthodox Church) and Antioch (Syriac Orthodox Church). The Nubian kingdom of Makuria (in modern Sudan) in contrast to their Monophysite neighbours, also practised the Melkite faith, from c. 575 until c. 1300.

From 1342, Roman Catholic clergy were based in Damascus and other areas, and began the secret conversion of Orthodox clergy and people to Catholicism. At that time, the nature of the East-West Schism was undefined, and most of those converted continued to worship and work within the Orthodox Church as a pro-Western party. In 1724, Cyril VI, a pro-Western bishop, was elected as Patriarch of Antioch. Considering this to be a Catholic takeover attempt, Jeremias III of Constantinople appointed the Greek monk Sylvester to the patriarchate instead of Cyril. Sylvester's heavy-handed leadership of the church encouraged many to prefer Cyril's leadership. The newly elected Pope Benedict XIII recognised Cyril's claim to the patriarchate, and welcomed him and his followers into communion with Rome. From that point onwards, the Melkite Church was divided between the Orthodox, who continued to recognise the authority of the Patriarch of Constantinople, and the Catholics, who recognise the authority of the Pope of Rome. However, it is only the latter, Catholic group who continue to use the title Melkite. Thus, in modern usage, the term applies almost exclusively to the Greek Catholics from the Middle East.

[edit] See also

Image:Cristo Velázquez lou2.jpgSyriac Christianity

Aramaeans | Assyrians | Chaldeans | Syriacs | Maronites | Melkites
Aramaic languages - Syriac
Assyrian Neo-Aramaic | Bohtan Neo-Aramaic | Chaldean Neo-Aramaic | Hértevin | Koy Sanjaq Surat | Garshuni | Mlahsö | Senaya | Turoyo
Ancient Church of the East | Antiochian Orthodox Church | Assyrian Church of the East | Chaldean Catholic Church | Maronite Catholic Church | Melkite Greek Catholic Church | Syriac Catholic Church | Syriac Orthodox Church



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