Syrian Christianity in its varying forms embraces most of the Christians of the present states of Israel, Palestine, Jordan, Syria, and adjacent parts of Turkey and Iraq. The Syriac form of Aramaic is the usual liturgical language. The historical centers are Jerusalem and Antioch; both were among the Pentarchy of early Christian Patriarchates, with Alexandria, Rome, and Constantinople. (Only Rome was in the West. Antioch, modern Antakya in Turkey, was a major center fr the spread of Christianity; St. Peter was the first bishop (preceding his move to Rome), and, according to Acts 11:26, "The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch."
Today, here are five Patriarchs of Antioch (the Antiochian Orthodox, Syriac Orthodox, Melkite, Syriac Catholic, and Maronite Catholic. There used to be a Latin Catholic as well but three Catholic Patriarchs of Antioch may have been enough, and the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem remains.
Not one of the five Patriarchs of Antioch has his seat in Antioch/Antakya today:
- The Antiochian Orthodox Patriarch (or Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch) is in the Eastern or "Greek" Orthodox tradition linked to Constantinople; Patriarch John X Yazigi took his throne in 2012 and has his seat in Damascus.
- The Syrian Orthodox (the Church today prefers "Syriac Orthodox" in English) Patriarch of Antioch represents the Oriental Orthodox ["Jacobite," "Miaphysite," or to other denominations, "Monophysite"] tradition, along with the Copts, Armenians, Ethiopians and Eritreans. Ignatius Zakka Iwas has held the post since 1980; his seat is officially Damascus but he resides in Beirut.
- The Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarch, the analogue of the Antiochian Orthodox but in union with Rome, is Gregorios III Laham since 2000; he is based in Damascus.
- The Syriac Catholic Patriarch of Antioch is the Catholic Uniate analogue of the Syriac Orthodox; he is based in Beirut and since 2009 has been Ignatius Joseph III Younan.
- The Maronite Catholic Patriarch of Antioch is of course highly influential in Lebanon; his seat is at Bkerke near Beirut. Cardinal Bechara Boutros al-Raï was chosen Patriarch in 2011 and made a cardinal by the Pope in 2012.
An Antiochian hymn:
A Maronite Hymn Medley: