The 14 Christian Churches of the Holy Land

The Church in the Holy Land is a true mosaic! It’s enough to simply enter the Holy Sepulcher in the heart of the old city of Jerusalem — a place considered holy by many Christians — to realize that the Church is a web of various communities, communities that are juxtaposed, each with its own color, its ritual, its liturgy, and tradition.This church, called the Church of Jerusalem, founded by Saint James, is the “Mother of all Churches”, and all Christian denominations (Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant) are represented here in this capital of the religious world, with their 7 rites (Latin, Greek, Maronite, Syriac, Chaldean, Coptic and Armenian).The Catholic Church of Latin rite dates back to the Crusaders who, in 1099, established a patriarchal seat in Jerusalem, which became residential in 1847. Until then, the responsibility of the Latin Church rested solely with the Franciscans, who since the 14th century, have been given custody of the Holy Places. The Latin Patriarchate of the Holy Land has about 75,000 faithful.As for the Greek Catholic Chruch (Melkite), of Byzantine Rite, which rose up around 1682-1697, it was officially incorporated in 1730 by linking to Rome part of the Greek Orthodox in Lebanon and in Upper Galilee. Today, it is the largest Christian community with over 60 000 believers.Quant à l’Eglise grecque catholique (melkite), de rite byzantin, née vers 1682-1697,  elle a été officiellement constituée en 1730 en rattachant à Rome une partie des grecs orthodoxes du Liban et de la Haute Galilée. C’est aujourd’hui la plus importante communauté chrétienne avec plus de 60 000 fidèles. Then we find the Maronite Church, founded by St. Maron in 380. Tied to the Syriac tradition of Antioch, it has always remained faithful to Rome. The Maronite Patriarchate is located in Lebanon, and the Holy Land headquarters of the Maronite Patriarchal Vicariate is in Jerusalem where he heads a community of 8,000 faithful, mostly residing in Galilee.There are other Catholic Churches of the Syriac tradition: the Syriac Catholic Church of Antioch, united with Rome since 1781 and whose patriarch lives in Lebanon. It has some 1,500 followers in Jerusalem; and the Chaldean Church, founded by the Apostle St Thomas, heir to the ancient church of Persia. It was formerly called “Nestorian” for not accepting the Council of Ephesus in 431, though it partially reunited with Rome in 1551. Its patriarch resides in Baghdad. In Jerusalem, the Chaldean community has been dispersed since (was dispersed following?) the 1914 war, most families having emigrated or integrated with other branches of the Catholic Church.Autres Eglises catholiques de tradition syriaque: l’Eglise syrienne catholique d’Antioche, réunie à Rome depuis 1781 et dont le patriarche vit au Liban. A Jérusalem, la communauté chaldéenne a été dispersée à la suite de la guerre de 1914, la plupart des familles ayant émigré ou s’étant intégrées à d’autres branches de l’Eglise catholique.Finally, we also find in the Holy Land representatives of the Armenian Catholic Church, headquartered in Dzommar, Lebanon. A patriarchal vicariate was established in Jerusalem in 1842. The community has approximately a hundred followers.All these Catholics have gathered in an Episcopal Conference since 1990.There are six Orthodox Churches present in Jerusalem:First, the Greek Orthodox Church which considers itself the “Mother Church of Jerusalem”, with its patriarch the successor of the Apostle James. Guardian with the Franciscans of numerous shrines, it is the second largest Christian community after the Melkites. There are about 100,000 faithful in its patriarchate.Another guardian community of the holy places is the Armenian Orthodox Church, also known as the “Gregorian” Church named after its founder, St. Gregory the Illuminator, an evangelist of Armenia from 301. This Patriarchate has existed in Jerusalem since 1311. The community has about 2,500 followers in Israel, the Palestinian territories and Jordan.Autre communauté gardienne des lieux saints : L’Eglise arménienne orthodoxe, dite aussi «grégorienne» du nom de son fondateur, Saint Grégoire l’Illuminateur, évangélisateur de l’Arménie dès 301.As for the Coptic Orthodox Church, it is the Church of Egypt, founded by St. Mark. Its Patriarch carries the title of Alexandria, but resides in Cairo. It is represented in Jerusalem by an archbishop whose authority extends to all Copts in the Middle East, except of course Egypt.Another Orthodox Church in the Holy Land is the Syriac Orthodox Church, without doubt one of the oldest Christian communities of Jerusalem, an heiress of the original Judeo-Christian communities. Its headquarters is traditionally in Antioch where the disciples of Jesus were first called “Christians”. Today the Church has its headquarters in the monastery church of Saint Mark, and has about 2000 faithful.The Russian Orthodox Church has also been present in the Holy Land since the 19th century, although Christians of/from? Russia have been visiting the Holy Land since the 11th century. We must also add the Romanian Orthodox Church in the Holy Land which has been present since 1935. Both churches are headed by Archimandrite, assisted by a number of monks and nuns.Finally, the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, present in Jerusalem since the Middle Ages, has about 400 followers. The Ethiopian bishop has his headquarters in Jerusalem.As for the Anglican and Protestant churches, their presence in the Holy Land dates back to 19th century, establishment in Jerusalem of Western diplomatic representatives (when Western diplomatic representatives were established in Jerusalem?). The Anglican Church is under the jurisdiction of the Archbishop of Canterbury, with its center in the Cathedral of St. George. It has about 6,000 followers. As for the Evangelical Lutheran Church, it is centered at the Church of the Redeemer, near the Holy Sepulcher. It has six parishes and nearly 2,000 faithful.Quant aux Eglises anglicane et protestante, leur présence en Terre Sainte remonte au 19ème siècle, date de l’établissement, à Jérusalem, des représentations diplomatiques occidentales.Today all Christians of the Holy Land, whether Catholic, Orthodox or Protestant, are in a difficult and changing political situation and are questioning their future and the meaning of their presence in this land: their young migrate in search for a safer and more human future. It is a true hemorrhage which deprives the Church of Jerusalem from its best!This is an exodus that Benedict XVI, who visited the Holy Land in the spring of last year, continues to lament and which can not be stopped without the support of all Christians around the world…Let us remember his words, May 12, 2009, in the Upper Room with the bishops of the Holy Land:”You can count on my support and my encouragement while you do everything you can to help your Christian brothers and sisters to stay here in the land of their ancestors and to be messengers and promoters of peace… As for me, I renew my appeal to our brothers and sisters around the world to lend their support to Christian communities in the Holy Land and throughout the Middle East, remembering them in their prayers.”One week a year, during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, which is part of parish life throughout the world, the Christians of Jerusalem are found together, during that last week of January, where each Church, in turn, invites Christians to a prayer meeting hosted by the rite (which is carried out according to the hosting Church’s own rite?. At each celebration, prayers and readings are said in all languages, signifying the universality and the diversity of the participants.les chrétiens de Jérusalem se retrouvent tous ensemble, la dernière semaine de janvier,  chaque Église, à tour de rôle, accueillant les chrétiens pour une rencontre de prière qu’elle anime selon son rite. The week starts at the Holy Sepulcher among the Orthodox for the Office of Compline. The next day, at St. George’s Anglican cathedral, then the Latin parish church, the Lutheran Church, the Syriac Orthodox Church, the Armenian Cathedral, the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, and, finally, the Melkite Church (Greek Catholic).One week only! A unique opportunity to experience the liturgical richness of the other and to express the desire for unity that is at the heart of everyone.

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