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Dioceses of the Syrian Catholic Church

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Title: Dioceses of the Syrian Catholic Church  
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Subject: Assyrian geography
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Dioceses of the Syrian Catholic Church

The Syrian Catholic Church (or Syriac Catholic Church), established in the second half of the 17th century as a Catholic offshoot of the Syrian Orthodox Church, had around a dozen dioceses in the eastern provinces of the Ottoman empire in the 18th and 19th centuries. Three of these dioceses were ruined during the First World War in the Assyrian and Armenian massacres, and the 20th century also saw the growth of an important Syriac Catholic diaspora in America, Europe and Australasia. As of 2012 the Syrian Catholic Church has fifteen dioceses, mostly in the Middle East, and four patriarchal vicariates for the diaspora communities.


During the 18th century the Syrian Catholic church established dioceses in the major cities of the Ottoman empire with significant West Syrian communities, and also became the dominant West Syrian grouping in a number of villages in northern Iraq, gaining control of the monastery of Mar Behnam near Mosul.

At the beginning of the 19th century the Syrian Catholic Church had dioceses for Jerusalem, Aleppo, Damascus, Edessa, Amid, Mardin, Gazarta (from 1818), Mosul (from 1790) and the Monastery of Mar Behnam. In 1817 a diocese was created for Beirut, which persisted until 1898. In 1862 a separate diocese was created for Baghdad and Basra, hitherto under the jurisdiction of the bishops of Mosul.[1]

According to a population statistic of 1898, the Syrian Catholic church had just under 23,000 members, organised in nine dioceses.[2]

Like their Syrian Orthodox and Chaldean counterparts, the Syrian Catholic dioceses of Amid, Mardin and Gazarta were ruined in the First World War (Flavian Mikha’il Malke, Syrian Catholic bishop of Gazarta, was killed by the Turks in 1915), and were not afterwards revived. A new Syrian Catholic diocese was established for Hasakah in 1957, and the town has been the seat of a Syrian Catholic bishop since 1959. The diocese of Beirut has remained vacant since 1898, and the relatively small Syrian Catholic community of Beirut has been under the jurisdiction of a patriarchal vicar or apostolic administrator for most of the past eleven decades.

According to a Catholic statistic of 1962, the Syrian Catholic Church had just over 65,000 members in the Middle East at that time, plus a further 15,000 or so members in America and elsewhere.[3]

Table 1: Population of the Syrian Catholic Church, 1962
Region No. of Parishes No. of Churches No. of Priests No. of Believers Region No. of Parishes No. of Churches No. of Priests No. of Believers
Lebanon 6 6 14 14,500 Damascus 4 4 5 3,807
Egypt 2 3 4 4,000 Hims 12 12 12 4,135
Jordan 1 1 2 1,200 Mosul 8 10 25 17,000
Turkey 4 4 2 800 Hassakeh 7 8 9 4,000
Aleppo 6 2 6 7,100 Baghdad 5 5 11 8,750
Total 55 55 90 65,292

According to a Catholic statistic of 1964, the Syrian Catholic Church consisted of a patriarchal archdiocese, four archdioceses (Aleppo, Damascus, Mosul, and Baghdad), two dioceses (Homs and Hama, and Jazira and Euphrates), and six patriarchal vicariates (Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan–Palestine, Mardin, Rome, and Paris).[4]

Table 2: Population of the Syrian Catholic Church, 1964
Region No. of Churches No. of Priests No. of Believers Region No. of Villages No. of Churches No. of Believers
Lebanon 8 14 15,000 Damascus 5 7 4,250
Egypt 4 5 4,750 Mosul 17 24 14,000
Jordan and Palestine 2 1 1,500 Baghdad 8 10 15,000
Turkey 5 3 9,000 Homs and Hama 12 10 5,100
Rome 1 1 370 Mosul 10 25 17,000
Paris 1 2 3,500 Jazira and Euphrates 7 9 6,400
Aleppo 5 6 8,000 Total 85 117 103,870

Present hierarchy

The Syrian Catholic Church presently has fifteen dioceses: one patriarchal see (in Beirut); two metropolitanates (Damascus and Homs); four archdioceses (Aleppo, Hassakeh–Nisibis, Baghdad and Mosul); three dioceses (Beirut, Cairo and Our Lady of Deliverance of Newark); one apostolic exarchate (Venezuela); three patriarchal exarchates (Basra and Kuwait, Jerusalem and Turkey); and the patriarchal territory of Sudan. The diocese of Our Lady of Deliverance of Newark covers the United States and Canada, while the patriarchal exarchate of Jerusalem covers Israel, Palestine and Jordan.

The Syrian Catholic Church presently has eleven bishops:

  • Ignatius Joseph III Yonan, Patriarch of Antioch (since January 2009);
  • Gregory Eliya Tabe, Metropolitan of Damascus (since June 2001);
  • Theophilus Giwargis Kassab, Metropolitan of Homs (since December 1999);
  • Dionysius Anton Chahda, Archbishop of Aleppo (since September 2001);
  • Yaʿqob Behnam Hindo, Archbishop of Hassakeh–Nisibis (since June 1996);
  • Yousif Abba (Yousif Mansoor), Archbishop-elect of Baghdad (since March 2011);
  • Father Boutros Moshe, Archbishop-elect of Mosul (since March 2011);
  • Clement Joseph Hannush, Bishop of Cairo (since June 1995);
  • Yousif Benham Habash, Bishop of the Eparchy of Our Lady of Deliverance of Newark;
  • Iwanis Lewis Awad, Apostolic Exarch of Venezuela (since May 2003); and
  • Gregory Peter Melki, Patriarchal Exarch of Jerusalem (since February 2002).

Protosyncellus (Vicar General) of the Archeparchy of Mosul, Father Boutros Moshe, 67, to be the new Archbishop. Pope Benedict XVI, consented to his canonical election on Tuesday, March 1, 2011, sealing the appointment, with ordination and installation to follow at a later date. The Mosul Archeparchy has 35,000 Catholics, 36 priests, and 55 religious.

Also on Tuesday, March 1, 2011, Pope Benedict XVI consented to the canonical election by the Syriac Synod of Bishops of the Father Yousif Abba (Yousif Mansoor), 59, until now the Chancellor of the Syriac Catholic Eparchy of the United States and Canada under Bishop Habash and currently serving at the St. Joseph Syrian Catholic Church in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada, as the new Archbishop-elect of the Syriac Catholic Archeparchy of Baghdad, Iraq. Archbishop Yousif is a native Iraqi. Since 1997, he has been in charge of pastoral care for Syrian-rite Catholics in the United States and Canada. He speaks Syrian, French, Arabic, and English. He succeeds Athanase Mattai Shaba Matoka, who resigned from the position he had held since 1983 as Archbishop Emeritus, with ordination and installation as archbishop to follow at a later date. The Baghdad Archeparchy has 18,000 Syriac Catholics and seven priests.

Finally, also on March 1, 2011, the Pope approved the canonical election of the Father Jihad Battah, 54, until then the Protosyncellus (Vicar General) of the Syriac Catholic Archeparchy of Damascus, Syria, under Metropolitan Gregory Aliya Tabe, as a Bishop-elect of the Syrian Catholic Patriarchal Curia, with ordination and installation as bishop to follow at a later date.

The diocese of Beirut has remained vacant for more than a century. Theophilus Giwargis Kassab, metropolitan of Homs, presently administers the diocese in the capacity of apostolic administrator. The patriarchal exarchate of Basra and Kuwait has been under the care of Father Marzena Eshak since 2003, and the patriarchal exarchate of Turkey has been under the care of Monsignor Joseph Sagh since 1991. Clement Joseph Hannush, bishop of Cairo, has been responsible for the patriarchal territory of Sudan since 1997, in the capacity of protosyncellus.

The church also has four patriarchal vicariates (Brazil, Australia and New Zealand, Sweden and France), and a patriarchal procurate in Rome. In 2010 there were an estimated 159,000 Syrian Catholics, under the care of 11 bishops and over a hundred priests.

See also


  1. ^ Fiey, POCN, 161 (Aleppo), 164 (Amid), 174 (Baghdad and Basra), 177 (Mar Behnam), 189–90 (Damascus), 180–1 (Beirut), 192–3 (Gazarta), 196–7 (Edessa), 222–3 (Jerusalem), 238–9 (Mardin), and 246 (Mosul)
  2. ^ Vailhé and Ermoni, Antioch, 1433
  3. ^ Oriente Cattolico (1962), 161–74
  4. ^ Catholic Encyclopedia, 904


  • Fiey, J. M. (1962). Assyrie chrétienne (3 vols). Beirut. 
  • Fiey, J. M. (1993). Pour un Oriens Christianus novus; répertoire des diocèses Syriaques orientaux et occidentaux. Beirut.  
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