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Maronites (Marun˘ye in Syriac, Mawarinah in Arabic) are members of one of the Eastern Rites of the Catholic church. They trace their founding to St. John Maron and to St. Maron, while they also claim full apostolic succession through the See of Antioch. They are one of the main religious groups in Lebanon.

Table of contents
1 History
2 Organization
3 Population


Apparently Maronites originated from the Syrian Orthodox Church and were separated and excommunicated in the 5th century because of their support of Monothelite doctrine. They gained some military help from the Constantine IV and harassed the forces of Umayyad Dynasty so that in 677 the caliph decided to pay tribute to them in return of peace.

In 678 Maronites found themselves isolated from the Byzantium and decided to appoint their own patriarch, John Maron, who had been a bishop of Batroun. Emperor Justinian II declared them heretics. In 694 Maronites defeated Justinian's forces in Mount Lebanon. They also proceeded their raids against Muslims and in 707 Caliph al-Walid I sent a force to occupy Jarjuma and destroy it. Maronites retreated to the mountains. In 759 forces of the new Abbasid dynasty defeated Maronites in Baalbek.

During the Crusades in the 12th century, Maronites assisted the crusaders and (re-)established their affiliation with Catholicism in 1182. That affiliation was to cost them dearly after Muslim rules returned. Anti-Christian Mamelukes destroyed their fields, houses and churches alongside with those of Druzes and Shiites. Connection to Rome was arduously maintained and Maronite college established at Rome in July 5, 1584.

At first, the Ottoman Empire left Maronites to their own devices in their mountain strongholds. However, 1585-1635 Maronite warlord Fahk-al-Din II conquered and ruled the Greater Lebanon until he was defeated by Ottoman forces and executed at Constantinople in April 13, 1635.

In 1638, France declared that it would protect the Catholics - including the Maronites - in the Ottoman Empire. In 1860 Maronites clashed with Druzes until French intervention and Ottoman diplomacy stopped that. In 1866 Youssef Karam led a Maronite uprising in Lebanon against governor Dawood Pasha. European intervention led to his exile to Algeria.

Maronites gained a self-rule under the French mandate of Lebanon in 1920 and secured their position in the independent Lebanon in 1943. They were one of the three main factions in the Lebanese Civil War.


The head of the Maronite church is the Maronite Patriarch of Antioch, who is appointed by the Pope and now resides in Jounieh north of Beirut. Although their doctrine is Catholic, their retain their own liturgy and hierarchy; strictly speaking, Maronite church belongs to the Antiochene Tradition and is a West Syro-Antiochene Rite. Syriac is the liturgical language, instead of Latin. Celibacy is not a requirement for priests with parishes but clergy without them are required to remain celibate.


Maronites total maybe 1.5 million. Most Maronites (600,000) live in Lebanon where they constitute one-fourth of the population. According to Lebanese constitution, the president must be a Maronite. Syrian Maronites total 40,000 and they follow archdioceses of Aleppo and Damascus and the Diocese of Latakia. There is also a Maronite community in Cyprus, probably descended from those who accompanied crusaders there.

In the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries, many Maronites emigrated to Europe, Australia and North and South America and founded Maronite parishes in those locations as well.