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Archbishop and Patriarch Elias Peter Hoayek (1843 – 1931) (alt. spellings Hoyek, Hwayek,Huayek, Juayek, Hawayek) (Arabic: الحويك); was born in Helta, Lebanon. He was Patriarch of Antioch for the Maronites, the largest Christian community in the Middle East from 1898 to 1931 when he died. He is hailed as the father of Lebanonism and the founder of the modern Lebanese state. The Lebanese people of all sects hailed his patriotism, followed his example and maintain it to this day. Hoayek is considered one of the four founders of Lebanon: Fakhr el Din II, Bashir II, Youssef Beik Karam and Patriarch Hoayek.
Elias Hoayek was born in Helta, Batroun, North Lebanon in the year 1843. He studied at the Seminary College of St. John Maroun in North Lebanon. He later went to the Jesuit seminary of Ghazir in 1859, where he studied the languages (French, Arabic, Syriac, Latin, Greek) as well as philosophy. In 1866 he went to Rome to study theology. In 1870, he was made a Catholic priest and returned to Lebanon. Upon his return he taught theology at his old school the Seminary of St. John Maroun. He was appointed secretary and moved to the patriarchal residence in 1872 where he remained until 1898 when he was consecrated Patriarch.
The previous Patriarch, John el Hajj died on Christmas Eve in 1898; Monsenieur Hoayek was requested to return to Lebanon from a trip to Rome. On January 6, he was elected Patriarch.
Hoayek adopted the middle name Peter (Boutros) to signify him being the successor to St. Peter first Bishop of Antioch.
Patriarch Hoayek’s residence was simple, consisting of three rooms: a bedroom/office, a reception room and a chapel. He was known to particularly revere the readings of the confessions of St. Augustine, the Eternal Maxims and the Imitation of Christ.
Support for the Diaspora
He was behind the creation of a Patriarchal Vicariate in Egypt in 1904. He was founder of the church in Cyprus, delegating Shikrallah Khoury and Peter Chebly. He was the founder of the independent dioneces in the United States of America and in Argentina in 1920.
Challenges of the First World War
The First World War saw a lot of persecution of the Christians in the Middle East. Some sources cite one and a half million of Armenians were killed by Ottoman forces in the war. The Ottoman Empire was allied to Germany. The Ottomans (upon German request) set up a blockage of the Lebanese and Syrian coast line. As a result, a third of the Lebanese population died of famine. Jamal Pasha, Ottoman military governor took steps to exile Hoayek because of his relations with France. In 1915, the blockade as well as a large locust infestation had resulted in deplenished food supplies. This situation continued until 1919. The Patriarch received funds from Lebanese Diaspora and the French government. Again, Jamal Pasha attempted to exile the Patriarch.
End of the War
The HM British army entered Damascus while the Ottoman (and their German allies) retreated to the North. This ended four hundred years of Ottoman rule in Lebanon. A transitional governance body was installed by the allied British and French forces.
Peace Congress in Versailles
In 1919, Patriarch Hoayek headed the Lebanese delegation at the Peace Congress in Versailles. King Faisal had hopes for an Arab kingdom to encompass Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Palestine and the Arabian Peninsula. Patriarch Hoayek fought to be able to see Lebanon free from the Ottoman Empire and had no desire to see it become part of Faisal's empire. King Faisal went on to accept the Balfour Declaration on a condition to be given his Arab state (minus Palestine) of Greater Syria. This he did in 1919, with Dr. Chaim Weizmann, President of the World Zionist Organization and was called the Faisal-Weizmann Agreement. The Lebanese delegation led by Hoayek presented the Lebanese aspirations as follows:
- The extension of the frontiers of Lebanon to include the cities of Beirut, Tyre, Sidon, Tripoli and the districts of Akkar, Beqaa, and Southern Lebanon. These cities and districts were natural parts of Lebanon, but were administratively separated by the Ottoman rule.
- The recognition of Lebanon’s full independence
- The institution of a Parliament to represent the different sects
- The assistance of France in consolidating Lebanon’s independence.
On October 27, he presented the assembly of the Peace Congress with this memorandum. This proposal was accepted and approved by Clemenceau in a statement issued on November 10, 1919.
The French General Gouraud announced a declaration by France of the independence of Lebanon on September 1, 1920. He outlined the nation's boundaries to include the area from Ras-al-Naqurah (Naqurah peninsula) in the South to Nahr-el-Kabir (The Large River) in the North and from the summits of the Anti-Lebanon mountain in the East to the Mediterranean sea in the West. This was the first time Lebanon had these boundaries and was called the The State of Greater Lebanon.
Hoyek wrote: "Both national feeling and religion make it an obligation for you to respect and love everybody whatever may be his belief. Reason leads you to fraternize with the person you live with under the same sky and on the same land" (Hoyek, Al-Zakhair Al-Saniyyat, Jounieh, 1931 p. 501).
- "God", he used to say, "wants us to love our country" (Ibid p.792 Cf. p.588).
- Biography of the patriarch Elias Hoayek by HARFOÛCHE, P. Ibrâhîm, Dalâ' it Al 'inâya el-Samdanyat, Lebanese Jounieh, Printing works Missionaries Maronites; 1934.
- La vérité sur l'histoire de la Montagne Libanaise (The Truth on the History of Mount Lebanon) by Patriarch Hoayek, Haqîqat Al-bayân 'year târikh Gabal Lubnân. Manuscript consulted at Sabeh Hoayek in Bdadoun.
- Inventing Lebanon: Nationalism and the State Under the Mandate - by Kais M. Firro
- Lebanon: A History of Conflict and Consensus - by Nadim Shehadi, Dana Haffar Mills
- The Formation of Modern Syria and Iraq - by Eliezer Tauber
- Monks and Monasteries of the Near East - by Jules Leroy
- The Maronite Patriarch Elias Butrus al-Howayyek and the Establishment of Greater Lebanon - by Samawil Bulus, Haifa University, 1987