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Maronite Church/Organization

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The Peshitta is the standard Syriac Bible, used by the Maronite Church, amongst others. The illustration is of the Peshitta text of Exodus 13:14-16 produced in Amida in the year 464.

The head of the Maronite Church is the Maronite Patriarch of Antioch, who is elected by the Maronite bishops and resides in Bkerké, close to Jounieh, north of Beirut (the Maronite Patriarch resides in the northern town of Dimane during the summer months). The current Patriarch (since 1986) is Mar Nasrallah Cardinal Boutros Sfeir. When a new patriarch is elected and enthroned, he requests ecclesiastical recognition by the Pope, thus maintaining their communion with the Holy See. As an Eastern patriarch, the patriarch joins the College of Cardinals, being enrolled in the order of Cardinal Bishops; he does not receive a suburbicarian see, since he is a head of a sui iuris Church.

Maronites share the same doctrine as other Catholics, but they retain their own liturgy, theology, spirituality, discipline and hierarchy. Strictly speaking, the Maronite church belongs to the Antiochene tradition and is a West Syro-Antiochene Rite. Syriac is the liturgical language. Nevertheless, they are considered, along with the Syro-Malabar Church, to be among the most Latinised of the Eastern Catholic Churches although there have been moves to return to Eastern practices.

Cardinal Sfeir's personal commitment accelerated liturgical reforms in the 1980s and 1990s, bearing fruit in 1992 with the publication of a new Maronite Missal. This represents an attempt to return to the original form of the Antiochene Liturgy, removing the liturgical latinisation of past centuries. The Service of the Word has been described as far more enriched than in previous missals, and it features six Anaphoras (Eucharistic Prayers).

Celibacy is strictly required for deacons and priests with parishes; monks must remain celibate, as well as bishops who are normally selected from the monasteries. Due to a long-term understanding with their Latin counterparts in North America, Maronite priests in that area are expected to remain celibate. The bishops who serve as eparchs and archeparchs of the eparchies and archeparchies (the equivalent of diocese and archdiocese in the Roman Catholic Church) are answerable to the Patriarch.

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