The Maronite Religion has members with a heritage leading from one of the Lebanese or Syriac Eastern Catholic Churches originating with Maron the Syrian Monk in the early 5th century.
Although reduced in numbers today, Maronites remain one of the principal ethno-religious groups in Lebanon and they continue to represent the absolute majority of Lebanese people. Unique amongst Eastern Rite Catholics, the Maronites are Eastern Christians who have always remained in communion with the Bishop of Rome.
It is estimated that there are 3 million practicing the Maronite Religion today.
Before the conquest by Arabian Muslims reached Lebanon, both those Lebanese people who would become Muslim and the majority who would remain Christian spoke a dialect of Aramaic.
Christian Aramaic) still remains the liturgical language of the Maronite Church.
St Maron who died sometime between 406 and 423 was founder of the Maronite spiritual movement. Since the 17th century, his feast day has been celebrated on February 9.
St. Maron who was a contemporary and friend of St. John Chrysostom, was a monk in the fourth century who left Antioch for the Orontes River to lead an ascetic life, following the traditions of Anthony the Great of the Desert and Pachomius.
Many of his followers also lived a monastic lifestyle. Following the death of Maron in 410, his disciples built a monastery in his memory and formed the nucleus of the Maronite 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.
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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