Greek Orthodox Church in Syria, The

The Greek Orthodox Church consists of four patriarchates; Syrian Greek Orthodox Christians are under the episcopal jurisdiction of the See of Antioch. The Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch has been based in Damascus since the 14th century, though membership is concentrated in Aleppo, Homs, and Latakia. Its membership is majority Arab and the liturgy is in Arabic. The current Patriarch of the Church is John Yazigi, elected in 2012.

The economic policies of the French colonial powers in Syria disproportionately favored middle and upper class Christian—especially Catholic—and Jewish populations, which stirred resentment between religious groups and between Christian sects. In 1923, the Turkish government was engaged in the ethnic cleansing of Greeks and Syriac Orthodox Christians from Turkey, many of whom fled into Syria. The French and Greek Orthodox Church settled refugees in the Homs-Hama area, deepening the economic strain on the Sunni Muslim community there. Violence between Christians and Muslims erupted in 1924 and exacerbated their already tense relations.

Like other Syrian Christians exposed to western nationalism in the missionary schools, members of the Greek Orthodox Church were inspired by nationalist thought and actively supported Arab nationalist movements. Syrian Christians were drawn to the idea of secular Arab nationalism in part as a means of ending institutionalized preference for Sunni Islam, and to resist colonialism. While Catholic Uniate Christians, such as the Maronites, were a majority in some urban areas of Syria and Lebanon, Orthodox Christians were dispersed across the region and represented a small minority in each city. Colonial and post-colonial governments favored the Uniate churches (for example, in Lebanon the position of President was reserved for a Maronite) while Orthodox Christians expected to continue to hold minority status, making secular nationalism a more appealing political framework.


N.E. Bou-Nacklie, "Tumult in Syria's Hama in 1925: The Failure of a Revolt," Journal of Contemporary History, Vol. 33, No. 2 (April, 1998), pp. 273-289.

David D. Commins, Historical Dictionary of Syria, (Lanham: Scarecrow Press, 2004).

"Syria," World Christian Encyclopedia, 2nd. Ed., Vol. I, eds. David Barrett et. al. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001). pp. 719-722.