Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of Australia, New Zealand and the Philippines

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Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia, New Zealand, and All Oceania
Jurisdiction Antioch
Diocese type Archdiocese
Founded 1969
Current bishop Metr. Abp. Paul
See(s) Sydney
Headquarters Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
Territory Australia, New Zealand, and All Oceania
Liturgical language(s) Arabic, Belarus, Bulgarian, English, Filipino, French, German, Greek (church), Greek (modern), Macedonian, Moldovan, Persian, Romanian, Russian, Serbian, Slavonic (Church), Ukrainian
Musical tradition Bulgarian, Byzantine, Russian & Znamenny Chant; Russian & Western Choral
Calendar Revised Julian and Julian Calendar (depending on parish)
Population estimate 7,525 (Defective Federal Census 2001); 37,490 (2005 internal Archdiocesan census of active congregants)
Official website Antiochian Archdiocese

The Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia, New Zealand, and All Oceania, with headquarters in Sydney, is an archdiocese of the Church of Antioch. Its current primate is His Eminence Paul (Saliba), Metropolitan Archbishop of Australia, New Zealand, and All Oceania.

Contents

History

Similar to most other jurisdictions in Australia, and other parts of the 'diaspora', a detailed early history of the Archdiocese is better told in terms of cities, which later formed into the diocese, rather than the other way around.

The first wave of Lebanese, then called Syrian, immigration was in the 1880-1890s, where work was found in hawking and peddling goods in the country areas of the eastern states of Australia. The first place of worship was usually in the capital cities of Sydney and Melbourne, with a Greek speaking priest who also spoke Arabic and sometimes Russian too.

Sydney

The Antiochian Orthodox faithful took part in the construction of a community church dedicated to the Holy Trinity in Surry Hills with the Greek and Russian Orthodox faithful. A priest was later provided by the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem. Due to various difficulties regarding the 1898 deposition of the Greek speaking Patriarch of Antioch and the 1899 election of an Arabic speaking Patriarch of Antioch, the Syrian community then took to meeting in individual homes, only going to the church in Surry Hills for necessities.

In 1913, Father Nicholas Shehadie was sent to Australia as Exarch to determine the extent of the problem and to find possible solutions. While this was intended to be temporary, World War I intervened preventing Father Nicholas from returning to Lebanon where his family resided. Hence, his stay became permanent. He realised the need for a church for the Antiochian Orthodox, and determined to build it. Divine Liturgy was held in parishioners' homes until that time.

The State Government leased a block of land to the Church on the corner of Walker and Redfern Streets Redfern. The first Antiochian Orthodox church was built there and placed under the patronage of Saint George.

In 1934, Exarch Nicholas Shehadie, suffering from chronic asthma, reposed in his early 70s. Then his second son, Michael, became a priest. During the time of his presbyterate at the Church of Saint George, the government lease expired. Fr Michael worked with the government to find a new site and, in 1950, they were granted land at the corner of Walker and Cooper Sts, Redfern, where the church - now cathedral - stands today. However, Fr Michael never saw it built. In 1951, aged 56, he reposed.

In 1953, V Rev Malatius Hussney was appointed Patriarchal Exarch and rector of St George. During his time as rector, the foundation stone for the new church was laid, with the first services in 1954. He was succeeded by Archim. Anthony Woolf, who was Patriarchal Exarch and rector 1957-61.

Following the death in Cairo of Archim. Anthony, Rev Fr Anthony Chidiac was appointed to serve the parish of St George in Redfern. He died in a motor vehicle accident on 19 October 1962.

In January 1963 a visiting priest from Kousba, Lebanon, V Rev Exarch Emilianos Shehadie served the parish until 17 July 1963.

On 22 September 1963 by kind permission of Greek Archbishop Ezekiel, Rev Fr John Catsaras, formerly of Sfax in Tunisia temporarily served the parish.

The willing assistance of the Greek Orthodox hierarchs since their arrival in Australia in 1924 was notable, and was especially so with Archbishop Ezekiel.

On 18 June 1964, Fr Nicolas Mansour arrived in Sydney from Beirut Lebanon, and commenced duties as parish priest with liturgy on Sunday 21 June 1964. Soon after his arrival, the church was consecrated by Bp Dionysios (GOA), and in 1967 the church hall and presbytery were completed. However, the spread of Antiochian faithful all over New South Wales was too much for one parish priest.

At the request of Fr Nicolas, the Church of Antioch sent Archimandrite Gibran to Australia to find out how to solve the problem. On Archim. Gibran's recommendations, the Holy Synod elevated the Exarchate of Australia and New Zealand to a diocese. Archim. Gibran was consecrated a bishop and appointed Patriarchal Vicar of the new diocese.

Melbourne

By the early twentieth century, a significant number of Lebanese had settled in Melbourne. These families kept in contact with each other, working as hawkers, shopkeepers, or wholesalers, during the week, and using the weekend for social activities including meeting in the Exhibition Gardens on Sundays. The first Orthodox church in Melbourne, Holy Annunciation, was established in East Melbourne as a result of the joint effort by Greek-speaking, Arabic-speaking, and Russian speaking Orthodox. The services were in both Greek and Arabic, The altar servers were of Greek and Lebanese/Syrian descent, some of the icons were donated by Lebanese/Syrians, and the first warden was Lebanese.

By the 1920s, however, Holy Annunciation became a predominately Greek speaking church with a priest who could not speak Arabic. Lebanese/Syrians were only attending special services at Holy Annunciation such as weddings, baptisms and funerals. While some chose to send their children to Anglican or Protestant Sunday schools, neither the now-Greek Orthodox parish nor various protestant groups could meet the needs of the Antiochian Orthodox. It was obviously necessary to found an Antiochian Orthodox parish.

In 1929, James Batrouney visited Lebanon/Syria, met Archimandrite Antonious (Mobayed), and on his return to Melbourne, Archim. Antonious was recommended as a suitable priest (being well-educated and speaking Arabic, Russian and Greek) for the church in Melbourne. Patriarch Arsanios of Antioch commissioned Archim. Antonious as the first priest of the Antiochian Orthodox Church in Victoria. He arrived on 12 Nov 1931, bringing and donating everything essential for the celebration of the Divine Liturgy. Some of these items can still be found at Saint Nicholas Church today.

The first services were held in Saint George Anglican Mission, the beginning of a long and amicable relationship between Anglicans and Orthodox in Victoria. In March 1932 the community purchased a church, where Saint Nicholas Antiochian Orthodox Church stands today, using four £125 donations from John Batrouney, Joseph & Walter Davis, and Alex Malouly. The iconostasis, based on the iconostasis of the Holy Resurrection Cathedral, Tokyo, was completed by Palm Sunday, 1932, when the first service was held in the Church. At the first council meeting of May 1932, it was decided to name the church after St Nicholas. The church was consecrated on 1 October 1933 by Metropolitan Timotheos, the head of the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Australia and New Zealand. The consecration, attended by Rev. F.E. Maynard (Anglican) and the Greek and French consuls, was chanted in Arabic, English, Greek, and Slavonic.

Saint Nicholas included both Arabic members and Russian members, the latter group also contributing to bringing Archim. Antonious to Australia, converting the church into an Orthodox church, writing icons, and organising a choir which would chant the Liturgy in Slavonic on every fourth Sunday. When the Russians established their first church in Melbourne in the early 1950s, the committee of Saint Nicholas donated a Slavonic Bible in memory of Archim. Antonious, and as a symbol of the enduring friendship between the Syrian/Lebanese and the Russians.

With Arabic and Slavonic choirs, a youth society, Syrian/Lebanese youth that knew the service in Arabic, and a priest willing to travel to Sydney, Adelaide and New Zealand to raise funds for the fledgling church, St Nicholas had been built into a strong, pan-Orthodox church. However, after a short illness, Archim. Antonious reposed on November 9, 1943. He was buried by Metropolitan Timotheos, assisted by Archimandrite Theophylactos and Fr Michael Shehadie.

The Second World War precluded any replacement priest from either America or Antioch until after World War 2. In 1948, Exarchos George Haydar arrived, and was ideally suited to minister to migrants from Lebanon. A rectory was built in 1953. Exarchos George reposed in 1962, and his funeral was conducted by Patriarchal Exarch Archim. Anthony Woolf of Sydney, assisted by clergy from many jurisdictions.

In 1963, Fr Gabraeel Fadel arrived to serve at St Nicholas, and the parish entered a period of consolidation. Fr Gabraeel left in 1967, to be replaced by Fr Malatius (Essam)Hussney, who was ordained in 1968. Fr Malatius worked for the second wave of Lebanese immigrants to be actively involved in the running of St Nicholas.

New Zealand

Diocese

In 1969, Bp Gibran, having been consecrated by Metropolitan Philip (Saliba) of New York, arrived in Sydney, Australia. In 1973, Bp Gibran requested that a new church be built on the other side of Sydney. Fr John Shehadie, son of Exarch Nicholas Shehadie, was appointed priest of the new church of St Nicholas, Punchbowl, and served there until his 1987 retirement.

In Melbourne, the desire of Fr Malatius Hussney to actively involve new arrivals to Australia led to a split, with the older members of St Nicholas feeling unwanted. As a result, St George was founded in Thornbury, Melbourne, in 1972.

Fr Malatius worked very hard for St Nicholas, including going to Lebanon and Cyprus to help refugees of the Civil War to obtain visa's to come to Australia. After Fr Malatius left to serve parishes in the United States, Fr Emile Assaf was assigned to St Nicholas from 1977 to 1990. Fr Emile continued to serve newly arrived migrants, and also renovated and redecorated St Nicholas - rendering external walls, erecting a fence, replacing the floor, purchasing new pews, painting the walls with icons and, towards the end of his tenure, renovating the rectory.

In 1982, Fr Elias Khoury was ordained to the priesthood, and assigned to St Nicholas, Punchbowl. In 1985, he was elevated to Archpriest.

In 1985, a new parish was established in Mays Hill, and named St Mary's, for the Nativity of the Mother of God. The first priest was Fr Hanna Shehadie, and the community worshipped in Granville.

In 1986, St George's Antiochian Orthodox Church, Melbourne, decided to purchase its own church, and did so from the Anglican Church. Renovation started immediately.

In 1987, St Mary's moved to Merrylands, led by Fr Stephen Godley, and in the same year, the Antiochian Orthodox Church of St George, Redfern, Sydney, was elevated to Cathedral.

In 1988, the church building purchased by St George's had completed its renovation. After this, the renovation of the hall began.

In 1989, Bp Gibran appointed the first committee of a new parish in Brisbane, which was registered in 1990.

In 1991, the hall of St George's church, Thornbury, was completed, and is now one of the most attractive Arabic special event venues in Melbourne.

In January 1991, the site for St Mary's, Mays Hill, was purchased, with Fr Emile Assaf being transferred from St Nicholas, Melbourne, to pastor the new parish with Fr Aziz Abwi.

In 1993, Fr John Abdel-Karim became the first parish priest of the Church of St Paul, Woolloongabba, Brisbane.

In 1994, the first services were held in the church hall of St Mary's, Mays Hill. Fr Elias Khoury began working with the Department of Community Services and administered a new program, Ortho-Care, designed to help those requiring financial and spiritual assistance. St George's, Thornbury, purchased the property (with rectory) adjacent to the church.

Bishop Gibran reposed on 16 January 1999. Fr Elias Khoury was named as the temporary administrator of the diocese. The first services were held in the new church of St Mary's, Mays Hill, on Good Friday 1999.

Archdiocese

In November 1999, the Holy Synod of Antioch decided to elevate the diocese of Australia and New Zealand to archdiocese with its own ruling metropolitan archbishop. Archimandrite Paul parish priest of Washington DC was appointed Metropolitan Archbishop of the Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia, New Zealand, and All Oceania.

In December 1999, Met Abp Paul visited Newcastle and then Brisbane. He prompted the decision to build the church of St Paul in Woolloongabba, Brisbane.

In January 2000, Fr John Vesic was appointed parish priest of St Mary's Church, Mays Hill. Fr John does not speak Arabic.

In June 2000, Fr Nicholas Gan of Newcastle was released to join the Moscow Patriarchate. The Holy Synod of Moscow accepted him on 19 July 2000, along with the Parish of the Theophany at Mayfield West, Newcastle, which had been under the care of Bp Gibran on behalf of Moscow.

In December 2001, Fr John Vesic was appointed parish priest of Ss Michael and Gabriel parish, the first fully English-speaking Antiochian Orthodox parish in New South Wales. The new parish worshipped in rented premises in Homebush until 2005.

In 2002, the first services were held in the new church of St Paul, Woolloongabba, Brisbane.

In 2004, at the instigation of Met Abp Paul, the parish of St Nicholas Bankstown, bought the land that the church is on from the NSW government. The property is held in trust for the parish by the Antiochian Orthodox Church Property Trust.

In August 2005, Archpriest Fr Nicolas Mansour retired from full-time pastoral work, ending 42 years of service at the Antiochian Orthodox Cathedral of St George. Archim. Nabil (Kachab), formerly of St Nicholas, Punchbowl, replaced him as Dean of the Cathedral and parish priest of Redfern.

This article forms part of the series
Orthodoxy in
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Orthodoxy in Australia Timeline
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Recent History

  • Recent news of the Archdiocese can be found here.

Organisation

The Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese is a single archdiocese spanning a number of countries. The Archbishop resides in Australia, there is a Deanery for New Zealand, and presences in other countries of the region. There are 25 parishes and missions across Australia, 8 parishes and missions in the Deanery of New Zealand, and approximately 37,500 congregants in the Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia, New Zealand, and All Oceania. The Archdiocese also has one female monastery of St Anna in Victoria, and founded the multi-jurisdictional Melbourne Institute of Orthodox Christian Studies.

The Antiochian Orthodox Diocese of Australasia (as it was then called) was a founding member of the Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Churches in Australia. The Antiochian Archdiocese says that SCCOCA, after being moribund for quite a number of years, finally became defunct in the year 2000.

The Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia, New Zealand, and All Oceania, was a founding member of Eastern Hierarchs. The Antiochian Archdiocese believes this is a friendly, effective organisation, working for the love of God spreading throughout the whole mystery of His Church.

The Episcopacy

Current Episcopacy

Bishops in Australia and New Zealand

  • Bishop Gibran (Ramlawey), Patriarchal Vicar of Australia, New Zealand, and All Oceania 1969-1999.
  • Metropolitan Archbishop Paul (Saliba), Primate of Australia, New Zealand, and All Oceania, 1999-present.

See Also

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