Synod of Ras-Baalbek

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The Synod of Ras-Baalbek was a meeting in the seventeenth century of Orthodox bishops within the Church of Antioch. The synod was convened by Emir Fakhr-al-Din II, prince of Lebanon, to settle conflicting claims to the leadership of the patriarchate of Antioch.

During the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries two factions formed in the Church of Antioch, also known as the Melkite Church. One faction favored reconciliation and union with the Roman Catholic Church and another rejected it. The dispute led to parallel consecrations of patriarchs for the Church of Antioch and unrest among the "Melkite" Orthodox community. Emir Fakhr-al-Din II, the ruler of the area under the Ottoman sultan, who harbored ambitions of independence from the Ottomans, convened in 1628 a synod of the twelve Melkite bishops of the church, excepting Cyril Dabbas, the pro-Latin claimant of the patriarchal throne.

The synod convened on June 1, 1628 in the Church of the Blessed Virgin in the town of Ras-Baalbek, a few kilometers north of Baalbek, Lebanon, where Emir Fakhr-al-Din lived. The synod proclaimed Ignatius III Atiyah as the only Patriarch. Of note was the motivation given to rejecting the appointment of Cyril Dabbas as patriarch was that he was not elected by the people of Damascus, a point that was made in the canons subsequently issued by the synod. Cyril Dabbas, who had been brought to Ras-Baalbek in chains, was sent to exile near Hermel in today's Lebanon. There, he was executed by partisans of the Emir a short time later.

The synod also issued twenty canons of which those covering election and consecration of the Patriarch would later be important in confirming the regularity and legitimacy of the election of the pro-Catholic Cyril Tanas in the events of 1724 that led to the schism in the Melkite Church.

The canons of the synod are summarized as follows:

Canons 1 to 6: These dealt with the election and consecration of the Patriarch. The synod decreed formally that the patriarch had to be elected by the people, who could nominate up to three names from which the Patriarch had to be chosen through casting of lots. The civil confirmation had to be requested only after the decision was made of whom was the patriarch. The synod strictly condemned external influence by any political party in the process of choosing the Patriarch.
Canon 7: This canon condemned the practice of simony, a use that was quite common, particularly in regard to the granting of recognition of appointments by the Ottoman authorities. The canon also dealt with the possible income of the Patriarch while conferring sacraments.
Canons 8 and 19: These canons dealt with the qualifications necessary to become a priest.
Canon 9: Dealt with illegitimate marriages.
Canons 10 and 12: These canons established the rule concerning festivals after baptism and marriage.
Canon 11: Dealt with issues concerning the dowry to be given to a girl.
Canon 13: This canon forbad the conferred of the sacrament of marriage outside church buildings.
Canon 15: This canon forbad monasteries where both men and women lived.
Canons 14 and 16: These canons condemned magicians and heretical books.
Canons 17 and 18: These canons condemned the practice of priests asking for money without proper authorization.
Canon 20: This canon forbad lay patriarchal vicars.

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