The Syriac Orthodox Church is an autocephalous Oriental Orthodox church based in the Middle East with members spread throughout the world. It is one of the four churches that comprised what is now the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church before the Great Schism. It is a major inheritor of Syriac Christianity and has Syriac, a dialect of Aramaic, as its official language. The church is led by the Syrian Patriarch of Antioch.
The church is often referred to as Jacobite (after Jacob Baradaeus) or Monophysite, but these terms are misleading, and not appreciated by the some of the church today. In 2000, a Holy Synod ruled that the name of the church in English should be the Syriac Orthodox Church. Before this, it was, and often still is, known as the Syrian Orthodox Church. The name was changed to disassociate the church from the polity of Syria. The official name of the church in Syriac is ʿIdto Suryoyto Triṣuṯ Šuḇḥo, this name has not changed, nor has the name changed in any other language.
The Syriac Orthodox Church claims to be the first church of Christianity, established in Antioch by the Apostle St. Peter in 34 AD.
The current head of the Syriac Orthodox Church is the Patriarch His Holiness Moran Mor Ignatius Zakka I Iwas, who resides in Damascus, the capital of Syria. The Church has about 26 archdioceses and 11 patriarchal vicarates. Some estimate that the church has about 5.500.000 members globally. Patriarch Zakka was enthroned head of the church on 14 September 1980, the feast of the Cross. Syriac Orthodox faithful around the world took part in silver jubilee celebrations of his patriarchate in 2005.
The church in Malankara, Malankara Jacobite Syriac Orthodox Church is an integral part of the Syriac Orthodox Church with the Patriarch of Antioch as its supreme head. The local head of the church in Malankara is the Catholicos of India, currently His Beatitude Baselios Thomas I, ordained by and accountable to the Patriarch of Antioch.
The Syrian orthodox divine liturgy is performed in Syriac.
Both it and the Chalcedonian Antiochian Orthodox Church claim to be the sole legitimate church of Antioch and successor of the Apostle St. Peter. There are also three uniate churches headed by Patriarchs of Antioch — the Syrian Catholic Church, the Maronites and the Melkite Greek Catholic Church. There is also an unrelated (so-called Nestorian) Assyrian Church of the East.
|Armenia | Alexandria | Ethiopia | Antioch | India | Eritrea|
|Armenia: Cilicia | Jerusalem | Constantinople|
Antioch: Jacobite Indian
The Supreme Head of the Universal Syriac Orthodox Church, His Holiness Moran Mor Ignatius Zakka I Iwas, Prince Patriarch of Antioch and All the East