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The Very Reverend Exarch Nicholas Shehadie was the first priest of the Antiochian Orthodox parishes in Australia and New Zealand. He served in Australia and New Zealand from 1913 until his repose in 1934.
In 1898 the Greek-speaking Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch and All the East was deposed for prohibiting church services in Arabic. His Arabic-speaking successor elected in 1899 was not recognised by the Patriarchate of Constantinople who agitated against all Arabic-speaking Orthodox. This resulted in a world-wide fracture between the Greek-speaking and the Arabic-speaking Orthodox.
Until this fracture, relations between the two linguistic groupings had been most amicable. In Australia, until this fracture, both groups worked together to establish community churches for all Orthodox, regardless of linguistic or ethnic origin. The Russian-speaking Orthodox also suffered fallout following this fracture.
In 1908 Constantinople removed the Orthodox churches in Australia from the jurisdiction of neutral Jerusalem, and gave them to the Church of Greece with the stipulation that all services were to be in Church Greek only. This deprived the Arabic-speaking Orthodox and the Russian-speaking Orthodox of effective spiritual comfort.
Born in 1862, Father Nicholas Shehadie was sent to Australia in 1913 as Patriarchal Exarch to determine the extent of the deprivation and to find possible solutions. While this was intended to be temporary, World War I intervened, preventing Father Nicholas from returning to Lebanon and his family. After the war his stay became permanent and he exported his wife and children from Lebanon to Australia.
He realised the need for a church for the Syrian Orthodox (as they were then known), and determined to build it, with Divine Liturgies being held in parishioners' homes until that time.
In 1920, the State Government leased a block of land to the Church on the corner of Walker and Redfern Streets Redfern, and the first Syrian (later Antiochian) Orthodox church was built and placed under the patronage of Saint George. This church was demolished by the State Government shortly after the last worship service there on 14 May 1950. In October 1953 a replacement church was opened on the corner of Walker and Cooper Streets Redfern. This church is now the Antiochian Orthodox cathedral for Australia, New Zealand, and All Oceania.
Father Nicholas sent for his family over a number of years, and the family came in stages. His sons George and Albert, and daughter Mary arrived first, followed by John and Pauline (16-year-old twins) in 1922, and then fully reunited with the arrival of his wife Alexandra, his son Elias, and his son Michael's family - wife Hannah, and baby girls Alexandra and Paulette.
On 15 May 1934, Exarch Nicholas Shehadie reposed as a result of an asthma attack, aged 72. The funeral service held at Saint George Redfern, was presided over by Greek Orthodox Metropolitan of Australia Timotheous. Burial was at Botany Cemetery.
|Patriarchal Exarch of Australia and New Zealand
(Church of Antioch)
Fr Michael Shehadie