Archbishop Ieronymos II of Athens will visit Syria, Lebanon

Archbishop Ieronymos II

Archbishop Ieronymos II of Athens and All Greece will visit the Patriarchate of Antioch and meet with the Patriarch John X.

On March 21 he will visit the Holy Cross Church in Damascus and the next day will visit the Patriarchal Monastery of Our Lady of Balamand in Lebanon, the Antioch Patriarchate announced.

Here the archbishop will connect with the Greek Orthodox minority of the Levant. The Greek Orthodox minority of the Levant are also known as Levantine Greeks or Rûm (in reference to their East Roman/Byzantine heritage).

The Levant region, comprising of Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, Jordan, Israel and Turkey’s Hatay province, is home to millions of Levantine Greeks, most of whom have no recognition from the Greek State as a community.

Levantine Greek Rum East Roman map

Although the Levantine Greek community is rooted from Bronze Age, Hellenistic Period and East Roman Era Greek settlements, today they are overwhelmingly Arabic-speaking following forced Arabisation in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Journalist and researcher Alexandros Massavetas explained that at the end of the 19th century, in the context of rivalry between the Constantinople and Moscow Patriarchates, “the Russians managed to penetrate one of the four ancient Patriarchates, that of Antioch, and through their very extensive sabotage operation, to pass its leadership from Greek priests to Arabs who were manipulated by Moscow.”

In speaking to a Greek Parliamentary Committee in November 2021, Rafael Issa, President of the Levantine Greek Association, said:

“Not many in the world are aware of the existence of our community, let alone that we share a common Hellenic and Byzantine ancestry with the people of Greece – once mentioned by one of the most eminent Greek historians of the late 19th century, Pavlos Karolidis.

“From the establishment of Constantinople to the formation of the modern nation-states in Asia Minor and the Levant – We have always been seen as the same people.

“This is a fact that is confirmed in the 1878 ethnographic study of French historian Alexander Synvet, that is until foreign power introduced toxic ideologies to serve their own interests, such as Pan-Arabism – an ideology that became very popular throughout the Levant, as well as competing ideologies like Phoenicianism, Arameanism, and Turanism.

“Although these ideologies took root throughout Syrian, Lebanese, Jordanian, and Palestinian societies, they only affected our language and names.

“The rest has remained Romaiic. As a matter of fact – we are still given Greek names at baptism.”

READ MORE: March 18, 1826: Greek Revolutionaries attempt to liberate Beirut from the Ottoman Empire.