Lebanon, which straddles a 200 km strip of coastal cities, snow-capped mountains and agricultural valleys along the Eastern Mediterranean, is home to the largest concentration of Catholics in the Middle East, living among a larger population of Muslims. A multi-confessional state, Lebanon is home to 18 officially recognized religious groups, among them Sunni, Shīʿa, and small numbers of Alawite and Ismaili Muslims; Maronite, Greek Melkite, and modest numbers of Armenian, Chaldean, Syrian and “Latin” Catholics; Lebanese Greek, Armenian and Syriac Orthodox; and Druze communities living in a patchwork of villages, cities and neighborhoods often dominated by one of these groups. As one author summarizes it, “an area about the size of Connecticut or Northern Ireland… host[s] almost the entire religious diversity of the Arab world.”

Among Catholics, the Maronite Church, which is centered in modern-day Lebanon and whose liturgy is rooted in Syriac ritual traditions, is by far the largest and most influential. The Greek Melkite Church, whose roots are in Northern Syria and whose traditions are Byzantine, is the second-largest Catholic church. The Roman, or Latin, Catholic Church is tiny, composed largely of expatriates. Though, as their names imply, the Syrian Catholic Church and the Armenian Catholic Church are originally rooted elsewhere, and though their members are relatively few in Lebanon, both have their patriarchates in Lebanon. Alongside the Maronite patriarchate, this means that three of the six patriarchs of the Catholic Church reside in Lebanon.

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