In the Middle East today, particularly in the countries of Syria and Lebanon, there remain small Christian communities. Some of these are Catholic and form part of the Catholic Eastern Churches. In Lebanon, the Maronite Catholic Church and Armenian Catholic Church have their patriarchates, each with their own liturgical customs and bishops. While they may worship differently from most Roman Catholics, they are nevertheless in full communion with Pope Benedict XVI in Rome. In Syria, the Syrian Catholic Church and the Melkite Catholic Church have their patriarchates. Additionally, Syria is also home to the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch.
The Greek Melkite Catholic Church and the Antiochian Orthodox share the same liturgies and the same liturgical chants. When I was in Los Angeles, I used to love visiting St. Ann’s Melkite Catholic Church in North Hollywood. St. Ann’s had, and presumably still has, some amazing chanters and a wonderful choir. Here is a good example of the type of chant done in the Middle East today. The chant is sung by Nader Hajjar, a chanter at St. Elias Antiochian Orthodox Cathedral in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.
The year before last was the Year of St. Paul, a year set aside by Pope Benedict XVI for special reflection on the life, teachings, and works of St. Paul the Apostle. As a part of the celebrations in Rome, the Greek Melkite Catholic Patriarch of Antioch, Alexandria and Jerusalem was invited to celebrate a Divine Liturgy in one of the papal basilicas in Rome. Here is the beginning of the hierarchical divine liturgy celebrated by His Beatitude, the Most Blessed Gregory III Laham, Patriarch of Antioch, Alexandria, and Jerusalem. Despite the crown and unfamiliar vesture, Patriarch Gregory is in fact a Catholic bishop.