Maronite Church: With them they sent the following letter: The apostles and elders, your brothers, To the Gentile believers in Antioch, Syria and Cilicia: Greetings. (Acts 15:23)
Mass: Sundays at 8am
Also called the Church of St. Anthony, the Maronite Church is in the modern Latin Quarter in Nazareth. It is northwest of the traditional Latin Catholic Church in town. Originally, the Franciscan clergy in Nazareth invited the Maronite families living in Lebanon to move to Nazareth in order to grow the Christian population living there. Some Lebanese Maronites took them up on the offer and moved. Initially, many of these Maronites became Latin, due in part to the assistance the Franciscan priests gave to the poor Lebanese Maronite families. Subsequently, there were more Lebanese Maronites who travelled to Nazareth and retained their original Maronite religion.
The Maronite religion has a rich history. Saint Maron was a monk who left Antioch in the 4th century. He lived in the desert near Syria, where he continued an ascetic lifestyle until his death in 410. After his death, some of his followers started a church and began the Maronite Eastern Catholic Church. They held closely to the beliefs of the other Eastern Catholic Churches. Through many political struggles and upheavals, the Maronite Church had a strong presence in much of the East, especially Lebanon.
By 1760 the Maronite community grew large enough in Nazareth to support a priest and build a church. The original church was named the Maronite Church of the Annunciation. It was also called the Church of St. Anthony. It was located at the base of the hill, northwest of the Latin Church. It is on the edge of town, near the Mount Precipice, where Bible history tells of angry villagers chasing Jesus and threatening to throw him onto the jagged rocks below.
The traditional Mount Precipice is two miles away, however there is a cliff at least 4o feet high in the back of the Maronite Church that scholars believe is a more probable location for the historical botched murder attempt of Jesus. This makes more sense than the angry crowd taking time to walk two miles to try to throw him from a cliff, when a high, jagged precipice was a mere 30 meters from the synagogue.
The Maronite community in Nazareth grew as refugees from the war-torn Ber’am came to escape persecution. Most of them settled near the church, forming what is now called the Maronite Quarter or Mawarna. The Maronites have begun to disperse and now cover most of Nazareth, numbering over one thousand devotees to this rich Eastern Catholic tradition.