Brief History of the Eparchy
The migration of the Melkite Catholic Church faithful to Australia began in the middle of the 19th Century. A large number of faithful left their country following the economical hardships and the continued wars, in search of a better life, peace and security. Most people that arrived in Australia, established homes in Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne and afterwards in the other Australian States.
As the number, of faithful arriving into Australia, increased, they felt a pressing need to build their own Church, where they can practice their faith according to their rite, and in the language of their fathers and grandfathers; also to find in its vastness peace and security; meet each other, so that the burden of migration is lessened and whatever they encounter from the loneliness of leaving; the difficulty in securing the morsel of life and speaking a foreign language which they have not learnt in their home country.
In 1889, the Divine Providence chose an enthusiastic and righteous priest, from the town of Ras-Baalbeck, a Basilian Choueraite, Archmandrite Silwanos Mansour, who came to Australia to visit his parents. He stayed in Sydney following the wishes of the Church faithful and with the approval of his Father Superior and the relevant Church authorities.
Archmandrite Mansour got ready and started visiting all the cities and towns, checking on his congregation, where he found that many of their children began to forget their mother language, their religious rites and Eastern traditions. He started collecting donations to build a Melkite Church named after St Michael the Archangel.
In 1891 the foundation stone was laid for the first Melkite Church, with the blessing of Most Rev Bishop Higgins, Assistant to Cardinal Patrick Francis Moran, Archbishop of Sydney. The Church was inaugurated in 1895, in the presence and blessing of Cardinal Moran. A commemorative marble plaque was engraved in English, with the names of the Most Rev Cardinal Moran and the founder of the church, date of the inauguration. Also, two verses of poetry were engraved in Arabic from a composition by Sheikh Ibrahim Yazije, these were:
God is witness with his good righteousness Sylwanus Mansour created a Church: To chronicle, we shelter under his wings in it we visit the Leader of the army of heaven
This was then the first Melkite Catholic Church in Sydney, in 66 Wellington Street, Redfern and the Church became the meeting location for the Middle Eastern faithful, from various rites and religions. The first settlers to Australia were from the Bekaa Valley, the families were: Gazal, Scarf, Maalouf, Mansour, Abou Khalil, Bracks, Herro, Bachach, Abou Samra and David... Most lived in the following suburbs: Redfern, Narribri, Marrickville, Woollahra, Waterloo, Newtown and Balmain…
From the beginning of the migration, most people worked in various trades, and in all the education and academic fields. For example:
•Gazal Family in the "rag trade”, they own some of the biggest manufacturing warehouses in Australia, and they are still in this trade until now.
•Maalouf Family in science and especially medicine and law.
•Chahoud in the clothing industry as well as Scarf family.
It is worthy to note, that the first Lebanese in Australia who obtained a Degree in Law, was Mr Eugene Sayegh from Zahle and the first Lebanese graduated from Australian University in Medicine were George, Joseph and Fawzi Maalouf originally from Zahle, and their cousin Mr Phillip Maalouf excelled in Law .
Since 1895 and until 1990, the Choueraite fathers served in the parish of St Michael the Archangel. In 1987, the Holy Synod appointed Bishop George Riachi, as the first Eparch for the Melkite Eparchy, and this appointment was Approved by His Holiness Pope John Paul II. In 1995 Bishop Riachi was relocated to the Diocese of Tripoli, following his election as its Bishop.
In 1996, Bishop Issam John Darwish was elected as the Eparch of St Michael the Archangel Eparchy, and his installation as Bishop was on 2 June 1996, in the presence of both Bishops Francois Abou Mokh and John Mansour.
On 22 September 1999, the Holy Father Pope John Paul II extended the jurisdiction of the Bishop of St Michael’s of Sydney for the Greek Melkite Catholics over the Greek-Melkite Catholic faithful residing in New Zealand by a "DECRETUM” Prot. N. 163/97.
At the end of 1996, the offices of the Eparchy were relocated from the Cathedral’s Chancery to the new complex in Greenacre, which was bought, and it now houses as well as the offices, the parish of St John, Holy Saviour School, the Melkite Welfare Association, the Youth Centre, Residence for the Bishop and priests and a Child Care Facility.