continued ... All About Antioch - 6
Antioch and the Western Powers
At the end of the seventeenth and beginning of the eighteenth centuries the Patriarchate of Antioch was disturbed by upheavals and factional feuding. These divisive circumstances gave papal propagandists opportunity to make inroads throughout Ottoman Syria. The Jesuits played on the anti-Green attitudes of some of the Syrian hierarchs, and several of them accepted union with Rome. In 1720 Athanasios IV was elected to the Antiochian Throne and stifled these unionist attempts. Following his death in 1724 the monk Sylvester was elected as his successor, however a rebellious faction rejected this canonical decision and elected Seraphim Tanas, a nephew of a former uniate bishop. When Sylvester was enthroned as the legitimate Patriarch, Seraphim, (who had taken the name of Cyril VI), was deposed and fled to the Lebanese mountains. The Western European powers were anxious to develop commercial opportunities in the Middle East and thus gave their support to the Melkites, the schismatic uniate party.
With the finalization of this Melkite schism, the Patriarchate of Antioch was again weakened, having lost churches, monasteries and many of its richest members to the Unia which offered them financial and commercial opportunities with the West. Further inroads and threats to the ancient Orthodox Faith of Antioch continued with the arrival of numerous Protestant "missionaries." Throughout the nineteenth century the Antiochian Orthodox had to struggle against the well financed campaigns of both the Roman Catholic and Protestants propagandists.
The Orthodox, however, also found a defender; not in the Western European powers as did the Catholics and Protestants, but in the Russian Empire and her sister Orthodox Church of Russia. Russian influence began to increase in the Middle East for both political and religious reasons. In 1848 the Russian Holy Synod gave the Church of the Ascension near the Moscow Kremlin to the Patriarchate of Antioch with the intention that the income from that church would go towards the education of the clergy and laity of the Patriarchate. Scores of men were sent from the Patriarchate to Russia for theological education, and several of these obtained prominent positions in the Russian Church as in the case of (Saint) Raphael Hawaweeny (later elected as Bishop of Brooklyn, New York) who was a professor at the Kazan Theological Academy. In the Middle East the Russian Church continued to assist its Arab Orthodox brothers through the Imperial Palestine Society which refurbished churches and monasteries, and established and maintained countless hospitals and parochial schools throughout the Antiochian Patriarchate up until the time of the Bolshevik Revolution.