Story: Middle Eastern peoples

Page 3. Christian religions

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The Lebanese brought with them different Christian faiths. The three main followings were Maronites (a Catholic rite), Antiochian (Eastern Orthodox) and Melkites (Greek Catholics). Because of the similarity of their religions, the Dunedin Maronites settled quickly into the local Catholic parish.

Initially Dunedin’s Orthodox Lebanese aligned themselves with the Anglican Church, before building the Orthodox Church of St Michael in 1911. They appointed a Russian priest (the only Orthodox priest in New Zealand at the time), but this did not last, and many Orthodox Lebanese became Anglicans. Early Orthodox Lebanese in Auckland, such as the Corban family, also attended their local Anglican church.

By the 2000s there were three Antiochian Orthodox churches: St Michael’s in Dunedin, St Simon’s and St Jude’s in Christchurch, and St George’s in Auckland. They served a diverse community of Middle Eastern and other peoples. By 2003 an Antiochian Orthodox Mission was also established in Wellington. Ordained in 2003, Father Ian Neild, the priest of the Antiochian Mission, worked in the Reserve Bank during the week and served his community in the weekends. In Wellington, masses were chanted in a mixture of Arabic and Greek along with English translations for the young.

There was also one Melkite church, Mar Elias Greek Catholic Church, in Auckland. It was built in 2001 and served some 40 to 70 people of all Eastern Orthodox denominations.

How to cite this page:

James Veitch and Dalia Tinawi, 'Middle Eastern peoples - Christian religions', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 19 May 2022)

Story by James Veitch and Dalia Tinawi, published 8 Feb 2005, updated 1 Mar 2015