Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarchs of Antioch

Maximos IV Sayegh (1947–1967)

Maximos IV Sayegh (or Saïgh) (April 10, 1878 – November 5, 1967) was Patriarch of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church from 1947 until his death in 1967. One of the fathers of Second Vatican Council, the outspoken patriarch stirred the Council by urging reconciliation between the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches. For these contributions to Christian ecumenical relations he was honored with the cardinalate.



Massimo Sayegh was born on April 10, 1878 in Aleppo. He was ordained a priest on September 17, 1905. On August 30, 1919 he was appointed archbishop of Tyre, Lebanon and consecrated bishop by patriarch Demetrius I Qadi. In 1933 he was named archbishop of Beirut.

The Synod of Bishops of the Melkite Church elected Maximos Patriarch of Antioch on 30 October 1947, succeeding the recently deceased Cyril IX Moghabghab.

Following an old tradition of the more than 900-year old Order of Knighthood, founded in Jerusalem to take care of lepers in the Hospital St. Lazare, he was the Spiritual Protector of the international ecumenical Military and Hospitaller Order of St. Lazarus of Jerusalem.


Participation in Second Vatican Council

Patriarch Maximos IV took part in the Second Vatican Council. There he championed the Eastern tradition of Christianity and won a great deal of respect from Eastern Orthodox observers at the council and the approbation of the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Athenagoras I.

As a participant in Vatican II, Patriarch Maximos spoke forcefully against the latinization of the Eastern Catholic churches, and urged a greater receptivity to the eastern Christian traditions, especially in the area of ecclesiology. He stated that

We have, therefore, a twofold mission to accomplish within the Catholic Church. We must fight to ensure that Latinism and Catholicism are not synonymous, that Catholicism remains open to every culture, every spirit, and every form of organization compatible with the unity of faith and love. At the same time, by our example, we must enable the Orthodox Church to recognize that a union with the great Church of the West, with the See of Peter, can be achieved without being compelled to give up Orthodoxy or any of the spiritual treasures of the apostolic and patristic East, which is opened toward the future no less to the past.

Also at Vatican II, Patriarch Maximos successfully advocated use of vernacular languages for liturgical services, noting that:

Christ offered the first Eucharistic Sacrifice in a language which could be understood by all who heard him, namely, Aramaic. … Never could the idea have come to them [the Apostles] that in a Christian gathering the celebrant should read the texts of Holy Scripture, sing psalms, preach or break bread, and at the same time use a language different from that of the community gathered there … because this language [Latin] was spoken by the faithful of that time, Greek was abandoned in favor of Latin. … Why, then, should the Roman Church cease to apply the same principle today?

Speaking at the Council on the matter of indulgences, he noted that "the practice of indulgences too often favors in the faithful a sort of pious bookkeeping in which one forgets what is essential, namely, the sacred and personal effort of penance".

Patriarch Maximos IV accepted the title of cardinal on February 2, 1965. He died in 1967 of cancer in Beirut, Lebanon at the age 89. He was succeeded by Maximos V Hakim.