Most of them live in the Galilee region. The patriarch is in Damascus, and his representatives are in Haifa and Jerusalem. They are nicknamed “Melkites”, which means “royal”, referring to those who accepted the authority of the Byzantine kingdom in the council of Chalcedon (451), which debated over the human and godly combination in Jesus’ nature, leading, as a result, to some eastern communities leaving the Byzantine church.
The main sects in the church were formed in the 11th century, with the Latin (Catholic) church predominating in the west and the Greek Orthodox church hegemonic in the east. In the 18th century, as a result of perceived alienation and discrimination in the Greek Orthodox Church, Arab Christian communities chose to affiliate themselves with the Catholic world. This created a fascinating combination of communities whose hearts and culture are in the East, while being affiliated with the religious sects of the west. Inside the compound there is a beautiful and impressive church, the Basilica of the Annunciation, which demonstrates the combination of east and west: on the walls and ceilings there are many wall paintings which were made in the byzantine style and are characteristic of the eastern churches.
The inscriptions were written in Arabic, the language of the community. The wall paintings depict events mentioned in the New Testaments. At the center of the dome there is a description of Jesus as the ruler of the world, the “pantocrator”, surrounded by the 12 apostles, the 4 writers of the gospels, David, Solomon and the prophets. The church is built in a longitudinal model known as the “basilica”. At the end of the hall we can see a wall which constitutes a decorated barrier. This wall is named “iconostasis”, and it was built in order to create a barrier between the worshipers to the sacred space of the altar, where only the priests may enter. Although the rituals are in the ancient Byzantine version, the church recognizes the authority of the Catholic pope in Rome. The community owns the 6th station of the “Via Dolorosa” in the old city.