The Maronites are an ancient East Christian sect that derives its name from John Maron, a learned monk who was named patriarch of Antioch, around the turn of the eighth century. Some Maronite authors claim, however, that the name derives from Maron, or Maro of Cyrrhus, a monk who was born near Apamea on the River Orontes, in northern Syria (and who died there, at some time before 423). He was a renowned ascetic who prayed on a mountaintop. Endowed with extraordinary spiritual powers, he attracted many disciples. These authors claim that he was a friend of Saint John Chrysostom,' father of the liturgy that is still used in both the Greek and the Roman churches, and an upholder of orthodoxy when Monothelitism (the view that Christ had but one will) was the issue of debate. His followers built a monastery next to his tomb, and it became the nucleus of the Maronite church, which gained lasting approval from Pope Benedict XIV in 1753. Indeed, the Maronite church was the first Syrian church to join Rome, and thus it became the first Uniate of the East.
Maronites today number about 1,300,000. Half a million of them reside in Lebanon, which has served as their national home ever since they left northern Syria. Other centers of residence include Syria, Palestine, Cyprus, Egypt, and the Americas, where some 200,000 constitute the core of the early emigrants from the Syro-Lebanese region, who left when it was still under Ottoman rule. They have established official bishoprics in Aleppo, Tripoli, Jubayl (ancient Byblos) and Botra, Baʿalbek (ancient Heliopolis), Damascus, Beirut, Tyre, Sidon, Cyprus, and also in North America, where they have independent churches in the principal cities of the continent.