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Greater Syrian Diaspora at 78RPM: Archbishop Anton Aneed

posted on: Mar 17, 2021

Greater Syrian Diaspora at 78RPM: Archbishop Anton Aneed
By: Richard Breaux/Arab America Contributing Writer
What do you do when you find several dozen 78 rpm records all in Arabic and you can neither read, nor speak the language? You research the musicians and record labels and write about them.…at least that’s what Arab America contributing writer, Richard Breaux did. The result is bound to teach you something about Arab American history and heritage in the first half of the 20th Century. Arab America highlights some of the well-known and lesser-known Arab American musicians profiled on this series. This week’s article features Arab American music legend, Archbishop Anton Aneed. 


In the phonograph recordings that belonged to Siad Addis, and later his daughter Elaine Addis, were two records by Anton Aneed. Archbishop Anthony Joseph Aneed (Anton Aneed) was born on Feb. 27, 1879, in Beirut, Greater Syria (now Lebanon). With little education and working-class roots, he found odd jobs until he was hired to work at a train station. In 1908, Aneed participated in a cerem.

In the early summer of 1909, Archbishop Sawoya ordained Aneed. The next year, Reverend Aneed was elevated to the position of Exarch of the Archdiocese of Beirut. He remained in Beirut for another year but soon followed the emigration out of Ottoman-controlled Greater Syria to the Americas. Between 1860 and 1914, forty-five percent of Mount Lebanon residents emigrated as a result of overcrowding and intense competition for work in Beirut.

Most Syro-Lebanese who immigrated to the US, settled in lower Manhattan’s Little Syria. In 1910, Reverend Aneed settled in New York City, but served as a missionary in Brooklyn, a borough with an expanding Syro-Lebanese population. Shortly after his arrival, Archbishop Sawoya defied the Pope and visited the United States to see his former secretary. By the fall of 1911, Sawoya consecrated Reverend Aneed as Assistant Bishop. Angered by Archbishop Sawoya’s defiance, the Pope refused to recognize Rev. Aneed’s consecration. Melkite Patriarch, Cyril IX Mogabgab, however, recognized the same consecration.

In 1915, some eight hundred Syro-Lebanese people lived in Milwaukee and ninety percent were Melkite. Rev. Aneed moved to the Midwest and served as the second priest of Saint George’s Syrian Melkite Catholic Church in Milwaukee. Although established in 1911 to serve emigrants from Zahle, Baalbek, and Ain Bourdai, the church moved into its first building under Rev. Aneed in 1917. He lived a few doors away at 1611 State Street with married couple, James and Helen Khoury, and employed an older Syrian woman, Mary Attah, as a cook.

On June 14, 1918, Rev. Aneed received the title “Exarch” from Archbishop Sebastian Messmer of Milwaukee. Messmer had been instrumental in supporting Saint George in its developing stages. While visiting Archbishop Sawoya in France after World War I’s end, Aneed published Syrian Christians: A Brief History of the Catholic Church of St. George in Milwaukee, Wisc. and a Sketch of The Eastern Church.

University of Dayton Archives, U.S. Catholic Special Collection,

By 1920, he returned to Milwaukee, but he disappears from the record for about nine years, with the exception of showing up in New York City in 1925. Here he lived at 2449 South Blvd and recorded between five to seven songs on A.J. Macksoud’s record label. The Macksoud brothers ran their operation on 77 Washington Street. There is no question that Siad and Shaheene Addis knew that Rev. Anthony Aneed had pastored the Melkite Catholic Church in Milwaukee when they purchased Aneed’s recordings.

A.J. Macksoud #1722 A & # recorded by 1422  Rev. Anton Aneed. From the collection of Richard M. Breaux

In 1929, Aneed arrived in New London, Connecticut where he became pastor of St. Ann’s Melkite Catholic Church. Part of the attraction and reason for going to New London was that his brother, Enid, lived there. During his tenure at Saint Ann’s he resided with his brother, where he lived until January 1934. Aneed resigned and headed west.

The year 1934 shows Exarch Aneed crisscrossing the United States from California to Arizona, New York, and back. In New York, Exarch Aneed was conditionally consecrated by Archbishop Sophronios Bishara of the Holy Eastern Orthodox Catholic and Apostolic Church in North America. By year’s end, he married Victoria S. Lahood in Yuma, Arizona. The couple had a child, but sources neither reveal the child’s name, nor sex.

Between 1934 and 1942, he and Victoria moved between New York and San Francisco. Around this time, he became more of a heretic. He believed the Syrian Melkite Church needed to reassert itself and break with Rome. In September 1944, Archbishops Aneed, Wadle, and Verostek established the American Concordat Exarchate and the Byzantine Catholic and Orthodox Church of the Americas, with Aneed as its Exarch. At the same meeting, the three bishops united to establish The Byzantine Catholic and Orthodox Church of the Americas to realign the Melkite rite to its position before union with the Vatican.

At the Byzantine Catholic and Orthodox Church Synod in April 1945, Archbishop Aneed was elected Primate of the Byzantine Catholic and Orthodox Church of the Americas. He pastored at Saint Alban at 2041 Argyle Street in Hollywood, California. He and Victoria lived at 2119 Darwin in Los Angeles. The newly confirmed Archbishop also traveled frequently between Los Angeles and San Francisco. He was enthroned as Patriarch Antionius Joseph 1st on January 1, 1946. This created great confusion among Catholics in the western US. One Catholic newspaper, ran several stories in an attempt to validate Aneed’s claim that he was a legitimate priest. According to some sources, superiors in the Catholic church barred Aneed from becoming a bishop because the Pope never recognized his consecration back in 1911 and now with wife and child, he could not become a bishop despite the marriage policy toward Eastern Catholic priests. Rejected by the Pope and the Patriarch of the Eastern Orthodox Church, he established his own branch of Catholicism. To Roman Catholics, Aneed became what’s known as a vagante.

Both Southern California and the San Francisco Bay Area had sizable Syro-Lebanese communities by the 1940s. Several former residents of La Crosse relocated to both regions of California. In August 1948, Patriarch Aneed opened the Seminary of St Anthony, The Star of the Desert, in California. By this time, the Concordat had expanded into the Federation of Independent Catholic and Orthodox Bishops.

Around 1952, Aneed was married, no longer to Victoria, but to a woman named Helen. Whether Victoria died or the couple divorced remains unclear, but Aneed remained a rebel of sorts. Eastern Catholic and Melkite priests could be married before ordination, but could not remarry if their wife died. Rev. Aneed definitely married twice, and long after he became a bishop.

Photo courtesy of the Portland, Oregon Journal, 6 November 1947.

Rev. Aneed was in his 80s by the 1960s. On June 5, 1960, Patriarch Aneed celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of his priesthood at the Cathedral of the Merciful Savior, San Diego, California. The year before, however, he and Helen moved to 5735 Frontier Way in Carmichael, California, near Sacramento. Traveling between northern and southern California began to take its toll on the aging priest. Failing health led, Archbishop Aneed to turn down invitations to speak or take on more responsibilities large and small. He officially retired.

In September 1961, it was announced that Patriarch Aneed would come out of retirement and to take over the Church of the Merciful Savior in San Diego, but this appears to have been short-lived endeavor because the Aneed family refused to relocate. Rev. Anthony Joseph Aneed died August 24, 1970, his wife, Helen, lived until 1999.

The calling card appears courtesy of the University of Dayton Archives.

Hear Rev. Anthony Aneed sing, “The Leaders of the People Have Gathered” (Macksoud #1722A) in 1925.
Hear Rev. Anthony Aneed sing, “The Day the Earth Stood Still” (Macksoud #1722B) in 1925.
Hear Rev. Anthony Aneed sing, “The Saying of the Pasach” (Macksoud #1422A-B) in 1925.

Richard M. Breaux is an Associate Professor of Ethnic Studies at the University of Wisconsin La Crosse from Oakland, California. His courses and research explore the social and cultural histories of African Americans and Arab Americans in the 20th Century.


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