St. George Antiochian Orthodox Cathedral was built in October 1953 and inaugurated in October 1954. Prior to its current location the Church was located at the corner of Redfern and Walkers Sts, and was substituted by the present site by the Housing Commission of NSW. The present Hall and presbytery was built in 1967 and the Cathedral was extended in the 1980s.

A summarised story of the history of St George Antiochian Orthodox Cathedral

Antiochian Orthodox people started migrating to Australia from the mid-1880s, seeking a new life away from the oppression they were experiencing during the Ottoman Empire. Many of these first wave of migrants thought they were heading to America but found their boat journey ended when they had reached Melbourne or Sydney. They were in a new land but were still focussed on maintaining their Orthodox faith.

In 1898, before the Antiochians established their first Church in Sydney, they helped found the Greek Orthodox Church of the Holy Trinity in Surry Hills. In 1913, the Patriarch of Antioch, His Beatitude Gregorius Haddad of Thrice Blessed Memory, sent the Very Reverend Exarchos Nicholas Shehadie of Blessed Memory to Sydney to be our first Priest. Fr Nicholas’ wife and seven children did not follow until later, between 1920 and 1925. On his arrival he served at the Church of the Holy Trinity, as well as in the homes of parishioners.

In 1918 the Antiochian community held a meeting, where Fr Nicholas recommended a Church building be established. The 1918 families contributed money towards the development of this Church – the book recording their contributions is still with us today.

Finally, on Sunday 23 May 1920 the foundation stone was laid, following the 99-year lease granted by the Government at the original St George location – 93-95 Walker St, Redfern. Fr Nicholas served the community of St George Church until his passing in 1934. He was succeeded by his son, Fr Michael Shehadie of Blessed Memory, who had studied theology in Russia. Fr Michael had carried a set of gold leaf icons for the St George Iconostasis from Russia, which are still found in the present-day Church.

Following World War II, Fr Michael became active in helping to settle the next wave of migrants from Lebanon. This influx of newcomers saw the need for a larger Church. Just as the plans were being drawn up, the government gazetted the resumption of the land the Church was on to build housing commission flats. Fr Michael, along with senior parishioners, worked tirelessly to negotiate a new location with the Department of Housing. A location was eventually located – where we stand today – in June 1949, but the struggles of Fr Michael and the Parish were not over. It took time to receive the final approval and draw up the new plans. During this time, the Church was demolished, and the Services were held in the Sydney City Mission Hall. Fr Michael reposed in the Lord in 1951, before he could see the new church built.

In early 1953, Fr Malatius Hussney of Blessed Memory and his family were welcomed to the Parish from Lebanon. In October of that year the foundation stone of the new church was laid by the Greek Archbishop of Australia and New Zealand (as there was no Antiochian Orthodox Bishop in Australia at that time). The Priest and committees worked extremely hard to build the new St George, with attention to detail and quality standards a high priority for all. The first service was held in the incomplete Church for Pascha in 1954. The iconostasis was not completed until 1956. Sadly, Fr Malatius reposed later that year.

Five Priests served at St George between 1957 and 1964. Shortly after his ordination to the priesthood in 1964, in Lebanon, Fr Nicolas Mansour of Blessed Memory was asked to choose between Sydney or Detroit (USA) by the late Patriarch Theodosius of Thrice Blessed Memory. When Fr Nicolas chose Sydney, His Beatitude replied that Australia was the “graveyard of Priests” and that he is still young. Fr Nicolas though looked forward to the opportunity to promote his faith. On 17 May 1964, Fr Nicolas set sail on the month-long journey for Australia with his wife and two eldest children. His first task was to clear the Church’s £8000 debt in order to have the Church fully consecrated.

Bishop Dyonisius of Thrice Blessed Memory from the Greek Orthodox Church was contacted to consecrate the Church. His Grace was returning to Greece for a visit at this time and promised to secure the relics of St George for the consecration. On 7 November 1964, St George Church was consecrated with the relics His Grace had brought with him from Greece in a silver box. It was also on this day that the foundation stone was laid for the new hall – which was completed in 1967.

During this time St George flourished. The first youth group – TAOYO (The Antiochian Orthodox Youth Organisation) was established in 1965. An English choir was established, as well as Sunday School and Arabic school. The ladies committee continued its growth and wonderful support to the Church. The role of the Church during these days was more that providing for the religious service and wellbeing, but also assisting migrants settle into Australia, find jobs, and provide translation services.

As more migrants arrived in Australia the congregation began to spread across Sydney. Fr Nicolas kept the Patriarch up to date with the growth and challenges the Church was facing. It was then in October 1969 that the Holy Synod elevated the church in Australia to a Diocese, and elected Archimandrite Gibran Ramlawey of Thrice Blessed Memory to be our first Bishop.

In the 1970s there was an increasing demand for Services to be held in English. Fr Nicolas petitioned Patriarch Elias Mouawad of Thrice Blessed Memory to permit English Services at the Church on Saturday evenings; his request was approved, and English services commenced.

In 1973 Bishop Gibran decided the need for a second Sydney Parish. St George Parish Council purchased the house at 11 Henry St Punchbowl and presented it to the newly formed Parish Council of St Nicholas and their priest, Fr John Shehadie of Blessed Memory. St George Cathedral is proud to have assisted in the construction of many of the Churches in the Archdiocese. Today there are 23 Churches and missions in Australia, as well as two early learning centres and a Senior Care Centre will be operating this year.

Even with the construction of St Nicholas, St George was still crowded so in 1983 work commenced to extend the Church, using the space between the Church and the hall.

On 3 May 1987 Bishop Gibran elevated St George Church to a Cathedral. The Diocese of Australia was elevated to an Archdiocese after the passing of Bishop Gibran in 1999. His Eminence Paul Saliba of Thrice Blessed Memory became the first Metropolitan of the Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese.

Fr Nicolas continued to serve at St George Cathedral until 2005 and reposed in the Lord in October 2014. Archimandrite Nabil Kachab commenced as Dean of the Cathedral in August 2005. Fr Nabil had been serving as a Deacon and Priest at St Nicholas in East Melbourne before moving to Sydney. He continued the work of those before him, as well as taking on an active role within the Archdiocese.

In 2017, following the repose of His Eminence Metropolitan Paul, Archimandrite Basilios Kodseie, the Parish Priest of St Mary’s Mount Pritchard, was elevated to Metropolitan of Australia, New Zealand, and the Philippines.

With the blessing and supervision of His Eminence Sayedna Basilios, Fr Nabil and the Parish Council have worked tirelessly to upgrade the Cathedral. Not only has there been significant structural work, but also the completion of uplifting written murals on the Cathedral walls depicting various Saints and major feasts, upgraded vestibule (foyer), new chandeliers, upgraded external areas and many other items were acquired. Our sincere thanks and gratitude to all the donors and supporters of St George, whose generosity made all the above possible. In June 2023 Father Theophan Nahas was ordained to the Priesthood and the Cathedral was blessed with his appointment to serve at the Cathedral alongside Fr Nabil.

With the blessings of His Eminence, Sayedna Basilios, a plan is underway to revamp the hall and build another story with modern facilities to accommodate the needs of the Sunday School, the youth and to provide a heritage and education centre – preparing for the future, in the hope to continue the journey of another century to come.

St George Cathedral – the mother Church of the Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia, New Zealand, and the Philippines – has never looked more beautiful.