The following is an excerpt from the book A History of the Holy Eastern Church: The Patriarchate of Antioch by the great Anglican scholar John Mason Neale. In this passage, he describes in extremely sympathetic terms the situation of the bishops in the Patriarchate of Antioch in 1850. His sympathy for the ethnically Greek bishops is especially interesting.
In the last century there were counted within the Patriarchate of Antioch 16 sees, but now there are only ten: for the see of Akkis (Akhaltsikhe) has been incorporated into the Russian Church, and the other five, viz., those of Heliopolis, of Amida in Mesopotamia, of Bostra and Palmyra in Arabia and of Theodosiopolis (Erzeroum) have ceased to exist, Orthodoxy in those places having become extinct. However, there are two titular bishops, one of Heliopolis, who resides at Moscow, and the other of Palmyra, who governs the monastery of Saint Spyridion.
Of the nine sees at present existing, one, that of Tyre and Sidon, has the rank of Metropolis, while all the others are Archbishoprics: Exarchs in Syria there are none, and so all the Bishops address themselves to the Patriarch himself.
In Syria, as in all the East, from the time of the Apostles, it has been the rule to appoint as many Bishops as possible: each of them has a small flock; consequently he is able with greater convenience and facility, to guide it to everlasting salvation, calling by name each one of the sheep of Christ. All the families see their bishop every year, not only in the church, but also in their houses, and if he has the gift of teaching or of piety, which is more eloquent than all sermons, he is then a pillar and support of Orthodoxy. The habit and the pleasure of seeing the Bishop in their houses, the respect felt for his rank, and hearty gratitude for his apostolic labours, cause the Orthodox to press closely around him; and it is only flattery, deceit and violence, or influences of corruption that can draw away from him weak souls. If the Bishops had not been numerous in Syria, Orthodoxy would long ago have died out there.
The rights and duties of the Syrian Bishops are nearly the same with those of their Patriarch. A Syrian Bishop, as a man of God, enlightens by the Word of God, sanctifies by the Sacraments and disciplines by Ecclesiastical Censures, the souls entrusted to him by the Lord. As a man of the people, he shares with the Orthodox people poverty, humiliation, and persecution from misbelievers; he every year visits all the families, both rich and poor, and lives from their offerings: he blesses their marriages, their baptisms and their funerals: his door is always open for all whoever they may be who come to him either for counsel, or for judgment or for protection, and at his hearth there is often prepared a hospitable entertainment both for rich and poor from the means afforded by their own freewill-offerings, made according to their ability.
From the beginning of the last century till now, the Patriarchs and some of the Bishops have been and are Greeks: they have rendered the Syrian Church services of no small importance. They gave her peace, by putting an end to hierarchical divisions; they gave her independence, by breaking off her dangerous relations with Rome; they have established order in the monasteries, and defended them from being plundered by the Sheikhs and their relatives: they stopped the defection of the Arab bishops to the Unia, and long kept the Uniats in fear by the voice of the whole Church and the Greek nation, and by their persevering instances with the Turkish government.