An Ecumenism of Blood

Author: Rami Al Kabalan

An Ecumenism of Bood

Rami Al Kabalan*

Bishop Flavien Mikhaiel Melki beatified in Lebanon

An authentic testimony of the “ecumenism of blood” can be found in the figure of Bishop Flavien Mikhaiel Mclki, who was born and raised in the Syriac Orthodox Church and died in communion with the Syriac Catholic Church. He was killed in hatred of the faith in 1915 during the rule of the Young Turks.

The martyr — who Cardinal Angelo Amato, Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, beatified on Saturday, 29 August, on behalf of Pope Francis in Daroun-Harissa, Lebanon — was born in 1858 in the small village of Kalaat Mara, located in Vilayet de Mardine, in north eastern Greater Syria (in what is today Turkey), to a deeply Christian family of the Syriac Orthodox Church. At the age of 20 he was ordained a deacon and became the librarian of the monastery.

It was in those years that, always seeking to broaden his knowledge, he studied the fathers of the Eastern Churches, among other things, and decided to become Catholic. He courageously left the monastery, and openly declared his faith, travelling to Lebanon, to the Syriac Catholic Patriarchate of Charfé, where his beatification took place.

In the summer of 1915, as head of his community, he was arrested and taken to prison in Djezireh-ibn-Omar. Abandoning himself to the will of God, he continued his ministry as father and pastor even during his imprisonment with other Christians. He also celebrated the Eucharist and the Sacrament of Confession, also imparting a papal blessing by plenary indulgence as the Holy See authorizes three times a year. Like most of the prisoners, he was subjected to interrogation and was told that if he did not convert he would die. At first he was silent then, demonstrating his unequivocal commitment to Christ, he clearly stated his opposition to such an idea.

On 29 August 1915, his hands and feet were tied and he was brutally and savagely beaten, then shot to death. His body was thrown into the Tigris River, along with the remains of the others who were killed.

For the Syriac Church of Antioch this beatification is the first that has occurred since the solemn acknowledgement of the primacy of Peter and the reconstitution of the ecclesial communion with Rome in 1781. It is not only an important recognition of the heroic holiness of the martyred bishop, but it is also a tribute to all Christian martyrs who have given their lives for Christ, and is encouragement for those who still today suffer persecution on account of Christ, especially Christians in Iraq and Syria.

*Postulator for the Cause

L'Osservatore Romano
Weekly Edition in English
4 September 2015, page 11

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