St Catherine's: Age-Old Place of Prayer

Author: LOR


St Catherine's Monastery is an autonomous but non-autocephalous Orthodox Church. The abbot is elected by the monks (currently 23) and consecrated by he Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem, with the title Archbishop of Sinai, Pharan and Raltho. The current hegumen, Archbishop Damianos, cares for a community of about 9,000 faithful , mostly Red Sea fishermen.

The traditional site of the burning bush on the northern slope of Jebel Musa was initially chosen by a number of anchorites for their hermitages. In 527 Emperor Justininan I built a monastery there and dedicated the church to Mary, whose virginity is symbolized by the burning bush. The monastery was later fortified to resist the attacks of brigands, but was spared by Muslim invaders in exchange for the building of a small mosque within its enclosure. There the Jebelyeh, Bedouins who are traditionally the monastery's guardians, venerate the prophet Moses. The monastery, which was also dedicated to the Transfiguration, was later named in honour of St Catherine of Alexandria, whose relics were brought there for safe keeping in the eighth century.

The monastery houses incomparable religious treasures, Including eighth-century icons and over 3,000 manuscripts, one of the most important being the Codex Syriacus, a fourth-century Syriac text of the Gospels. The renowned biblical manuscript Codex Sinaiticus, dating from the fourth century, was found there in 1844 by C. Tischendorf.

Taken from:
L'Osservatore Romano
Weekly Edition in English
1 March 2000, page 2

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