GREEK CATHOLIC (MELKITE) CHURCH IN BAGHDAD
The Greek community in Baghdad goes back to very ancient times. Fr. Nasrallah has written extensively about this subject. But the recent history goes back to 1750 about, according to the existing baptism record. Actually the Melkite Church starts with the thirties of the twentieth century, when a famous priest, Fr. Maximos Hakim was responsible for the community, and bought a house in the center of old Baghdad, where all the Christian denominations had their churches. For some time he used to gather his flock there, till he acquired a plot in another quarter of the city, where the Christians had settled then. There he constructed a hall with rooms for the priest, and afterwards his church around the year 1958, with the assistance of his parishioners. Some of them remember even today, how they had been helping to build that beautiful Greek church.
Fr Maximos died in Lebanon, in the early sixties, and several other priests succeeded him in Baghdad, first depending from the patriarchate, then from the exarchate of Amman. During the last fifteen years, the church was only sporadically visited by a priest, and during the last war, left without any presence. During all these years a redemptorist father took care of the church services, unofficially. In the church -compound a Friday school for catechism was opened with a centre for patristic studies.
PREVIOUS CHURCH BUILDING
PREVIOUS CHURCH ACTIVITIES
Destruction of Greek Catholic Church in Baghdad
During the night of 16 October 2004 the church was destroyed. Strong explosives were put at the entrance of the church, so that the doors were destroyed and a huge fire inside of the church caused the whole of it to explode. Everything was gone, the seats, carpets, icons and decorations, nothing left with the sealing and dome all burnt black and the walls tore open. On the same day a Eucharistic celebration was held with a baptism to encourage the people, to manifest that they wouldn’t give into fear. Instead, where the old icon of St.Georges was completely gone, the newborn child was baptized Georges, as a new living icon of the Saint Patron of the church.
OF GREEK CATHOLIC CHURCH IN BAGHDAD
The church reconstruction started immediately. First all the rubbish had to be cleaned up, helped by a group of volunteers , this preparatory work took several months. Then the walls were rebuild with the windows, and finally the inside: the absis and the ceilings. The work will last for several years, because also the surrounding buildings for the housing of a priest and a hall for gatherings have to be remade.
Meanwhile the church activities continue.
Under the supervision of His Beatitude Gregorius III and gradually opening of the chruch
His Beatitude Gregorius III, Patriarch of the Melkite Church of Antioch and the entire East, of Alexandria and Jerusalem, is the ultimate responsible for His church in Baghdad. From His residence in Ain Traz (Lebanon) he blessed the destroyed church and promised to help for the reconstruction. During a conference about "Eastern Theology" (April 2005) he celebrated the Eucharist, and offered prayers, together with the Greek monks from Mount Athos, in front of the iconostasis, with the Easter epitaphion opened on the altar, for the peace in the Middle East, and the protection of the faithful and their churches. His Beatitude is pictured here with Prof. Dr. Herman Teule and Fr. Vincent van Vossel.
July 16 th. 2006 : Solemn Inauguration in the presence of His Beatitude Mar. Emmanuel III Delly, Patriarch of the Chaldeans, 40 years after the first consecration. Solemn blessing by His Beatitude Mar. Emmanuel III, by Their Excellencies Matte Matoka Archbishop of the Syrian Catholic, Mar Shleymoun Wardouni and Mgr. Thomas representant of the Papal Nuntio in Baghdad.
SUMMER 2007 Religious teaching during the schoolyear 2007
SUMMER 2007 B
The Holy week Services in the Greek Catholic Church of Baghdad - 2007
SUMMER 2007 C
In remembrance of Fr. Robert Beulay
SUMMER 2007 D
Christians in Irak 2007
Baghdad. Already during the year 2006 a district of Baghdad, called Daura, about 15 Km from the center of the city has been the scene of bombing and harassing the Christian population. Since the sixties Daura was a district populated by Christians, esp. Assyrians. The government had granted a plot to the Chaldean community, where a church and monastery were build, in expectation of the christians to come there. The Chaldean seminary, and afterwards, the Babel-faculty for Philosophy and Theology was erected there. With the time passing, the place was invaded by moslim people who lived in peace with their Christian neighbours. But after the invasion, things changed here like everywhere in the country. In 2006 the Assyrian church was completely ruined by explosives, and the Chaldean church (The two Apostles) was attacked. Several priests were kidnapped, and christians began to leave the unsafe place. In 2007 the Chaldean church (St.John the Baptist) was threaten, the pictures and the cross should be removed and the priest had to leave. Gradually, during the year, Christians were urged to leave their houses, without taking anything with them. Or they had to become moslim, or pay an great sum of money, or to give some of their daughters to the “Amir”. About 250 families were thus obliged to leave their houses. They live now somewhere with their relatives, or in very bad conditions. Some could go to their villages in the North, or others left for Syria. In the city of Baghdad itself, already several churches had been damaged by explosives, and other districts (seyidiya,Hay el'adel,beyya,neyriya, karada, mu'almin, hay eljami'a) underwent the same fate as Daura. Several hundreds had to leave their homes. 5 priests were kidnapped. Kerada, a Christian district, was announced in TV, as a place where Christians had to leave. Christian doctors and teachers were kidnapped. One morning, four months ago, 5 christian girls went to the university by taxi and never returned. No one can defend their lives or their rights. The radical leaders proclaim that one who kills a Christian will be blessed in heaven, and that all their houses and possessions will fall free in the hands of their adepts. Thousands left the city, as if it were the end of Christianity, in a country were they lived 630 years before the appearance of Islam. What concerns the Greek Catholic: several families had to leave the houses, and live now with difficulty in unhealthy conditions. Others remained, but they are afraid that they will be driven out or killed. A deacon with his family, and old sick mother, was threaten to death, and had to leave the house, after he was hurt and flagellated with deep wounds on his back.
In Mosul the harassing of the Christians is even more severe. Shops had to be closed down, some youngsters were shot in the streets, and others kidnapped. Last August, a young Chaldean priest, a teacher in the Babel college, was shot in the streets of Mosul when he left the church after the evening prayer, together with 3 deacons and a girl, who survived to relate the killing.
The villages in the plain between Mosul and the mountains, are relatively quite for the moment, but they have to protect themselves with guards and defences. In the Kurdish region, the situation is safe, and the Christian villages are rebuild with their churches, and construction of houses is going on in a fast tempo, but real work is lacking and no real future is ahead. Nobody knows what tomorrow will bring. But for the moment they enjoy there some peace and safety.
SUMMER 2008 E
Center for Patristics 2008 - Proclamation
SUMMER 2008 F
On this historical picture, token in the 50ties, appears Fr. Maximos Hakim with the famous Mgr.Capucci from Jerusalem, sitting in the garden of an old Greek Baghdadi family (Jousif Sim’an Haddad), enjoying peacefully a cup of tea, a summer afternoon. Most members of this family left Baghdad or passed away. For long years this Ashira had been responsible for the community. The last one, Yousif Haddad, passed away last year (2007) more than 90 years old. His son Simon Hassad was killed in his house in 2011. His mutilated body was found in the frigo. An other venerable member, a Palestinian from Nazareth, Dalal Abou Maher, left us (VIII, 2008) without being allowed to go back to Palestine, for a last greeting to his homeland.
During December 2007, the deacon Nesh’et Shakouri Paullina also died after a long sickness, in Amman. For 20 years about, he had been responsible for the Greek Catholic community in Baghdad. A century ago, his family came from Turkey and settled in Baghdad. He became a lawner, and was employed in Embassy of Finland, and as a comptable in different compagnies. He served as head of the community under several priests, who often were absent, or engaged in other duties, so that the weight of the community rested enterly on his shoulders. In 2002 he was honored with the Cross of Jerusalem medal, from the Patriarch Maximos IV, given by His Excellence Mgr. Georges el-Murr, then responsible for the community in Baghdad. One of those priests, a Lebanese, Fr. Nicola Dagher, sold a house, belonging to the waqf of the church, in an irregular way, and afterwards, Deacon Nesh’et had great trouble in order to settle this problem. In fact robbers came first to the house of his elder brother, and had knocked him down and freighted his sister, so that both died in the aftermath. Two times more they entered his own house, threatening him, stealing the money of the church. After an other last threat he left for Amman, in 2003. Sick and old, he had to undergo several operations there and finally passed away in December 2007. He was granted a solemn burial in the Greek Church there. Afterwards, when we heard the news, also in Baghdad a solemn funeral liturgy was offered in the presence of his sister Nadira.
An other important member of the community is Deacon Joseph Anastaz, also from an old Orthodox Bagdadi family, that came from Turkey. He studied with the Jesuits in Baghdad College, and worked for compagnies as an official translator. He takes care of the liturgical songs in the church, which he composes or harmonizes, and teaches those songs to the choir. Every Sunday he presents us with some new chants, and his masterpiece is always the Good Friday celebration of the Burial of Christ.
Actually a new Sa’our (Sacristain, churchkeeper) was engaged, Hadir el-Erbili, a famous teacher of catechism and active youth leader, formed by the Salesian Fathers. He looks after the church affairs, and caries for the buildings and engaements of the Melkite church. He has a beautiful daughter, Maryam. He also is one of the secretaries of the new Institute for Eastern Studies, which will start for the first time in Oct. 2008. On this project see next report.
Books written by El-Ab Mansour el-Mukhallisi (Redemptorists’ Publications).
BOOKS Redemptorists’ publications : Baghdad 2006 - 2014
BOOKS Redemptorists’ publications : Baghdad 2015-2020
Publications of Vincent van Vossel
- L'Onction baptismale chez St. Ephrem (Excerpta ex Diss. ad Doctoratum, PIO) Baghdad 1984.
- In God’s Presence (Prayers for Children, in Arabic), Baghdad 1972.
- Jesus according to the Language of Mark (in Arabic), I: Introductions about the Aramaic, Baghdad 1977; II: Edition of the Gospel of Mark in Syriac (the Soureth of Zakho), Baghdad 1979.
- Songs from the stones (Songs for Children, in Arabic), Baghdad 1980.
- The Twelve Feasts (328 p. in Arabic), Baghdad 1984, 1998, 3th ed. 2012.
- St.Augustine the African (in Arabic), Baghdad 1994.
- History of the Church (in Arabic), Baghdad 1997, repr.in 2 vols 2009.
- God in Modern Thought (172 p. in Arabic), Baghdad 2002.
- St.Ephrem the Deacon (235 p. in Arabic), Baghdad 2003.
- Christ in Modern Thought (263 p. in Arabic), Baghdad 2004.
- Theodore of Mopsuestia (205 p. in Arabic), Baghdad 2004.
- The Monastic Movement, East and West (232 p. in Arabic), Baghdad 2005.
- Eastern Anaphora (208 p. in Arabic), Baghdad 2005.
- Baptism in Eastern Rites (177 p. in Arabic), Baghdad 2006.
- Salvation through the Novena of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour, Baghdad 2006.
- The School of Antiochia (in Arabic), Baghdad 2007.
- Arabic Translation of the Chaldean Breviary I-III, Baghdad 2006-2007.
- The School of Alexandria (in Arabic), Baghdad 2008.
- Christian Art. History and Significance, (P. 160 in Arabic) Baghdad 2010.
- To You I cry. Morning and Evening Prayer (Chaldean Rite) & Mass of the Apostles Addai and Mari (77 p. in Arabic), Baghdad 2010.
- Twelve Christian Feasts. Origin, Liturgy, Icon (p. 374 p. in Arabic), Baghdad 2011.
- A Key to the Acts of the Persian Martyrs (214 p. in Arabic), Baghdad 2012.
- We Believe. Faith in context of old Syriac Tradition and Modern European Challenge (p. 147, in Arabic), Baghdad 2013.
- Dieu du Silence (in French, in Arabic, with an edition for children), Beyrouth 2017.
- Saint Ephrem among the youngsters (p. 128 in Arabic), Baghdad 2014.
- Jesus Christ in Western and Eastern traditions (157 p. in Arabic), Baghdad 2016.
- Together towards Christmas. Together towards Easter. (6 Booklets for the Refugees to prepare for Christmas and Easter), Baghdad 2013 – 2016.
- East Syriac Anaphorae, Baghdad 2017.
- The Anaphorae of the Church of the East (in Arabic) According to the Mar Esha’ya Manuscript, Text, Translation, Interpretation: Vincent van Vossel Baghdad 2018
Publications of Vincent van Vossel
- Caldeo Monachesimo, in: DictInstitRel 1988.
- Iconographie Chaldéenne? in: OCP 55(1989) 439-454.
- Taufweihe und Lebensweihe der Ordenschristen, in: Heute Redemptorist sein, Bonn 1997,84-104 (originaly in English in: Redemptorist Spirituality).
- Mari en Kokhe, in: Het Christelijk Oosten 50 (1998) 186-210.
- La reconciliation selon la liturgie Chaldéenne, in: Patrimoine Syriaque (Actes des Colloques) IV (1997) CERO, Lebanon (in French); Le moine et son diable, in: id. , V (1998); La spiritualité monastique syriaque-orientale au début du Moyen-Age selon l’histoire de Rabban Yousif Bousnaya, In: id., VI(1999); Le visage de Dieu dans des textes liturgiques de la tradition syriaque, in: id., VII(2001); L’amour chez Aphrahat et dans le Livre des Degrés, in: id., VIII(2002).-2002.
- La Théologie Syriaque, in: Sources Syriaques, CERO Lebanon 2003 (in French).
- Comment Saint Ephrem priait dans ses hymnes, in: Notre Vie liturgique, CERO Lebanon 6(2001)97-108 (in French).
- Quelques remarques en marge du Memra sur le Bapteme de Emmanuel Bar Shahhare, in: QuestLit 82(2001-2) 97-111 (in French).
- Sens de la vie monastique (series of articles in Arabic) in: Rabbanoutha 2001-2009.
- Les peintures de Sieger Koeder (series of articles in Arabic) in: Rabbanoutha 2002-2008.
- Icones (series of articles in Arabic) in: Safina enNajat 2004-2010.
- The Church of the East in China and Mongolia (series of articles in Arabic) in: Beyn an-Nahreyn 2009-2010.
- Memra on the Church of Kenneshrin; Massignon…( series of articles in Arabic) in: Nejm elMashriq 2008-2009.
- L’architecture des églises orientales (series of articles in Arabic) in: El-Majellat el-Liturgiya 2008-9.
- (series of articles in Arabic) in: El-Majellat el-Liturgiya 2009-2010.
- L’intérieur des églises orientales (series of articles in Arabic) in: El-Majellat el-Liturgiya 2009-2011.
- Couvents du Nord de l'Iraq (series of articles in Arabic) in: El-Majellat el-Liturgiya 2012-13.
- Eastern Popular Rituals (series of articles in Arabic) in: El-Majellat el-Liturgiya 2011-2012.
- The Unknown Painter, in: Beyn an-Nahreyn 2012 (in Arabic).
- L’idée d’un institut de Théologie Orientale, in: Symposium on Eastern Theology, TOTT St.Joseph University Press, Beyrouth 2007.
- The New Chaldean Mass Liturgy. Update, Reform or New Creation? in: Questions Liturgiques 91(2010) p.118- 141 (in English).
- Who is the Unknown Painter? XIXth-century Iconography in the Mardin-Mosul Area,in: OCP 78 (2012)203-226 (in English).
- Vestiges d’Art Chrétien en Iraq, in: Symposium Fribourg 2011 (OLA, in French)
- Couvents du Nord de l'Iraq. Impressions d'une visite en 2012, in: OCP 80(2014)35-85 (in French).
- The Tower of Babylon, in: Beyn an-Nahreyn 2014.
-The Royal Doors in St. Thomas’church in Mosul and Mar Behnam monastery, in BN 2015.
-Three Old Paintings of Our Lady in Baghdad, in LitMag 2015.
-A painting “Topographie of Jerusalem” in the Chaldean bishopric of Mosul, in BN 2016.
-The liturgical Theology of J. Meyendorf (and other liturgical topics), in LitMag 2015-16.
-The Stone Carvings in the Armenian church of Meydan in Baghdad, in BN 2016, and in Journal of the Canadian Society for Syriac Studies 2016 (in English)..
III. Books edited under his supervision and correction
- Fifteen days with Saint Alphonse (in Arabic), Baghdad 2006.
- H.Teule, Les Assyro-Chaldéens (in Arabic), Baghdad 2010.
- Martyrs of love (éd. Center for Eastern Studies), Baghdad 2011.
- Mar Ephrem, Memra d-Rabbina (Syriac & Arabic translation), Baghdad 2011.
- The Bible for Children (With paintings of S. Koeder)(Translation in Arabic), Baghdad 2012.
- Together to Christmas, Baghdad 2012.
- Together to Eastern, Baghdad 2013.
- The Book of Faith for Youngsters, Baghdad 2013.
- The Acts of Thomas (Arabic transl by A. Abouna), Baghdad 2014.
- Eye in Eye with Jacob (Arabic transl. by L. Cop), Baghdad 2016.
- H. Nouwen, The Return of the Prodigal Son (Arabic transl.), Baghdad 2009.
- H. Nouwen, Reaching Out, (Arabic transl.) Baghdad 2017.