Be­headed Syr­iac bishop be­at­i­fied a cen­tury af­ter death

The China Post - - INTERNATIONAL -

Pope Fran­cis on Sun­day praised a Syr­iac Catholic bishop who has been be­at­i­fied in Le­banon, a cen­tury af­ter he his be­head­ing by Ot­toman forces dur­ing a wave of re­li­giously mo­ti­vated killings in Syria.

Flavien Michel Melki, mur­dered for re­fus­ing to re­nounce Chris­tian­ity, was of­fi­cially rec­og­nized by Pope Fran­cis as a “mar­tyr” of the Catholic Church ear­lier this month.

“In the con­text of a ter­ri­ble per­se­cu­tion of Chris­tians, he was a tire­less de­fender of the rights of his peo­ple, urg­ing all to re­main firm in their faith,” the pope said Sun­day at St. Peter’s square.

“To­day, in the Mid­dle East and other re­gions of the world, Chris­tians are also per­se­cuted,” he said, de­mand­ing “leg­is­la­tors and rulers” in the re­gion and the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity to pro­tect re­li­gious free­dom and end vi­o­lence.

The be­at­i­fi­ca­tion took place at a monastery north of Beirut on Satur­day.

Turk­ish-born Melki’s church was burned down dur­ing a mas­sacre by Ot­toman sol­diers in 1895 and his mother killed.

He was made a bishop and spent two decades serv­ing the church be­fore be­ing ar­rested in 1915 along with a Chaldean bishop.

Both were killed when they re­fused to con­vert to Is­lam.

His be­at­i­fi­ca­tion comes at a time of grow­ing con­cern over ji­hadists tar­get­ing Chris­tians in the Mid­dle East, with Fran­cis last month say­ing “a form of geno­cide was tak­ing place”.

The Syr­iac Catholic church, with around 160,000 mem­bers and head­quar­tered in Beirut, is one of sev­eral eastern Chris­tian churches.

The com­mu­nity ac­cuses the Ot­tomans of hav­ing car­ried out mas­sacres of its mem­bers in 1915, along­side the mass killings of Ar­me­ni­ans.

In April, Tur­key re­called its am­bas­sador to the Vat­i­can af­ter the pope la­beled the deaths of up to 1.5 mil­lion Ar­me­ni­ans at the hands of Ot­toman forces a cen­tury ago as geno­cide.

Tur­key ve­he­mently con­tests the use of the word.

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