The Franciscans in Syria
by Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land
In the first half of the 13th century, while Saint Francis of Assisi was still alive, some of his followers arrived in Syria to preach the Gospel, as Jesus had commanded. Nowadays, the Franciscans are present in the following cities:
Damascus: As early as 1233, Franciscans were sent by Pope Gregory IX with a letter of recommendation to the Sultan of the city. Their mission was limited to the spiritual care of Christians from the West. Nevertheless, a number of Franciscans suffered martyrdom in the city: two in 1289, three in 1557 and eight in 1860. The Latin Parish of Bab Tuma was established in 1750, and in 1932 another was established in Salhiye. The Sanctuary commemorating the House of St. Ananias, the disciple of Jesus who baptized Saul, is dependent on the Parish of Bab Tuma. The fourth house belonging to the Franciscans in the capital is the Memorial to St. Paul in Tabbaleh, the Sanctuary at the site of Saul's Conversion.
Aleppo: On 15th February 1233, the Pope Gregory IX sent a group of Franciscans to the Emir of Aleppo, Malik el-Azziz Muhammad. In a letter dated in 1238, the same Pope appointed them to care for the spiritual needs of the Knights Templars who had been imprisoned in the citadel. From the contents of this letter, it is clear that the Franciscans used to work with the Eastern Christians who were in communion with Rome. Situated just inside the Antioch Gate, both their monastery and church were destroyed by the Turks in 1645. In 1695 the Franciscans came to live in the district of Shibennay and remained there until 1937, when the Cathedral church of Aziziye was inaugurated. In 1949 the Holy Land College was opened, replacing the old parish school of Shibennay, established by the Franciscans in 1859. Nowadays the College is the home of a Seminary for those wanting to become Franciscans.
Latakia: The Franciscans arrived in Latakia in 1733. The present church, and the monastery adjacent to it, dates back to 1933. The Custody of the Holy Land opened two parish schools, which have been nationalized. The parish not only serves the Latin community but also those members of Eastern Catholic communities who do not have a resident parish priest.
Kenaye: The Franciscans established their mission in Kenaye in 1878. It comprises a church, a monastery and a non-fee-paying school, which has now been nationalized. Affiliated to the community at Kenaye is the missionary centre of Jdeide, which was inaugurated in 1953.
Yacubiye: This mission was opened in the same year as the one in Kenaye (1878), since it also has a Christian population and is only 1_ kilometres away, in the Valley of the Orontes. The parish church was constructed in 1939.
Ghassaniye: The mission to Ghassaniye was set up in 1934 with a church and a monastery. The following year a non-fee-paying school was opened, which was nationalized in 1967. The parish priest is also responsible for the upkeep of a church and a monastery at Gisser esh-Shoghour, which the Custody of the Holy Land has administered since 1950.
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Created / Updated Saturday, April 28, 2001 at 23:58:53 by John Abela ofm
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