Melkite Greek Catholic Church
Coptic Mosaic of the Flight into Egypt

H.B. Patriarch Gregorios III's

Visit to Egypt

December 2009 - January 2010

Visit to Egypt

December 23, 2009
His Beatitude arrived on the evening of 23 December at Cairo airport where he was welcomed by H.E. Mgr. Georges Bakar and Rev. Frs. Amer Tawil and Boulos Koureit.
December 24, 2009
On 24 December, His Beatitude met with a delegation of the Patriarchal School's management team at the office of H.E. Mgr. Georges Bakar.
His Beatitude also met Sr. Marcelle and Sr. Roula from the congregation of Salvatorian Basilian Sisters who look after the retirement home of the Holy Immaculate Virgin.
On the morning of 24 December, HIs Beatitude celebrated the Royal Hours of the Nativity at the Chapel of the Archangel Michael in the Cathedral, in the presence of H.E. Mgr. Paul Antaki and Rev. Frs. Boulos Koureit, Georges Fayek and Deacon Mario Abou Daher.
He then received a telephone call from H.E. Shaykh Akl of the Druzes of Lebanon.
He also received a call from former President Mr. Emile Lahoud and another call from the current President of the Lebanese Republic Mr. Michel Sleiman.
On the evening of 24 December, His Beatitude celebrated Matins and the Divine Liturgy at midnight in the presence of H.E. Mgr. Georges Bakar and the Rev. Frs. Boulos Kourait and Deacons Nabil Ishaaya and Mario Abou Daher. The Divine Liturgy would be broadcast on Sat 7 on 6 January.
December 25, 2009
On the morning of 25 December, His Beatitude received congratulations in the reception hall of the Patriarchate from 11 until 14 hours.
December 26, 2009
On the morning of 26 December, H.E. Mgr. Georges Bakar was obliged to go to hospital for an operation, so was unable to participate in visits or accompany His Beatitude.
In the afternoon, His Beatitude met a number of priests individually.
On the evening of 26 December, His Beatitude celebrated the Divine Liturgy on the occasion of the Jubilee of the School of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour, in the presence of the Superior General of the Paulist Congregation, Fr. Elia Aghia, Fr. Rafiq Greish and Deacon Mario Abou Daher.
December 27, 2009
On the morning of 27 December, His Beatitude celebrated the Divine Liturgy on the occasion of the Feast of St. Joseph at the Church of St. Joseph, Zeitoun, in the presence of the parish priest Rev. Fr. Cyril (Alexios) Moushantaf and Deacon Mario Abou Daher, and commemorated Mgrs. Joseph Kallas, Joseph Absi and Joseph Zerey on their patronal feast.
On the evening of 27 December, His Beatitude celebrated the Divine Liturgy at the Church of the Holy Immaculate Virgin in the presence of the parish priest Fr. Maurice Khoury and Deacon Mario Abou Daher.
December 28, 2009
On 28 December, His Beatitude was invited to dinner with Mr. Roger Shakal, one of the dignitaries of the Syriac Catholic Church in honour of Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignace Joseph III Younan, the Apostolic Nuncio in Egypt, H. E. Archbishop Michael Fitzgerald, H.E. Mgr. Youssef Hannoush and Rev. Fr. Rafiq Greish were present.
Then His Beatitude met individually Rev. Frs. Rafiq Greish, Farid Ata and Joseph Andraos.
On 28 December, at 17 hours, His Beatitude attended a show at the School of Our Lady of Perpetual Help.
December 29-30, 2009
The 29 to 30 December, His Beatitude participated in the Meeting of the Council of Patriarchs and Bishops at the Coptic Catholic Church – Maadi.
On the morning of 29 December, Rev. Fr. Xavier Eid died in hospital. (Go to the Page of Repose for Fr. Eid)
December 31, 2009
At midday on 31 December, His Beatitude celebrated the funeral of Fr. Xavier Eid at the Church of St. Mary of Peace, Garden City. Also present were Mgrs. Joseph-Jules Zerey, Patriarchal Vicar in Jerusalem, Francois Eid, Bishop of the Maronites, Joseph Hannoush, Bishop of the Syriac Catholics, together with all the priests of the Eparchy and of other confessions. His Beatitude accompanied the body to the cemetery.
His Beatitude then went to the Patriarchal School – New Egypt with Mgr. Joseph Zerey and Rev. Fr. Amer al Tawil, principal of the school.
There he met with the teachers and employees at the Patriarchal School and proclaimed the school's first centennial jubilee, then dined at the school.
In the evening, His Beatitude celebrated Vespers at the Church of the Sisters of Our Lady of Perpetual Help on the occasion of the end of 2009. Mgr. Joseph Zerey and Fr. Amer al Tawil also took part, in the presence of the sisters.
January 1, 2010
On 1 January, His Beatitude participated in the Divine Liturgy for peace in the presence of Coptic Catholic bishops.
His Beatitude, with Mgr. Joseph Zerey, was invited to dinner on St. Basil's Day at the School of the Holy Family with the Jesuit Fathers, the Maronite Fathers and the Syriac Catholic Fathers.
In the evening, His Beatitude celebrated the Divine Liturgy at the Church of St. Mary of Peace, Garden City and at the end of the Liturgy a panikhida for the late Fr. Xavier Eid.
January 2, 2010
On 2 January, His Beatitude laid the foundation stone for the School in New Cairo of the Sisters of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, in the presence of the Mother General of the Order, Christiane Mezaaber, all the sisters, some teachers, Fr. Amer al Tawil and Deacon Mario Abou Daher.
The same day, at noon, His Beatitude participated in the funeral of Mgr. Joseph Sarraf, Bishop of the Chaldean Catholics, celebrated by Chaldean Catholic Patriarch Emmanuel III (Delly), with the participation of several other bishops and priests.
On the evening of 2 January, His Beatitude attended a show prepared by the young people of the St. Cyril's Church and proclaimed the centennial Jubilee of the Church of St. Cyril (1910-2010.)
January 3, 2010
On 3 January, His Beatitude celebrated the Divine Liturgy at the Church of Our Lady of the Annunciation in the presence of Fr. Farid Ata and Deacons Nabil Ishaaya and Mario Abou Daher.
At midday on the same day, His Beatitude visited Mr. Hamdi Zakzouk, Minister of the Awqafs, accompanied by Frs. Maurice Khoury and Farid Ata.

Visit to Alexandria January 8-11th

January 8, 2010
His Beatitude arrived on the evening of Friday 8 January at the Patriarchal Residence in Fleming, Alexandria. He went on to meet some forty-eight young people from Alexandria, and congratulated them on having successfully graduated from university.
January 9, 2010
On the morning of Saturday 9 January, His Beatitude visited the Sanctuary of the Blessed Mary of Jesus Crucified in the Patriarchal Cathedral of the Dormition in the presence of Fathers Joseph Andraos, Georges Behnan and Deacon Mario Abou Daher.
He then visited the Patriarchal School in the presence of Fathers Samir Saadeh, principal of the school, Joseph Andraos, Georges Behnan and Deacon Mario Abou Daher.
His Beatitude was then invited by Mr. Edward Dallal to dine at the Sheraton Montazah Hotel, together with Fathers Samir Saadeh, Joseph Andraos and Deacon Mario Abou Daher.
In the evening after Vespers, His Beatitude met a group of Catholic priests from various confessions and religious orders on the occasion of the Year for Priests. This was followed by a presentation by His Beatitude, a discussion and a meal at the Patriarchate.
January 10, 2010
On the morning of Sunday 10 January, His Beatitude, accompanied by Father Joseph Andraos and Deacon Mario Abou Daher, visited the Church of the Immaculate Conception (Al Ibrahimia) where he was received by the parish priest, Father Samir Saadeh and preached a sermon.
Next, His Beatitude, still with Fathers Joseph Andraos and Deacon Mario Abou Daher, visited the Governor of Alexandria, Mr. Adel Labib. Afterwards, His Beatitude presided at the Divine Liturgy at the Church of Saint Peter (Debbaneh) with concelebrant Fathers Joseph Andraos and Georges Bannah and Deacon Mario Abou Daher.
His Beatitude then dined at the Azur Hotel with two couples (Mr. and Mrs. George Iskander and Mr. and Mrs. Paul Farahat) and Fathers Joseph Andraos, Samir Saadeh and Deacon Mario Abou Daher.
His Beatitude, with Father Joseph Andraos, went on to visit three families (those of Edward Fakahany and his brother, and Jamil Genadri and Adel Rabaah.)
January 11, 2010
On the morning of Monday 11 January, His Beatitude returned to Cairo.
V. C.
Apr 052001

A Brief History of the Patriarchal See of Alexandria

by Fr. Peter Boutros

Reprinted from Sophia, Volume 31, Number 1, Jan. - Feb. 2001

About 9,000 people living in Egypt, Sudan, and Libya (a few) make up the Melkite see of Alexandria under the authority of His Beatitude Patriarch Gregory III Laham and his Vicar Archbishop Paul Antaki. This is about 1/150 of the million and one half Melkites around the world today and a very small fraction of the Egyptian population. Although very small, the Melkite Catholic Church is a well-known community in Egypt.

It all started in 1724, when the first Syrian and Palestinian immigrants went to Egypt to escape the persecution inflicted on them by the Greek Orthodox Patriarch Sylvester. In the seventeenth century the number of immigrants, reaching the friendly shores of Egypt, grew tremendously, and in 1838, Pope Gregory XVI gave Patriarch Maximos III Mazloom the title of "Patriarch of Antioch and All the East, of Alexandria and of Jerusalem".

These immigrants were faced with either persecution or latinization to survive in their original countries. Their refusal to accept either of the choices offered to them is an indication of their strong belief, courage, and tenacity. Many families settled in the port of Damietta, Egypt's main port at that time, and brought with them their trades and their artistic abilities. Some of the most noticeable trades were: merchants, goldsmiths, diamond-cutters, and tailors. Once settled, their friends and relatives joined them and in the following years many additional families followed their example. From that point on the Greek-Melkite Catholic Church started to expand and prosper in Egypt.

They spread out to most of the large cities of Egypt and became known for their exceptional meticulousness in handling commercial projects. Some of them were entrusted with high positions like the management of the Port Authorities which stayed with the Melkites for about half a century.

They were known as the Damascene Traders, "El Touj jar El Shawam," because most or at least a large number of them came from Damascus-Syria, "El Sham". Some of the priests who came with the immigrants to Egypt are: from Damascus Father Fadl-Allah Fadil, Father Elias Faraoun, Father Ibrahim Faraoun, and Father Jacob Kassab, and from Aleppo Father John Constantine.

Since 1750, the Melkites living in Cairo and their clergy used the Franciscan church to meet and pray. The Greek Orthodox Patriarchs Samuel Kabasilas (1724), Cosma 11(1724-1737), and Cosma III (1737-1746), welcomed the Melkites and helped them. When Patriarch Matta (1746—1766) headed the Greek Orthodox Church, he incited the Mameluks, the rulers of Egypt, to arrest many of the Melkites. Those who where arrested had to pay an exorbitant amount of money — 225,000 gold franks - to gain their freedom.

Given that their practices and their traditions where closer to those of the Greek Orthodox Church than to the Latin Church, this was a real blow to the Melkites. Moreover, the priests who came with them were getting old and dying.

At the suggestion of the Franciscan Fathers, the Melkites asked their Patriarch Cyril VI Tanas, to send them some priests. Since he was residing at the monastery of The Holy Savior, he sent them Salvatorian Missionaries to serve them. The Melkite families took turn to care and house the missionaries until Patriarch Maximos III Mazloum stopped this practice, in 1837. It was called "Eldour" , meaning cycle or turn. The priest resided with a different family each day of the week. Since 1772, the Melkite Church in Egypt had its own hierarchy separately from the Franciscan Fathers covering Cairo, Damietta, Alexandria, and the other cities.

During the French campaign in Egypt (1798), France made use of the Salvatorian Melkite Priests, for their language and translation capabilities. Some of the outstanding names are:

  • Father Raphael (Antoine Zakhoura Rahbeh) was born, in Egypt, to a Syrian family. He studied in Egypt and finished his theological studies in Rome. He was the only person from the Middle East to become member of the French Educational Council in Egypt. He managed the instant translation in many of the official meetings. Then he became the lead-translator and translated the documents for the French scientists to produce the "Description of Egypt". He traveled to France after the campaign and taught at the Middle Eastern Languages Institute in Paris. He returned to Egypt and by his translating ability became the most significant link between the French Campaign and the builder of the modern Egypt, Mohamed All. He was one of the founders of the "Publisher of Boulak". The first book published was his translation of "The Prince," "El-Amir," and then his Italian-Arabic Dictionary.
  • Father Gabriel El-Tawil participated in the translation of the laws and the publications as well as the instant translation at the meetings of the Egyptian Council. He also traveled to France and taught with Father Raphael at the Middle Eastern Languages Institute in Paris.
  • Many more Melkites can be enumerated for their participation in the growth and development of modern Egypt. Names like Elias Fakhr from Damietta; Goubran Sakrouj; Aboud and Michael Nicholas Sabbagh; Elya Fath-Allah who was a translator and the administrator of the Arabic division of the French Campaign; and Elias Hanania Faraoun the personal translator to Napoleon Bonaparte and Jean-Baptiste Kleber.
  • In 1831, Ibrahim Pacha, the son of the Vice-King of Egypt Mohamed All, invaded Syria. Ibrahim's team included some prominent Melkites. Among them is Hanna Bahri, who by his closeness and friendship with Patriarch Maximos III Mazloom, helped to establish the spirit of freedom of religion.

The growth of the Melkite Church in Egypt produced some of the leaders of the Egyptian society in newspaper journalism, poetry, movies, and music:

  • Philip Takla (1849-1892) and Bishara Takla (1852-1901), the founders of "El-Ahram" the first and to this date a major newspaper.
  • George (Gorgy) Zedan (1861-1906) who founded "Dar El-Helal".
  • The poets Adel El-Ghadban (1892-1972) and Khalil Moutran.
  • The famous journalist Khalil Sabat.
  • The movie producers Fatouh Nashaty, Yousef Maalouf, and the famous Henry Barakat (1914-1977), who left an awesome mark on the movie industry.
  • We find in the movie industry, Yousef Shaheen, Simone Saleh, and the movie industry historian, Farid El-Mazawi (1913-1988), and the movie critic, Marie Ghadban.
  • In the music industry we find, Fouad El-Zahery (1916-1988), and Angele Ratl, teacher at the Conservatory.
  • In the financial field, the name like Habib El-Sakakiny (Pacha) will never be forgotten. An entire city within the city of Daher was named after him as well as "Hakr El-Sakakiny" in Sharabieh. Another unforgettable name is "Sednawi". Selim and Semaan Sednawi started with their first store in Cairo in 1896, to see it mushroom and booming to this date, unfortunately, under a different name.

People like Bahiya Karam, the first Egyptian to be the school inspector for the English language and Naoum Shabib (1918-1985) the engineer who designed the Tower of Cairo and "El-Ahram" building are a small testimony of what the Melkites are for Egypt.

The Melkite Egyptian Clergy especially the so-called "The Cairo School", which included His Beatitude Patriarch Emeritus Maximos V Hakim (born in Tanta, Egypt), the late Archbishop Joseph Tawil, Archbishop Elias Zoghby, I the late Archimandrite Orestes Karame, and Father Michel Geday, fought hard to recover the Melkite identity and oppose the rampant latinization process that started after the First Vatican Council in the 1870's. Moreover, their work became the background for the work done by the late Patriarch Maximos IV Sayegh during the Second Vatican Council.

The lack of immigration to Egypt, after the Suez war in 1956, redirected many Melkites to America, Australia, and Europe. This phenomenon coupled with the instability of the Middle East, as a whole, reduced the size of the Melkite Church in Egypt, Sudan, and Libya from approximately 35,000 in 1938 to about 9,000 in the last five years.

( Fr. Peter Boutros writes from Tampa, FL.)

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