Thursday, August 20, 2015

Rome declares Bp. Flavian-Michel Malké a martyr

(Christian Today) - Thousands of Syrian and Iraqi Christians who have fled the atrocities of Islamic State are expected to attend the beatification of a Syriac Catholic bishop later this month.

The celebration comes after Pope Francis authorised a decree declaring Bishop Flavien-Michel Malké to be a martyr. The beatification will take place in Lebanon exactly a century after Bishop Malké was killed in Turkey on 29 August 1915, victim to the Ottoman Empire's attempt to exterminate Christian minorities.

The beatification liturgy will be celebrated by Ignatius Youssef III Younan, Syriac Patriarch of Antioch, at the Our Lady of Deliverance convent.

Patriarch Younan said: "In these painful times experienced by Christians, especially the Syriac communities in Iraq and Syria, the news of the beatification of one of their martyrs, will surely bring encouragement and consolation to face the today's trials of appalling dimension.

"Blessed Martyr Michael, intercede for us, and protect especially the Christians in the Orient and all the world in these hard and painful days."

Bishop Malké was born in 1858 in Kalat'ül Mara, a village in what is now Turkey but was then part of the Ottoman Empire. He was martyred in Gazireh, Turkey. He originally joined a monastery of the Syrian Orthodox church but then converted to the Syriac Catholic church. Both churches use the same West Syrian rite.
He was ordained priest in Aleppo in 1883 as a member of the Fraternity of St Ephrem and ministered mainly near his family home.

Malké's church and home were sacked and burned in 1895 and his mother was among the many of his parishioners who were murdered during massacres in which as many as 300,000 Christians died, Catholic News Agency reported (see here).

He become a bishop in the 1890s, and helped to rebuild Christian villages. In 1913 he was appointed head of the Syriac Diocese of Gazireh.

A second round of persecution against Armenian, Assyrian and Greek Christians in the Ottoman Empire began in 1915 and led to the deaths of 1.5 million. Bishop Malké returned home to help defend his village and, when urged to flee, told friends: "Even my blood I will shed for my sheep."

He was arrested, refused to convert to Islam and was murdered. His diocese was then abolished.

The fate of the Armenians is close to the Pope's heart, especially given the present crisis facing Christianity in the Middle East. Earlier this year, Turkey's foreign ministry accused Pope Francis of prejudice and recalled Turkey's ambassador to the Vatican after he described the Armenian massacre as "genocide".

Father Rami Al Kabalan, of Bishop Malké's "cause", said he had "played a fundamental role in encouraging people to defend their faith in the difficulties of the time, during the persecutions of the Ottoman Empire." He even sold his church vestments to help the needy.

Father Al Kabalan said that Bishop Malké serves as a prophetic witness because "we Christians of the East are undergoing the same persecutions, even if in a different way." He added: "The image of this martyr gives us courage to defend our faith and to live our faith."


  1. With all due respects, the mention of "Latins" makes the post title unnecessary confusing. If the bishop has only been "beatified," then his cult is almost certainly restricted to the faithful of the Syriac Catholic church. I don't believe this decision affects any "Latins" at all. (The involvement of Rome in this matter reflects only that see's universal ministry, not her particular role as head of the Latin church.)

    1. I may change it in a moment. Though it is the very universal ministry that I'm rejecting. That they cannot make declarations (or any of the other sui iuris churches) like this without a papal head nod is lamentable and highlights an important difference in the development of the cult of saints between Catholics and Orthodox/Oriental Orthodox.

    2. Caesaro-Imperialism has always been an issue. The Western church didn't have a major issue with it until post-Trent centralization, the Greeks had it big time until the Byzantine Empire fell, and then the Russians...

      It must have been nice to be a Catholic in a place like England or Aragon in the middle ages when devotions to saints and apparitions was a local affair, the pope was a distant but respected figure, and liturgy was left to the local diocese rather than a Vatican beauracracy. It certainly would beat having to deal with the Emperor in Byzantium.

    3. There is a movement to return the beatification process back to the local Church, within the Catholic Communion. I believe it was started by Pope Benedict XVI. Is it perfect? No. It is a start? Yes. He will be beatified by the Patriarch of the Syrian Catholic Church.

      Holy New-Martyr Flavien Michel intercede for us.