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Bishop killed for refusing to convert to Islam to be beatified

Christians in Lebanon (CNS)

Bishop Melki, who was martyred during the Assyrian Genocide, will soon be ‘blessed’.

The bishop was killed in Gazarta during the sayfo – “putting to the sword” – of Syrians in 1915, after he refused to convert to Islam.

Earlier in August, Pope Francis approved Melki’s beatification after he determined that Melki was killed in hatred of the faith.

The bishop will be beatified in Lebanon on Saturday, August 29 – the centenary of his martyrdom.

Bishop Melki was born in 1858 and went on to be an Eastern Catholic prelate of the Brothers of Saint Ephrem, and later the Syrian Catholic eparch of Gazarta, where he was killed.

He lived in extreme poverty as a priest and sold his vestments to help the poor.

In the summer of 1915, Ottoman authorities arrested him along with the Chaldean bishop – both were killed for refusing to renounce their faith and convert to Islam.

Melki was tortured to death and decapitated.

On August 8th, Pope Francis confirmed his beatification saying he was killed in hatred.

“A blessed of our church has not been proclaimed for a long time,” said Syriac Catholic priest Nizar Semaan, “Bishop Melki will be the first of the martyrs of the Syrian Catholics of that Genocide to be raised to the honor of the altar.

“His beatification is a gift for all Christians of the East,” he added, “In these times of new trials.”

Fr Nizar said Melki’s “figure shows us the luminous faith with which he lived the terrible persecution one hundred years ago, and he can give hope and courage to all the baptized.”

In an interview with Vatican Radio, the Prefect of the Congregations for the Causes of Saints, Cardinal Angelo Amato, said that the soon-to-be Blessed Flavyānus Mikhayil Melkī is a model of holiness for our time.

Cardinal Amato said: “As it was one hundred years ago, at the time of the martyrdom of bishop Melkī, Christians are denied every liberty, they are forced to leave their homeland, or to convert or die.

“In fact death reigns supreme in the persecutors’ minds and hearts of stone, who cannot stand the Christian civilization of liberty, respect for others, fraternity justice, charity.”

The solemn liturgy is being held at the Patriarchal convent of Our Lady of Deliverance in Harissa, Lebanon, in the evening.

Syrian Catholic Patriarch Ignatius Youssef III will preside over the beatification while patriarchs and heads of Christian churches of the East from Lebanon, Syria and Iraq are expected to attend.

Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, will read the decree of beatification.