12/13/2021, 12.26
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Léonard Melki and Thomas Saleh, martyrs of the Armenian genocide, will be beatified on June 4

by Fady Noun

The two Lebanese friars were killed "in hatred of the faith" in Turkey between 1915 and 1917. Fr. Léonard Melki suffered beatings and torture for a week before being executed. The celebration in Jal el-Dib will be preceded by a week of processions, Ways of the Cross, evangelical evenings and concerts.


Beirut (AsiaNews) - The Latin Church in Lebanon, the Capuchin friars and the Order of Franciscan Sisters of the Cross will celebrate the ceremony of beatification of Lebanese priests Léonard Melki and Thomas Salehon Saturday June 4 in the great convent of the Cross (Jal el-Dib - Metn) . The announcement was made by the Apostolic Vicar of the Latins, Msgr. César Essayan, during a press conference held at the Catholic Media and Information Center.

The service will be presided over by Card. Marcello Semeraro, prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, in the presence of the Eastern Patriarchs, as Msgr. Essayan himself pointed out. The celebration will be preceded by a week of religious ceremonies: processions, Stations of the Cross, evangelical evenings and concerts. In accordance with a decree issued by St. John Paul II, the beatifications will take place in the countries of origin to allow the greatest number of faithful of that same nation to participate in the functions and attend masses. 

The date of the beatification ceremony follows Pope Francis' recent decision to grant authorization to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints to promulgate decrees regarding the martyrdom of God's servants Léonard Melki and Thomas Saleh. Both were religious of the order of Capuchin Friars Minor who were killed "in hatred of the faith" in Turkey in 1915 and 1917, respectively. Recognition of their martyrdom opened the door to beatification, without the need for recognition of a further miracle. 

The two Capuchin missionaries originally from Baabdat (Metn, Mount Lebanon) were arrested, tortured and killed in Turkey during the genocide of 1915, as stated on the official page of the Capuchins in Italy. Father Léonard Melki (1881-1915) refused to deny the faith after hiding the Blessed Sacrament when the police arrived. He was beaten with cruelty for a week. His tormentors even pulled out the nails of his hands and feet. The priest, along with hundreds of other Christian prisoners in Mardin, was then deported to the desert and executed along the way. He was killed by firing squad on June 11, 1915 together with Bishop and Blessed Ignace Maloyan (1869-1915), killed after refusing on several occasions to embrace Islam, and like him 415 other men of the city of Mardin. Their bodies were then thrown into ravines and caves.

After having given hospitality to an Armenian priest during the genocide, Fr. Thomas Saleh (1879-1917) was arrested and sentenced to death, only to be deported in the middle of winter to Marash, together with other prisoners, under the escort of a platoon of soldiers. He died of exhaustion and illness along the way on January 18, 1917, repeating with courage, "I have full confidence in God, I am not afraid of death."

The beatification ceremony will be the third to be celebrated in Lebanon, after that of the Capuchin Blessed Jacques Haddad, founder of the order of Franciscan Sisters of the Cross and promoter of many ecclesiastical institutions on June 23, 2008. The beatification ceremony took place in Martyrs' Square in Beirut.

The Franciscan presence in Lebanon is an ancient one and stretches back to the time of St. Francis. The Friars Minor have represented a sort of bridge between Rome and the Maronite Church to maintain unity even in the most difficult moments. Today they are in Beirut, Harissa, Tripoli and are responsible for two parishes in the south of the country, in Tyre and Deir Mimas.

Hostility towards Christians

Starting from 1894 a hostility towards Christians was fomented resulting in repeated episodes of persecution in various parts of the Ottoman Empire, especially in the region of Mesopotamia with massacres organized or desired by the central government. With the outbreak of World War I, the persecution of the Church became more intense, systematic and fierce, revealing a plan for mass deportation and extermination, thus becoming the "first genocide of the twentieth century" as declared by St. John Paul II and the Supreme Patriarch of all Armenians Karekin II, on September 27, 2001. The massacres began on the night between 23 and 24 April 1915 in Constantinople, when the first people arrested among the Armenian elite were executed. During the "Medz Yeghern" [the great crime or great evil, as it is remembered] more than one and a half million Christians died (Armenians, Syrians, Chaldeans, Assyrians and Greeks). Many foreign bishops, priests, religious and missionaries, also met with death killed without any trial, including the two servants of God on two different dates and places, but under entirely similar circumstances.

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