1873 – 1889
The sudden death of Monsignor Valerga on 2 December 1872 left an ecclesiastical vacuum in the Palestinian arena. The deceased patriarch occupied the post of Patriarch of Jerusalem for a quarter of a century. Valerga was the prominent representative of the Holy See in the East. He was the Apostolic Delegate for Syria and was the voice that was heeded and the opinion that was believed in the First Vatican Council on matters concerning the Eastern Churches and the policy of the Apostolic See in the Ottoman Sultanate.
France, the traditional protector of Catholicism in the East, was not in principle pleased with Valerga appointment to the post of the Patriarch of Jerusalem because he was a Sardinian. However, it reluctantly accepted him: “The position of Valerga was becoming more independent in the last years and he was doing business directly with Turkey. Therefore, the French Foreign Ministry paid special attention to the election of his successor. It preferred a Frenchman or at least someone loyal to France and respectful of the treaties that had been concluded. The French Foreign Minister instructed the French Ambassador to the Holy See to point out to the authorities in Rome, that the majority of Rome’s representatives in the Ottoman Sultanate were Italian. What France feared was that if relations between King Victor Emmanuel and the Holy See were normalized, French interests in the East would suffer.”
On 8 December 1872, only a few days after the death of the patriarch, the French Consul in Jerusalem, Crampon, sent a report to the French Foreign Minister criticizing the deceased patriarch: “The patriarch has adopted stands and initiatives that were unacceptable to us. He has negotiated with Turkey concerning certain interests without referring to us. He went too far in his dependence on his private power without taking into account that the cancellation of our protection of the Catholics in the East, which was spelled out in treaties, or any infringement or change on this protection by turning it into an ineffective and useless collective protection, would make the Latin interests in the East a ploy in the hands of the Turks, and in the long-run, a ploy in the hands of the Russians.” Therefore, the election of a successor to Valerga was a good opportunity for French diplomacy to regain what it lost in 1847 by the appointment of Valerga as patriarch.
The interests of French diplomacy were interlocked with the interests of Algeria’s Archbishop, Monsignor Lavigerie, founder of the White Fathers Congregation. Lavigerie shared with France its concern over the normalization of the relations of the Holy See with the Italian government, because such a development would lead to control by the Italian elements of the ecclesiastical events in the East. His ecclesiastical principles were based on the need for the adaptation of the Church to the eastern cultures and the resistance of latinization. For him, the return of dissident Christian groups to Catholicism could be done through their union with Rome, while keeping their oriental characteristics and liturgy, not by latinization. Proceeding from these political and religious principles, Monsignor Lavigerie suggested himself as patriarch of Jerusalem. He held the view that his oriental Church policy could be realized in the Latin Patriarchate in Jerusalem.
Rome did not welcome the nomination of Lavigerie to the post. The outlook of the Holy See on the Jerusalem Patriarchate was different from his ideas: “The Latin Patriarchate should remain independent from the national competition of states, and this neutrality can only be achieved by an Italian personality loyal to the Pope alone.” The Vatican decided that the aspiring French candidate couldn’t meet these conditions. Therefore, Lavigerie withdrew his nomination. “Thus Pope Pius IX refused the biased offer of the French bishop and appointed the Italian assistant of the deceased patriarch, Monsignor Bracco, as patriarch.”
However, French diplomacy did not despair from a last attempt to amend the Vatican decision. In a special report on the Patriarchate, dated 6 January 1873, Adam Sienkieviez, former French consul in Jerusalem, suggested that the Church administration be assigned to a council headed by the patriarch, that the privileges given to the French priests at Ste. Anne in Jerusalem be preserved, and that the Jesuit Fathers be allowed to work in Palestine. However, Monsignor Valerga prohibited this. He also refused to give the French presence, which is based in Ste. Anne, any special privileges. On the basis of this report, the then French foreign minister sent a letter to the French ambassador in Rome in light of which the ambassador would act concerning the issue of Valerga’s succession. The minister added the following remark in his own hand-writing: “Despite his good qualities, the patriarch has certainly not been a supporter of France, that the Latin ecclesiastical authorities in the East consisted of an Italian and Spanish majority, and that the French influence was declining. I believe that it is in the interest of the Holy See to keep the protection of Latins in the East in the hands of France, and the appointment of the new patriarch should be conducive to this goal.”
The election of Patriarch Vincenzo Bracco was a manifestation of the drastic failure of French diplomacy and the dreams of Lavigerie. The Holy See also appointed a papal delegate for Syria to succeed Valerga, the Franciscan Ludovico Piavi, an Italian who was unacceptable in French circles. The French reaction was to strengthen the presence of the French congregation of the White Fathers in Jerusalem to support the French influence against the Italian patriarch. Following this principle, the French government and the White Fathers would run the Greek Catholic Melchite seminary at Ste. Anne and would look after the presence of the Greek Catholic Melchites in Palestine.
Now that France had failed to contain the Patriarchate and to list it in its Eastern political program, the Vatican continued to support the patriarchal entity by electing Monsignor Bracco as patriarch, together with keeping the slogan of France’s protection of Catholicism without any containment or infringement on the independence of the Patriarchate and its direct attachment to Rome. The background of the new patriarch indicated that his election was not a matter of coincidence. Valerga prepared him well, made him close to him, and trained him a long time ago for this post so as he could continue the march, which began in 1847.
Vincenzo Bracco was born in Torrazza village in the Porto Maurizio region on 14 September 1835. He went to elementary school in his own village. Afterwards, he was “compelled to stop his schooling because his father was too poor to send him to one of the colleges of the kingdom for higher education. Thus Vincenzo worked in the field, in agriculture, from which his family and the inhabitants of his village made their living.” Finally, he managed in October 1854 to enter the Albenga Seminary where he studied theology. From his school, he “sent a letter to a friend at the Brignole Sale College in Genoa asking that he address the superiors of that school to permit him to enter their school as a student. The answer to his letter was positive. On 4 June 1855, he left the Albenga Seminary and on the second day, he entered the Genoa College.”
In 1860, Bracco joined the patriarchal clergy and was appointed a theology teacher at the seminary. In 1862, he became superior of the seminary. He was named assistant bishop in 1866: “Valerga at that time was in dire need of an assistant, but where could he find the man who would be compatible with him or harmonious with the will of God? Who can guide him to the knowledge of the man who is really worthy of this honorable rank? While he was meditating over his clergy, who were few in number and assessing the qualities of each of his priests in terms of a sound mind, his sight focused on the superior of his seminary, and he was relieved.”
After Bracco was ordained as a bishop, he kept his post as superior of the seminary. The following was written in his biography about his appointment as a patriarch: “the Holy Father, Pope Pius IX, appointed him patriarch of Jerusalem at the Cardinals consistory which met on 21 March 1873.” In his age, relations between the Patriarchate and the Custody of the Holy Land were excellent. The new patriarch followed in the footsteps of his predecessor. Monsignor Bracco not only preserved the heritage of his predecessor, but also implemented his ideas and plans. We can say: “Monsignor Valerga was still running the Patriarchate.” In the age of Monsignor Bracco, which continued until 1889, he established 11 missions in Palestine and Jordan and introduced to Palestine 12 religious congregations.
This chapter consists of three parts:
1- The Patriarchate’s parishes in Trans Jordan and Palestine.
2- Religious congregations in the era of Patriarch Vincenzo Bracco.
3- The Jerusalem Latin Patriarchate at the end of the nineteenth century and early twentieth century, the post- Bracco age.
1- The Patriarchate’s parishes in Trans Jordan and Palestine:
Monsignor Bracco established 11 missions, including four in Palestine and seven in Jordan. The Salt parish, which was established in 1866, was the springboard for opening new parishes in Jordan. Salt was the largest city in Trans Jordan. “He has in fact, labored enormously for the sake of the Salt mission because he knew the importance of consolidating the pillars of the said mission as the door and center for all countries across the Jordan River. He did not hesitate to fight lengthy battles tirelessly and spared no resources to ascertain the success of these battles. He even answered the missionaries who used to come to him asking for aid for this or that purpose by saying: ‘You should be patient. Salt is currently exhausting everything that I have.’” The Patriarchate has in fact, doubled its efforts in Jordan, which lacked a Catholic existence while Palestine was enjoying a sufficient number of convents and schools.
A- Ermemin Parish:
Ermemin residents of the al-Sayegh clan contacted the Patriarchate priests in the neighboring city of Salt. Thus Father Coderc visited the village in 1869 and Father Morétain visited it in 1870. Morétain described them in his memoirs as follows: “Ermemin is a small village situated at a distance of three-hours walk north of Salt. Its inhabitants are not rich, but they are generally well to do. Several years ago, the inhabitants of Ermemin asked to join the Catholic Church, to have a priest reside in their village, and to have a church built for them. The al-Sayegh clan invited me to celebrate a mass with them on Sunday.”
When Monsignor Valerga visited Jordan in 1872 coming from Damascus, two Sheikhs from Ermemin and Fuheis received him in Horan and asked him to send missionaries to their two villages. But he could not fulfill their request because there was not a sufficient number of priests. Nonetheless, Monsignor Bracco fulfilled the promise of his predecessor by delegating Father Gatti, the priest of Salt, to go to Ermemin on a regular basis. The missionaries faced enormous difficulties because the roads were rugged, disease was widespread, and the mentality of the villagers was primitive. Vellanis speaks about Ermemin in the following terms: “The town was very poor and dirty. The patriarch could not expand in spending on this mission. A priest intending to go there should live an austere and difficult life. The patriarch wrote to the reverend Father Giuseppe Gatti, priest of Salt, saying the following: ‘I am seeking a new priest whom to give this mission, because it is difficult for me to send there a priest who had already worked for the mission tirelessly.’” The Latin inhabitants of the village were about 150 people. Finally, Father Teobaldo Navoni settled in the village in 1877 after buying land and building a small house for the priest. However, Father Navoni did not stay long in the village because of the spread of malaria. Therefore, he was transferred to Fuheis and Father Felix (As’ad) Sodah was appointed as his successor in 1878. The arrival of Father Sodah in Ermemin was coupled with the spread of disease and the death of a number of residents of the village. Thus the villagers linked the arrival of the priest with the spread of disease as an ill omen for the village. Therefore, he was compelled to return to Salt once again. The Ermemin mission only became stable after a saddening incident in the village. In 1882, a father from Ermemin killed his daughter because she got married despite his opposition and fled to Madaba. The father of the young woman and the dignitaries of the al-Sayegh clan were imprisoned. The Turkish military tightened the noose around Ermemin. A massacre could have occurred had it not been for the intervention of Gatti to protect the village. Therefore, the al-Sayegh clan appreciated the backing of the Patriarchate in difficult times and the relations of friendship between the villagers and the Patriarchate grew.
B- Fuheis Parish:
Embracing the Catholic faith was not always prompted by ideological belief. The Church admits this fact: “People become really affiliated with the Catholic Church as time goes on and as they mix with the priests in the first and second generation.” In other words, the Patriarchate places its hopes on the younger generations of the children of those who embrace the Catholic faith. Consequently, the Patriarchate allowed whole clans or villages to embrace Catholicism while knowing in advance that the people concerned were not serious about joining. We can feel from the correspondence of the priests of the Patriarchate in Jordan at that time some kind of humanitarian commitment and sincere love for these abandoned Christians. The priests continued to urge the patriarch to work for rescuing the Christians from famine, poverty and ignorance.
The Fuheis population, which originally came from Salt, settled in the Fuheis area adjoining Salt and built their village there. In a letter to the patriarch on 5 March 1873, Father Gatti said that there were 70 Latins in Fuheis. He demanded the building of a school and the opening of a mission in the village. The small school was opened in 1874. The patriarch mentioned Fuheis in his report to Propaganda Fide in November 1874, by saying: “The population of Fuheis was 400 people, including 140 people who joined the Catholic Church.” The dignitaries of the clans of Fuheis had an audience with the patriarch and asked to join the Patriarchate. The patriarch’s condition was that they should make their request in writing and the dignitaries of the village should sign the request. So they complied. Father Navoni was appointed priest in the village. The parish prospered under him. “The inhabitants of Fuheis, old and young, forgot about their old differences and met together to attend Mass on Sunday.” The Hattar clan constituted the nucleus of the Latin Parish in Fuheis.
Under Father Navoni, the parish grew as the number of arrivals from Salt to settle in Fuheis increased and a small church and a convent for the priest were built. However, Father Navoni encountered problems with the women’s sector in the village. So he wrote to the patriarch on 1 November 1880 saying: “Women do not enter the church. When I arrived in the village, men rushed to welcome me. Women gathered together and uttered the traditional shrill, (Zagharid) or long-drawn and trilling sounds as a manifestation of joy to welcome me. When we entered the church, the women returned home, and men only followed me.” The school was also restricted to the males. Women integrated into the parish only six years later when the Rosary Sisters joined the mission. The sisters educated the women and opened a school for girls.
Fuheis lived in peace and harmony until 1886. Father Navoni managed to contain the differences and to attract the feuding heads of clans through his experience in these affairs. In 1885, Father Navoni was transferred to Hosn and was replaced by a young priest, Yacoub Awad, who could not keep the situation under control and became involved in the currents of clans differences. It seems that Father Yacoub took sides with one clan against another. Therefore, Father Gatti tried to mend the differences in the parish. So he wrote to the patriarch on 4 February 1886: “Please tell Father Yacoub to listen to my advice and trust me. I am afraid that a catastrophe might befall the parish soon and part of the faithful would dissent from the Church.” Father Yacoub was transferred from Fuheis in May 1886. However, the differences aggravated and some Catholic clans turned back to Orthodoxy once again. Patriarchal missions were in a state of constant motion. Any clannish or family difference produced dissent whereby some families split from Catholicism and joined another Church as some kind of clannish vengeance from the other side.
C- Karak Parish:
Karak is located in southern Jordan and was only under direct Ottoman rule for short periods of time. Its residents are Bedouins and urban dwellers, who did not acquiesce easily to Ottoman rule. The strongest leading clan in Karak is al-Majali, which freed Karak from the domination of the Bedouins who harassed farmers and residents. the al-Majali clan settled in Karak in the 17th Century. They came from Hebron. They are descendants of the Beni Taem or Tamem. In his writings about Karak, which he visited in the early 19th Century, Burckhardt said the following about Karak:
“Thirty or forty years ago Kerek (Karak) was in the hands of the Bedouin tribe called Beni Ammer, who were accustomed to encamp around the town and to torment the inhabitants with their extortions. It may be remarked generally of the Bedouins, that wherever they are the masters of the cultivators, the latter are soon reduced to beggary, by their unceasing demands. The uncle of the present Sheikh of Kerek, who was then head of the town, exasperated at their conduct, came to an understanding with the Arabs of Howeytat, and in junction with these, falling suddenly upon the Beni Ammer, completely defeated them in two encounters. The Ammer were obliged to take refuge in the Belka (Balqa), where they joined the Adouan, but were again driven from thence, and obliged to fly toward Jerusalem. For many years they led a miserable life, from not being sufficiently strong to secure to their cattle good pasturing places. About six years ago they determined to return to Kerek, whatever might be their fate; in their way around the southern extremity of the Dead Sea they lost two-thirds of their cattle by the attacks of their inveterate enemies, the Terabein. When, at last, they arrived in the neighborhood of Kerek, they threw themselves upon the mercy of the present Sheikh of the town, Youssef Medjaby (al-Majali), who granted them the permission to remain in his district, provided they would obey his commands. They were now reduced, from upwards of one thousand tents, to about two hundred, and they may at present be considered as the advanced guard of the Sheikh of Kerek, who employs them against his own enemies, and makes them encamp wherever he thinks proper. The inhabitants of Kerek have thus become formidable to all the neighboring Arabs; they are complete masters of the district of Kerek, and have great influence over the affairs of the Belka.”
Among al-Majali Sheikhs who spoke on behalf of the Karak clans in the nineteenth century and played a prominent role in Karak’s political history was Sheikh Abdelqader al-Majali, who inflicted defeat on Ibrahim Pasha in the Ghor of Karak. At his death in 1845, his son Mohammad, as the indisputable leader of Karak, succeeded Abdelqader until the year 1885. The Christians of Karak fought under his leadership the Bedouin tribes that were hostile to him. Mohammad al-Majali was succeeded in 1885 by his son Saleh and then Khalil. The name of Sheikh Mohammad al-Majali was mentioned in the correspondences of the priests of the Patriarchate and in the documents that spoke about the establishment of the mission. In the absence of government authority in the country, the Patriarchate and its missions had to do business with him.
Karak’s civil history can be summed up as a series of raids among clans. Christian clans were involved in these conflicts and this made them live in a state of semi permanent instability. Meanwhile, the clannish alliances protected the entity of the Christian group, which was few in number.
“Kerek is inhabited by about four hundred Turkish (Muslim), and one hundred and fifty Christian families; the former can furnish upwards of eight hundred firelocks, the latter about two hundred and fifty. The Turks (Muslims) are composed of settlers from all parts of southern Syria, but principally from the mountains about Hebron and Nablous. The Christians are, for the greater part, descendants of refugees from Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Beit Djade (Beit Jala); they are free from all exactions, and enjoy the same rights with the Turks (Muslim).”
The Christians in Karak consisted of the following 10 clans: Haddadin, Ouzaizat, Hijazine, Akasheh, Karadsheh, Zreqat, Mdanat, Bqa’en, Halassa, and Sunna’. According to clannish traditions, these clans belonged to diversified origins. For example, the Haddadin and Ouzaizat clans belonged to the Ghassanide tribes, Akasheh and Hijazine came from Hijaz, Karadsheh came from Mount Druze, and Zreqat and Sunna’ came from Syria.
Despite the wars and raids, the Christian clans enjoyed a degree of security and stability in the midst of Muslim clans for several reasons: Karak was too distant from the Ottoman influence to be injected with prejudice against the Christian groups. The clannish life protected the Christians through the custom of Ban’ama and Khawa. Karak attracted the Christian clans from the adjoining area. The Christians of Karak were known for their courage, valiance and skill in the use of arms, according to Burckhardt:
“The Christians of Kerek are renowned for their courage, and more specially so, since an action which lately took place between them and the Rowalla, a tribe from Aeneze; a party of the later on a Sunday, when the men were absent, robbed the Christian encampment, which was at about an hour from the town, of all its cattle. On the first alarm given by the women, twenty-seven young men immediately pursued the enemy, whom they overtook at a short distance, and had the courage to attack, though upwards of four hundred men mounted on camels, and many of them armed with firelocks. After a battle of two hours the Rowalla gave way, with the loss of forty-three killed, a great many wounded, and one hundred and twenty camels, together with the whole booty which they had carried off. The Christians had only four men killed. To account for the success of this heroic enterprise, I must mention that the people of Kerek are excellent marksmen; there is not a boy among them who does not know how to use a firelocks by the time he is ten years of age.”
It is important to point out that Karak is an old episcopal see since the Byzantine Age. In the nineteenth century, its titular bishop resided in Jerusalem and a Greek priest in Karak represented him. Complete ignorance and religious indifference were prevalent among the Christians of the south. Burckhardt described the situation as follows:
“The domestic manners of the Christians of Kerek are the same as those of the Turks (Muslim); their laws are also the same, excepting those relating to marriage; and in cases of litigation, even amongst themselves, they repair to the tribunal of the Kadhy, or judge of the town, instead of submitting their differences to their own Sheikhs. The Kadhy is elected by the Sheikhs. With respect to their religious duties, they observe them much less than any other Greeks in Syria; few of them frequent the church, alleging, not without reason, that it is of no use to them, because they do not understand one word of the Greek forms of prayer. Neither are they rigid observers of Lent, which is natural enough, as they would be obliged to live almost entirely on dry bread, were they abstain wholly from animal food. Though so intimately united with the Turks (Muslims) both by common interests and manners, as to be considered the same tribe, yet there exists much jealousy among the adherents of the two religions, which is further increased by the Sheikh’s predilection for the Christians. The Turks (Muslims) seeing that the latter prosper, have devised a curious method of participating in the favors which Providence may bestow on the Christians on account of their religion: many of them baptize their male children in the church of St. George, and take Christian godfathers for their sons. There is neither Mollah (Muslim clergy) nor fanatic Kadhy to prevent this practice, and the Greek priest, who is handsomely paid for baptizing, reconciles his conscientious scruples by the hope that the boy so baptized may perhaps die as Christian; added to this, he does not gave the child entire baptism, but dips the hands and feet only in the water, while the Christian child receives total immersion, and this pious fraud sets all his doubts at rest as to the legality of the act. The priests pretend nevertheless that such is efficacy of the baptism that these baptized Turks (Muslims) have never been known to die otherwise than by old age.”
The Christians of Karak lived free from the complications of the religious situation in Palestine and its Holy Places, patriarchates and congregations. Circumstances have led these forgotten Christians in the desert to the Latin Patriarchate, which was founded for people like them, not to be a party in the conflicts pertaining to the Holy Places and the traditional Christian sites in Palestine. Contact was made with the Patriarchate through the Beit Jala and Salt missions. Some Karak residents did commercial business with residents of Hebron and Jerusalem through the southern Dead Sea road and contacted Father Morétain in Beit Jala. They were impressed with the Patriarchate’s achievements in Palestine. Morétain mentions them by saying: “I came to know some Christians from Karak a long time ago. They came to Beit Jala when I was the parish priest there and while the seminary and the church were being built. They asked that the Patriarchate send a priest to them and they requested me to raise the question with the patriarch.” The exemplary personality of Valerga made Mohammad al-Majali also seek his friendship: “The residents of Karak carried with them a message from al-Majali, leader of the Muslims in Karak, appealing to the patriarch to fulfill the demand of the Christians and to send a priest to them.” The correspondences were made in 1856. The then Patriarch Valerga was apprehensive to fulfill their demands because of the few priests available and because of the distance between Karak and Jerusalem.
In 1870, there was a famine in southern Jordan and some 1,500 to 2,000 persons migrated from the south to Balqa to flee the famine. Morétain narrates the story of Sleiman Halassa, who migrated from the south and died in Fuheis. Father Morétain was called to his bedside while he was dying, gave him the sacraments, and performed the religious rites of his funeral.
The contacts between the priests and the clans of the south left a favorable impression and paved the way for the opening of the Latin Mission in Karak: “Father Morétain’s love and dedication paved the way and introduced the Karak Christians to the Catholic priest. However, the establishment of the mission was the achievement of his successor in Salt, Father Giuseppe Gatti, who served in Jordan for 15 years. After the establishment of the missions of Fuheis and Ermemin, the residents of Karak insisted that he send them a Latin priest.” Youssef Ouzaizat explains the direct reason:
“The Ouzaizat clan wanted to have a priest from their clan. Therefore, a few of its men went to the Orthodox Patriarch and requested him to ordain Saleh Sawalha as a priest for them. Archimandrite Aframios, who is of the Halassa was a parish priest (superior of the Convent of Kerak) at that time. He told the patriarch that there was no need to ordain another priest for Karak because the Halassa priest was enough. But the Ouzaizat men said that they would not pray behind a priest from the Halassa clan but wanted a priest of their own clan. When the Orthodox Patriarch did not meet their request after many attempts, they went to the Latin Patriarch Vincenzo Bracco, the second Latin Patriarch in Jerusalem, and asked him to send a priest to Karak with them. So he sent with them Abouna Eskandar after they pledged to honor their promise not to go back to Orthodoxy.”
It was said that the Ouzaizat clan offered Saleh Sawalha to be ordained a priest at the Orthodox Patriarchate. When the Patriarchate procrastinated in his ordination for several months, the Ouzaizat men stormed the Patriarchate, took with them Saleh Sawalha and headed to meet with Patriarch Bracco. The truth is that the patriarch did not send with them Abouna Eskandar, but promised them to do so and gave them a letter to Father Gatti in Salt requesting him to make an exploratory tour which was made in October 1875. On 2 November, a delegation of the Ouzaizat clan arrived in Salt and requested Father Gatti once again to go with them to Jerusalem to meet the Patriarch, but he excused himself, and sent with them one of his assistant priests together with a report on his tour in Karak. The report highly recommended the Ouzaizat delegation and encouraged the patriarch to open a mission in Karak. A few days later, the Karak delegation returned from Jerusalem. Father Gatti understood that the patriarch received the delegation warmly and acted according to the letter of recommendation included in the report. The delegation conveyed to Father Gatti the news of his appointment in Karak and along with them came the new priest of Salt, Alessandro Macagno (Abouna Eskandar). Father Gatti was shocked at the news of his appointment in Karak because he could not abandon his parish at such a difficult time. So he wrote to the patriarch on 5 November 1875 suggesting an amendment to the new appointments. The patriarch agreed, kept him in Salt and appointed Father Alessandro Macagno in Karak, provided that Father Gatti accompanied his new colleague until he settles in his parish.
Gatti and Macagno left Salt after Christmas in 1875. Macagno, who was known for 30 years in Karak by the name of Abouna Eskandar, wrote his first report to the patriarch on 18 January 1876 about their reception in Karak. The report said: “As we arrived, fighting broke out between the Latins and the Orthodox in which stones were flying, swords and daggers were brandished and hands were interlocked. One of our men was wounded in his back. The Orthodox feared reprisal. So they expressed readiness for reconciliation (Atwa) and the fighting was over.” The reason for the quarrel was that the Ouzaizat clan challenged the other clans by inviting the Latin priest to Karak. Several meetings were held between the missionaries and Mohammad al-Majali to guarantee the safety of the priests of the Patriarchate and to protect the new mission. When Father Gatti returned to Salt on 20 January 1876, Abouna Eskandar gave him a letter to the Patriarchate requesting an assistant as the new parish is spread out between the city and the Badia (desert). So the patriarch sent him Father Paolo Bandoli, who was known in Karak as Abouna Boulos. He describes his new parish in the following terms:
“On 23 March 1876, I arrived in Karak and settled among the nomad Arabs. On 25 March, I opened my school, which consisted of 15 boys and 9 girls. The total number of Latins was 150 people. I could not find among these people one single person who could make me happy by knowing how to draw the sign of Cross. However, all of them were eager to have access to knowledge and to learn the prayers. I set up my tent at the foot of Shihan Mountain. Some 2,000 tents were surrounding me.” Abouna Eskandar settled in Karak and Abouna Boulos settled in the Badia at the foot of Shihan Mountain, which overlook the Wadi al-Moujeb (Arnon Valley), where the Christian clans built their tents. “The news of the new mission reached the patriarch in Jerusalem. So he was very happy when they told him that the residents of the Badia recite the Christian prayers, and the rosary in the fields under the tents while the priest moves from one tent to another and from one group to another to urge them to pray and to intensify the enthusiasm of their worship.” The home of the priest in Karak was not better than the tents of the Badia: “The priest who went first lived at the outset in a badly built house with its walls from stone and mud and roof from thick timber and old canes with earth in between. The priest himself told us that the roof of the house couldn’t protect you during the winter season. In the house, there were rats, which found in the canes and the soil the most convenient comfortable residence. The rats attracted the snakes. You can also see scorpions walking in the middle of the house and I have often found these scorpions on my bed. All the furniture I kept at the house was made of two boxes and a bed, which never had linens. My church was a small mobile altar which I set up here and there as deemed necessary. The total population of the Karak Muslims and Christians was 7,000 people.”
There is no doubt that the formation of new mentalities and the development of the spirit of the truthful religion was among the most difficult matters for the priests of the Patriarchate. It takes years and perhaps generations to reach satisfactory results. The difficulties came face-to-face for Abouna Eskandar. The self-interest outlook was prevalent in the minds of the people: “The Karak Christians view the Orthodox and Latin Patriarchates as two endless treasures. A very few of them join any of the two out of love for God. The only thing they seek is aid and protection from the two patriarchates.” Some clans requested to join the Catholic Church provided that the Patriarchate open a school for each clan, that a member of the clan is appointed as the teacher of the school, and that financial aid is also granted by the Patriarchate. The patriarch’s reply to Father Macagno was firm and categorical:
“I will accept the families willing to join the Catholic Church but without any conditions attached. The Catholic Church welcomes everyone and it is the party that dictates its terms and imposes its doctrine and system. The rule in our missions is that it is the patriarch who decides and who appoints the schoolteachers and he does not receive his instructions from the people. You say that some members of your parish could return to Orthodoxy. So let it be. If you deem it necessary, leave the place and come back to Jerusalem. Finally, tell Father Boulos to be aware of the greed of these people, whether Christians or Muslims. He should receive them properly and address them with kind words. He should offer them coffee according to the eastern habits. But he should not give them any money.”
The Orthodox clans, which were loyal to the Orthodox Patriarchate, resisted Abouna Eskandar. The resistance was headed by Khalil Sonna’ and after him, his son Jeries. Khalil Sonna’ obstructed the building of the church and the convent for several years.
Coordination between the Patriarchate and al-Majali underwent difficult and tough conditions at the outset. One of the letters sent by Patriarch Bracco to the Priest of Karak, Macagno, said: “You should remind Mohammad al-Majali that it was he who appealed to us to open the Karak mission at a time when we had no intention to open it. You should impress on him that our presence in Karak is a courtesy on our part and that it is in his, not our interest.”
Fathers Eskandar and Boulos spend a hard time in Karak because of the harassment and the many clannish incursions and skirmishes. Drought fell in the winter of 1877 leaving behind a famine and strong need. In late 1879, a calamity fell on the young mission, and this calamity was a prominent reason for the establishment of the city and new mission of Madaba.
Several historians have written about the painful events of 1879. The best was perhaps Youssef Ouzaizat, who read the writings of Médebielle and Jaussen and edited his story from the memory of the old Ouzaizat men. He said the following: “On 6 November 1879, while some women of the Ouzaizat clan were bringing water from a well near Karak, a person called Mahmoud al-Saraira abducted Nejmeh, daughter of Salem al-Twal, who was killed during the al-Tafileh raid. Nejmeh was the wife of Jeries, son of Youssef al-Twal. The abductor fled with the woman.” The reaction of the Ouzaizat clan was violent. The al-Majali clan stood on their side: “On the second day, there was news to the effect that the man and woman were in a village at a distance of two hours from Karak. However, the villagers refused to hand over the two criminals. Al-Majali horsemen headed to the village threatening to kill its inhabitants unless they hand over the woman. Al-Majali and Ouzaizat headed to Kathrabah and al-Majali disclosed their firm determination to destroy the village and to kill its inhabitants unless the villagers hand over the woman. The chieftains of the village obliged. However, the woman was not handed over to her brother who would have killed her, but was handed over to Mohammad al-Majali”
Abouna Boulos took Nejmeh al-Twal to Jerusalem and then to Nablus. Al-Saraira clan offered reconciliation to her brother, Ibrahim al-Twal, through al-Majali. But he refused their generous offer and answered: “I want no gold but blood.” Ibrahim pursued his sister to Palestine and worked as a gardener to a family so as to conceal his purpose and identity. “It was said that he went to Nablus and killed her, but other things were also said.”
These events led to the evacuation of the Ouzaizat clan to Madaba. “Negotiations reached a deadlock and the Ouzaizat demanded that al-Saraira evacuate Karak, as is the custom which says ‘If you do not stay away from me, I will stay away from you.’ However al-Saraira refused to evacuate. At this point, the Ouzaizat decided to evacuate Karak as a necessary measure for whitewashing their dishonor.”
Father Macagno however, narrates a contrary story. He says: “The Christians of Karak were living in danger and they became vulnerable to a general massacre. Those who were hostile to al-Majali were increasing. Even Mohammad al-Majali and the Christians feared for their own lives.” According to Father Macagno’s correspondence with the patriarch, the al-Saraira clan evacuated to al-Hassa. The Ouzaizat and al-Majali clans pursued them, killed their cattle, burned their household belongings and killed some of them. The patriarch was following up the developments. So he started looking for a safe place to which to transport these Christians. He wrote the following to the Karak priest in this connection: “We will try to get from the governor of Nablus land in Balqa where our parish followers could settle, particularly so that they would not stay at your end.”
The Ouzaizat clan and the remaining Christians were enthusiastic about the idea of emigration. Abouna Boulos went with some of the Ouzaizat elders to Salt and looked for uninhabited areas for his parish. In mid-January 1880, Father Eskandar explained the views of the Christians on the idea of migration and wrote the following to the patriarch: “After the incidents of November, all the Christians sought to evacuate. However, that feeling soon disappeared. I was informed now that they were divided, particularly the traders. Trade makes the idea of departure repugnant to them after they made enormous profits by selling their goods at high prices. However, most of the Ouzaizat wanted to depart. Some of them were insisting that they wanted to go immediately to Salt where Abouna Boulos was waiting for them to see the land on which they will settle. As for the remaining Latins other than the Ouzaizat, I think that it is difficult for them to leave their own clans and depart from Karak.”
In Balqa, Abouna Boulos and the Ouzaizat elders chose the Kherbet Madaba, which was deserted (kherbet), but building stones were available. In the site, there were many caves, which were fit for accommodation. Around these caves, there was fertile land. In February 1880, the Ouzaizat left the slopes of Shihan Mountain and settled in Dheban. They headed to Madaba to plough the land and to grow their summer crops while they kept their tents in Dheban. To ensure that they would pass safely in the Wadi al-Moujeb and the villages of Benu Hamida, they sought the protection -tanib- of Abu Rabi’a, the Sheikh of Hamaida, until they settled in Madaba.
The Ottoman authorities granted the land of Madaba to the Kerak migrants as land that was not exploited before. In the summer of 1880, many of the migrants returned to Karak to harvest their crops because they planted only summer crops in Madaba. Abouna Eskandar arrived in Madaba from Karak along with the clans of Karadsheh and Ma’ai’a, bringing the number of the migrants from Karak to 800 persons. The incoming families were given accommodation in caves. The big cave was allocated for worship purposes and a church was established in it.
In the meantime, the Patriarchate continued to follow up the question of the migration of the clans to Madaba with the Ottoman authorities. The patriarch wrote to Medhat Pasha, the governor of Damascus, urging him to grant the Madaba lands to the Karak migrants. On 29 March, Damascus Vilayet issued its instructions to the governor of Nablus. The instructions hinted at the migration of the Ouzaizat to the district of Salt. The issue of Madaba was finally settled on the administrative level. On 28 July, Medhat Pasha signed the order and sent it to the governor of Nablus. On 24 August, the order was sent to the administrative Board of Salt. “In June 1881, it was harvest time, there were no clans left in Dheban. All the clans of Ouzaizat, Karadsheh and Ma’ai’a have finally settled in Madaba and the adjoining lands were distributed to the clans.”
The migration of the Ouzaizat clan harmed their allies, the al-Majali clan, because the latter lost its best fighters. Mohammad al-Majali tried to prevent the flow of migrants to Madaba and to prompt the migrants to return to Karak, but to no avail: “the migration is harmful to us, Sheikh Mohammad al-Majali said, because we are losing our best warriors and this weakens our strength and keeps behind our enemies for us. Therefore, we should try to stop them. He went to Madaba accompanied by some of his horsemen. He tried to convince Sheikh Saleh Sawalha to return to Karak by using sweet talk such as the following: ‘We will declare permanent peace in our land. We will expel the al-Saraira, your enemies, and treat you with respect.’ Sheikh Saleh, an intelligent and honest man, did not believe these promises and simply told him in his Bedouin accent: ‘We do not want to live in your midst or drink your water.’ Thus, al-Majali returned to Karak in disappointment.”
The Karak Christians settled in Madaba and built a new town, which was in ruins (kherbet) before them. Abouna Eskandar moved with them to support their spiritual affairs. These things were made possible by the courage of the early pioneers of Ouzaizat, namely, “Saleh Khalil Sawalha, who was the Sheikh of the clan, Marar al-Alamat, Khalaf al-Alamat, Salman Issa al-Sawalha, and Mas’ad Youssef al-Twal. Yacoub Shweihat succeeded Saleh Sawalha as the sheikh of the clan after the death of the latter. Yacoub Shweihat had a very strong personality. He was a man of dignified bearing who commanded respect. He was daring in his speech and he did not fear anyone. Therefore, he was respected, appreciated and loved by all. In all government and clannish circles, it used to be said: Madaba is Yacoub, or Yacoub is Madaba.”
In 1883, Abouna Eskandar returned to Karak after staying for three years in Madaba. He said in a report submitted to the patriarch on 6 May 1883 that there were 144 Latins in Karak. There were others in the Badia. The work of Abouna Eskandar was not restricted to Karak but reached to the clans residing in Karak and the Badia such as the Akasheh and the Hijazine clans. After the emigration of the Ouzaizat to Madaba, it became possible for the priest to serve the other clans, all the more so because the Ouzaizat men took the priest as one who belonged to their own clan only and were not at ease to see other clans entering Catholicism. Abouna Eskandar faced a great deal of harassment from the same sources mentioned above. This put the missionary work in a constant state of retreat. The only thing Abouna Eskandar could do was to keep the remaining few members of his parish.
In 1888, Abouna Eskandar suffered from rheumatism and the patriarch advised him to travel to Mababa for a few weeks of rest. However, his stay in Madaba lasted six years. He returned to Karak after the Turks consolidated their rule. On his return to Karak on 8 March 1894, the then Patriarch Ludvico Piavi appointed Jerusalemite Father Boutros Farran as his assistant and then Father Anton Abedrabbo of Beit Jala. The latter was the main helper of Abouna Eskandar, who became too old. This prompted Father Abedrabbo to travel to Nablus and then to Damascus to have an audience with Emperor Wilhelm II, who passed through Damascus in 1898. Abedrabbo asked the emperor to mediate on his behalf for obtaining an Ottoman Firman to complete the work in the convent and the church of Kerak, which began in 1897 under the supervision of the Patriarchate’s architect and secretary, Father Guillelmo Barberis.
Father Anton secured an official permit in 1898 to hold prayers, and the Latin denomination in Karak was recognized. Part of the priest’s house was used as a church until 1927. The church was expanded in 1937. As for the boys’ school, Father Anton secured an official permit to open it in 1900 and the girls’ school in 1902. The girls’ school prospered when the Rosary sisters joined the mission in 1904. Father Macagno worked for the settlement of the Akasheh and Hijazine clans in kherbet al-Smakia. So Father Abedrabbo obtained kherbet al-Smakia from the al-Majali, and in 1900 he distributed the land of the kherbet to the members of the two clans, which finally settled there in 1909. A mission was opened in the village of Ader in 1928. Over a period of one quarter of a century, the early Patriarchate priests established the Catholic Church in southern Jordan. In 1902, Father Anton was transferred to Salt. Abouna Eskandar died on 15 December 1905 at the age of 64 and was buried in the Karak convent.
D- Madaba Parish:
In June 1881, the immigrants from Karak settled in Madaba. They lived in its caves and set up their tents among its historic ruins. The town was divided among the clans of Madaba. The Ouzaizat clan settled to the south and east of the Madaba historic castle, the Karadsheh clan settled southwest, and the Sonna’ and Ma’ai’a settled in the north. The central part of Madaba was allocated for building the convent on a small hill on which the old Madaba castle is located. Numerous problems emerged in the new community because of the fanaticism that existed among the clans of Madaba themselves and among those of the adjoining clans who viewed the Madaba area as part of their sphere of influence and saw the new pioneers as invaders and competitors over the pasture areas. Therefore, it was often necessary to use arms. “When they settled in Madaba, the Ouzaizat accounted for 62 arms-carrying men, the Karadsheh 40, and the Ma’ai’a 45.” The popular verbal tales that are narrated by the people of Madaba and the memoirs and correspondence of the priests do not give the impression that there were times of peace and stability in Madaba. Certain years were known for special names such as fighting between the people of Madaba and the adjoining clans, or a clannish reconciliation, or a Turkish military intervention to settle a deeply rooted difference or to impose a tax. So year 1886 was called as Sanat (the year of) Alsarhani, 1890 as Sanat Dhabhet Alazidi and 1892 as Sanat Almkheti.”
The residents gradually owned the land surrounding Madaba with the help of the Patriarchate. The land surrounding kherbet Madaba from all sides was known as the Almoghor, Alheno, Jaloul, and Altaem. “The mission gained ownership of the land around Madaba before it was granted to them by the Ottoman authorities. The priests in turn leased the land to their parishioners in return for one fifth of the produce.” The parish priest then stopped sharing with the residents the produce of their land, and the land was distributed to the families as private property.
The year of 1893 and the years that followed were a period of prosperity and relative stability in the region. The Turks made Madaba a district. “In the same year, the Madaba district was known as al-Thamad district, and Mohamad Afandi Hakeem from Latakia was appointed as governor of the district. The Hamaida, Salayta, and Ka’abneh clans were joined to the district. Madaba enjoyed a period of peace. There were no incursions, no raids, and no highwaymen. The area prospered and the cattle increased. The Ouzaizat had 16,000 head of cattle, the Karadsheh 8,000 heads, and the Ma’ai’a 4,000 head. Cattle herders took their cattle for water and grass a distance of seven or eight hours in to the Bani Sakhr and Bani Hamida land with no one intruding on them.”
As for the missionaries of the Patriarchate who served in Madaba in this period, they were four priests. Father Paolo Bandoli (Abouna Boulos) (1881-1885) began his priestly career in Salt and was then appointed assistant to Father Eskandar Macagno in Karak. He departed with the Ouzaizat to Madaba. Father Paolo made great efforts to reconcile the clans and to distribute the land. He learned the habits and customs of the Bedouin and resolved the problems of his faithful according to their approach and mentality. Father Bernardino Merlo (1904-1977) narrates this incident about him: When Father Paolo was in Salt for a certain business, Sheikh Sattam al-Fayez came to the cave where Father Paolo was residing in order to threaten him. When he did not find Father Paolo, he became angry and destroyed the narghila or hubble-bubble of the priest. He cut off its pipe, saying: ‘this is how I will do to you if you do not leave Madaba, Abouna Boulos.’ The news reached the priest in Salt. So the Qa’immaqam [Governor of a district] gave him 100 soldiers who headed to Madaba with him. On the way to Madaba, the priest contacted the clans hostile to Sattam al-Fayez and mobilized their men with him. The priest had about 300 horsemen. He arrived in the Kherbet Umm Amad while the al-Fayez clan was not prepared for fighting. Sheikh Sattam fled to the Badia and the attackers seized whatever booty they could carry back with them. But they did not kill anyone. One of the chieftains of the clans advised Sattam that the war booty would not be returned unless he apologized to Abouna Boulos. Sattam sent the priest as a gift a colt and two ostriches. The patriarch feared the consequences of the bedouin character of his missionnary and his inclination for fighting. So he transferred him in 1885 from Madaba despite the protests made by the Latins and the regrets of the Orthodox and the bedouin in the Badia.
Father Hanna Sarena (1885-1886) was from Nazareth. He served the Madaba parish for nine months, after which he was transferred to another parish.
Father Zephyrin Biever (Abouna Da’oud) (1886-1891) had a very strong personality. He led the Madaba parish through his wisdom and moderation. He worked with Father Ratisbonne before joining the Patriarchate in 1886. Father Biever was from Luxembourg. He was born there in 1849. He opened a clinic in Madaba and built a small convent in 1887. The convent consisted of two floors and six rooms. He encouraged the residents of Madaba to build houses and to leave the caves they had been living in when they migrated from Karak.
Father Giuseppe Manfredi (1891-1904) (Abouna Youssef) was born in Piedmont region in 1863. “He was the fourth priest to serve in Madaba after the first three priests: the Bedouin Abouna Boulos, the fragile Abouna Hanna Sarena, and the strongman Abouna Da’oud. A great priest came to Madaba. He was Father Manfredi, the man with perfect qualities, which Madaba needed. He was man of God, intelligent, courageous, cautious, cultured and an archeologist. He followed up Father Biever’s constructional plan. He built a church and brought in the Rosary Sisters to work in the mission.” Father Manfredi’s services in Madaba are unforgettable because he revealed to the world its old treasures of mosaics. “Although archeologists did not study the old city of Madaba in a systematic way, God has given the new Madaba a man who protected the glory of the past from total destruction without falling victim to the ambitions of the new construction. God has indeed given Madaba a man who was a forerunner in unveiling the historic phases of Madaba.”
In 1894, Manfredi opened a temporary church in the house which Father Biever had started to build. He completed the building of the house in 1893 in anticipation of the firman to build an official church. The Rosary sisters joined the parish in 1896. The Patriarchate appointed Father Louis Salem (1867-1943) as his assistant. He managed to travel twice to Italy to deliver lectures on the old history of Madaba. He also collected charitable contributions to build the church, the firman for which he obtained in 1903, and the church was inaugurated in 1913.
Father Manfredi died of typhus. In a letter to the patriarch on 23 November 1902, Father Manfredi wrote the following: “Today the yellow air is approaching. Let God heed my request of offering my life for the salvation of his people from such blows. I accept death for the sake of Madaba.” “One year after the priest stayed in bed sick with typhus, the Madaba hero died at 1 a.m. on 7 January 1904 as a victim of duty at the age of 39.” Father Manfredi was buried in the church, which he had started to build. “In the darkness and silence of this graveyard, we still see the most beautiful abbreviation of the history of Madaba since the distant days of Moab until the dawn of the Twentieth Century.”
E- The parishes of northern Jordan: Hosn, Anjara, and Ajloun:
In 1871, Father Morétain made a tour in northern Jordan and made contacts with the Christians. In 1875, some Christians in Hosn expressed their desire to join the Catholic Church. Father Gatti visited them in 1876. However, Patriarch Bracco was not enthusiastic about accepting them, because the limited number of priests did not allow any expansion. He also knew the desire of the Holy See that the converts to Catholicism may keep their oriental rites. So he sent them to the Greek Catholic Patriarch, Gregorios II Youssef Sayour. But the Christians of Hosn did not heed his advice and urged the Latin Patriarchate to open a mission for them in Hosn. The mission was opened in 1885. Giuseppe Vellanis describes the contact by the people of Hosn with the Patriarchate in the following words:
“All the Christians were under the authority of the schismatic Jerusalem Greek Orthodox Patriarch. Many of these Christians heard about the great bounty which the Latin Patriarch brought to Trans Jordan. In Salt, Fuheis, Madaba, and Karak, the missions became useful and beneficial ones serving the interests of many people who were happily relying on them. On the strength of this news, a Sheikh from Hosn headed to meet the Latin Patriarch to ask for a priest who could guide them to the way of truth. This wise sheikh rallied other strong and influential clans. He stated that he was determined to embrace Catholicism along with all his family and friends. They kept insisting, writing petitions and sending emissaries for a long time with such peculiar patience and persistence that it made Patriarch Bracco hardly incapable of resisting compliance with their request. He offered them first and second to join the Greek Catholics. But they refused and answered him saying: “we would rather remain dissidents than join this denomination. We should be either Latin or schismatic.”
The patriarch appointed Father Teobaldo Navoni to Hosn. The patriarch says in his reports that there were 300 Latins from 58 families in Hosn. Prayers were held in the house of the priest because there was no church. The same house was used as a school on the weekdays. There were 60 boys and 60 girls in the school.
The Hosn mission underwent nearly the same phases as the Karak parish. Its school was closed down three times. “Only God knows the grave concerns which the Hosn mission caused to the patriarch. It was one of the missions in which troubles fell ever since it was established. It was as if Satan broke off his chains and went out to cause havoc everywhere. Cable messages continued to flow to the patriarch causing him unbearable pain.”
On 7 December 1893, Father Navoni died and was replaced with the Dutch Father Adrien Smets (1867-1940). Prior to his death, Father Navoni owned a piece of land on which his successor built a church in 1902. Architect Father Guillelmo Barberis drafted the sketch for the church.
In 1885, the ties between the Christians of the Ajloun area and the missionaries of the Patriarchate were consolidated by the inauguration of the Hosn parish. The road between Salt and Hosn passed through Ajloun. In the said year, Father Michel Karam sent his preliminary impressions to the patriarch: “Three days ago, Father Navoni sent me to visit the villages where Christians persistently asked to join the Catholic Church. I visited the village of Anjara where there were 250 people or perhaps 300. Near Anjara, there are Ajloun and Kufranjeh. There were 100 persons in each. They displayed their desire to join us. These Christians deserve the care of your Beatitude and are demanding a school and a priest. Could your Beatitude look into the matter carefully and send your answer to Father Navoni?”
It seems that the Christians of Anjara contacted Propaganda Fide for the purpose of opening a mission in their village. Priests of the Patriarchate finally settled in Anjara in 1897. The first was Hanna Sarena, who was followed by Father Giuseppe Garello in 1898 and who was entrusted with the supervision of the missions of Ajloun and Anjara.
On 9 February 1902, a bullet in his back treacherously killed Garello. It was disclosed later that the killer wanted to marry a girl, who refused him, and the priest did not want to force her. So the young man took his vengeance on the priest. Father Garello was buried in Hosn. On his side in the Hosn church, Father Anton Abedrabbo was buried. Father Anton came to Hosn from Salt in 1916 to help those dying with the typhus epidemic and died in the midst of the congregation. Thus the fate of the early priests was linked with the parishes in Jordan and they were buried in its churches.
F- Raineh Parish:
Monsignor Bracco continued to care for 10 missions, which his predecessor established in Palestine. These missions prospered in his time. The Rosary Sisters joined to serve most of these missions. As for Monsignor Bracco, he founded four missions in Palestine. The first was the mission of Raineh.
Raineh is located near Nazareth on the road leading to Tiberias. A priest residing in Nazareth served Raineh since 1877, and opened a temporary school there. In 1880 Father Louis Monier was assigned to serve the parish; he remained as a parish priest for 14 years. In his time the church and the school were built.
Among the weird incidents on this mission was that the Patriarchate transferred Father Louis Monier to Shafa Amer and appointed Father Youssef Estefan of Jerusalem in his place. But the people did not receive Father Estefan well and the consequences were grave. “The residents of Raineh liked Father Louis Monier who served them for 14 years. Thus they did not receive Father Youssef Estefan well. The boys threw stones at him, and this made him furious. He complained about them to the gendarmerie, which threw them into jail. The faithful boycotted the Church and the result was disturbing. Monsignor Piavi noticed in March 1898 that a large part of the parish dissented from the Church. Meanwhile, the old problems and hatreds came to the surface once again. However, Father Louis contained them, thanks to his strong personality. Family and clannish differences among the parish members deepened and even involved the denominational level.” Belief and faith were not the main motive for embracing Catholicism. Clannish differences played a role in the choice of the Church or the creed. In fact, clannish differences led to the transfer of part of the parish to the Greek Catholic and other Churches. The number of the faithful was therefore reduced. In 1912, only 130 believers remained faithful to the Patriarchate when in fact half of the village inhabitants used to be Latins.”
G- Gaza Parish:
Father Morétain visited Gaza, which is located on Palestine’s southern coast. Father Etienne Joly after Morétain inspected the Christians there on an annual basis. In 1879, the Austrian Father Georges Gatt, former head of the Austrian Hospice in Jerusalem, who joined the Patriarchate in 1874, settled there. Father Georges Gatt traveled to his country to collect donations and contributions to build the convent and the church. Work began in 1882 and he completed it one year later. The 15-room Gaza convent then was one of the best convents in the Patriarchate. Father Georges Gatt stayed in Gaza until 1915. During his stay in Gaza, he suffered from need and deprivation. Father Possetto quoted him as saying the following: “For a whole year, I have been suffering from hunger. Those who saw me asked me how I was. They thought that I was sick. They did not know that I was hungry. I would like to recommend to the priest who would care for the parish after me to take care of the poor.” Father Gatt opened his convent to the poor and destitute and shared with them the few things he had. The Gaza parish prospered after 1948 after the refugees arrived in Gaza. As for the Latins originally from Gaza, they were few.
H- Rafidia Parish:
Father De Actis, the founder of the Nablus parish in 1862, paid attention to the Christians in the village of Rafidia, adjoining Nablus. He mentioned these Christians in his correspondences. Father Anton Rezeq, the parish priest of Nablus in 1877, established the mission of Rafidia. He bought land in Rafidia and built a small convent and a small church. One of his parish followers in Nablus was Asad Serafim, member of the Council of the Ottoman Pasha in Nablus. When Father Anton objected to Asad Serafim’s intention to divorce his wife, the latter convinced the Ottoman Pasha in Nablus to stop work in the building of the church and the convent. The Pasha demanded a gift of 1,000 Francs in order to allow the continuation of work. After negotiation, it was agreed to present a watch as a gift to the Pasha. Work on the building stopped once again in 1882. So Father Anton wrote to the patriarch that it was time to present the gift and advised him to make it a precious one. So the Patriarchate presented to the Pasha the promised golden watch whose price was estimated at 400 to 600 Francs. There were 110 faithful in Rafidia in 1882 and in 1883 the Patriarchate opened a school in the village.
I- Zababdeh Parish:
Zababdeh is a large village near Jenin. Most of its inhabitants were Christians. These Christians could be traced back to three families, which migrated from Taybeh to Zababdeh. They were the families of D’ebes, Es’ed and Ibrahim. When the priests of the Patriarchate visited the village in 1873, they found very poor residents working in the service of the Jarar clan, which was wielding influence in the area. The Christians of Zababdeh were followers of the Orthodox Church. When the parish priest, a resident of the village, died, his post remained vacant for years, because the Orthodox Patriarchate did not appoint a successor. In 1874, the elders of Zababdeh contacted Father Julien Bost of Nablus and requested to join the Catholic Church because there was no Orthodox priest to care for them. They also wanted to enter under the umbrella of the Latin Patriarchate, which could protect them from the Ottoman authorities. Father Bost wrote to patriarch Bracco about them on 28 July 1874. Father Anton Rezeq managed to convince the patriarch of the viability of opening the mission. So the patriarch sent them Maronite Father Hanna Trad on 1 January 1887. A schoolteacher accompanied Father Hanna Trad and lived with him in one multi-purpose room. It was simultaneously used as a bedroom, a school and a church.
In May 1883, Father Anton Rezeq visited his colleague, Father Hanna in Zababdeh and bought a suitable piece of land for building a church and convent. The traditional battle of construction, in which the priests of the Patriarchate had already developed some experience, was resumed with the Ottoman authorities. Ottoman authorities banned the building of new churches. Therefore, the Patriarchate submitted a request to build a small home for the priest. The architects of such homes included in each home a large room, which could be used as a reception hall and easily transferred into a temporary church until things improved and the official church was built. Father Hanna was transferred from Zababdeh in 1887. During his service, the Rosary Sisters joined the parish and opened a school. There were 160 Latins in the parish. Father Elias Shiha was appointed as a parish priest, and built the church and the sisters’ convent.
The patriarchs were not content with establishing parishes and sending their priests to the towns and villages of Palestine and Jordan, but also visited these towns and villages. It was customary for Patriarch Bracco to make official visits to his parishes once every four years. During these visits, he granted the children the sacraments of first communion and confirmation. It was left for the parish priests to fix the time for the visits. During the time of Patriarch Bracco, the number of Latins in the various parts of the Patriarchate reached 13,500 people. Vellanis gave the following description of these visits, which the patriarch was eager to make:
“When the reverend patriarch arrived in the village, he used to enter in a great ceremony to the church or to the shrine used for liturgical services. After making the required service, he granted his blessing to the congregation. The parish members expressed their extreme joy by singing songs of joy, traditional dances, and the shooting of rifles as a gesture of respect for their great guest. At the outset of his entry to the village, he would receive the elders and dignitaries of that village. On the next day after the mass, the official reception was held. During the reception, the parish members voiced their needs to their shepherd in the hope that he would act favorably. If anyone wanted to talk to him separately, he could do so and the patriarch would listen to him carefully, even if the parish member made a complaint against the parish priest. The patriarch then received the boys and girls of the school and all those who came to see him, and he gave gifts that were memorable to the parish members.”
Patriarch Bracco addressed a total of 20 pastoral letters to his clergy and to the people dealing with various theological, doctrinal and educational subjects. The main letters were published in Lent and on special occasions, such as the deaths of popes, their elections, and jubilees. The priests read these letters in the church and explained them to their congregations.
Monsignor Bracco paid special attention to Christian education. Therefore, he upgraded the books used by dividing the catechism that was taught in one book for all ages into two books. The first was for children and the second was for adults. The Franciscan Printing Press printed these books in 1880. The patriarch recommended the upgrading of the method of teaching catechism which has been based on memorizing by heart, to the question-and-answer method. He advised the teachers to explain and interpret the catechism. As for his successor, Patriarch Ludovico Piavi, he was content with reprinting the old books several times in Beirut and Jerusalem, and did not upgrade them.
2 – Religious congregations in the era of Patriarch Vincenzo Bracco:
The duties of patriarch Valerga in his last years became multi-faceted. There was also a multiplicity of projects, which he started. Patriarch Bracco had to complete these projects. Therefore, he declined to accept the post of Apostolic Delegate for Syria and Lebanon as his predecessor had done. He was also excused from making two Ad Limina official visits to Rome. He paid his whole attention to caring for the missions and the seminary.
Monsignor Bracco did not encourage the religious congregations to establish convents in the diocese unless they were intended to serve pastoral purposes that involved the lives of the faithful. However, generally speaking, he followed the same policy of openness that was applied by his predecessor. He encouraged the religious congregations to open convents in Palestine because the Patriarchate needed elements and activists working alongside the Patriarchate’s priests for creating a spiritual, intellectual and social awakening. These religious congregations were multi-purpose societies, i.e. there were congregations of a contemplative nature, or those working in education and charity. Some of them were in contact with the masses of the believers in view of their mission. There were also religious congregations that isolated themselves from public life to devote their time to contemplative life and prayer, or for theological and archeological studies of the Holy Land.
The presence of the Catholic religious congregations was linked with the original policies of the countries sponsoring these congregations. These congregations spread their language through education, such as German, French and Italian. Some analysts of the religious history of Palestine in the nineteenth century said that these societies with their schools, hospitals and institutions created a balance with the English Protestant and Russian Orthodox societies. The outlook of balance and competition was not restricted to a certain Church, but included all the Churches, and was accredited as a principle of doing business with the Ottoman Sultanate under the system of Capitulation and Millets.
The seminary and the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher, which are two institutions of the Patriarchate, prospered in the era of Patriarch Bracco. 23 priests were graduated from the Seminary and were distributed as follows: 19 priests for the Patriarchate clergy, one priest for the Antonio Belloni establishment, and three for the Eastern Churches. According to nationality, there were 17 Arabs and six foreigners. Membership in the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher was restricted to men. Patriarch Valerga excluded from this rule an English countess of Russian origin, Mary Francis Lomax, whose membership was accepted on 15 April 1871 after she submitted an appeal to Pope Pius IX. As for Patriarch Bracco, he opened the door of membership to the ladies, and the number reached 100 ladies from 1873-1889. A papal bull entitled ‘Venerabilis Frater’ was issued on 3 August 1888 in the era of Pope Leo XIII fixing the membership of women on equal footing with those of men. Accordingly, women were distributed to three levels. The ladies joining the order were called the “Ladies of the Holy Sepulcher.” In the era of Patriarch Bracco, the Equestrian Order spread out in the various parts of Europe and the New World.
The religious congregations which opened convents in Palestine in the era of Patriarch Bracco were the following:
A- The Carmelite Sisters:
French Princess Aurélie de Bossi, known as Princess de la Tour d’Auvergne visited Palestine in 1856 and lived in the convent of the Congregation of our Lady of Sion. The princess vowed to spend the rest of her life living in the Holy Land. She bought in 1868 a piece of land on the Mount of Olives in east Jerusalem containing old ruins. According to an old Christian tradition, Jesus Christ taught his disciples there ‘The Lord’s Prayer’ i.e. ‘Our Father’. The princess gained ownership of the land through the efforts of an employee at the French Consulate called Hanna Carlo. The princess sought to build a shrine on the site. “She liked to watch the progress of work. Since there were no houses in the area, she brought in from Paris a wooden chalet and lived in it for 10 years.” She conceded the ownership of the land to the French government. In 1872, the princess met with two Carmelite sisters who came to Jerusalem as pilgrims. So she thought that she should build a convent for them in Jerusalem. The only thing that stopped her from doing so was a Papal decree issued in 1862 fixing the place of residence of the nuns in Palestine as subject to the “approval of the Holy See, Propaganda Fide and the Patriarch of Jerusalem, who was Monsignor Valerga at that time. After making contacts with the concerned parties, the patriarch agreed to establish the convent on condition that the sisters should have an income that secures their living and that they can build a wall around the convent for their protection.” The patriarch died before the beginning of the implementation of the project. On 30 October 1877, the three founding Carmelite sisters arrived from Carpentras convent in France and stayed as guests of the St. Joseph Sisters for one whole year until their convent was built in Jerusalem. Patriarch Bracco inaugurated the convent on 18 June 1874. Work on the convent was totally completed in 1886.
The Carmelite sisters in Pau, France in turn pleaded with the Holy See to build another Carmelite convent in Bethlehem. Carmelite sister Mary of Jesus Crucified was behind the idea. She urged the opening of the Carmelite convent in Bethlehem and often reiterated that God wanted this project and that he will overcome all the obstacles standing in the way of its building. The patriarch objected to the new project because the “diocese was in dire need of missionaries, not contemplatives.” However, he changed his mind in view of the insistence of the French bishops concerned with the establishment of the convent. “Sister Mary of Jesus Crucified traveled with a number of Carmelites from Pau to Palestine to establish their convent in Bethlehem. They arrived in Jerusalem and stayed there for a few days to visit the Holy Places and then left for Bethlehem in September 1875. By Divine inspiration, sister Mary of Jesus Crucified showed her superiors a barren place to the west of the city and said: ‘The convent should be built there.’ In Bethlehem, the sisters rented a house to live in until the convent was built. Patriarch Bracco celebrated Mass in that house and instructed the sisters to take that house as their cloister.” The Carmelite convent was built in Bethlehem on 21 November 1876. The sisters built two more convents in Haifa in 1891 and in Nazareth in 1910. The mission of the Carmelites is prayer and contemplation; they make a living from work in handcrafts and agriculture.
B- De La Salle Brothers of Christian Schools:
De La Salle Brothers of Christian Schools  established their early schools in Egypt in 1847. From Egypt, they headed to Palestine. “The conditions which led to the spread of the cholera epidemic in Egypt and the major financial difficulties which they faced along with the spread of hate-the-foreigners campaign were among the important reasons which prompted Friar Adrien, principal of the Alexandria school, to write to his superiors demanding permission to send a group of friars as pilgrims to the Holy Land. A group of friars accompanied by Friar Evagre sailed from Alexandria to Palestine.” The journey was made in 1874. The journey enabled Evagre to meet with the French Consul in Jerusalem, the Custos of the Holy Land, and Patriarch Bracco. The latter welcomed and encouraged him and coordinated with Propaganda Fide and the Custody of the Holy Land that the friars de la Salle take over the boys schools in Bethlehem, Haifa, Nazareth and Larnaca in Cyprus. “With the beginning of the school year in November 1878, the Franciscans handed over the students of their parochial schools to the friars de la Salle. This group of students formed the nucleus of large numbers of boys which the friars would teach and raise in the Holy Land.” The Patriarchate submitted to the friars a parcel of land adjoining the Patriarchate building on which to establish their own school. In 1882, the foundation stone was laid for a school in Jaffa, and in Haifa in 1883. An elementary school was opened in Bethlehem in 1885 as a novitiate for the Arab young people willing to join the congregation of the Friars de la Salle. In 1892, a teachers’ school was opened in Bethlehem with the aim of preparing the Palestinian youth to acquire the necessary training for teaching in the schools of the friars later on.
The friars developed the school system and the method of teaching that have been followed for centuries. They dared to cancel an old habit in Jerusalem whereby bread and food were distributed to the students, to end their “habit of begging.” The families that were accustomed to the generosity of the Franciscans were outraged. For centuries, they were addicted to the habit of receiving bread and protested against the new system. “This measure surprised and disturbed the families that were for many years accustomed to the generosity of the Franciscan Fathers. Gradually their anger subsided and the friars de la Salle did not loose one single student for this reason.” The friars were interested in teaching languages and they taught four languages in their schools Arabic, French, Italian and English. It is noteworthy that Arabic was neglected in the missionary schools of Palestine. This pained a group of Arab friars, who thought of their schools as a basic pillar of education in the Arab countries. So they undertook to improve the status of Arab studies and curricula. The Friars’ schools became the backbone of Arabic and higher schooling in Palestine for those willing to become specialists in Arabic. The Friars’ school in Jerusalem was their biggest school. The Founder of the Friars schools in Palestine, Brother Evagre, died in Palestine on 26 January 1914.
C- Fathers of the Sacred Heart of Jesus of Betharam:
The Carmelite sisters of Bethlehem asked Patriarch Bracco to allow the Fathers of the Sacred Heart of Jesus of Betharam to come to Bethlehem to be chaplains of their monastery. The patriarch replied: “they will not be allowed to reside in Bethlehem without an official permit from Rome.” The sisters submitted two consecutive applications to Rome, but the two applications were turned down. The project of the Carmelites was executed by their benefactress, Miss Berthe de St Cricq Dartigaux, who had an audience with Pope Leo XIII, who approved her application on 14 September 1878. “The pope also decided to allow the Fathers of the Sacred Heart of Jesus of Betharam to leave for Palestine to serve the said convent. The first Betharamist to arrive in Bethlehem in 1879 was Father Jean Chirou
The Betharam Fathers had to build a convent to stay in, and they left it up to Father Chirou to work on the project. He laid down the foundations for a huge building, which drew strong protests and complaints. However, sister Mary of Jesus Crucified, who used to help him, was content with saying: “Don’t pay attention to what is being said. The convent will hardly accommodate its own people in the future, because so many will come to it from Betharam.” Three fathers resided in the convent until 1890. “However, persecution and harassment forced the friars of Betharam to depart from France. So the seminary students came to Bethlehem, and the convent became the seminary of the Betharam congregation.” F. Conil reported that in 1898, there were 30 friars of Betharam offering spiritual services to the religious congregations in Jerusalem and Bethlehem. In the early twentieth century, the Betharam Fathers opened two convents in Nazareth and in Emmaus.
D- Fatebenefratelli Order:
The Fatebenefratelli was established in Palestine in 1857. “It operated through a mobile clinic among the camps of the bedouin.” In 1869, Count Bernard Caboga, the Austro-Hungarian Consul in the Holy Land, bought the lands of the Tantur area between Jerusalem and Bethlehem with the generous aid of the Equestrian order of Malta and some notables of the aristocratic class in Germany. In 1876, a health center and medical clinic were built in that area and afterwards a small 7-bed hospital that was inaugurated in 1877. In 1879, Count Caboga designated the Fatebenefratelli to run the center and hospital of Tantur. The friars were under superior Father Othmar Mayer. The choice of the Fatebenefratelli Order was due to the fact that this Austrian institution was under the protection of Françoise Joseph, the Emperor of Austria. “The two factors of charity and religion were certainly the motive behind this great work of charity. However, there was another motive, namely to assert the desire of Austria to be present in the Holy Land to compete with the Catholic and other European forces.”
The friars of fatebenefratelli stopped work in the hospital following a “great misunderstanding between Father Othmar Mayer and Count Caboga. The count addressed Father Othmar Mayer in a very sharp and critical tone. Therefore, Father Othmar Mayer and friars left Tantur. Thus work came to a halt in the Tantur center.” In 1890, work was resumed at the Tantur Center intermittently until 1920.
The fact that Father Mayer left work at the Tantur Center was an indirect reason for opening a hospital in Nazareth. Father Mayer tried to open hospitals in Bethlehem and Gaza, but could not do so. So Monsignor Bracco advised him to open a hospital in Nazareth, which he did in 1884. In 1889, the hospital could accommodate 30 beds. A church was built for the hospital in 1901.
E- The Dominicans:
Dominican Father Mattieu le Comte visited Palestine in 1882. He was determined to “revive the Dominican congregational life in Palestine, all the more so because it prospered in the Holy Land in the Middle Ages.” Meanwhile, an archeological discovery was made in al-Musrarah quarter, north of the Damascus Gate (Bab al-Amud) outside the walls of Jerusalem. The archeological finding was a church built by Empress Eudoxia in 460 A.D. at the traditional site on which Saint Stephen the deacon was said to have been martyred. Many people competed to buy the site. “However the site was bought by a stranger visiting Palestine, namely, Father Mattieu Le Comte.” The land was bought in phases between 1883 and 1888. Father Le Comte started to repair and restore an old deserted building on the land, which he bought and turned into a home for the Dominicans, who settled in the house in December 1884. They were Father Le Comte, Father Jean Maumus and Friar Thomas Tabin. Work was begun on the excavations, prospecting and restoration. A sketch of the old Byzantine church was discovered. The Dominicans built a large church and named it after Saint Stephen. The church was inaugurated on 13 May 1890. Work on the convent was completed in 1891. Several early Dominican Fathers who contributed to the building of the convent and the church died. It was said about this “the Saint Stephen convent was built on their graves.”
In 1888 the Dominicans in Jerusalem raised the idea of opening a Theology College in their convent to teach biblical studies and oriental languages. Pope Leo XIII supported the idea. “When the project was submitted to Patriarch Bracco, he endorsed it and wanted himself to address the Pope and the general superior of the Dominican Fathers in this regard.” The dream of the Dominicans came true and L’École Biblique was inaugurated in October 1890. Among the teachers of this institute was the famous authority on biblical studies, Father Lagrange, who took over as head of the convent and the L’École Biblique. In 1892, L’École Biblique inaugurated a specialized magazine in biblical studies called La Revue Biblique. The institute and the magazine still exist. L’Ecole Biblique is specialized in higher biblical studies, Palestinian archeological research, and oriental languages. Students came to the institute from various parts of the world to enroll in its courses. In addition to the institute’s higher biblical courses, ordinary courses in philosophy and theology were offered. A number of the seminarians and novices of the Dominican Order joined the convent in 1892. There were 34 friars in Jerusalem in 1894.
F- Franciscan Clarisse Sisters:
The Clarisse came to Palestine in 1884 from the convent of Paray le Monial in France. They requested permission from Patriarch Bracco to build a convent in Palestine. The patriarch gave his approval in principle. A few weeks later, 15 sisters came to Jerusalem and requested an audience with the patriarch. The patriarch was taken by surprise by their coming, because his answer to them was agreement in principle and the necessary measures were not taken to receive them in his diocese. The patriarch advised them to go to Nazareth where the sisters lived in a temporary house until the convent was built. In 1890, another Clarisse convent was opened in Jerusalem. The Clarisse are a contemplative community, very much like the Carmelites.
G- The Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary:
The Franciscan Fathers opened an orphanage in Jerusalem in 1871. The Custos of the Holy Land looked for a women’s religious congregation to run his orphanage. The Founder of the Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Mother Caterina Trioani in Egypt, sent three sisters to Jerusalem to supervise the orphanage. The records of the Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary said the following in February 1885: “The Custos of the Holy Land came to Cairo and asked for three sisters to run the orphanage of the Holy Land for girls. Therefore, after 15 years of our attempts to enter the Holy Land, a casual request is filling our heart with joy and happiness. The Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary approved the request. The Mother Superior sent sister Colomba Viola at the head of the first group.“ On 28 February 1885, the Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary took over the management of the orphanage. Mother Caterina Trioani headed the orphanage for a short period of time.
H- The Rosary Sisters Congregation:
The Rosary Sisters is a local Arab religious congregation, which accepts only Arab girls in its membership. Father Youssef Tannous, one of the early priests of the Latin Patriarchate, established this first Arab religious congregation in the Holy Land. He served in several jobs, such as secretary of the Latin Patriarchate and its representative with the Ottoman authorities, vicar of Patriarch Valerga in the Apostolic Delegation of Beirut and his adviser at the First Vatican Council. In view of his position at the Patriarchate, he was familiar with the suffering of the priests at their missions, particularly regarding women. Women were ignorant, non-educated and too far from the Church. Therefore, he thought about establishing a local religious congregation to “raise the religious, moral and humanitarian standards of the Arab women and to make them capable of raising good children.” Meanwhile, “each young woman who wanted to become a nun had to leave her country for France to continue her studies. Sea travel was a great risk and going to the West was a challenge for the Christian families.”
When Sultaneh Daniel Ghattas, who was born in Jerusalem in 1843, asked her father to allow her to become a nun, he turned down her request for the above-mentioned reasons. However, she finally joined the Saint Joseph Sisters of the Apparition in 1858. “She was the first Palestinian girl to join this congregation and was called Marie-Alphonsine there.” Marie-Alphonsine shared Father Tannous’ hope of establishing a national religious congregation. Each one sought to achieve his goal in a different way. Later, they found common ground in one single national order, namely, the Congregation of Rosary Sisters.
Father Tannous submitted the idea of starting a national religious congregation to Patriarch Bracco, who welcomed the idea. Father Youssef served as the chaplain for the Daughters of Virgin Mary Fraternity, which included several pious girls from Jerusalem. Father Youssef offered the project to them. Some of them said that they wished that such a congregation would exist so as to achieve their religious vocation. “The girls who at the beginning decided to devote themselves to God in the new congregation were five. They were from well known families in Jerusalem; Regina Karmi, Afifa Abu Souane, Jalila Ebes, Hanneh Ghattas and Amina Habash. Their families and relatives fiercely resisted them. It is true that people respect sisters and appreciate their work in schools, but they refuse to let their daughters become nuns.” The girls passed the test of this traditional opposition and achieved their goal. On 24 July 1880, they started a community of religious life as novices at a house near the Patriarchate. Four other girls joined them. Thus their number rose to nine. On 15 December 1880, the patriarch granted them the religious habit.
As for sister Mary-Alphonsine, she was still determined to start a national congregation. She became more resolved to do so when the Virgin Mary appeared to her several times in 1874. The apparitions were about the vocation of the nun and the congregation she intended to establish. The sister went to meet Patriarch Bracco and Father Youssef Tannous, who saw in the visionary sister a heavenly signal to continue his project. Marie-Alphonsine then moved from the Saint Joseph Sisters to the new Rosary Sisters Congregation on 7 October 1883. Father Youssef, as chaplain, ordered her to write her memoires about the apparitions of the Virgin Mary to her. The apparitions remained a secret, and Marie-Alphonsine lived a simple humble life. No one knew her secret, even her sisters Regina and Hanneh, who joined the Rosary Sisters Congregation before her. Her sister Hanneh who became the Mother Superior of the Rosary Sisters Congregation was not aware of the apparitions until she saw Marie-Alphonsine’s memoirs after her death. “Mother Marie-Alphonsine passed away on 25 March 1927. When she was buried a few days later, none of the Rosary Sisters realized that the real founder of the Rosary Sisters had gone away.” Therefore, the Rosary Sisters viewed Mother Marie-Alphonsine, together with Father Youssef Tannous, as their founder.
Father Youssef Tannous asked sister Rosalie Nasser of the Nazareth Sisters Congregation, to be mistress of novices and postulants, for the new Rosary Congregation. On 7 March 1885, the novices took the perpetual vows and “waited for appointment to their new missions.” The Patriarchate found in them the best helpers for the priests to work among women. Their major work was to teach catechism, Arabic and calligraphy in the girls’ schools. Patriarch Bracco asked them one day: “What do you say if I send you to Karak?’ Karak was then the farthest point, which could be reached, in southern Jordan. The sisters answered enthusiastically: ‘Beatitude, we are ready to go to the farthest limits in Balqa also.” The sister who answered the patriarch’s question thought that Balqa was farther than Karak. The patriarch understood her noble intention, i.e. they were prepared to go to any place designated to them by the patriarch.
However, the hour of going to Trans Jordan had not come yet. The patriarch and Father Tannous agreed to lay down the principles of the new congregation in Palestine first. Father Tannous died in Nazareth on 30 September 1892. His body was taken to Jerusalem where he was buried in the convent of the Rosary Sisters in Mamilla, Jerusalem. Only a few years later, the Arab Rosary Sisters were working in most of the Patriarchate’s parishes. The nuns lived an austere life in the parishes in the early years. They suffered difficulties and strenuous life as did the Patriarchate’s priests.
I- Daughters of Charity:
The Daughters of Charity came to Palestine in May 1886 headed by Mother Leonie Sion. The common people described them as the good doctors coming from Paris. The nuns devoted their work to nursing and the care of children. The best description of their activities was contained in the memoirs of Mother Leonie Sion. The nuns devoted their attention to caring for the sick through home visits, clinics and care for lepers, abandoned children, the handicapped and the blind. In 1887, the nuns opened a hospital in Bethlehem and another in Nazareth in 1898. The nuns took over the supervision and management of the government hospital in Jerusalem in 1891. They had a school in Haifa since 1889. The modern site of the Bethlehem hospital was built in the early Twentieth Century.
J- The Assumptionists:
The Assumptionists Fathers settled in Jerusalem in 1882. Their goal was to receive pilgrims and to guide them to the holy shrines. The Assumptionists Fathers bought a vast land northwest of Jerusalem and built on it a luxurious hostel for the tourists and pilgrims and called it Notre Dame de France. Part of it was inaugurated in 1888. The Assumptionists Fathers transferred to the hostel some of their seminarians, novices and teachers. The hostel accommodated abundant numbers of pilgrims coming to visit Jerusalem. In 1890, a special door was opened in the Jerusalem wall opposite the hostel called the ‘New Gate’ to enable the pilgrims to use a short cut to reach the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.
K- Congregation of Saint Charles Borromeo:
The nuns of the Congregation of Saint Charles Borromeo came to Jerusalem from Alexandria where they had a convent. The nuns asked the patriarch to build a school for the German community. He allowed them to do so after securing the approval of Propaganda Fide. The nuns opened a clinic and a boarding school in 1886. Their school was know as the Schmidt school, which was named after the chaplain of the nuns, Wilhelm Schmidt, who was a Lazarist Father.
L- Sisters of the Eucharist:
The Sisters of the Eucharist entered Palestine in 1888. Patriarch Bracco encouraged them to build a convent near Notre Dame de France. The contemplative nuns devoted their time in the convent to worship and prayers and Eucharist adoration.
3 – The Jerusalem Latin Patriarchate at the end of the nineteenth century and the early twentieth century – the post Bracco age:
Monsignor Bracco died at the age of 54, including 16 years as patriarch of Jerusalem. The Patriarchate prospered with the parishes he founded and the religious congregations which came to Palestine in his age to work in the Jerusalem patriarchal diocese. Monsignor Bracco was known to have a weak body and fragile health. “Many people advised him to go to Europe for rest and for treatment. Despite their insistence on him, he never did. They also advised him to bathe with mineral waters, but he answered them saying: I tried the mineral waters once when Patriarch Valerga sent me there when I was a bishop, but the waters were of no benefit to me.” On 6 June 1889, he felt pain on his side. So he stayed in bed. He became very sick and summoned the doctors to visit him. The doctors said on the 14th of June 1889 “that there was no medicine, which could cure his hopeless condition.” He suffered death agony for several days, after which he passed away at dawn on 19 June 1889. The death of the patriarch was not a private matter for the priests of the Patriarchate, but was a public event because of the enormous popularity of the deceased patriarch. “People flocked in groups to pay their respects and in the dark evenings, you could see not only Catholics, but also Orthodox, Muslims, Protestants, Jews and others rushing to pay their respects to the deceased patriarch while uttering in one voice: this man was a saint.” The Custos of the Holy Land Giacomo Chezzi eulogized him, and he was buried in the con-cathedral of the Patriarchate.
A- Patriarch Ludovico Piavi:
On 8 September 1889, the new patriarch Ludovico Piavi arrived at the premises of the Latin Patriarchate in Jerusalem in an official cortège that included the priests of the Patriarchate and the Franciscans. It was said about him that he was a diplomat with serious features behind which he concealed a heart that was overflowing with vitality, that he was a Franciscan who was qualified by virtue of the 33 years, which he spent in the orient, for the post of patriarch of Jerusalem.
Piavi was born in Ravenna in Italy on 17 March 1833. He joined the Franciscans when he was 17 years old and was ordained in 1855. He entered the service of the Custody of the Holy Land, which sent him to Harissa to learn Arabic. He gained a good command of Arabic and was appointed to Aleppo. After a short period of time, he became the superintendent of the Franciscan College there. When Patriarch Valerga died in 1872, Piavi was appointed Apostolic Delegate for Syria and was ordained bishop on 18 November 1876. After the death of Monsignor Bracco, the Holy See chose this time a Franciscan. It was a good choice, because for 15 years, Patriarch Piavi utilized his Franciscan contacts for the good of the Patriarchate.
The new patriarch enlisted the help of two assistant bishops to run his diocese. They were Pascal Appodia in 1891 and Louis Piccardo in 1902. During the Piavi mandate, the Eucharist Congress was held in Jerusalem in 1893 and Emperor Wilhelm II of Germany visited Jerusalem in 1898.
The only new parish, which Patriarch Piavi formed, was at al-Mjaidel, and he entrusted the Franciscans to run it. His two predecessors, Valerga and Bracco, expanded the establishment of the parishes. As for his role, it was to strengthen these parishes and to consolidate them. “Monsignor Piavi devoted his efforts to the development of the existing parishes and to supplying them with the needed services, not to opening new parishes. Most of the missions had temporary churches and convents, which are short of accommodating the existing numbers of the faithful, and were unhealthy for the accommodation of the missionaries. The patriarch was fortunate that he found in the midst of his priests a talented and loyal architect, namely Father Guillelmo Barberis, who supervised the building of the seminary in Jerusalem from 1890-1891.” During the age of Patriarch Piavi, 18 priests graduated from the seminary. These included 12 Arab priests, including Father Salim Zoumot, the first Jordanian patriarchal priest. Barberis formed in Jerusalem a team of skilled workers and visited with them the missions of the Patriarchate where they built churches and convents just as another bright architect, namely Father Morétain, had done at the beginning of the patriarchal missions. Barberis built the convents of the Rosary Sisters in Zababdeh in 1893, Jefnah in 1895, Madaba in 1897, the Hosn church in 1897, and the residence of the Hosn priest in 1815. He added new suites to the Madaba convent in 1893, and built the Karak convent in 1898, and the Salt convent in 1902.
The reason for halting the establishment of new parishes was perhaps the new policy of Pope Leo XIII, the successor of Pope Pius IX, who encouraged support of the Eastern Catholic Churches affiliated with Rome, perhaps at the expense of the Latin Patriarchate. The Eucharist Congress held in Jerusalem in 1893 constituted the first open objection to the policy of Propaganda Fide that has been enforced for centuries, namely, to expand the sphere of Catholicism in Palestine and the adjoining countries through the Latin liturgy and missionaries, most of whom were Italian. The Oriental Patriarchs led the movement objecting to latinization, and were supported by French figures in the congress, namely the White Fathers and the Assumptionist Fathers. The Franciscans and the Latin Patriarchate, and the supporters of Propaganda Fide represented latinization. Perhaps the policy of Pope Leo XIII and the Eucharist Congress were the answer to curbing the establishment of Latin parishes. However, the halt continued for only a short time.
Competition reached sharp levels between the French congregations and the Imperial Orthodox Palestine Society in opening schools. “The missionaries of the Patriarchate received support from the Maronite clergy, The Franciscan Fathers, the Friars de la Salle, The Fathers of Sion, the Salesians, the Saint Joseph Sisters, the Sisters of Sion, the Congregation of Saint Charles Borromeo, and the Salesian Sisters. These orders and congregations ran in Palestine some 50 prosperous schools. French societies financed most of these Catholic schools, which were built in the large cities such as Jerusalem, Jaffa, Bethlehem, Haifa and Nazareth. Meanwhile, the villages remained neglected. Therefore, we have to make a special effort on behalf of the villages. This was what Society of Cologne started to do”. The Society of Cologne is also called Das Heilige Land Verein. It was established in Cologne to support Catholicism in Palestine. The society had five schools in northern Palestine: in Deir Hanneh, Sekhnen, Elaboun, Arraba, and Mghar. “In this last school, there were some girls, and thus it was the first coeducational school in Palestine.” The French and German Catholics devoted their best attention to support and strengthen the Catholic schools. “Schools were the best way for reaching the minds and the hearts, and the future belonged to those who had the schools.”
B- Patriarch Filippo Camassei:
On 24 December 1905, Patriarch Piavi died at the age of 70. He was buried next to his predecessors. Patriarch Filippo Camassei (1907-1919) succeeded him. Camassei lived through the events of World War I. The French and Italian schools were closed, and several of his priests and friars were imprisoned. Finally, the Ottomans banished him to Nazareth on 10 November 1917. He settled there as the guest of the Franciscans. From Nazareth, he continued to supervise the parishes of the Patriarchate in northern Palestine. He appointed as his vicar in Jerusalem on 24 January 1917 Monsignor François Fellinger to care for parishes and patriarchal institutions in the rest of Palestine and Trans Jordan. On 3 November 1918, the patriarch returned to Jerusalem. The Holy See sent from Rome an assistant to help him, Monsignor Luigi Barlassina, on 28 October 1918. After a short period of time, the patriarch traveled to Rome for rest from the suffering of the events of the war and to make an official visit to the Vatican. Pope Benedict XV bestowed on him the rank of cardinal on 13 December 1918. He died and was buried in Rome on 18 January 1921.
C- Patriarch Luigi Barlassina:
After the death of Patriarch Filippo Camassei, his general vicar Luigi Barlassina (1920-1947) became patriarch. He lived through the events in Palestine after World War I. He paid attention to restoration work of the missions of the Patriarchate and to building schools and churches. Thus the parish of Na’our was opened in 1924, and the parishes of al-Kherbet, Orjan, Enbeh, Samad, and Kafr Abel in 1926, Ader, Jenin, and Borqeen in 1928, Safout in 1933, and in Mafraq in 1941.
During the era of Patriarch Barlassina, signs of protest and demands to arabize the services and administration of the Patriarchate were emerging. This phenomenon began in the Madaba parish, which was the largest parish of the Patriarchate in Trans Jordan. The protest movement was led by a group of parish men who gave themselves the name of the ‘Reform Committee.’ The committee sent petitions to the patriarch and Christian figures in Jordan and Palestine. The most important of the demands made by the committee was to appoint an Arab patriarchal vicar in Amman and an Arab superior of the seminary and to employ local teachers in the schools of the Patriarchate. The Patriarchate contained this phenomenon, which emerged as a result of the influence of the Orthodox Arab issue, which was alive in the same period of time. The patriarch managed to handle it cleverly and articulately and fulfilled some of the demands. This was done gradually when the capable local elements became available. The patriarch appointed as general vicar in Amman in 1927 Monsignor Anton Zaitoun, who was succeeded by Monsignor Mansour Jalad in 1935 and Monsignor Nemeh Saman in 1940 until his death in 1981. During the era of his successor Alberto Gori (1949-1970), two Arab bishops were ordained in the Patriarchate. They were Nemeh Saman for Amman and Hanna Kildani for Nazareth. After Patriarch Alberto Gori, Patriarch Giacomo Beltritti took over (1970-1987).
Within the period of half a century, Monsignor Valerga and his successor Monsignor Bracco managed to strengthen the Catholic presence in Palestine and Jordan and to reformulate it in a new effective way, i.e. the Jerusalem Latin Patriarchate. Valerga was the founder of this patriarchal entity and Bracco was the one who consolidated and strengthened it through parishes, schools, orders and congregations, which the two patriarchs invited to work in the diocese.
The reason for the success of the Latin Patriarchate in the Christian Arab environment was that the patriarchs paid attention to the spiritual, cultural and social needs of the faithful. These needs were provided by the patriarchs despite the harsh circumstances engulfing them and their priests. The Patriarchate also paid its extreme attention to the advancement of the Christians of the East. At the outset, the patriarchs placed their bets on foreign missionaries, but when the Arab clergy started to form, they began to shoulder their own responsibilities. The Latin Patriarchate became in the twentieth century an Arab eastern diocese, despite its Latin name which did not indicate any ethnicity or national affiliation, but indicated the liturgy followed in the Patriarchate, namely the Roman Latin liturgy. The Latin liturgy is the most widespread Catholic liturgy, which is common in the various parts of the world.
Arab priests of the Patriarchate and the Rosary Sisters lived the life of their parishes and the clans they came from. They experienced the harsh living circumstances of the faithful. They accompanied the Christian groups in their daily life, and held prayers and opened schools in the farthest villages and Badia. This made them close to the hearts of the faithful. Foreign priests in the Patriarchate spoke Arabic fluently, even the village and Bedouin slang. They probed the depth of the Arab mentality and sentiments. Thus the Christian Catholic presence in Palestine and Jordan became popular with a local character after it was restricted for many centuries to the Holy Places and the adjoining areas during the era of the Franciscan Fathers whose credit for the Christian presence in the East cannot be denied. The Patriarchate did not intrude on the powers of the Franciscans or their traditional rights in the Holy Land, which were confirmed by the Status Quo toward the other Christian denominations in these places. In fact, the Patriarchate has created another sphere of work distant from the atmosphere of the holy shrines so as to complete the work and sacrifices of the Friars Minor throughout the ages. Relations between the Custody of the Holy Land and the Patriarchate underwent critical phases at the outset. However, the two sides coordinated their efforts and reached understanding by which they shared the spheres of the joint work and averted the sensitivity, which could arise between the two institutions. Two Franciscan figures were elected as patriarchs of Jerusalem: Ludovico Piavi (1889-1905) and Alberto Gori (1949-1970). The two patriarchs left a good impression on the patriarchal – Franciscan ties.
However, what are the dimensions of the presence of a Latin Catholic Church in the East? And what are the historic justifications for this presence? These questions and others were raised at the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965). Numerous studies were published in reply to these questions. Conflicting ideas were presented reflecting a multiplicity of visions about the Catholic presence in Palestine. I do not want to add a new page to the literature of objecting to the presence of the Latin Patriarchate and replying to it. However, I want to draw attention to the fact that the Latin Patriarchate was the ecclesiastical institution that was more effective and more popular in Jordan and Palestine for the spiritual, social and cultural services it offered and for its churches, convents, schools, friars, and priests although it was not the largest denomination in number.
With the beginning of the twentieth century, the Roman-based Holy See of St. Peter has surrounded the Jerusalem Church with a strong bridge of spiritual concrete to forestall the collapse of whatever remained of the scattered churches and scattered Christian denominations. The Latin presence in the East is not a goal by itself as much as it is a means to serve all the Catholic Christians and others. With its institutions, convents and schools, the Latin Patriarchate became a torch of learning and spiritual progress as a new humanitarian and spiritual awakening began to appear in the Church, an awakening that will not stop, God willing.
The Christians of Jordan and Palestine have long aspired to see their children lead this Church and devote themselves to its service like other peoples of the world. This wish gradually came true in gracefulness, rationality, and smoothness when Monsignor Michel Sabbah was enthroned Patriarch of the Jerusalem Latin Patriarchate in 1987 as an inevitable result of a mature and well-planned development. There are still in the patriarchal clergy Arab and foreign priests, secular and regular, from the various nationalities. The idea of the founder, Patriarch Valerga, continued to live in the minds of his sons: the idea of having mixed local and international patriarchal clergy. In other words, to embrace the local Church, on the one hand, while maintaining the internationalism of the Jerusalem Church, the Mother of Churches, by its openness to the other Churches of the world, all the more so because it has the Holy Places which are a Christian international spiritual heritage for humanity.
In the bosom of this Church, the concept of Catholicism grew, and doors were opened wide to its faithful to participate in its life, growth and bounty. Finally, I can only cite a prophecy made by Patriarch Bracco, if we might say so. He wrote the following to the parish priest of Karak, Alexandro Macagno (Abouna Eskandar) at an Ottoman age in which his idea was closer to a dream rather than reality: “Be respectful and loving to these people, because from their midst will rise priests, bishops, patriarchs and builders of churches.” This prophecy has been fulfilled.