March 1997
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Conference on the 1600th Anniversary of Mor Gabriel Monastery

March 23, 1997

A conference on the Mor Gabriel monastery was held from March 21-23, 1997, at Hofgeismar in Germany, in connection with the 1600th anniversary of the monastery. About 120 participants attended the conference. Although bishops Mor Philoxenos Y. Cetin of Istanbul and Mor Thimotheos S. Aktas of TurAbdin were invited, they could not attend; Chor Episcopus Samuel Akdemir from Istanbul represented the bishops at the conference. Mor Yulius Yeshue Cicek, Archbishop of Central Europe attended the conference.

The first session of the conference was a film and slideshow on Mor Gabriel and Tur Abdin. This was followed by a talk about monasticism in the Syrian Orthodox Church by Prof. W. Hage (University of Marburg, Germany). He noted that the influence of the Syrian monks was not confined to the Syrian church but to the entire Western world. They were the first scholars to translate the works of Greek philosophers to Syriac and later to Arabic. Their works in philosophy and medicine reached Europe through the Arabs during their Spanish occupation.

Mor Julius Y. Cicek spoke about the importance of Mor Gabriel for the Syrian Orthodox church in Tur Abdin and in the diaspora. His Eminence also addressed the new organisation of the diocese of Central Europe where many new churches have been built recently.

There was also a discussion about the politics of the CDU party in Bebra, Germany. The City of Bebra has refused to permit the Syrian Orthodox to build a church. This has been reported recently on TV and newspapers.

Monastery of Mor Gabriel

The monastery was built in 397 by Mor Shmuel and Mor Shemun of Qartmin. In the 7th centuary, it began to be called the "Monastery of Mor Gabriel" after it's bishop Mor Gabriel (+668). In 6th. centuary over 1000 monks resided at the monastery at a time. About 12,000 monks and clergy are buried in this monastery including a Patriarch.

Four Patriarchs, one Maphryono (Catholicos) and 84 bishops came from this theological school. Most renowned are Mor Yuhannun Sa'oro (+ 503), bishop of Amida, Mor Philoxenos of Mabbug (+ 523), Patriarch Theodosius Romanus (+ 896) (who was also a famous medical doctor) and Patriarch Behnam from Hedil (+1454). In the past, the monastery had a good library with many manusripts of parchment.

The monastery of Mor Gabriel was the seat of the bishop of Tur Abdin from 615-1049. From 1049 - 1915 the monastery had its own bishophric.

Recent History of the Monastery

In 1915, Kurds killed all the monks who lived in the monastery and occupied it for four years. In 1919, the monastery was returned to the church. When Mor Yulius Yeshu Cicek (present bishop of C-Europe) was the Abbot of the monastery (from 1962 to 1971) many buildings were built, a street was constructed to provide access for cars to the monastery, a generator was installed to provide electricity, and the seminary for training clergy was opened. Since 1971, the Abbott is Mor Samuel Aktas, who has added many buildings. The monastery now has public electricity, water and telephone facilities.

Today a bishop, two monks ca. 15 nuns and three families of staff reside in the monastery.

The monastery is now the non-official seat of the bishop of TurAbdin. The seminary is well established. Most teachers and priests in Tur Abdin as also the diaspora have studied at this seminary. Currently, this monastery has 40 seminarians.

Source: The article is a translation of the report published in Suryoyo On-Line News atäum.html. The report was translated from German by Gabriel Rabo.

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