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Syriac Theology Newsletter 06.05.2020

Dear Reader,

We look back on a busy summer semester which included the first evaluation of the master course. Thanks to positive references from leading international scholars and financial support from benefactors, we are pleased to announce the continuation of the MA. We look forward to welcoming new students in October.

We are also pleased to report the appointment of Dr. Kees den Biesen as research assistant to work on the translation of liturgical texts. Finally, within Beth Suryoye, building renovations are taking place to be completed by the start of the next semester and a cook/house keeper has been appointed.

We hope you enjoy reading our newsletter.
Aho Shemunkasho




MA in Syriac Theology

Students can still apply for the new course starting in October and for accommodation in Beth Suryoye. For further information see

MA in Syriac Theology wins international recognition

Prof. Dr. Sebastian Brock was among eleven international scholars who evaluated the MA course commenting: "The course is very well designed...with all the most important aspects of Syriac studies well covered". Prof. Susan Harvey from Brown University wrote: "I applaud the University of Salzburg for developing this excellent program and for providing this magnificent opportunity for aspiring teachers and scholars", and also noted; "the highest quality of teaching and scholarship". Dr. Martin Illert from the Evangelische Kirche in Deutschland (EKD), also referred to the, "outstanding institution with great future potential". Other referees included: Dr. Georg Bubolz (Düsseldorf), Prof. Dr. Erica Hunter (London), Prof. Dr. Dr. Hubert Kaufhold (München), Dr. George A. Kiraz (Princeton), Dr. Robert A Kitchen (Stockholm), Prof. Dr. Kathleen E. McVey (Princeton), Prof. Dr. Herman Teule (Nijmegen, Louvain) and Prof. Dr. Dorothea Weltecke (Frankfurt). We thank all of those who submitted evaluations and those who have supported the project financially.

New research assistant appointed

Following the church service is something most people take for granted, but for many in the Syriac church only the priests, malphone and a few others are often able to do so. However a bi-lingual Dutch/Syriac translation of the Syrian Orthodox liturgical books of Baptism, the Eucharist and Matrimony has now been produced by Dr. Kees den Biesen. Dr. den Biesen who has been teaching on the MA course since its inception, has recently been appointed by the Syriac Institute as research assistant to continue working on the publication. His research includes many aspects of the sacramental texts such as biblical quotations and references, the history of crucial theological images and terms and the historical development of the celebrations, amongst others. The material will now be expanded into a study edition of the sacraments firstly in Dutch, then in English and German. "The books aim to provide priests, deacons, malphone and students with useful information for private reading, self-study and reference", commented Dr. den Biesen.

Syriac visting scholar in Salzburg

Dr. Maros Nicak, Vice Dean for Science, International Relations and Development at the Evangelical Lutheran Theological Faculty of Comenius University in Bratislava, is spending six months in Salzburg working with Prof. Dr. Winkler and Prof. Dr. Shemunkasho. Having received a scholarship from the project "Aktion Österreich-Slowakei" funded by the Austrian and Slovak Ministry of Education, Dr. Nicak will focus on poetic theology and a poetic description of historical events in the Book of Warda during the so-called Syriac Renaissance (11-14th century) in Mesopotamia. Dr. Nicak explained: "A few years ago Syriac theology opened up a new perspective on Christianity for me and I hope that I can contribute with my project to the preservation of the Syriac church tradition. I chose Salzburg because it offers expertise in Syriac".

Beth Suryoye update...

Renovations continue in Beth Suryoye. Following a meeting between the STSS committee and the Archdiocese of Salzburg at the end of June, building work has resulted in a larger central dining room which can double up as a meeting room. Further work will also provide two rooms to serve as study/library/classrooms, with IT possibilities, and further bedrooms should all be ready for the start of the new semester. The house infrastructure has also been further improved with the appointment of a cook/housekeeper.


Ecumenical prayer for peace in Syria and for the two kidnapped bishops

An ecumenical prayer for peace in Syria and for the two kidnapped bishops, Mor Gregorios Yohanna Ibrahim (Syrian Orthodox) and Mor Boulos Yazigi (Greek Orthodox) took place at Beth Suryoye. In attendance were Archbishop Dr. Franz Lackner OFM (Catholic Archbishop of Salzburg), Mag. Olivier Dantine (Protestant Superintendant for Salzburg and Tirol), Deacon John Reves (Greek Catholic), Archpriest Dr. Dumitru Viezuianu (Romanian Orthodox) and Fr. Gabriel Kalappurayil Varghese (Syrian Orthodox). Dr Martin Illert (Higher Council of the Protestant Church in Germany (EKD)) delivering the main address, referred to the two bishops “as shepherds and heads of their communities, as witnesses for Jesus Christ and as building bridges between churches and cultures.”

Summer Semester activities

25th May 2018: Lange Nacht der Kirche, Salzburg. Prayers followed by an agape held in Beth Suryoye.

7th June 2018: Beth Suryoye hosted Rector Fr. Paulus Koci along with the Benedictine students from Kolleg St. Benedikt, Salzburg, who all enjoyed prayers followed by a barbeque in the Beth Suryoye gardens.

9th June 2018: "The Survival of Syriac Christianity in the Middle East", talk by Prof Shemunkasho, at the invitation of the Ritterorden vom Heiligen Grab zu Jerusalem, at the Konvent der Kreuzschwestern, Gmunden.

12th-15th June 2018: The Future of Syriac Studies and the legacy of Sebastian Brock conference, St Ignatius Centre, Sweden. Papers presented among others by Prof. Shemunkasho and Dr. Ephrem Aboud Ishac.

22nd-24th June 2018: Students from the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung enjoyed a two day seminar in Salzburg on "The persecution of Christians in the Orient - past and present", organised in co-operation with Prof. Aho Shemunkasho. Around 30 students took part and lecturers included Prof. Dr. Dr. Thomas Schirrmacher, President of the International Society for Human Rights.

9th-12th July 2018: Pro Oriente Summer School; “The World Council of Churches (WCC) - Commemorating 70 Years of Ecumenism”, Vienna. Moderated by Prof. Dietmar W. Winkler, where a number of MA students got a good insight into the ecumencial movement.

26th August 2018: "Endangered belief. Oriental eastern churches", seminar given by Dr. Aho Shemunkasho at Lassalle House, Bad Schönbrunn, Switzerland.


Forthcoming events

8th-15th September 2018: 9th World Syriac Conference, organised by St Ephrem Ecumenical Research Institute, (SEERI), Kotttayam, India. Dr. Gabriel Rabo to give a paper on "Kyrillos Yuyoqim from Tur Abdin. The autobiography of the apostolic delegate in Malabar".

17th-18th September 2018: ICO Tagung, Frauen im Orient, St Virgil, Salzburg, moderated by Prof. Dietmar W. Winkler.

21st-22nd September 2018: WBAS, Stuttgart.

12th November 2018: "Orientalisch-orthodoxe Kirchen – Bedrohter Reichtum", talk by Prof. Aho Shemunkasho organised by Spezialkurses Ostkirchen and Pro Oriente, Vienna.

4th-7th March 2019: Syriac Day: organised by the European Academy of Religion, Bologna.