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Syriac Theology Newsletter 06.05.2020

Dear Reader

We wish you all a peaceful advent and a happy Christmas. Here in Salzburg our new students have settled in, the main part of the renovations in Beth Suryoye have been completed and we have had a busy semester with visiting lecturers including Dr. Kees den Biesen, Dr. Robert Kitchen and Prof. Herman Teule.

We hope you enjoy reading our newsletter.
Aho Shemunkasho

MA in Syriac Theology - Scholarships available

Scholarships are available for the MA in Syriac Theology starting next October. For full details of the course and application procedure see.

MA graduate to re-build monastery in Irak

Congratulations to Yasir Attallah who successfully defended his MA thesis and has now returned to Iraq. Fr Yasir, who grew up in Iraq, knew he wanted to be a monk from a young age. However he first studied biology, followed by an MA in microbiology, before studying Theology. In 2014 his community was forced to flee Baghdeda with just the clothes they were wearing and set up, 80 kms away in Erbil, in temporary buildings they found there. Two years later, Yasir chose to study the MA in Salzburg. Having just completed his MA, he is now back in Baghdeda, where people have returned to re-build their lives. The situation still needs to stabilise there, Yasir refers to "the need to be patient", but along with his two brother monks, they intend to build a monastery on a piece of land they have been given, from which they will continue to help the community.

MA Student wins scholarships

Second year MA student, Jakub Zbrzezny, followed his wish "to immerse" himself "in the living tradition of Syriac Christianity" by studying the MA in Salzburg, living in Beth Suryoye. Now, thanks to scholarships from the EU, the University of Salzburg, and the World Union of Jewish Studies, Jakub spent three weeks doing an intensive course in modern Hebrew at the University of Haifa. This was followed by six weeks in Tur Abdin, where he studied Syriac and explored local Christian monasteries and villages. Now he is back in Haifa as an Erasmus student learning modern Hebrew and Arabic, which will help him work on his MA thesis. See video

MA Student ordained

Congratulations to second year MA student, Paul Punnackal George from Kerala, who was ordained as a priest in August 2018 in Kottayam, India. Fr. Paul explained that he chose to study the MA because of his "great enthusiasm to know more about the approach of the Syriac fathers towards the Holy Gospel" and so that he could do his ministry "in words as well as deeds by keeping the values of the Church", adding that the MA, " definitely helps to understand the hidden sources of our heritage". We wish him all the best in his studies and work as a priest.

"Silent Night" in Aramaic - Advent prayers in Beth Suryoye

Beth Suryoye welcomed Bishop Mor Polycarpus from the Netherlands and Auxiliary Bishop, Dr. Hansjörg Hofer from the Archdiocese of Salzburg to their advent prayers which ended with a rendition of "Silent Night" in Aramaic. Other guests included Prof. Angelika Walsner, vice dean of the Theological Faculty and Prof. Peter A. Bruck, head of the Syriac Institute, Salzburg.

Beth Suryoye renovations

The main part of the renovations in Beth Suryoye have now been completed which has resulted in two large seminar rooms with a library, a lounge and an extended dining room, along with more bedrooms. This makes it possible to hold classes and meetings in the house and to offer weekend and summer courses. The renovations were made possible thanks to the support of the Archdiocese of Salzburg and the Austrian Catholic Bishop's conference. Fr. Gabriel Kalappurayil Varghese, Spiritual Director, commented: "We look forward to welcoming students to experience our community life here. Beth Suryoye now offers very good facilities for living and studying in the heart of Salzburg".

Winter semester events

14th September 2018: "Kyrillos Yuyoqim from Hbob/Tur ‘Abdin: The autobiography of the apostolic delegate in Malaba", paper by Dr. des Gabriel Rabo at The 9th World Syriac Conference organised by SEERI, Kottayam, India.

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

26th-28th October 2018: Second research cluster meeting studying the significance of theological education in the diaspora, with Bishop Polycarpus, Prof. Aho Shemunkasho, Dr. Robert Kitchen and Dr. Michael Hjälm, St Ignatius Centre, Stockholm.

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

17th November 2018: Consultation with Prof. John Healey, Manchester.

29th-30th November 2018: “Ritual Transmission and Transformation in the Syriac Tradition” talk and workshop by Prof. Aho Shemunkasho, University of Lund, Sweden.

2nd December 2018: "MA in Syriac Theology" presentation by Prof. Aho Shemunkasho at the Syrian Orthodox Church, Göteborg, Sweden.

5th December 2018: "Clerical Handbook" - guide for priests and deacons in the Syriac Church in Europe, workshop with Prof. Aho Shemunkasho under the supervision of Bishop Mor Polycarpus.

12th December 2018: Syriac Advent Prayers with Bishop Mor Polycarpus and Auxiliary Bishop Dr. Hansjörg Hofer, Beth Suryoye, Salzburg.

Forthcoming events

8th January 2019: Ecumenical reception with Archbishop Dr. Franz Lackner, Salzburg.

27th January 2019: "Der Weg der Suryoye durch die Geschichte "Wer sind die Suryoye?" talk by Prof. Aho Shemunkasho at the Jubilee event: "50 Jahre Suryoye in Ochsenfurt und Würzburg – eine gelungene Integration", Würzburg.

30th January 2019: Ecumenical prayers with the Serbian Orthodox Church, Salzburg.

31st January - 1st February 2019: "Redefining Syriac Christianity in a Globalized 21st Century - adapting Syriac theology in the process of integration", workshop by Prof. Aho Shemunkasho at the University of Radboud, Nijmegen.

19th-22nd February 2019: Pro Oriente Forum Syriacum, Glane, Holland, hosted by Bishop Mor Polycarpus.

4th-7th March 2019: "Dionysius bar Salibi as a Milestone in the Syriac Renaissance", paper by Dr. des Gabriel Rabo at the Second Annual Meeting of the European Academy of Religion, Bologna. Syriac Day.


Andreas Scholler (ed.), Middle Eastern Christians and Europe – Historical Legacies and Present Challenges, Orientalia-Patristica-Occumenica 13 (Vienna 2018).

Aho Shemunkasho, „Die Lehreinrichtung für Syrische Theologie in Salzburg“, in: Irena Zeltner Pavlovic, Martin Illert (eds.), Ostkirchen und Reformation: Begegnungen und Tagungen im Jubiläumsjahr, Band 3: Das Zeugnis der Christen im Nahen Osten (Leipzig 2018).

Aho Shemunkasho, "Mor Philoxenos Yuhanna Dolabani (1885-1969) - Ein Vater syrisch-orthodoxer Spiritualität im 20. Jahrhundert", in Martin Tamcke (ed.), Profile gelebter Theologie im Orient, Sidney Harrison Griffith zum 80. Geburtstag, Göttinger Orientforschungen Syriaca 55 (Wiesbaden 2018), 205-18.

Aho Shemunkasho, "Oriental Orthodoxy", Kenneth R. Ross, Mariz Tadros, Todd M. Johnson (eds.), Edinburgh Companions to Global Christianity: Christianity in North Africa and West Asia (Edinburgh 2018), 247-58.

Aho Shemunkasho, “Syriac Theological Training in the West in the Process of Integration and Adaption”, in: Joseph Verheyden (Hg.), Eastern and Oriental Churches in the West in the Twenty-First Century: Challenges and Opportunities (Löwen 2018) [in print].