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Syriac Theology newsletter from 13.09.2022

Dear Reader,

New elective courses this year in Syriac Theology included the introduction of Syriac iconography and Aramaic epigraphy, along with the continuation of Syriac Music, with visiting scholars from Lebanon, Manchester and the USA. We are pleased that Beth Suryoye, the student house is now completely renovated and offers seminar facilities and accommodation for up to 28 students, along with a chapel and garden. We look forward to welcoming our new MA students in October.

We hope you enjoy reading our newsletter and wish you a good summer.
Aho Shemunkasho

Syriac music in Salzburg

There are not many places where one can study Syriac music. Malphono Gabriel Aydin, director of the Syriac Music Institute, Rhode Island, offered a course on "Prosody and Liturgical Music" in Salzburg giving an introduction to intellectual and practical engagement with Syriac hymnody as a living tradition. "Such engagement is especially important for the church in the current circumstances of ongoing migration and drastic instability", commented Aydin. Further courses are planned for next year.

Syriac Iconography in Salzburg

We were pleased to be able to offer another new elective course for the first time this year. MA students had a unique opportunity to learn about Christian iconography and its Syriac expression from Fr. Abdo Badwi, Associate Professor at the Holy Spirit University of Kaslik (Lebanon), a respected artist and expert on iconography. Receiving a general historic and geographical introduction, but focussing on its Syriac aspect, Fr. Badwi also kindly offered students the opportunity to continuing studying iconography and calligraphy in Lebanon.

Earliest Syriac inscriptions and decipherment

A second new elective on offer for the first time was provided by Prof. Dr John Healey, from Manchester University. The course, "From Paganism to Christianity" , the linguistic context of the emergence of early Syriac and the Christianisation of Edessa, offered “hands-on” direct engagement with inscriptions and parchments. Prof. Healey explaining his attraction to earliest Syriac inscriptions commented; "you are given an insight into ordinary, everyday lives for example the details of the sale of a horse from 252 AD or of the selling of a slave, human interest stories really".

Beth Suryoye welcomes youth group

Beth Suryoye offered a weekend course for young people to find out more about their Syriac Christian faith. Very positively received under the title "Spirituality as a Step towards Heaven", young students from Kreis Aramäischer Studierender Heidelberg (KrAS), spent the weekend taking part in workshops, the liturgy, prayers, singing and discussion. There was even time to explore the beautiful city of Salzburg. Particularly appreciated was the time spent in reflective workshops where visitors had the opportunity to ask questions and discuss openly with the MA students. "The workshops and discussions were really good, we loved the group work and the atmosphere in Beth Suryoye," commented one student. Future workshop requests include on the history of the church, spirituality and understanding the liturgy.

Syriac Theology in the Media

17th February 2019: "Ninive three day fast in the Syriac Tradition", documentary radio interview (in German) with Prof. Shemunkasho on Austrian Radio Ö1,“Was ich glaube“ programme.

11th May 2019: "The endangered situation for Syriac Christianity in Syria and the Middle East and the vision for Syriac Studies in Salzburg", documentary radio interview with Prof. Shemunkasho (in German), interviewed by Johannes Kaup from Austrian Radio Ö1.Syriac Christianity in Ö1 Logos - Glauben und Zweifeln.


Gabriel Rabo, Dionysius Jakob Bar ᚢalibi. Syrischer Kommentar zum Römerbrief. Einleitung, Edition und Übersetzung mit einem Verzeichnis der syrischen Handschriften zu seinen sämtlichen Werken. Göttinger Orientforschungen, 1. Reihe: Syriaca, Harrassowitz Verlag, Wiesbaden 2019. 525 Seiten.

Dietmar W. Winkler, The Syriac Church denominations: an overview, in: Daniel King (ed.), The Syriac World. London/New York: Routledge 2019, 119-133.

Summer semester activities

8th May 2019: "Die Aramäer in der Südosttürkei – ein Volk zwischen Beharrung und Auflösung“ talk given by Dr. Gabriel Rabo, Ökumenischen Arbeitskreis Religionsfreiheit, Neumarkt.

28th May 2019: "Life in Turabdin" talk given by Prof. Shemunkasho on a visit with students to Stift Lambach, Benedictine monastery, Upper Austria, where the students sung May devotions in Syriac.

29th May 2019: Parliamentary Prayer Breakfast, Austrian Parliament, Vienna, attended by Prof. Shemunkasho as Syriac Orthodox representative.

3rd-5th June 2019: Bishop Polycarpus and STSS committee visit to Beth Suryoye.

5th June 2019: Lange Nacht der Kirchen Beth Suryoye and the MA students opened its doors to welcome visitors to prayers in Aramaic followed by an agape.

20th-27th June 2019: 6th Salzburg International Conference on Syriac Christianity in China and Central Asia 2019, Almaty, Kazakhstan. Conference organised by Prof. Dietmar Winkler and Dr. Li Tang, University of Salzburg.

8th-12th June 2019: Tur Abdin study trip led by Prof. Shemunkasho in commemoration of the 30th anniversary of the establishment of the Initiative Christlicher Orient (ICO) set up by Prof. Dr. Hans Hollerweger, with Dr. Slawomir Dadas, President of the ICO and Georg Pulling, deputy Editor, Catholic Press Agency, Austria.

Forthcoming events

20th-23rd July 2019: Disputationes Ouverture Spirituelle, Salzburg Festival 2019, on the theme of "Lachrimae, lagrime, tears", guided by Dr. Erhard Busek, President, Disputationes Salzburg, with moderation by Prof. Dietmar W. Winkler among others.

30th August-3rd September 2019: Ecumenical study trip, Switzerland, organised by Pro Oriente Salzburg with the evangelical diocese Salzburg-Tirol, lead by Prof. Dietmar W. Winkler among others.

23rd-24th September 2019: ICO Tagung St Virgil, Salzburg. Speakers include Bishop Mor Polycarpus Aydin on "Tur Abdin - living centre of Syriac Christianity?", MA visiting scholar, other speakers include Prof. Martin Tamcke.

14th-16th September 2019: Prayer Breakfast: "Dialogue, a way of life and a path to peace. The challenge of Pluralism and Freedom", Libanon, Prof. Shemunkasho as Syrian Orthodox representative.

5th-8th November 2019: ‘Christian Witness: A Life Patterned on the Gospel of Christ (Philippians 1:27)’ Conference organisied by The Lausanne-Orthodox Initiative, the Logos Centre of the Monastery of St Bishoy, Wadi el-Natrun, Egypt, Prof. Shemunkasho as Syriac Orthodox representative.

26th-28th November 2019: 6th Colloquium Syriacum " With Hope towards the Future: Living together and common witness of the Syriac Tradition", Pro Oriente, Vienna, organised by Prof. Dietmar W Winkler.