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September 1999

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Edessan Syrian Orthodox Pilgrims visit the Mandylion of Christ

September 30, 1999

On the occasion of the 75th anniversary of the forced mass-exodus of the Syrian Orthodox people of Edessa (Urhoy or Urfa), the Capital of the Syrian Kings known as the "Abgars,", and their settlement in Aleppo, Syria, the H.E. Mor Gregorius Yohanna Ibrahim, Archbishop of Aleppo lead a group of Edessan Syrian Orthodox on a pilgrimage to the Mandylion of Christ, now in Italy, and brought an exact replica of it to St. George's Church, the church built by the Syrian Edessan Community in Aleppo shortly after the exodus.

Fifty six people participated in the trip, seven of whom were from the diaspora. Very Rev. Fr. Joseph Tarzi represented St. Ephraim's Cathedral of Burbank, California. The other six were: Mr. and Mrs. Jack Hamamji from San Jose, Mrs. Olivia Mukhtar from Los Angeles, Mrs. Seta Makdiss from New Jersey, Miss Siham Shlah from Calgary, and Mr. Albert Tarzi from Toronto, Canada.

The participants met in Rome airport and from there took a bus tour covering different parts of Italy. The pilgrims visited the church of St. Bartholomew in Genova where the Mandylion is kept since the 15th century. From the 10th to 15th centuries, the Mandylion was kept in Constantinople. The Mandylion, a gift from our Lord Jesus Christ to the Syrian Edessan delegation, was with the Edessan Syrian Orthodox, and was kept in our church in Edessa until the year 943 AD when the Crusaders stole it and took it to Constantinople. Certain Armenian merchants got hold of it and carried it to Genova.

The Mandylion was solemnly carried amid Syriac hymns to the altar area of St. Bartholomew church and placed on the beema during the Holy Liturgy celebrated by H.E. Mor Gregorius Yohanna Ibrahim assisted by V. Rev. Paul Kouli.

At the conclusion of the Holy Liturgy, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Genova presented a replica of the Mandylion to Archbishop Mor Gregorius who thanked him warmly. The Archbishop of Genova responded saying: "It is we who should thank you for we are only giving you a replica, whereas you gave us the original. Among the highlights of the trip were: a visit to the Grand Library of the great Basilica of Florence to see and be blessed by the Gospel of Rabbula, a priceless and magnificent Syriac manuscript with dazzling paintings, and the magnificent mosaics of the Syrian Orthodox empress Theodora in St. Vitale church in Ravenna.

The pilgrims visited the Vatican with all its parts, structures and museums and had an audience with H.H. Pope John Paul II. The Pope welcomed the delegation, blessed the replica of the Mandylion, and congratulated H.H. our Patriarch Moran Mor Ignatius Zaka I Iwas, on the occasion of the celebration of the 800th anniversary of the passing away of Patriarch Michael the Great (+ 1199).

Source: Very Rev. Fr. Joseph Tarzi, Ph.D.



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