August 31, 2015

Pope Honors Bishop Who Died Rather Than Convert to Islam

Blessed Flavianus Michael Malke

On Saturday, August 29, Pope Francis declared the first Syrian Catholic bishop, Flavianos Melke who was killed in Turkey one hundred years ago to the day, a martyr. Three weeks earlier, Pope Francis approved Melke's beatification after it was determined that the bishop was killed in hatred of the faith. The Pope noted that Melke's example is especially salient for Christians facing persecution now:
Even today, dear brothers and sisters, in the Middle East and other parts of the world, Christians are persecuted. There are more martyrs than in the first centuries. The beatification of this martyr should instill in us consolation, courage, and hope, but it is also a stimulus to legislators and government leaders to ensure that religious freedom is guaranteed everywhere...
A beatification Mass was celebrated in Lebanon, and brought together numerous patriarchs from the Eastern churches of Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq. Flavianos Michael Melke was killed on August 29, 1915 in Cizre, Ottoman Empire (now Turkey), because of his devotion to Catholicism.

He was arrested by Ottoman authorities on  August 28, 1915, alongside Chaldean Bishop Philippe-Jacques Abraham. According to Muslim eyewitnesses, the two prelates were given a choice between death and conversion to Islam. Upon their refusal, Jacques Abraham was immediately shot dead. Bishop Malke was tortured until he became unconscious and subsequently beheaded.

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