On the evening of Sunday 19 January 2014, His Beatitude Gregorios III (Laham), Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarch of Antioch and All the East, of Alexandria and of Jerusalem, celebrated the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the Cathedral of the Dormition of the Mother of God in Alexandria. He was accompanied by his auxiliaries, Archbishop George Bakar, protosynkellos of Egypt, Sudan and South Sudan and Archbishop Joseph Jules Zerey, protosynkellos of Jerusalem, as well as several priests.
Built by George Tawil from Damascus, the cathedral was officially inaugurated on 28 February 1864, in the time of Patriarch Clement Bahouth.
George Peter Tawil was born in Damascus in 1794, and belonged to a keen Greek Catholic family who had given the Church an honoured Patriarch, Makarios IV Tawil B.S. (1813-1815).
Arriving in Alexandria, he worked in trade and his businesses were very successful and expanded. He had the cathedral built, simply writing on his photo that is kept there, “O God, if the highest heavens cannot contain thee, how can this dwelling do so? But as thou art merciful, deign to accept this handiwork and hear the supplications of thy servant and have mercy upon me in thy great compassion.”
A large number of priests, monks and nuns serving in Alexandria, attended this celebration: Jesuit fathers, Franciscan friars, Lazarist fathers, Brothers of Christian Schools, Sisters of Charity, Besançon Sisters of Charity, Sisters of the Mother of God, Saint Charles’ Sisters, Franciscan Sisters, Missionaries of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Franciscan Sisters of Christ the King, Franciscan Missionaries of Mary, Divine Providence Sisters, Mother Teresa of Calcutta’s Missionaries of Charity, besides priests of the Coptic Catholic Church headed by their patriarchal vicar Father Antonios Ghattas, and a representative of the Greek Orthodox Church.
During the celebration of the jubilee Patriarch Gregorios III bestowed the Patriarchal Cross of Jerusalem on several distinguished Melkite Greek Catholics who had served in the fields of education and training, social, charitable and medical work, namely:
- Jesuit Father Henry Bulad, on the occasion of fiftieth anniversary of his priestly ordination
- Archimandrite Samir Saadeh, priest-in-charge of the Church of the Immaculate Virgin of Alexandria and head of the Patriarchal College of Alexandria on the occasion of the twenty-fifth anniversary of his priestly ordination
- Mother Pauline Massoh, head of the convent and school of Saint Joan Antida for the Besançon Sisters of Charity in Alexandria
- Sister Simone Abdel Malek, head of the convent of Saint Antony of the Saint Vincent de Paul Sisters of Charity
- Brother George Absi, head of the Christian Brothers’ schools in Egypt
- Ms Mary Gargeura, general secretary of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church’s Welfare Association of the in Alexandria
- Dr Nagui Shuha, deputy general secretary of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church’s Welfare Association in Alexandria
- Dr Christian Gawish, member of several charitable and social associations
- Dr Nabil Khalil, warden of the Church of Mary Immaculate in Alexandria and head of the family centre in Ibrahimya
- Dr Gabour Mahanna, a well-known surgeon in Alexandria
- Mr Edward Fakahany, head of the patriarchate’s office in Alexandria
More than three hundred persons attended the celebration of this Divine Liturgy, among whom were the Consul General of Lebanon, Mr Osama Khashab and the Consul General of Palestine, Mr Mahmud Al Asadi. The service was sung by the choir of the Cathedral of the Dormition, conducted by Mr Yussef Sassin.
After a brief outline of the story of the cathedral from Archimandrite Yussef Andrawos, His Beatitude gave a sermon on Theophany, stating that the presence, charitable works and associations of Alexandria’s Christians are a living presence and manifestation of Christ. He also emphasised that the Virgin also appeared near this church during the miracle of the healing of Blessed Mary of Jesus Crucified. Finally, he spoke of the new Egyptian constitution that he values and finds that it is the beginning of a real Arab spring.
Later, Patriarch Gregorios, accompanied by Archimandrite Yussef Andrawos, patriarchal vicar of Alexandria and Father Zaher Mhanna, visited the Governor of Alexandria, Mr Tarek Mehdi. This visit, during which they discussed the new constitution and Egyptian national unity, was followed by an interview with His Beatitude on Alexandrian television.
Translation from French V.C.