Antioch And Canterbury: The Syrian Orthodox Church And The Church Of England (1874 1928) 1593333129, 9781593333126

This study is a contribution to an understanding of the Syrian Orthodox Church in the more recent past. In particular, i

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Table of contents :
Chapter I: Pre-History: 1800-1874
Chapter II: Peter III Ignatius and Archbishop Tait
Chapter III: Material Exchange: 1875-1895
Chapter IV: Frederick Temple and the Patriarchate of Antioch
Chapter V: Randall Davidson and the Patriarchate of Antioch
Chapter VI: Postscript and Conclusion
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Antioch And Canterbury: The Syrian Orthodox Church And The Church Of England (1874 1928)
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Antioch and Canterbury The Syrian Orthodox Church And The Church of England 1874 - 1928

Antioch and Canterbury The Syrian Orthodox Church And The Church of England 1874 - 1928



First Gorgias Press Edition, 2005. Copyright © 2005 by Gorgias Press LLC. All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. Published in the United States of America by Gorgias Press LLC, New Jersey.

ISBN 1-59333-312-9

 GORGIAS PRESS 46 Orris Ave., Piscataway, NJ 08854 USA

Printed in the United States of America

Contents Contents .............................................................................................v Preface ..............................................................................................vii Acknowledgements ...........................................................................ix Chapter I: Pre-History: 1800-1874 .....................................................1 Chapter II: Peter III Ignatius and Archbishop Tait .........................15 Chapter III: Material Exchange: 1875-1895 .....................................49 Chapter IV: Frederick Temple and the Patriarchate of Antioch .....75 Chapter V: Randall Davidson and the Patriarchate of Antioch.......85 Chapter VI: Postscript and Conclusion ........................................ 119 Bibliography .................................................................................. 127 Index .............................................................................................. 133


Preface Francis B. Sayre, writing the Preface to Robert Brenton Betts’ book Christians in the Arab East, asserted, A minority, sometimes welcome, sometimes not, is wounded. It is drawn to its own community, where corporate strength is a precious resource. Survival requires special skills, special faith; the community is constantly winnowed by the loss of those without courage and too selfish to persevere. So the little band is purged and matured, until it has a unique and precious contribution to make to the very society which is at the same time its scourge and its nourishment.

A minority is also often overlooked. There are very few modern histories of the Syrian Orthodox written by Western scholars. The following study is a small contribution to an understanding of the Syrian Orthodox Church in the more recent past. In particular, it seeks to relate how that Church experienced contact with the Church of England. As will be seen, the exchange was often fraught with misunderstanding. Christians in the Middle East have suffered by having co-religionists who represented a culture and power often regarded by Middle Eastern States as hostile. Neither is it easy for an ‘Established Church’ to put itself in the position of a minority and understand the resultant concerns. It may seem arbitrary to focus on the period 1874-1928. I do not believe it to be so, because in this period, there is a far more substantial story to tell. As I have stated, contact before 1874 was sporadic and isolated, and after 1928, less systematic. There is, therefore, a certain appropriateness in beginning with Peter III Ignatius, who showed greater interest in contact with Anglicans than many others, and ending with Archbishop Davidson, who expressed a far greater interest in the condition of Christians in their minority status in the Middle East than any other occupant of the Chair of Augustine. vii

Acknowledgements This book had its genesis in an earlier thesis of mine under the supervision of Dr J. F. Coakley. At the time I acknowledged with gratitude those who had helped make this possible – principally the Diocese of Canterbury and the All Saints Educational Trust. Throughout all my work with the Syrian Orthodox Church I have always been encouraged by the generous hospitality and encouragement from the people of that church. His Holiness Patriarch Zakka I Iwas has always encouraged me in this work. I feel a particular appropriateness in bringing this book to publication at the time of the celebration of his Silver Jubilee in the Autumn of 2005. I want to thank His Holiness and the clergy and people of the Syrian Orthodox Church. Many librarians and archivists have been patient and helpful with my requests. In particular, the Staff of Lambeth Palace Library continually provided expert advice on the Archbishop’s papers. I have been encouraged and supported in bringing this book to publication by generous grants from the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, by the Bishop of London, Bishop Richard Chartres and from the Anglican & Eastern Churches Association. Their support is a sign of the commitment they demonstrate to good, sound, and sustained relations between Anglicans and Syrian Orthodox. Janet Laws has done heroic work deciphering the undecipherable, and patiently and efficiently typing the manuscript, any imperfections of which remain wholly my own.


Chapter I: Pre-History: 1800-1874 Writing in 1895 of the growing interest in England in the Syrian Orthodox Church, Brooke Foss Westcott, Bishop of Durham, pointed out, ‘Since Dr. Claudius Buchanan visited the Old Syrians in Malabar in 1806 … interest in the ancient Oriental churches has steadily, if slowly, increased in England’.1 The ninety years which had elapsed since Buchanan2 had written his account of the ‘St Thomas Christians of India’ had seen many Anglican initiatives and visits to Syrian Orthodox centres of life and worship, both in India and the Near East. Some were more substantial, better informed, or better financed than others – not all were motivated by altruism, in either church. Some resulted in valuable scholarly work. Others were more concerned with activity in the political sphere. Interest waxes and wanes, and continuity is lacking. However, some useful and pioneering contacts were made by both Syrian Orthodox and Anglicans. In the earlier part of the period under consideration, 18001874, most of the exchange between the two churches took place in India, in the states of Travancore and Cochin. Much of this history has been well documented, but a summary is necessary to place the later exchanges in context.

India The Anglican church’s worldwide spread throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries was invariably in the wake of the spread of British Imperial power. Indeed, the respective spread of the two bodies was often inseparable. It was therefore logical that the earliest contact between Syrian Orthodox and Anglicans should

1 B. F. Westcott, ‘Prefatory Note’ in O. H. Parry, Six months in a Syrian Monastery (1895), p. vii. 2 C. Buchanan, Christian Researches in Asia (2nd ed. Cambridge 1811).




take place in India, where British influence steadily grew throughout the nineteenth century. Earlier contact had, however, been made. M. Geddes had written his History of the Church in Malabar at the end of the seventeenth century.3 The work, while disseminating some useful and little known facts about Syrian Christianity in India, was flawed from two perspectives. Firstly, it is written, like most church history of the period, as a work of ecclesiastical polemic against the Roman Catholic Church and hierarchy in India. Secondly, Geddes never went to India himself, but relied (ironically) on Portuguese Roman Catholic sources. The eighteenth century witnesses no major initiatives from either church, and it is not until the nineteenth century that interest began to be articulated. The first thirty-six years of the nineteenth century witnessed a much increased understanding and knowledge of the Syrian Orthodox Church amongst Anglicans. An important, if little known, figure in the history of Anglican-Syrian Orthodox understanding, is Richard Hall Kerr. Richard Hall Kerr, a chaplain of the East India Company in Madras, had been asked by the governing body of the Fort St George settlement to undertake a study of the Syrian church in Travancore and Cochin in 1803.4 The government of Fort St George commissioned Kerr to report on “native Christianity” in an effort to support the British government’s policy towards the religious practice of the Indian people. This was a stated policy of neutrality and non-interference, largely as a means of avoiding involvement in inter-communal violence. The records of the governor in council at Fort St George speak of the duty of the British government to all its Indian subjects to reassure them that their religious views would be respected.5 Kerr read his report to the authorities of Fort St George at a Public Consultation on 4th November 1806. His report is of interest. Kerr draws on the work of the French church historian,


M. Gedes, History of the Church in Malabar (London 1695). Kerr’s report was published in 1813, A Report to Lord W. Bentinck on the State of the Christians Inhabiting the Kingdom of Cochin and Travancore. 5 See Records of the Governor in Council at Fort St George, 1803 (India Office E/4/902), pp. 112-8. 4

PRE-HISTORY: 1800-1874


La Croze, on the history of the Church in India,6 and divides Christianity in India into three bodies – the ‘St Thome, or Jacobite Christians’, the Syrian Catholics, and Latins.7 He says of the ‘St Thome Christians’ liturgy, ‘The service in these churches is performed very nearly after the manner of the Church of England’. Comparison with the liturgy of his own church was not the only fanciful projection for Kerr. He believed that a union of the two churches was inevitable and imminent. In his visit to Travancore and Cochin, he says of his interview with the Metropolitan, ‘When the Metropolitan was told that it was hoped that one day a union might take place between the two churches he seemed pleased at the suggestion’. Kerr does not elaborate on this proposed union, and does not qualify whether the ‘suggestion was merely his own, or was a suggestion from his superiors, civil or ecclesiastical. Anti-Roman Catholic polemic can be detected in his own desire for union. He went on: To unite them to the Church of England would, in my opinion, be a most noble work, and it is most devoutly to be wished for, that those who have been driven into the Roman pale might be recalled to their ancient church – a measure which it would not, I imagine, be difficult to accomplish, as the country’s governments (sic) would, it is supposed, second any efforts to that purpose.8

Kerr’s report, while sympathetic to the Syrian Orthodox, is full of political innuendo and nuance. It is to be remembered that his report was commissioned by his own civil, not ecclesiastical, authorities, and the political implications of possible ecclesiastical developments were never far from the surface. A body of Christians who owed their allegiance to the Archbishop of Canterbury, senior Peer of the House of Lords, and spiritual head of the Established Church, would be far easier to control by the British authorities than a body of Christians owing their allegiance to a Patriarch within the Ottoman Empire. Much of the nineteenth century interchange between these two churches was thus played 6

V. La Croze, Histoire due Christianisme des Indes (2 Vols., The Hague, 1724). 7 Kerr’s manuscript report is produced in full in the report of proceedings of the Fort St George Public Consultations, 4th November 1806 (India Office H59), pp. 95-130. 8 Ibid. p. 111.



on the political chessboard, as one church sought to gain from any liaison with the other. On the other hand, it was only in very rare cases that direct political intervention was ever sought.9 Kerr went on to plead for political subtlety in these ecclesiastical exchanges, and on the subject of conversion, advocated a response to an encounter with Englishmen, I speak not of interfering with their religious prejudices, or endeavouring to convert the natives by any extraordinary effort on the part of the British government – conversion, in my opinion must be the consequence which would naturally flow from our attention to their moral instruction, and their more intimate acquaintance with the English character.10

To Kerr, there was little distinction to be made between the British government, the Established Church, and being English. So he could speak of ‘conversion’ as a response to governmental pressure, or a response to an encounter with Englishmen. His belief in this notion was not confined to the ecclesiastical sphere. Other observers shared the same view from a secular perspective. In the middle of the nineteenth century, Rider Haggard wrote, We alone of all the nations in the world appear to be able to control the coloured races of the world without the exercise of cruelty … It is our mission to conquer and hold in subjection, not from thirst of conquest but for the sake of law, justice and order.11

Missionaries as agents of Empire, sometimes witting, sometimes unwitting, often accurately reflected social patterns and attitudes of their time. Kerr’s report was not widely known, despite the fact that it was published in London in 1813. Two years earlier, however, Claudius Buchanan had published his Christian Researches in Asia (1811), which was generally regarded as the first work in English in


Ibid. p. 114. See the incident involving Peter III and Lord Derby on p. 34. See also Bilal N. Simsir, British Documents on Ottoman Armenians, (2 Vols., Ankara, 1983), who points to an instance of the Syrians requesting Russian intervention in Turkey, Vol. II, p. 493. 11 Kerr, op. cit., p. 128. 10

PRE-HISTORY: 1800-1874


the nineteenth century on the Syrian Orthodox Church in India.12 Buchanan, like Kerr, had secular patrons in the East India Company. Furthermore, Buchanan had the active assistance of the Resident of Travancore and Cochin, Colonel Munro. In this early period of Anglican interest in the Syrian Orthodox, the link between secular power and Anglican missionaries was indeed close. In his book, Buchanan advocated a closer co-operation of Syrian Orthodox and Anglican churches, based partly on the fact that they were both Episcopal, but non-Papal churches, and drew attention to shared practices of the Syrian Orthodox and Anglican churches especially when they differed from the Latin tradition. When Buchanan met the Metropolitan, Mar Dionysius, they discussed a matter which was to later be an element in the dispute between the CMS and the Syrian Orthodox – the translation of the Syriac scriptures into Malayalam. The Metropolitan at the time expressed interest, and translated the Gospels himself. But of most interest was the proposed union of the Church of England with the Syrian Orthodox. Like Kerr, Buchanan advocated a full and formal union with the two churches, even though he acknowledged to the Metropolitan that he did not himself have the authority to speak for the Church of England. The Metropolitan himself seemed in agreement with Buchanan, and after assurances of the validity of Anglican ordinations from Buchanan, gave his statement that ‘a union with the English Church or, at least, such a connection as should appear to both churches to be practicable and expedient, would be a happy event, and favourable to the advancement of religion in India’.13 After Buchanan’s return to England, and especially after the publication of Christian Researches, the Syrian Orthodox Church in India was given wide publicity, and was brought to the attention of individuals and societies who had probably heard nothing of it before. Amongst the societies who were brought into contact with the Syrian Orthodox in India was the Church Missionary Society. The connection between the exercise of British power in India and Anglican missionary effort is explicit in the case of the CMS

12 Morton Cohen, Rider Haggard: His Life and Works (London 1960), quoted in H. S. Deighton, ‘The Impact of Egypt on Britain’ in Political and Social Change in Modern Egypt (ed. P. M. Holt, London 1968), p. 242. 13 See L. W. Brown, Indian Christians of St Thomas (Cambridge, 1983), p. l.



‘Mission of Help’ to the Syrian Orthodox of South India.14 The British Resident, Colonel Munro, stated that any CMS missionary in Travancore or Cochin must accept his advice as the Resident’s approval, ‘will indeed be essential to the success of their exertions’.15 In 1816, Thomas Norton and Benjamin Bailey were sent by CMS to South India to work with the Syrian Orthodox Church, under the direction of the Metropolitan, at the Seminary in Kottayam. Two years later, they were joined by Henry Baker and Joseph Fenn. Initially, the Syrian Orthodox accepted the work of the CMS missionaries and did not regard their presence as a threat. Emphatic denials of any intention of proselytism were given by them to the Metropolitan, and in return, permission was given to the missionaries to preach in Syrian churches.16 The years 1816-1836 thus witnessed the first major attempt at collaboration between an Anglican society and the Syrian Orthodox Church. The venture, despite the optimistic and co-operative nature of its beginning, carried within it the seeds of its destruction. CMS as an Anglican society represented one ‘wing’ of the Church of England in the Protestant, evangelical nature of its members. Despite the fact that there was an initial, clear understanding that the missionaries were only to work with the Syrian Orthodox under the direction of the Metropolitan, it was inevitable that many of the practices and beliefs of the Syrians would be regarded as ‘superstition’ by the Protestant members of CMS. And it would not take long for them to actively campaign to ‘reform’ the Syrian church with whom they worked. This in fact happened,17 and the Book of Common Prayer was translated into Malayalam; priests were encouraged to marry (with a financial incentive from the Resident). A tension of authority was also present in the fact that the missionaries were in theory to work under the direction of the Metropolitan, but the fact remained that they were there at the invitation of the Resident, who had firm 14

C. Buchanan, Christian Researches in Asia, (Cambridge 1811), p. 164. See F. Penny, The Church in Madras (3 Vols., London 1912) Vol. III, p. 684, for a good account of the political context of this co-operation. 16 Quoted in L. W. Brown, Indian Christians, p. 132. 17 The details of this early co-operation are given in C. P. Matthew, ‘Die Ankunft der Kirchlichen Missionsgesellschaft und ihre “Hilfmission”’, in Die Syrischen Kirchen in Indien (ed. P. Verghese, Stuttgart, 1974), pp. 85-114. 15

PRE-HISTORY: 1800-1874


ideas of reform. The tension between reform and conservative reaction became more and more obvious and explicit. The Anglican Bishop Wilson of Calcutta attempted to mediate in 1835, but by 1836, the Synod of Mavelikkara had been called, and relationships between the CMS and the Syrian Orthodox formally severed. A seminal figure during the period of co-operation was the Anglican Bishop Reginald Heber. His Archdeacon, Thomas Robinson, wrote a letter to the Syrian Patriarch Mar Georgius Ignatius, which was published in 1828. In it, he gave an account of an incident in Bombay, It is not unknown to thee, most Reverend Father, from the information of the Reverend Legate and Metropolitan of thy Churches in Malabar, Mar Athanasius, that he met our blessed Father, Mar Reginald, at Bombay soon after Pentecost in the last year (1828) and, as one Bishop with another, partook of the holy mysteries with him at the altar of the English Church dedicated to St Thomas in that city.18

The case of the Anglican Bishop of Calcutta, Reginald Heber, and Mar Athanasius sharing the same communion with no apparent difficulties can be seen at one end of the spectrum of opinions held by Syrians and Anglicans. In its historical context, the incident occurred when Anglican-Syrian co-operation had been at its best in India, with the joint venture of the theological college at Kottayam.19 The majority of Anglicans involved in work with the Syrian Orthodox in this period would publicly have assented to B. F. Westcott’s later analysis of the ‘standard’ Anglican approach to the Syrian Orthodox, when he claimed, ‘it is under no temptation to seek either submission or uniformity from those whom it serves’.20

18 See L. Vithuvattical, ‘The Reformed Missal of Abraham Malpan’ in The Malabar Church (ed. J. Vellian, Rome 1970, p. 6. 19 ‘Letter of the Revd Thomas Robinson to Mar Ignatius Georgius, Patriarch of Antioch’ in R. Heber, Narrative of a Journey through the Upper Provinces of India, From Calcutta to Bombay, 1824-25, (London 1828), p. 485. 20 For the details of this Anglican-Syrian Orthodox venture, see W. S. Hunt, The Anglican Church in Travancore and Cochin (Kottayam, 1933) and, in more detail, P. Cheriyan, The Malabar Syrians and the Church Missionary Society, 1816-1840, (Kottayam, 1935).



Privately, missionaries of the CMS in South India seem to have held other views. The type of Anglican position as represented by Westcott may have been the one held by those involved in the nascent work with Syrian Orthodox in South India and the Near East, but by the later stages of the CMS-Syrian cooperation, it was no longer the case. Anti-Syrian polemic began to emerge, and by 1836, ‘Anglican Syrians’ had come into existence.21 As we have noted, in 1836, the Synod of Mavelikkara22 had formally ended Syrian-Anglican co-operation,23 and directly led to the setting up of a ‘rival’ Syrian church, under Anglican authority. Further initiatives, from either church, were now impossible, and the main focus of interaction was to shift now from India to the Near East.

The Ottoman Empire Notwithstanding the serious setback in relations between the Church of England (as represented by CMS) and the Syrian Orthodox which the latter stages of the Indian experiment represented, the 1830s and 1840s saw several British initiatives in contact with the Syrian Orthodox of the Near East. As a result of the Royal Geographical Society’s Euphrates Valley Expedition, directed by Colonel F. R. Chesney, which began in 1835 and finished in 1837, considerable interest had been generated in England in the condition of Syrian Christians24 in the Ottoman Empire, both East Syrian (or Nestorian) and West Syrian (or Syrian


Westcott, op. cit., p. viii. For the resolutions of the Synod of Mavelikkara, see Cheriyan, op. cit., Appendix H, pp. 390f. 23 L. W. Brown says of the result of the Mavelikkara Synod, ‘The Synod marks the end of the official connection of the Church Missionary Society with the Syrian Church in India, and the triumph of the reactionary party within the Church’ – Indian Christians, p. 139. 24 There had been a little known earlier visit. James Brant, British Consul in Erzerum, had visited Diyarbakir in 1836, but in his report does not give details of Syrian Orthodox. He gives, however, 1500 as the number of Armenians in that town. ‘Journey through a part of Armenia and Asia Minor’ in Journal of the Royal Geographical Society (Vol VI 1836), pp. 187-223. 22

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Orthodox) churches.25 In 1838, the Society for the Promotion of Christian Knowledge agreed to share the expenses with the Royal Geographical Society of a mission to Mesopotamia. The main concentration of the work of this Expedition, led by W. F. Ainsworth and Christian Rassam, was with the Nestorians of Kurdistan, but the draft of their instructions places as much emphasis on the ‘Jacobites’ as the ‘Nestorians’. In the first issue, the Expedition was ‘to make enquiries into the general state of and condition of the Nestorian, Jacobite, and other Christian communities’.26 At this early stage, Ainsworth himself seems to have been in some confusion concerning the geography of the various Syrian churches, for in his ‘prospectus’ of the visit, he said that, ‘the party is to proceed to Mosul by way of Jebel Tur, which mountain district reveals many villages of Chaldaean Christians and some monuments of older time’.27 It is not entirely implausible that Ainsworth’s confusion was typical of the state of knowledge of the Syrian churches and of Turkish geography in England at the time. The draft of Ainsworth’s instructions from the Royal Geographical Society seems to contain confusion between the ‘Nestorians’ and ‘Jacobites’. The draft directs that he was to study, ‘Nestorian, Chaldaean, and Jacobite communities on the eastern bank of the Tigris’. Jacobite communities on the Eastern bank of the Tigris were negligible. The mission of Ainsworth and Rassam was so plagued with difficulties, some of their own making, some as a consequence of the social upheaval of the time, that the ecclesiastical objectives

25 Throughout this period, different terminology is used to describe the Syrian Churches. The Syrian Orthodox are variously described as Old Syrians, Jacobites, and West Syrians. (The Assyrians are variously described as Nestorians and East Syrians). Unless indicating a preference of an author, I use the term Syrian Orthodox. ‘Jacobite’ as a description of their own church, has been consistently rejected by the West Syrians, or Syrian Orthodox. See. A. P. Stanley The Eastern Church (London 1869), p. 8. 26 ‘Draft of Instructions’ (1837) to Ainsworth and Rassam. (Unpublished). Archives of the Royal Geographical Society. 27 ‘Prospectus of an excursion among the Nestorian Christians of Kurdistan, and of a visit to some of the less frequented parts of Western Asia’, 28th January 1838 (Section 5), unpublished archival material, Royal Geographical Society.



were scarcely attended to. Ainsworth ran into such financial difficulties that he returned to Britain with his reputation in ruins. In this published account of the Expedition, Ainsworth drew attention to the presence of Horatio Southgate of the Protestant Episcopal Church of the United States of America. He wrote, ‘Southgate is among the very interesting and long-neglected Syrians’.28 Horatio Southgate represents an interesting, if slightly eccentric, chapter in the history of Anglican-Syrian relations. A missionary of the Episcopal Church based in Istanbul from 1839, Southgate’s ‘brief’ was as ‘missionary to the Jacobites’, but in ten years’ residence in Ottoman Turkey, he only visited Mesopotamia once.29 Despite the fact that he seemed to prefer to stay in Istanbul than base himself in Mardin, the Patriarchal seat of the Syrian Orthodox, his account of his travels in Mesopotamia shows him to have a good command of Syriac, and knowledge of the Syrian churches.30 The Church of England and British societies, meanwhile, were not idle concerning the Syrian churches. Following the recommendations of the RGS/SPCK Expedition31 after the return of Chesney’s Expedition, G. P. Badger and J. P. Fletcher led a joint SPG/SPCK Expedition in 1842. Badger’s account, published in 1852, is less than sympathetic towards the Syrian Orthodox. His views contrast with Southgate’s, who declared, like Kerr and Buchanan before him, the Syrian Orthodox and Anglican churches to be almost as one. Badger wrote of the Syrian Orthodox whom he met also in Mosul, ‘Poor people! They are in urgent need of someone to teach them the way of life’.32 And he went on to give an interesting reason for their parlous state, ‘because of their monophysitism, the hand of the Lord has fallen mightily upon 28

W. F. Ainsworth, Travels in Asia Minor (London 1842), p. 129. See J. Joseph, Muslim-Christian Relations and Inter-Christian Rivalries in the Middle East (Suny 1983) especially ch. 4, for an interesting, if superficial, account of Southgate’s career in Turkey. See also P. E. Shaw, American Contacts with the Eastern Churches, 1820-70 (Chicago 1937). 30 H. Southgate, Narrative of a Tour through Armenia, Kurdistan, Persia and Mesopotamia (London 1840). 31 The Recommendations are to be found in the Archives of SPCK, Standing Committee Minute Book (4) 1836-38. 32 G. P. Badger, The Nestorians and their Rituals (London 1852, 2 Vols), Vol. 1. p. 58. 29

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them’.33 Having given an account of their decadent state and the reason for it, Badger then went on to confidently predict wherein the Jacobites’ salvation would lie, ‘I have abundant proof from the same quarter, and from the villages around, that the Jacobites here would hail with gladness, and receive with gratitude, a mission from the Anglican Church’.34 Badger was aware of the warning that Western involvement with Eastern Christians in the Ottoman Empire could have potentially disastrous consequences for the political equilibrium in those areas where Christians lived, but he rejected it. More specifically, Badger rejected the assertion that by his undiplomatic behaviour during his visit to the Assyrians, he had contributed directly to the Kurdish massacre of those people in 1843 and 1846. Referring to Ainsworth’s accusation35 that a sudden influx of foreigners into Mesopotamia had led to disaster for the minority Christians, Badger retorted, ‘the charge is too preposterous to be dwelt upon, and I shall therefore drop this division of our subject’.36 The political context of these exchanges must not be forgotten. Mesopotamia in the 1830s and 1840s was in political upheaval, and there was great fear amongst Ottoman officials of any foreign connection which their non-Muslim minorities might foster. In 1838, Mehmed Ali had made his rebellion into a virtual declaration of independence, and the Sultan Mahmud II was assembling his forces on the Euphrates to crush the rebellion.37 There was already distrust of the Christian ‘millet’ by the authorities of the Porte, and this, coupled with local rivalries of the Kurdish feudal Aghas, combined to create a delicate ecological balance between Muslim Kurds and Christians.38 Badger appears either to have been totally unaware of the politically volatile nature of the area in its recent history, or to have been aware of the 33

Ibid., p. 60. Ibid., p. 65. 35 Ainsworth, op. cit., p. 255. 36 Badger, op. cit., Vol. I, p. 191. 37 See Lord Kinross, The Ottoman Centuries (New York 1977), pp. 46734

71. 38 For a detailed account of the politico-military background of the period, see Robert F. Perry, ‘European exploration in Turkish Kurdistan, 1800-42’ (Unpublished M. A. Thesis, American University of Beirut 1965).



conditions and cynically exploited them. None of the ecclesiastical exchanges which took place in the nineteenth and early twentieth century took place in a political vacuum, even to the most naïve of observers. Ecclesiastically, the analysis of the proximity or distance of the Anglican Church to the Syrian Orthodox, varies greatly among those individuals and societies who came into contact with Oriental churches. No ‘official’ Anglican policy was to emerge during this period. Furthermore, the hierarchy of the Church of England needed much persuasion (more than had hitherto been provided) of the wisdom and usefulness of making such contact. Evidence for this is the reluctance of different Anglican missionary societies to assign funds for the purpose, and the reluctance of the hierarchy, especially the Archbishop of Canterbury, to wholeheartedly support such ventures. One common motive, however, seems to have been present in all the different contacts initiated by the Anglican and Protestant Churches with the Syrian Orthodox. This was the belief that a ‘reawakened’ Eastern Christendom, and that only, could be the effective instrument for the evangelization of the Muslims. The Methodist, J. W. Etheridge, claimed in 1846, that the Syrian churches, after being ‘evangelised’ by the Protestant churches, would then be fit to evangelise the surrounding sea of Islam.39 This belief persisted through the nineteenth century. B. F. Westcott, nearly fifty years later, was to reiterate the same belief. He claimed, ‘the quickening and reuniting of the remnants of the ancient churches may well be a revelation of the power of the Faith which will bring conviction to many devout souls, and open the way to the evangelisation of the East by Eastern teachers’.40 As can be seen from the above introduction, between the beginning of the nineteenth century and the 1840s, the focus of attention for Anglican contacts with Syrian Orthodox had shifted from India to the Ottoman Empire. This was in many ways a 39

J. W. Etheridge, The Syrian Churches (London 1846). As. J. Joseph (op. cit., p. 170) has pointed out, ‘Syrian’ for Etheridge, was synonymous with Jacobite. 40 B. F. Westcott in O. H. Parry, op. cit., p. xi. It was a common belief of many Protestant Churches that ‘reawakened’ Eastern Churches would evangelise Islam. See A. L. Tibawi, American Interests in Syria 1800-1901 (London 1966), p. 217.

PRE-HISTORY: 1800-1874


natural shift of emphasis. The failure of the joint CMS/Syrian Orthodox venture of the theological college of Kottayam of 18161836 left both parties with such feelings of bitterness and recrimination, that neither was anxious to renew any contact which might lead to another disastrous failure. Contact with the Syrian Orthodox in India was entirely different from contact with the Syrian Orthodox in the Ottoman Empire. Different individuals were involved – the Indian venture was almost wholly the preserve of CMS, and those who made contact with the Syrians in the Ottoman Empire were from a less ‘evangelical’ perspective. Dealing with a culturally different church was made doubly difficult in the Ottoman Empire by complicating local political factors – the balance of power between different minority groups on a lawless part of the Ottoman Empire. No centralized Anglican policy was to emerge during this period, and in many ways, contact with Syrians in India was carried on in isolation from contact with Syrians in Turkey. Nevertheless, all the individuals under consideration came from the same church, and the issues involved were not always separate In the 1840s, one such incident was to develop which brought together previously disparate concerns. The Anglican-Syrian co-operation of the early part of the nineteenth century had left not only a legacy of bitterness, but had sown the seeds of a dispute which was to develop through the 1840s. This dispute involved Syrian Orthodox of India and Syrian Orthodox in the Near East, in the person of the Patriarch of Antioch. The dispute was to develop in momentum and bitterness and was eventually to lead to the visit of Peter III Ignatius to London in 1874. Some account, therefore, of the background to the dispute needs to be given.

Athanasius versus Dionysius The details of the dispute between these rival Bishops are well known, and need not concern us here.41 An outline will suffice. Since the CMS/Syrian Orthodox split after the Synod of Mavelikkara in 1836, those Syrians who had been influenced by 41 See L. W. Brown, op. cit., pp 291-8, O. H. Parry, op. cit., pp. 350f., A. S. Atiya, A History of Eastern Christianity (London 1968), pp. 371f., W. S. Hunt, op. cit., Vol 2, pp. 142f., P. Cheriyan, op. cit., pp. 291-8, E. Tisserant, Eastern Christianity in India (1957), pp. 150-3.



their contact with Anglican missionaries seemed no longer to have any theological or liturgical outlet for their ideas and proposals. Reform was ruled out, since the ‘conservative’ party was in the ascendancy. The most outstanding of those Syrians who advocated reform was Abraham Malpan. He had constructed a revised Syrian liturgy, greatly influenced by Anglican theology and practice, but was unable to carry out his reforms.42 In order to assure future Episcopal blessing of his reforms, he arranged for his nephew, Joseph Matthew, to go to Mardin in order to be consecrated Metropolitan by the Patriarch himself. He went in 1841, and returned to India in 1843 as Mar Athanasius. This brought him into direct conflict with the already established Metropolitan, Mar Dionysius IV, and a long and complicated series of claim and counter-claim, excommunication and litigation followed,43 involving both Dionysius IV (who died in 1855) and his successor Dionysius V, consecrated by the Patriarch at Mardin in 1865. The dispute and its attendant litigation and acrimony continued, and by 1870, the situation had become so intolerable that Patriarchal intervention was sought to end it. Mar Dionysius had lost such support with the death of his ally and supporter, Mar Yoyukin Kurilos, that he invited the Patriarch himself to India. En route for India, the Patriarch was to visit London to secure the necessary permission. The CMS ‘reformers’ had thus unwittingly created a legacy of a dispute which was to be the catalyst for a much closer co-operation between the Syrian and Anglican churches than had hitherto been the case. The visit of this Patriarch, Peter III Ignatius, was to lead to the most substantial contact in the nineteenth century between the Anglican and Syrian Orthodox churches, and it is to the events of this visit to which we now turn.

42 See L. Vithuvattical, ‘The Reformed Missal of Abraham Malpan’ in The Malabar Church (ed. J. Vellian, Rome 1970), pp. 33-40. 43 The details of this complicated and depressing period are to be found in Brown, op. cit., pp. 142-5. See also R. Anderson, Missions of the American Board: Oriental Churches (2 Vols., New York, 1872), Vol. I, p. 205.

Chapter II: Peter III Ignatius and Archbishop Tait It was not until the accession of the Patriarch Peter III1 in 1872 that sustained and detailed contact was made by a Syrian Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch with the Anglican Church.2 His Patriarchate was to mark the beginning of a fifty year period during which Anglican-Syrian Orthodox relations were to be more thorough and fruitful that in any period before or since. As this Patriarchate was to lay the foundations of this exchange, it is necessary to deal with the course of events in some detail. Not only was greater interest in 1

Peter III Ignatius, in Syrian Orthodox usage, has since undergone a change of terminology. He is now referred to as Peter IV Ignatius. At the time of his Patriarchate, he is referred to in both Syrian Orthodox and Western sources as Peter III. His Firman from the Porte (Tait 2302. f. 2311, 213) clearly refers to him as Peter III. The change appears to have taken place during the Patriarchate of Ephrem Barsoum. Ishaq Saka, in his Kanisati al-Suryaniyah (Damascus 1985), refers to three Peters prior to Peter IV – Peter the Apostle (p. 140), Peter II Qassar as the 33rd Patriarch, 468-488 A.D. (p. 144), Peter III Raqqa as the 39th Patriarch, 581-591 A.D. (p. 145), and Peter IV, who visited England in 1874. All references to this Patriarch after the Patriarchate of Ephrem Barsoum are to Peter IV in Syrian Orthodox literature. For the purposes of this study, I use the contemporary reference of Peter III. 2 A somewhat maverick incident is referred to by E. Stock in History of the Church Missionary Society (1899, 3 vols). Referring to the incident which took place between 1820 and 1827, he says, ‘the Archbishop of Jerusalem in one of the three branches of the Syrian Jacobite Church … visited Europe in order to obtain help towards printing the scriptures in the particular form in which his people could read them, ie in the Arabic printed in Syriac characters. He applied to Rome and Paris, and then came to London’, vol. I, p. 228-9. No other documentation is to be found, and the incident must thus be regarded in isolation.




relations with the Anglican Church articulated by the Syrian Orthodox hierarchy, but also Syrian Orthodoxy began to feature more prominently in the Anglican Church’s dealings with other churches. Aziz Atiya, in his account of these early stages of contact between the Protestant churches and the Syrian Orthodox, states simply ‘In 1874, the Jacobite Patriarch visited England by special invitation from Dr Tait, Archbishop of Canterbury, and was honourably received by Queen Victoria’.3 Behind this apparently simple statement of historical fact, lie disputed and complex issues of ecclesiastical history. Motives for ecclesiastical exchange are rarely straightforward, and the visit of this Patriarch, ‘Moran Mar Ignatius Peter III, exalted Patriarch of the Apostolic See of Antioch, and of all the Jacobite Churches of Syria and in the East’,4 is less straightforward than most. The motivation for the exchange is disputed; the course of events contentious. It is part of the purpose of this study to examine the conflicting claims about the significance of the visit, and to make an analysis of its results for both churches.

Istanbul Since the Syrian Orthodox Patriarch functioned as a recognised official of the Ottoman Empire under the ‘millet’ system, it was necessary for any foreign travel to be sanctioned by the authorities of the Porte. Peter III, therefore, had to travel from the patriarchal seat at Mardin to Istanbul before he could undertake his journey to England and India. And it was in Istanbul that he first came into contact with the Anglican Church. It seems he was favourably impressed. A dispute between the Armenian and Syrian communities in Istanbul over church ownership had taken the Patriarch to that city in 1873. And in an effort to gain support for the Syrian position in the dispute, Peter III had appealed to the Greek community for their assistance. His request met with no response. He then turned to the British Embassy Chaplain, George Curtis. Bishop Abdallah of Jerusalem (the later Patriarch Abdallah) reported the initial contact thus, 3 4

A. S. Atiya, A History of Eastern Christianity (London 1968), p. 217. O. H. Parry, Six Months pp. 61, 314.



As a consequence, a familiarity had developed with the English Priest Curtis … and (the Patriarch) informed him of the distress he was undergoing. This priest immediately initiated contact with the Anglican Church in London and after some time, the reply came that if the Syrian Patriarch would go to London, the matter would be considered there.5

In Curtis’ initial correspondence with Archbishop Tait, and with SPG (his paymasters), no mention is made of this dispute. Speaking of his contact with the Syrian Orthodox in Istanbul, he wrote to the Secretary of SPG on 23rd June 1874, ‘My chief relation with native Christians has been my intercourse with the Syrian Jacobites’ Patriarch, Bishops and Priests, and others, of whom the first are preparing for a visit to England’.6 Curtis himself had been in Turkey since 1856, so knew the situation well. Furthermore, unlike Bishop Abdallah Sadadi, he suggests that the motivation for the visit came from the Patriarch, and not from an Anglican initiative to resolve a dispute between the Armenians and Syrians. Curtis suggests that the Indian dispute between Athanasius and Dionysius was the most pressing reason. He wrote a month later, on 16th July 1874, to the Archbishop of Canterbury, The objects with which His Holiness visits England is (sic) twofold, 1. To obtain from Her Majesty’s Government official recognition of his authority over certain British subjects in Southern India similar (as far as is possible) to the recognition which he has already procured from the 5 The Patriarch was accompanied by Abdallah Sadadi, who at that time was Bishop of Jerusalem. He wrote an account of his journey from Jerusalem to India, 1874-9. The account was reproduced in Magallat alBatriarkiyah, the Patriarchal Magazine of the Syrian Orthodox Patriarchate in Damascus. Entitled, ‘Rihlat al-Mutran (al-Batriark ba’da’ithen) ‘Abdallah Sadadi ‘ili Istanbul wa London wa Malibar al- Hind’. (The Journey of Bishop (later Patriarch) ‘Abdallah Sadadi to Istanbul and London and the Malabar Coast’), the article was first published in Patriarchal Magazine No 42 (February 1985), and continued until No 49 (November 1985). It covers ‘Abdallah’s departure from Jerusalem on 11th April 1874, until Malabar on 30th September 1875. The extract above is from No. 42 (February 1985), pp. 78f. 6 Letter of the Revd G. Curtis to SPG, 23rd June 1874 (USPG Missionary Reports 874. p. 683).


ANTIOCH AND CANTERBURY Sultan’s Government of his jurisdiction over certain Turkish subjects in the Ottoman Empire. 2. To gain help, material and moral in his work of advancing the course of education and religion among the thousands committed to his charge.7

Curtis makes no reference to the Armenian dispute, and only draws attention to the Indian difficulties of the Patriarch. The only domestic Turkish reference is to the Patriarch’s plea for support in new educational ventures in Mesopotamia. The Patriarch left Istanbul on 14th August 1874, and arrived in London ten days later.8

London Archibald Campbell Tait’s biography9 makes no reference to the Patriarchal visit: a measure, perhaps of the importance with which relations with the Syrian Orthodox were considered in some sections of the Church of England. It is therefore necessary to turn to the (largely unpublished) correspondence between Archbishop and Patriarch. The first official reference to contact between them is in a letter from Tait to Disraeli, of September 1874. The so called Jacobite Patriarch of Antioch has come to England on business connected with his authority over the Syrian Christians in India. He is with a Firman from the Sultan and with proper introductions to me. My views respecting his connection with the Syrian Christians are embodied in the enclosed newspaper.10

The reference to the newspaper cutting is to The Guardian, 16th September 1874, which stated baldly in a reference to the Indian dispute, ‘the Archbishop of Canterbury supports Athanasius, not Dionysius’. 7

Letter of the Revd G. Curtis to Tait, 16th July 1874 (Tait vol. 202. f.

210). 8

Abdallah Sadadi, op. cit., pp. 79f. gave an interesting account of the journey by ship and train. The account is full of detached observation, often humorous. 9 R. T. Davidson and W. Benham, Life of Tait (London 1891, 2 vols.). 10 Letter of Tait to Disraeli, Addington Park, Croydon, September 1874. (Tait 202. f. 221).



Tait’s position had already been formulated when he saw the Patriarch. Much earlier in the year, he had already received advice. The position of the Archbishop, seemingly so unequivocal, had been formulated on the basis of advice given to him by the authorities, ecclesiastical and civil, in India. The Bishop of Calcutta, writing to Tait earlier in the year, had written ‘Mar Athanasius and not Mar Dionysius is the true Mutran’.11 Not all advice coming from India had been so explicit. A week earlier, 30th March 1874, the Bishop of Madras had written to the Archbishop, ‘The information afforded by the Patriarch is unsatisfactory … the Archbishop should be requested to abstain from affording, while the question is in its present position, any support to the Patriarchate’.12 The Archbishop of Canterbury was thus clearly aware of the Indian dimension to the Patriarch’s visit before he arrived. Not only had Tait received advice from the ecclesiastical authorities in India, and from Curtis in Istanbul, but also from the Foreign Office, based on reports from Turkey. While the Patriarch had been in Istanbul, on his way to London, he had met officials at the British Embassy in that city. As early as 16th April 1874, Sidney Locock, Consul General in Istanbul, had written to the Foreign Secretary, Lord Derby, I have this day had the honour to address to your Lordship a letter of introduction in favour of the most Venerable A. Patros, recently appointed Patriarch of the Syrian communities, who had just been furnished with the Imperial Firman – recognising him in that capacity, and who is now about to visit England for the purpose of obtaining from Her Majesty’s Government letters to the British authorities in India desiring them to recognise him as Patriarch of the Syrian Churches in the British provinces where, I understand, the Syriac community is reckoned at two millions of souls. I may mention that His Holiness has already been in correspondence with His Grace, The Archbishop of Canterbury, having been asked to decide between the rival claims of Mar Athanasius and Mar Dionysisus to be Mutran of Metropolitan of the


Letter of the Bishop of Calcutta to Tait, 8th April 1874, (Tait 202. f.

279). 12

Letter of the Bishop of Madras to Tait, 30th March 1874. (Tait 202. f. 280, 282).


ANTIOCH AND CANTERBURY Syrian Church in Malabar, and that it is partly to effect an arrangement of this dispute that he is about to visit India.13

Locock’s reference to the Imperial Firman played a large part in the initial conversations between Patriarch and Archbishop at their first recorded meeting on 15th September 1874, at Addington Park, when the Patriarch placed a copy of the Firman in Tait’s hands. Two days later the Firman was read to Tait, and the following declaration of the Patriarch’s authority is of importance, ‘None shall oppose him either in his appointments or depositions’ and ‘no-one belonging to a different community shall interfere with him. All matters moreover concerning the endowments (of the Churches and convents) shall be adjusted with the consent of the Patriarch, without the least interference of anyone belonging to a different community’. Within the general context of a recognition of ecclesiastical authority, more specific references to Syrian Orthodox affairs are to be found in that same Firman. Perhaps references to Anglican/Syrian developments in Malabar are to be detected, ‘… the Syrian Jacobites shall (be free to) carry out in the Churches and convents belonging to them … all the customs which they have observed from ancient times until now’. And in a threatening reference to those who dispute Patriarchal authority, is added, ‘should a Bishop, priest, or monk prove faithless to his vows or tenets … the Patriarch shall cause their hair to be shaved and shall depose them’.14 Tait may have envied the Patriarch’s far-reaching authority! Clearly, in their initial meeting, the stated position of the two men could not have been further apart.15 In response to the Patriarch, the Archbishop read a statement to him. Referring to the authorities in India from whom Tait had received his information, and on the basis of which he had formulated his own position, he read out to the Patriarch that he trusted,


Letter of Sidney Locock to Lord Derby, 16th April 1874. (FO. 78/2330) in Public Records Office. 14 Imperial Ottoman Firman of recognition of Peter III Ignatius, (30th December 1873) as representative of the Jacobite community (Tait 202. f. 211, 213 – Ottoman version and English translation respectively). 15 W. S. Hunt (op. cit., p. 183) says of this meeting, ‘In one quarter he (The Patriarch) received unpalatable advice’.



that whatever influence Your Holiness posses over the members of that body may be directed to strengthen the hands of those who are disposed to act in concert with the English Metropolitan Bishop of Calcutta and the English Bishop of Madras and the representatives of the British Government in Travancore.

He went on to be more specific: The Archbishop deplores that there should be at present a schism from the presence in Travancore of two claimants for the Office of Mutran. Mar Athanasius and not Mar Dionysius ought to be supported as Mutran of the Christians of Malabar … Athanasius represents the principle of that Church’s independence and desire to reform itself.

Unpalatable as the Archbishop’s analysis of the AthanasiusDionysius dispute was to the Patriarch, Tait went on to give his opinion of the relationship between Antioch and Malabar, He (the Archbishop) ventures to suggest to you for your consideration whether it is desirable to endeavour to maintain over them a control which can only be nominal over so distant a Church with which communication must be very difficult and the members of which seem entitled to independence in the selection of their own bishops.

And in a complete departure from the Anglican norm of noninterference in questions of the Church order of other (and especially, Orthodox) churches, Tait suggested to the Patriarch a way to resolve the dispute, based on an Anglican system, There are now about one hundred and seventy Bishops of the Anglican Communion in various parts of the world, all more or less connected with the See of Canterbury and the comparative independence which they enjoy has in no way been found to interfere with a hearty intercommunion between the several Churches over which they preside or with their attachment to the ancient See of St Augustine. The Archbishop would suggest to your Holiness whether it would not be well to adopt some similar re-adjustment of the


ANTIOCH AND CANTERBURY relations at present existing between Your Holiness’ See and the Christians of Malabar’.16

Not only was Tait publicly supporting the opposing candidate to the one supported by Antioch, he had gone on to question the whole basis of the Patriarchal authority over the ‘St Thomas Christians’ of Malabar, an issue of as much concern to Peter III as the more specific one of the Athanasius-Dionysius dispute. No response is recorded at the Addington Park meeting, but six days later, the Archbishop received a letter from the Revd G. P. Badger who was in regular contact with the Patriarch, and often translated for him. In it he said, ‘His Holiness is most strenuously opposed to any loosening of the bonds between his See and the Christians of St Thomas’. And in specific reference to Athanasius, he presented what may be regarded as the Patriarchal position, A short interview which I had with him at Mosul in 1843 led me to fear that his zeal would not be tempered with discretion. Any further division among them would be deplorable, and I do not see how the present schism can be healed unless Mar Athanasius submits to the Patriarch.17

The position of the two men is now seen as widely divergent, even mutually opposed. Nevertheless, formal courtesies and diplomatic behaviour continued. The Patriarch maintained the appearance of an interest in the Church of England, and attended an ordination in Croydon Parish Church, conducted by the Archbishop on 20th September 1874.18 Underlying the courtesies and exchanges, however, seems to have been a feeling of deep unease on the part of both Patriarch and Archbishop, that the Patriarch had come to the centre of British political power in order to enlist the necessary support for his dealings in India, and that support was not forthcoming. His Hostess in London was Mrs Elizabeth Finn, the widow of the British Consul in Jerusalem. She 16 Letter of Tait to the Patriarch, September 1874, (Tait 202. ff. 23741). The letter is also referred to by Hunt, op. cit., (pp 183f.), who says of the interview, ‘The whole section on the situation in Malabar must have made the recipient of the letter writhe’. 17 Letter of the Revd G. P. Badger to Tait, 21st September 1874. (Tait 202. f. 216). 18 An account of this is to be found in Croydon Parish Magazine for October 1874, (File of press cuttings, Tait 404. f. 192).



wrote to the Archbishop on 25th September, ‘I venture to add that His Holiness continues in a suffering condition, unable to sleep at night or to rest by day’. This may, of course, have been only on account of the London climate, but his unhappiness is more likely to have been the result of treatment which he felt was less than he might have expected from the authorities in London. Mrs Finn went on, ‘I have feared some sudden seizure of serious illness might attack him’.19 Being already so disappointed in the Archbishop of Canterbury’s response to his requests, the Patriarch now turned to the political authorities, employing a slightly different approach. Writing to the Foreign Secretary two weeks later, he said: … we then left Constantinople and came to London, the preserved city, to the intent that we might be honoured with the favour of the August Queen and her noble ministers, and that Her Majesty might be graciously pleased to grant unto us a Firman of protection and security on our own behalf and that of our people who are under the shadow of her protection and security on our own behalf and that of our people who are under the shadow of her protection in India and other places; for our community within the Ottoman dominions is feeble and has no aid such as the Catholics possess, who are supported by the Pope, the French and others, notwithstanding that they are Rayhas20 of the Sublime Porte like ourselves. But through the support referred to they have supplanted us, have seized our churches and endowments, divided our people, and treated us with injustice and enmity, because we had no one to stand up for our rights. Hence, the renown of your justice has induced us to come in person to appeal to your government, praying that you will be graciously to direct (sic) a recommendation to be given to us to the ambassador of the exalted British Government at Constantinople that he may take us and our people under his oversight and protection in whatever is just


Letter of Elizabeth Finn to Tait, 25th September 1874. (Tait 202. f.

220). 20

A ‘Rayah’ in the Ottoman feudal structure, was a freeman. For an account of the tribal structure of Christians, (mainly Assyrians) and Kurds in Eastern Anatolia, see Claudine Dauphin, ‘The Rediscovery of the Nestorian Churches of the Hakkiari’ in Eastern Churches Review (1973), pp. 56-67, and J. M. Fiey, ‘Proto-histoire chrétienne du Hakkiari Turc’ in L’Orient Syrien, vol. 9 (1964), pp. 443-472.


ANTIOCH AND CANTERBURY and right, and redeem our rights out of the hands of those who have defrauded us.21

The fact that the West Syrian community in Turkey never had had any formal relationship with foreign powers was an ambiguous position for the Patriarch. As loyal subjects of the Ottoman Empire, not having connections with foreign powers removed any opportunity for suspicion from the authorities’ perspective. On the other hand, there were some more immediate, superficial advantages in having a formal relationship with foreign powers. The British Government was clearly uneasy about this particular request, and chose the characteristically evasive tactic of silence rather than outright rejection of the request, a pretty poor response if the complaint was about Turkey. Evading the issue, two dates later, the necessary letters introducing the Patriarch to the authorities in India were given, neatly sidestepping the Turkish element. These letters to the Governor General of India, and to the Governors of Madras and Bombay, made no mention of the dispute, merely stating that the Patriarch came to India in connection with questions of his jurisdiction. On 16th October, Badger wrote to The Times, and was less than direct concerning the Indian element of the Patriarch’s visit. Doubtless there are a number of other points which it would be indispensable to enquire into were the Patriarch’s object to seek intercommunion with our Church. He has no such quixotic object in view, his simple errand being, as far as I know, to enlist the sympathy of the clergy and laity of the Church of England to enable him to introduce education among his depressed people, who are sadly in want of enlightenment and have no foreign aid to rely upon, as have the Syrian Catholics and other Uniate communities in the East. Moreover, he seeks the co-operation of Englishmen because a very large portion of his people, called the Christians of St Thomas, are located in India within Native States, under the protection of the British Government.22

Badger’s letter in The Times appears to be part of a general expression of interest in Britain in the person of the Patriarch. 21 Letter of the Patriarch to Lord Derby (Foreign Secretary) of 12th October 1874, translated by G. P. Badger (FO. 78/2367). 22 G. P. Badger in The Times, 16th October 1874.



Other correspondents, not directly involved in the visit, expressed their opinions – ‘A Perplexed Ritualist’ was published in The Times the same day asking, ‘If any of our friends will kindly throw some light on the Anglican cultus (sic) of this heresy and schism in the person of the present Patriarch, he will do something perhaps to satisfy an ‘Anxious Enquirer’ and certainly relieve greatly the mind of A Perplexed Ritualist’.23 Others, too, with perhaps more vested interest in letting their views on the subject of the Patriarch be known, approached the government with specific recommendations. A week after the publication of Badger’s letter in The Times asserting the Patriarch’s authority in Malabar, Archbishop Manning gave the Foreign Office his own (or rather, the Roman Catholic Church’s) interpretation of the matter. An internal Foreign Office memorandum to the Foreign Secretary concerning the visit is enlightening in revealing Manning’s motivation, He (Manning) was commissioned from Rome to inform the British Government that the object of the Patriarch’s visit to India was to claim jurisdiction over a body called the Christians of St Thomas – a community in the South of India who were, he said, entirely independent of the Syrian Patriarch and would resent any attempt on his part to exercise jurisdiction over them. He was to warn the British Government to beware of lending their support to such an attempt which would certainly create a religious contest and possibly lead to disturbances.

Going on in the memorandum, Manning’s concern for the Christians of Malabar is revealed as less than entirely altruistic. The writer of the memorandum, Tenterden, says, I then asked him what was the position of these Christians – under whose jurisdiction were they. He said – under their own hierarchy – I asked how the hierarchy was constituted and appointed – he said by Apostolic Succession. I then asked what happened in the case of a vacancy, who nominated the successor to a See. He said, “Oh – Rome, as the other Bishops of our Church” ….

23 Letter in The Times, 16th October 1874. The writer presumably is referring to the ‘homage’ paid to the Patriarch considered heretical by some sections of the Church of England.


ANTIOCH AND CANTERBURY I understood that what he really came for was to assert a claim for Rome as against the Patriarch and that the Christians of St Thomas had been at one time in communion with the Syrian Church but were now claimed by the Pope. What he suggested was that the British Government should simply leave the matter alone.

And in his own analysis of the merits of the rival claimants Tenterden added perceptively, ‘I suspect the Rome claim is little better than the Syrian, if as good. He made the statement about the appointment of the Bishops with a good deal of reluctance and hesitation’.24 The emergence of a ‘Turkish element’ in the Patriarch’s visit, at least in the eyes of the Foreign Office, began now to assume greater importance than the Indian question, which was regarded by the majority of government officials who were acquainted with it as an irritating oriental squabble. The repercussions of the Patriarchal visit were not only limited to the Syrian community in Turkey – other communities began to take more than an impartial interest. On 31st October, Elizabeth Finn wrote to the Archbishop, ‘The Armenians in Constantinople have formally accused the Patriarch to the Turkish Government of coming to England to promote the union of the Syrian Church with the English Church. He is looked upon in the East as a very liberal man to have come here as he has done’.25 This concern for the internal Turkish situation which began to be more readily articulated, appears to have influenced the Archbishop. On 4th November, he wrote to the Foreign Secretary, urging the British Government to formally intervene in the Ottoman Empire on behalf of the Syrians, saying, ‘The Roman Catholics and Greeks are protected by the French and Russian Ambassadors but the other bodies of Christians seem to be exposed to very great privations’.26 In spite of this intervention of Tait into the overtly political arena, there was to be no response to the Patriarch’s request for direct governmental intervention for three months. The Patriarch, however, was not inactive and during November, simultaneously

24 Memorandum of Tenterden to the Foreign Secretary, 23rd October 1874. (FO. 78/2368). 25 Letter of Elizabeth Finn to Tait (Tait 202. f. 225). 26 Letter of Tait to Lord Derby, 4th November 1874 (Tait 202. f. 227).



with his request for political intervention, came request for material support. Most obviously, the material support which the Patriarch was anxious to acquire was for educational work – in particular, for establishing schools and printing work. More curiously, however, he delivered a request through the War Office to the Foreign Office, for permission to visit the Woolwich Arsenal. Despite the fact that Tenterden scrawled across the letter from the War Office, ‘These irregular requests from the War Office are very inconvenient’,27 the Patriarch was given permission to visit, and did so on the 9th November. Interesting and curious as the visit may be, little documentation is to be found, apart from the brief references to the visit quoted, and the whole episode must be regarded as maverick. The Ottoman authorities would never have allowed a representative of a Christian millet to buy arms, even had the finances been available to do so.28 On 17th November, the Patriarch visited the SPCK unannounced. By chance, the Chairman of that organisation was present and welcomed the Patriarch in the name of the Society, and in response to questions to him concerning the needs of his community, elicited the following answers: (a) Schools - The Patriarch wished for elementary schools for the children of both sexes in all the towns and throughout the provinces. The books necessary would have to be printed there. One lady had already given a small press, but other and larger ones were required but a beginning once made, help on the spot would be forthcoming to continue the work. The teachers in the present schools were not all priests, the clergy themselves were often so ignorant as not to be able to read the Lord’s Prayer. This led to:

27 Note of Tenterden on the letter from the War Office to the Foreign Office, 8th November 1874. (FO. 78/2366). 28 ‘Abdallah Sadadi, op. cit., vol. 23, No 45/46, p. 276 gave an interesting account of the Patriarch’s visit to the Arsenal. Sadadi appears to have been fascinated by mechanical details of any kind. He described in minute detail the carriage they rode in, train couplings, steam printing presses, and the workings of a large cannon which they were shown in the arsenal. If the starting of a militia was contemplated, it was never articulated.


ANTIOCH AND CANTERBURY (b) Clerical Colleges or Training Schools for teachers. At present the knowledge of Holy Scripture, the Liturgy, and a general acquaintance with the pastoral duties of their future office, but practically much less was accepted as sufficient. The Patriarch wishes to have a College of deacons and teachers at his own patriarchal seat near Murden (sic) to be conducted by a teacher selected by himself. Education at first must be gratuitous, in the course of time, candidates would be prepared to pay something. The education would include acquaintance with English and French. If this education was not taken in hand by those attached to the Patriarch of Antioch, the Roman Catholics would step in and offer it. At the present time, the Syrian uniats send their deacons to Rome. (c) Books – The Patriarch especially mentioned Bibles, Prayer Books and the Psalter. He wished for Bibles in four languages, Syrian (first of and above all), Turkish, Armenian, and Arabic, the style to be vernacular, and such as would be easily understood by the people.29

A sub-committee was formed in response to the Patriarch’s requests which met three times in the next three months, only to come to the conclusion that no action should be taken. The development of an organised response from the Church of England to the Patriarch’s educational requests is the subject of our enquiries elsewhere. The response of the SPCK to the Patriarch’s requests (quoted at length) is a useful indicator of the ambivalence of the Church of England and Anglican Societies to the stated needs of the Syrian community in Turkey.30 The Patriarch had first sought Archepiscopal intervention in the Indian dispute, and procured it – but for the opposing 29 Meeting of 30th November 1874, recorded in Minutes of Standing Committee of SPCK. (Minutes of the Standing Committee SPCK (22) November 1874 - January 1876), pp. 3-5. 30 This same ambivalence can be seen in the response of the SPG to the Patriarch’s overtures. In May 1874, the Standing Committee of SPG had recommended that they were ‘unable to recommend that any public or Official recognition should be given to the Jacobite Patriarch of Antioch, ‘but nevertheless had received him at a Soiree on 13th October 1874 (SPG Journal 1874), p. 167. For a brief account of the visit, see p. 196.



candidate. He next sought political intervention from the government on behalf of his community in the Ottoman Empire and received no answer. On 19th November, the Patriarch had seen the Ottoman Ambassador, Musurus Pasha, in an attempt to enlist his support in his attempts to see the Queen. The Ambassador refused, claiming that it was not only irregular for a Patriarch to see a foreign monarch, but also would bring suspicion and possible discredit on the other Christian ‘millets’ in the Empire. He also pointed out to the Patriarch that the Armenians had written to him attempting to discredit him (the Patriarch).31 Furthermore, the Patriarchal request for material support in educational matters was listened to with politeness and interest, but no action was taken. The façade of diplomatic courtesy was beginning to wear thin. Having had a refusal of help from the Ottoman Ambassador, and from Lord Derby, the Patriarch now wrote directly to the Queen herself. He began his letter in this way, ‘May that peace which is the true peace come and descend upon the merciful lady, the compassionate mother, the glorious Queen’, and after yet more superlatives, put his request, ‘We are afflicted sorely and are suffering, and we have turned our eyes unto all Kingdoms to seek for a physician who might heal our wounds but we found none except here in London and with the happy Queen’. It was now suggested that direct political protection should be given, ‘… We earnestly desire that thou wouldest heal our affliction and console our sorrows with thy gracious favour and with thy Royal commands by protecting and defending me and my church existing in India under the shadow of thy protection and elsewhere’.32 The Patriarch then went on to add a new element of complexity by referring to another dispute in which he asked the Queen to intervene. This was neither the Indian AthanasiusDionysius dispute nor the Armenian dispute of Istanbul, but a reference to a dispute with the Roman Catholic Church in Damascus, Mosul, and Aleppo. Again, the Patriarch referred to the fact that other churches had foreign powers to protect them, ‘the

31 See ‘Abdallah Sadadi, op. cit., vol. 23, No. 45/46, p. 277. See also FO 78/2367, for the Patriarch’s letter to Lord Derby reporting the meeting. 32 Letter of the Patriarch to Queen Victoria, 23rd November 1874. (FO. 78/2422).



Roman Catholics have oppressed us and being aided by the influence of foreign governments have taken our churches’.33 Again, the response came to the Patriarch via the Foreign Office that any audience would have to be supported not only by the Ottoman Ambassador, but also by the Foreign Secretary. On 28th December 1874, four months after arriving in London, an account of the Patriarchal visit to the Archbishop commented, ‘It is a most unfortunate expedition, and one can only be sorry that he ever came here’. The Patriarch himself was beginning to express unhappiness not only with the response to his request, but also with his treatment in London. The same writer went on, Of course these Orientals do not see or understand the way in which things are managed in England. Had an English dignitary gone to Syria, he would have been made so much of, that the Patriarch cannot understand that the Archbishop had not sent to enquire for him. He already says some bitter things, in consequence, of our Church.34

In December had come the first of the published CMS sponsored attacks on the Patriarch, and at this stage, relationships must have appeared close to breaking. The Patriarch was aware of all these developments, as the relevant articles had been sent to him, It seems from newspapers sent him that the CMS’s agents have acted most unfairly to his people, and have deprived them of some School or schools belonging to them. Then the society have published in their report or magazine, a very strong article against the Patriarch and his Church containing many false facts. He says that he has come two thousand miles to see the heads of the English Church, and no one notices or enquires after him. He “might be dead” so far as they know. He enquires almost daily “Has the Archbishop sent to enquire for me”?35

The visit now took on an entirely different tone. The Patriarch’s public utterances on the Anglican Church became aggrieved and increasingly shrill. The CMS attacks on the Patriarch 33

Ibid. Letter of E. Hamilton-Blyth to Tait (Tait 202. ff. 242-3). 35 Ibid. 34



referred to were published at the end of 1874. The Revd T. Whitehouse had been a CMS missionary in Cochin, and he thus wrote with experience of the Syrian Church in India. He claimed, After the closest searching into this subject, with however kind an intention, one cannot find a single benefit conferred by Antioch upon the long-tried Church of Malabar, if we accept the restoration of the episcopate. One reads of the people being taught to regard the Mother Church of Antioch as the Mother Church of the world, to hate the Pope and Nestorius, to believe that there is but one nature in our Divine Lord, that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father only, and what kind of bread should be used in the Eucharist; but you will search in vain for any useful book or tract having been written to instruct the commonalty in the leading doctrines of our faith – any record of a single book of Holy Scripture being translated into the vernacular – any systematic effort to raise an educated preaching and teaching ministry – or the slightest effort to evangelise the millions of surrounding heathen; And why? The clue to the mystery is to be found in the 19th Article of our Church, where we are taught that the Church of Antioch, equally with Rome and other Churches named, has erred, not only in living and manner of ceremonies, but also in matters of faith … What good could the Church of Malabar expect from such a source? What encouragement in the direction of an enlightened Scriptural education can the old Christian Churches of India hope for from an unreformed Church, which has not as yet shaken off the accumulated dust and corruption of at least thirteen hundred years?36

Whitehouse was writing from an Indian background, and his interpretation of the value of the Syrian Orthodox Church, although polemically and provocatively expressed, may well have represented the majority opinion of Anglicans writing from an Indian context. Eugene Stock, writing from a CMS background reflected this opinion. His views cannot be regarded as impartial, but he writes with clarity, In 1874 the Jacobite Patriarch visited England with a view to getting the British government to interfere in the quarrel and turn Mar Athanasius out of the churches and other properties 36 T. Whitehouse, ‘The Rule of the Jacobite Patriarch over the Christians of St Thomas’ in Church Missionary Intelligencer (January 1875), pp. 33-37.


ANTIOCH AND CANTERBURY held by the reforming party. He was received by many advanced English clergymen, who knew nothing of the case, with effusive reverence.37

Similarly, W. S. Hunt wrote, ‘Why did the Patriarch come? Primarily to supersede Mar Athanasius by Mar Dionysius; in other words, to get the other recognised as the Metropolitan … Mar Dionysius was in his eyes orthodox, loyal and tractable. Mar Athanasius was heterodox, contumacious, intractable’.38 Hunt furthermore suggests that the Patriarch was under financial pressure from the Ottoman authorities because of the wars which Turkey was fighting against Russia and Serbia. If the anti-Antioch polemic of Whitehouse and the later CMS commentators is contrasted with the glowingly optimistic accounts of the Syrian Orthodox in India produced before 1836; it is clear that any exchange between the two churches had ceased. The split between CMS and the Syrians after Mavelikkara appears to have embittered relations for the rest of the nineteenth century. The Patriarch clearly felt under attack and the need to defend himself. In January 1875 he had ‘The Case of the Syrian Patriarch of Antioch fully Stated’ printed privately in London. The reasons for his visit are explained thus, In the year 1873 the Archbishop of Canterbury addressed a letter to the Most Venerable Petros, Patriarch of the Syrian Church at Mardin in Mesopotamia, with the object of eliciting from His highness (if he felt so disposed) full information on the subject of the rival claims of Mar Athanasius and Mar Dionysius to be considered Metran (Metropolitan) of the Syrian Church in Malabar. The Primate has consulted the Bishops in India and has heard in reply that they conceive that preference should be given to Mar Athanasius. This is not the opinion of the Patriarch himself, and it is because his people in India have appealed to him for aid that he has paid a visit to this country, a visit which he was encouraged to make by the

37 E. Stock, History of Church Missionary Society (3 Vols., London 1899) vol. III, p. 179. 38 W. S. Hunt, Anglican Church in Travancore and Cochin 1816-1916 (Kottayam 1933), p. 182.



friendly tone of the Archbishop’s letter which reached him at Constantinople.39

The Patriarch was to continue to claim that he went to London only at the instigation of others. A year later, when he spoke at the Synod of Mulanthurutti in June 1876, he claimed, ‘We at once proceeded to Constantinople and thence to London; and in such foreign place, we stayed with grief for seven months’.40 The political context of this debate, and the potential repercussions for a breakdown in relations between the Patriarch and the British authorities, both civil and ecclesiastical, was never lost sight of by the parties involved, although rarely articulated. An unnamed correspondent drew attention to it, The result of the utter failure of the Syrian Patriarch’s hopes to obtain some active assistance in this country against the cruelty and lawlessness in the remote districts of the Turkish Empire from which he comes will be that he will throw himself and his Church into the arms of Russia, who will then give him the same protection it now extends to the Armenians and Greeks.41

The Patriarch himself was beginning to express directly to the Archbishop his unhappiness with the treatment meted out to him, and at the same time, ‘resurrecting’ the dormant Indian issue, to which Tait was to respond again. Writing to the Archbishop, the Patriarch complained, Your Grace has no doubt forgotten us and do not enquire after us and the saying of the Prophet has been fulfilled in us, “I am forgotten as a dead man out of mind” and though you may have forgotten us we cannot forget your kindness and brotherly love. Your Grace deplores the existing divisions and schisms, desiring love and concord, and growth and edification of all Christians, and that all causes of strife should cease, and that Christians everywhere should be joined together in love. 39 ‘The Case of the Syrian Patriarch fully Stated’ (January 1875). Printed pamphlet (Tait vol. 214. f. 20). 40 ‘Address by the Patriarch to the people that assembled at Mulanthurutti’ – quoted in the Royal Court of Final Appeal: Trivandrum. (No 218: Exhibit GG), p. 82. In the archives of the Kerala United Theological Seminary, Trivandrum, India. 41 Unnamed and undated letter to Tait, address given as 16 St George’s Square, London NW1 (Tait 202. f. 246).


ANTIOCH AND CANTERBURY It was to that end and with that hope that we left our distant home, and went our way seeking the honour of Your Grace’s presence, in order that peace might be restored to the members of our community in India and elsewhere, and in order that through your spiritual zeal and devotion division might cease from among us.

He goes on to state explicitly that it is Dionysius and not Athanasius, who is the legitimate Bishop in Malabar. Asking Tait’s recognition of this fact, he concludes, ‘Should you carry out our earnest hope in this respect, then the root of love will bear the most delectable fruit. Your Grace’s wisdom is in no need of any prolonged explanation of this topic’.42 He was writing at the end of 1874, having already been in London for four months. He had also attended the Church Congress at Brighton. It seemed not only to the Patriarch that the sooner the matter was resolved the better, but also to many others, not least the Archbishop of Canterbury. The Patriarch was, however, becoming more insistent in pressing for a resolution of the Indian conflict. The Maharajah of Travancore had been persuaded, under pressure from the British Resident and Anglican Bishops, to issue a decree in favour of Athanasius. On 11th December 1874, the Western Mail (published in South India) contained this analysis of the situation, The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Bishops of Bengal, Bombay and Madras, and the heads of many Protestant missionary bodies were waiting for the spoils of a demoralised church; and their cravings were to be appeased. To adopt the Travancore judgement would be to support Athanasius, whose mission is to despoil the Church of Antioch, and to deliver the festering carcase to the tender mercies of protestant aspirants to missionary honours.

The writer went on to graphically express the strength of feeling engendered by the perceived British support for Athanasius, If this is not tyranny and oppression calculated to make one’s blood boil; and to electrify the victims into a wild and raging revolution, we do not know the meaning of tyranny and injustice … Even a worm will turn if you tread upon it, and it 42

Letter of the Patriarch to Tait, 29th December 1874. (Tait 202. ff. 263-6).



would be well not to rouse the self-preserving instincts of the down-trodden worm in the breasts of a people who have had much to suffer for the past half-century.

No doubt receiving reports from India of this British interference in the affairs of the Syrian Church in South India, the Patriarch again wrote to the Archbishop on 1st January 1875. Attacking the policy of the British civil and ecclesiastical authorities in India in supporting Athanasius, he said, ‘The interference of civil officials in ecclesiastical matters was contrary to the law’. And of Athanasius himself, ‘… everyone who is rebellious to the orders of his superior is deposed according to law’. Putting his grievance before the Archbishop, and charging him with neglect, he went on, We have now been four months since we left our people scattered and have waited in London. There we wrote you have forgotten us and have not visited (in the Scripture sense of ‘not looking after’) us (sic). And we trust Your Grace will arrange our business and fulfil our desires and we have confidence that you will not let us depart empty and repulsed.43

Tait was finally spurred into action. Faced with the increasingly vociferous Patriarch almost accusing him of dereliction of duty, on 6th January, he asked the secretaries of SPG and CMS, together with the former Governor General of India, Lord Lawrence, to be responsible for the Patriarch for the remainder of his stay. Furthermore, he deflected the Indian issue by concentrating on the domestic Turkish aspect of the Patriarch’s requests, We have been greatly pained to hear of your Holiness’ anxiety respecting the mode in which it is believed that some of the members of Your Syrian congregation in the Turkish Empire have lately been subjected to persecution and we are most desirous of using all our influence in conjunction with Your Holiness, to prevent so sad a state of things. We rejoice to hear that a deputation of Christians of various bodies in England is on the point of leaving England to seek an interview with the Sultan, through Her Brittanic Majesty’s Ambassador at Constantinople, with the aim of representing to 43


Letter of the Patriarch to Tait, 1st January 1875. (Tait 202. ff. 269-


ANTIOCH AND CANTERBURY him the injustice reputed to be perpetrated on Christians in various parts of the Turkish Dominions.

And finally, in a response to the Patriarch’s stated need for educational assistance, claimed, ‘efforts are now working to assist Your Holiness in your desire to found schools and to spread the benefits of religious education and useful learning in your distant land’.44 As the Patriarch became more and more insistent that appropriate and immediate aid should be given, he applied for an audience with Lord Derby, the Foreign Secretary. His request was turned down, but on 28th January, Lord Derby wrote to the Patriarch himself that the government encouraged him to stop ‘soliciting intervention in the affairs of the Syrian Church in Turkey, which you have already been informed, Her Majesty’s Government must decline to exercise’.45 The British Government remained firm in its insistence that it had no mandate for intervention in the domestic affairs of sovereign states. Tait, as Archbishop of the Established Church, was necessarily constrained by his position. Private pressure, of course, could be applied within governmental circles. Tait thus refers to the small deputation of largely free-church clergymen in the Evangelical Alliance. Their seeking an audience with the Sultan was a strictly independent, non-governmental, intervention. This, of course, was an inconsistent position on the part of the government. Non-intervention in church affairs in one area; intervention in another. The subject of British intervention in India was raised by the Patriarch in order to contrast it sharply with the stated government policy of non-intervention in Turkey, The Patriarch of Antioch has not travelled to our land to ask for authority to be given to him over the Syrian Church in Malabar. No! His Holiness has come to appeal against 44 Letter of Tait to the Patriarch, 7th January 1875. (Tait 202. f. 273). For the details of the Evangelical Alliance appeal to the Ottoman Government, see FO. 78/2426. Their audience was granted with Safvet Pasha, the Ottoman Foreign Minister, on 26th January 1875. Interest in the Syrian Orthodox in Mardin was furthered by the American Protestant missionary, A. N. Andrus, who published an account of the city in ‘Report from Mardin in Missionary Herald (1875), pp. 288-91. 45 Letter of Lord Derby to the Patriarch, 28th January 1875. (Tait 214. f. 17).



violation, by British rulers, civil and ecclesiastical, of strict neutrality. The question which he puts to the British Government is simply thus: Will it leave the Syrian Churches in British India to choose for themselves, which of two rival Bishops they should obey?46

The Patriarch’s reference here was clearly to the intervention of the British Resident in putting pressure on the Travancore Government to support Athanasius. There was probably the suspicion of collusion between the Anglican hierarchy in India and the colonial government. The Patriarch wrote in an explicit way to Lord Derby, I therefore claim justice in this matter from Her Majesty’s Government that this order be cancelled by which alone he (Athanasius) is forced upon my people and which was obtained for him contrary to right by influence of the British Resident. I ask also that due notice be given to the Travancore Government by the British Resident, according to right and precedent and as the Travancore Government have asked in a letter now before me, that Athanasius is no longer the properly instituted head of the Syrian Church.47

For those attempting to help the Patriarch in London, the increasingly shrill tone of his public utterances (especially in his open publication) had become an embarrassment. W. J. Bullock, of the SPG, who had been asked by the Archbishop to take some care of the Patriarch, wrote, The Patriarch has twice referred, in conversation with me, to his Malabar difficulties. On each occasion, I offered to transmit any statement of facts to the Bishop of Madras, but I could not ascertain that he has any facts to produce. I shall be glad for his own sake, to hear of his leaving England.48

On the other hand, Tait had already been warned privately of the situation as early as 5th January, when Mrs Finn wrote to him on the subject,


‘The Case of the Syrian Patriarch fully Stated’ (Tait 214. f. 27). Letter of the Patriarch to Lord Derby, 28th January 1875. (FO. 78/2426). 48 Letter to W. J. Bullock of SPG to the Archbishop, 6th January 1875. (Tait 202. f. 256). 47


ANTIOCH AND CANTERBURY The real fact of the matter is that the Patriarch does not wish to obtain from the British Government authority to exercise spiritual rule over the Syrian Church scattered throughout the native states of Cochin and Travancore – so that with the power of England to support him, the native Princes of those states may be compelled to recognise as Bishop whosoever he may appoint and use physical force in ejecting whosoever he may be pleased to depose – but he does wish … that he may not be prevented from exercising authority.49

The ground had now changed. From the earlier unambiguous positions held by both Patriarch and Archbishop, it was clear that if any progress were to be made, some form of compromise much be reached. The Archbishop supported Athanasius, the Patriarch supported Dionysius. It was clear that the Archbishop could not be persuaded to support Dionysius, and even less could the Patriarch be persuaded that Athanasius ought to have his support. The best the Patriarch could hope for would be for the British authorities to remain neutral, Tait included. This was to be the Patriarch’s next line of approach. His applications to the government for an audience with the Queen now began, and the potential political element was the cause of some concern. It was feared that the Patriarch might attempt to involve the Queen directly in the ‘Turkish question’. Relations with the Ottoman authorities would clearly have been upset by the perceived slur on the Ottoman reputation, and that government’s treatment of Christian minorities. By the end of January, Lord Derby had turned down the Patriarch’s application for an audience, since as an Ottoman subject, the Patriarch would have to make his application through the Ottoman Ambassador – a situation of great potential political embarrassment. Tait, however, was of the opinion that the audience could be arranged and framed in terms of Christian charity, provided that assurances could be secured from the Patriarch that no political subjects would be raised. Urging Derby to reconsider his decision, Tait wrote on 2nd February, Many persons in England have subscribed to aid him in obtaining schools for his poor and ignorant people in Syria. This particular movement is purely one of Christian charity, quite distant from his views respecting the case he has to plead 49


Letter of Elizabeth Finn to Tait, 5th January 1875. (Tait 202. ff. 250-



before the Turkish authorities on his claims over the Syrian Christians of the India peninsular.

Tait therefore went on to plead for an audience of a ‘private and unofficial’ character. The situation, by February, had become so entrenched that Tait concluded revealingly, ‘It is not desirable that the Patriarch and his attendants remain longer in this country than is absolutely necessary’.50 Attempting to explain the position to the Patriarch in unambiguous terms, Tait wrote to him on 3rd February, ‘The Queen’s Government makes it an inflexible rule, not to follow the example of some other governments in interfering with the domestic affairs of the Sublime Porte beyond the limits of what is authorised by treaties’.51 The letter brought an immediate response from the Patriarch denying that he had ever sought such interference, ‘I have never asked for any official interference but only for friendly words of kindness in accordance with the treaties and with the laws …’ And in a tacit agreement that no political subject would be raised in an audience, he added, ‘It would be the greatest honour and consolation for us to have a private and unofficial audience of Her Majesty’.52 The audience was finally granted on 12th February, ‘Her Majesty will receive the Patriarch privately on her return to Windsor on the understanding proposed in the memorandum … that the interview is entirely private and unofficial’,53 wrote Sir Thomas Biddulph, the Queen’s Private Secretary, to Tait. The advice now coming to Tait concerning the Patriarch’s claim over the Syrian Christians of Travancore and Cochin began to change. From the earlier unequivocal statements that Athanasius was the candidate to be supported a clear shift in his position can be seen. Lord Lawrence wrote to Tait on 14th February, advising him to take no sides in the dispute between Athanasius and Dionysius,54 50

Letter of Tait to Sir Thomas Biddulph, 2nd February 1875. (Tait 214. f. 32-34). 51 Letter of Tait to the Patriarch, 3rd February 1875. (Tait 214. f. 37). 52 Letter of the Patriarch to Tait, 5th February 1875. (Tait 214. f. 38). 53 Sir Thomas Biddulph to Tait, 12th February 1875. (Tait 214. f. 43). 54 See his letter of that date (Tait 214. ff. 52-56).



and after a conversation with the Patriarch, together with W. J. Bullock and H. Wright (the three delegated by the Archbishop to deal with the affair) wrote to Tait that they, ‘deprecated the interference of the Resident of Travancore in a question which ought to be decided by the Malabar Christians themselves’.55 Still pressing his case on the Archbishop, the Patriarch wrote to him acidly on 15th February, ‘When you have distinguished between the good and the evil you will decide justly’.56 Tait must by now have been aware that the Patriarch was not in any position to compromise his position, and this he had reiterated again and again to the three men delegated by the Archbishop to be responsible for him.57 Until his audience with the Queen, the Patriarch appears to have let the matter rest, but not without bringing in the Armenian dispute in which he asked the Archbishop to intervene. On 27th February, the Patriarch wrote to Tait asking him to intervene between the Syrians and Armenians in the re-building of a church on disputed land in Beyoülu, Istanbul. Remarkably, Tait did so, writing on 1st March to the British Ambassador in Istanbul, asking for support in the matter.58 On 5th March, the long-awaited audience with the Queen was granted at Windsor, an interesting account of which was given by the Dean of Windsor, … everything went off well – as I desired. The interpreter was not to touch upon any political or controversial topics. Indeed the old man preserved an oriental serenity, and did not seem eager to force any of his interests upon the Queen – he kissed her hand on entering the presence, and then made one or two flourishing speeches about the “Christian Queen” and she on her part kindly expressed a wish for the diffusion of education among her Indian subjects under his charge – afterwards I 55

Letter compiled by Lawrence, W. J. Bullock and H. Wright, addressed to Tait, 13th February 1875. (Tait 214. f. 58). 56 Letter of the Patriarch to Tait, 15th February 1875. (Tait 214. f. 62). 57 For details of this, see letter of H. J. Wright to Tait, 18th February 1875. (Tait 214. f. 70). 58 The whole of this correspondence is to be found in Tait 214. ff. 7183. The correspondence went on for several months, and was only concluded ion 14th May 1875, when the British Ambassador wrote to Tait, saying, ‘I am afraid that it will not be possible for me to do anything in reference to the Jacobite Church … I should not be justified in interfering in the case’. (Tait 214. f. 118).



took him to St George’s Chapel – The Queen, however, was much taken by his venerable appearance that she had asked me to send for him again before he leaves England.59

The Queen saw the Patriarch again, one week later, on 12th March. This time they met in the mausoleum at Frogmore, and no discussion took place.60 The audience ‘achieved’, Tait was by now anxious to have the affair brought to a close and for the Patriarch to leave Britain. He wrote to this effect on 8th March, clearly indicating that he wanted no more to do with the matter. His final analysis was, We come to the conclusion that it must rest with the authorities in India to decide what attitude they ought to assume in reference to the divisions which have taken place among the Syrian Christians of Malabar. Obviously, it does not appertain to the Archbishop of Canterbury to exercise ecclesiastical jurisdiction over an independent native Church in India, while in reference to questions of property such matters must be decided by the constituted civil authority of that country. In bringing the correspondence on this subject to a close, we are anxious once more to press upon Your Holiness how desirable we, in common with all other members of the Church of England, believe it to be, that the Holy Scriptures should be freely circulated amongst the Syrian Christians of Malabar in their own native tongue, and that he services of prayer and praise in their own Churches should be such that 59 Letter of the Very Revd J. Wellesley, Dean of Windsor, to Tait, 7th March 1875. (Tait 94. f. 119). For the letter which the Patriarch presented to the Queen on the occasion, see the file (FO. 78/2367) in the Public Records office. 60 Interesting accounts of the Audiences are to be found in The Syrian Church in Mesopotamia (1908), p. 4, E. Finn, Reminiscences of Mrs Finn (1929), p. 250. The first Audience appeared in the Court Circular of The Times Saturday 6th March 1875, the second did not. (Information from the Royal Archivist, Windsor Castle). In Syrian Orthodox sources, different dates appear to be used. Abdallah Sadadi, op. cit., (Vol. 23, No. 45/46), p. 281 speaks of the audiences on 21st and 28th February. A Syriac account of the visit is to be found in Qolo Suryoyo, No 29 (December 1982 - January 1983), pp. 23f. See also Murad Fuad Jaqi, Rijal Att ‘abbud Wal ‘Amal – ‘Men of Piety and Work’, (Jerusalem 1930), chapter 6.


ANTIOCH AND CANTERBURY those who are ignorant of any language but their own, should be able to enter into them with understanding. We gather from Your Holiness’ letter that Your Holiness sees nothing to object to in the general principle thus stated. Whatever changes may come over the Syrian Church in Malabar with the lapse of time, it is impossible but that Your Holiness must be able to exercise great influence in that country, and would indeed be a cause of rejoicing to all who are interested in Your Holiness’ welfare, if the explanations which have been made during Your Holiness’ visit to England and the intercourse which it has been so great a pleasure to members of our church to hold with your Holiness should result in strengthening your hands in any effort which the Spirit of God may dispose you to make for the thorough scriptural instruction of your people so long connected with Your Holiness’ venerable See. Trusting that Your Holiness has found comfort in your interview with Her Majesty the Queen, and commending you to the Grace of God.61

It is clear that Tait by now considered his involvement in the affair finished. His final analysis was more ambiguous than his original position had been. He merely alluded to his support for (the unnamed) Athanasius, by his reference to the distribution of scriptures and the celebration of the liturgy in the vernacular, but was no longer explicit. He had thus withdrawn to the ‘Anglican norm’ of non-interference in the affairs of other churches, and only invoked civil authority in dealing with the legality (or otherwise) of property ownership. There is a certain irony in the reference which Tait makes to the valuable intercourse between the two churches, represented by the exchanges of the two men. From the Patriarch’s perspective, the affair was far from dead. On 10th March, he informed Tait of a new perspective on the affair. Referring to the requests which he had made for support within the Ottoman Empire, he wrote, I sent a letter to the Queen so informal and unofficial that it might almost be called a private communication. Unfortunately, by some means, this letter had got into the hands of the Earl of Derby and he has acted in such a way as to hinder rather than be of service to me. His Lordship has forwarded this letter, in which I made a statement of how 61

Letter to Tait to the Patriarch, 8th March 1875. (Tait 214. f. 87).



matters stand – to the Turkish Embassy and, consequently, I dare not face my own Government against which I now appear in the light of a complainant – I dare not go back to Constantinople – it is not that I am afraid for myself, but my fears are concerning the injury to my Church.62

It is not clear from the Patriarch’s statement whether he felt it was impossible to return to Constantinople only at that time, or whether he felt it generally unsafe to do so. In any case, he had not planned to go directly back to Turkey, but had planned to go on from London to India. His plea, however, brought no response from Tait, who by now considered the matter firmly closed. The last response from the Patriarch to Tait before he left London is recorded on 27th March, in which he states bitterly, ‘The person to blame in this business has been not the Maharajah but the British Resident for interfering in affairs of the Syrian Church contrary to the instructions of the British authorities in England’.63 The correspondence between Tait and the Patriarch concluded thus on a note of rancour, and on 3rd April 1875, Mrs Finn, with whom the Patriarch had stayed while in London, wrote to the Archbishop, ‘The Syrian Patriarch of Antioch and the Syrian Bishop of Jerusalem have left us this evening for the East’.64 The Patriarch had left, and that particular chapter of AnglicanSyrian relations was partially closed.

Mosul After leaving London, however, the exchanges between Peter III and Archbishop Tait did not cease. In Cairo, on his way to India, the Patriarch not only paid a formal visit to the Coptic Patriarch Kyrillos, but also initiated contact with the Anglican Church in Alexandria. The course of events during the Patriarchal visit to India are well known and documented,65 but while he was there,


Letter of Montagu Russell-Butler to Tait, in which he reports what the Patriarch told him, 10th March 1875. (Tait 214. f. 90). 63 Letter of the Patriarch to Tait, 27th March 1875. (Tait 214. f. 92). 64 Letter of Elizabeth Finn to Tait, 3rd April 1875. (Tait 214. f. ll5). ‘Abdallah Sadadi, op. cit., (Vol. 23, No 45/46), p. 285, gives the date of departure as 27th March 1875. 65 See L. W. Brown, Indian Christians pp. 145-8.



the Patriarch raised yet another dispute in which he asked the British Government and Church of England to intervene. A dispute in Mosul between the Roman Catholic and Syrian Orthodox churches over church ownership led to the Patriarch sending the following telegram (in triplicate) to Queen Victoria, Lord Derby, and the Archbishop of Canterbury. The telegram is dated 16th October 1876, from Aleppey, ‘Our Mosul churches restored by Sultan’s order. French Ambassador intends subverting it. Pray assist us. Command British Ambassador Turkey to advise Turkish Government not to do so. No supporters except God’.66 The Roman Catholic community in Mosul had some years earlier acquired possession of a Syrian Orthodox Church, and built walls around it. After intervention by the Patriarch to the Ottoman authorities, an order had been given restoring the church to the Syrians. The dispute had become violent, and at that stage, the French Ambassador appears to have given his support to the Catholic community. In a letter of 16th October 1876, to Lord Derby, the Patriarch concluded his appeal in this way, We trust that if the British Ambassador advises the Turkish Government to act as above mentioned our churches will last there for ever. As we have no supporter but God, Her Majesty the Queen and Your Lordship, we pray that Your Lordship will not turn a deaf ear to our prayers.67

It is clear that as a result of his visit to London, Peter III was beginning to regard Great Britain in the role of a semi-official protector. The parallel was often drawn between the role of France in protecting Roman Catholic interests, the role of Russia in protecting Chalcedonian Orthodox interests, and the (fanciful) role of Great Britain in protecting Syrian interests.68 The dispute in its details is neither interesting nor unusual, and in many ways is typical of the kind of dispute which constantly


Telegram of the Patriarch, 16th October 1876. (FO. 78/4085). Letter of the Patriarch to Lord Derby, 16th October 1876. (FO. 78/4085). 68 For an account of the connection between France and the Roman Catholic community in the Ottoman Empire, see C. Frazee, Catholics and Sultans (Cambridge 1983). 67



arose throughout the Near East over church ownership. But in three respects, the dispute is interesting. Firstly, because it went on for much longer than other, similar disputes. It continued until the end of 1895. Secondly, because the British Government became intricately involved in the details of the dispute over a long period, and regularly drew on the expertise of scholars of Syrian Orthodoxy within the Anglican Church.69 And, thirdly, and most interestingly, it highlights the role in which Peter III saw the British Government and Church of England, especially after his visit to London. This is not without a certain irony, since his visit had produced so few results of a tangible nature and had ended on a rather obvious discordant note.

Return to Mardin After leaving India, the Patriarch appears to have intended to return to London. On 21st June 1877, the Patriarch wrote to G. P. Badger, ‘We also trust that you will speak with His Grace the Archbishop to favour us with a place of residence … for we know that he has many places of residence which are unoccupied’.70 At the same time as writing to Badger to ask him to secure accommodation, the Patriarch also wrote to the Queen, ‘I take the occasion of begging Your Majesty to pity my decrepit age and bestow on me a small drop of water from the overflowing ocean of Your Majesty’s favours by appointing me a pension …’71 The response came a month later from Lord Derby as a curt negative. As for the request for a return visit to London, G. P. Badger, the Patriarch’s erstwhile supporter and translator, wrote to the Archbishop,

69 A whole file is devoted to this dispute in the Foreign Office archives. Successive British Ambassadors, notably Sir Henry Layard and W. A. White became involved, and often acted as mediators. ConsulGeneral Miles produced a 51 page document on the dispute in 1880. For details, see FO. 78/4085 and FO. 78/4654. 70 Letter of the Patriarch to G. P. Badger, 21st June 1877. (Tait 234. f. 27). 71 Letter of the Patriarch to Queen Victoria, 22nd June 1877. (Tait 234. f. 30).


ANTIOCH AND CANTERBURY The Patriarch’s proceedings during the latter portion of his sojourn in London were, in my opinion, so lacking in prudence and straight-forwardness, and the accounts of his later doings in India are so questionable, that I cannot consistently take any part in forwarding his views, whatever they may be, should he carry out his intention of re-visiting London.72

The bitter note on which the episode ended notwithstanding, the visit to London of the Patriarch Peter III Ignatius marks an important chapter in the history of Anglican-Syrian Orthodox contacts. It has been dealt with in some detail, because in it can be found in microcosm, the entire range of Anglican attitudes towards dealings with an Oriental Church. Often overlooked, but very important, was the element of difficulty of communication between an oriental and occidental church. The enterprise was fraught with cultural difficulties of a kind which were rarely expressed directly, or of which the participants in the exchange seemed scarcely aware. A commentator on the visit at the Lambeth Conference of 1878 came closer to an accurate analysis of the political, cultural, and ecclesiastical complexities involved. Referring to the Near East, he said, ‘In those parts of the world, it is very difficult to separate between the idea of a civil officer and an ecclesiastical officer. Every Patriarch in the Turkish dominions is … judge and exercises various rights of the civil magistracy, subject to the Sultan’.73 Having described the context, the commentator went on to be more explicit, This is one of the first difficulties which seem to occur in these dealings with this remote people – to know exactly what it is that they want; whether they are really disposed so to enter into ecclesiastical relations with the Church of England as to remove from their services … things which are not congenial to the doctrine and discipline and thoughts of the English people; or whether they are rather seeking such a recognition on the part of the great English nation, represented by its church, as would save them in the civil contests to which they have been exposed for many years – save them, perhaps from pillage and extortion, and from all that ill-treatment to which they have been very liable to be subjected in past times … that 72

Letter of G. P. Badger to Tait, 18th July 1877. (Tait 234. f. 24). Commentary on the Lambeth Conference of 1878 with specific reference to the Patriarchal visit. (Lambeth Palace Library LC9. p. 63). 73



is the difficult which has occurred in all the dealings with these remote people.74

The political context of Anglican-Syrian Orthodox contacts played an important role in forcing the two, otherwise distinct, churches into contact. London was the centre of British Imperial power, and it was to that city where the Patriarch of Antioch found it necessary to come. That Tait was not unaware of the political context in which these relations were set is demonstrated by his changes in policy towards the Patriarch, moving from direct support of Athanasius to oblique neutrality. Similarly ambiguous was the attitude within the Church of England towards financial support of the Syrian Church in Turkey, support in principle, but empty in practice. It is consideration of the financial and practical elements of Syrian Orthodox-Anglican exchange to which we now turn.


Lambeth Palace Library, LC9, p. 64.

Chapter III: Material Exchange: 1875-1895 Financial and Practical Commenting on the motives for the Patriarch’s visit to London, and briefing the Archbishop of Canterbury, George Curtis had written that one of the Patriarch’s aims was to ‘gain help, material and moral in his work of advancing the cause of education and religion among the thousands committed to his charge’.1 It became clear through the Patriarch’s exchanges with Archbishop Tait that this material help was primarily requested for Syrian Orthodox in the Ottoman Empire rather than in India. This was no new development. Badger had written as early as 1842 of the need for schools and educational support for the Syrians.2 Thirty years later, Tait wrote on 29th October 1874, I learn that the Patriarch of Syria is desirous of establishing in the East, colleges and schools for the education of male and female Christians in Turkey, toward the accomplishment of which end he is now endeavouring to raise a fund by help of the donations of those in England who may be interested in the work. I most cordially commend the good cause which he has taken in hand, and trust that it may have the success which it deserves.3

He wrote this as the introduction to a pamphlet used as the beginnings of the Syrian Patriarchate Educational Fund.


See Chapter II, footnote (7). See G. P. Badger, Nestorians and their Rituals (2 Vols. London 1852). Vol. I, p. 52-58. 3 Tait’s introduction to the (undated) pamphlet ‘The Syrian Patriarchate Educational Fund’ (Tait 214. f. 127). This was published in The Ancient Syrian Church of Mesopotamia (Syrian Patriarchate Education Committee. 1908), p. 17. 2




Syrian Patriarchate Educational Fund4 The creation of a formal body whose principal aim it was to raise financial support for educational work among the Syrian Orthodox in Turkey was begun in 1875. Tait, as we have already seen, supported the organisation, wrote commending it in their first printed pamphlet, and contributed financially from his personal resources. Clarifying the aims of the Fund in this pamphlet, the (anonymous) author maintained, The object for which this Fund is created, and in behalf of which your hearty co-operation and liberal sympathy is solicited is two-fold: First: To enable the Syrian Patriarch of Antioch, on his return to his home in Syria, to open schools for the education of the young of both sexes at Deir-ez-Zaafaran – the Patriarchal seat near Mardin in Mesopotamia; and, by degrees, as his means will allow, to extend them over all his Patriarchate. Second: To establish colleges for training young men as school teachers, or for the office of the ministry in his church. To prove the need of schools for all classes, it is only necessary to say that education is stagnant among the Syrian Christians. The Patriarch states that if he had the means, he could at once open 40 schools in different districts, of at least 400 boys in each school – without counting girls. In short, it may be fairly said that schools are required for nearly the whole population. If it is noted how this state of things can be, the answer is simple. This primitive Christian community is so poor that no help can be expected from it for educational purposes Contributions are solicited for any or all of the following objects:


The exact nomenclature for the society, like its existence, is nebulous and ambiguous. It is sometimes referred to as the Syrian Patriarchate Education Fund, sometimes as the Syrian Patriarchate Education Committee, sometimes as the Syrian Patriarchate Education Society. These usages seem to be interchangeable, and do not describe different people or functions. Unless one of the specific variants is used, I use the term Syrian Patriarchate Education Society.



Elementary schools and training colleges, and building fund for erecting schools where no room or building can be secured for school purposes.5

The Fund itself listed the support of the principal Anglican grandees in the Bishops of Edinburgh, London, Chichester, Lincoln, Exeter and, as we have already noted, Tait himself. An account was opened at the London and Westminster Bank, showing every sign of seriousness of purpose in the supporters of the Syrian cause. During this period, the Patriarch himself had not been inactive. On 17th November 1874, while still in London, he had approached SPCK for financial assistance in his venture and, in response, SPCK had formed a sub-committee to enquire into his circumstances and to examine how best they could help the Syrians.6 On 19th January 1875, the newly formed sub-committee reported to the Standing Committee of the SPCK their decision that, Supposing that the SPCK Standing Committee are sufficiently satisfied as to the orthodoxy of the Jacobite Patriarch of Antioch to deem it consistent with the principles of the Church of England to assist him in the matters which he has in view, your sub-committee think that the point towards which attention should be directed in the first instance is the establishment of a Training College of School for clergy and other teachers under the eye of the Patriarch himself at Mardin.7

Again, seriousness of purpose is indicated on the part of the SPCK by the thoroughness with which they went into the application of the Patriarch. Going into greater detail on the setting up of a school in Mardin, the report went on, that the subcommittee,

5 Undated and unsigned pamphlet The Syrian Patriarchate Educational Fund (Tait 214. f. 127). By the references to the Brighton Conference, and the fact that the Patriarch was still present in London at the time of writing, it must have been produced in the first months of 1875. 6 For details of this proposal, see Minutes of the Standing Committee (SPCK), June 1873 - November, 1874, Vol. 21), p. 5. 7 Minutes of the Standing Committee (SPCK), June 1873 - November 1874 (Vol. 21), p. 52.


ANTIOCH AND CANTERBURY understood that there either is or might be, with comparative ease, provided accommodation for this purpose. The next question is how are persons to be found to teach and how they are to be remunerated at least for a time. The sub-committee understand that if a beginning were made in the way of remuneration, the Patriarch would be able to obtain help afterwards from his own people.

The offer of financial support was now suggested, The sub-committee think that about £150 a year might be granted by the Society for 3 years in order to provide the remuneration necessary in the first instance, but they are not prepared to recommend this unless communications can be made with some responsible person, such as the British Consul, who would possess the confidence both of the Patriarch, and of the Society, in order that a guarantee may exist for the proper application of the money.8

The support of the SPCK was qualified by considerable caution. Assurances of the ‘orthodoxy’ of the Syrian Patriarch were needed, together with regular communications via a ‘responsible person such as the British Consul’. The concern for ‘orthodoxy’ was a new feature of the dealings of Anglican agencies with the Syrian Orthodox. Quite how this doctrinal question could have been settled was never elaborated upon. In addition, the cultural difficulties in exchange between occidental and oriental institutions, in particular ecclesiastical instructions, are here apparent. The SPCK sub-committee in fact went on to be more explicit about the occidental reservations in their dealings with the Orientals. Speaking of the establishment of the school at Deir-ez-Zaafaran, they say, It would of course be a difficulty to get men capable of teaching. It should therefore be a point on which the Society must be assured that men can do so before money is actually paid. The men they conceive must be found in the country itself, and the sub-committee cannot recommend the Society, for various reasons to enter upon the very expensive task of educating Orientals in England – one of the reasons weighting (sic) with them is the probability that Orientals after being thus educated would find their education so valuable as to be





induced to employ it for commercial and other purposes not contemplated by the Society.9

Any prospective aid given by the Society was clearly to be tied to imposed conditions of a cultural kind. Firstly, assurance of ‘orthodoxy’; secondly, regular communication and reporting through a responsible British agent; and thirdly, assurances that any education provided would not be used by the recipient to come to the West. Strict limitations were thus placed upon the possible use of the benefits of education by the donors of the finances which provided it. The Society was not only expressing an interest in financially supporting the establishment and work of a school in Mardin, but also in setting up a printing press in that town. ‘The sub-committee think that under the same limitation of responsibility and if it can be show that persons capable of working a printing press and funds for keeping it up can be obtained at Mardin, a press might be presented to the Patriarch by the Society’.10 All the above, if communicated to him after the meeting of the sub-committee on 19th January 1875, might have given the Patriarch high hopes of substantial concrete support in his educational endeavours. Two weeks later, however, the ambivalence of Anglican agencies dealing with the Syrian Orthodox was revealed. After these very detailed proposals for support outlined above, and after exhibiting proper seriousness of intent, the Committee of SPCK reported on 1st February, ‘The Report was received and discussed and it was eventually agreed that no actions would be taken upon it’.11 The decision of the SPCK is all the more remarkable in the context of the public rhetoric of the Church of England at the time, with regard to the Syrian Orthodox. The contrast between private cynicism and public hyperbole in the statements of the Church of England agencies on this matter can best be illustrated by placing the above decision of the SPCK in close proximity to the following statement of the Syrian Patriarchate Education Fund, Nothing can better illustrate the pressing wants of this ancient body of Christians than the touching words which the 9

SPCK loc. cit., p. 53. SPCK loc. cit., p. 54. 11 SPCK loc. cit., p. 56. 10


ANTIOCH AND CANTERBURY Patriarch uttered in address to the Meeting held in the Royal Pavilion at Brighton during the Church Congress. He said, he had heard in his own country of the greatness of the English nation; but when he came over and saw with his own eyes the riches and prosperity of the nation; when he saw the Churches filled with worshippers, all with books in their hands, able to follow the services; when he saw the schools filled with poor children learning to read and to love God; when he saw the hospitals like palaces, where the poor were tended with as much care as the rich – when he saw all these things, and the glory and power and wealth, and above all, the abounding love and charity of the nation, he felt like the Queen of Sheba after she had seen King Solomon. And when he thought of the thousands of his poor flock at home ignorant, and unable to read the word of God and him without the means of educating them – he felt sure when they knew his wants that they would forward his views, for they had many things in common. They worshipped the same Blessed Trinity, they believed in the same Lord Jesus Christ and his atonement, they held the same Creed, and they hoped for the same life to come.12

Hyperbole was clearly not limited to Anglican presentation of the case. Suggesting direct support for the Patriarch’s requests, the pamphlet went on, The want of a Training College for preparing young men as school teachers and also for the ministry will be best exemplified by quoting the Patriarch’s words, “Owing to our poverty, we have been unable to maintain a college, and so it has come to pass that in many places, the Churches have had to be closed and still remain closed”. And this state of spiritual and mental destitution exists in a Christian community of 100,000 families in the far distant land of Mesopotamia, where European civilisation has not yet penetrated.13

Like Kerr, writing in India seventy years earlier, an easy assumption is made that any dealings which an Oriental church may wish to make with an occidental church would be motivated by the desire to ‘acquire’ European civilisation. The fact that the Patriarch had specifically requested help in printing the scriptures 12 13

The Syrian Patriarchate Educational Fund (Tait 214. f. 127). Ibid.



and liturgy in Syrian and Arabic, none of which could be interpreted as ‘European’, was overlooked. Despite the formation of a formal body to generate funds for the Patriarch while he was present in London during 1874-1875, little real achievement was made. SPG remained distant from the requests made to them; the hostile response of the CMS has already been noted; and the SPCK, while professing interest, felt unable to provide any concrete assistance. The ‘policy’ now emerging in response to the Syrian presence in London had reverted to the previous Anglican norm of isolated individuals pursuing a private interest in the matter. The Patriarch was to leave London in April 1875 with little real assistance. The Syrian Patriarchate Educational Fund continued to exist after his departure, and was responsible for other initiatives, before its disappearance in 1914, which are considered below.

Archbishop Benson and the Syrian Patriarchate Education Society Tait died in 1882, and was succeeded at Canterbury by Edward White Benson. In his previous career, Benson had not been noted as a man with great interest or time for the Eastern Churches,14 but was to inherit the links with the Syrian Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch from Tait. In January 1883, shortly after Benson had succeeded Tait at Canterbury, the Patriarchal representative in Constantinople, Butrus Abd-el-Noor, wrote to Lambeth requesting assistance from the Archbishop and the Syrian Patriarchate Educational Committee for the maintenance of a Syrian School in that city.15 Benson consulted R. T. Davidson, who had been Tait’s domestic chaplain, for an appropriate response. Davidson’s advice, blunt and cautious, is of interest. He warned, This requires the utmost caution. There is at least one “schismatic” lot of “Ancient Syrians”. I adjure you to send the 14

See A. C. Benson, Life of E. W. Benson (2 Vols., London 1899-1900). Benson’s major interest in the Syriac-speaking churches was with the East Syrians, and in particular, the creation of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Mission to the Assyrians in 1886. 15 See the letter (in French) of B. Abd-el-Noor to Benson, 15th January 1883, (Benson 11. f. 1-2).


ANTIOCH AND CANTERBURY letter you received – or the name and style of the authority with a note from yourself to Curtis, who will tell you if it is alright. The delay is of no consequence to an Oriental.16

Taking Davidson’s advice literally, Benson took no action until 19th March, when he wrote to G. F. Curtis in Istanbul for his advice on the matter. His words are not without a certain irony. Asking Curtis to find out what he could about the identity and requests of Abd-el-Noor, he comments, ‘I need not assure you of the interest felt by members of the Church of England and not least by myself in the welfare of the Ancient Christian Churches of the East’.17 The request for assistance was passed on by Benson to the Committee of the SPCK, but financial assistance was not forthcoming. SPCK did, however, have a number of New Testaments printed by the British and Foreign Bible Society in Syriac, which were sent to the school in Constantinople. The correspondence and contact appears to have then subsided until 1887.

The Visit of Mar Gregorius to London In December 1887, Benson received a letter from the Reverend F. W. Tremlett,18 Vicar of St Peter’s, Belsize Park, informing him of the arrival of a Syrian Orthodox Bishop. Tremlett wrote, A Syrian Bishop of the Jacobite Communion – Mar Gregorius – has lately arrived in this country from Ghoms – a town on a branch of the Orontes about mid-way between Damascus and Palmyra. He was over here 13 years ago with the Patriarch of his Communion, who came by invitation of Your Grace’s predecessor and spent some 4 or 5 months here. Mr Gregorius has come now by my invitation as Chairman of the Committee which was formed at that time at Archbishop Tate’s (sic) suggestion to aid the Patriarch in establishing schools among his people. The late Bishop of London (Jackson) was Chairman of this Committee up to the time of his death. A 16 17

Memorandum of R. T. Davidson to Benson (Benson 11. f. 2). Letter of Benson to G. F. Curtis, 19th March 1883. (Benson 11. f.

11). 18

Tremlett was an American priest, with a considerable private fortune.



small fund was raised and allotted to the object and Mar Gregorius has come at my request to ‘report progress’ – at the same time to take back with him a printing press (if funds can be procured to purchase one) as the nucleus of an educational movement among the very poor peasants of his own diocese.

Then, speaking of the state of communication and understanding between the Church of England and the Syrian Church, he added, … I ask for the permission to add, that whatever difference may theoretically exist between the Jacobite Creed and the Book of Common Prayer, there is no difference practically in any fundamental doctrine of the faith as interpreted by Bishop Gregorius. He communicated at my Church on Sunday last with a full knowledge of the doctrine of the Prayer Book on the subject.19

Benson, unsure of the identify of Mar Gregorius and the legitimacy of his claims, turned again to R. T. Davidson, for advice. Davidson’s response is revealing. Writing to Benson on 9th December 1887, he bluntly stated, All I know about this is that such people did come to England in 1874 or 1875 before my time at Lambeth but I never knew it was at Archbishop Tait’s invitation and I am a little sceptical. They got a very expensive printing press and other things – or a few years ago we were told (rightly or wrongly) that the cases containing it and its types had never been opened and that the machinery was supposed to be all gone to the bad.

Referring to the initiator of the contact, Davidson went on in similarly blunt vein, ‘Tremlett is a funny old chap – full of go and originality, and American dollars – but old and deaf now, and not the man to manage a thing of this sort. I should be very wary if I were you’.20 Lack of consistency is again the hallmark of the response of the hierarchy of the Church of England. The Syrian position during this period of exchange, from 1874-1888, was also ambiguous. Mar

19 Letter of F. W. Tremlett to Benson, 3rd December 1887, (Benson 66. f. 15). 20 Memorandum of R. T. Davidson to Benson, 9th December 1887. (Benson 66. f. 17).



Gregorius communicated in Tremlett’s church on the one hand, but great reticence had been expressed by his Patriarch, Peter III. Only thirteen years separated the two visits of the same Syrian Orthodox Bishop to London, a Committee had been set up to raise and direct funds to the Patriarchate of Antioch, and great interest had been articulated by the leaders of the Anglican Church. Yet the Archbishop of Canterbury and his advisor Davidson (who was himself to succeed to Canterbury in 1903) seem to be confused and uncertain as to the identity of Mar Gregorius and the object of his visit. Benson clearly heeded Davidson’s advice, and did not even acknowledge Tremlett’s letter, which provoked a complaint from Tremlett to the Archbishop on 5th January 1888. In it, Tremlett pointed out that, in contrast to Benson, Archbishop Tait had been hospitable and generous to the Syrians. Benson, acting on Davidson’s advice, was playing a far more cautious role than his predecessor had played. At the same time, requests for assistance for a Syrian school in Constantinople began to reach Benson via different channels. The Patriarchal representative in that city, Butrus Abd-el-Noor, had written in November 1887, to the British Ambassador to the Ottoman Governor, W. A. White. White had forwarded the request to Lord Salisbury, the Foreign Secretary, who had in turn forwarded the request to the Archbishop. Abd-el-Noor wrote, The state of devastation to which our school at Constantinople has been reduced emboldens me to address myself to you as the representative of that great and generous power whose noble and benevolent charity it is impossible adequately to praise or to thank … It is only by your excellent good offices that our school can be freed from its present disastrous position and enabled to meet its numerous wants. Accordingly, I venture to entreat that Your Excellency may with your well known and charitable and merciful disposition be pleased to communicate with the charitable societies for the relief of the schools which receive contributions in London, so that a grant may be obtained for



our school and handed over to the representative of the Patriarch.21

Benson had now received requests for aid for the same Syrian School from two different quarters, with an interval of 5 years in between requests. Despite the existence of the Syrian Patriarchate Education Society whose brief it was to raise money for schools, Benson still seemed unclear as to what was being asked for, and to whom he could apply for support. Advising him on the matter, G. F. Curtis wrote from Constantinople in February 1888, What is and has been urgently needed is a sum sufficient to cover the expenses of finishing the school house … The needs of these schools have been under the consideration of the Syrian Patriarchate Educational Fund of which the late Dr Mortimer was Honorary Secretary, as the letters lately addressed to him by me were, for a sad reason, unanswered. Mr Mortimer sent them to Dr Tremlett.22

Still avoiding formal contact with the elusive Syrian Patriarchate Education Fund, Benson decided to refer the matter (again) to SPCK, whose General Secretary replied, the committee decided to inform Your Grace that they had given their consideration to the case but it did not appear to them to be one in which, in accordance with its usual practice, the Society could intervene. I am not quite sure of the grounds of that decision, and whether it was taken on general principles that the institutions belonging to the ancient Syrian Communion did not come within the scope of the Society’s action, or whether it simply implied that the particular circumstances of the case were such as not to call for intervention. Perhaps the best plan would be, if Your Grace should approve of the step, to put the letter before our Committee and to hear from them whether the case could on any grounds be entertained. In case they should decide to entertain it they will, of course, desire full particulars of the pupils, the classes from which they are drawn; the cost of maintenance; the sources of income; and the account of it; the 21 Letter of B. Abd-el-Noor (23rd November 1887) to W. A. White, British Ambassador in Constantinople, and forwarded via Lord Salisbury to the Archbishop, 27th January 1888. (Benson 66. f.340-341). 22 Letter of G. F. Curtis to Benson, 7th February 1888. (Benson 66. f. 340-341).


ANTIOCH AND CANTERBURY general control and direction of the institution; the character of the education given; and the prospect of its being maintained for the future without further appeals to our Society or other Societies in England, ie, especially whether its want of funds may be considered as chronic; or only temporary.23

Reticence on the part of SPCK in their response to requests for aid was further underlined in a letter to Benson only a week later.24 Support for the school in question was not forthcoming, and making two separate requests, the Patriarchal representative in Constantinople damaged his cause. G. F. Curtis wrote to M. Fowler, Benson’s Chaplain, on 28th February, saying, The application made to His Grace through Her Brittanic Majesty’s Ambassador was made without my knowledge. Thus the Vekil25 of His Holiness has been seeking help through more than one channel for the same purpose as far as I know. The purpose as represented to me has been specially the completion of the school buildings.26

A week later, Curtis reported that he had spoken with the Vekil, and confirmed with him that the money requested was for the maintenance of the roof of the school house. At the same time, he reported the exact details of the school, as requested by SPCK. The school is described by him as mixed, with 50 pupils, all from poor backgrounds Those who could afford to pay for their education paid a nominal sum, but those who were unable to do so paid nothing. The school was superintended by the Patriarch’s Vekil, and taught scripture, catechism, reading, writing, arithmetic, grammar, Syrian, Armenian, Turkish and French.27


Letter of W. H. Grove, General Secretary of the SPCK to Benson, February 1888. (Benson 66. f. 342). 24 The SPCK wrote to Benson saying, ‘It is just possible that the Standing Committee may regard a grant directly for the maintenance of an institution of the Ancient Syrian Communion as outside the Society’s scope’. (Benson 66. f. 346) 25 Vekil is Turkish for a representative or deputy. 26 Letter of G. F. Curtis to Benson’s Chaplain, 28th February 1888. (Benson 66. f. 349) 27 The exact details are given in the Old Syrian School in Pera’. (Benson 66. f. 351) 17th



After the above communications had been made in February 1888, Benson finally acknowledged the existence of the Syrian Fund, in March. Writing to Lord Salisbury, he explained, It appears that what had been long needed is a sum sufficient to cover the expenses of finishing the school house. The needs of these schools have been under the consideration of the Committee of the Syrian Patriarchate Educational Fund, but I believe that no decision has as yet been arrived at. I have communicated with SPCK. A similar request was considered by the Committee of that Society in 1883, but it was decided that the society could not render assistance in the matter. The society did, however, some years ago, make a grant of a number of New Testaments in Syriac and of prints for use in those schools … I do not know of any other society that could be likely to make a grant in this case.28

Thirteen years after the creation of a Fund whose specific aim it was to generate funds for the Syrian Orthodox Schools in Turkey, there was even less coherence than at the beginning. The response of Benson in this matter was entirely typical of the capabilities of the Church of England. The matter of funding for the Syrian School was concluded by SPCK in April 1888. Writing to Benson, they gave their decision that, the principle upon which they acted when the case of the schools was before them in October 1883, must guide them at present, and that the case is not one in which in accordance with its usual practice the Society could intervene by a money grant.

And in a comment on their understanding of the doctrinal position of the Syrian Church, they concluded, ‘Our books can only be used to propagate such doctrines as the Society approves of’.29 All the above negotiations took place over the period of November 1887 to April 1888, during which time Mar Gregorius was present in London. Despite the unproductive nature of the response to requests to finance, Mar Gregorius appears to have kept up formal contact with the Anglican authorities, and was invited as an observer to the Lambeth Conference. 28 29

Letter of Benson to Lord Salisbury. (Benson 66. f. 356). Letter from SPCK to Benson, 27th April 1888. (Benson 66. f. 358).



Lambeth Conference 1888 In June 1888, the Lambeth Conference of Anglican Bishops took place, and Mar Gregorius was present at the opening service in Canterbury on 30th June 1888. Bishop Perry of Iowa described the presence of Mar Gregorius, ‘Among the visiting prelates, the Oriental Bishop, Mar Gregorius, Bishop of Homs, the ancient Edessa (sic), and representing the Patriarch of Antioch, was conspicuous in his quaint head-gear and long, flowing robes’.30 Relations with the Oriental Churches was thought to have been of sufficient importance for the Third Lambeth Conference of 1888 to merit a specific item on the Agenda. The Committee appointed to deal with this began its report saying, Your Committee regard the friendly feelings manifested towards our church by the Orthodox Eastern Communion as a matter for deep thankfulness. These feelings inspire the hope that at no distant time closer relations may be established between the two churches.

Relations with the Oriental Orthodox were thus firmly put in the context of wider Orthodox relations, and in all ecclesiastical exchange, the ‘classic’ Anglican doctrine of non-interference in the affairs of other churches was restated, ‘Your Committee would impress upon their fellow-Christians the propriety of abstaining from all efforts to induce individual members of the Orthodox Eastern Church to leave their own communion’. Within this general context, the report went on to be more specific, ‘In regard to Eastern communities such as the Coptic, Abyssinian, Syrian, and Chaldean, your Committee consider that our position in the East involves some obligations’. The Anglican Church, by its reference to ‘our position’ was clearly aware of the opportunities which the temporal power of the British Empire afforded to the spiritual representatives of that power. The obligations referred to were then outlined, ‘If we should have opportunity, our aim should be to improve their mental, moral, and religious condition, and to induce them to return to the unity of the 30 See W. S. Perry, The Third Lambeth Conference 1888. (Privately printed 1891). His note contains two mistakes. Gregorius was Bishop of Jerusalem, and Homs is not the ancient Edessa (Urfa).



faith without prejudice to their liberty’.31 Despite the exhortation to honour ‘obligations’ to the Oriental Orthodox churches, no specific measures were taken in advocating support for a society such as the Syrian Patriarchate Education Society. Here again, the stated goodwill of the Anglican Church towards the Syrian Church, through its Bishops in conference at Lambeth, was not matched by any corresponding financial commitment. Individuals are recorded as making financial contributions, but seemingly in isolation.32 Mar Gregorius was to leave Britain later in 1888, with little practical or financial support,33 but not without furthering the work of the printing press which had been one of the original commitments of the Syrian Patriarchate Education Society in 1875.

The Printing Press The Syrian Patriarchate Education Society was partly responsible for the raising of the money to provide a Syrian printing press, the type for which was cast during Peter III’s visit to London in 18741875. It is unclear what happened to the original 1874 press. R. T. Davidson claimed in 1887 that the cases containing it had never been opened.34 Whatever its fate, by 1888 it is clear that it was no longer in existence, since this was one of the principal requests of Mar Gregorius in his visit of the same year. A new press was

31 The Five Lambeth Conferences (SPCK 1920), ‘Report of the Committee appointed to consider the relation of the Anglican Communion to the Eastern Churches’, pp. 167-70. The position as formulated in 1888 was restated with little change in the Conferences of 1897 and 1908. See also Sidney Dark, The Lambeth Conferences (London 1930), chapters III, IV and V. 32 Sir G. Gabriel Stokes, President of Pembroke College, Cambridge, gave a meeting at Pembroke in furtherance of the Syrian Patriarchate Education Fund. No record of a resulting financial contribution is made, nor is there any reference to the meeting in Stokes’ papers in Pembroke College. 33 The exact details of the support given to Mar Gregorius are recorded in the Ancient Syrian Church in Mesopotamia (Syrian Patriarchate Education Committee 1908), pp. 11-13. 34 See page 75.



assembled by the Edinburgh firm of Miller and Richard who sent a Scottish engineer to Mardin to install it.35 By 1889, the press was operational, and the first Syriac book to be printed was sent to Archbishop Benson.36 In his accompanying letter, the Patriarch wrote, We have understood the zeal which you have displayed concerning the printing presses which you have obtained for the raising up and administration of our Church and that you have placed your names among the participators of the Society which has aided our schools by the help and solicitude of the noble Queen Victoria and of benevolent men … We pray your brotherliness that the benefit of your regard may be extended unto our schools and our printing presses, for it is known unto you that without printing presses schools cannot succeed and likewise printing presses are dependent on schools.37

The letter is a long and florid one, full of superlatives and compliments addressed to Benson. He as the Archbishop who had set the Archbishop’s Mission to the Assyrians on a formal footing was by then becoming accustomed to the forms and courtesies of the Near East. Nevertheless, its form would not have been devoid of interest or amusement value. Three salient points emerge from the letter. Firstly, it is clear from the Patriarch’s assumption that the Archbishop was among the supporters of the Syrian Patriarchate Education Society, that the Patriarch thought that the same Archbishop occupied Canterbury. He was unaware of Tait’s death, and the succession of Benson. Secondly, the expense of maintaining the press as well as the support of schools, was regarded by the Patriarch as the responsibility of the Syrian Patriarchate Education Society.

35 For the details of this, see The Ancient Syrian Church of Mesopotamia (1908), pp. 11f. 36 The Patriarch, in his accompanying letter, and Mrs E. Finn (who translated it) describe the book as the first one printed by the press. No record of it is to be found in Lambeth Palace Library. For the Arabic letter, see Benson 90. f. 102. 37 Letter of Peter III Ignatius to Archbishop Benson, 11th May 1889 (Benson 90. f. 102) (text of the Arabic letter) and 90. ff. 103-5 (for the English translation of E. A. Finn).



Thirdly, political assistance from the British Government was still being (indirectly) sought by the Patriarch. His reference to this is suitably oblique, (he had merely asked the Archbishop to speak to the Queen about ‘our weakness’) and can be interpreted either as dealing with the continuing dispute within the Syrian Orthodox Church in Travancore and Cochin,38 or the political situation of the Syrian Orthodox in Turkey. The former is rather more likely than the latter, since the Patriarch had been informed several times of the British Government’s stated policy of non-interference in the affairs of the Ottoman Empire. It appears that Benson was largely unaware of the developments of the previous fifteen years in the Syrian Patriarchate Educational Society, since F. W. Tremlett wrote to him at the same time in his capacity as Chairman of the Society. Of the Patriarch’s letter, and E. A. Finn’s translation, he wrote, It is a literary translation – were it other it would lose much of its Eastern force and character. The allusion of “printing press” and “the Society” and “the Queen” refers to the time when the Patriarch was over here – fifteen years ago – when Your Grace’s predecessor Archbishop Tait took him by the hand and introduced him to Her Majesty and the Foreign Secretary. He was anxious at that time to bring diplomatic pressure to bear on the Porte on behalf of his Church in Syria and also to obtain the influence of Her Majesty’s Government in respect of the dispute which had occurred in his community in India, and he seems not to know that Your Grace is not the same Archbishop of Canterbury who was so kind to him on that occasion. This explanation is necessary to make the letter understandable.39

Benson did not acknowledge the Patriarch’s letter and book until six months later, when he seems to have been briefed on the background to the dispute within the Syrian Orthodox in India. He wrote thanking the Patriarch for the Syriac book, and obliquely referred to the dispute in India by exhorting, ‘I look forward to the time when, as your hope now is, you will see all the Holy Scriptures published, and the people able without difficulty to obtain them 38 For the details of this dispute, see L. W. Brown Indian Christians, pp. 140-64. 39 Letter of F. W. Tremlett to Benson, 27th May 1889. (Benson 90. f. 100).



and read them in their native language’.40 This was a re-statement of Tait’s original position in this dispute, which had been expressed to the Patriarch Peter III in 1874. The press which was set up in 1888 produced a fine example of the Serto (or Western) script, and in the Garshuni introduction to a Shhima printed in 1890, acknowledgements are made to all who had helped to set it up. The introduction is dated January 1890, and the due formal courtesies are paid to Sultan Abdul Hamid, Queen Victoria, Peter III Ignatius, and the Archbishop of Canterbury. The introduction furthermore goes on to be more specific about those who provided money, and acknowledges the help of the Syrian Patriarchate Education Society, Dr Tremlett, Mrs Finn, Sir Monier Williams, and ‘all the believing people of England’.41 The same introduction refers to the fact that the Shhima is the second printing of the press, and acknowledges all who have helped, as far as ‘the typesetters, Alexander, Gabriel, Daoud and Girgis’.42 The press was still in good working order when O. H. Parry visited in 1892 (see below for details). He reported of it, ‘There had been some difficulty raised by the Turkish Governor which caused a temporary suspension of the printing, but those difficulties have now been removed. Both presses are in fine condition, and the printing was about to be continued’.43

Archbishop Benson and Julius Behnam During this period, Benson’s contacts with the Syrian Orthodox Church had been widened by his entering correspondence and discussion with Julius Behnam, Syrian Orthodox Archbishop of el Jezireh in Syria. He wrote to Benson in September 1891, with a complaint that the Roman Church was proselytising among his own church by the opening of schools in Syria. He went on, Any open-minded man would see that the Syriac Church at present is like a wall ready to fall down or rather like a sick 40

Letter of Benson to Peter III, dated ‘Feast of Circumcision 1890’. (Benson 79. f. 276). 41 Shhima in Garshuni, printed Deir-el-Zafaran, January 1890 (Goussen 86, Universitats Bibliothek, Bonn). 42 Ibid. 43 O. H. Parry in ‘The Ancient Syrian Church in Mesopotamia and Extracts from the letters and reports of O. H. Parry’ (1892).



man at the point of death … Our full and earnest desire under the present circumstance before it is too late is to put our church in the hand of the English or rather to join the Church of England, for we do not want the piercing power of the Pope to rule amongst us. We are fully aware of the great interest Your Grace has taken in our church and your desire of promoting its welfare; that was shown us by the kind disposition towards our Patriarch Ignatius Peter and especially to the person of Mar Gregorius on his visit to England … Our aim and object now is to put ourselves under Your Grace’s direction in this matter … I have also great hopes that some of my brethren bishops will not keep back from following my example.44

The correspondence with Behnam opened up a new dimension of Syrian Orthodox contacts with Anglicans. It was no new thing for a Syrian Orthodox Bishop to complain of the proselytising activities of other churches, nor to regard the Church of England as the church least likely to proselytise. What was new, however, was Behnam’s suggestion of a remedy for the situation, that he should place himself formally under the authority of the Archbishop of Canterbury. In this new situation, Benson turned for advice to the Anglican Bishop in Jerusalem, Blyth, who was experienced in dealing with all the Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox Churches. Blyth responded by drawing Benson’s attention to the correspondence which had been carried on between Blyth and Hannah Melieha, a priest of Behnam’s diocese since February 1890. Melieha had asked Blyth for assistance in resisting the proselytism ‘from the enemies on both sides – the Roman Church and the Presbyterian party’.45 Blyth then advised Benson to wait before responding to the letter, and waited himself until December 1891, before responding to Melieha’s letter. He wrote, I would say that whilst I have a very sincere sympathy with you in your desire for the reformation of your church and for its deliverance from the proselytising aggression of which you complain, it is not the desire of the Church of England to 44 Letter of Julius Behnam, Archbishop of el Jezireh, to Benson, 24th September 1891. (Benson 113. f. 64) 45 Letter of Hannah Melieha to Bishop Blyth, 24th September 1891. (Benson 113. f. 70).


ANTIOCH AND CANTERBURY destroy the integrity of any Eastern Church or of any Diocese within a church by incorporation into herself. The wish of the Church of England is to aid, where she may be able to do so, the internal revival of churches where through oppression or lack of education the tone of spiritual life is lowered, and corruption of the primitive standard of faith has been introduced. But she would only move in this direction on the express invitation of the Heads of Churches.46

Blyth had put the ‘classic’ Anglican position with elegance and subtlety, and as such reveals himself as having greater understanding and awareness of the Eastern Churches with whom he dealt as Bishop in Jerusalem. He steadfastly refused to undertake any course of action which could be interpreted as proselytism.47 But having revealed himself as an informed observer of the Oriental Orthodox Churches, it is all the more surprising that he went on to reveal a complete ignorance of the existence of the Syrian Patriarchate Education Society. He sent on, There is another matter which may limit our power of action. Such a mission of help is an undertaking of very heavy expense. There is no fund in the English Church for paying the cost of such a mission; and a separate fund would have to be formed by the subscription of individual members of the Church of England who might be interested in the case, by the Archbishop of Canterbury. For this purpose, a distinct call for help would have to be made by the responsible heads of your church.48

Blyth unknowingly had described the exact form of the Syrian Patriarchate Education Society while stating that no such body existed. Furthermore, he reveals that he was unaware of the Patriarch’s repeated requests for assistance. In a final comment to Benson on the exchange, he wrote, In these Syrian cases, the Bishop is acting without consulting his Patriarch, just as the Syrian priest is acting without 46

Letter of Blyth to Hannah Melieha, 22nd December 1891. (Benson 113. f. 73). 47 See the Star in the East (1892), the periodical of the Turkish Missions Aid Society, a free church missionary society, for a account of a clash with Bishop Blyth over his refusal to proselytise. 48 Letter of Blyth to Hannah Melieha, 22nd December 1891. (Benson 113. f. 73).



consulting his own Bishop, because each is uncertain whether England will take any action to help them … If anything follows It will probably be found that these cases are really the outward feelings of a deep internal movement towards reform, with the aid of the only church capable of offering it without conditions of annexation.49

In Blyth’s analysis of the ‘internal dynamic’ of these Syrian Orthodox requests for Anglican assistance, echoes of the earlier situation in India can be detected. The matter appears to have been left unresolved. Of all the Anglican Bishops, who, by his contact with the Orthodox Churches, ought to have been aware of the existence of a Society whose principal aim was to provide assistance for one of them, Blyth should have known. The initiatives which the Society had made appear to have been of a restrained and haphazard character. In 1892, however, the Society financed a venture which was to produce its most enduring result.

O. H. Parry’s Visit to Mesopotamia In 1892, funds were made available by the Society for Oswald H. Parry to visit the Syrian Orthodox in Turkey. The visit was made during the period April - November 1892, and resulted in the production of a pamphlet, ‘The Ancient Syrian Church in Mesopotamia’, in the same year, and in 1895, his masterly Six Months in a Syrian Monastery. Parry reveals himself as having a greater understanding of, and sympathy for, the Syrians than any other observer of his time. In this analysis of the needs of the church, Parry wrote in his pamphlet printed in 1892, It is now absolutely clear that two things are wanted for this Church – good men with religious and missionary spirit, and also able to enforce the habit of business-like dealing in common matters. Such men are absolutely needed to direct the work; not that there is any reason to deny confidence to the authorities here, but only that there is no conception of the art of management, or of any kind of efficient education. Secondly, there is a need, to some far more absolute, if not so widely acknowledged, of true religious reform and teaching, for which the people are earnestly anxious. There is much to 49

Letter of Blyth to Benson, 29th December 1891. (Benson 113. f. 66).


ANTIOCH AND CANTERBURY fill up in the rather empty house of the Lord here. There is no need of romantic propagandism, but of quietly teaching the people to know their own church and their teaching.50

Commenting on the work of the Syrian Patriarchate Education Society in supporting schools, Parry reported that there are altogether 350 boys in the existing schools, working eight hours a day, with two hours in church.51 His experiences in 1892, the skeletal outline of which is to be found in the 1892 pamphlet, formed the basis of the 1895 book. On the whole modest about the achievements of the society, Parry allowed himself a brief flight of hyperbole only in his introduction to the book, when he made the following claim, Among the various schemes, many fantastic enough for promoting the union of Christendom, none seem to rest on a firmer basis that those whose aim is to secure greater intimacy and a more intelligent cordiality between the Christians of the East and West. Several societies have been formed with this purpose, recalling the similar efforts made by the non-jurors of the eighteenth century: and it was at the invitation of the oldest of these (the Syrian Patriarchate Education Society), and as their agent, that I undertook the journey here described.52

Parry, in his comparison of the Syrian Patriarchate Education Society with the non-jurors, is making a large claim on behalf of the Society – that it represents a major institution or group in the whole enterprise of East-West understanding. Certainly, the achievements of the society thus far had been more important in the educational, rather than financial, sphere. The difficulties inherent in this oriental-occidental exchange have already been outlined. Furthermore, he claims that they are the oldest society engaged in this work, whereas the society was only formally created in 1874. Notwithstanding Parry’s slight ‘folie de grandeur’ in his introduction, Six Months in a Syrian Monastery is a seminal work on 50

‘The Ancient Syrian Church in Mesopotamia and Extracts from the letters and reports of O. H. Parry’ (1892). 51 According to the later printed book The Ancient Syrian Church in Mesopotamia (1908), confusingly of the same title as the 1892 pamphlet, the schools referred to were opened in 1888. 52 O. H. Parry Six Months in a Syrian Monastery (London 1895), p. xiii.



the Syrian Orthodox in Turkey. Not only is historical knowledge combined with human sensitivity in his account, but it also displays political subtlety and skill, particularly in the account of the position of Christian minorities within the Ottoman Empire. Parry, even though drawing on the publications of known European travellers to Mesopotamia in the previous sixty years, is dismissive of their contributions.53 He wrote, The history of the old Syrians during the last three centuries is to be gathered almost entirely from the records of Roman Catholic or American travellers and missionaries. English travellers have been, as a rule, too callous or too prejudiced to be of much value as witnesses, considering the Syrians either in the light of fanatical heretics, or professors of a degraded Christianity. That neither light is true, I hope I have already proved …54

He goes on to advocate what he considers to be the appropriate Anglican response to Syrian requests for help. It is, in fact, closely allied to his perception of the political and diplomatic relationship between the British and Ottoman Empires. Parry says of this, Of the central administration in Turkey, I know little and say nothing. It is reported of by some who know that it is good … And the moral is this: England and certain other powers find it to their advantage to maintain Turkey in her present position. This policy may be right, as I think that those who know Turkey agree that it is. But this fact is clear: that if we do so maintain a Mohammedan state in power, it is our duty to see she does not abuse it, and recognise that influence must be maintained not by crying wolf at every imaginary outrage, not by encouraging disloyalty, not by idiotic abuse of the Turk and all his deeds, but by showing that our Government is one which can be trusted, whether Conservative or Liberal be in power, and that whatever we do, we will keep our treaties, and guard the rights wisely of our fellow religionists in Turkey.55

Parry’s insistence of the doctrine of non-interference in the affairs of sovereign states, and his rejection of the tactics of encouraging Christian disaffection with their state in the 53

He lists his sources on p. xv. Parry, op. cit., p. 301. 55 Parry, op. cit., p. 261. 54



contemporary British (and Anglican) analysis of the Christian condition in Turkey. He is eloquent in expressing it. Six Months in a Syrian Monastery remains the most singular achievement of the Syrian Patriarchate Education Society. The book was published in 1895, three years after Parry’s visit. The society was still in existence, and Parry was not unoptimistic about what it could achieve. Optimistically in his conclusion, he not only looks forward to formal inter-communion between the churches, but also believes that the resources would be found to bring it about. ‘It was with a belief in its possibility that the work of the above-mentioned society was inaugurated by the late Archbishop of Canterbury; the success of which work is a sure ground of hope that the means will be found to carry it to its end’.56

The 1895 Expedition of the Syrian Patriarchate Education Society Parry had concluded his own work with the optimistic analysis that sufficient interest and motivation was present in Britain, and in the Anglican Church in particular, for the work of the Syrian Patriarchate Education Society to continue. Three years after his own visit, another expedition financed by the society was led. Elizabeth Finn, alerting the Foreign Office, to the presence of this expedition, wrote in November 1895, The Revered A. E. Suffrin and Mr J. Hubert Smith BA, (both of Exeter College, Oxford) have proceeded to Syria as agents of the Syrian Patriarchate Education Society to assist the Syrian Patriarch in his educational work for his peoples. Mr J. H. Smith is of English birth, the Revd A. E. Suffrin is naturalised … These gentlemen arrived at Aleppo on 17th October on their way to the Patriarch at Mardin in Mesopotamia.57

They were never to reach their destination. Political events in 1895 in Eastern Anatolia were far too disturbed to allow foreign visitors access. Armenian-Turkish fighting was dominating the


Parry, op. cit., p. 313. Letter of E. A. Finn to Foreign Office, 5th November 1895. (FO. 78/4654) 57



whole region. On 1st November 1895, Suffrin and Smith telegraphed from Aleppo. Waiting. Progress impossible. Wire advice.

The Committee of the Syrian Patriarchate Education Society now had the task of giving advice as to whether the expedition should continue or not. Writing to the Foreign Office for the relevant advice, Elizabeth Finn enquired on behalf of the society, We are at a loss to know what advice to give, not being sufficiently informed as to the circumstances – but have seen published reports of disturbances at Diyarbakir which is within two days journey of Mardin (but it is not necessary to go to Mardin via Diyarbakir). There are no Armenians at Mardin, only Syrian Christians (and some Moslems) who are always loyal to the Ottoman Government and are not in any way concerned in political or foreign intrigue – nor are they in sympathy with the Armenians, whose supremacy they dread. And it is to be hoped that there will be no disturbance at Mardin.58

Despite Finn’s inaccurate or misleading statement that there were no Armenians in Mardin, (Parry had given an account of Armenians in Mardin), her analysis of the relationship between Syrians and Armenians is of interest. It was important to the Syrian Orthodox, and to the Patriarch in particular, that in pursuing their contacts with foreigners, they should under no circumstances allow themselves to be compared with the Armenians who had been, and were, seeking foreign intervention.59 The Foreign Office response, of course, was that the missionaries should only operate under the instructions of the British Consul at Aleppo, Henry Barnham. W. A. Cockerell, the Foreign Office official who answered Finn’s request made reference in general terms to the ‘violent condition of feeling among both Moslems and Christians in Asiatic Turkey’.60 Specific references as to the cause and course of the disturbances are not 58

Letter of E. A. Finn to Foreign Office, 5th November 1895. (FO. 78/4654). 59 On a note of human interest, Finn adds that the missionaries had a grievance because on landing at Alexandretta, J. A. Smith’s revolver had been confiscated by a Turkish official. 60 Letter of W. A. Cockerell to E. A. Finn, 1895. (FO. 78/4654).



made. Henry Barnham, British Consul in Aleppo, gave more specific details of the disturbances. He referred to the Armenian massacre in November 1895, at Marash. And even though Marash is a considerable distance from Mardin, and involved Armenians, not Syrians, he clearly felt that the feeling of the whole region was such that the presence of foreigners there would be an unnecessary risk. He counselled against any British presence there.61 The 1895 expedition thus was halted in Aleppo and never reached its destination. Parry, writing in 1892, had apparently not reckoned on the volatile political balance in Eastern Anatolia being so swiftly upset.

61 The Consular archives of Aleppo (FO. 861/27-8) contain detailed accounts of the violence at Marash, but curiously, no reference to Suffrin or Smith by name.

Chapter IV: Frederick Temple and the Patriarchate of Antioch Benson died in October 1896, and was succeeded by Frederick Temple as Archbishop of Canterbury. Benson, during his years in the primacy, had become familiarised with the Syrian Orthodox through personal contact and by the existence of an ‘organisation’ within the Church of England whose principal aim it was to foster relationships between the two churches. Temple had no experience of either and, for personal reasons, refused to draw on the experience of the only one of his Episcopal colleagues who had, Randall Davidson.1 The absence of any professional secretariat at Lambeth who could brief a new primate in unfamiliar areas, and the dependence of the Syrian Patriarchate Education Society on the enthusiasm of a few individuals meant that there was no archepiscopal continuity of support. Not only was there a new occupant of the chair of Augustine, but also Patriarch Peter III had died in 1895. He, above all, had encouraged the links between the Syrian Orthodox and the Church of England. Parry wrote in the same year, He has done a good work for his nation. Of a stern and at times fiery nature, holding, too, a singularly autocratic and isolated office, and living day by day far removed, in virtue of his position, from the softening influence of familiar intercourse with me, he yet, by the charm of a very tender heart, won from many the tribute of real and warm affection. He has suffered much from harsh judgements; but for the building up of his church and opening the way to larger light


Temple considered Davidson as a ‘rival’ for the Primacy, and was threatened by Davidson’s prior experience at Lambeth.



ANTIOCH AND CANTERBURY and fresher vigour he has done more than any who have gone before him.2

He was succeeded by ‘Abd-el-Messih.3 Political events and circumstances had also changed. In 1882, an important change for the Syrian Orthodox in the Ottoman Empire had been the establishing of an ‘independent’ Syrian Orthodox Millet in 1882.4 Prior to that date, Syrian Orthodox representation to the Ottoman government had always to be channelled through the Armenian Patriarch – a situation resented by the Syrian Orthodox. The new situation gave the Syrian Orthodox a higher profile in the life of the Ottoman Empire. Formal recognition of the authority of the Syrian Patriarch in 1882 by the Ottoman government may have held advantages for the community in easier access to the centre of political authority; it also held disadvantages in restricting the freedom for manoeuvre of the head of the community. Foreign contacts were among the many areas of life in which the community was forced to exercise greater caution and political skill. The Armenian difficulties of 1895 had also made the situation for all Christian minorities in Turkey more delicate. As we have seen, the Syrian Patriarchate Education Society’s mission of 1895 had been called off on the advice of the British Consul in Aleppo, since contact with any of the Christian communities in Anatolia was now seen to be fraught with danger.5 All of the above factors demanded greater political skill and subtlety in an Archbishop of Canterbury’s dealing with the Syrian Orthodox than had been the case twenty years earlier. Not only was there heightened political tension in the area and a greater suspicion of all Christian minorities on the part of the Ottoman authorities, but also natural factors had influenced the region. A series of disastrous harvests form 1892-1895 had led to a severe famine in the Tur ‘Abdin region. The American missionary, A. N. Andrus, commenting from Mardin on conditions in the 2

O. H. Parry, Introduction to Six Months in a Syrian Monastery p. xvi. See J. Joseph, Muslim-Christian Relations and Inter Christian Rivalries in the Middle East (Suny 1983), pp. 29f. 4 J. Joseph, Muslim Christian Relations, p. 91f., draws attention to the effect of the Armenian fighting on the Syrians. 5 A. N. Andrus, ‘Report from Mardin’ in Missionary Herald (1896), pp. 488f. 3

FREDERICK TEMPLE AND THE PATRIARCHATE OF ANTIOCH 77 region wrote of the government interference in foreign relief work, that aid had been given to over 200,000 people and that the plundered villagers have had but a tenth of their property restored to them; their burned and broken down houses are still in ruins; much of their grain has been either pastured while green, reaped when ripe by the Kurd, or carried from the threshing floor by the marauding Arab.6

The possibilities of difficulties arising for the Syrian Orthodox because of their real or perceived contacts with the West was a further difficulty and was now raised. In a letter to Temple, they are thus spelt out, The late Archbishop (Benson) assured the Syrian Patriarchate Education Society of his approval and friendly interest in this work at all times – the Society was precluded from asking the late Archbishop or his predecessor to formally become their patron – because that would have precluded the Syrian Patriarch with the Ottoman government, which is peculiarly sensitive as to official relations between Turkish subjects and the authorities of other nations. The Turkish Government, however, gave the late Patriarch formal permission to visit England in 1874 and do not object to the friendly intercourse during and since his visit, or to the assistance given to the Syrian Church as to schools and printing presses, which latters (sic) they have licensed.7

The potential political difficulties thus spelt out here by Finn (in her letter to the Archbishop) clearly indicate this new, and more delicate, situation within the Ottoman Empire. Twenty years earlier, there had been repeated requests for direct political assistance to be given. These requests, as we have noted, were directed at three sources, and articulated during Peter III’s visit to London, from August 1874, to April 1875. There were requests to Queen Victoria herself for direct political intervention, to the British Government through the person of the Foreign Secretary, and to the Church of England through the person of the Archbishop of Canterbury. Part of the reason for this restricting of 6 Letter of E. A. Finn to Frederick Temple, 21st November 1896. (Box 10, Assyrian Mission Papers, Lambeth Palace Library). 7 Letter of E. A. Finn to Temple, 21st November 1896. (Box 10, Assyrian Mission Papers).



the parameters for action lay in the changed situation for the Syrians themselves within the Ottoman Empire. The constitutional position of the Patriarch was spelt out for Temple by Elizabeth Finn. The position held by the Patriarch as head of his church, in virtue of the government Firman, or Patent, is not purely ecclesiastical, but is quasi vice-Regal, and he is invested with special authority and privileges, and is entitled to use Royal Red for his seal signature. He is therefore a recognised Officer in the Turkish State, as well as a Turkish subject and has to exercise great caution in his peculiar position.8

The new primate had thus been informed and warned of the potential political difficulties for the Syrian Orthodox which their contacts with the Church of England, and in particular with the symbolic figure of the Archbishop of Canterbury, could create. The Syrian Patriarchate Education Society were no less aware of the potential difficulties which their work might create. Informing Temple of their work thus far, they are careful to delineate the extent of their work, ‘The Syrian Patriarchate Education Fund does not attempt to establish schools of its own, but only to aid the Patriarch in educating his people’.9 The 1895 expedition of Suffrin and Smith, as we have noted, had to be abandoned because of the Armenian troubles. In any further ventures, the Syrian Patriarchate Education Society would be cautious to establish that it had local clearance before proceeding. In writing to Temple to clarify this situation, Finn is careful to explain that such local authorisation would be given to all the Society’s planned ventures. She wrote, The Patriarch now states that the country is quiet and earnestly begs that the Committee should send one or two men, and means for carrying on the High School, and other schools already begun; as also the printing of Bibles, service books and school books which the Committee hope to do with as little delay as possible.10


Ibid. Letter of E. A. Finn to Frederick Temple, Archbishop elect, 17th November 1896. (Box 10, Assyrian Mission Papers). 10 See The Ancient Syrian Church in Mesopotamia (1908), p. 13. 9

FREDERICK TEMPLE AND THE PATRIARCHATE OF ANTIOCH 79 The school which had been opened in Mardin in 188811 seems to have fallen victim of the troubled state of the region in 1895. A. N. Andrus wrote from Mardin that the ‘Jacobite Syrian School’ had closed on 2nd July 1895.12 Temple’s response to this barrage of information on a subject about which he had not been properly briefed was insouciance. He neither encouraged the society to go ahead with its plans, nor discouraged them. His response was to request information as to whether Benson had had any contact with the society. The absence of informed, systematic and accurate advice at the centre of ecclesiastical power was to prove a constant hindrance in achieving effective co-operation between the churches. Other factors, however, were creating their own pressures on Temple to take more seriously these contacts with Oriental churches. On 13th September 1896, Pope Leo XIII had issued the Bull Apostolicae Curae, with its pronouncement of Anglican orders as ‘absolutely null and utterly void’. The Anglican defence of the validity of their own orders was partly to look to the churches of the East for the affirmation which Rome had denied. Temple’s reply to the Apostolicae Curae was published in 1898. He wrote, ‘As regards the power and authority of His Holiness the Pope, such claims have been deliberately and consistently rejected, not only by the Church of England, but also by the great Churches of the East’.13 Any move Temple was to make towards the Eastern Churches would thus have carried the support of the increasingly powerful Anglo-Catholic party within the Church of England. But it was not only ecclesiastical factors which exerted an influence for increased contact. Through Gladstone’s liberal administration in Britain, there was a greater awareness of the conditions of Christian minorities in the Ottoman Empire; an awareness aroused chiefly, in response to the tragic condition of


A. N. Andrus, ‘Report from Mardin’ in Missionary Herald (1895), p.

401. 12

Letter of the Archbishop of Canterbury, The Times, 14th March 1898. Bilal N. Simsir makes the point that Gladstone was known in Turkey as a ‘leading anti-Turk agitator’. British Documents on Ottoman Armenians, (Vol. II), p. ix. 13



the Armenians.14 The Patriarch ‘Abd-al-Masih II himself wrote to Temple pointing out that the fate of the Armenians was not restricted to that community, and that his own community had been affected by the events of 1895. He wrote, the greater number of the people of our community became impoverished and in want and after having been well off fell into lamentable condition. And since this occurred, we are by day and by night engaged in the necessary measures of alleviating the condition of our people … But the majority are in need of help – for it is not unknown to Your Lordship that during these occurrences there was destruction of churches and of schools and burning of the indispensable offices and of those which belong to and are necessary for the instruction of youth. And now the printing of books is needed in the Syriac, Arabic and Turkish languages, and their distribution among the Churches and schools referred to … By reason of the severity of their distress, our thoughts are perplexed and we rely upon the setting of the printing press to work, but on account of the multitude of expenses and the burdens which have come upon us during the events referred to even to the present on behalf of the destitute, our hands have been emptied and there remains to us no power for carrying on the desired work.15

‘Abd-al-Masih, in drawing attention to the social and economic conditions of the Syrians was emphasising the claims of those who wanted to draw attention to the condition of the Armenians. Rather than make this point, which would be too politically sensitive, he went on to draw attention to one of the achievements of the Syrian Patriarchate Education Society, It is not unknown to your friendly benevolence that three months ago we have opened a public school for the first time as far as our power went – in the convent of Deir-el-Zafaran and many pupils came from all parts and the number is increasing. For its arrangement (sic) and proper government,

14 Undated letter of ‘Abd-al-Messih to Temple (Box 10, Assyrian Mission Papers). The letter is in Arabic with an accompanying English translation. 15 Ibid.

FREDERICK TEMPLE AND THE PATRIARCHATE OF ANTIOCH 81 we are asking for assistance and help from the bounty of God and from the solitude of the benevolent and charitable.16

Four years later, by which time Temple could have become aware of the existence of the society and its aims, an astonishing incident occurred which revealed that he was either still unaware of the existence of the society; or he felt its existence to be ineffectual and marginal; or he chose to ignore it.17 The Anglican Bishop in Jerusalem, Bishop Blyth, wrote to Temple on 5th September 1900, drawing his attention to a letter which he (Blyth) had received from a Syrian Orthodox Bishop living in Baghdad. The letter, dated 1st February 1900, was a request for support from Bishop Julius Behnam for a school to be established in his diocese. In the letter, Behnam draws attention to the fact that he had written to Benson in 1891, but had received no answer. He went on, ‘We are sure and confident that the Anglican Church of its own nature loves and seeks to do all what is good (sic) and right, and those who appeal to her for such a holy purpose cannot possibly be disappointed’.18 Behnam, in seeing support for a Syrian School, turned for that support to Blyth. This was not unnatural, since Blyth, as Bishop of an Anglican diocese in an area dominated by the Orthodox churches, was renowned as a sympathiser and supporter of those churches, and the two had been in correspondence nine years earlier. He was often attacked by more evangelical churches and societies for his refusal to encourage proselytising amongst the Orthodox.19 Blyth, however still seems to have been unaware of the existence of the Syrian


Ibid. David Edwards points out, ‘As Primate he bothered little with affairs which he was too old to begin studying or remedying. When troublesome letters were submitted to him … the letters were left unanswered’. Leaders of the Church of England 1828-1944 (Oxford 1971), p. 296. 18 Letter of Julius Behnam to Blyth, 1st February 1900. This letter was delivered by hand, Blyth wrote, by a Syrian priest named Hannah Melieha, who had made a 40 day journey on foot to deliver it. (Temple Papers 41. f. 170). 19 See The Star in the East 1892, for a virulent attack on Blyth for his refusal to proselytise. See Chapter III, note 47 for the free church attack on Blyth. 17



Patriarchate Education Society, for he wrote to Temple drawing his attention to this appeal, and commented, It is from a Syrian Bishop living near Baghdad. He wishes probably very much for political reasons, and somewhat with financial aims) for incorporation with the Church of England. His messenger undertook a forty day journey to bring the letter, and was told not to return unless the answer was favourable - I replied that we had no such fund in England for such purposes, and that our aim was not to take over churches, and that his application had no support from the Syrian Patriarch – but that I would consult Your Grace.20

Blyth’s reference to ‘incorporation with the Church of England’ was a reference to the earlier correspondence between Behnam and Benson, where this specific request had been made. Blyth concluded, ‘Your Grace need not write’.21 Blyth had advised Temple not to write. It was unlikely that he would have done, since he showed neither interest in the Orthodox nor motivation to learn about them. He did, however, make some consultations to discover more about this specific request. A. H. Lang was known to have a knowledge of the Syrian Churches, and he later wrote, In 1901, the Archbishop sent for me to Lambeth, and asked if I knew the state of the Syrians at Mardin. He said that the Foreign Office had asked him whether an Anglican clergyman could be sent to help the West Syrians on the request of the Patriarch, for they wished to be in communion with the Anglican Church.22

At the same time, A.N. Andrus was to write complaining that Temple had not answered letters from the Patriarch, ‘Abd-alMasih. He was to write to Davidson, ‘For a period of nearly five years, the Patriarch has corresponded with your predecessor … but never received any reply to his communications. He wrote in 1896 and 1901’.23


Letter of Blyth to Temple, 5th September 1900. (Temple 41. f. 161). Ibid. 22 Letter of A. H. Lang to Archbishop Davidson, 22nd July 1903. (Davidson 83. f. 432). 23 Letter of A. N. Andrus to Archbishop Davidson, 22nd June 1903. (Davidson 83. f. 409). 21

FREDERICK TEMPLE AND THE PATRIARCHATE OF ANTIOCH 83 The Behnam matter had already been concluded by Blyth when he wrote to Temple. Blyth had written earlier in the year in response to Julius Behnam, When I am in England this summer, I will lay your request before His Grace the Archbishop of Canterbury, and I will ask him if any school can be established for you. There is no fund in the English Church for this object any more than there may be in your own for work amongst other churches; a special fund will have to be raised. If you have any funds amongst yourselves for the support of a good master and mistress or for a school, we might be able to meet such fund and to send good teachers.24

It is difficult to interpret what may lie behind Blyth’s denial that there was any interested party within the Church of England for work with the Syrian Church. Like Temple, he was either unaware of the society, or chose to ignore it. Or the society itself may have been so badly organised or ‘low-key’ in its operation and publicity that he could not be expected to have heard of it. Furthermore, it is unlikely that even if Behnam’s request had been passed on to the Syrian Patriarchate Education Society, they would have been in any financial position to help. Even in the political sphere, ‘Abd-al-Masih had looked to the authorities of the Church of England for assistance and been deflected He had planned a journey to India in early 1902, and had enlisted the help of the British mission in Constantinople. In February 1902, ‘Abd-al-Masih visited Sir N. R. O’Conor, the British Ambassador, in order to enlist his help in revoking a decision which had been taken by the Sultan concerning his visit to India. O’Conor wrote, On the Patriarch’s proposed visit to India, Said Pasha expressed his regret that, in view of His Beatitude’s important duties in Syria, he could not at present recommend that permission be give, and that should the proposal be laid before the Sultan, there was little hope of a favourable decision.25


Letter of Blyth to Julius Behnam, 26th April 1900. (Temple 41. f.

171). 25

Letter of Sir N. R. O’Conor to the Foreign Secretary, 22nd February 1902. (FO 78/5189).



The proposed visit to India was never made, and it was to be left to ‘Abd-al-Masih’s successor, Abdallah, to re-open the Indian chapter. Whatever the case the society clearly suffered from lack of archepiscopal support and continuity. When they had the support of the primate, their work was better publicised and financed.26 Temple died in 1902, and was succeeded at Canterbury by Randall Davidson. This was to open a new and more promising chapter in Anglican-Syrian Orthodox contacts.

26 Temple’s biography, Memoirs of Archbishop Temple by Seven Friends (ed. E. G. Sandford, 2 Vols., London 1906) makes no mention of any contact with any Eastern churches.

Chapter V: Randall Davidson and the Patriarchate of Antioch With the accession of Randall Davidson to the primacy in 1903, a more informed period of Syrian-Anglican relations began. He had been prepared, through his work at Lambeth under Tait, and through his close involvement with the Lambeth Conferences of 1878, 1888 and 1897, for a more systematic contact with all the Orthodox churches. He wrote to the Patriarch of Constantinople on the day of his own enthronement on 12th February, 1903, ‘It was our duty on three occasions to act as one of the secretaries of the Lambeth Conferences, and we can therefore speak from long experience of the entire goodwill of our brethren in all quarters of the globe to the Orthodox Eastern Church in all its branches’.1 This ‘long experience’ of the Orthodox Churches was much more than any of his predecessors could claim. Unlike them, he was aware of the existence of the Syrian Orthodox, and aware of the existence of a society (however nominal) whose principal aim it was to further their interests. Davidson’s major pre-occupation in his contacts with the Oriental churches was, of course, the Assyrians.2 Benson had established the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Mission to the Assyrians in 1886 and the first fifteen years of the twentieth century were to see that Mission overtaken by political events and its eventual collapse. The same political circumstances were to engulf the Armenians in the Ottoman Empire,3 leaving only the Syrian Orthodox as a cohesive Christian community in Anatolia. Anglican relations with the Syrian Orthodox were thus to take on a significance which they had hitherto not possessed.


G. K. Bell, Randall Davidson, (2 Vols., London, 1935), Vol. l, p. 417. See Randall Davidson, Vol. II, ch. LXXV. 3 See Randall Davidson. Vol. 1 ch. XXXIII. 2




Shortly after Davidson’s accession to Canterbury, the whole issue of the formal relationship between the two churches was raised in a specific incident. Dr Bhabha was a Syrian Orthodox priest ordained as such in India, but with a Presbyterian background and upbringing. He came to London in 1903 with the intention of working as a priest in the Church of England. In this intention, he had the support of the Syrian Orthodox Bishop in Jerusalem, Jemis Elias. Bhabha arrived in London bearing a letter from him, which stated, ‘he has my permission to communicate and officiate in the Church of England’.4 This incident was to force Davidson into a sharp examination of the state of the relationship between the two churches. Early in 1904, he wrote to the Bishop of London presenting, as he saw it, the issues raised by the case: I can hardly doubt that an English Bishop would consent to his so communicating. His officiating as an ordained priest is another matter altogether. It raises questions of extreme difficulty – eg – Where is he to officiate? If it is the English liturgy he uses he must hold an Archbishop’s licence … If it is not the English liturgy that he uses, then the Act of Uniformity is being violated.5

Other spectres were being raised by this Syrian case. Raising a fear which was present in the Church of England at the end of the nineteenth century, Davidson went on: Why should not some extremist belonging to the unwise section of the clergy claim that a Roman priest should celebrate the Mass in Latin on the analogy of the precedent set by Dr Bhabha’s Syrian service?6

Bhabha’s application had the support not only of the Syrian Bishop in Jerusalem, but also of the Syrian Orthodox Metropolitan, Dionysius, from the Church in India. Dionysius seems to have encouraged Davidson to look to ways of improving and making more systematic Anglican-Syrian Orthodox exchange. He wrote to Davidson in support of Bhabha, but also went on to suggest three 4

Davidson, 112. f. 205-6. Letter of Davidson to the Bishop of London, 21st January 1904 (Davidson 112. f. 209). 6 Ibid. 5

RANDALL DAVIDSON AND THE PATRIARCHATE OF ANTIOCH 87 specific ways in which the framework of Anglican-Syrian relations could be strengthened, Firstly, that a Syrian priest should be stationed in England to represent the orthodoxy of the Syrian church. Secondly, that high church clergymen should undertake occasional tours through the churches of Malabar. Thirdly, that educational establishments of the Syrian Orthodox should be improved under high church supervision.7

Davidson considered these suggestions, and looked anxiously over his shoulder at the effect which any decision might have in Anglican relations with other churches. Bhabha in the meantime had written to various Anglican Bishops asking for employment; all of which requests eventually came back to Davidson. Two years later, he was ready to act. He wrote, forbidding any Anglican Bishops to employ Bhabha, and rejecting Bhabha’s repeated requests. Writing to Bhabha himself, he closed the matter, ‘Either you are an Anglican priest or you are not’.8 Davidson appears to have been influenced during this period by the re-opening of an old wound between the CMS and the Syrians.

CMS The short experiment between the CMS and the Syrians at Kottayam in South India between 1810 and 1836 had left both participants bitter. The cases of litigation and counter-litigation had dragged on in interminable fashion. H. E. Fox of the CMS had written to Davidson in 1903 referring to a Syrian Orthodox litigation in India, where the Syrians were demanding from the CMS, ‘payment of certain trust funds’.9 Fox drew to the Archbishop’s attention the fact that CMS were considering their own litigation against the Syrians.10 This exchange was heightened in 1902-1903 by the publication in India of a 31 7

Letter of Mar Dionysius to Davidson, 8th February 1904 (Davidson 112. f. 214-20). 8 Letter of Davidson to Bhabba, 14th March 1906 (Davidson 112. f. 268). 9 Letter of 30th January 1903 (Davidson 83. f. 378). 10 For the details of the proposed litigation, see Davidson papers 83. ff. 379-87.



page document setting out the case of the Syrians in their dispute with the CMS.11 Property related to the seminary of Kottayam was being claimed by both sides. The Syrian case lay in their assertion that the terms of co-operation had been broken by the CMS in their active proselytising amongst the Syrian Orthodox, and the creation of ‘Anglican Syrians’ in 1836. CMS were now to introduce the same allegation in their published pamphlet in 1904.12 Attention was drawn to the case of René Villate, a priest of the Protestant Episcopal Church of the United States of America, who had been consecrated by Syrian Orthodox Bishops in Colombo in 1892 as Mar Timotheus. Mar Timotheus had in turn consecrated H. M. Marsh-Edwards in Cardiff in 1903 as ‘Bishop of Caerlon’. CMS, introducing these new elements, were to claim that the Syrian church, and not the Anglicans, had been responsible for the more flagrant proselytism. The bitterness of this pamphleteering war cannot but have influenced Davidson in the decisions he eventually took in the Bhabha case, and, to a lesser degree, in his perceptions of the Syrian church as a whole. The Patriarch ‘Abd-al-Masih was to make representations to Davidson at this same time.

Patriarch ‘Abd-al-Masih II ‘Abd-al-Masih had attempted to initiate contact with the Church of England while Frederick Temple was Archbishop of Canterbury. His requests repeatedly fell on deaf ears. The American Congregational Missionary in Mardin, A. N. Andrus, wrote to Davidson in 1903 pointing this out. Andrus first made reference to the fact that Temple had not responded to the Patriarch’s letters (see Chapter IV, note 23) and then went on to make reference to the last initiative of the Syrian Patriarchate Education Society, ‘In the fall of 1895, two young men were on their way to Deir Zaafaran in Mardin and had reached Aleppo, when they turned back from there, and since then nothing has been done looking to the assistance of the Patriarch in any direction’. Andrus was aware of the sensitiveness of such contact taking place, and refers to the political context in this way, ‘The Patriarch would be glad to renew 11 See E. M. Philip, A Letter to the Secretary of the Corresponding Committee of the CMS, (Kottayam, 1902). 12 A Statement for the Anglican Episcopate – Proselytising by the Jacobite Metropolitan of Malabar and disorderly consecrations (Madras 1904).

RANDALL DAVIDSON AND THE PATRIARCHATE OF ANTIOCH 89 correspondence … only to do so directly would excite the suspicion of the government already too sensitive’.13 Davidson, in response, exhibited seriousness of purpose in attempting to get expert advice on the Syrians in Turkey. He was at least prepared to consider the possibility. As we have seen, ‘Abd-alMasih’s request for permission to visit India was turned down. But in the process, the Patriarch had enlisted the help of the Foreign Office. The Foreign Office had, in turn, informed the Archbishop of these developments. Davidson immediately sought to ascertain the facts, and after doing so, replied to the requests which Archbishop Temple had ignored over a period of five years. Two months after the initial requests, Davidson wrote declining any assistance, ‘I fear that it would be impossible for us to hold out any hope at present of being able to send emissaries to help the members of the church, because of the work which is at present being carried out amongst the Assyrians’.14 ‘Abd-al-Masih was deposed in 1906,15 and was succeeded by ‘Abd-Allah Sattuf as Patriarch, which was to provide an opportunity for renewal of contact between the Patriarchate of Antioch and Canterbury.

‘Abd-Allah and R. T. Davidson ‘Abd-Allah Sattuf (the former Mar Gregorius, Bishop of Jerusalem) was consecrated as Patriarch on 28th August 1906. A. N. Andrus attended the consecration, and after a formal meeting with him, wrote to Davidson: I had an audience with him, and he wished me to re-open, on his behalf and in his stead, correspondence with Your Grace in regard to the possibility of extending financial aid for the school which was opened last fall. 13 Letter of A. N. Andrus to Davidson, 22nd June 1903 (Davidson 83. f. 409). 14 Letter of Davidson to A. N. Andrus, 1st August 1903 (Davidson 83. f. 434). 15 Details of the deposition are difficult to trace, and disputed. See L. W. Brown, Indian Christians of St Thomas (Cambridge, 1983), pp. 151-3, and A,. S. Atiya, op. cit. pp. 372f. A. Fortescue cynically suggests, ‘It cost Sattuf much intrigue and £T.350 to secure his own election’, The Lesser Eastern Churches (CTS 1913), p. 338.



Andrus then went on to give an account of the school in Mardin itself, which must have been of interest not only to Davidson, but also to the Syrian Patriarchate Education Society who had sponsored the work: The Patriarch has publicly committed himself to the support of this school and I am happy to say that it has re-opened this fall with a larger number of scholars. The purpose of this school is to train up a better educated corpus of monks, priests and deacons, so as to improve both the spiritual and intellectual standards of the lower orders in the church. We are heartily in sympathy with the Patriarch in the effort he is making at his entrance upon his new office, and are lending to him our moral support in assisting him in providing a teacher and text books for the school.

Andrus was clearly aware of the erstwhile support of the Syrian Patriarchate Education Society in some detail since he then went on to mention the printing press, also supported by the society, ‘He is also having one of the printing presses removed to the city in order to procure government permission to work it’. The presses had created some difficulties for the Syrian Orthodox with the authorities, and Andrus is enlightening on the situation, ‘I would like to bespeak the renewed interest in such undertaking of the friends who so liberally furnished the means for the purchase, transportation and erection at the Deir of the two fine printing presses which the government so soon put under seal’. Andrus concluded by referring to ‘Abd-Allah’s planned visit to India, and his efforts to secure permission to travel: I hope he will be successful with the Sultan, as the previous Patriarch was not, and he will have the honour of conferring with Your Grace at Lambeth … It seems to me that with the consecration of this Patriarch the psychological moment has come for entering on relations with this Church with a view to help it on its way in the struggle upward to a plane spiritually, ethically, and intellectually.16

The letter of Andrus reveals a detailed knowledge of the operations and support of the Syrian Patriarchate Education Society, and seems to be in sympathy with its aims. From the tone 16

Letter of A. N. Andrus to Davidson, 21st October 1906 (Assyrian Mission Papers, Box VII 1899-1906).

RANDALL DAVIDSON AND THE PATRIARCHATE OF ANTIOCH 91 of his correspondence, it is very difficult to construe the aggressive Protestant proselytism of which the Syrians so bitterly and so regularly complained. He presented the case for support for the Syrian Orthodox to Davidson in better and more detailed way than others had done. And the request was a repeat of one made three years earlier, but with the added incentive of a new Patriarch. It is thus all the more surprising that Davidson’s response delivered on 1st December 1906, was a very definite and unelaborated negative.

London As we have noted, Ignatius ‘Abd-Allah visited London in 1908, on his way to India. Unlike his predecessor, ‘Abd-al-Masih, he was granted the necessary permission by the Sultan to make the journey. He arrived in October 1908, and shortly after his arrival, Elizabeth Finn wrote to the Archbishop outlining his mission: He is carrying on in Mesopotamia the school for boys opened by the former Patriarch, with aid of the Syrian Patriarchate Education Committee which was formed with the approval of His Grace Archbishop Tait. That Committee was also enabled to provide two fine printing presses with type, and will we hope be able still further to aid the Syrian Patriarch in his efforts for the good of his people.17

It is still hoped to enlist Davidson’s formal support in creating something akin to the Mission to the Assyrians. Publicity for the Patriarch was thus built up in London by those who supported his case, publicity not only for the proposed work, but also for the Patriarch himself. Considerable interest was built up in the person of the Patriarch and the church he represented. F. N. Heazall wrote a helpful and accurate memorandum to the Archbishop concerning the Patriarch himself. He wrote: Mar Ignatius ‘Abdallah was at one time Bishop of Diyarbakir. He joined the Latin Obedience owing to persecution from the late Patriarch (Jacobite), who was deposed a few years ago. This last succeeded the old Patriarch Peter III who visited England in 1874-5. Peter III sent Mar Ignatius to London again in 1888. These men above mentioned are Jacobite, and nominally monophysite. This body through its representatives 17

Letter of E. A. Finn to Davidson, 14th October 1908 (Davidson 150. f. 330).


ANTIOCH AND CANTERBURY in Mesopotamia has more than once made a request to the Archbishop of Canterbury for help on the lines of the Assyrian mission.18

Heazall, however, assumes that the work and existence of the Education Society are at an end, since he added a description of Elizabeth Finn saying, ‘she was at one time secretary of a small society which used to aid the Jacobites in education and gave the Patriarch two printing presses, which were confiscated by the Turkish government’.19 ‘Abd-Allah’s visit which was, in fact, his third visit and his first as Patriarch) was much more prominent, in terms of diplomatic activity, than either of his two previous ones. He is recorded, during his time in London, as having had two audiences with the King, four interviews with the Archbishop of Canterbury, and an interview with Lord Morley, the Foreign Secretary. He arrived in December 1908, and stayed until August 1909. His visit gave the Syrian Patriarchate Education Society the impetus to produce a pamphlet appealing for funds,20 and outlining the history of the society to date. It produced a grander and more organised picture than was in fact the case. The funds of the society at that date were a mere £150.18.9d, and they were raised by the appeal to £166.9.9d.21 The Patriarch seems to have been aware of the lack of resources of the Society, and in his public pronouncements placed no great emphasis on the collection of funds. Writing to Davidson in June 1909, he stated, ‘I came to your great city with two-fold intentions, the first for the purpose of presenting my homage to his exalted Majesty King Edward the Seventh and the second for the honour of greeting Your Grace and the Bishops’. And, almost as an afterthought, he added, ‘I had intended also to appeal to your


Memorandum of F. N. Heazell, 24th October 1908 (Davidson 150. f. 330). 19 Ibid. 20 As already noted, the Syrian Patriarchate Education Society produced The Ancient Syrian Church in Mesopotamia in 1908. 21 See the letters of E. A. Finn to Davidson of 31st March 1909, and th 16 June 1909, respectively (Davidson 299. f. 55, 61).

RANDALL DAVIDSON AND THE PATRIARCHATE OF ANTIOCH 93 helping hand for the promotion of printing, and the care of orphans in my country’.22 He wrote in the same letter that he had not intended to stay so long in Britain, but had done so because of illness. Davidson, for his part, was clear in his response. He wrote in August to the Bishop of Calcutta explaining the Patriarch’s visit, He has had two interviews with the King.23 He also has seen Lord Morley. I gather that he hopes in India to collect some funds for his own flock for the benefit of the suffering people in Mesopotamia … although it is clear, and I think he understands this, that we cannot accept definite responsibility for helping him to meet these particular needs.24

In August 1909, when the Patriarch ‘Abd-Allah left for India, the funds of the society stood at £166.11.8d.25 In the same year, the society made a further appeal for funds. Their appeal stated: The Syrian Patriarchate Education Fund was formed in 1874, to help the late Patriarch to open schools of which there were none. Her Majesty Queen Victoria gave £80 donation. With funds then raised schools were opened, to which the present Patriarch has added four, for girls and women. There are 15, now at a standstill for want of money to pay the teachers £30 will maintain a school for a year. The children are intelligent and eager to learn. Printing: In 1876, these Christians had no printed books at all. To copy a psalter takes months, to copy a Bible, a lifetime. Friends enabled the Committee to send two printing presses and some type, but during Kurdish raids sad havoc was made with the type. Type of various sizes is urgently needed. Clergy and Teachers: A very pressing need is means for educating clergy and teachers. Many of the clergy cannot read their service books, but learn to repeat the prayers by heart.

22 Letter of the Patriarch ‘Abd-Allah to Davidson, 14th June 1909 (Davidson 299. ff. 57-59). 23 The audiences with the King were on 23rd December 1908 and 23rd July 1909. 24 Letter of Davidson to the Bishop of Calcutta, 6th August 1909 (Davidson 299. f. 78). 25 Memorandum of Captain Heath RN on the funds of the Society, th 17 August 1909 (Davidson 299. f. 89).


ANTIOCH AND CANTERBURY The church has no endowments. It is chiefly supported by offerings in kind, of the simple and God-fearing people. A parish priest may have £5 a year, and a Bishop perhaps £40. With all this, it is astonishing how much the people know of the Bible. Old and New Testament are read in the Churches. The Patriarch knows his Bible by heart, and has, like his people, a most retentive memory. It is now hoped that his friends here, who now hear of the pitiful condition of this primitive people will come forward with liberal aid.26

As we have seen, the funds of the society stood at £166.11.8d in August 1909, when the Patriarch ‘Abd-Allah left London. It still stood at £166.11.8d on 16th December 191427 when it was withdrawn from the account and paid to the Reverend Dr A. N. Andrus. The account was then closed. As Aziz Atiya states, ‘the material resources of the project in England were unequal to the goodwill of its mission’.28 The political difficulties which had arisen from the Syrians in Turkey, as symbolised by the confiscation of the presses, were clearly on ‘Abd-Allah’s own agenda for discussion in London. The Foreign Office, however, was anxious to avoid the potential embarrassment of an anti-Turkish stance, and in ‘Abd-Allah’s two audiences with the King, it had been emphasised that no political subject should be raised. Those who had been involved with the work of the Syrian Patriarchate Education Society were anxious to see the Patriarch and have detailed accounts of the latest situation, O. H. Parry among them.29 In accordance with the wishes of the British Government and the Archbishop, the articulated concerns during the Patriarch’s visit remained strictly ecclesiastical. Only by inference can anything other than strictly ecclesiastical concerns be discovered. In their printed booklet of 1908, the Syrian Patriarchate Education Society alluded to the 26

General Appeal for funds, March 1909 (Davidson 299. f. 31). The account was kept at Coutts & Co, The Strand. It was opened on 31st October 1888, and closed on 16th December 1914. (Information from the Archivist of Coutts Bank). 28 A. S. Atiya, op. cit., p. 217. 29 Parry wrote to Davidson saying he would like to see the Patriarch but could not ‘because Mrs Finn hates me like poison, and I don’t know quite how to go there’. Letter of O. H. Parry, 20th November 1908 (Davidson 150. f. 349). 27

RANDALL DAVIDSON AND THE PATRIARCHATE OF ANTIOCH 95 political sensitivities of working in the Tur ‘Abdin area of Turkey, ‘The Turkish Government willingly allows the Syrian and other Christian churches under their rule to establish schools for their people if they can afford to do so. But schools established and carried on by foreigners have been regarded with jealousy for political and other reasons’.30 Political events of 1895 and the following years had made the position of Christian minorities in Turkey far more difficult. The Ottoman Empire was undergoing its own political upheavals.31 The Sultan, Abdul Hamid II, was in his final years, and much greater sensitivity was needed in foreign dealings with Christian minorities. The Syrian Patriarchate Education Society reveal a far greater subtlety in their dealings with the Syrians in Turkey than had previously been the case. They wrote, ‘Present events in Asia Minor serve to show the delicate position which the Syrian people and church occupy … None of them have been involved in political intrigues, which in the case of other communities have brought destruction on innocent fellow Christians’.32 And having clarified the Syrian Orthodox position within Turkey, the society went on in justification of the work it had done: The Syrian Patriarch Education Committee is anxious to further the Patriarch’s good work in every possible way – while at the same time using every care to avoid giving cause for any idea that foreign interference in Turkish affairs, ecclesiastical or civil, is being attempted by the English friends, who desire to aid the Syrian Patriarch and church in their legitimate efforts to obtain sound education for their people.33

Lambeth 1908 The Lambeth Conference had taken place earlier in the same year, and some movement had been seen in the position of Anglican relations with Syrians. New initiatives had been taken, which the Patriarch was directly to experience during his visit. It is therefore

30 31

The Ancient Syrian Church in Mesopotomia (1908), p. 13. See Lord Kinross, The Ottoman Centuries (New York 1977), pp. 569-

81. 32 33

The Ancient Syrian Church, p. 15. Ibid.



appropriate to look in some detail at the significance of the Lambeth Conference of 1908. The sub-committee appointed to deal specifically with the Oriental churches began its report thus: Your Committee have taken into consideration the consideration of the ancient and separate churches of the East, and desire to reaffirm their conviction that our position in the East involves real obligations in regard to the churches which, whatever their short-comings, have at least stood alone in the maintenance of our Holy Faith in many lands; and thus under much obloquy and amid many persecutions.34

The Anglican Communion as represented at the Lambeth Conference was clearly aware of the inter-relationship between the existence of British Imperial power and the existence of the Anglican Church. Against much high church opposition, an Anglican Bishop in Jerusalem had been appointed, and an Anglican Church in the Middle East was beginning to come into existence. Nor could the Conference have been unaware of the seeming political advantages for the Oriental Churches in forming liaisons within the Church of England. The Archbishop of Canterbury himself was widely perceived as exercising real political power by the majority of Oriental Orthodox churches. On the theological level, the Conference made an attempt at rapprochement: It has been contended that the monophysite heresy has no longer any real hold amongst the Syrian Jacobites, and that it is even less vigorous in the Coptic Church. Similar statements have been made with regard to the Syrian Churches in South India. These struggling Christian Churches, each and all of which have often turned towards us for help, have a real claim upon our love and sympathy.35

Having thus set the scene for closer co-operation in the future, the Committee went on to make its specific recommendations, all of which were to greatly influence the future course of events: 34 Report of the committee appointed to consider the relation of the Anglican Communion to the Eastern Churches – The Five Lambeth Conferences (SPCK 1920), pp. 167-70. 35 Ibid.

RANDALL DAVIDSON AND THE PATRIARCHATE OF ANTIOCH 97 In view of these facts, your Committee are of the opinion that steps should be taken to ascertain the doctrinal position of the separate churches of the East, with a view to possible intercommunion; and that this could best be done by the appointment of commissions to examine the doctrinal position of each of them, and, for example, to suggest some carefully and sympathetically framed statement of the Faith as to Our Lord’s Person … And they are of the opinion that, in the event of such doctrinal agreement being obtained, it would be right for any church of the Anglican Communion to admit individual communicant members of those Churches to communicate with us when they are deprived of the means of grace through isolation and, conversely, for our communicants to communicate on special occasions with these churches, even when not deprived of this means of grace through isolation.36

The resolutions are quoted in full because they were to directly influence the course of Anglican-Syrian relations for the next twenty years. The Lambeth Conference had taken place in the summer of 1908, and in the winter of the same year, the Patriarch ‘Abd-Allah made his visit to London. Resolutions 63-65 of the Conference had recommended closer co-operation between the two churches, and the opportunity of his visit was taken to effect a formal interchange. In December 1908, the Patriarch had a formal interview with the Bishop of Salisbury, John Wordsworth, which resulted in their conversation being published.37 In the printed record of their exchange, he was asked if he had studied Resolutions 63, 64 and 65 of the Lambeth Conference, and he responded, ‘I quite approve of them. I am quite prepared to do what in me lies to further the object contemplated in them’.38 When he was asked if he had studied the English Formularies, he replied: I have studied your formularies and find no difference between them and our own belief. I have discovered nothing in your 36

Ibid. Published as Interview at the Palace, Salisbury, 21st December 1908, between H. H. Mar Ignatius Abdallah II, Patriarch of the Jacobite Syrians, and the Bishop of Salisbury (Dr John Wordsworth) in reference to Resolutions 63-65 of the Lambeth Conference of 190. (Bennett Bros., Salisbury, January 1909). 38 Op. cit., p. 7. 37


ANTIOCH AND CANTERBURY Book of Common Prayer which is contrary to the faith as set forth in the gospels and the rest of the New Testament. We do not ask you to change your customs … in your language, you write from left to right, and we write from right to left, but there is no essential difference in the Faith.39

The Lambeth Conference had recommended the production of a joint statement of faith. In the Interview at the Palace, the statement of faith is included as an appendix containing twenty articles of faith. Mutual assent was given, and rapid steps appeared to be being made in a movement towards inter-communion. As already noted, the Patriarch ‘Abd-Allah stayed in Britain ten months, leaving in August 1909. From the promising beginning in January 1909, events took an entirely different turn by the time ‘Abd-Allah left. The Daily News of 23rd August 1909, reported his visit thus: Unfortunately, there was no practical outcome of the efforts made during the Patriarch’s stay to promote a closer union between the Eastern and Anglican Churches. In accordance with a resolution of the Pan-Anglican Congress, the Patriarch was approached, and had a series of interview upon the subject with the Bishop of Salisbury, who endeavoured to draw up a species of catechism for the information of the Lambeth Committee of Bishops. The language difficulty, however, seems to have proved fatal to any understand, His Holiness subsequently repudiating entirely the Protestant character of the answers attributed to him by his English interpreter’.40

‘Abd-Allah rejected the synthesis of views which was represented by the printed statement. He was not, however, willing to suspend negotiations entirely, because he went on to say, ‘“I myself am most anxious for a rapprochement between the two churches, if it can be accomplished without the sacrifice of any vital doctrine. We are entirely at one with the High Church party, but the attitude of Low Churchmen is a great obstacle.”’41 The Chairman of the Eastern Churches Committee, Dr John Wordsworth, was to continue to attempt negotiations with ‘AbdAllah but less than a year later was forced to write to the Archbishop: 39

Ibid. The Daily News, 23rd August 1909. 41 Ibid. 40

RANDALL DAVIDSON AND THE PATRIARCHATE OF ANTIOCH 99 As regards the Jacobite Syrians, while we have had an interesting interview with the Patriarch Abdallah II and several of our body have seen him privately on more than one occasion, we think that at present the complications of his position in South India make it very difficult to suppose that he could give any enthusiastic statement as to his church’s creed, which might not be at once attacked by some prominent person of his communion. We have, therefore, thought it wise to suspend our intercourse with him for the present.42

Communication with ‘Abd-Allah thus faltered and these specific negotiations were not to be continued until the 1920s. Political circumstances played a part in the ability of either church to pursue negotiations. It is therefore appropriate to turn to a presentation of the political context of the negotiations.

The Political Context, 1908-1914 As we have seen, Syrian Christians in the Ottoman Empire were not immune to the violence which had befallen the Armenians since 1895. John Joseph43 has documented some of the hardships which befell the people of the Tur ‘Abdin and Mardin during these years. ‘Abd-Allah himself alluded to them in his interview with the Bishop of Salisbury in which he referred to the circumstances of his election, ‘I was then appointed Bishop of Diyarbakir and was elected Patriarch in 1895. I did not, however, enter upon my office, as another Bishop, ‘Abd-el-Messih, was irregularly nominated, and held office for ten years. The numbers of Bishops are twenty four, and the population in Turkey is 250,000 souls’.44 In response to a question asking if any circumstances had occurred to make intercourse with England difficult during this period, he gave this information, ‘The intrusion of ‘Abd-el-Messih and the Kurdish raids in 1895-1896; these completely prevented the employment of the press between the years 1895 and 1906. Barely a couple of months ago, there occurred another severe Kurdish raid, and, since that, a famine’.45 42

Letter of the Bishop of Salisbury to Davidson 8th July 1910. (LC. 79:

200). 43

See Chapter IV, note 4. Interview at the Palace, p. 5. 45 Interview at the Palace, p. 6. 44



The presses which had been provided by the Syrian Patriarchate Education Society functioned, during this period, as a kind of barometer to gauge the stability (or otherwise) of the community. ‘Abd-Allah went on, ‘The authorities were allowed the use of one of the presses, and great havoc was wrought upon our types’.46 Discerning developments in the life of minority communities in the Ottoman Empire requires ‘reading into’ seemingly neutral statements, other, more serious elements. Direct references to political events are rare. One such development did, however, occur. In January 1911, a ‘Pastor’ of the Old Syrian Church, AbdulMessih wrote to Davidson with a covering letter from A. N. Andrus. In it, the Syrian priest referred directly to political events: We are a church in the Vilayet of Diyarbakir and near to Rasal-Airn. We number about 120 houses of Syrians, poor and plundered because we were sacked during the Rebellion of Ibrahim Pasha.47 During his rule, we possessed an ancient church bearing the name of St John, as history testifies. Its ruins are still standing, and Syriac writing is still found upon stones and sacophogi. In the year 1887, our congregation repaired it at an expense of £1,200. We occupied the church and conducted services in it for about fifteen years. In the year 1902, Khaleel Agha48 destroyed the church and built upon the premises houses, stores and store-houses and used them for eight years, down to the time of our release from this oppression and advance towards freedom. Then we complained to the government of this violence, and it gave us lying promises day after day for two years – the Constitution in these parts being but a name and without reality. It came to pass that this year the Vali visited … and commanded that on payment to Khaleel Agha, the premises could be regained … And now, we are in need of quite a sum to erect the church and a school and inasmuch as we with difficulty support our pastor and primary school, owing to our losses and poverty, we therefore have knocked at the door of God’s mercy and of 46

Ibid. This refers to a rebellion led by the Kurdish Ibrahim Pasha. For details of the rebellion, see H. Arfa, The Kurds, an Historical and Political Study (London 1966), p. 25. 48 Presumably a local Kurdish Agha, see M. M. Van Bruinessen, Agha, Sheikh, and State (Schonhooven 1978). 47

RANDALL DAVIDSON AND THE PATRIARCHATE OF ANTIOCH 101 the pity of Your Highness, because we are near to one another in doctrine and ritual, and are constantly in ecclesiastical communication with one another.49

The letter is quoted in detail because it lays out the entire difficulties which the Syrian Orthodox and other Christian minorities regularly experienced in the Ottoman Empire. The letter, in this sense, is in no way exceptional. It does indicate, however, the extent to which consciousness of the Anglican-Syrian exchanges had gone. The comments which the leaders of this small community had made were supported by Andrus, who wrote, I can testify to the accuracy of the statements presented and also to the need they are in for assistance in their noble purpose, and their worthiness to receive it. Permit me to add my plea to theirs that you aid them to restore their church and erect a small school building.50

Andrus, ever indefatigable in presenting the case of the Syrians, and appealing for formal Anglican support, went on, speaking of the Patriarch ‘Abd-Allah’s visit to London, ‘We had hoped that by his visit to London something would have been done in the way of aiding the Orthodox Syrian Church to establish a theological school in Deir-el-Zafaran’.51 The presentation of the case for formal Anglican support for the Syrians in Turkey had regularly been put to Davidson from the beginning of his primacy until 1911. Efforts to have such a formal mission created reached their peak in 1913, with the formal recommendation that the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Mission to the Assyrians should be extended to include the West Syrians.

1913, The Extension of the Assyrian Mission As we have seen, requests to Davidson to provide formal support for the Syrians continually fell on deaf ears, despite the fact that the Lambeth Conference of 1908 had urged the Anglican Communion to take a real responsibility for the affairs of the Syrian Church in 49 Letter of ‘Abd-el-Messih, Elias and Samuel to Davidson, 1st January 1911 (Assyrian Mission Papers, Box 13, 1911-1917). 50 Letter of Andrus to Davidson, 8th February 1911 (Assyrian Mission Papers, Box 13, 1911-17). 51 Ibid.



the Middle East. In 1913, these efforts to create such a mission were intensified. As the Assyrians moved increasingly away from reliance on British support, and towards support from the Russian Orthodox Church, the Directors of the mission were urged to concentrate their support elsewhere. Advice from Consular officials was in line with this. In 1913, Henry C. Hony, the British Vice-Consul in Mosul, wrote to Davidson suggesting this: The Archbishop of Canterbury’s Mission to the Nestorians has had ideas of sending a similar mission to the Jacobites. If Mar Shimum eventually throws in his lot with the Russians, as seems possible, the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Mission will very likely be compelled to withdraw, and should this be the case it is certainly hoped that they will turn their attention attention to the Jacobites. They would, I think, find it a more grateful task; moreover, the Jacobites are a well-to-do community, and would bear the greater part of the expense themselves; they only want Englishmen as organisers and teachers.52

Davidson did not immediately respond, and later in the year, he was visited at Lambeth by the priest Ephraim Stephan Barsoum (later to become Patriarch). Patriarch ‘Abd-Allah wrote to Davidson commending him, and explaining that he was on a mission seeking support for the Syrian schools and presses.53 Davidson saw Barsoum in October at Lambeth, and later wrote this of the interview, ‘He did not impress me as a strong man, and he was thus more obviously begging than many of his type. I think I was civil to him, and I desired him to convey messages of fraternal regard to the Patriarch, but the interview did not come to much’.54 Davidson’s response came in December 1913, when he wrote to Barsoum in French declining any help from the Church of England.55 A. J. Mason suggested, however, that W. A. Wigram

52 Letter to Henry C. Hony, Vice-Consul in Mosul, 20th February 1913 (Assyrian Mission Papers, Box 13, 1911-17). 53 See the letter of ‘Abd-Allah to Davidson, 22nd June 1913 (Assyrian Mission Papers, Box 13, 1911-17). 54 Memorandum of Davidson, 16th October 1913 (Assyrian Mission Papers, Box 13, 1911-17). 55 See letter of Davidson to Barsoum, 5th December 1913 (Assyrian Mission Papers, Box 13, 1911-17).

RANDALL DAVIDSON AND THE PATRIARCHATE OF ANTIOCH 103 could be sent to the Syrians as ‘ecclesiastical consul to the Jacobites’.56 Davidson was emphatic in response that no formal support could be given, and wrote to Sir Eyre Crowe at the Foreign Office explaining his reason for refusing support: The Archbishop of Canterbury and the Council of the Mission to the Assyrian Christians retain a very keen interest in all that affects the well-being of the Syrian Jacobites. It would not, however, be possible to include in the work of the Assyrian Mission to the so-called Nestorians direct mission work – educational or other – on behalf of the Jacobite Christians. The two tasks would necessarily be independent of one another, and the Archbishop desires me to assure you that he is not losing sight of the matter, and that he would be ready to take advantage of any suitable opportunity which might arise for practically furthering any efforts made on behalf of the Jacobites with a view to promoting their progress and wellbeing - both educational and religious.57

Davidson’s assertion that work with the Syrian Orthodox in Turkey must be considered only as a separate undertaking from the work with the Assyrians was an accurate assessment. Geographically separate, confessionally diverse, the two churches would have been unlikely to consent to being included under one mission umbrella. Less convincing is Davidson’s assertion that the matter was not being lost sight of. He wrote shortly before the First World War, and the events of the war were to overtake all Christian communities in the Ottoman Empire. The collapse of Ottoman imperial power and the subsequent events were to make contact with minorities within the Turkish lands impossible.58 Anglican contact with the Syrian Orthodox ceased, and was only to be resumed in 1919. 56 Memorandum to Davidson of 15th December 1913 (Assyrian Mission Papers, Box 13, 1911-17). 57 Letter of Davidson to Sir Eyre Crowe, (1913 Assistant UnderSecretary of State for Foreign Affairs represented Britain at the 1919 Peace Conference), 24th December 1913 (Assyrian Mission Papers, Box 13, 1911-17). 58 For an account of the political developments, see Lord Kinross The Ottoman Centuries, pp. 595-609. See also FO. 608/85, files 3472-3481 for a detailed account of Syrian Orthodox losses during the war.



The Political Context 1919-1924 During the period in which the British and Ottoman Empires were at war, no contact was possible between the Anglican and Syrian Orthodox Churches. The Archbishop’s Mission to the Assyrians had formally ceased operations at the beginning of the war, and it was thus left to the Syrian Orthodox to initiate any further contact. The Paris Peace Conference of 1919 provided the opportunity for such renewed contact between the Church of England and the new Syrian Orthodox Patriarch. Patriarch ‘Abd-Allah Sattuf had died during the war, in 1916, and was succeeded by the Patriarch Elias III Shakar. The new Patriarch, seizing the opportunity of gaining the support of the victorious Allied Powers, delegated Severius Barsoum, Archbishop of Syria, as his representative at the Conference.59 All the Christian minorities of Anatolia were represented at the Conference, and had been given high hopes of varying degrees of autonomy by the Allies. The Assyrians had been ‘assured’ of British support; the Armenians of Allied support. Barsoum, representing the cause of the Syrian Orthodox came to London and put forward their requests in an interview with the press on 4th February 1920, I have been sent here by the Patriarch of Antioch, who resides at Mardin in Mesopotamia, to draw the attention of the Allies to what my half million co-religionists have suffered under the Turk. I have seen M. Poincaré in Paris, and I hope, during my stay in London to lay my case before the heads of the Foreign and India Offices.60

Barsoum went on to elaborate exactly in what points the British authorities could be of help: Firstly, remove the Turk entirely from Mesopotamia. Secondly, after removing the Turk, do not leave the Kurd in his place. “The Kurd”, he said epigrammatically, “is a savage Turk. The Turk is a civilised Kurd”. Thirdly, the Armenians, English people must remember, are not the only victims of the Turk. 59 Mar Severius Barsoum was the former Ephraim Stephan Barsoum, and future Patriarch. Barsoum was apparently regarded at the Conference as championing the Arab cause - see J. Joseph, Muslim-Christian Relations, pp. 1010f. 60 Morning Post, 4th February 1920.

RANDALL DAVIDSON AND THE PATRIARCHATE OF ANTIOCH 105 Orthodox Syrians and Chaldaeans have also suffered. Indeed, one hundred-thousand of his own people have perished as a result of the Turkish massacres.61

Having thus presented the case for British help to the Syrian Orthodox, Barsoum went on to elaborate on the potential gains for Britain of such a course of action. The journalist interviewing Barsoum reported him thus: As to Mesopotamia, he thinks that the British are making a mistake in extending their control over only one part of it and leaving the Turk still in the North. “Baghdad”, he said, is the heart of Mosopotamia, and he who holds the heart should hold the whole”. Its possibilities from the point of view of riches he thinks are immense, and will far exceed anything that Egypt can possibly provide.62

Barsoum, during his stay in London, was in regular communication with Davidson and, through him, requested an audience with the King in order to lay the Syrian Orthodox case before him.63 The request was refused. Barsoum’s request for British protection for the Syrian Orthodox in the defeated Ottoman Empire appeared to have been heard sympathetically by Davidson. He had earlier written to the Archbishop of York of his concern for the Syrian Orthodox position: I do not think we can allow the session to end without raising a grave debate on the possibility of Turkey being allowed to resume control over the Christian populations, Armenian, Assyrian, and others. In the rush of great events, people have lost sight of the unutterable horrors of Turkish cruelty to the Armenians, and at present opinion is drifting in the direction of letting the Turk resume control throughout the Turkish Empire. Of course, the difficulties are immense. America has miserably failed us and appears unwilling to accept any responsibility by Mandate or otherwise. France cares nothing for any interests except French interests, so at least it seems to me, and I may learn that there is very grave fear that French weight may be thrown into letting the Turks alone. All this being so, I feel rather bound to raise the question by an actual resolution in the House of Lords to the effect that the Turk 61

Ibid. Ibid. 63 For details of the request, see Davidson 299. f. 116. 62


ANTIOCH AND CANTERBURY must not in our opinion be allowed to have power to recommence the hideous misrule of barbarity of the past.64

After Barsoum’s arrival in February 1920, interest in the Syrian Orthodox situation in Turkey was once more generated. British agents in the Middle East had already drawn attention to their plight, and their analysis varied.65 A report to the General Staff Intelligence gave an account of a meeting in Mardin of minority groups in the area. The meeting took place in the Kurdish Aghas’s house in April 1919. The Kurds were represented, and spoke of the need for Kurdish autonomy; the Syrian Catholics spoke of their wish to see an Allied Protectorate. And, according to Mgr. Gabriel Tapponi, (the Syrian Catholic Archbishop of Mardin), the Syrian Orthodox, ‘were not molested by the Turks during the massacres, and propaganda is now being carried out among them in support of Turkish rule’.66 A Syrian Catholic Archbishop cannot be said to be an impartial observer, but the degree of divergence between his analysis and the statements of Barsoum in Paris and London is large. Tapponi went on with the prediction, ‘The Midyat Jacobites at present lean either to Catholicism or Protestantism, and the purely Jacobite religion is likely to disappear entirely in this region in time’.67 Davidson, however, inclined towards acceptance of the statistics and views put forward by Barsoum and conveyed to the Archbishop by various people who considered themselves informed. W. A. Wigram wrote to the Archbishop on Barsoum’s arrival, ‘Mar Severius has political work to do, in that he seeks political protection for his whole nation’.68 Barsoum may have exaggerated the afflictions of the Syrians, for he appears to have told A. H. Finn, the son of Elizabeth Finn,

64 Letter of Davidson to Cosmo Gordon Lang, Archbishop of York, 6th December 1919 (Lang 190. f. 98). 65 For details of the British reporting of the condition of the Syrian Orthodox, see FO. 608/85, files 3472-3481. 66 Report of B. T. Buckley to General Staff Intelligence, 22nd May 1919 (FO. 608/85, file no. 365). 67 Ibid. 68 Letter of W. A. Wigram to Davidson, 25th February 1920 (Davidson 299. f. 118).

RANDALL DAVIDSON AND THE PATRIARCHATE OF ANTIOCH 107 that 90,000 Syrian Christians had been massacred during the war.69 And Athelstan Riley had expanded on the aims of Barsoum, by his assertion that, ‘he really wants material help – but so do all nations and churches’.70 The sought-after help, material or political, was not forthcoming. Other preoccupations pressed on Davidson, not least the preparations for the Lambeth Conference of 1920. The appeal from the Syrian Orthodox for support was, however, to continue. The Paris Peace Conference of 1919-1920 was followed by an Imperial Conference in London of 1921. The Patriarch Elias III was to appeal to Davidson during this Conference for help of specific kind: during this horrible and abominable war that caused the calamity of all the Christians of Turkey, my community also living in the Eastern part of Asia; that is, the provinces of Bitlis, Siirt, and Kharpoot and dependencies in Mesopotamia; the provinces of Diarbakir, Mardin, its dependencies and Urfa were, like the Armenians, deported and hundred thousands of them died of misery or were murdered. 166 of our churches and convents situated in these provinces were sacked and destroyed. Last year, October 1919, our Bishop of Syria, Severius A. Barsoum, was delegated from our Patriarchate and requested by me to submit that case to the Parish Conference and to Your Grace to be dealt with; which he did, and it was kindly promised on March 12th 1920, by His Majesty’s Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs on behalf of the President of the Supreme Council and by Mr Eric Phipps directed by Early Curzon of Kedleston, in reply to his letters of 8th March that the interests of our nation will not be lost sight of when the moment for their consideration arrives.71

Having thus set the scene for a specific request for assistance, the Patriarch then went on to be politically explicit: Now we apply to you and ask your kind help and mediation at the London Conference. First, to protect our rights and have an indemnity taken for us by those who caused us unlegally 69

See letter of A. H. Finn to Davidson, 4th February 1920 (Davidson 299. f. 111). 70 Letter of Athelstan Riley to Davidson, 12th February 1920 (Davidson 299. f. 115). 71 Letter of Patriarch Elias III to Davidson, 16th February 1921 (Davidson 299. f. 124).


ANTIOCH AND CANTERBURY such a great loss and damage. Second, to restore our churches and convents with all belonging to it (sic). Third, to assure, for the future, our security in the Turkish territory.72

The Patriarch’s perception of the Archbishop of Canterbury was clearly that of a person who held real political power; or if not holding political power directly, with certain access to it. His three stated requests are thus to be understood in that light. The Patriarch went on to describe the present situation of the Syrian Orthodox remaining in Turkish territory in his attempt to influence Davidson. He wrote: The ancient Syrians extremely suffered the time of the Christians’ deportation (sic), our schools and churches are destroyed, and our children remain in ignorance, especially the orphans, and there are also thousands of widows living in conditions indescribable. We unfortunately cannot provide for an feed all those people. That is a great pity for the ancient Syrians who were the authors of civilisation and those arts and antiquities adorn the museums of Europe today.73

Eastern Anatolia was in upheaval at the time of writing, and the Patriarch himself was forced to move to Constantinople, from where he wrote. Yet again, the hopes raised for the Syrians by the suggestion of British support in their predicament, were to be dashed. Both civil and ecclesiastical authorities began to withdrawn from any articulated commitments. Davidson, who had contemplated raising the issue in the House of Lords, wrote in reply to the Patriarch’s requests, offering nothing: Nothing would give me greater satisfaction than to know that our government is able to meet the wishes your letter expresses, and I am transmitting it to the Conference now sitting in London, for the consideration of its members … Whatever influence I possess would be always in favour of our Nation doing all that is in its power for the strengthening of the life of the Christian peoples of the East. Unhappily, the conditions limiting what is possible have become graver and more that any Government may now find difficulties in doing

72 73

Ibid. Ibid.

RANDALL DAVIDSON AND THE PATRIARCHATE OF ANTIOCH 109 all that it would desire to do on the lines originally planned, or at least foreshadowed.74

Davidson’s Chaplain, G. K. A. Bell, did, however, write to Sir Maurice Hankey (one of the senior British representatives) asking him to lay the case before the Conference. Hankey responded by offering to distribute the information to the delegates.75 No more is heard of these proposals, and the correspondence between the Archbishop and Patriarch now changed in character. From the articulation of stated political aims, a new concentration on matters more strictly ecclesiastical emerged. The political question was left aside. Mar Severius was to make one more attempt in 1927 to influence political opinion. He undertook another journey to Britain, and, in addition, the USA.76 The unfruitful nature of the discussions, and the lack of any concrete outcome is powerfully expressed in a letter written by Mar Severius at the end of his mission. He wrote to Davidson: The ordinary expressions “I will try”, and “I am sorry”, and “I regret” intimidate me. I regret very much that our church cannot engage the attention of the Episcopal Church and my three missions in 1913, 1920 and 1927 have been unsuccessful … I have to explain that if the Episcopal Church would like to make sincere relations with Eastern Churches it will have to make a fund to pay the expenses of the eastern prelates to the conferences or to London, in comfortable way to their dignities and to help them in fact – not in words, in their needs; and to explain to them clearly its conditions, lifting the uncertainty.77

The refusal of British authorities both ecclesiastical and civil, to deal directly with the political questions raised by the Syrian Orthodox must be seen in the general context of British wariness of the ‘minorities issue’ within the emerging Kemalist Turkish nation. This, coupled with a hyper-sensitivity to foreign inference or criticism from the part of the new Turkish government created 74

Letter of Davidson to the Patriarch Elias III, 2nd March 1921 (Davidson 299. f. 124). 75 For the details of this correspondence, see Davidson 299. ff. 123-7. 76 For the details, see the Douglas correspondence (J. A. Douglas 70, 50-80) in Lambeth Palace Library. 77 Letter of Mar Severius to Davidson, 19th May 1928 (J. A. Douglas, 70: 60).



an atmosphere of mutual suspicion, if not hostility. Contemporary Turkish perceptions of this question may be summarised thus, ‘The Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishops of London and Manchester and their brethren were always ready to preach a crusade against Turkey and Islam’.78 And the influence of returned missionaries was treated with equal suspicion, and it was suspected that facts were grossly distorted. ‘The missionaries… were filled with pleas for the oppressed Christians and denunciations of their Turkish oppressors. There was thus gradually developed, under the aegis of our churches, a powerful anti-Turkish opinion’.79 In this atmosphere of mutual distrust and caution, the political arena seemed too fraught with danger and misapprehension for any church to enter. An awareness of this fact is shown in the Report of the Lambeth Conference of 1920: The present moment, when under the draft Turkish Treaty, the West Syrians remain under Turkish rule is not specially suitable for endeavouring to establish closer relations with them; but we suggest that the recently appointed Eastern Churches Committee should watch for any suitable opportunity of doing so, and that when such opportunity arises, the above considerations will greatly diminish any doctrinal difficulties. In the meantime, a greater desideratum is a better knowledge of the Jacobite liturgical books, which are mostly in manuscript.80

From the political, the focus of activity was to shift to the more strictly ecclesiastical, to which consideration we now turn.81

The Eastern Churches Committee and Intercommunion At the Archbishop’s request, the Eastern Churches Committee was set up in 1919 under the chairmanship of Bishop Gore. Its brief was the monitoring and furthering of contacts with the Orthodox churches, both Chalcedonian and non-Chalcedonian. It 78

Felix Valyi, Revolutions in Islam (London 1925), p. 31. E. Alexander Powell, The Struggle for Power in Moslem Asia (New York 1925), p. 120. 80 Conference of Bishops of the Anglican Communion – Report of the 1920 Lambeth Conference (SPCK 1920), pp. 150f. 81 The wider political context is dealt with in G. K. A. Bell, Randall Davidson Vol. II, ch. LXVIII. 79

RANDALL DAVIDSON AND THE PATRIARCHATE OF ANTIOCH 111 emphatically had no political brief, and differed from the earlier Syrian Patriarchate Education Society in having a much wider brief, and in having no access, or even the pretence of access, to funds.82 The newly formed Committee’s first major task was the opening of correspondence on Intercommunion, which had been initiated by the Patriarch Elias III. In 1921, the Patriarch approached the Anglican Chaplain in Constantinople, R. F. Borough, asking him to enquire as to the terms on which intercommunion could be established between the Anglican Church and his own church.83 In particular, the Patriarch was interested to know the conditions for intercommunion for Syrian Orthodox living in Britain and the USA who had no access to a priest of their own church. Borough referred this question to the Committee, which met in June 1921, to consider the issue, and produced the following statement. On the Syrian Orthodox Church and its relations with the Church of England, the Committee stated: It is now a small body widely dispersed from Mosul to Beyrout and Jerusalem, numbering at most 100,000 after the late terrible massacres. The Patriarchal seat was at Diyarbakir until recent years. The condition of the “Jacobites” is very depressed. There was serious consideration at one time as to the sending of an Archbishop’s Mission, after the pattern of that to the Assyrians, to this church; the request for such a mission was made as recently as 1913.84

Having thus outlined the background to the correspondence, the Committee went on to state what particular recommendations could be made to further the practical moves to intercommunion. The Lambeth Conference of 1908 passed resolutions (63, 64, 65) which were renewed in 1920 (22, 23) whereby while recording its uncertainty as to the doctrinal position of this church and the other three with which it is in communion, recommended that on their acceptance of some carefully framed statement of the Faith as to Our Lord’s Person to the 82

See G. K. A. Bell, Randall Davidson, Vol. II, p. 1104. The earlier Anglican and Eastern Churches Union had been sent up in 1906. 83 See G. K. A. Bell, Documents on Christian Unity (Third Series) 1930-48 (1948), pp. 52-7. 84 Report of a meeting of the Eastern Churches Committee, 16th June 1921 (Davidson 299. ff. 128-30).


ANTIOCH AND CANTERBURY satisfaction of a commission to be appointed by the Archbishop of Canterbury, and on the approval of the Metropolitans and Presiding Bishops of the Anglican Churches, mutual communion should be sanctioned with them in emergency and on special occasions. Further than that, however, and in view of our relations with the Eastern Orthodox Churches, the Lambeth Conference of 1908, and apparently that of 1920, were not prepared to go.85

The conditions of the Anglican acceptance had thus been laid out, together with the authority for any action – the Lambeth Conferences of 1908 and 1920. The Committee then went on to make clear what conditions the Syrian Orthodox would be expected to fulfil before the negotiations could proceed. We, therefore, recommend that the Archbishop of Canterbury be advised to authorise Mr Borough to inform Mar Ignatius that on the totality of the Bishops of the Syrian Orthodox Church declaring that: 1. They affirm the christological statements of the Athanasian Creed. 2. They affirm not the validity of, but the doctrines defined by the ecumenical councils: The members of that church be admitted in emergency to communion, and vice versa, and that on other special occasions representatives of both churches be declared free with Episcopal permission to communicate at each other’s altars, but that full intercommunion should be postponed until terms of Dogmatic Union be arranged.86

The Committee then went on to authorise Borough to convey these terms to the Patriarch. Davidson himself gave the Committee’s views his validation, and asked his Chaplain, G. K. A. Bell, to prepare a memorandum for him on the background to the negotiation.87 The thoroughness with which Davidson researched the details of this more strictly ecclesiastical exchange with the Syrian Orthodox contrasts interestingly with the way in which the 85

Ibid. Ibid. 87 Each stage of the negotiations was carefully documented by Bell, and set out in his memorandum, ‘Mar Ignatius and the Wet Syrian Church’ (Davidson 299. ff. 144-46). 86

RANDALL DAVIDSON AND THE PATRIARCHATE OF ANTIOCH 113 political issue was often sidestepped. A response was delayed, since in the meantime, the Patriarch left Constantinople for Jerusalem.88 The requested statement of belief on the Nature of Christ was then formulated by J. A. Douglas, Chairman of the Separated Churches Sub-Committee and sent to the Patriarch in April 1922.89 The question asked whether the second person of the Trinity took mortal flesh of the Virgin Mary, whether manhood and Deity became indivisibly one in the Incarnation, and whether the Deity and the manhood retained their ‘proper qualities’. No grand scheme of dogmatic union was conceived as a result of these negotiations, and as Douglas was to point out, ‘the assurance from them (the Jacobites) is needed for a very limited purpose, namely, simply for economic acts of charity, and not as a basis for dogmatic union’.90 The Patriarch’s response to the ‘questionnaire’ was swift. He replied on 5th May 1922, with his explanation that, according to Syrian belief, the second person of the Trinity took mortal flesh from the Virgin Mary, that manhood and Deity were fused, but in the fusion manhood retained the properties of manhood and Deity of Deity.91 At this stage, Davidson informed the Ecumenical Patriarch of these exchanges, since discussions were also proceeding with the Greek Church and the Archbishop was anxious not to prejudice the discussions. He wrote to Meletios, the Ecumenical Patriarch, describing the course of the exchanges in detail, and citing the Lambeth Conferences of 1908 and 1920 as his authority. He began the letter, ‘friendly relations have existed for some time between the Archbishops of Canterbury and the Syrian Jacobite Patriarchs of Antioch’.92 He also wrote on the same day to the Patriarch Elias III informing him of his permission given to clergy of his own church to administer the sacraments to members of the Syrian 88

See the letter of R. F. Borough, 17th March 1922 (Davidson 299. f.

141). 89

The questions are set out in Bell, Documents on Christian Unity pp. 52f. and in Davidson 299. ff. 161, 165, 166. 90 Letter of J. A. Douglas to Davidson, 4th April 1922 (Davidson 299. f. 162). 91 See Bell, op. cit., p. 53 and Davidson 299. f. 179. 92 Letter of Davidson to Meletios II, 20th June 1922 (Davidson 299. f. 189).



Orthodox Church when deprived of that means of grace through isolation.93 By this stage, however, the Patriarch Elias had begun to withdraw from what may have been perceived of as too hasty a progression. He wrote in September 1922, to Davidson, laying out the conditions for reception of communion clearly. He wrote that it was necessary for the communicant to confess his sins to the priest, and that it was impossible for him to sanction any arrangement alone, as the necessary authority must come from a council of the Bishops and Metropolitans of the whole Syrian Church.

1924-1928 The proposed meeting of Bishops was a virtual impossibility in the Near East of 1922. The Turkish Peace Treaty was yet to be concluded, and the Patriarch himself was moving continuously. He had moved (as we have noted) from Deir-el-Zafaran to Constantinople, and from Constantinople to Jerusalem. In December, he moved from Jerusalem to Aleppo, and by April 1923, was in Urfa.94 Accounting for this constant movement and in an analysis of the situation, the Anglican Chaplain in Constantinople, Borough, wrote, ‘It was fear of the Turk which made him hesitate, as they have given no excuse whatever for illtreatment. Anything like a meeting of Bishops is out of the question as it would at once be called seditious and imprisonments would follow’.95 Even after the concluding of the Treaty of Lausanne, the situation in the area was little better. Still no meeting of the Bishops had been possible, and still the Patriarch had no fixed base. A ‘mission’ of the Protestant Episcopal Church of the United States of America was sent from February to March 1924, and a gloomy


See Bell, op. cit., p. 53-6, and Davidson 299. f. 195. See the letters of R. F. Borough to Davidson (Davidson 299. f. 270, and 273). 95 Letter of R. F. Borough to Davidson, 3rd April 1923 (Davidson 299. f. 274), Lambeth was suspicious in the eyes of the Turks because of support for the Ecumenical Patriarchate in 1923. The Turkish newspaper Hakimiet Millie spoke of ‘intrigues’ (Davidson 299. f. 275). 94

RANDALL DAVIDSON AND THE PATRIARCHATE OF ANTIOCH 115 picture of the area is painted by the American priest, W. C. Emhardt, I am afraid I cannot get to Mardin. The Turks are driving all Christians out of the district. I understand that they are concentrating troops at Urfa for a demonstration against Mosul. I knew before leaving America that they would have to have some foreign war, in order to break the threatened revolution in Constantinople.96

The mission was a failure, and was overcome by the political upheaval in the Near East. Turkish suspicion of all Christian minorities remained too strong for any community to risk an open identification with foreigners. The population exchanges had taken place of Greek Orthodox for Turkish Muslims, and Christians of all churches remained suspect to the Turkish authorities. The Lausanne Treaty had been concluded, and in it only three minorities were recognised within the new Turkish republic – Jews, Greeks, and Armenians. These minorities thus retained the right to practise, teach, and publish in their own languages, and to run schools. And according to a domestic interpretation of the Treaty, the minorities not mentioned in the Treaty were simply not recognised as existing.97 Numerically, the Aramaic-speaking Syrian Orthodox in Turkey represented no threat to the emerging Turkish state, and had never been involved in secessionist activities, but their neighbours, the Kurds, represented a major threat to Kemalist Turkey. By their non-appearance in the Lausanne Treaty, the Kurdish threat was contained in the eyes of the Turkish authorities. The Syrian Orthodox thus fell into the same conditions. The Kurdish Revolt of 1925 further compromised the Syrian Orthodox to the authorities in Ankara.98 Patriarch Elias III was expelled from Deir-el-Zafaran, and was forced south of the so-called ‘Brussels Line’ delineating Turkish from Iraqi territory. A British observer at the time clearly thought that the Syrian Orthodox who remained in Turkish territory were in serious threat of extinction. He wrote of the Tur ‘Abdin, 96 Letter of W. C. Emhardt to G. K. A. Bell, 2nd March 18924 (Davidson 299. f. 283-4) 97 Christian Minorities of Turkey (Churches Committee on Migrant Workers in Europe, Bruxelles 1979), pp. 40-8 98 See J. Joseph, Muslim-Christian Relations, pp. 101-3.


ANTIOCH AND CANTERBURY Unluckily for the Jacobites, this region is on Turkish territory; and they have been subjected, since February 1924, to a renewal of the persecution they underwent during the War. It would be tragic, indeed, were this interesting survival, with its venerable language, customs and liturgy, to be extinguished.99

The Syrian Orthodox, sensing that they were being abandoned by those who held political power in the Near East, had turned to anyone whom they thought could influence events. Borough wrote of one such initiative which had been contemplated. He wrote to Davidson informing him that the Syrian Chorepiscopos in Istanbul had made a definite suggestion that, ‘Mar Ignatius should apply to the Pope for help, financial and diplomatic. This, of course, would be meant to lead to his submission and the formation of another uniate church’.100 Such an initiative would indeed have been drastic, and it seems not to have been taken. The situation, however remained bleak for the Syrian Orthodox and for the Patriarch himself. After his expulsion from Deir-el-Zafaran, the situation became even less clear, and the Anglican authorities could come to no clear conclusion on which side of the ‘Brussels Line’ represented a better future for the Syrians. Davidson’s Chaplain wrote at the end of 1925: The Patriarch has been prevented by the Turks for many months from receiving any communications whatsoever and from leaving his post. Neither Syrians in Jerusalem, nor in the Northern parts of Syria can get in touch with him although they have tried again and again. One cannot of course say what the result of the League’s decision with reference to the boundary may have upon this virtual confinement of the Syrian Patriarch.101

The events of 1924-1925 had thus overtaken the strictly ecclesiastical exchange between the Anglicans and Syrian Orthodox on the question of inter-communion. It had, however, not died.


H. C. Luke, Mosul and its Minorities (1925), p. 113. See also H. A. Foster, The Making of Modern Iraq (1936), pp. 164-8. 100 Letter of Borough to Davidson, 6th May 1924 (Davidson 299. f. 285). 101 Letter of Davidson’s Chaplain to the Bishop of Travancore and Cochin, 10th December 1925 (Davidson 299. f. 290).

RANDALL DAVIDSON AND THE PATRIARCHATE OF ANTIOCH 117 The Patriarch was still, in theory, waiting for the opportunity to hold a synod of his Bishops, in order to sanction the proposals. In 1927, the proposals were again under discussion, and the Eastern Churches Committee produced a memorandum on the state of the discussions with the Patriarch.102 The memorandum had been produced in response to a questionnaire which had been submitted by the Patriarch Elias to the Eastern Churches Committee on the nature of Anglican belief. The memorandum is detailed, and gives the provenance of the discussions, going back to the Lambeth Conference of 1908. The provenance is described in a list of twenty-five developments, most of which we have already noted. Not already noted was the fact that the Patriarch wrote to the Eastern Churches Committee in 1926 that he, ‘could not enter on correspondence with the Archbishop even on church matters without it being interpreted by the government as a political affairs’.103 The questionnaire of the Patriarch was then submitted on 14th June 1926, and after the draft of the answers had been formulated, members of the Eastern Churches Committee met the Patriarch in Jerusalem on 14th March 1927. The questionnaire was, at that meeting, the formal discussion, with the presentation of the Anglican answers. The questionnaire itself deals with the Anglican belief concerning the departed, the Resurrection and Ascension of Christ, the doctrine of purgatory, reception of communion, the Holy Spirit and the creedal ‘Filioque’ clause, the Virgin Mary and Saints, the ordination ceremonies, and the nature of church union. The questionnaire is framed in eight questions and answers, the eighth of which deals with church union. In response to the question: ‘What do we have in mind when we discuss “Union”?’, the Eastern Churches Committee answered, ‘The Union which Anglicans desire may be illustrated by the Union existing between that Church of Egypt, sometimes known as the Coptic, the Syrian Orthodox Church, sometimes known as the Jacobite, whereby the faithful of either church may resort to the ministry of the other for sacraments and the two Churches know each other as equal sister churches but whereby neither

102 103

See Davidson 299. ff. 294-309. Davidson 299. f. 296.


ANTIOCH AND CANTERBURY has right nor power to constrain the other or to interfere in its affairs’.104

The Eastern Churches Committee, in producing their formal response to the Patriarch’s questionnaire, had gone further than Davidson was prepared to go. When the details of the exchange were presented to him, he wrote, ‘The matter of formal as distinct from occasional intercommunion was, I think never raised’.105 The long-awaited Synod took place later in 1927 and the Bishops discussed the proposals for intercommunion. J. A. Douglas wrote to Davidson saying, ‘Mar Ignatius held a Synod of his Bishops … and he is now prepared to go forward in the matter of economic intercommunion’.106 The decision was the result of almost twenty years of negotiations, at times sporadic, at times systematic, since the Lambeth Conference of 1908. Davidson’s primacy thus saw positive moves forward in the establishing of formal Syrian Orthodox-Anglican relations. Under the Patriarchate of Elias III and Davidson, the two churches came nearer to establishing formal and systematic relations than at any time in their history. But Davidson was nearing the end of his time at Lambeth, and the final request which came to him in 1928 for the setting up of a formal mission to the Syrian Orthodox was deflected from Canterbury into the Anglican Communion. Any mission to be set up, he wrote, ‘must be not of any one Archbishop, but the whole Anglican Communion’.107 Davidson resigned in November 1928, and was succeeded by Cosmo Gordon Lang. The systematic and effective work of the last twenty years now came to an end. As was so often the case with a change of primate at Lambeth, continuity was lacking. The primacy of Lang and the short primacy of William Temple show little interest in, and even less involvement with, the Syrian Orthodox, either in the Middle East or in India. 104 Eastern Churches Committee, Correspondence with Mar Ignatius Elias III (Davidson 299. f. 308). 105 Letter of Davidson to Eastern Churches Committee, 13th July 1927 (Davidson 299. f. 310). 106 Letter of J. A. Douglas to Davidson, 16th August 1927 (Davidson 299. f. 323). 107 Letter of Davidson to Patriarch Elias III, 1st June 1928 (Assyrian Mission Papers, Box 17).

Chapter VI: Postscript and Conclusion After the accession of Cosmo Gordon Lang to the Primacy, the relationship between Syrian Orthodox Church in both India and the Near East and the Church of England practically ceased. The careful and detailed work of the twenty-five years of Davidson’s primacy in the field of Syrian Orthodox-Anglican relations was not built upon. This was in spite of the fact that shortly after his accession, Lang made a journey to the Near East, and called on the Orthodox Patriarch in Jerusalem, and made the first ever visit by an Archbishop of Canterbury to the Ecumenical Patriarch. Lang himself said of the visit that it had “some measure of importance not only in my own life, but in the long-drawn efforts to strengthen the ties between the Anglican and Orthodox Churches”.1 Relations with the Chalcedonian Orthodox had been vastly improved towards the end of Davidson’s primacy by the decision of the Oecumenical Partriarchate that Anglican orders had the same validity as the Roman, Old Catholic, and Armenian churches. But with the non-Chalcedonian churches, relations were hampered by a far more complicated political situation in the Near East. The Armenian massacres of 1895-1918 had seriously complicated a lot of all the remaining Christian minorities of Turkey. The perceived disloyalty of the Armenians in allying themselves with Turkey’s opponents had implicated all other Christian groups and exacerbated a situation already charged with mutual distrust.2 The situation of the Assyrians under the British 1

J. G. Lockhart, Cosmo Gordon Lang (London 1949), p. 326. A classic statement of the Turkish sensitivity of this issue is to be found in Kamuran Gurun, The Armenian File (London 1985). There is a great deal of literature on the period, and this emotive issue is dealt with in most of it in a less than objective way. In this period, fact is difficult to disentangle from propaganda, of either side. A balanced presentation is given by Christopher J. Walker, Armenia: The Survival of a Nation. (London 1980). 2




Mandate in Iraq was also fraught with tension. The Assyrians had been invited to form the ‘Assyrian levies’ by the British to fight against the rebellious Kurds. That this course of action was neither in the long term best interest of the Assyrians nor of any of the remaining Christian minorities within the emerging Kemalist Turkey has been drawn attention to by John Joseph.3 Simultaneously, the Greek Orthodox minority in Anatolia had been expelled and exchanged for Turkish-speaking Muslims within the Greek territories. The Greek Orthodox population in Turkey dwindled to approximately 100,000 scattered around Istanbul.4 In Turkey, therefore the Greek Orthodox were politically compromised, the Assyrians had been driven out, and the Armenians dwindled to a community centred on Istanbul. Only the Syrian Orthodox thus survived as a homogenous Christian entity in Anatolia. Many Syrian Orthodox had fled from Turkey into Syria during the Armenian massacres, and with the removal of the Patriarchal seat from Deir-el-Zafaran into Syria, many more Syrian Orthodox left,5 settling mainly in North-East Syria, the Jazira. The main ‘waves’ of migration took place in 1922 and 1924,6 and the Syrian Orthodox rapidly began to settle in their newly-found home.7 At the same time, they were careful to distinguish themselves from those of their co-religionists, (Armenians, Greeks and Assyrians), who had sought foreign intervention as the solution to their problems. Syrian Orthodox had also fled to Iraq, where the Arabicspeaking leadership distanced themselves from any move to look to European powers for help, at the same time pointing out that they had no intention of requesting any form of autonomy. The farsighted leader who emphasised this policy of support for the Arab 3

John Joseph, The Nestorians and their Muslim Neighbours (Princeton 1961), p. 173. 4 On the ‘exchange of populations’, see R. Brenton Betts, Christians in the Arab East London 1979), p. 110. 5 See U. Bjorklund, North to Another Country (Stockholm 1981), pp. 26f. 6 For an account of the general migration of Syrian Orthodox from Turkey to Syria, Lebanon and Iraq, and, more recently, to Europe, see G. Yonan, Assyrer Heute (Hamburg 1978). 7 R. Boghossian points out that between 1920 and 1940, the Syrian Orthodox had established many schools in the area, in all their main centres, La Haute-Djezireh (Aleppo 1952), p. 52.



cause was the new Syrian Orthodox Patriarch, Ignatius Ephrem I Barsoum. The Patriarch Elias III Ignatius, who had concluded the negotiations with Archbishop Davidson, and had been Patriarch at the time of the enforced removal from Deir-el-Zafaran to Homs in Syria, died an old man in February 1932. The Times said of him in an obituary on 20th February 1932: Though by Jacobite standards a highly cultured and erudite man and possessed of no small practical insight and ability, he had had few contacts with Europeans and belonged altogether to the old static order of the Ottoman regime. The Great War and its aftermath, which drove him and those of his people whose homes were in the present Turkish dominions into the Mosul Vilayet, found him incapable of facing his troubles. But according to his lights, he did his best.

The Patriarch Elias III died in India, where he had gone in an attempt to resolve a dispute which had arisen about the validity of ordinations preformed by the deposed Patriarch ‘Abd-el-Messih’.8 The new Patriarch, Ignatius Ephrem I Barsoum, was an entirely different man. Sophisticated, politically astute, and erudite, he was not anxious to create any ties with ‘Christian’ European powers which would compromised him with the new Syrian government. He was a member of the Arab academy in Damascus, and a scholar of international repute in both Arabic and Syriac.9 Relations with the Syrian Orthodox in the Near East were thus to take on a different character for those from within the Church of England who had an interest. The Patriarchate was now resident in Syria, and with a Patriarch who was anxious to demonstrate not only his loyalty to the emerging Syrian nation, but also to demonstrate the harmony of the Syrian Orthodox with Arabic language and culture. The remaining Syrian Orthodox in Turkey took on an increasingly isolated character. All the above political factors, coupled with a new Primate at Lambeth and a new Patriarch in Syria, the former with no great interest in the Eastern churches and the latter who had had less than satisfactory experiences in dealing with Anglicans, meant a decisive turning point in ecclesiastical exchange between the two churches. From 8 9

See L. W. Brown, Indian Christians, pp. 155f. See J. Joseph, Muslim-Christian Relations, p. 115.



the ‘high water mark’ of the Davidson period, exchanges now reached ‘a low water mark’. An invitation went out from the Committee responsible for inviting non-Anglicans to the Lambeth Conference of 1930 to the Patriarchate in Syria. Replying on behalf of the Patriarch, Mar Severius Barsoum (the later Patriarch) wrote, ‘The Syrian Orthodox are not willing to send a representative to the Lambeth Conference’.10 Nor did he express any great interest in the deliberations of the Conference. The Syrian Orthodox are dealt with in a passing way in the Report of the Conference, and no new initiatives were planned.11 One major concern to which the Conference was asked to address its attention was the emerging problem of the episcope vagantes. In July 1930, the ‘commissary in England to His Holiness the Patriarch of Antioch’, Dr Bhabha, wrote a letter to the organising Committee of the Conference drawing the delegates’ attention to the claims of Frederick Lloyd, who claimed to be a Syrian Archbishop of the ‘Western Orthodox or American Catholic’ church.12 It was rumoured that Lloyd was to apply to the Conference for Anglican recognition of his church. Anxious to expose his false claims to have an association with the Syrian Orthodox church, Bhaba wrote, ‘Mar Severius Barsoum saw him in America and denounced Lloyd to his face as a pretender, and falsely claiming to be a member of the Syrian Church’.13 Lloyd apparently came to London from his native America and administered ordination to four men. The affair, however, was not to end there. Other episcopi vagantes were to spring up, all claiming connections with the Syrian Orthodox church through the René Vilatte ‘succession’.14 In 1925, 10

Letter of Severius Barsoum to Lang, 9th June 1930. (Lambeth Palace Library, LC 153: 129). 11 See the Report of the Lambeth Conference, 1930 (SPCK 1930), p. 147. 12 See P. F. Anson, Bishops at Large (London 1965), pp. 253-9. The ‘connection’ between Peter III and the episcope vagantes is discussed on p. 36. 13 Letter of Bhabha to Lambeth, 12th July 1930 (Lang 101. f. 216). See also LC. 153: 295, where the letter is also reproduced. 14 There is a large literature on the Vilatte ‘succession’. Claiming that his orders ultimately came from Patriarchate Peter III, the Syrian Orthodox consistently rejected his claims. See A. J. McDonald, Episcopi



Stephen Theodosius de Nemeth, a Hungarian priest of the Orthodox Church had left his church in protest at the extension of the authority of the Serbian Patriarch to Budapest.15 On 23rd September 1934, Nemeth was consecrated as Mar Theodosius, ‘Archbishop of the Hungarian Greek Oriental Orthodox Church’ by the Patriarch Ephrem I Barsoum. This would have been of no concern whatsoever to Archbishop Lang and the hierarchy of the Church of England, had not ‘Stephen B. Foyta, Archepiscopal Counsellor’ to Mar Theodosius written to Lang, seeking recognition.16 Canon J. A. Douglas, advising Lang on behalf of the newly formed Church of England Council on Foreign Relations, counselled writing to the Patriarch to ascertain whether or not Nemeth’s claims were genuine. This was done, but no response from the Patriarch was forthcoming. Douglas’ conclusion was that Nemeth should be treated, in the official response of the Church of England, as one of the episcopi vagantes.17 The affair was about to its conclusion when yet another claim arose when Frederick Harrington, of 324 Hornsey Road, claimed the title of ‘Metropolitan of the One Holy Orthodox Catholic Church’, having been consecrated by Vilatte in Chicago in 1915. On 10th December 1938, the Patriarchal denunciation of all thee individuals was delivered in a formal declaration. The Patriarch Ephrem I Barsoum delivered his démenti through Lambeth, and denounced, ‘all the sects claiming succession through Vilatte’ and distancing the Syrian Orthodox church from their claims.18 As can be seen from the above incidents, the Syrian Orthodox Patriarch Ephrem I Barsoum was now no longer willing to involve himself and his church in any negotiations with Western churches which would compromise him in the eyes of the national authorities where his people lived, Syria, Turkey or Iraq. The Vagantes in Church History (London 1945), P. F. Anson, op. cit., and The Catholicate of the West (bound volume of pamphlets dealing with the question between 1954-64) in Lambeth Palace Library. 15 For details of the background to the dispute, see Anson, op. cit., pp. 512f. 16 See the letter of Stephen B. Foyta to Lang, 28th March 1937 (Lang 151. f. 284). 17 Douglas’ correspondence with Lang is in Lang 151. ff. 284-304. 18 The Patriarchal dementi is in the Headlam Papers in Lambeth Palace Library, (MS 2638. f. 348). See also Anson, op. cit., p. 241.



concern articulated remained, therefore, strictly ecclesiastical, and left no room for possible political misinterpretation. From the Syrian point of view, sustained and detailed negotiations with the Anglican church were neither possible nor desirable.19

Conclusion The story which has been told, of Syrian Orthodox-Anglican relations between 1874 and 1928, is an erratic one. At times, the exchange is full of promise and mutual enrichment, at other times, it is full of deception and disillusionment. It coincides with the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century increase of British power in the Near East and India. That the contacts should wane in the 1930s with the beginning of British decline in the Near East and the rise of Arab nationalism after the disillusionment of the First World War is no accident. As already stated, ecclesiastical exchange never takes place in a hermetic environment. Contacts between Archibald Tait and the Patriarch Peter III were the real beginning of any sustained contact. All the instances of contact between Patriarch and Archbishop prior to this are sporadic and isolated. With the exception of India, it is only during this period that the beginnings of mutual knowledge were initiated. The earlier Indian exchange, represented par excellence by the CMSSyrian Orthodox venture at Kottayam of 1816-1836 was hampered from the Anglican perspective by only being a contact between one specific form of the Church of England. CMS represented only one aspect of the Anglican Church in its more evangelistic, biblicist, and Protestant character. Had the ‘mission of help’ been balanced by representatives of less hard-line Protestants, the venture would have been on a more solid footing. As it was, the evangelical party had the ascendancy in the Church of England at the time, and it was not until the 1840s that the ‘Tractarian’ or High Church party began to exercise an increasing influence. Furthermore, the


Some isolated pockets of Syrian Orthodox-Anglican co-operation remained in India. An Indian Liturgy was produced in 1922, based on the Syrian rite and intended for use by both Anglicans and Syrians. It was sanctioned by the Bishop of Bombay in 1933. It was only used, however, in the Chapel of an Anglican-Syrian Ashram at Poona. See The Indian Liturgy (Revised ed. Bombay 1948).



hierarchy of the Church of England, especially the Archbishops of Canterbury, were never fully informed or aware of the exchange. The individual missions and visits of the mid-nineteenth century were hampered by the same disadvantage. The missions were always dependent on individual enthusiasm backed by particular societies with limited and specific aims. This was true of the expeditions of Ainsworth, Southgate and Badger, tangential though their interest in the Syrian Orthodox church was. The Church of England clearly never viewed these contacts as sufficiently important for the hierarchy to place the missions on a more official footing. The only such mission to be created during the period under consideration was the Archbishop’s Mission to the Assyrians in 1886, under Archbishop Benson. And, as we have seen, it was during the same period that repeated requests came to successive Archbishops of Canterbury from successive Patriarchs of Antioch for some such similar formal mission. That it was never created may be regarded as fortuitous. Despite the fact that the authorities of the Archbishop’s Mission continually stressed that theirs was a non-political mission, when the Assyrians raised their opposition to Turkish authority, the fact that they had for so long been connected formally to a Mission of a foreign church and power cannot have helped them. Protestant missions especially were viewed with suspicion by the Ottoman authorities, as a thinlyveiled disguise for expansionist ambitions on the part of foreign governments. CMS, for example, saw the British occupation of Egypt in 1882 as providential. As Tibawi has stated: Protestant missions had made sufficiently clear their eattitude towards the legitimate Government and the territorial integrity of the state in which they resided and worked. Not only did they publicly declare their intention of subverting its established religion, not only did they openly pray for the extinction of the state, and the absorption of its own territories by their own governments, but pending the achievement of these ambitions, they claimed special privileges and exemptions, and with these very claims they accused the Ottoman authorities of intolerance, fanaticism, and bigotry.20 20 A. L. Tibawi, American Interests in Syria 1800-1901 (pp. 256f. See also his ‘Unpublished letters on Protestant Missions in Palestine’, in Muslim World, Vol. 67, No. 4 (1977), pp. 258-65.



Similarly, even though the Syrian Orthodox suffered greatly in the period of 1895-1914, the fact that they were spared the full blast of those events may partly be attributable to the fact that they never created formal alliances with any foreign churches or governments. During the primacy of Davidson, the Church of England came closer to an official and formal connection with the Syrian Orthodox Church than had previously been the case. But, as we have seen, the character of the exchange varied. Prior to 1914, the exchanges often moved towards formal political intervention, although never reaching that point in actuality. The mortal danger which this policy represented for Christians of the Near East became increasingly apparent to both sides of the exchange during this period. As John Joseph had stated: Christians of the Middle East have found themselves in the uncomfortable position of being the so-religionists of peoples and nations who were considered to be the rivals, if not the enemies, of the Muslim state. They have suffered from that position in the past and continue to feel ill at ease from it at the present.21

The story of relations between the Syrian Orthodox Church and the Church of England between 1874 and 1928 is only a small, and overlooked, aspect of this wider context of religious, cultural, and political exchange. It is to be hoped that this study has contributed to a greater understanding of the importance of all such exchanges.


J. Joseph, Muslim Christian Relations, p. 120.

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Royal Geographical Society

SPCK Society for the Promotion of Christian Knowledge SPG

Society for the Propagation of the Gospel


Church Missionary Society


Foreign Office


Lambeth Conference

Index A


Abd-Allah, 89, 90, 91, 92, 93, 94, 97, 98, 99, 100, 101, 102, 104 Abd-el-Messih, 76, 99, 121 Abd-el-Noor, Butrus, 55, 56, 58 Ainsworth, W. F., 9, 10, 11, 125 Andrus, A. N., 76, 79, 82, 88, 89, 90, 94, 100, 101 Antioch, 21, 22, 31, 34 Patriarch of, 13, 15, 16, 18, 28, 32, 36, 43, 47, 50, 51, 62, 104, 108, 113, 122, 125 Patriarchate of, 55, 58, 89 polemic against, 32 Archbishop of Canterbury's Mission to the Assyrians, 64, 85, 91, 101, 104, 125 Armenian(s), 16, 17, 18, 26, 28, 29, 40, 60, 72, 74, 76, 78, 105, 119, 120

Canterbury, 21, 55, 58, 62, 64, 84, 86, 89, 118 Archbishop of, 3, 12, 16, 17, 18, 19, 23, 32, 34, 41, 44, 49, 58, 65, 66, 67, 68, 72, 75, 76, 77, 78, 83, 88, 92, 96, 103, 108, 110, 112, 113, 119, 125 Chesney, F. R., 8, 10 Church Missionary Society, 5, 6, 7, 8, 13, 14, 30, 31, 32, 35, 55, 87, 88, 124, 125 Church of England Council on Foreign Relations, 123 Cochin, 1, 2, 3, 6, 31, 38, 39, 65 Resident of, 5 Coptic Church, 96 Curtis, George, 16, 17, 18, 19, 49, 56, 59, 60


Davidson, R. T., 55, 56, 57, 58, 63, 75, 82, 84, 85, 86, 87, 88, 89, 90, 91, 92, 93, 100, 101, 102, 103, 105, 106, 107, 108, 109, 112, 113, 114, 116, 118, 119, 121, 122, 126 Deir-el-Zafaran, 80, 101, 114, 115, 116, 120, 121 Derby, Lord, 19, 29, 36, 37, 38, 42, 44, 45 Disraeli, Benjamin, 18 Douglas, J. A., 113, 118, 123 Eastern Churches Committee, 98, 110, 117, 118

Badger, G. P., 10, 11, 22, 24, 25, 45, 49, 125 Bailey, Benjamin, 6 Baker, Henry, 6 Barsoum, Ephraim Stephan, 102, 104, 105, 106, 107, 121, 122, 123 Behnam, Julius, 66, 67, 81, 82, 83 Benson, Edward White, 55, 56, 57, 58, 59, 60, 61, 64, 65, 66, 67, 68, 75, 77, 79, 81, 82, 85, 125 Blyth, George, 67, 68, 69, 81, 82, 83 Buchanan, Claudius, 1, 4, 5, 10





Mar Gregorius, 56, 57, 58, 61, 62, 63, 67, 89 Ecumenical Patriarch, 113, 119 Mardin, 10, 14, 16, 32, 45, 50, 51, Elias III, 104, 107, 111, 113, 115, 53, 64, 72, 73, 74, 76, 79, 82, 88, 118, 121 90, 99, 104, 106, 107, 115 Etheridge, J. W., 12 Mehmed Ali, 11 Mosul, 9, 10, 22, 29, 44, 102, 111, F 115, 121 Fenn, Joseph, 6 Finn, A. H., 106 N Finn, Elizabeth, 22, 23, 26, 37, 43, Nemeth, Stephen Theodosius de, 65, 66, 72, 73, 77, 78, 91, 92, 106 123 Fletcher, J. P., 10 Norton, Thomas, 6


G Heber, Reginald, 7

K Kurds, 11, 106, 115, 120

L Lambeth Conference 1878, 46, 85 Lambeth Conference 1888, 61, 62, 85 Lambeth Conference 1897, 85 Lambeth Conference 1908, 95, 96, 97, 98, 101, 111, 112, 113, 117, 118 Lambeth Conference 1920, 107, 110, 112, 113 Lambeth Conference 1930, 122 Lang, Cosmo Gordon, 118, 119, 123 Locock, Sidney, 19, 20

P Paris Peace Conference, 104, 107 Parry, O. H., 66, 69, 70, 71, 72, 73, 74, 75, 94 Patriarch Kyrillos, 43 Peter III Ignatius, 13, 14, 46, 66 Pope Leo XIII, 79

Q Queen Victoria, 16, 23, 29, 38, 40, 41, 42, 44, 45, 64, 65, 66, 77, 93

R Rassam, Christian, 9 Robinson, Thomas, 7 Royal Geographical Society, 8, 9, 10


Sadadi, Abdallah, 17 Salisbury, 61 Salisbury, Lord, 58 M Smith, J. Hubert, 72, 73, 78 Malpan, Abraham, 14 Southgate, Horatio, 10, 125 Mar Athanasius, 7, 14, 17, 18, 19, SPCK, 10, 27, 28, 51, 52, 53, 55, 56, 21, 22, 29, 31, 32, 34, 35, 37, 38, 59, 60, 61 39, 42, 47 Suffrin, A. E., 72, 73, 78 Mar Dionysius, 5 Sultan Mahmud II, 11 Mar Dionysius IV, 14 Synod of Mavelikkara, 7, 8, 13 Mar Dionysius V, 14, 17, 18, 19, 21, Syrian Patriarchate Educational 22, 29, 32, 34, 38, 39, 86 Fund, 49, 55, 59, 61



T Tait, Archibald Campbell, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 26, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 47, 49, 50, 51, 55, 57, 58, 64, 65, 66, 85, 91, 124 Temple, Frederick, 75, 77, 78, 79, 80, 81, 82, 83, 84, 88, 89 Temple, William, 118 Travancore, 1, 2, 3, 6, 21, 34, 38, 39, 65

Maharajah of, 34 Resident of, 5, 40 Travancore Government, 21, 37 Treaty of Lausanne, 114

W Westcott, Brooke Foss, 1, 7, 8, 12 Wigram, W. A., 102, 106 Windsor, 39, 40 Wordsworth, John, 97, 98