September 25, 2023

Patriarchate of Antioch Will Canonize Two New Saints This Fall

Patriarch John X of Antioch and All the East declared during the Divine Liturgy he presided over on the occasion of the Feast of the Nativity of the Theotokos at Saydnaya Monastery in Syria (9/8/23), that the sessions of the Holy Synod will be officially initiated on October 18th of 2023 during which many topics will be raised. One of the most important topics is that the Holy Synod is heading towards canonizing the Hieromartyrs Father Nicholas Khashi, and his son Father Habib Khashi, two Damascene priests who martyred for the faith in the last century.

As a layman, Father Nicholas was an activist for the return of the Patriarchate of Antioch, which had been under Greek rule since the Melkite Catholic schism, to Arab control and was active in the establishment and development of schools for the community. He was then ordained to the priesthood, where he served the Archdiocese of Damascus. Patriarch Meletios (Dumani) then commissioned him as the overseer of the Metropolis of Mersin, whose bishop Alexander (Tahan) had abandoned it due to the poverty and unrest he was experiencing. In Mersin, Father Nicholas succeeded in reuniting his scattered flock and caring for and strengthening the faithful, who were subjected to various forms of persecution and ethnic cleansing. The Turkish authorities became disillusioned with Father Nicholas and arrested him based on the slander against him, then tortured him until he was martyred.

Father Habib, the eldest son of Father Nicholas, followed in his father's footsteps. Despite his success in business, he decided to be ordained to the priesthood and served as a priest in Damascus and Cairo. His service was distinguished by a life of prayer, devotion to shepherding the faithful with love and self-sacrifice and his closeness to the poor, whom he cared for as he cared for his own family, feeding them with the food and money sent by his brothers to help them because of his poverty. His life culminated in martyrdom on Mount Hermon (Jabal al-shaykh), where smugglers beat him to death for being a Christian priest, fulfilling his desire to imitate his father. The faithful have transmitted the stories of these two priests who remain alive in the memory of Antioch because "their blood confirmed that the Holy Spirit is within them and because through love they overcame the barrier of the earthly body and became figures of light."

Today, if the Holy Synod decides to proclaim their holiness, it is "in obedience to Him of whom they became worthy". By declaring their holiness, the Holy Synod places before the flock and the faithful, at this difficult moment, the image of a married priest to whom the Church entrusted the task of shepherding a diocese whose bishop refused to shepherd it and abandoned it when resources became scarce and he began to face difficulties. She was shepherded as if she were his little family. He and his sons lived in it and among its people and died for it.

The Holy Synod also projects the image of the son who gave up worldly success to imitate his father and become a shepherd of souls, serving the poor as if they were a small family and sharing with them his and his family's sustenance. He served them as if they were his masters, not caring about money or the future, but relying on the mercy and generosity of God, who crowned his life with the crown of martyrdom. Perhaps the Holy Synod, with its attempt to proclaim the sainthood of the hieromartyr fathers Nicholas and Habib, after the proclamation of the hieromartyr Joseph of Damascus, wishes to emphasize that holiness is not limited to monks, but also exists outside monasteries, and that the family that is sincerely devoted to Christ is also a place of holiness like anywhere else.


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