Jallouf was ordained on an important day for the Franciscans — the feast of the Stigmata of St. Francis of Assisi. On Sept. 17, 1224, while praying on Mount La Verna in Italy, St. Francis saw a seraphim and received the same wounds as Jesus crucified in his body. “I chose this date for my ordination because it is the feast of the stigmata of St. Francis,” Jallouf told CNA. “I pray that the blood of Christ heals war-torn Syria, giving it a holy and just peace and salvation.”
The new bishop’s words convey his love for his land, a love he wanted to express in the motto and coat of arms he chose, as every bishop does. These two elements of heraldic tradition identify the spirit with which the bishop undertakes his mission and visually recall the origins and territory from which he comes.
“As my motto, I chose ‘Sicut qui ministrat’: ‘As one who serves’ (Lk 22:27). These are the words the Lord spoke to his disciples during the Last Supper.” The coat of arms is surmounted by the cross “because the cross is our glory.”
The shield is divided into four fields. In the upper part, there are symbols indicating Jallouf’s belonging to the Franciscan order and the Custody of the Holy Land. In the lower part are references to his homeland: on the right, a map of Syria in red, the color of blood, with a dove in the center, a symbol of peace; on the left, an olive tree, a symbol of the province of Idlib. In the center, at the intersection of the four fields, is the emblem of Mary (the M in a blue field) “to place everything under her protection.”
“Perhaps the Lord chose me because I am one of the few respected by both sides still fighting in Syria today: on one side, the official government, on the other, the rebels,” he said. “Perhaps I can help with the process of reconciliation. But it is not just my personal mission; it is also my mission as a Franciscan.” He recalled the meeting between St. Francis and Sultan Malik al-Kamil in Damietta, Egypt, more than 800 years ago. “Since then, the Franciscans have safeguarded both the holy places and the people who visit them and those who live there. This is the first challenge: to give courage to our ‘children.’”
The second challenge, he said, is to refocus on priestly and religious vocations after years of living each day “in emergency mode.”
“I want our religious and priests not to forget that their responsibility is not just social but above all spiritual,” he said. “The first thing I will do is visit all the parishes and congregations working in the area, to learn about their needs and see how we can move forward.”
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Work and prayer are two dimensions that Jallouf draws from Franciscan spirituality. “St. Francis always had in mind the unity between the dimension of work and that of prayer. These are two things that must go hand in hand. This is the way to save Syria and bear witness to our faith in the world,” Jallouf told CNA.
The war has radically transformed the face of the Church in Syria. Before 2011, “Christians made up almost 17% of the Syrian population. Today, perhaps, they constitute only 3%-4%.” It is a wounded Church, but still alive, with no shortage of surprises.
“Always, in the mud, there is a little gold,” the new bishop said. “Even in war, the Lord sends vocations. From Knayeh alone, there are five young people preparing for the priesthood in the Franciscan community. We thank the Lord that in the midst of war, with all its evil, he has brought forth vocations.”
These new vocations are small seeds of hope for Syria. They’re also an answer to a prayer that Jallouf loves and prayed in the weeks before his ordination: “O Lord of mercy, who are with us in our tribulations, we pray to you to save us.”