Tappouni, Ignatius Gabriel
TAPPOUNI, IGNATIUS GABRIEL
Cardinal, Catholic patriarch of Antioch of the Syrians; b. Mosul, Iraq, Nov. 3, 1879; d. Beirut, Lebanon, Jan. 29, 1968. He was baptized as Abdalahad Leo in an old Syrian Christian family, which in the late 18th century had entered the Syrian union with Rome. He spent ten years as a student in the Syro-Chaldean Seminary in his native city of Mosul and was ordained priest Nov. 9,1902. His earliest years as a priest were spent in Mosul itself, first as teacher in the Syro-Chaldean Seminary and director of the Syrian Catholic school, then, after 1908, as secretary of the apostolic delegate to Mesopotamia, Jean Drure, O.C.D.
As Bishop. His growing reputation as a nonpartisan and capable administrator with a firm religious spirit led to his early episcopal nomination Sept. 12, 1912, as titular bishop of Danaba, but with an immediate change to the titular see of Batna because "Danaba" has an undignified quality in Arabic ears. He took the name Theophilus Gabriel at the time of his episcopal ordination Jan. 19, 1913, and began immediately to function as patriarchal vicar in Mardin, now in southeastern Turkey, which at that time was still officially the place of residence of the Syrian Catholic patriarch, although the reigning patriarch had taken up residence in Beirut.
Shortly after his arrival in Mardin, the difficulties of Christians in that part of the Ottoman Empire entered upon their gravest period; and on June 2, 1915, the Armenian Catholic Archbishop of Mardin, Ignatius Maloyan, faced with imminent imprisonment and eventually put to death, entrusted the administration of his see to Bishop Tappouni. In 1918 Tappouni himself was arrested by the Turkish authorities, accused of treason, court-martialed without regular trial, and imprisoned in Aleppo under threat of execution. The apostolic delegate in Istanbul succeeded in obtaining a stay of execution, and the Empress Zita of Austria, at the request of Pope Benedict XV, arranged for the Austrian ambassador to Turkey to intervene as well, so that the bishop was released October 7, as the English and French forces were occupying Syria. In the years immediately following, he was faced with the task of regrouping and rehabilitating the survivors of the massacres, a task which was not diminished when he was nominated Syrian archbishop of Aleppo, Feb. 24, 1921. Upon the death of the Patriarch Ignatius Ephrem II Rahmani the synod of bishops, on June 24, 1929, unanimously elected him as successor, and six days later he was enthroned in the cathedral in Beirut, with the name Ignatius Gabriel I. Pope Piux XI named him cardinal in the consistory of Dec. 16, 1935.
As Patriarch. His reign as patriarch saw the construction of the patriarchal residence in Beirut, a new seminary and summer residence at Sharfeh north of Beirut, and the beginning of a new cathedral in Beirut which he did not live to see finished. As the end of the French mandate in Syria and Lebanon approached he was active in the negotiations seeking to assure the rights of the Christian minorities in predominantly Muslim Syria. His liturgical concerns were reflected in the new edition of the West Syrian ferial office (1937) and pontifical (1950–52), and in the creation at the end of his reign of a commission for the revision of the Eucharistic liturgy. But it was with the quality of priestly formation in his Church that he was most interested, with a concern reflected in the attention he gave unceasingly to the development of the patriarchal seminary in Sharfeh. Always interested in the establishment of religious life in the Syrian Catholic Church, he had even as a young priest entertained the idea of establishing monastic life himself in the ancient monastery of Mar Behnam near Mosul, until he was dissuaded by the hierarchy. Although his community of Ephremite Sisters began to flourish before his death, his attempts as patriarch to establish a Syrian community of men never really succeeded.
His influence in Rome was perhaps greatest at the end of his life, when he served as one of the ten members, and the only Oriental member, of the council of presidents of Vatican Council II.
Bibliography: Archives of the Syrian Catholic Procuracy in Rome. L'Osservatore Romano (April 9, 1961) 6; (Jan. 31, 1968) 2.