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Aspects of Maronite History (Part Eleven)
The 20th Century in the Middle East

By Chorbishop Seely Beggiani

Civil History
World War I and its Aftermath

With the outbreak of World War I in 1914, the Ottoman Empire allied itself with Germany and the Central Powers. In October of that year, Jamal Pasha appeared in Damascus as commander of the Fourth Turkish Army and proceeded to occupy Lebanon. In the summer of 1915, the Governor-General of Lebanon Ohannes Pasha, who had been forced to dissolve the administrative council, was replaced by Ali Munif, the second Turk ever to rule Lebanon. Lebanon's constitution was abolished, and the country was put directly under Ottoman military rule. The Capitulations or special privileges granted to Christians were abrogated, and some monasteries were converted to military use.

To conduct his military campaigns, Jamal Pasha imposed military conscription on Lebanese citizens, requisitioned beasts of burden, and ordered the people to supply the troops. A reign of terror was introduced into Lebanon. Many Lebanese were accused of treason. The Archbishop of Beirut was exiled to Anatolia where he died. Moslems and Christians who were accused of sympathy with the French or with the Arab cause against the Ottomans, were hanged in Beirut and in Damascus in 1916. This event is commemorated by Martyrs' Square in Beirut and the celebration of Martyrs' Day.

With the Ottoman Empire collapsing, the Turks introduced worthless Turkish money into Lebanon which greatly worsened the economic hardship already caused by the war. In addition, 1916 marked a time of famine and starvation in Lebanon. Deteriorating living conditions led to epidemics of typhoid and bubonic plague. It is estimated that 100,000 to 150,000 Lebanese lost their lives.

In 1918, in addition to the French and British forces fighting in the Middle East, there was an Arabian-led force headed by Prince Faisal whose adviser and aide was T. E. Lawrence. Because of promises made to his father by the British [in order to gain his support in the war], Prince Faisal believed that with victory over the Ottomans, he would rule over that territory of the Ottoman Empire which included Syria, Lebanon and Jordan.

However, as the war was drawing to an end and victory over the Ottomans was at hand, the British and French were in vigorous competition over who would control and influence the Middle East. In the negotiations, their main concern was their own national interests.

After leading his troops into Damascus in 1918, Prince Faisal sent a group of about 100 commandoes to Beirut where they raised the Hejaz (Arabian) flag on October 5, 1918. This action alarmed the French who sent warships on the following day to Beirut harbor and landed a contingent of troops. On October 8, General Allenby, Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces, entered Beirut and took charge of the situation. He had the flag taken down and forced the commandoes to withdraw.

The Paris Peace Conference

The victorious Allies gathered in Paris in 1919 to determine the disposition of the defeated Ottoman Empire. Patriarch Elias Hoyek led a delegation of Lebanese notables which came to Paris "in the name of the government and the Administrative Council of Lebanon, and in the name of the people of all of Lebanon", to ask the Peace Conference for the autonomy of Lebanon and the restoration of its natural and historical frontiers, with the mandate of France.

At Paris, the Patriarch and his delegation were hosted by the French government. Patriarch Hoyek met with many political notables, including the French President Poincar‚ and the French Premier George Clemenceau. On October 27, 1919, he presented to the Peace Conference a long memorandum which exposed the desires and demands of the Lebanese.

On November 10, Clemenceau wrote to the Patriarch, reiterating the close bonds that France and Lebanon have had through the centuries. He assured him that Lebanon's desire for autonomy and independence coincided with France's liberal traditions. He concluded: "with the help and support of France . . . the Lebanese are assured of preserving their traditions, of developing their political and administrative institutions, of reclaiming completely their country, and of seeing their children educated in their proper schools for public service in Lebanon . . . Desirous of the most favorable economic relations in all the countries confided to its mandate, France will give the greatest consideration that in determining the boundaries of Lebanon, it is necessary to include the "Mountain", the territories of the plain, and access to the sea, as indispensable to its prosperity."

In the meantime, Prince Faisal was having difficulty ruling over the various factions in Damascus. These ranged from conservative traditional families who had been pro-Ottoman to pro-Arab and anti- French groups, and others who supported the establishment of a greater Syria. Faisal called for elections to a General Syrian Congress. This body assembled in 1919 and called for an independent Greater Syria which would include Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Palestine.

Back in Lebanon, Patriarch Hoyek was alarmed by these and other moves against Lebanese independence. In December of 1919, he formed a new delegation, composed of Lebanese notables and headed by his Patriarchal Vicar, Archbishop Abdullah Khoury. He sent them to Paris to defend the cause of the country and to complete the work that he had initiated.

Premier Clemenceau offered Prince Faisal a compromise wherein he would rule over Syria, but not Lebanon, under a loose French trusteeship. However, this agreement was voted down by the Syrian General Congress in January of 1920. Subsequently, the Second General Syrian Congress in March, 1920 declared an independent Greater Syria also encompassing Lebanon and Palestine, with Faisal as constitutional monarch.

Both Britain and France were alarmed at this development. On May 27, 1920 the French Commander in Beirut, General Gouraud was ordered to take the field against Faisal and to move on to Damascus. Damascus was occupied on July 26, and Faisal was removed from Syria.

In the meantime, on May 19, 1920, Alexandre Millerand, who succeeded Clemenceau as French Premier wrote the following to Archbishop Khoury: "In virtue of a decision of the Supreme Council, the Allied Powers have conferred the mandate over Syria to France which has never varied in its intention to call for Lebanon's independence under French mandate."

On August 24, Millerand wrote again to Archbishop Khoury: ". . . Your country's claims on the Bekaa, that you have recalled for me, have been granted. On instructions from the French government, General Gouraud has proclaimed at Zahle the incorporation into Lebanon of the territory that extends up to the summit of the Anti-Lebanon range and of Hermon. This is the Greater Lebanon that France wishes to form to assure your country of its natural borders. Lebanon ought to extend from Jebel Akkar in the north to the confines of Palestine in the south, along with the cities of Tripoli and Beirut."

On September 1, 1920 Greater Lebanon was officially proclaimed in Beirut by General Gouraud. The new state included the ports of Tyr, Saida, and Tripoli, in addition to Beirut, its new capital. Besides Baalbeck and the Bekaa, Hasbayya, Rashayya and Marjayoun were included. Lebanon's territory had doubled in size, and its population had increased by more than half, the vast majority being Moslem.

On July 24, 1922, the League of Nations approved the French mandate over Syria and Lebanon. On May 23, 1926, Lebanon was declared a Republic.
Religious History

Patriarch John Hadj

On April 28, 1890, the Maronite Bishops unanimously elected John Hadj as Patriarch. He was an alumnus of the seminary of Ain-Warka. He also had studied civil law, and his reputation was such that he was named Judge for the Christians of Lebanon in 1844 at a time of deep crisis for his countrymen. He was courageous in defending their just rights.

As Patriarch, John Hadj embellished the residences of Bkerke and Diman, giving them proper stature. He was decorated by France with the Legion of Honor and received from the Ottoman sultan the medjidie of the first class and the Grand Osmanic cordon.

Patriarch Hadj gave a vigorous impetus to the establishment of schools, to the discipline of the clergy, to diverse works which would raise the level of his people. He showed himself to be a devoted, skilled defender of both Latin and Maronite foundations for the instruction of youth, for the help of the poor, and for the development of the Christian life.

While at this time there were four national seminaries in Lebanon, they were under rights of patronage in their organization of studies, discipline and temporal matters. Patriarch Hadj wished for a seminary that would belong only to Patriarchal authority. For this purpose, he constituted a patrimony whose revenues would suffice for the project. Patriarch Hadj also wished to establish resources outside of Lebanon so that the Maronite seminarians could study at renowned institutions. He hoped for a center at Rome and another at Paris. Through the efforts of his Vicar, the future Patriarch Elias Hoyek, the Maronite College in Rome was re-established in 1891. This was achieved through his raising funds in France and even from the sultan in Istanbul. In addition to donations he collected from Maronites, he was given a gift of 150,000 francs from the Pope. He bought a large estate in Rome on the Via di Porta Pinciana and established the Maronite College there. The College remained in operation until 1939.

Through his efforts in France, Archbishop Hoyek was able to establish a Maronite church and a procurator for the Maronites in Paris. He also solicited scholarships for clerics to study in France.

Patriarch Hadj also desired to have a center in Palestine. Again, through the work of Archbishop Hoyek, a procurator and a church were established in Jerusalem in 1895.

Patriarch Hadj died on December 24, 1898. On January 6, 1899, he was succeeded by Elias Hoyek.

Patriarch Elias Hoyek

During his years as Patriarchal Secretary and Vicar, Patriarch Hoyek had already established a record of great achievement both in the civil and religious spheres. In many ways he could be considered the Father of modern Lebanon.

One of the first-class acts of Hoyek as Patriarch was to build an imposing summer residence at Diman. The land he chose for this building was a hill from which one could view the "Valley of the Saints."

To commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, Patriarch Hoyek established a new center of pilgrimage at Harissa in 1905. He also fostered devotion to the Sacred Heart, and raised funds to establish a national monument on one of the summits of Lebanon.

Patriarch Hoyek also founded the Maronite Congregation of the Holy Family in 1895, the first congregation of women of the Eastern churches in Lebanon and Syria. Their mission was to educate young girls especially of the poorer classes according to the customs and principles of the Christian faith. These sisters established boarding and day schools, especially in the villages , where along with Christian education, they provided practical instruction. This congregation experienced a great growth in numbers and institutions.

Patriarch Hoyek also established a Patriarchal Vicariate for Egypt in 1904, which later became an Eparchy in 1946. He obtained from the Holy See the division of the Eparchy of Tyr and Saida.

When he led the delegation to the Paris Peace Conference of 1919, Patriarch Hoyek was already 76 years old. He lived to see the early development of the new Lebanon, which he had had such a significant role in forming. He died on December 31, 1931.

(Reprinted with permission.)

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last updated: May 2005