Letter to the Friends 2022/2023


Letter to the Friends


Deir Mar Musa 





  1. Old wine and new wine (Luke 5:36-39)
  2. The monastic community
    1. Fra Jacques 
    2. Sister Houda
    3. Fra Jens
    4. Sister Deema
    5. Fra Yausse
    6. Sister Carol
    7. Sister Friederike 
    8. Fra Jihad
  3. Monastery of Mar Musa al-Habashi - Nebek, Syria
    1. The Monastery Projects
    2. Monastery of San Salvatore – Cori
    3. Monastery of Maryam al-Adhra (Virgin Mary) – Sulaymaniyah
  4. Conclusion
  5. How you can help us


Old wine and new wine (Luke 5:36-39)


“The harvest is abundant, but the labourers are few! Therefore, pray the Lord of the harvest, that he may send out labourers to harvest his crops” (Luke 10:2). On this basis, the Church prays for vocations. First of all, – and this is the vocation of all – it is a call to holiness itself, and to the building (service) of the Kingdom of God. The Church prays in particular for priestly vocations and vocations to consecrated life and marriage. A look back over the past century shows how monastic-religious and priestly vocations are in continuous decline. Many communities have become ever smaller in number and are then driven to merge various houses, close convents and monasteries, entrust their management to some activity, or even sell them … The great Catholic orders are down to almost half their size, or even less than half compared to their heyday. I reflect on “why?”. It is clear that faith itself is going through a crisis, numerically speaking. Fewer and fewer people call themselves “believers” or “religious”. This is a first reason, since a seed cannot grow to bear good fruit where there is no fertile soil. However, even in contexts of faith, religious vocations are becoming scarce. The harvest is greater and greater, but the workers are fewer and fewer. On the one hand, it need be understood that the role and vocation of baptized lay people is no less important than that of consecrated people. On the other hand, the specificity of consecration remains. 


I joined the Community of Deir Mar Musa in August 1999 and pronounced my perpetual vows in September 2003. After me, many men and women have come and gone. Only four, a monk and three nuns, have remained. Since Father Paolo founded the Community together with Jacques, who was still a deacon, in the distant – not necessarily chronologically speaking – 1991, many have tried to become monks and nuns, but only four nuns and four monks, with Paolo five, and a postulant remain. Where did all the others go? Some have discovered, thanks to Deir Mar Musa, that their vocation was elsewhere – in marriage, with another religious community, in the diocesan priesthood, and so on, and these have left here happy and consoled, praising God. Others have understood (or we have understood) that they were not called to remain here and have left to continue their search, not knowing where, not necessarily either joyful or sad. Still others, however, have left sad and unconsoled – both them and us wounded – either because they did not want to accept the reality that they were not called to be here, or because we did not know how to welcome them, for our lack of charity and openness. I wish to ask forgiveness of the latter in the name of the Community and the Church.


Yes, openness is needed in the new communities as well. Openness – first of all – towards the grace of the Spirit, who sends novelties in both circumstances and persons. Saint Benedict writes in his rule that one must listen attentively to the last brother to arrive, for the Spirit could speak in him more than in the older ones. Starting from the first generation, the danger of falling into the trap of the “old guard” and closing oneself off is very real. Let us be vigilant, therefore, and desire instead to open ourselves up to novelty, in ourselves and others. On the other hand, we must not slip into the easy solution of accepting just anyone in order to make up the numbers – the Church is paying a high price for this. In the end, it is God who saves the Church, not us.


Studying history, I have learned that communities are born of their charisms and when a specific need no longer exists, the community dissolves; that is, it has the right, but even more so the duty, to die. For those whom the Lord had called to ransom slaves, for example, do not have to embroider sacred vestments once slavery in that form no longer exists. But there could be other reasons for the death of a community. 

As a new community, we believe that our charism of Islamic-Christian friendship is pertinent to and for the Universal Church. It is the Risen Lord who asks us, “Take care of Islam for me”. However, we are few, with a high average age, and we spread ourselves over three monasteries, with less than three members in two of them. We want the Community to remain until the second coming of Christ, but if we continue like this, we could easily end in a generation’s time.

The Church prays to the Lord of the crop, but this is not enough. Should we not radiate joy in reaping despite the pains of sowing? Who would want to be part of a community devoid of joy? Of a group fearing weariness and fatigue? The sour-faced monk who does not know how to laugh attracts no one. When I consecrated myself, I did not pose the problem. But now we all think about it, counting on God’s mercy even when we face the thought of old age and perhaps having to die alone on a bed in some rest home. If it is God who wants it this way, then this will be our offering. But if it is not, we must do something. I have taken concrete initiative and have begun a tour of the parishes to talk about our vocation by professing my love for God, indeed His for me, and declaring how in love with Him I am. I present monastic life as a condition of a “severe” falling in love with God that anticipates eternity in time. Solo Dios basta, God alone suffices, as Saint Teresa of Ávila wrote.


As the al-Khalil monastic Community, we are reflecting on how to widen the space of our tent, how to extend the cloth above our dwelling, how to stretch its ropes and strengthen its stakes (Isa 54:2). Therefore, we have taken on the discernment of how to involve the laity, in particular, the many friends who wish to be part of the Community without necessarily pronouncing monastic vows. Will it be similar to the Franciscan Third Order? Maybe! For we are also open to a form of consecration that spouses, single people, and members of other religious communities can live and profess. There are two elements that we have identified so far for those who will want to do so: first, is the personal spiritual life of faith in individual and community prayer; and second, reference to our monastic Rule, particularly to our charism of Islamic-Christian fraternity. In the last two General Chapters, we have strongly felt the call to engage less in the humanitarian work proper to NGOs – without, naturally, ignoring those who knock on our door – in order to dedicate more space to prayer and monastic life, to the hospitality of people, to listening and sharing, to agriculture and care for the environment, to the library and intellectual work, and so on. We do not want to be functionaries of a non-profit organisation but monks. And we continue to ask ourselves: Is there more can we consider?

Institutionally and charismatically, the Church stumbles in its attempt to keep pace with the times, finding it difficult to speak the language of young people. And many of her pastors are slow and lack the zeal to go out and search for abandoned, shepherdless sheep. We are not always able to “activate” the Spirit of prophecy that is in us. It would seem that we have forgotten how to do so. All the same, let us remember that it is not we ourselves who do it; it is He who must act. We must simply not suffocate Him with our fears, our prejudices, laziness, and mediocrity. We need to do something else, or rather be something else. We must not content ourselves with being world famous and having many friends, while risking extinction like Chinese pandas, we monks and our Eastern churches. Many communities are dying for – amongst other reasons – their rigidity and resistance to novelty (praying in certain languages, in a certain way, preaching and speaking as has always been done, conceiving the world as past centuries did, clinging to fossilized forms of religiosity no longer pertinent to today’s anthropology, using rusty criteria for discernment, etc.). This is resistance to the Lord Himself who makes all things new (Rev 21:5). The Gospel teaches us that we cannot repair an old garment with a new cloth, nor put new wine in old barrels. Let us throw wide open the doors to the joy of Christ and the breath of the Spirit. Only in this way can we work the field of the Lord of the harvest. Is this not the meaning of Christmas, that is, the novelty to which the heart, even before the womb, of that humble and courageous girl from Nazareth named Mary was opened? Is this not what her brave boyfriend Joseph embraced? Is this not the entire, extreme novelty, God who becomes a small child? Merry Christmas and a Blessed new year.

Fra Jihad Youssef, abbot




The monastic community

This year, once again, we experienced an important General Chapter at Deir Mar Musa (28 August – 6 September). We reviewed our lives, discussed our plans, and drew the main lines for the coming year, placing the future in God’s hands. We reflected on how to live ever more faithfully our three priorities: prayer, manual work, and Abrahamic hospitality. Our charism of building harmony and friendship with Islam and Muslims, whom we seek to love in the name of Christ, was concretised during the Chapter in a visit to the Mosque of Sheikh Abdullah ad-Daghistani in Rukn ad-Dīn, Damascus during the Zikr prayer, which is done every Thursday evening in praise of God. We brothers were welcomed with open arms by our friend Sheikh Ibrahim, as were the nuns as well by the sisters of the Mosque. We prayed, sang, and danced the Sufi dance with the community, our hearts filled with burning fire and souls consumed with consolation for this blessed visit. The Sheikh introduced us to all the participants as men and women who serve God and the poor in the mountains of Nebek and gave us a heartfelt and sincere warm, fraternal welcome. 

Two weeks earlier, several members of our monastic Community had gone to Ibrahim’s home to share a meal and to visit the tomb of his master, the Venerable Shaykh Abdullah, inside the mosque. On the same day, after a visit to the shrine of the Greatest Sheikh Ibn ʿArabī, Ibrahim’s son, Ahmad Bashir, accompanied us to the Maqām al-Arbaʿūn, “Shrine of the Forty”, which is accessed byFrame4 a long staircase like that of Deir Mar Musa. This ancient sanctuary, which looks down upon the city of Damascus and keeps guard over it, is dedicated to the forty abdāl, or “substitutes”, that is, apotropaic saints whose powerful intercession diverts evil influences from the community of believers and protects all humanity from misfortune. According to Islamic tradition, there are 40 in every generation, of whom 20 in the region of Shām, Damascus. The fact that this sanctuary was built above the cave where, tradition holds, Cain killed his brother Abel, is highly significant. Inside this “cave of blood”, one can see where the stone assumes the shape of a screaming mouth, representing the cry of horror that the earth sounded upon the event of the first murder. And on the ceiling, there is still trace of the firm hand of the archangel Gabriel, who God sent to hold back the mountain from crushing the fratricidal murderer in revenge. At the scene of the crime, there are three prayer niches where intercession is evoked - one for Jesus, one for al-Khaḍir "Saint George", and one for Abraham, who was certainly one of the abdāl. The place is spiritually very powerful, and can be described as the space of spiritual “struggle”, of interior ǧihād.

Here, we reaffirmed the importance of our relationship with friends belonging to different churches and religions, spiritual and cultural affiliations, whether believers or non-believers.  

During the Chapter, we reflected at length on the spiritual heritage handed down to us by the founder of our Community, Father Paolo Dall'Oglio; on the prophetic significance of our being men and women together, and what that means today; on the relationship with the laity and their role in the Church; and on the openness needed towards new vocations. The project of publishing the still “unreleased writings” of Father Paolo, which are actually audio recordings in Arabic of his last lectures, is moving forward. After the transcription, the draft of the text in Arabic is finished – thanks to the diligent work of Adib Khoury – and awaits translation into European languages, probably Italian first. These conferences are read whenever possible at morning prayer and are commented, mainly by Jihad or by those in the Community who are able, for the formation of the Community itself and its guests. The reading of these texts is a true blessing; it gives us a great charge of energy, consoles us, and confirms us in our vocation. Frame1


This year, the president of the Association of Friends of Deir Mar Musa in Italy, our long-time friend Francesca Peliti, published a book with Effatà Edizioni entitled, Paolo Dall'Oglio and the Community of Deir Mar Musa – A desert, a Story. “This book,” Fr Federico Lombardi writes in his presentation, “tells us and explains many things, rightly dedicating the main space to the personal testimonies of all the members of the Community who are part of it so far and of others who participated more deeply in its journey over the years”. It was interesting for us to read the testimonies of our fellow travellers. We thought we knew each other well, but reading the book, we discovered new things about ourselves.




This summer, God blessed us with the arrival of Ziad, a young, 28-year-old Syrian Maronite, now a postulant. Three other people left Deir Mar Musa: Jawdat, who was a novice, now works in Erbil and seeks God’s will in daily life; Denver is now in Italy, having completed the month of the Ignatian exercises. She has decided not to enter the novitiate now and to take more time to discern God’s will; and Don Mario, also after the Ignatian month, returned to serve his diocese of Biella in Piedmont with joy, though tears filled his eyes upon departure. We thank them for their presence with us, for what they have shared with the community, and we accompany them in prayer, continuing to pray for new vocations.


Fra Jacques 

Jacques spent most of the year in Mar Musa, praying and working in the office as administrator and in hospitality. He carried out his spiritual and priestly service both at the monastery and in various parishes and religious communities in Syria and Iraq. He also participated in some meetings and activities with friends in Europe. His great commitment, however, was to carry out the agricultural work in Deir Mar Elian, the restoration of the tomb of the Saint and the chapel that contains it, the large church of the monastery tFrame2hat was destroyed by Isis in 2015, and some adjacent rooms. All this work was crowned with the reconsecration of the church and chapel through the hands of the Syrian Catholic Bishop of Damascus, H.E. Mons. Jihad Battah, a long-time friend of the Community, and the Syrian Orthodox Bishop of Homs, H.E. Mons. Matta el-Khoury. The presence of the two bishops constituted a solemn act of reconciliation of the two churches of Qaryatayn, which in the past had strong disagreements over the ownership of the Monastery itself. Many priests of the diocese of Homs and many faithful of Qaryatayn and the surroundings were present, along with many friends of the Community. At the end of the mass on 9 September, the feast day of Mar Elian, the bones of the Saint were re-deposited in the restored sarcophagus that had been destroyed in 2015. Two Christians and two Muslims from Qaryatayn carried the relics of the Saint, to everyone’s joy. It was a truly a wedding-like celebration, where the Muslim community of Qaryatayn offered lunch to all those present, more than 300 people. Today, the agricultural and restoration work continue.



Sister Houda

After a visit to Cori to meet with Italian friends and attend the doctoral defence of Jihad, Houda spent the rest of the year in Mar Musa, where she tended to daily work and the reception of guests. Sometimes she tried her hand at cooking (she is not very gifted for this) and prepared simple dishes... but only when the guests were few. She also helps Jacques in his administrative duties, auditing accounts and doing other office work. We hope that Houda can devote more time to receiving people, listening to them, and helping them spiritually.


Fra Jens

With great dedication, Jens continues to take care of the Monastery of Maryam al-Adhra (the Virgin Mary) in Iraqi Kurdistan. Together with Friederike, he carries out various projects and cultural activities. Jens faithfully performs priestly and apostolic service for the benefit of the Carmelite Indian Sisters who run the “Our Lady Mother of Mercy” rest home of the Chaldean Diocese in Sulaymaniyah, and for some displaced Iraqi Christians along with other foreigners, Asian and European, who work in Sulaymaniyah and attend the church of the Monastery. Jens is now integrated and well-liked in the Chaldean presbytery and maintains excellent relations with the dioceses of Kirkuk and Sulaymaniyah. He tries to visit Europe from time to time for community commitments, and takes the opportunity to care for his elderly aunt in Berlin.


Sister Deema

Deema went to Cori in mid-August 2021 to begin her research to obtain a doctorate in Dogmatic Theology at the Gregorian University in Rome. Recently, she completed the work on her “doctoral project”, after a long and not simple research on “Christian Martyrdom and Muslim Martyrdom. From the Dynamism of the Concept to the Possibility of Dialogue”. We await, with God’s blessing, the approval of her project. Over the summer, she returned to Mar Musa to stay in the Community, visit her family, and participate in the General Chapter. She helps Syrian students studying in Italy to enrol in courses and all that entails. At the end of September, she participated for the first time on behalf of the Community in the DIM Italy (Monastic interreligious dialogue) meeting of various Christian monks and nuns with others (for example, Buddhist) and members of different religions. She also gave an interview in L'Osservatore Romano




Fra Yausse

Yausse enthusiastically carries on his work in the candle and rosary workshop, helped by some young women in Damascus who he himself initiated in the trade by offering them an opportunity to do honest work. He also engages friends and visitors who enjoy participating in the manufacturing of candles and rosaries. Yausse helps to carry out daily hospitality activities. He is also able to cook for large groups, making main dishes following the directions given by his sister over the phone. In November, he reorganised and reopened the shop in the monastery valley, albeit at half its capacity and space.


Sister Carol

Following the solemn presentation of her topic at the PISAI in Rome, Carol perseveres in composing her doctoral thesis in Islamic studies, “God in Search of Man”, on the subject of God’s call to man in the Holy Qur’an. Her work incites great interest from her Muslim thesis supervisor, who has expressed that her precise spiritual interpretation of the Qur’an is enriching and in tune with Muslim sensibilities. In October, she participated in the meeting “Together Before God. What Place Do Muslims Have in Christian Spirituality?” organised in Frankfurt by the CIBEDO (Centre of documentation for the meeting between Christians and Muslims) of the German Bishops’ Conference. She just spent three weeks in Lebanon with her mother, who had undergone a shoulder operation, and returned to Italy on 26 December after a family Christmas. With the help of Deema, she follows the continuing restoration work at the Monastery of Ss. Salvatore.    


Sister Friederike 

Friederike supports Jens in the organisation of various activities at the Monastery in Kurdistan, following the theatrical workshop there, which also serves a therapeutic purpose. She has attended several online training courses on collective trauma to enhance her former trauma therapy formation, and has offered this service to several women and girls, helping them to process some deep wounds. She feels the need for this service in that part of the world so full of suffering, and lives it as an integral part of her monastic vocation. In Rome in January and Turin in November, Friederike participated in the presentation of the film “The Conference of the Birds” by director and friend Shahab Kermani about our Community in Iraq. Friederike continues to visit her elderly, ailing mother in Germany at least three times a year.



Fra Jihad

An important event for Jihad – and for all of us – was his being awarded a doctorate in Biblical Theology at the Gregorian University in Rome. His thesis topic is in the field of Arab Christian heritage, that is, material written by Christians in the Arabic language. The dissertation treats the eleventh century biblical commentary of Ibn aṭ-Ṭayyib, Firdaws an-Naṣrānīya, “Paradise of Christianity”, of which Jihad presented the critical edition and English translation of the unpublished commentary on Deuteronomy. While many friends were present at the defence, many more were missing, due to the limits placed due to Covid. Afterward, nonetheless, guests partook in a small agape to thank the Lord for the gift of study and scientific work for the service of the Kingdom and the society. The members of the Community present were Houda, Jens (who had suggested the topic to Jihad, in his time), Deema, Carol, and Denver (still a postulant), with the spirit of Father Paolo clearly felt in the air, both in the smiles of friends and in the bitterness over silence surrounding his fate. Jihad is very grateful to the Community that allowed him to study at a great sacrifice, to the benefactors who helped him to complete his study, to his dear friend Father Felix Körner, moderator of the thesis, and particularly to Denver, who helped him write the thesis in English. There are many people whom Jihad thanked at the defence and who are not named here. He hopes to soon publish both the extract for the University and the complete work for academic research. Amongst his other responsibilities as Abbot, this year Jihad became a member of the Advisory Board of the Bible Society Syria. An initial collaboration was the organisation of a bible study day in Damascus with Mariana Assaf, biblical scholar, fellow student of his, and friend of the Monastery – an event to be repeated and expanded.   Frame7


Monastery of Mar Musa al-Habashi - Nebek, Syria

Thank God we could finally reopen our doors to hospitality after two years of almost complete closure due to the pandemic. Many people and groups of large numbers visited the monastery, and some held 4-5 day silent retreats led by priests or also by a Zen master. In the latter case, the participants were Muslims and Christians. Individuals, both religious and lay people, have also taken discernment retreats at the monastery, which makes us grateful to God for the grace bestowed on the place.

The economic situation in Syria is dire, with the dollar plummeting to 7000 lire, as compared to the 48-50 lire rate before the war in 2010. Because of the sanctions, there is a severe shortage of all kinds of goods, and what can be found is extremely expensive and of low quality, also due to the absurd increase in taxes imposed on the few imports still possible. Gasoline, diesel (for heating, transport, and industry), and gas for cooking are commodities as rare as true friendship and as expensive as diamonds. Medicines and medical care are increasingly a luxury for the few. We ask everyone to be patient and to invoke relief and mercy from God, and also to give us a hand to face this situation – to us and the people who come to us seeking our help. 

Persevering in prayer and patience, we await the naming of the new Archbishop of our diocese of Homs-Hama-Nebek.


The Monastery Projects

Our usual projects, dear friends, move ahead thanks to God and to your economic and moral support.

The music school continues, with great commitment from all involved. 



AFrame9s usual, applications for enrolment in the al–Qalamoun Kindergartenexceed the facility’s capacity. The project for expansion, that is, the new structure (Kindergarten/Pastoral Centre), has begun again after a long hiatus caused not only by the difficulty of obtaining the funds and getting them to Syria, but also by our enormous loss with the death of Nicola Habib Nicola, our dear friend, collaborator, and the entrepreneur who directed the construction work of our projects in Nebek, already with the apartments for young and poor families started in 2008. Nicola 

lost his life on the construction site, after an unfortunate accident at work. May his soul rest in peace; we remember him with affection and gratitude. Now the work on the basic water system (salt and fresh water) and heating have been completed, and we hope to finish by the end of summer. 




Thanks to the fidelity and generosity of benefactors, may God reward them, we are able to help a part of the population with medical care, the cost of which is constantly increasing and which only the wealthy allow themselves to take on at their own expense. Any sum is insufficient to meet this need. 

We continue to help about 50 male and female students to study in the universities of Damascus and Homs, contributing towards their costs of transport, room rent, university expenses, and so on. We also continue to facilitate contacts between Syrian students and Italian universities to obtain scholarships. Many friends help us in this: professors, families, religious communities, and associations that welcome students into their homes and offer food and lodging. We thank everyone for their tremendous support for a better future for Syria and the world.Frame8 

Also this year, with your help, we have been able to provide heating assistance to about 350 households in Qaryatayn, Nebek, and other areas. This is help that we would like to offer at least two or three times in 2023.

The production of the vegetable garden of the Monastery valley was good, and our hens (purchased) increase in number. The olive grove harvest was poor this year; it is enough to ensure the annual supply of green and black olives, but not of oil. We continue to expand and reinforce the terraces of olive trees planted in steep fields, in order to make the harvesting work safe. Agriculture and care of nature are important in and of themselves; indeed, this work has a value that is human and religious, as well as environmental and aesthetic. We would like to continue with the recovery of our desert wilderness to make it usable for agricultural work and combat desertification with the importation of good soil and the planting of more olive and fruit trees. A first step has been taken, and there is so much to still do: little by little, bit by bit ...

We thank the team of our collaborators: Marwan, Hussein, Amin, Abu Riyadh, Youssef Bali, Youssef Hanna, Diab, and others who have made this possible.



After having beenFrame14 interrupted for a year, responsibility for the monastery of Mar Elian in Qaryatain has once again been entrusted to us by the new Patriarchal Administrator of the diocese of Homs, Hama, Nebek, S.E. Mons. Rami al-Kabalan. In addition to what was mentioned above, we resumed agricultural work by drawing water from the well using a photovoltaic system. We offer help to restore the homes of Christian families who would like to return to live in the city after the catastrophe of displacement. Here as well, there is a team of Christian and Muslim friends who carry the work forth with joy and zeal. We particularly recognise Abu Tawfiq, Thā'ir, and Haitham.


Monastery of San Salvatore – Cori

Finally, the restoration work in the Monastery has resumed and the work planned in both the church and rectory is in the final stages. We hope to be able to begin our usual activities again, hence: the Islamic-Christian meeting “Together with Mary for peace and coexistence” and the week of “Open Doors”, just as soon as the work is completed. This requires your organisational help, friends, especially you Italians.

We reaffirm that the fatherly solicitude for us of H.E. Mons. Mariano Crociata, Bishop of Latina, increases our conviction that God has blessed our presence there. We thank the Diocese of Latina in the person of its Ordinary for the constant help, including financial, to face the unexpected expenses of the restoration, and not this alone.  


Our gratitude to the Parish of Santa Maria della Pietà, its parishioners, parish priest, and collaborators is always great. We appreciate their warm welcome and brotherhood, for twenty years now. With the canonisation of our universal brother Charles de Foucauld at the Basilica of Saint Peter in the Vatican, our Community in Cori experienced a significant event for our vocation and sources of spirituality. Something so desired by Father Paolo, it is most certainly a reason for joy and consolation for us all.


Monastery of Maryam al-Adhra (Virgin Mary) – Sulaymaniyah

The work group that assists Jens and Friederike is increasingly efficient, and it is thanks to this team that these two members were able to come to the General Chapter meeting in Syria with peace of mind that work can carry on. Language courses (Arabic, Kurdish, and English) continue as part of the “Dangakan” (“voices” in Kurdish) initiative, with more than 1300 students enrolled over the course of 2022.

The Sabun Karan theatre group staged two productions, then presenting an encore performance of select scenes in November, the texts of which were written by director Radwan and a refugee girl, both Syrian.


Our “Forum”, a common space for intellectual reflection, continued with the “reading circles”, where various books were discussed, with the participation of many. Jens continues to update the library’s book collection for this purpose as well, particularly at the annual book fair held in Sulaymaniyah. 

Courses in collaboration with the JWL (Jesuit Worldwide Learning) continue. We would like to further enhance this possibility to benefit the many interested students (www.jwl.org).

The restoration of the church building awaits some benefactors. In the meantime, we have secured the unstable eastern wall by fortifying it with a sturdy external iron structure to avoid harm to people and to be able to continue to use the church for prayer. 

On the occasion of the first visit of Friar Jihad as abbot (his second as a monk) to Deir Maryam al-Adhra, H.E. Mons. Youssef Toma Mirkis, Archbishop of Chaldean Catholic Archeparchy of Kirkuk-Sulaymaniyah, signed an agreement with our Community, countersigned by the abbot, which confirms our commitment in his Diocese. Jihad’s visit lasted less than a month, during which time he shared the life of the monastery, saw its activities and projects, met some friends along with new staff members, and offered a lecture at the Theological Faculty of the Babel Catholic College of Theology in Ankawa, Erbil.




The Community expresses special gratitude to our friends throughout the world, especially to the Associations of Friends of Deir Mar Musa in Italy, France, and Switzerland, who accompany us with perseverance, love, and generosity, attentive to our material and moral needs. We express our gratitude to Catholic organisations, other Christian institutions, and official and non-governmental organisations that have supported us for years and are partners in the shared journey at the service of peace, justice, and the search for the common good of all humanity. 

We would like to thank you, dear friends, and thank the Lord for you. Your donations, large or small, but still generous, sent to us either through the MAGIS Foundation, which we sincerely thank for their constant support and friendship, or the associations of friends linked to us, have been fundamental to carry on “our” (yours and ours) commitment in favour of the poor, for the common good, for peace, justice, and human development, alongside the spiritual commitment of friendship with the Muslim world in the horizon of a universal fraternity amongst all men and women on earth. We would like to be able to thank you one by one, as would be right, for your fidelity and faith in Good and Beauty (a synonym for Holiness). However, due to logistical difficulties and the lack of all your addresses, this is not always possible or routine. 

Work in Syria and in neighbouring countries like Lebanon is little and underpaid, so a single job is not enough to support or start a family. For the vast majority of families, in fact, a dignified life is not even possible even if both parents work honestly. The temptation of corruption, which has now become a skill, is very strong. The “black market”, which in truth is a slave market controlled by mafia groups, has control over the situation. Therefore, the poor, the “drowned” or “damned” – to use Primo Levi’s terminology – are getting poorer and more numerous, and the rich are getting richer and fewer. The percentage of people and families who would like to leave Syria today is exorbitant.

Despite everything, we have not given up. We do not give up and we will not give up. We have offered our life to God without second thoughts. We pray unceasingly and commit ourselves to the cessation of wars. What we have suffered in the Middle East has contaminated Europe like a carcinogenic metastasis. The time has come – and has been long coming – for humanity to learn the lesson, to understand that it does not save itself, and that only love saves us. Only forgiveness heals us, and only solidarity protects us from self-destruction. Let us throw away the swords and knives, roll up our sleeves, and wield our plows, hoes, scythes, pens, studies, flutes, and guitars, to make the world better for our children. Let us have the courage to say a concrete “no” to evil, to the arms race, to weapons of mass destruction. We work to break down the walls of separation and to stretch ourselves out as bridges. We would like to faithfully guard our baptismal and monastic consecration from laziness and mediocrity, and desire to be inflamed by the Love of God and neighbour, to give witness to God, who made himself close to us for Love. Is this not Christmas?

We hope you have all had a glorious Nativity of Christ and wish you a New Year filled with peace, spiritual consolation, and joy.

The Monastic Community al-Khalil of Deir Mar Musa

         December 2022



How you can help us

You can use one of the following choices, according to your preferences, for your money transfer:


MAGIS (Italian Jesuits  Association:  https://magis.gesuiti.it/

Bank Account: 

IBAN IT61E0501803200000011016169 - SWIFT: CCRTIT2T84A

Always indicate “Mar Musa” as purpose of the money transfer.

(in Italy the tax deduction is possible if you donate through the Magis). 



Bank Account: 

IBAN: IT34 K 05387 03206 000001908336- SWIFT: BPMOIT22


Please, never mention Syria in your money transfer otherwise the donation will be blocked.


You can inform the Community (fr.jihad.youssef@gmail.com) or the “Association Amici di Deir Mar Musa” (amicideirmarmusa@gmail.com) of your donation, to permit to thank you - as we wish -in time.). 


For a specific communication related to your donation please write to: amicideirmarmusa@gmail.com