St John of Damascus Institute of Theology


History


   The name of the St John of Damascus Institute of Theology is connected with the famous Balamand Monastery of the Dormition of Our Lady the Virgin Mary.

St John of Damascus Institute of Theology
 Dean: Rev. Father Porphyrios Georgi
Postal Address: St John of Damascus Institute of Theology, P.O Box 100, Tripoli, Lebanon
 Tel: +961 6 930 305
Fax: +961 6 930 304
E-mail: theology@balamand.edu.lb
WebSite: theology.balamand.edu.lb


   The Institute is the culmination of endeavors taken in the field of religious education in the monastery. In 1832, Archimandrite Athanasius Kasir of Damascus established the first clerical school at the Balamand, under the auspices of the Antiochian Patriarch METHODIUS, and in response to the needs of the Antiochian Church. However it was not long before the school closed, in 1840. During the years it was open, Arabic, Ecclesiastical Music, Greek, Dogmatics, and Practical Ethics were taught. The school reopened after the election of Patriarch MALATIUS II (Dumani). The new Patriarch commissioned the bishop of Tripoli, GREGORIUS (Haddad), who was later elected patriarch, to supervise it. Mr. Ghattas Kandalaft was appointed headmaster. Many teachers, reknown for their culture and piety, taught in the school. The most prominent of them were Jirjis Hammam, Najeeb Mishriq, Jirji Shaheen Atiyah and Dahir Khayrallah. Subjects taught during that period were Arabic, Greek, Russian, Turkish, Mathematics, Geography, History, Science, Exegesis, Homiletics, Ecclesiastical Music, and Rhetoric.

   The school closed again at the outbreak of World War I in 1914, but resumed its activities minimally in the interwar period, until it was renovated following the election of Patriarch ALEXANDROS III (Tahhan). In 1962, Patriarch THEODOSIUS VI (Abu Rjayly) entrusted Bishop IGNATIUS (Hazim) (Patriarch IGNATIUS IV of Thrice Blessed memory), to administer the school. The standard of education was improved and the students, whose numbers had doubled, were eligible for the Lebanese Baccalaureate Part II.

   The need for a theological institute to meet university standards was widely felt, in order to promote the training of clergy, teachers, and religious educators. Metropolitan ANTONY (Bashir) of blessed memory, the head of the Antiochian Archdiocese of North America, assumed the responsibility of enabling his Mother Church to establish a higher institute of theology, a thousand years after the closure of the first school of Antioch. In 1965, during the general convention of the Archdiocese of New York and North America, it was decided to establish an institute of theology on the hill of the Balamand, which occupied a privileged place in the heart of every Antiochian Orthodox. A Board of Trustees was constituted with the following members: Metropolitan ANTONY of New York and North America, Metropolitan BOULUS (Khoury) of Tyre and Sidon, Metropolitan IGNATIUS (Huraykah) of Hama, Metropolitan Elias (Muawad) of Aleppo, Metropolitan ELIAS (Qurban) of Tripoli, Bishop IGNATIUS (Hazim) (Patriarch IGNATIUS IV of Thrice Blessed memory), Dr. Constatine Zurayq, Mr. Albert Lahham, Mr. Anis Shubat, Mr. Raymond Rizk, Mr. Andre Geha, Dr. Iskandar Basheer, Mr. Nicholas Khayr, Dr. Munir Atiyah and Mr. Alexis Butros. After the death of Metropolitan ANTONY (Bashir), his successor, Metropolitan PHILIP (Saliba) was appointed to the Board, and upon the death of Metropolitan IGNATIUS (Huraykah) of Hama, Metropolitan GEORGE (Khodr) of Byblos and Botrys replaced him on the Board.

   On August 10, 1966, the Antiochian Holy Synod decided to lay the corner stone of the Institute. This was done by Patriarch THEODOSIUS VI of Thrice Blessed memory on August 15. Metropolitan PHILIP pledged to carry out the will of his predecessor, and complete the construction of the Institute. After the election of Patriarch ELIAS IV, the Board of Trustees was made up of the following members: Metropolitan ELIAS (Qurban) of Tripoli, Metropolitan IGNATIUS (Hazim) of Lattakia, Metropolitan GEORGE (Khodr) of Byblos and Botrys, Mr. Munir Berbari, Mr. Kamal Rafqa, Mr. Anis Shubat, Dr. Karim Azkoul, Prof. Raymond Ghusn, Dr. Lutfallah Milki, Dr. Costy Bendaly, Mr. Ghassan Tueini, Dr. Constantine Zurayq, Dr. Munir Atiyah, Mr. Albert Lahham and Mr. Adib Nassur.

   The Institute was established in 1970 under the leadership of Metropolitan IGNATIUS of Lattakia (Patriarch IGNATIUS IV of Thrice Blessed memory). On October 7, 1971, it was officially inaugurated by Patriarch ELIAS IV in the presence of Mr. Suleiman Franjieh, the President of Lebanon, members of the Holy Synod, government officials, and a large number of Orthodox faithful.

   During the academic year of 1972-1973 the Dean of the Institute was Archimandrite PANTELEIMON (Rodopoulos) (Later Metropolitan of Tiroleyi and Siranpion), professor of Canon Law at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece. A commencement for the first graduates of the Institute was held on the feast day of the Patron Saint of the Institute in 1974. On February 26, 1975, the President of the Lebanese Republic issued Decree No. 9764 licensing the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and all the East, to establish an Institute of Higher Learning in Orthodox Theology at the Balamand. However, the outbreak of the war in Lebanon forced the administration to transfer its students to Thessaloniki to complete their studies.


   In the year 1978, a Synodal Commission was appointed to supervise the Institute. It consisted of Metropolitans ELIAS (Qurban) of Tripoli, ALEXIS (Abdulkarim) of Homs and GEORGE (Khodr) of Byblos and Botrys. Deacon Michel Kyriacos (now Metropolitan of Tripoli and El Koura) was appointed director. In 1980, Fr. Michel Najm became Dean of the Institute. On March 8, 1984, during the meeting of the Holy Synod in the Institute itself, a new Synodal Commission was formed. It was comprised of Metropolitan CONSTANTINE (Papastephanou) of Baghdad, Metropolitan ELIAS (Audeh) of Beirut, and Metropolitan BOULOS (Bendaly) of Akkar. In 1986, Metropolitan CONSTANTINE (Papastephanou) took upon himself the administration of the Institute. In the academic year 1987-1988, Archimandrite JOHN (Yazigi) (now His Beatitude Patriarch JOHN X), became Dean of the Institute. On June 4, 1988, and by virtue of the Decree No. 4885 issued by the President of the Lebanese Republic, the St John of Damascus Institute of Theology became one of the three faculties, which constituted the University of Balamand.

   After it became one of the most important faculties of the University of Balamand, the responsibilities of the dean were assumed by Bishop GEORGE (Abou Zakhm) (now Metropolitan of Homs), later by Archimandrite PAUL (Yazigi) (now Metropolitan of Aleppo), then Bishop JOHN (Yazigi) (now His Beatitude Patriarch JOHN X) for a second term. Then, from 2005 to 2010, Dr. Georges Nahas, vice-president of the University of Balamand, was the dean, followed by Bishop GHATTAS (Hazim) from October 2010 till September 2013. Then, Fr. Porphyrios (Georgi) was appointed Dean.

   The Institute is distinguished by being an integral part of the University of Balamand, and by its worldwide academic presence through its competent participation in forums and conferences. In addition, the Institute is open to its wider environment through its effective presence in the local Antiochian communities and abroad. It strives to preserve its characteristic as a milieu for the revival of the Antiochian heritage, education, theological teaching, and research in the East.