Thursday, January 24, 2008

Testament of Cardinal Mercier

In order to unite with one another, we must love one another;
in order to love one another, we must know one another;
in order to know one another, we must go and meet one another.

These words, known as the "Testament of Cardinal Mercier," are the impetus for the annual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.

Christians around the world were preparing for the last one week - called the annual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity which ends today.

The main biblical text for this year's event is 1 Thessalonians 5: 17: "Pray without ceasing", which stresses the essential role of prayer within the life of the Christian community as its members grow in their relationship to Christ and to one another.
This year marks the 100th anniversary of the inauguration of the week of Prayer for Christian Unity. A hundred years ago, Father Paul Wattson, an Episcopal (Anglican) priest and co-founder of the Society of the Atonement at Graymoor (Garrison, New York), introduced a Prayer Octave for Christian Unity that was first celebrated from 18 to 25 January 1908.
The meditations for the eight days in this year's material for the week of prayer build on the notion that prayer for Christian unity, spiritual ecumenism, is foundational to all other aspects of the search for unity among Christians.

The journey of promoting Christian Unity central to Christian identity and the pastoral priorities of the Catholic Church are rooted in our faith in Jesus Christ and the zeal for the Church and it's unity.

For this very reason, ecumenism is not just some sort of "appendix" that is added to the Church's traditional activity. Rather ecumenism is an organic part of her life and work, and consequently must pervade all that she is and does.

Many leaders of Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox churches further encourage their faithful to pray for unity and describe work towards this is the work of the Holy Spirit.
"Every time the baptized come together to pray, it is the Spirit who guides them and teaches them how to pray. It is the same Spirit who builds the Church's unity. It is the Holy Spirit dwelling in those who believe, rewarding and ruling over the entire Church, who brings about the marvelous communion of those who believe, and joins them so intimately together in Christ that he is the principle of the Church unity." Says communities and pastoral collaborators the christian Unity is the work of the Holy Spirit.

But unity is also a journey made by the Christian to embrace the other. In an appeal Bishop Philip Anyolo of Homa Bay in Africa, who works hard for Christian unity says "individual Christians, and where it is possible and opportune in you local groups and communities, to meet each other in prayer through a healing of some memories of division and rivalry, and to inspire each other to grow in even grater fidelity to Christ and to the Gospel."

CHRISTIAN UNITY: Archimandrite Paul Irénée Couturier

Paul CouturierArchimandrite Paul Irénée Couturier lived from 1881 to 1953. He was a French priest and worker for Christian Unity. He was educated at Lyons,ordained priest in 1906 and, after spending three years studying science, he joined the staff of the Institut des Chartreux at Lyon where he remained until 1951.
During the 1920s he came in touch with the Russian refugees in the area and learned much of their spiritual background. In 1932 when he was staying at the Priory of Amay-sur-Meuse (which moved to Chevetogne in 1936) an introduction to the work of Cardinal Mercier aroused his interest in the ecumenical movement. The following year he introduced a Triduum (or three days of prayer) for Christian Unity at Lyon, followed in 1934 by an Octave of Prayer from 18th to 25th January - from the feast of St Peter's Chair at Rome to the feast of the Conversion of St Paul. This was a development of the Church Unity Octave founded by two Anglicans in 1908, but from the first prayer was specifically offered for the unity of all baptised Christians "according to Christ's will, according to his means". Orthodox and other religious bodies as well as Anglicans were included. From 1939 the Octave was observed as the "Week of Universal Prayer". He also arranged interdenominational meetings at the monastery of La Trappe des Dombes and at Présinge. He engaged in a vast correspondence in connection with his ecumenical work, produced and distributed innumerable tracts on prayer for unity and was in close touch with the early leaders of the World Council of Churches.
In 1952 he was given the title of honorary Archimandrite by the Melkite Patriarch of Antioch, Maximus IV.

Conversion of St. Paul

An encounter with Christ

Paul’s entire life can be explained in terms of one experience—his meeting with Jesus on the road to Damascus. In an instant, he saw that all the zeal of his dynamic personality was being wasted, like the strength of a boxer swinging wildly. Perhaps he had never seen Jesus, who was only a few years older. But he had acquired a zealot’s hatred of all Jesus stood for, as he began to harass the Church: “...entering house after house and dragging out men and women, he handed them over for imprisonment” (Acts 8:3b). Now he himself was “entered,” possessed, all his energy harnessed to one goal—being a slave of Christ in the ministry of reconciliation, an instrument to help others experience the one Savior.
One sentence determined his theology: “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting” (Acts 9:5b). Jesus was mysteriously identified with people—the loving group of people Saul had been running down like criminals. Jesus, he saw, was the mysterious fulfillment of all he had been blindly pursuing.
From then on, his only work was to “present everyone perfect in Christ. For this I labor and struggle, in accord with the exercise of his power working within me” (Colossians 1:28b-29). “For our gospel did not come to you in word alone, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and [with] much conviction” (1 Thessalonians 1:5a).
Paul’s life became a tireless proclaiming and living out of the message of the cross: Christians die baptismally to sin and are buried with Christ; they are dead to all that is sinful and unredeemed in the world. They are made into a new creation, already sharing Christ’s victory and someday to rise from the dead like him. Through this risen Christ the Father pours out the Spirit on them, making them completely new.
So Paul’s great message to the world was: You are saved entirely by God, not by anything you can do. Saving faith is the gift of total, free, personal and loving commitment to Christ, a commitment that then bears fruit in more “works” than the Law could ever contemplate.

Paul is undoubtedly hard to understand. His style often reflects the rabbinical style of argument of his day, and often his thought skips on mountaintops while we plod below. But perhaps our problems are accentuated by the fact that so many beautiful jewels have become part of the everyday coin in our Christian language (see quote, below).

“Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, [love] is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7).

Acknowledgement: Saint of the Day

New Appointments of Priests in the Archdiocese of Colombo

We are giving the list of new appointments in the Archdiocese of Colombo. We request the Prayer Group Leaders of those parishes in which we operate to meet the newly appointed Rev. Fathers and offer your cooperation and assure our obedience. This is copied from the official website of the Archdiocese.

Stanis Devotta

His Grace the Archbishop Most Rev. Dr. Oswald Gomis, the Archbishop of Colombo has made the following appointments on 12th January 2008 and all the appointments will be effective from 01st February 2008.

Newly Appointed Parish Priests

Parishes / Shrines

Rev. Fr. Ananda Claude OMI
Rev. Fr. Ronnie Wickramasinghe
Rev. Fr. Ranjan silva
Rev. Fr. Camillus Fernando
Rev. Fr. Don Anacletus
Rev. Fr. Lester Nonis
Rev. Fr. Leo Perera
Rev. Fr. Kingsley Ivan Appuhamy
Hultsdorf, Colombo 12
Rev. Fr. Prakash Fernando
Rev. Fr. Shantha Sagara Hettiarachchi
Rev. Fr. Jude Nicholas
Rev. Fr. Maurice Namal Fernando
Rev. Fr. Merril Wijesinghe
Kandana - Administrator
Rev. Fr. Mahendra Gunatillake
Rev. Fr. Nicholas Batepola
Rev. Fr. Dinesh Fernando (senior)
Rev. Fr. Samantha Kurera
Rev. Fr. Samantha Fernandopulle
Rev. Fr. Srikantha Fernando
Kerawalapitiya - Resident
Rev. Fr. John Hettiarachchi
Rev. Fr. Ruwandana Mendis
Rev. Fr. Manokumaran Nagaratnam
Rev. Fr. Bernard Nishan Wilathgamuwa
Rev. Fr. Leo Camillus
Rev. Fr. Jude Denzil Lakshman
Rev. Fr. Prasad Ponnamperuma
Rev. Fr. Tharanga Sampath Perera
Rev. Fr. Ananda Fernandopulle
Rev. Fr. Lawrence Jayatillake OMI
Mutuwal - St. James'
Rev. Fr. Ernest De Mel
Rev. Fr. Ried Shelton
Rev. Fr. Maximus Rodrigopulle
Rev. Fr. Basil Nicholas
Rev. Fr. Gyom Nonis
Rev. Fr. Lester Wijesuriya
Rev. Fr. Anton Jayalath Fernando
Rev. Fr. Rohan De Soyza
Rev. Fr. Athanesius Samarasinghe
Rev. Fr. Cecil Kumar
Rev. Fr. Ivan Gladwin Pietersz
Rev. Fr. Srilal Fonseka
Rev. Fr. Elmo Raj
Rev. Fr. Ruwan Ried Liyanage
Rev. Fr. Peter Chryshanthus Fernando OMI
Rev. Fr. Christopher Madurawela OMI

Appointments to the Institutions / Colleges / Chaplancies


St. Aloysius' Seminary
Rev. Fr. Anton Saman Hettiarachchi

Rev. Fr. Hemantha Udayakumara Perera

Rev. Fr. Deninton Nicholas Subasinghe

Rev. Fr. Malcolm Candappa -Bursar & Staff Member

National Seminary - Theology Dept.
Rev. Fr. Quintus Fernando

Daham Sevana - Pre Philosophate Seminary
Rev. Fr. Shelton Dias

Blessed Joseph Vaz Deva Dharma Nikethanaya [ Sinhala / Tamil Theologate ] Vice Rector
Rev. Fr. Lalith Felix Perera [ Additional responsibility to the present appointment ]


St. Joseph's College, Colombo 10
Rev. Fr. Nilantha Ediriwickrame

Rev. Fr. Dinesh Keerthisinghe

St. Peter's College - Bambalapitiya, Colombo 04
Rev. Fr. Edmund Tillakaratne

Rev. Fr. Anton Ranjith (senior)

Rev. Fr. Shamira Nirosh Cooray

Rev. Fr. Arunodha Perera

St. Peter's College Branch - Gampaha & Udugampola
Rev. Fr. Suranga Niroshan Fonseka

St. Sebastian's College, Moratuwa
Fr. Manoranjan De Silva

Loyola College, Negombo
Rev. Fr. Ruwan Deshapriya

Rev. Fr. Chryshantha Kumara


Assistants to the Apostolates - additional responsibilities to the present appointment

Archdiocesan Director - Catechetics - Tamil Medium
Rev. Fr. Ignatius Warnakulasingham
Coordinator for Fishermen in Negombo Region
Rev. Fr. Lester Nonis
Coordinator for Fishermen in Colombo Region
Rev. Fr. Xyxtus Kurukulasuriya
Coordinator for Fishermen in Kalutara Region
Rev. Fr. Lester Wijesuriya

Assistants to the Archdiocesan Education Office
Rev. Fr. Nilantha Heshan Fernando

Rev. Fr. Lakmin Prasanga Silva

Assistant to the Media Apostolate
Rev. Fr. Linton Joseph Fernando

Assistant to the Liturgy
Rev. Fr. Prasad Ponnamperuma

Assistants to the Holy Childhood (PMS) -
1.Rev. Fr. Prasanna Rohan

2.Rev. Fr. Nirmal Malaka Silva

Assistants to the ASIPA
1. Rev. Fr. Shelton Dias

2. Rev. Fr. Manjura Niroshan

Assistants to the Youth Apostolate
1. Rev. Fr. Jude Chryshantha Fernando

2. Rev. Fr. Chinthaka Perera

Assistant to Cursilo
Rev. Fr. Kalana Inshara Peiris
Additional responsibilities to the present appointment

Assistant Editor - " MESSENGER "
Rev. Fr. Rohan De Zoyza
Assistant Editor - " Gnartha Pradeepaya "
Rev. Fr. Hemantha Udayakumara Perera

Rev. Fr. Neil Karunaratne CSsR
Poor Clare's Convent - Tewatta
Rev. Fr. Bensiri Perera - Resident at Piya Sevana
Universities - Colombo University and Open University
Rev. Fr. Edmund Tilakeratne
World Apostolate of Fatima [ Blue Army ]
Rev. Fr. Jude Nicholas
Rev. Fr. Jude Denzil Lakshman
Colombo General Hospital
Rev. Fr. Leslie Sujith OMI
Ragama Hospital Chaplain
Rev. Fr. Geethali Annesly
Holy Cross Convent Chaplain
Rev. Fr. Canicius Moraes OMI
Melville Convent Chaplain
Rev. Fr. Raymond Kurugama

Archdiocesan Estates
Rev. Fr. Victor Jayamanne - In charge

Rev. Fr. Srinath Manoj Perera - Assistant
Appointments of the Assistant Parish Priests

Assistant Parish Priests
Rev. Fr. Anura Sri Kamal
Rev. Fr. Noel Sampath Perera
Rev. Fr. Thusith Pradeep Fernando
Rev. Fr. Sumith Roshan Rodrigo
Rev. Fr. Ishan Prameena
Rev. Fr. Sudham Perera
Rev. Fr. Manjula Niroshan Fernando
Rev. Fr. Geethali Annesley
Rev. Fr. Roshan Prasad Fernando
Rev. Fr. Vincent A. Ashley
Sea Street
Rev. Fr. Anthony Fernando TOR
Rev. Fr. Fr. Shan Dassanayake
Rev. Fr. Felician Ferdinandez
Kochchikade - Col.13
Rev. Fr. Deshan Lasantha
Rev. Fr. Shihan Indika


Rev. Fr. Claude Martinus Wanasinghe
Assistant Parish Priest - Dehiwala
Rev. Fr. Manoranjan De Silva
Staff Member - St. Sebastian's College, Moratuwa
Rev. Fr. Malcolm Candappa
Staff Member - St. Aloysius' Seminary, Colombo 08
Rev. Fr. Arunodha Perera
Staff Member - St. Peter's College, Colombo 04
Rev. Fr. Sisira Samarakoon
Assistant Parish Priest - Pitipana
Rev. Fr. Suranga Fernando
Assistant Parish Priest - Dalupotha
Rev. Fr. Sudath Hemantha Fernando
Staff Member - St.Sebastian's Shrine Kandana & Teaching
Rev. Fr. Prageeth Dishan
Assistant Parish Priest - Hanwella
Rev. Fr. Sampath Thushara
Assistant Parish Priest - Kotugoda
Rev. Fr. Ranmal Sewwanda
Assistant Parish Priest - Thillanduwa and Teaching
Rev. Fr. Dinesh Keerthisinghe
Staff Member - St. Joseph's College, Colombo 10
Rev. Fr. Anthony Lukshman
Assistant Parish Priest - Katuwapitiya
Rev. Fr. Kalana Inshara Peiris
Assistant Parish Priest - Wattala
Rev. Fr. Naleen Niroshan
Assistant Parish Priest - Kimbulapitiya
Rev. Fr. Prageeth Chamara
Assistant Parish Priest - Nayakakanda
Rev. Fr. Nilantha Ediriwickrame
Staff Member - St. Joseph's College, Colombo 10
Rev. Fr. Suranga Niroshan Fonseka
Staff Member - St.Peter's College Branch Gampaha & Udugampola
Rev. Fr. Prasad Harshan
Assistant Parish Priest - Borella - All Saints
Rev. Fr. Ruwan Deshapriya
Staff Member - Loyola College, Negombo
Rev. Fr. Clarence Dilran Peiris
Assistant Parish Priest - Grand Street - Negombo
Rev. Fr. Rasika Lawrence
Assistant Parish Priest - Moratuwa
New Deans
Rev. Fr. Nicholas Batepola
Dean of Tudella
Rev. Fr. Sam Quintus
Dean of Ragama
Rev. Fr. Noel Nonis
Dean of Katana
Rev. Fr. Bob Rodrigo O.M.I.
Dean of Colombo South
Rev. Fr. Maxwell Silva
Dean of Kotte
Rev. Fr. Julian Tissera
Dean of Kalutara
Rev. Fr. Merl Mendis O.M.I.
Dean of Gurubewila
Rev. Fr. Ruben Leslie Silva
Dean of Gampaha

Damascus, the Scene of Conversion

Damascus is the capital of Syria. It is among the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. In Arabic, it is called Dimashq ash-Shām. It lies about 80 km inland from the Mediterranean Sea, sheltered by the Anti-Lebanon Mountains. It lies on a plateau 680 meters above sea-level.The old city of Damascus, enclosed by the city walls, lies on the south bank of the river Barada. To the south-east, north and north-east it is surrounded by suburban areas whose history stretches back to the Middle Ages
Ananias Chapel
Excavations at Tell Ramad on the outskirts of the city have demonstrated that Damascus has been inhabited as early as 8000 to 10,000 BC. It is due to this that Damascus is considered to be among the oldest continually inhabited cities in the world. It was mentioned in Genesis 14 as existing at the time of the War of the Kings.
According to the 1st century Jewish historian Flavius Josephus in his twenty-one volume Antiquities of the Jews, Damascus (along with Trachonitis), was founded by Uz, the son of Aram.
Damascus is designated as having been part of the ancient province of Amurru in the Hyksos Kingdom, from 1720 to 1570 BC. Later , it fell to the Neo-Babylonian Empire of Nebuchadnezzar starting in 572 BC. The Babylonian rule came to an end in 538 BC when the Persians under Cyrus captured the city and made it the capital of the Persian province of Syria.
Damascus first came under western control with the giant campaign of Alexander the Great that swept through the near east. After the death of Alexander in 323 BC, Damascus became the site of a struggle between the Seleucid and Ptolemaic empires. The control of the city passed frequently from one empire to the other. Seleucus Nicator, one of Alexander's generals, had made Antioch the capital of his vast empire, a decision that led Damascus' importance to decline compared with the newly founded Seleucid cities such as Latakia in the north.
In 64 BC, the Roman general Pompey annexed the western part of Syria. They occupied Damascus and subsequently incorporated it into the league of ten cities known as the Decapolis because it was considered such an important center of Greco-Roman culture. According to the New Testament, St. Paul was on the road to Damascus when he received a vision, was struck blind and as a result converted to Christianity. In the year 37, Roman Emperor Caligula transferred Damascus into Nabataean control by decree. The Nabataean king Aretas IV Philopatris ruled Damascus from his capital Petra. However, around the year 106, Nabataea was conquered by the Romans, and Damascus returned to Roman control. In the course of history, the Islamised Arabs took over the city with Caliphs gaining control of it in 970. this resulted in a slow transformation from Graeco-Roman city layout to Islamic pattern.
In early 1516, the Ottoman Turks, took over the city and the sultan ordered the construction of a mosque, taqiyya and mausoleum at the shrine of Shaikh Muhi al-Din ibn Arabi in Salihiyya..The Ottomans remained for the next 400 years.
Perhaps the most notorious incident of these centuries was the massacre of Christians in 1860, when fighting between Druze (most probably supported by foreign countries to weaken the economical power) and Maronites in Mount Lebanon spilled over into the city. Some thousands of Christians were killed, with many more being saved through the intervention of the Algerian exile Abd al-Qadir and his soldiers, who brought them to safety in Abd al-Qadir's residence and the citadel. The Christian quarter of the old city, including a number of churches, was burnt down. The Christian inhabitants of the notoriously poor and refractory Midan district outside the walls were, however, protected by their Muslim neighbours.
Damascus has a wealth of historical sites dating back to many different periods of the city's history. Since the city has been built up with every passing occupation, it has become almost impossible to excavate all the ruins of Damascus that lie up to 8 feet below the modern level. The Citadel of Damascus is located in the northwest corner of the Old City. The street called straight (referred to in the conversion of St. Paul in Acts 9:11), also known as the Via Recta, was the decumanus (East-West main street) of Roman Damascus, and extended for over 1500 meters. Today, it consists of the street of Bab Sharqi and the Souk Medhat Pasha, a covered market. The Bab Sharqi street is filled with small shops and leads to the old Christian quarter of Bab Touma (St. Thomas's Gate). Souq Medhat Pasha is also a main market in Damascus and was named after Medhat Pasha, the Ottoman governor of Damascus who renovated the Souq. At the end of the Bab Sharqi street, one reaches the House of Ananias, an underground chapel that was the cellar of Ananias's house.
The Umayyad Mosque, also known as the Grand Mosque of Damascus, is one of the largest mosques in the world, and one of the oldest sites of continuous prayer since the rise of Islam. A shrine in the mosque is said to contain the head of John the Baptist.

Catholic Lay Association launched in Colombo

Catholic National Association of the Laity inaugurated

The Catholic National Association of the Laity launched by the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Sri Lanka as a wider representative body of laity on the national level, was officially inaugurated at Lankarama, the Catholic Bishops' Secretariat on Sunday, the 13th of January with a solemn Concelebrated Eucharist presided over by His Grace the Most Rev. Oswald Gomis, the Archbishop of Colombo. Among the concelebrants were: Rt. Rev. Dr. Vianney Fernando, the President of the Bishops' Conference, Rt. Rev. Dr. Winston Fernando SSS, Chairman of the National Commission for the Laity, Rt. Rev. Dr. Kingsley Swampillai, the Co-Chairman of the National Commission for the Laity and Rev. Fr. Leopold Ratnasekera OMI, the Moderator of CNAL. The CNAL is composed of forty members at present.
In his homily, Bishop Winston Fernando dwelt on the vocation of the laity springing from the sacraments of baptism, confirmation and also Matrimony in their special call to witness to Christ and make the Church present in the world. They must promote the sense of Truth and Right. It is the vocation of the lay person to act in the heart of the world in order to make the values of the Gospel permeate its structures and movements. This is made possible through learning to dialogue with the social realities. We are called to live in a particular socio-cultural context but our mission is to all. The Feast of the Baptism of Christ helps to see in a better light their own immersion in mission entrusted to them by the Lord as lay faithful and thus commit themselves to spread the spirit of the Gospel in the society at large.
The Eucharist was followed by the Inauguration ceremony with the lighting of the traditional oil-lamp in which all the bishops and a diocesan representative each participated. In the inaugural word of welcome, His Lordship Rt. Rev. Dr. Vianney Fernando, President of the Bishops' Conference welcomed the new members of the CNAL and thanked them for their willingness to serve in this national lay-body which is called to represent the Church in the lay world, specially in matters of importance relating to Church's stand on important socio-cultural and national questions and to be the voice of the Church in these matters. His Lordship traced how the lay apostolate has grown since Vatican II and through the Synod on the Laity and how new relevant expressions have to be found for the involvement of today's laity within the Church as communion. Laity take up areas of evangelization not open to the clergy and religious. Their own competence and expertise in the various fields of their engagement will stand in good stead to make them effective workers in the vineyard of the Lord. The confidence that the respective bishops have placed in them through their nomination would be added strength in their task.
His Grace and Bishop Kingsley Swampillai also addressed words of exhortation to the assembly. His Grace observed that the Church in Sri Lanka is very much Sri Lankan contrary to certain misrepresentations of history, making it look foreign in the eyes of the people. Catholics have participated in the struggle for independence and the Church is very much active in education and the social upliftment of the people. It is not Christianity that should incur the blame for the country falling into the foreign powers but the division among the Sri Lankans themselves that often led to the country falling into foreign powers. The Church will continue to work for the betterment of the country also in the future. To deal with matters pertinent to the Church's mission in the country, the bishops have chosen a team of eminent men and women for membership of the national association. While appreciating their loyalty, the bishops have also taken them into their confidence. Bishop Kingsley Swampillai exhorted the assembly to be inspired by the love of Christ in order to take his message to the world. The laity will have an enormous patrimony of the Church's tested wisdom for guidance in their future work. The constitution was presented and the Office-Bearers were elected. The Inaugural Meeting was followed by lunch.

Tarsus, the birthplace of Paul

From the Catholic Charismatic Renewal at St. Lucia’s Cathedral, Colombo 13.

Wednesday, 23rd January 2008


Tarsus is a city and a large district in Mersin Province, Turkey, 15 km from Mersin and near Adana. With a history going back 7,000 years Tarsus has long been an important stop for traders to the Orient, a focal point of many civilisations including the Ancient Romans when Tarsus was capital of the province of Cilicia, scene of the romance between Mark Antony and Cleopatra and birthplace of Saint Paul.
Tarsus has a long history of commerce and is still a commercial centre today, trading , refining and processing that produce for export. Agriculture is an important source of income, half of the land area of district is farmland (1,050 km²) and most of the remainder is forest and orchard.
In historical times, the city was first ruled by the Hittites, Assyria and then the Persian Empire. Tarsos was the seat of a Persian satrapy from 400 BC onward. Indeed Xenophon records that in 401 BC, when Cyrus the Younger marched against Babylon, the city was governed by King Syennesis in the name of the Persian monarch.
Alexander the Great came through with his armies in 333 BC and came near meeting his death here after a bath in the Cydnus. By this time Tarsus was already Greek, and as part of the Seleucid Empire became more and more Hellenized; Strabo praises the cultural level of Tarsus in this period with its philosophers, poets and linguists. The schools of Tarsos rivalled Athens and Alexandria. 2 Maccabees (4:30) records its revolt in about 171 BC against Antiochus IV Epiphanes, who had renamed the town Antiochia on the Cydnus. In his time the library of Tarsus held 200,000 books, a huge collection of scientific works.
Pompey subjected it to Rome and Tarsus became capital of the Roman province of Cilicia the metropolis where the governor resided. To flatter Julius Caesar, it took the name Juliopolis; it was here that Cleopatra and Mark Antony met, the scene of the celebrated feasts they gave during the construction of their fleet. In 66 BC, the inhabitants received Roman citizenship.
Tarsus was the birthplace of Saint Paul (Acts 9:11; 21:39; 22:3), who took refuge here after his conversion (Acts 9:30), and was joined by Barnabas (Acts 11:25). It is probable that at the time a Christian community was already established, although the first bishop, Helenus, dates only from the third century.
Owing to the importance of Tarsus, many martyrs were put to death here, among them being Saint Pelagia, Saint Boniface, Saint Marinus, Saint Diomedus, Saint Quiricus and Saint Julitta.
At about the end of the tenth century, the Armenians established a diocese of their rite, which still exists; Saint Nerses of Lambroun was its most distinguished representative in the twelfth century.
A cave in Tarsus is one of a number of places claiming to be the location of the legend of the Seven Sleepers, common to Christianity and Islam.
The Tarsus region was annexed by the Forces of Rashidun Caliphate under the command of Khalid ibn Walid in the 637, retaining it until 965, when Nicephorus Phocas returned it to the Byzantine Empire for nearly a century. The area was lost to the Seljuk Turks, recaptured in 1097 during the Crusades and then disputed between Latins, Greeks, and Armenians of the Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia (Kingdom of Lesser Armenia); these last became definitively masters until about 1360, when it was captured by the Ramazanoğlu Turks. Finally the area was brought under the control of the Ottomans by Selim I in 1517.
In the Middle Ages Tarsus was renowned throughout the Middle East, a number of Arab writers praised it as a beautiful and well-defended city. In 1671 the traveller Evliya Çelebi records "a city on the plain, an hour from the sea, surrounded by strong walls two-storeys high, moated on all sides, with three distinct neighbourhoods inside the walls".
Tarsus was captured from the Ottomans in 1832 by the Mamluks of Ibrahim Pasha of Egypt, son of Muhammad Ali, and for 8 years remained in the hands of the Egyptians, who began growing cotton on the surrounding plain. Upon the return of the Ottomans this cotton drove a substantial growth in the economy of the area.
However after being a port for 3,000 years at the end of the 19th century due to neglect, Tarsus no longer had access to the sea, and the delta became a swamp. At this point Tarsus was a typical Ottoman city with communities of Muslim Turks and Christian Greeks and Armenians. At the founding of the Turkish Republic in the 1920s the swamp was drained, the River Berdan was dammed to build Turkey's first hydro-electric power station, and irrigation, roadworks and a railway brought the economy of Tarsus back to life, with new factories, particularly producing textiles.