Mar Elias Monastery and the Monastic Reform

After the Lebanese congregation  met in the presence of Patriarch Youssef Dargham el Khazen and the apostolic representative Youssef el Semaani, they took a decision to separate monks and nuns living in the same monasteries. When the time came to transfer the Saint Elias Monastery nuns from Ballouneh to Mar Gerges Monastery in Kolayaat, two monks by the name of Elias el Nafoukh and Hanna Kawik refused the decision and decided to leave the monastery as a sign of protest. The decision wasn’t anonymous among all parties in the church as well and the Lebanese Congregation ended up annulling it after conflicts of interest between the Patriarch and the apostolic representative. As a result, the mixed monasteries remained as they were.


In the early 19th century, Patriarch Youhanna el Helou attempted to implement the reforms agreed on in the Lebanese Congregation meeting and went on a visit to the Keserwan monasteries to see that the reforms are put in place on 18th of October 1809. During his visit, the Patriarch paid a visit to the Ballouneh monastery and insisted that monks and nuns be separated and placed each in a different compartment. Afterwards, he appointed the priest Germanos from Chnaniir as the president of the monk order, and Sister Verossina from Dlebta on top of the nuns, and assigned tasks to different members of the monastery.


Patriarch Youhanna el Helou went on to preside another convention at the Louaize Monastery with the presence of the apostolic representative Louis Gondolfi. A new era for the Maronite church began at the time where all the previously contested reforms were agreed on again. The Patriarch stressed on the importance of separating the monks and nuns in monasteries and Mar Elias Monastery was selected as one of the 7 monasteries for nuns only. However, the implementation of these reforms never took place, which led Patriarch Helou, on the 9th of January 1819, to issue a warning to all the monasteries and their occupants, to abide by the decisions taken at the Louaize meeting or face the consequences for disobeing the church. The statement issued requested the monks of the Mar Elias Monastery in Ballouneh to move to the Mar Antonios Monastery in Bakaatit Kanaan, and the nuns present in mixed monasteries to move to one of the 7 assigned monasteries for them.  In addition to the warning raised by the Patriarch, Prince Bashir Al Chehabi II dispatched an official letter to the Maronite Bishops asking them to abide by the Louaize Congregation decisions. However all these attempts were in vain as nothing changed on the ground, at least not until Patriarch Youssef Hbeich became Patriarch and issued a firm decision, on the 25th of September 1825, to isolate the monasteries of nuns and monks, a decision which was followed up and executed by Patriarch Raji el Khazen who succeeded to Hbeich.



The Monastery: Property of el Khazen

A committe was formed out of the Louaize congregation including the resigned Patriarch Youssef el Tayyab, the Apostolic representative Louis Gandalfi and Bishop Youhanna Maroun el Adm to study the lawsuits raised against the family-owned properties. The committe studied in length the Mar Elias Monastery case in Ballouneh and its surrouding lands and ordered that it be given rightfully to Sheikh Chayban el Khazen and his sons. The official papers were handed to Cheikh Chaiban in 1818.


If you missed the first part, click [Here].