Syriac studies began with Moses of Mardin visiting Vienna in 1555 where he taught the Syriac language to Western scholars and had the first Syriac Bible printed. At the university of Salzburg, (est. 1662), scholars have worked on Syriac and Oriental Christianity since the 1850’s. This lead to the establishment of the “Department for Eastern Christianity” of the International Forshchungszentrum (IFZ) in 1961, today’s ZECO “Zentrum zur Erforschung des Christlichen Ostens”.
Agreement between Pope John Paul II and Patriarch Ignatius Zakka
“Bishops are encouraged to promote sharing of facilities for theological education”, common declaration between Pope John Paul II and H.H. Mor Ignatius Zakka I, 23.6.1984.
An official agreement between Pope John Paul II and Patriarch Ignatius Zakka I encouraged collaboration in the field of theological education between the Catholic and Syrian Orthodox churches.
Establishment of Pro Oriente, Salzburg
In 1985 Pro Oriente established a branch in Salzburg. In 1988 the Syriac Orthodox church was officially recognised in Austria. In 1989 Initiativer Christlicher Orient (ICO), was established as “Friends of Tur Abdin” in Linz, which holds its annual meetings in Salzburg.
Syriac Theology in Salzburg
Dr. Aho Shemunkasho begun working with Prof. Friedrich Reiterer on Ben Sira. In 2005 Prof. Dietmar W. Winkler became professor for ecclesiastical history and patristic studies, with a focus on oriental Christianity. A year later with Dr. Aho Shemunkasho’s appointment as assistant professor, the vision for a dedicated study of Syriac theology came to Salzburg.
The project to establish Syriac studies was drafted in discussion with Mor Gregorias Yohanna Ibrahim, (Archbishop of Damascus) and Mor Polycarpus, Dr Augin Aydin, (Archbishop of the Netherlands), among others, and was presented to Patriarch Ignatius Zakka I who encouraged its development.
Creation of Syriac Institute
The Syriac Institute was founded by Prof. Peter A. Bruck with members of the ecumenically committed Catholics of the parish of Maria-Hilf Church, Leopoldskron-Moos. Its aim: to support the establishment of Syriac theological education and help establish a Syriac orthodox student house.
Delegation to Salzburg
The Syrian Orthodox Patriarch sent a delegation to Salzburg to discuss the possibility of a student house and study opportunities in Syriac theology. The delegation was welcomed by Dr Alois Kothgasser, (former Archbishop of Salzburg), and members of the theological faculty. In June a second delegation returned to Salzburg with the approval of the patriarch.
“Syriac Studies as a Bridge”- Culture, Language and Religion, international conference took place in Mardin, in co-operation with Pro Oriente and Mardin University.
The Archdiocese of Salzburg bought a building, (Müllner Hauptstrasse 6), which was offered by the Governor of Salzburg, Dr. Ing. Wilfried Haslauer, in solidarity for the purpose of Syriac studies.
Members of the Syriac church from dioceses in Europe and the States met in St Ephrem monastery, the Netherlands, and agreed to support the establishment of an MA in Syriac Theology and student house.
Establishment of STSS
Suryoye Theological Seminary Salzburg (STSS) a non-profit association was founded by members of the Syrian Orthodox Church in Europe and the USA for the financing of the student house Beth Suryoye.
In the same year, federal minister Prof. Dr. Karlheinz Töchterle enabled the provision of Syriac studies from the Austrian Federal Ministry of Science and Research. In doing so he secured the financing of a professorship for History and Theology of Orthodox Syriac Christianity at the University of Salzburg for five years, (2014-2019).
Art exhibition on Tur Abdin in Salzburg.
8th Syrologentag in Salzburg.
Inauguration of Prof. Aho Shemunkasho
Inauguration of Prof. Aho Shemunkasho, as Professor for History and Theology of Syrian Orthodox Theology, and the MA in Syriac Theology. The inaugural ceremony key note lecture was given by Patriarch Mor Ignatius Aphrem II, with speeches from Archbishop Lackner, Minister Töchterle, Landeshaputmann Dr. Ing. Haslauer, Rector Schmidinger, Prof. Dietmar W. Winkler and Prof. Peter A. Bruck.
Opening of Beth Suryoye
October 19th Ecumenical prayers in Salzburg cathedral, followed up by the ceremonial opening of Beth Suryoye student house where the Archbishop of Salzburg, Dr Franz Lackner, handed the keys of the house to the Syrian Orthodox Patriarch, Mor Ignatius Aphrem II.
Conference in Salzburg
“Of safe havens and sinking ships – Middle Eastern Christians and Europe” conference organised by ZECO.
“Church of the East in China and Central Asia” international conference organised by ZECO, held in Salzburg – have been taking place every three years since 2003.
Renovation of Beth Suryoye
Renovation and adaption of the student house Beth Suryoye (2016-2018) by the Archdiocese of Salzburg, with the support of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Austria, represented by Cardinal Christoph Schönborn.
Unity of the Church
“Severus of Antioch and his Search for the Unity of the Church” international conference opened by the Archbishop of Salzburg and the inaugural address by Mor Ignatius Aphrem II.