Exiled Dominican priest preserves ancient manuscripts

Posted by Siobhan O'Neill Meluso
Thursday 05, February 2015 | Category:   Church History,Scripture
One of the many Christian Syriac manuscripts being preserved by Father Najeeb Michaeel, O.P.

The lifework of Iraqi Dominican Father Najeeb Michaeel is preserving Christian manuscripts in Northern Iraq. After studying in the United States, he founded the Center for Digitization of Oriental Manuscripts in 1990 to make manuscripts more accessible for study, according to Catholic News Agency.

There has been a Christian presence in Iraq for nearly 2,000 years in the cities of Mosul and Bakhdida. Mosul's Dominican (Order of Preachers) friary was established in the 1750s, and it had a library of thousands of ancient manuscripts and more than 50,000 modern volumes. When these cities fell under the control of the Islamic State, Michaeel and other Christians fled.

But first he collected about 1,300 manuscripts from the 14th to the 19th centuries, put them in two large trucks, and transferred them to a secret location in Erbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan, where they are safe. They include not only Christian works, but manuscripts on the Quran, music, and grammar.

"We passed three checkpoints without any problem, and I think the Virgin Mary [had] a hand to protect us," he said in an interview with National Public Radio.

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