Syriac bishop beheaded by Ottoman beatified in Lebanon

Now he is was officially recognized by Pope Francis as a "martyr" of the Catholic church

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A Syriac Catholic bishop has been beatified in Lebanon, a century after he was beheaded in Syria by Ottoman security forces during a wave of religiously motivated killings.

Flavien Michel Melki, who was murdered for refusing to renounce Christianity, was officially recognized by Pope Francis as a "martyr" of the Catholic church earlier this month.

The beatification took place at a monastery north of Beirut on Saturday, according to an AFP photographer at the ceremony.

Turkish-born Melki's church was burned down during a massacre by Ottoman soldiers in 1895 and his mother killed.

He was made a bishop and spent two decades serving the church before being arrested in 1915 along with a Chaldean bishop.

Both were killed when they refused to convert to Islam.

His beatification came amid growing concern over jihadists targeting Christians in the Middle East, with Francis last month saying "a form of genocide was taking place".

The Syriac Catholic church, with around 160,000 members and its headquarters in Beirut, is one of several eastern Christian churches.

The community has accused Ottoman forces of carrying out massacres of its members in 1915, in conjunction with killings of other minorities including Armenians.

In April, Turkey recalled its ambassador to the Vatican after the pope labelled the deaths of up to 1.5 million Armenians at the hands of Ottoman forces a century ago as genocide. Turkey vehemently contests the use of the word.

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