The Rev. Edoardo Tamer, Who Ministered to Syrians in War, Dies at 83

This obituary is part of a series about people who died from the coronavirus pandemic. Read about others here.

BEIRUT, Lebanon – When the fighting in the civil war in Syria broke through the neighborhoods of Aleppo, the Roman Catholic authorities offered Rev Edoardo Tamer, a Franciscan monk who had lived there for many years in a monastery, a chance for his own safety.

He refused.

“He said,” I will live here and die here if that happens, “said Rev. Firas Lutfi, Franciscan Regional Minister for Syria, Lebanon and Jordan.” He has decided to stay in Aleppo in this very critical situation. “

Father Tamer survived the war, but fell ill with Covid-19 this summer. He died of the disease in Aleppo on August 12 at 8 p.m.

Father Tamer spent most of his life in the Franciscan Order, serving as educator, translator and minister for Catholic communities in Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, Israel, the Palestinian territories and finally Syria.

He was born on May 5, 1937 in Romanos Tamer in the village of Sir El Danniyeh in northern Lebanon, where his father Boutros Tamer had a shop and workshop that made wooden boxes for fruit. His mother, Kamleh Fayad, helped her husband with the business.

Father Tamer, a Maronite Catholic, had childhood religious life in his sights. “He was convinced that he was called by God to be a monk and especially a Franciscan,” said Father Lutfi.

Father Tamer began his monastic vocation in 1956 as a 19-year-old novice in the monastery of St. Catherine in Bethlehem in the West Bank under the name Edoardo. Three years later, he took vows of poverty, chastity and obedience when he joined the Order of Friars Minor founded by St. Francis of Assisi in the early 13th century.

This committed him to a life of simplicity and wandering service, often for the poor, a commitment represented by the brothers’ simple brown robe and rope belt. He was ordained a priest in Jerusalem in 1965 and three years later received a license in theology from the University of Saint Joseph in Beirut.

For the next four decades he held positions in schools, colleges and parishes, including in Harissa, Lebanon; Amman, Jordan; Latakia, Syria; Alexandria, Egypt; and Jericho in the West Bank.

His survivors include two brothers, Joseph and Antoun.

In 2007 Father Tamer was transferred to the Monastery of Saint Anthony of Padua in Aleppo, Syria’s largest city. There he stayed and temporarily served as the superior and director of the parish recreation center.

Father Lutfi recalled that Father Tamer liked to hear a confession to give people “hope and peace”. He was able to translate religious texts from Italian into Arabic, in particular “The Path of the Spirit to God”, a medieval treatise on the spirituality of Saint Bonaventure.

The civil war in Syria broke out in 2011 and led to a bombing campaign by the Syrian government and its Russian allies against armed rebels who destroyed entire neighborhoods in Aleppo. The city’s Christians, for a long time a small minority and divided among various sects, emigrated in large numbers during the war. It is estimated that thousands of Catholics remain.

But Father Tamer insisted on staying, celebrating mass, welcoming visitors, and sometimes taking in people seeking refuge from the fighting.

“It was his decision to stay and continue his ministry despite the bombing and the war and the disease,” said Father Lutfi. “It was his mission to be with people who are suffering.”