Mar Musa Monastery, Syria

Mar Musa or Deir Mar Musa al-Habashi (Syriac: ܕܝܪܐ ܪܡܪܝ ܡܘܫܐ ܟܘܫܝܐ deiro d-mor mūše kūšoyo; Arabic: دير مار موسى الحبشي‎ / ALA-LC: dayr mār Mūsá al-Ḥabashī, literally "the monastery of saint Moses the Abyssinian") is a monastic community of Syriac Catholic rite, situated near the town of Nabk, approximately 80 km (50 mi) north of Damascus, on the Eastern slopes of the Anti-Lebanon. The main church of the monastic compound hosts precious frescoes dating to the 11th and 12th century.


An ancient building, stone circles, lines and tombs were recently discovered near the monastery in 2009 by archaeologist Robert Mason of the Royal Ontario Museum. Mason suggested that the ruins may date back 10,000 years and were likely constructed in Neolithic period (such as the Heavy Neolithic Qaraoun culture of the Anti-Lebanon). Further excavation and research, into this discovery, has been halted due to the threat of violence caused by the Syrian civil war.

The monastery is located high in the Syrian mountains. In Roman times it was a fortress, and in the 12th century it was a monastic house with hermitages sprinkled in hillside caves. Fr. Paolo Dall'Oglio, a Jesuit, founded the group of men and women who are devoted to prayer and meditation to form a bridge between cultures and religions. In July of 2013, Fr. Paolo was kidnapped and has not been heard from since.

The parents of kidnapped Jesuit, Fr Paolo Dall'Oglio, have appealed for information about him - exactly a year after he disappeared in Syria.

There has been no news of the Italian priest since his disappearance in the Syrian city of Raqqa on 29 July 2013. Yesterday, the video below was issued.

"This has also been a long time, too long, for a land ravaged by war and infinite suffering like Syria," says his mother. "We ask those responsible for the disappearance of a good man, a man of faith, a man of peace, to have the dignity to let us know of his fate. We would like to once again hold him in our arms, however we are also prepared to mourn him."

Paolo Dall’Oglio was born in Rome. His father had held important political positions in the Christian Democratic Party, but the son joined the Italian Socialist Party in his youth. On entering the Society of Jesus, he studied Philosophy at the University of Naples. In the early 1980s, Paolo went to Damascus to study Arabic and registered in the Faculty of Sharia at the University of Damascus as an auditor. In 1982, he went to the monastery of Saint Moses the Abyssinian situated 80 km (50 miles) north of Damascus which was abandoned at the time. He played a key role in renovating the monastery starting in 1984. In 1989, he obtained a PhD degree from the Pontifical Gregorian University where he wrote his doctoral dissertation on the “Concept of Hope in Islam".