Father Samuel

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Father Samuel (Père Samuel) is a Belgian Roman Catholic suspended Priest of Aramean[1] origin. His passport gives his name as Charles-Clément Boniface. However, he was born in 1942 in Bağlarbaşı (Arnas) nearby Midyat, Turkey, as Samuel Ozdemir. The latter is a surname the priest dislikes because it was imposed on his family by the Turks. Samuel is a Christian: "At home we spoke Aramaic, the language of Jesus." He was suspended in 2011 from celebrating cult and sacrements by the bishop of Tournai.[2]

Early life in the Church[edit]

Samuel comes from a Syriac Orthodox family. In his early years he became a Syriac Orthodox monk in the monastery of Deyrulzafaran. When Samuel fled to Lebanon after a dispute with the archbishop of Deyrulzafaran, Samuel became a Syrian Catholic priest. In the mid-1970s he fled to Belgium, claiming that the Aramaic Christians were being persecuted in Turkey. He became a Belgian and adopted the surname of Boniface – "he who does good things." He was appointed to the diocese of Tournai, but soon became caught up in the culture war between Christians secularists and Christians traditionalists. Tournai is a thoroughly secularised, modernist diocese. Father Samuel clashed with the bishop. He then bought the St-Antoine-de-Padoue church in Montignies-sur-Sambre. There he conducts the Mass according to the traditional rites of the Catholic Church.[3]

Career[edit]

Hundreds of faithful from all over the country and even from the north of France attend Sunday Mass in Montignies-sur-Sambre. The congregation includes African immigrants, a large number of young people and many young families with small children. In his sermons and on his website Father Samuel speaks out against secularism, but also fights on another front of the three-way culture war, warning against "the islamic invasion" of the West. Boniface says he has witnessed in Turkey what the future has in store for Europe. He claims Muslims are invading Europe and warns for an impending civil war. According to Father Samuel "so-called moderate Muslims do not exist." [3]

Controversy[edit]

Allegations of incitement to racist hatred[edit]

Father Samuel has been prosecuted for "incitement to racist hatred" by the Belgian government’s agency, the Centre for Equal Opportunities and Opposition to Racism (CEOOR)

In 2006, the Belgian judiciary decided that the priest will have to stand trial before the penal court in Charleroi. He reacted by repeating his "time bomb" statement and added that he would be honoured if he had to go to jail for speaking his mind. He added that Jesus, too, had been convicted. During a sermon he called upon the faithful to accompany him to court. "We will turn this into an excursion, driving there in full buses."

Father Samuel was acquitted, of charges of incitement to racial hatred. The Court of First Instance of Charleroi found no punishable acts according to the Belgian anti-discrimination.[4][5]

Cult status[edit]

In 1997, the Belgian parliamentary commission on cults established a list of 189 movements containing the Father Samuel[6] (see List of groups referred to as cults or sects in government documents). Former members say he has an anti-social speech which breaks families, he praticize sexual touchings against adult women and he receives many cash donations.[7][8] Father Samuel is also criticized by evangelical associations fighting against cults, but mainly on doctrinal issues.[9]

Samuel rejected these accusations and sent protest letters to the parliamentary members.[10]

References[edit]

External links[edit]