Gabriel Acacius Coussa

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His Eminence
Gabriel Acacius Coussa
Secretary of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches
Church Melkite Greek Catholic Church
Installed 4 August 1961
Term ended 29 July 1962
Predecessor Amleto Giovanni Cicognani
Successor Gustavo Testa
Other posts Cardinal-Priest of Sant'Atanasio
Ordination 25 December 1920
by Isaias Papadopoulos
Consecration 16 April 1961
by Pope John XXIII
Personal details
Birth name Léon Gabriel Coussa
Born (1897-08-03)3 August 1897
Aleppo, Aleppo Vilayet, Ottoman Empire
Died 29 July 1962(1962-07-29) (aged 64)
Rome, Italy
Buried Sant'Atanasio
Nationality Syrian
Denomination Melkite Catholic
Previous post
  • Secretary of the Pontifical Commission for the Authentic Interpretation of the Code of Canon Law (1946-1961)
  • Titular Archbishop of Hierapolis in Syria dei Greco-Melkiti (1961-1962)
Motto Misericordiam Et Veritatem Diligit Dominus
Styles of
Gabriel Acacius Coussa
External Ornaments of a Cardinal Bishop.svg
Reference style His Eminence
Spoken style Your Eminence
Informal style Cardinal
See Sant'Atanasio

Gabriel Acacius Coussa (August 3, 1897 – July 29, 1962) was a Syrian Melkite Catholic archbishop, expert in canon law and cardinal.[1] He served as secretary of the Congregation for the Eastern Churches and was the first Eastern Catholic to hold this position.

Early life[edit]

Léon Gabriel Coussa was born in Aleppo, Syria in 1897 to Rizcallah Coussa and his wife, Suzanne. He had two brothers, Georges and Nasri. His primary and part of his secondary education was at the Franciscan and Jesuit schools in Aleppo. Coussa joined the Order of St. Basil of the Melkites of Aleppo at the monastery of Saint-Georges Deir-esh-Chir in 1911. When admitted to the novitiate in 1912, he took the name Acacius. He was then sent to Rome to Collège Saint-Atanase.

Coussa made the simple profession on November 21, 1914 in the church of the Navicella. During World War I he fled to Switzerland because he was a Turkish citizen. He spent eighteen months in the Benedictine monastery of Einsiedeln, where he continued his theological studies. He returned to Rome on November 9, 1916 thanks to the intervention of the Holy See with the Italian government. He continued his studies at the Pontifical Urbanian Athenaeum and resided at the Pontifical Greco-Roman College.

He made the solemn profession on July 6, 1918 at the church of the Navicella, and received the minor orders. On July 11, 1920, he was ordained a deacon. He then obtained a doctorate in both canon and civil law on November 4, 1922. Coussa was ordained a priest of the Basilian Alepian Order on December 20, 1920 in Rome by Isaïe Papadopoulos, titular bishop of Grazianopoli, assessor of the Sacred Congregation of the Oriental Church.

Priesthood and episcopal service[edit]

Coussa served as director of the Melkite Scholasticate in Beirut from 1921 to 1925. He was then chosen as assistant general of his order, a position he occupied from December 19, 1925 to May 20, 1934. While in that role he also acted as Superior of the monastery of Deir-esh-Chir in 1929.

In late 1929 he left for Rome, where he was the delegate of the Melkite hierarchy in the commission for the preparatory studies for the codification of the Oriental canon law. While in Rome he also assumed the position of professor of canon law at the Pontifical Roman Athenaeum from 1932 until 1936. Coussa began service as the assistant to the Pontifical Commission for the Preparation of the Oriental Canon Law on March 21, 1933; when the commission was charged with the redaction of the Code of Oriental Canon Law, he became its secretary, July 16, 1935. From 1936 until 1953 he served as professor of the Latin Code of Canon Law, at the Pontifical Institute "Utriusque Iuris," Rome. Beginning in 1946 he served as dean of the faculty of canon law at the university. On March 3, 1946 Father Coussa was appointed Secretary of Interpretation of the Code of Canon Law for the Roman Curia.[2] He was an acquaintance of Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli, who later was elected Pope John XXIII.[3] Coussa was elected Assessor of the Sacred Commission for the Oriental Church on January 15, 1953.

On February 26, 1961 he was elected titular Archbishop of Hierapolis/Gerapoli for the Melkite Church. Coussa was consecrated bishop April 16, 1961 in the Sistine chapel, by Pope John XXIII, assisted by Giovanni Mele, bishop of Lungro, for the Italo-Albanians of Continental Italy, by Giuseppe Perniciaro, titular bishop of Arbano, auxiliary and vicar general of the apostolic administrator of Piana degli Albanesi, by Archmandrite Théodore Minisci, higoumène of the Italo-Greek monastery of Grottaferrata, and by Archmandrite Ambroise Kassis, superior general of the Basilian Order of Aleppo. He was then named Pro-Secretary of the Congregation for the Eastern Churches on August 4, 1961.

In March 1962 Coussa was elevated to Secretary of the Congregation for the Eastern Churches and appointed Cardinal-Priest of Saint Atanasio.[4] He was the first Eastern Catholic to serve as the head of the Congregation. His tenure, however, was short. Coussa died unexpectedly in Rome due to peritonitis caused by appendicitis[5] on July 29, 1962, just as the Second Vatican Council was opening.[6] His remains were transferred to the church of S. Atanasio, Rome, his cardinalitial title, in May 1963.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Miranda, Salvador. "COUSSA, B.A., Gabriel Acacius (1897–1962)". The Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church. Florida International University. Retrieved 2008-10-16.
  2. ^ Catholic Hierarchy, retrieved May 2007
  3. ^ Sabrina Arena Ferrisi. Reaching to the East., retrieved May 2007
  4. ^ Cardinal Title S. Atanasio
  5. ^ Miranda, Salvador. "COUSSA, B.A., Gabriel Acacius (1897-1962)". The Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church. Florida International University. Retrieved 2008-10-16.
  6. ^ "The Melkite Church at the Council"., retrieved May 2007

External links[edit]