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Different Paths to the Same Vocation: Twin Brothers Ordained Priests in Aleppo, Syria

Different Paths to the Same Vocation: Twin Brothers Ordained Priests in Aleppo, Syria

By Marinella Bandini

On Saturday, July 6, twin brothers George and Johnny Jallouf, friars of the Custody of the Holy Land, were ordained priests in their hometown of Aleppo, Syria. This event marked the first priestly ordination in 17 years at St. Francis Church in Aleppo, a city that suffered massive destruction between 2012 and 2016 during the Syrian War. The brothers were ordained by their uncle, Father Hanna Jallouf, a Franciscan and the Latin apostolic vicar of Aleppo.

“We grew up in a family that instilled in us a living faith and a love for prayer,” the brothers shared.

Born in January 1996, George and Johnny were initially not given much hope for survival. “Our mother made several vows for our health, including one to St. Anthony. That’s why, as children, she dressed us in Franciscan robes,” their mother explained. She welcomed the news of her twins after the birth of three older sons and a long-awaited daughter who died shortly after birth. From their mother’s womb, faith—first their parents’ and then their own—shaped the lives of the twin brothers.

Twins George and Johnny Jallouf, as toddlers, wearing the Franciscan habit. They were born in January 1996 and were not given much hope initially. “Our mother made several vows for our health, including one to St. Anthony. That’s why as children, she dressed us in Franciscan robes.” The twins were ordained priests on July 6, 2024, in Aleppo, Syria, their hometown. Credit: Photo courtesy of George and Johnny Jallouf

Identical in appearance but different in character, George and Johnny’s vocations followed distinct paths. Both were deeply involved in the Franciscan parish of Aleppo as altar boys, catechists, and members of various youth groups, so much so that their parents often joked about them renting a room in the convent.

The brothers were 15 when the war in Syria broke out. Their vocations emerged and grew amidst the Battle of Aleppo, a time marked by bombings and sieges. “I tried to attend Mass every day,” George recounted. “I was afraid, but I kept repeating to myself, ‘I fear nothing because you are with me.’ This phrase guided me, reassured me, and gave me peace.”

Meanwhile, their older siblings had already moved to the Netherlands, awaiting the rest of the family once the twins completed their education.

At 18, George experienced a period of intense confusion. He questioned his identity and God’s plan for his life. He struggled between his dreams and God’s calling, even considering making a deal with God to achieve his personal goals first. However, a decisive moment came during the Franciscan March, a walking pilgrimage for young people, where he sought signs from God. During this pilgrimage, a mentally disturbed woman called him “Father,” which he took as a sign from God. This experience led to his final “yes” to the priesthood.

“For them I consecrate myself” (Jn 17:19) became George’s priestly motto. He expressed a desire to consecrate and sacrifice his life to save souls, embodying the hands, feet, and heart of Jesus.

The twins George and Johnny Jallouf, friars of the Custody of the Holy Land, during their priestly ordination on July 6, 2024, at the Franciscan church in Aleppo, Syria, their hometown. One of the most moving moments of the rite is when the candidates for priesthood prostrate themselves, face down, in a gesture of humility, while everyone prays for them by singing the Litany of the Saints. Credit: Photo courtesy of the Tawk Center

Johnny, on the other hand, was fascinated by saints like St. Thérèse of Lisieux and aspired to be a doctor. However, the outbreak of the war accelerated his maturity and shifted his desires. While praying the Our Father, he felt a call to be a “doctor for souls” instead of bodies. This realization led him to embrace a vocation in the Custody of the Holy Land and the priesthood.

“Give me the souls, take the goods for yourself” (Gen 14:21) became Johnny’s priestly motto. His pastoral experiences during formation solidified his desire to save souls. He recounted moments where people approached him for confession, and he realized his role in bringing them to Christ.

Group photo of the newly ordained priests, George and Johnny Jallouf, to the left and right of Bishop Hanna Jallouf, their uncle, the Latin apostolic vicar of Aleppo. On the far left is the vicar of the Custody of the Holy Land, Ibrahim Faltas. On the far right is the parish priest of St. Francis Parish in Aleppo, Bahjat Karakach. The ordination took place at the Franciscan parish in Aleppo on July 6, 2024, and is the first in 17 years. Credit: Photo courtesy of the Tawk Center

Both George and Johnny are now awaiting their assignments to begin their ministry as priests, dedicated to bringing others to Christ and embodying their priestly mottos in their service.

This story was first published by CNA, EWTN Norway’s news partner. It has been adapted by EWTN Norway.

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