On March 9, 2022, in the Cathedral of Notre Dame (Paris), the First Inaugural Session of the Diocesan Process for the Cause of Beatification of our brother martyrs was held Bishop Jacques-Émile SONTAG , born on June 7, 1869 in Dinsheim, Lower Rhine (France), Archbishop of Ispahan of the Latinos in Persia (Iran) died in odium fidei on July 27, 1918 in Urmia, Àzar bàijàn-e Gharbi (Iran).
The Session was chaired by Bishop Michel Gueguen. Present were the members of the Tribunal that was established for this Cause: the Delegated Judge, the Promoter of Justice and the Notary. They were sworn in, and later so also were the postulator, Fr. Giuseppe Guerra and the vice-postulator, Fr. François Hiss. Father Lazare, who was a missionary in Iran for many years, and a very knowledgable in the history, culture and historical context of our martyrs, also participated.
In Addition to Bishop Jacques-Émile Sontag, the Cause also includes three other confreres:
François MIRAZIZ , born on August 27, 1878 in Khosrowabad (Iran) and ordained a priest in Paris on July 27, 1902. He was assassinated on the same day (July 27, 1918), in Khosrowabad, Àzarbàijàn-e Gharbi (Iran), martyred at the hands of the Kurds.
Mathurin L’HÒTELLIER born in 1883 in France, died on July 18, 1918 in Khosrowabad, Àzarbàijàn-e Gharbi (Iran), also a martyr to his faith.
Nathanaèl DINKHA (Étienne) was born on May 17, 1849 in Khosrowabad. Coming from a Muslim family, he was secretly baptized. Fr. Bettembourg C.M. states that he was endowed with great energy and that he walked to France before being admitted to the Congregation. He was ordained a priest on October 25 (or December), 1875 in Jerusalem. He died on July 27, 1918 in Urmia, Àzarbàijàn-e-Gharbi (Iran), also a martyr at the hands of the Kurds.
Jacques Emile Sontag, C.M.
He was born on 16 June 1869 in Dinsheim sur Bruche. At the age of 14, he decided to become a missionary and to join the Congregation of the Mission, founded by Saint Vincent de Paul. Ordained a priest at the age of 26, he was sent on mission to Persia, to the Vincentian school in Urmia. Two years later, he was appointed superior of the Tehran Mission school, which had 17 students at the beginning. In 1909, he had a new school built to accommodate 300 students.
He was appointed Apostolic Delegate and Archbishop of Isfahan in 1910. He was 41 years old. In May 1915, some 50,000 Assyrian-Chaldeans fled the genocide in Turkey. Bishop Sontag brought help to these unfortunate people. Likewise he protected the Muslims, also victims of abuse by other communities in conflict, seeking to alleviate their suffering.
Thousands of refugees flocked to the French Mission. The Apostolic Delegate appealed to the generosity of Christians in France, distributed the aid received, and sold his personal belongings. But faced with epidemics, looting, and mass crimes fomented by the Ottoman political leaders and their allies, these actions, if they alleviate the suffering, did not remedy the desperate situation of the Christians. Several villages were sacked, the inhabitants decimated. In July 1918, he provided assistance to more than 60,000 Christians fleeing into Kurdistan, before the final massacre at Urmia. Believing that his place was among his refugee “sheep” at the Mission, he was murdered, at the age of 49, on 31 July 1918, in front of Urmia Church.