07/04/2020
The World Union of Jesuit Alumni pays tribute to Fr. Alex Bassili sj

Père Alex Bassili sj - photo carrée

Having learned the news of the death of Father Alexandre Bassili SJ, from the coronavirus, on Wednesday, April 1, 2020, at the age of 75, WUJA offers its most sincere condolences to the Collège Notre-Dame of Jamhour from whose ranks he came (class of 1964), for which he served from 1980 to 2009 as spiritual father and chaplain, as well as in the administration and as vice-rector, and for which he created the Benefactors’ Action Committee (now the Social Activity Committee); to the Jesuit Province of the Middle East, where he was archivist as well as secretary and admonitor of the Provincial Father; to the Emmaus Centre, for which he was advisor; to the University of Saint Joseph, founded by the Jesuits, whose Community and related church were his places of residence and office; and to the entire Beirut Jesuit community, which has been in quarantine since 7 March last and is known to be heavily affected by the Covid-19 virus[1].

Originally from Zahlé, in the Bekaa Valley, Fr. Alexandre Bassili studied at the College of Our Lady of Jamhour, not far from the presidential palace of Baabda, before being ordained priest there on 5 May 1979, in the church of the College, according to the Byzantine rite, and presenting his solemn vows of entry into the Society of Jesus on 21 November 1984. A church “witness to his faith, his journey, his questions, his fears, his hope and his journey as a companion (…) to which he will give special attention”, tells us Néda Jamhouri, a former student of the College and editor for several media, in a tribute she wrote in the February 2016 for “Le Nous du Collège”, the monthly magazine for alumni, for Fr. Alex’s 50 years of religious life, the full content of which you can find here.

Père Alex Bassili sj économe communauté jésuite Jamhour
Father Bassili was bursar of the Jesuit community of Jamhour

Father Alex Bassili died in the infirmary of the Jesuit fathers’ residence, Monnot Street[2] in the district of Ashrafieh, on 1 April last. Samy Khayath, a theatre actor and editor for L’Orient/Le Jour, Lebanon’s leading daily newspaper, wrote in his vibrant tribute to Father Alex whom he had known well at Jamhour and at USJ: “Is it possible that a vulgar virus could have broken into the house of the servants of God? What a sacrilege to defile a sanctuary that has for decades housed the monuments of the cultural and clerical life of Lebanon! Immediately, we, his comrades in Jamhour, feared for him. And the news fell: the monster attacked Father Alex Bassili, knowing him to be fragile, good, discreet, humble, faithful, helpful. »

Pères de la communauté de Jamhour Février 1988
Fathers of the community of Jamhour, gathered in February 1988

In another article, the first French-language Lebanese daily newspaper reported that Father Alexandre had been hospitalized for three weeks, first at the Rafik Hariri University Hospital in Jnah, then at the Hôtel-Dieu de France in Ashrafieh. Although he seemed to be out of the woods – which explains why he had been able to leave the hospital – it was the complications that accompanied his hospitalization and his consequent weakening that got the better of him. Fady Noun tells us that Fr. Alexandre Bassili “had indeed been suffering for years from Parkinson’s disease, the effects of which on his motor skills were compensated for by sophisticated equipment. It is thought that it was the impossibility of maintaining this equipment during his hospitalization and the shortness of breath due to the use of respirators that led to the death, by heart failure, of a man whom his friends considered “right in his boots”. His burial was carried out in all discretion, announced the Society of Jesus, which reserves condolences in accordance with the rules for better times. »

Père Bassili sj
Father Bassili served at several levels at Our Lady of Jamhour High School

The World Union of Jesuit Alumni salutes the one who, in the words of Samy Khayath, “was always there, working quietly, with such zeal and humility”, both within the College of Our Lady of Jamhour and its many students and with the Provincial of the Society and the Emmaus Centre. May he now rest in the Peace of God.

 

For WUJA,
Maurice Selvais
Content editor

 

[1] According to Libnanews, more than 10 priests of the Jesuit community in Beirut are infected (Source: https://libnanews.com/onze-cas-de-coronavirus-parmi-les-peres-jesuites-au-liban/)

[2] The street, often misspelled “Monot”, takes its name from Father Ambroise Monnot (1831-1898), a French Jesuit, founder of the University of St. Joseph in Beirut in 1875. This street is better known by Beirutans as having served as the dividing line between East and West during the Lebanese War, from 1975 to 1990.