Eliano, Giambattista (1530-1589)


A member of Roman embassies to the Coptic and Maronite churches. He was born in Rome to a and educated by his famous maternal grandfather, the learned Elias Levita, at Venice and at Isny, Germany. His family settled in Venice and he traveled with his father in the Middle East, where during a three-year stay in Egypt he learned to speak Arabic. A long, unsuccessful attempt by him and his family to convince his brother, Vittorio, who had become a Roman Catholic, to return to the Jewish faith, resulted instead in Eliano himself being baptized a Roman in 1551. Shortly after, he entered the Jesuit order; he became a priest in 1560.

The GABRIEL VII (1525-1568) had sent a message of accommodation to Pope Paul IV (1555-1559) whose successor, Pius IV (1559-1565), sent an embassy to the patriarch in 1561. Eliano was sent as companion and interpreter for the papal legate, Christophorus Rodriquez. There were no practical results from the embassy, so Eliano returned to Rome in 1563, where he took up a professorship in Arabic and Hebrew at the Jesuit college.

He founded one of the first Arabic printing establishments there. In 1578, Pope Gregory XIII (1572-1585) sent Eliano to the Maronites, and he attended the Maronite synod of 15-17 August 1580 at Qannubin (Kannobin) and translated the proceedings for the approval of the participants. The Coptic patriarch XIV (1570-1585) had sent a letter of allegiance in 1574, and Eliano for a second time went to Egypt (1582-1584). Again nothing toward a union of the churches was achieved.