considerable apparatus of notes and commentaries. The Christian missions also played a specific role in the preservation and spread of local languages (Syriac, Coptic, Armenian, for example) as in the development and transmission of Arabic. We will also examine the way the missionaries gave information concerning the situation of local communities (moving, persecutions, social practices, etc. Finally, we shall look into the role of local agents. Who are they, and which geographical, scientific and religious fields do they occupy? What was their influence? We shall study the career and writings of local scholars, who, around the first part of the XXth century, played a fundamental role in shedding light on, and spreading new knowledge about, oriental Christianity; people such as Addai Scher, Louis Cheikho, Ephrem Rahmani or Alphonse Mingana for example, who have remained famous for their libraries, their voluminous works, the reviews and sometimes the study centres that they helped to found. We shall include the question of their involvement in the learned and the religious communities, and their relations with the local political and ecclesiastical authorities.
2 : Transitions, receptions and reformulation
We need to understand how this new knowledge of oriental Christian culture spreads. Without ignoring the role and motivations of the State, we shall interest ourselves first and foremost in the religious and cultural channels : learned oriental reviews founded on either side of the Mediterranean (al-Machriq, Patrologia Syriaca, Patrologia Orientalis, Oriens Christianus), and specific areas in international conferences, in universities or in the great university libraries of Europe and North America, not forgetting the research and training organizations within the Churches, one of which is the Pontifical Oriental Institute. Thus, in Europe, as in Russia and the United States, scholars, scientists, academics, influenced by the prevailing orientalism, acquire and appropriate these new works, and study them in their turn; people such as the Assyrian specialist from Louvain, Chabot, the Germans Sachau and Baumstark, the Church historian, Duchesne and his Byzantinist colleague, Janin, as well as the future Cardinal Tisserant, whose careers we will examine. We shall look carefully at the interactions with academic circles but also with the schools of thought that have left their mark on them.
How exactly is this knowledge received, reinterpreted, reformulated? We shall examine a certain number of interactions, both strategic and politico-cultural. For example, the Western Christian vision was, even among the missionaries, permeated for a long time with suspicion and contempt when confronted with an oriental Christianity considered as decadent and which the missions felt they had a vocation to strengthen. But how does this perception assimilate racial and Darwinist theories when faced with a Christianity which language and culture were Semitic, especially between the two wars, a time of fast-growing oriental scholarship? Conversely, we shall consider how the development of this new knowledge modified the sense of otherness within the Christian world, going as far sometimes as to recognise the oriental Christians as a force for change at the time of Vatican II. In the analysis of the reception and institutional use of this knowledge, the Roman case stands out by the nearness of the sources, whether it is with regard to the constitution of specific organizations or the development of expertise within the congregations and the religious orders.
3 : Local re-appropriations and transformations
Among the processes of assimilation of knowledge in the Middle East, we shall tackle the question of the development of cultural and religious traditions, in relation to the process of identity affirmation within the local Christian communities. Liturgical music, for example, was maybe a favoured field for the heritage-making of a local culture in the Coptic Church. On the other hand, how did this knowledge interfere with the perception of a progressive sanctfying of the Middle Eastern territories? We shall consider the phenomena of omission, or reinvention and also of heritage creation, which lead to the development of sacred localities. From this point of view, the case of the Holy Land is particularly revealing.
And finally, what changes over the course of time? We shall look especially at the evolution caused by the increase in local vocations within the missions and by the renewal of inter-denominational relations. We shall examine the changes that concern the very definition of Near and Middle East, of Holy Land, of Churches and of the Christian East. In the context of the second part of the twentieth century, it is the Christian mission in the world of Islam that is itself rethought.