Father Thomas was a celebrated Italian monk who ran a Franciscan convent and practiced medicine in Damascus during the Egyptian rule of Ibrahim Pasha. He was declared missing on 5 February 1840. He was last seen at the Jewish quarter of the Old City. A popular man with Muslims, Christians, and Jews, his disappearance created deep turmoil in Damascus. Investigations were supervised by the French consul in Damascus, Ulysse de Ratti-Menton. A Jewish barber named Negrin was arrested, and confessed to having killed Father Thomas, and his servant Ibrahim Amara. Eight Damascene Jews were arrested and one died in custody. Seemingly they had abducted, killed, and dried the blood of Father Thomas as part of an ancient Jewish ritual. Blood libels typically allege that Jews require human blood for the baking of matzos on Passover. The murderers then disposed the body of Thomas and his servant, and this event to world historians is now known as "The Damascus Affair."
Jews deny this story completely. Several Syrian dramas and books have been made about it, including the 2013 "Yasmin Atik." In it, Syrian actor Jihad Abdo played the role of Father Thomas. In 1986, Defense Minister Mustapha Tlass wrote a book about Father Thomas called "The Matzah of Zion." It created a storm of objection from Jewish leaders, and condemnation by US State Secretary George Schultz.