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HomeArticleSyriac Catholic Cathedral Again a Beacon in Beirut

Syriac Catholic Cathedral Again a Beacon in Beirut

Syriac Catholic Cathedral Again a Beacon in Beirut

Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignace Joseph III Younan consecrates the restored St. George Syriac Catholic Cathedral in Beirut. Patriarch Younan is shown greeting the papal nuncio to Lebanon, Archbishop Paolo Borgia; Melkite Catholic Patriarch Joseph Absi; and Cardinal Bechara Rai, Maronite Catholic patriarch. (photo: Syriac Catholic Patriarchate)

 

Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignace Joseph III Younan consecrated St. George Syriac Catholic Cathedral on Oct. 29 in a ceremonial Mass, while anointing the altar, walls and doors with oil of chrism, before celebrating the Divine Liturgy.

BEIRUT — A beacon of faith is once again shining in Beirut: St. George Syriac Catholic Cathedral.

Destroyed in Lebanon’s 1975-1990 war, the landmark cathedral, built in the 1870s, was restored to its historical status under the direction of Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignace Joseph III Younan.

Patriarch Younan consecrated St. George Syriac Catholic Cathedral on Oct. 29 in a ceremonial Mass, while anointing the altar, walls and doors with oil of chrism, before celebrating the Divine Liturgy.

The head of the Syriac Catholic Church expressed “great joy in holding this church celebration on this blessed day.” He prayed that “this cathedral be a beacon that illuminates the way of the believers, a source of good hope, and a consolidation of the witness to the faith that our forefathers preserved in this blessed land in the East.”

“We have come to renew the act of hope by resurrecting this cathedral from the ashes and dust of oblivion,” Patriarch Younan said in his homily, adding that “meeting the Lord in his holy temple fills the hearts of believers with joy and peace.”

Faithful attending the Mass overflowed to the courtyard. In addition to Syriac Catholic bishops and religious and those from other Catholic and Orthodox rites, numerous prelates participated, including: the Vatican nuncio to Lebanon, Archbishop Paolo Borgia (in one of his first official ceremonial capacities since his appointment Sept. 24); Cardinal Bechara Rai, Maronite Catholic patriarch; Melkite Catholic Patriarch Joseph Absi and representatives for the Syriac Orthodox and Armenian Orthodox patriarchs.

In his homily, Patriarch Younan reiterated that St. George Syriac Catholic Cathedral was devastated in the 1970s, “by sinful destruction, due to the ominous strife that befell Lebanon,” in reference to the country’s civil war.

He noted that since assuming his patriarchal service in 2009, he had ‘longed to restore” the historic cathedral, named after Beirut’s patron saint, St. George, so that it “would return to its previous era, with beautiful architecture and spiritual presence.”

“We considered this restoration a fidelity on our shoulders, to commemorate the many bishops, priests and thousands of believers of different denominations who used to go to this house of God, to pray and seek joy and peace among its surroundings.”

The cathedral, he said, is indeed an icon for its Syriac Catholic presence in Beirut, located on what was once known as Syriac street.

“We also wanted it to revive a unique symbol — which is coexistence with credibility — which the residents of this stricken neighborhood have mastered for decades,” the patriarch continued.

He noted that the celebration occurs “despite the cycle of misery, anxiety and fear that Lebanon has known for years, where the rights of honest citizens have been violated.”

Lebanon is currently in the throes of a three-year economic meltdown that has plunged nearly 80% of the population into poverty in what was considered a middle-class country. In that time, the currency has devalued by more than 90%, inflation has reached triple digits, unemployment has skyrocketed, and banks have imposed restrictions on their customer’s deposits.

The patriarch charged that “our country has become a laughingstock among peoples. Friends lament and cry over it, and we see them losing hope in Lebanon’s survival.” He cited “the irresponsibility of those who caused the stifling political and economic crises that befell our beloved Lebanon.”

A representative of Lebanese President Michel Aoun attended the Mass, in addition to state officials. Aoun’s six-year mandate ended a few days later, on Oct. 31.

Crisis-stricken Lebanon is now further paralyzed by a presidential vacuum.

Lebanon’s Parliament has convened seven times — most recently on Nov. 24 — since the start of the electoral period at the end of August to try to elect a new president, but without success, due to the lack of consensus among political parties.

Under Lebanon’s sectarian power-sharing system, the president must be a Maronite Catholic, the prime minister a Sunni Muslim and the speaker of Parliament a Shiite Muslim.

In his homily, Patriarch Younan urged those responsible to “immediately carry out their duty … and to take the initiative without delay to elect a new president of the republic, who will unite the Lebanese, meet their aspirations, and lead the nation’s ship to safety and peace, and restore Lebanon to its previous era of development and prosperity.”

The patriarch called for “an effective and productive government that is at the level of the hopes of the Lebanese, who are eager to get out of the crises in which they are floundering.”

“From this cathedral rooted in the heart of the city of Beirut, the heart and capital of Lebanon, we launch a call of true hope that stems from complete trust in the Lord and complete dependence on him Almighty, chanting the Syriac anthem known since ancient times: ‘On God we rely!’”

 

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