Archbishop calls on Maronite Catholic community to have ‘unshakable confidence in our own hearts’
September 10, 2020 | posted by Today's Catholic newspaper
Archbishop calls on Maronite Catholic community to have ‘unshakable confidence in our own hearts’ in midst of Beirut tragedy
A massive explosion crippled the city of Beirut, Lebanon on August 4. More than 300,000 were displaced from their homes, hundreds are missing, and the death toll is rising. This tragic event also occurred as the country was suffering through a difficult financial crisis and dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a gesture of solidarity and unity with the local Maronite Catholic community, Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller, MSpS, took part in an August 7 Mass with Father Charles Khachan, MLM, pastor of St. George Maronite Church, in a liturgy that was also attended by civic officials.
The archbishop said he was honored to be with his fellow Catholics in the world-wide Body of Christ and to share in this time of prayer, sorrow, and hope. “For so many of you your family roots trace their way back to Lebanon, and specifically to Beirut -- a city which has suffered too often, and now with this terrible explosion,” he said. “Our hearts are wounded, and our souls cry out to God for relief.
In the midst of the shock and grief, the San Antonio prelate reminded them of two very important duties, with the first being to honor the dead by praying for the repose of their souls and the consolation of their grieving families. “We know that God the Father has a merciful heart. We know that God understands our grief and our aspirations for goodness. We trust in God,” he said.
The second duty, Archbishop Gustavo explained, is to accompany the people of Lebanon with love and support, devotion and care. “We will be able to express this in practical ways through contributing to their rebuilding and helping them to secure a better future,” he shared.
St. Paul, in his Letter to the Romans which was read at the service, stated that nothing can separate us from the love of Christ. For St. Paul this wasn’t merely a pious statement, but rather, a lived reality. He was a man accustomed to experiencing threats, beatings, jailings, expulsions, and rejection. When he wrote these words, he was about to face a trial that would ultimately lead to his martyrdom by beheading.
“St. Paul was a man who understood the dangers and terrors of this world in a very personal way. Yet, he is filled with confidence. But why?” asked the archbishop, replying, “Because, as he says, ‘in all these things we conquer overwhelmingly through him who loved us.’”
The Missionary of the Holy Spirit urged the Maronite Catholic community to look beyond the grief they were experiencing and to have confidence in God. “Our family members and friends in Beirut who have died or been wounded will not have died in vain because Christ will draw them to Himself in love and restoration,” he emphasized. “The souls of our beloved dead are worth more than any sparrow or any other creature of God, for the human person has been made in God’s own image and likeness, and the Father will not lose anyone whom Christ has gained for him.”
Archbishop Gustavo also stressed the need to rally to the practical and charitable aid for the suffering people. Lebanon was already in peril because of this coronavirus pandemic, and the nation’s economy was already under tremendous strain. The explosion has taken hundreds of live, injured more than 4,000 people, and left in its wake over $15 billion in damage to homes, businesses, schools, markets, hospitals and health clinics, churches, mosques, and the disruption of normal life.
Cardinal Rai, patriarch of the Maronites, has said, “Hundreds of families are homeless. All this is happening, and the state is in an economic and financial situation which makes it incapable of dealing with this human and urban catastrophe,” and has appealed for the help of the world.
Pope Francis too has said, “Let us pray for the victims, for their families; and let us pray for Lebanon so that, through the dedication of all its social, political and religious elements, it might face this extremely tragic and painful moment and, with the help of the international community, overcome the grave crisis they are experiencing.”
“My dear friends, true brothers and sisters in Christ, as we attend to our grief and shock, let us resolve to assist our brothers and sisters in Lebanon to rebuild, restore, and renew the church and all of society in that most unique and beautiful of lands,” the archbishop concluded. “Let us not grow slack, but rather, resolute in our determination to be the face of Christ to those who suffer and who grieve.”
To contribute to relief efforts, online donations can be made to https://www.stgeorgesa.org/donations/aid-for-lebanon/ and checks can be made payable and mailed to St. George Maronite Catholic Church; 6070 Babcock Road; San Antonio, Texas 78240. For more information, call (210) 690-9569.