Archbishop Fisher: Middle Eastern Christians a strength to the Church in Australia

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    A momentous day for the Melkite community in Sydney PHOTO: Patrick J Lee

    A great strength of the Church in Australia

    Sydney Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP commended the strength of Middle Eastern Christians in the Church in Australia as young and old from Sydney’s Melkite Catholic community gathered to plant a historic sapling of Lebanese Cedar beside St Mary’s Cathedral on the morning of Sunday 22 November – the Feast of Christ the King.

    Melkite and Roman Bishops breaking ground in a gesture of goodwill and friendship to last the generations as the mighty Cedar grows to inherit the precinct as a testament to the strength of Middle Eastern Christians in Australia PHOTO: Patrick J Lee

    The sapling commemorates the victims of the 2020 Port of Beirut Explosion in August which claimed the lives of thousands in the Lebanese capital.

    The cedar – the national symbol of Lebanon-  reflects the strength of the Lebanese community

    The cedar – the national symbol of Lebanon-  reflects the strength of the Lebanese community in the face of adversity both abroad and in Australia;  a strength recognised especially by the Sydney Archbishop who, along with Melkite Eparch of Australia and New Zealand Bishop Robert Rabbat, officiated and blessed  the planting ceremony.

    “It has been a great strength of the Church in Australia to have the Melkites, Maronites and others from Lebanon and nations in the Middle East. We love having you all here,” said Archbishop Fisher. “When we heard of the disaster in Lebanon this year all of Australia was mourning along with the Lebanese community.”

    The sapling commemorates the victims of the 2020 Port of Beirut Explosion

    Firefighters carry an injured man following explosions in Beirut Aug. 4, 2020. Two massive explosions near the port of the Lebanese capital injured dozens of people and shattered windows in buildings blocks away. (CNS photo/Mohamed Azakir, Reuters) See POPE-LEBANON-EXPLOSION and LEBANON-EXPLOSION-REACT Aug. 5, 2020.

    A contingent of the iMelkite youth group also participated in the fundraising bicycle ride ‘Sydney to Beirut Ride for Hope’ from St Michael’s Melkite Church, Darlington, to St Mary’s Cathedral to assist in aid-relief for the thousands still affected in their mother country.

    Thanks be to God for the Melkites

    Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP with Melkite Eparch Robert Rabbat with the iMelkite youth having completed their Ride of Hope to raise funds for those affected in Beirut PHOTO: Patrick J Lee

    Archbishop Fisher commended the faith of the Lebanese Catholics in keeping their identity and faith strong across the generations.

    Melkite youth Katherine Chahoud PHOTO: Patrick J Lee

    “It’s a great thing among the Melkites that you pray together at home and go to church together. Keep the faith strong. Keep your identity as Melkites here in Australia. And that’s a great blessing for our land. Thanks be to God for the Melkites.”

     

    Member of the Melkite community  Grace Dagher, spoke to The Catholic Weekly on the importance of the day for Lebanese Australians “We are very honoured to be part of the day where we commemorate our brothers and sisters in Beirut.”

    We commemorate our brothers and sisters in Beirut

    A fully grown Lebanese Cedar in the UNESCO World Heritage Site Forest of the Cedars of God (Horsh Arz el-Rab) in Lebanon – a forest mentioned in the Bible as well as other ancient Near Eastern texts PHOTO: Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 3.0 DIMSFIKAS

    Bishop Rabbat thanked Archbishop for the friendship between the Roman and Melkite communities “I warmly thank his Grace Archbishop Fisher for kindly welcoming us today.” 

    Lebanese Consul Raymond El Chamlati and the New South Wales Minister for Multiculturalism Geoffrey Lee were also present at the ceremony. The day also marked the 77th anniversary of Lebanese Independence from French Colonial Mandate.

    The sapling is expected to grow into a majestic tree of Biblical proportions on the Cathedral precinct in the generations to come.

    Lebanese Cedar – the national emblem of Lebanon- is mentioned several times in Scripture for its majesty and its exquisite wood, which graced the Temple of Solomon, and was a prized item across the ancient world.