Maronite and Melkite bishops say thanks for Aussie aid a year after Beirut blast

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Melkite Bishop Robert Rabbat and Maronite Bishop Antoine-Charbel Tarabay, visited Beirut and prayed with grieving relatives of people who died in last year’s port explosion. PHOTO: Courtesy of the Maronite Eparchy of Australia

Australian generosity has restored churches in capital

Archbishop Antoine-Charbel Tarabay has thanked Australian Catholics for their generous aid to Lebanon on year on from the devastating Beirut port blast.

The explosion last August killed more than 200 people including one Australian, severely injured 6,500 people and left an estimated 300,000 people homeless.

While in Lebanon this month for the annual Synod of Maronite Bishops, Archbishop Tarabay, who is the Eparch of the Maronites in Australia, New Zealand and Oceania, and Bishop Robert Rabbat, Eparch of the Melkites in Australia and New Zealand, celebrated a memorial Mass for the families of the first responders who died while attending the scene.

The Mass was celebrated in the recently restored church of St Anthony De Padua in Rmeil, a stone’s throw from the blast site. The restoration was made possible thanks to a gift of $206,000 made by the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference to help the Church in Beirut.

Archbishop Antoine Tarabay talks with relatives of the port explosion victims at St Anthony De Padua Church in Beirut, located a short distance from the 2020 blast’s epicentre. The church, which was damaged in the blast, has been restored thanks to a donation of $206,000 from Australia’s Catholic bishops which was split between rebuilding needs of Melkite and Maronite churches near the port. PHOTO: Courtesy of the Maronite Eparchy of Australia and Oceania

ACBC donation was from a number of Australian Bishops to help restore churches in Beirut and support families in need following the Port blast. Funds were split between the Maronite and the Melkite church in Beirut.

“I want to thank the [Conference] for its continued support to the suffering churches in the Middle East, and more specifically for their financial contribution which has helped rebuild churches for the people of Beirut,” the archbishop said.

“A year on and the families of the victims are just as distraught, just as lost for words and still seeking answers.

In addition to support from the Australian bishops, the wider Church has come to the aid of a country which the archbishop has described as facing a “grim” economic and food security situation even before the explosion and escalated by the pandemic.

This month Lebanon’s economy ministry raised the price of a bag of flatbread (a staple in the country) for the seventh time this year to 4000 Lebanese pounds (AU$3.50) for a reduced-size loaf, as the World Bank labelled the country’s economic and political crisis one of the worst the world has seen in more than a century.

Archbishop Tarabay said that “tremendous support” from the Australian community over the last year including to the Maronite eparchy’s own appeals has translated to medical supplies, food, household goods and other essentials and helped many people to survive.

“Rebuilding the country and the morale of its people is a long journey and a miracle I pray for daily. With my brother Bishop Rabbat, we are comforted however, knowing the restoration of churches means they can continue to be places of spiritual healing for so much brokenness.”

On behalf of the Conference, the two prelates also presented each of the victims’ families with an icon engraved with their loved one’s name and a small financial gift of support.

The Maronite Eparchy of Australia is running an appeal to support families in Lebanon who are struggling to provide for their basic needs at https://bit.ly/LebaneseFamilyAppeal

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