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Maronite golden jubilee brings faithful, bishops and saints together to celebrate

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Photo: Maronite Eparchy of Australia, New Zealand and Oceania/Snapix.

The coronation of King Charles III may have been the most magnificent of the weekend’s ceremonies, but the reception of the relics of Saints Maroun, Charbel, Rafqa, Nemetallah and Mary of the Cross MacKillop to Our Lady of Lebanon Co-Cathedral, Harris Park, certainly gave it some competition.

The relics—contained in a specially-designed boat-shaped reliquary—were processed into the cathedral for the Maronite Divine Liturgy on Sunday, 7 May

Joining Maronite Bishop Antoine-Charbel Tarabay were 33 Australian bishops and other Maronite clergy, as part of celebrations for the golden jubilee of the Maronite Eparchy, founded in 1973.

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The Melkite youth marching band played bagpipes and drums as a guard of honour formed by flag-waving faithful welcomed the relics.

While the Maronite Eparchy is no stranger to big events, excited parishioners commented that there was something historic and memorable about Sunday’s service.

Parishioner George Youssef, who attended the Mass with wife Melanie and their young son, said the presence of so many bishops was a great moment for the parish.

He and the family had travelled to Lebanon and seen relics of some of the Maronite saints previously but had come in particular for the relics of St Maroun.

Photo: Maronite Eparchy of Australia, New Zealand and Oceania/Snapix.

Youth coordinator Chloe Bouserhal described the lead up to the celebration as “crazy and exciting.”

Along with scores of other volunteers, Ms Bouserhal stood in the rain to ensure everything was running smoothly.

“This was sprung on us just in the lead up to Easter,” she explained. “With so many bishops and the relics here, it is history in the making.”

It wasn’t just the parishioners who were brimming with excitement. Corry Setio and Mary Hii travelled from Kingsford for the Mass and to venerate the relics.

The pair are of Malaysian ancestry and had never been to Our Lady of Lebanon nor attended a Maronite liturgy before.

Asked why they came for the Mass, Ms Hii simply said: “We love St Charbel.”

The rain was no deterrent to the crowds as the co-cathedral quickly filled to capacity for the Mass celebrated according to the Maronite-Antiochian rite.

Principal celebrant Bishop Antoine-Charbel Tarabay, described the presence of the relics of the saints and the visit of the bishops as a unique and historic occasion and a time of grace.

“What better way to celebrate a golden jubilee for our Eastern Catholic Eparchy in this great country than to come together as one in Christ to pray and to give thanks to him who has gathered us in faith and communion all these years,” Bishop Tarabay said in his homily.

The gathering of eastern and western bishops, he said, was a sign of their unity in Christ and—quoting Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP—of their shared mission of bringing souls to God.

While the golden jubilee celebrates 50 years of the establishment of a Maronite diocese in Australia, the Maronite faithful have been present in Australia since 1854, with the first parish established in Redfern in 1897 upon the arrival of the first Maronite priests.

In his homily, Bishop Tarabay outlined the remarkable growth of the Maronite church in Australia since the formation of the eparchy on 13 July 1973.

Photo: Maronite Eparchy of Australia, New Zealand and Oceania/Snapix.

“From humble beginnings in 1973 with four parishes, only one of which had a finished church, two small primary schools, four priests and three nuns, our eparchy has grown to become today one of the largest Maronite eparchies in the world,” he said.

“This is reflected in the 56 priests serving our 21 parishes, churches and chapels. In addition we have 22 religious sisters, seven religious Maronite orders, eight schools, five aged care homes and plans are underway for new parishes, nursing homes and schools.

“This is only achieved through strong faith in the Lord, the generosity of our Maronite people and the support of the government, and the invaluable guidance of the bishops in the Latin Catholic Church.

“With your invaluable prayers and support, we stand ready to continue the journey of the next 50 years.”

The relics will remain at Our Lady of Lebanon for a week, with Masses, prayers and other events planned each day.

Australian Catholic Bishops Conference president Archbishop Timothy Costelloe SDB said the bishops of Australia were grateful to the Maronite community for their prayerful welcome and hospitality.

“Our visit to the vibrant parish of Our Lady of Lebanon offered a glimpse into the life of the Maronite Eparchy in Australia as it celebrates its 50-year jubilee,” he said.

“The church in Australia has been enriched by our Eastern Rite churches, allowing us to breathe with the two lungs of East and West.

“We pray that our connections will continue to deepen as we carry out God’s mission in this country.”

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