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Melto D’Moronoyo: This Season of the Cross, let’s secure kids’ lives

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A woman wearing a protective mask pushes a cart past damaged buildings in Beirut during the COVID-19 pandemic. Photo: CNS/Mohamed Azakir, Reuters

In the Maronite Church, the Season of the Cross is the last season of the liturgical year, preceding the Season of the Glorious Birth of Our Lord. The Feast of the Holy Cross is rightfully a joyous occasion, with the Divine Liturgy and Eucharistic Adoration being celebrated.

In Christianity, the importance of the cross cannot be overstated. The cross is Christianity—it is the key to heaven and to salvation and cannot be separated from Christ.

Following the visit of His Eminence and Beatitude, Mar Bechara Boutros Cardinal Rai, Patriarch of Antioch and All the East, the Maronite Eparchy of Australia began this liturgical season with a renewed spirit brought about by the celebrations of its golden jubilee in the presence of its patriarch.

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While Maronites in Australia came together to celebrate the eparchy’s golden jubilee, the visit of His Eminence served as a reminder of Maronite spirituality, strengthening the connection between Australian Maronites and our homeland of Lebanon.

Currently in an ongoing economic crisis, Lebanese Maronites are struggling with a cross that is becoming too heavy to bear, forcing families into impossible decisions.

Many families, especially in remote areas of Lebanon are struggling to keep up with the financial burden of basic necessities and are being forced to cut back on education budgets, leading to students missing school to work, and schools left on the verge of shutting down.

The right to education is a basic one which is unfairly being taken from young Maronites because of the crisis.

His Excellency Bishop Antoine-Charbel Tarabay, Maronite Bishop of Australia, New Zealand and Oceania, officially initiated the Lebanese School Appeal with the blessing of the Maronite patriarch, at two golden jubilee dinner events on 16 and 21 September—in Sydney and Melbourne respectively.

The funds raised will go directly towards the school fees of some 700 students severely affected by the ongoing economic crisis, in 12 non-government schools across the country.

While not insignificant, this is a small contribution and just one step towards addressing a vast need in Lebanon, which is why the Maronite Eparchy has also just launched the Lebanese School Appeal as a way to continue supporting education in Lebanon.

It is crucial to work together to secure children’s access to education and ensure brighter prospects in a country that has lost so much hope.

In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus said, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me” (Mt 16:24).

As Maronites, we are called to bear our crosses in times of adversity, persevering through challenges as our families and predecessors did.

However, no one should bear heavy burdens alone and unaided. Imitating the actions of St Simon of Cyrene on Good Friday, Australia’s Maronites are called, in our capacity, to give charitably and help our brothers and sisters in Lebanon bear their cross during this great season.

Envelopes for the Lebanese School Appeal will be available in all Maronite parishes and schools, and donations may also be made on the Maronite Eparchy website: www.maronite.org.au/appeals.

The Lebanese School Appeal aims to provide direct school fee assistance to those most affected by the economic crisis. School fees will be paid directly against outstanding fee accounts in collaboration with an Eparchial taskforce committee and with the assistance of the World Patriarchal Foundation in Lebanon.

Together, we can help secure a brighter future for these students and build up the resilience of the people of Lebanon for as Bishop Tarabay said, “The future of Lebanon passes first through the school.”

The Season of the Cross serves as a reminder of the most fundamental parts of Christianity—the sacrifice Christ made for our salvation, out of his love for us. As Catholics, we are called to love as Christ did, giving of ourselves in kindness, humility and charity.

The message of this cross in this season is a powerful one, and we are reminded of it during our Divine Liturgy, before the Gospel is read: “The message about the Cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved, it is the power of God” (1 Cor 1:18).

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