Message for the whole world

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Danny and Leila Abdallah pose for a photo with 3-month-old Selina at the Domus Australia in Rome on 24 June. Photo: CNS, Robert Duncan
Danny and Leila Abdallah pose for a photo with 3-month-old Selina at the Domus Australia in Rome on 24 June. Photo: CNS, Robert Duncan

By Debbie Cramsie and Jude Hennessey

Abdallahs share the lesson of forgiveness forged in the heart of tragedy with Rome audience

Sydney’s Abdallah family were given two standing ovations at the Vatican this week after sharing their message of forgiveness following the horrific deaths of their three children.

Sobs were heard on 25 June as their 20 minute address “Forgiveness as a way of Holiness” was translated via headphones on the final day of the World Meeting of Families in Rome.

Hundreds of delegates from around the globe who had not heard of the inspirational family and the suffering they had endured, had tears rolling down their cheeks as they listened to their story of not only pain, despair and tragedy but also love, forgiveness and freedom.

One bishop from Europe remarked that he never cries, not even at the death of his father, but the Abdallah story melted his heart and led him to tears.

A private meeting between the Abdallahs and Pope Francis failed to eventuate only due to his ill health.

“Twice, delegates rose to their feet, giving the only standing ovations of the conference – one at the conclusion of their address and a second time as Leila named the day – 25 June – as the eve of her son Antony’s birthday, and asked the assembly to join with her in wishing him a happy heavenly 16th.”

Regarded as the most striking talk of the five-day conference, they recounted the horror and pain following the deaths of Antony, Angelina, Sienna and their niece Veronique Sakr after being run down in Oatlands in 2020.

Delegates were left in silence as they recounted their experience.

As Danny Abdallah put it so succinctly “four lives lost; three families shattered; an extended family devastated; a community in disbelief and a nation in mourning”.

Twice, delegates rose to their feet, giving the only standing ovations of the conference – one at the conclusion of their address and a second time as Leila named the day – 25 June – as the eve of her son Antony’s birthday, and asked the assembly to join with her in wishing him a happy heavenly 16th.

But as is sometimes said, out of darkness light also comes.

With their four children by their side, Danny and Leila told how they are now being used for God’s purpose to witness to the healing power of His love and mercy; they urged people to simply forgive.

They told how Australia had embraced their i4give Day held annually on 1 February and pleaded for the world to do the same.

Danny called those gathered to deeply understand the words of the Our Father, not only in seeking forgiveness from God, but at the same time understanding God’s expectation that we must do the same for others.

Maronite Bishop Antoine-Charbel Tarabay with Leila and Danny Abdallah and their children Selina, Michael, Liana and Alex. Photo: Giovanni Portelli

“Leila and I built our family on prayer. In the 18 years of our marriage, we have been consistently praying the Our Father, asking God to ‘forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us’.

“That’s a very powerful prayer if you mean it.

“We hope to bring i4give day to our mother land Lebanon, the Middle East and then the whole world.”

“In memory of our kids, the little Saints, we turned this tragedy into a day of forgiveness.

“Leila and I have created an i4Give Day on the anniversary of the tragedy held on the 1st of February of each year.

“This day has been endorsed by the Australian government and is now recognised as a National Day of Forgiveness.

“We hope to bring i4give day to our mother land Lebanon, the Middle East and then the whole world.

“It is not just a message for Catholics or Christians. It is for the whole world. It is a message for all humanity. It is a path not only to holiness, but to freedom.”

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