10/03/2005, 00.00
LEBANON – SYNOD ON THE EUCHARIST

Lebanon marks the start of the Synod with celebrations and prayers

by Youssef Hourany

Beirut (AsiaNews) – The patriarchs of the Eastern Catholic Churches in Rome to participate in the Ordinary Synod of Bishops on the Eucharist, have called on their flocks to "raise up prayers for the smooth flow of works in this important sitting of the Synod", the first ever under the pontificate of Benedict XVI.

Bishops and parishes in Lebanon took up the pastors' invitation; prayer vigils and Eucharistic adoration were organised in many churches, from dusk until dawn. Many youth movements decided to dedicate a few days of reflection and prayer to "better understanding" the perennial value of the Eucharist, the sacrament of the Body and Blood of Jesus.

The Patriarchal Vicar of the Maronite Diocese of Sarba, Mgr Guy-Paul Noujeim, presided over the Eucharistic Celebration in the church of Our Lady of the Rosary – Zouk Mosbeh – attended by more than 500 faithful from across the region. During the homily, he made an appeal "so that all the faithful may give the Eucharist a privileged place once again". Speaking about the Synod, he highlighted "the necessity of further deepening the theme of the Eucharist, capable of nourishing thirsty souls". Speaking of the link between the lives of the saints and the Eucharist, Mgr Noujeim used the life of St Theresa of the Child Jesus as an example, saying she was able to gain the Kingdom of God in her short but totally Eucharistic life.

The superior-general of the Maronite order of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Abbot Semaan Abou-Abdou, celebrated Mass in the presence of 3,000 people from all faiths: Christians and Muslims, Catholics, Orthodox, Protestants and Anglicans, Sunnis, Shi'ites and Druze, all sharing devotion for the saint. Mass was celebrated in the monastery of St Theresa of the Child Jesus in Shaile, the first monastery in Lebanon dedicated to the saint of Lisieux, which was built in 1926.

The abbot, assisted by another 50 priests, dedicated the order and its mission from the Saint of the roses to Our Lady, and he recalled the historic visit of the relics of St Theresa to Lebanon in 2003. Fr Abou-Abdou urged young people to consecrate themselves to God – "who merits the best fruit in the field of mankind" – and he invited the crowd to accompany, through prayer and acts of piety, the synodal fathers gathered in Rome. Turning then to the situation in the country, he asked of one and all "a journey of conversion" because, as John Paul II said during his visit to Lebanon in 1997, "only the saints can save Lebanon".

Meanwhile, the Maronite Archbishop of Beirut, Mgr Paul Matar, presided over a prayer vigil in the Maronite Cathedral of St George (in the heart of Beirut) with young people of the diocese. He recalled the start of the month of Ramadan, a sacred month for Muslims who fast and pray. Out of a population of around one million people in the Lebanese capital, there are more than 600,000 Muslims.

Mgr Matar invited all "to forgiveness and pity" and he asked that "this period of love and penitence with regard to [our] Muslim co-nationals" be utilized in such a way to "help each one to rediscover his true identity". The bishop closed by talking about Lebanon, "land loved by God", which represents a "message and a bridge" between east and west, and he called upon all to refute and to struggle against fundamentalism and violence.

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