The reputation for holiness of the hermit monk has transcended religious boundaries, in his life time and after his death. A relic, a small fragment of one of his bones, will be placed inside the statue. The ceremony will be led by Maronite Patriarch Bechara al-Rahi. The controversy over the size and costs of the statue are now in the past.
Beirut (AsiaNews) – The monumental statue of Saint Charbel (1828-1898), which arrived last week in Faraya, was installed yesterday, and now proudly stands on the high hill overlooking the village, next to a large iron cross erected in 1951.
Made by Lebanese sculptor Nayef Alwan, the statue will serve also as reliquary. A fragment of one of the hermit's bone from the convent of St Maron in Annaya will be placed inside during the monument’s inauguration, planned for the feast day of the Cross (14 September) during a ceremony led by the Maronite Patriarch, Card Bechara al-Rahi.
The area around the statue can accommodate up to 6,000 people and thus lends itself to large celebrations or open-air masses.
The monument corresponds to a wish and a vow. The idea of a monument was initially part of the tourist development plans promoted by the head of the Town of Faraya, Mayor Michel Salamé.
However, last year, fate struck his 13-year-old nephew, who bears his name, in the form of meningitis. The boy’s parents believe that a combination of miraculous circumstances – medicines and the intercession of Saint Charbel – played a part in the boy’s fate.
After falling into a coma, he eventually recovered. He underwent two operations on 17 and 20 July 2016, respectively feast day of Saint Charbel and Saint Elias. A pledge by Faraya mayor and the vow of little Michel’s parents led to the joint project.
The statue stands on land that belongs to the Wakf, Islamic charitable endowment, in Mar Challita (Faraya), and was approved by the local bishop and Maronite patriarchate. Most local residents praised the installation.
Alas, the project has been marred by a dispute between the firm that made the statue in expensive fiberglass, and the Town of Faraya and sculptor Nayef Alwan. The Compagnie international de l’industrie maritime, owned Abdallah Daoud, with Lebanese and Saudi capital, and the patrons of the statue, apparently did not like its cost. Thus, the firm that made the statue wants far more than the US$ 275,000 paid out by the Town of Faraya municipality to Nayef Alwan, who acted as go-between, and ultimately to Mr Abdallah.
For his part, Mr Salamé said that he had fulfilled his part of the contract, noting that he had allocated the necessary funds to build the 3-kilometre road that leads to the site, set up the latter for the installation, and restored the great iron cross next to it, which dates from 1951.
The huge statue was all the talk on social media. Some see it as identity marker; others view is as a form of idolatry. "Everyone can express their opinion," said Faraya’s mayor, who deplores the attacks. “We are not ashamed to display our faith. If someone is shocked, they can always look elsewhere!"
Ultimately Saint Charbel’s reputation as a wonder worker has proven itself, and a statue, however big, is no match for the holiness that earned him the glory of the altars and huge popular devotion. Such devotion, which was already evident during his lifetime, had transcended community boundaries and will certainly continue to do so.