Beirut: Patriarch Douayhi, first historian of the Maronite Church, soon to be Blessed
by Fady Noun

Card Beshara Raï signs the report of the doctors, who attest to a miraculous recovery thanks to his intercession. A reputation for holiness that began in his lifetime. Several miracles attributed to him over the years. His figure is a reminder of the roots and original values ​​for the Maronite community today.

Beirut (AsiaNews) - Patriarch Estephan (Etienne) Douayhi (1630-1704), one of the glories of the Maronite Church, is about to be beatified, as Card Beshara Raï announced December 16 from the Maronite patriarchal see of Bkerké. The Cardinal publicly signed the report of the doctors, who attest to a miraculous recovery due to his intercession.

The cure in question is that of Rosette Zakhia Karam, a married woman who suffered from seronegative polyarthritis that left her partly disabled. She was instantly cured, after a family prayer in front of the statue of Patriarch Douaihy, which stands on the square in front of the church of Ehden, and after taking a piece of land surrounding the pedestal of the statue in her coffee. Rosette Karam immediately felt better enough to walk a great distance to visit her sister, two kilometres from the church.

The dossier relating to her recovery must be examined and authenticated by the medical commission of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. According to the postulator of the cause, Fr. Boulos Azzi, it is not the first miracle attributable to the intercession of Patriarch Douaihy, but the latter is certainly the one with the most medical documentation.

Commenting on this event for the members of the Patriarch Estephan Douaihy Foundation present in Bkerké for the occasion, Patriarch Raï revealed that he had spoken about this dossier in October to Pope Francis, on the occasion of his last visit to Rome, during which he participated in the consistory for the elevation of new cardinals.

"I said to His Holiness - explained the cardinal - that we were counting on a word from him addressed to Card. Marcello Semeraro, who presides over the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, so that the examination of the dossier of Patriarch Douaihy could be accelerated and his eventual beatification coincide with the celebrations for the centenary of Greater Lebanon. The answer did not take long to arrive and, the following day, at the Sunday mass that followed the consistory, the Cardinal promised me that he would follow up on Pope Francis' request”.

Born on 9 August 1630, the feast of Saint Etienne, in Ehden (Lebanon-North), Estephan Douaihy is a figure of great importance for the Maronite tradition. He is considered to be a "father of Maronite history" and a "pioneer of Lebanese national sentiment". This is one of the most important aspects that his beatification can have for Lebanon.

His reputation for holiness began when he was still alive. Destined for the priesthood and educated since adolescence at the Maronite College in Rome, during his studies he was struck by a serious eye disease, to the point that his superiors had thought of sending him back to Lebanon. However, he healed miraculously following a vow made to the Virgin. When questioned by the people closest to him and his friends, he never wanted to reveal the nature of this vow, keeping it for the whole course of his life with extreme ease. Furthermore, once healed, he sight was as keen as an eagle and never failed him. A gifted preacher, he was also a prolific author in the context of a very eventful life. His literary, historical, theological work has been entirely consecrated to the Maronite Church. He was able to lay the foundations for a history of the Maronite Church which still stands today as an incontrovertible point of reference.

Elected patriarch at a young age (40), thanks also to his lively intelligence and the piety that distinguished him, Estephan Douaihy who had previously been Maronite bishop of Cyprus, reigned on the seat of San Marone from 1670 to 1704, the year of his death occurred in Qannoubine, in the holy valley, where he was buried inside the cave of Saint Marin.

His patriarchate was one of the toughest in history. Long in the crosshairs of the Ottomans, masters of Mount Lebanon for about two centuries, it suffered numerous persecutions, both by the Pasha of Tripoli, as well as by the tyrannies and extortions of the Hamadé governors.

To escape from them, at times over the years he remained in the central regions of Mount Lebanon (Kesrouan and Chouf), wisely administering the affairs of the Maronite Church. And it was he who, in 1795, in the years of his maturity, welcomed the three founders of the Lebanese Maronite Order, who came from Aleppo - where he himself had served during his years of priesthood - to live as hermits in the holy valley.

In addition to his brilliant intellectual qualities, many miracles have been attributed to him during his life: healing a sick child, who will become the future patriarch Philippe Gemayel, stopping and preventing natural disasters such as a fire, torrential rains and falling rocks.

Proclaimed venerable by Pope Benedict XVI, Lebanon hopes that he can be beatified in 2021 before the close of the centenary of the creation of Greater Lebanon (1 September 1920).

Together with Patriarch Elias Hoayek, the "founding father of Greater Lebanon", also declared venerable by Benedict XVI, Estephan Douaihy is the second Maronite patriarch who could be raised to the honours of the altars. Perhaps more than the latter, he is at the centre of a series of figures cloaked in sanctity born before the French mandate and independence (1943), which illustrate well the spirit of Christian fortress of a Lebanon "whose historical roots are of religious nature”, referring to the formula developed by John Paul II. And it is undoubtedly from a better knowledge and greater fidelity to these roots that the Maronite community could benefit from it on the occasion of his beatification.

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