09/16/2013, 00.00
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The bells of Beit Chabab toll in Bucharest

by Fady Noun
Patriarch Rai yesterday consecrated the altar of the new church in the Romanian capital dedicated to Saint Charbel during a ceremony attended by Orthodox and Muslim representatives. The Church serves the Eastern Catholics of Romania and Bulgaria. Tomorrow, the patriarch will be in Rome to prepare for the ad limina visit by Maronite bishops.

Bucharest (AsiaNews) - A new church has been dedicated to Saint Charbel, this one in Bucharest, joining  a series of sacred buildings dedicated to monk of Annaya, an iconic figure known for his total dedication, who, after his death, became of one of the universal Church's greatest miracle-workers.

Maronite Patriarch Bechara Rai yesterday dedicated the white, clean and spacious church, thanks to the efforts of the small Lebanese community that found a home in Romania after the fall of Ceausescu.

The Lebanese, who have integrated so well in the country, have been joined by other Eastern Christians, especially Iraqis, followed by Syrians, Jordanians, and some Armenians. All were represented at the ceremony, for the church will serve as a place for all Eastern Catholics in Romania and Bulgaria.

Altogether, at least 500 people were present at the consecration ceremony. The church, with its freshly painted walls and light-coloured wooden benches, was built thanks to donations from ordinary believers, the widow's mite and gifts from wealthy patrons, people like Sarkis Sarkis, a businessman who owns the second largest food conglomerate in Romania.

As of yesterday, two bells now toll in Bucharest. They were made in Beit Chabab, a Lebanese village that is home to artisans who cast the bell in a traditional foundry.

Four Lebanese bishops, the Archbishop of Bucharest Mgr Ioan Robu, and the Apostolic Nuncio to the Romania officiated together at the altar with Patriarch Rai.

Lebanese Ambassador Rana Moqaddam sat in the front row. The other guests included the Mufti of Romania, a representative of the Orthodox Church, ambassadors from Arab countries and other nations, friends of Lebanon . . . and, as a good omen, many families with children.

The Lebanese model

Before consecrating altar, which is made in cedar, and anoint it its four corners with holy oil, the Patriarch delivered his homily.

After a series of thanks, he developed his favourite theme, that of Lebanon's pluralism as a model of separation between state and religion that is respectful of religious diversity.

Card Rai deplored the fundamentalist excesses in an Arab world that is looking for itself.

Mentioning Lebanon's problems, he spoke of a political class that is becoming increasingly deaf to reason, stressing the need to facilitate the formation of a government, after six months of attempts, taking into account the exceptional character of Lebanon's experience.

The patriarch also insisted on the need for a political solution to the Syrian crisis, which is also what the universal Catholic Church wants. "The pope," Card Rai said, "has changed the course of the crisis with its call for day of prayer and fasting."

The head of the Maronite Church expressed these ideas in front of the Romanian Foreign Minister, the speaker of the Senate, the deputy speaker of the lower house and the Romanian Orthodox Patriarch Daniel, inviting the latter to visit Lebanon.

With simple words and a heavy heart because of all the unfulfilled aspirations of his people and his homeland, due to a never-ending political crisis, the patriarch spoke about the problems of the Arab world, shaken by a violence-filled spring.

"Today more than ever," he explained, "the Arab world needs its Christians to light the way and reach the best there is in modernity, rejecting the negative."

Tomorrow, the patriarch will be in Rome for preparatory meetings before the ad limina visit to Pope Francis by Maronite bishops on 25 September.

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