03/07/2018, 17.18
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The heirs of Kamal El Hage tell Lebanese Church to recognise his martyrdom

by Fady Noun

Killed in 1976 during Lebanon’s civil war, the philosopher and university professor remained in the country to witness love. His action is proof of "perfect love". He trusted in Providence and the Virgin. The request was made during the extraordinary jubilee in memory of the martyrs of Lebanon.

Beirut (AsiaNews) – Faithful to the guidelines of Saint John Paul II’s apostolic letter Tertio Millenio Adveniente of 10 November 1994, urging local Churches to "ensure that the memory of those who have suffered martyrdom should be safeguarded," the Maronite Church yesterday concluded an extraordinary jubilee dedicated to the memory of its "known and unknown" martyrs with a solemn Mass celebrated by Patriarch al-Rahi at the Patriarchate’s headquarters in Bkerké.

The jubilee began on the feast day of Saint Maron (9 February 2017) and ended on that of the first patriarch Saint John Maron (2 March 2018). On this occasion, the heirs of Lebanese philosopher, author and university professor Kamal Youssef El Hage, and the Foundation bearing his name, submitted to the Maronite Church authorities an application for the official recognition of his martyrdom, on 2 April 1976, in his village of Chbaniyeh (al-Matn al-Janoubi).

The request – backed by the superior general of the Lebanese Maronite Order, Fr Malek Bou Tanos, as well as Fr Maroun Chamoun, the parish priest in the village of Chbaniye – was submitted to Mgr Camille Zaidan, bishop of Antelias, which includes el Hage’s native village.

"We thought it was our duty that Kamal Youssef El Hage not only be rightfully acknowledged as a philosopher, but also, and above all, recognised as a true martyr of the faith in Christ," says the letter addressed to the bishop.

A contemporary of philosophers like Charles Malek and René Habachi, Kamal El Hage, who taught at the Holy Spirit University of Kaslik (USEK), set up a section of Lebanese philosophy at the Lebanese university. His son, Prof Youssef El Hage oversaw the publication of his complete works. The Kamal El Hage Chair was set up at USEK to ensure the continuity and development of his work.

Perfect charity

"If the Second Vatican Council defines ‘martyrdom as an exceptional gift and as the fullest proof of love’ (Lumen Gentium 42), then Kamal El Hage showed perfect love," the letter says.

"He could have easily left his village and his region, which had plunged into suffering, but decided [instead] to continue to serve, and therefore to love, even though he was fully aware that he was not safe. Still, he wanted to be a witness to love until the end of his life.

“Shortly before his capture and death (ostensibly by Palestinians fighting with Druze militias), he was coming home from a meeting he had presided to reconcile two Druze factions – yes, Druze – in his village. Some witnesses are still alive to confirm this.

“To be declared a martyr, it is necessary that the death not been sought. This is the case again. Although he was warned of the dangers he faced, Kamal El Hage put his trust in divine Providence and in the protection of the Blessed Virgin.

“We are convinced in our inner self that Kamal El Hage could, over time, be beatified and even canonised. We are also conscious that this requires an official procedure, as well as a lot of time and research. All we can say, with certainty and humility, is that we believe that the life and philosophical writings of Kamal Youssef El Hage meet to the criteria of martyrdom."

The request to the bishop notes that Patriarch Nasrallah Boutros Sfeir, in his patriarchal elegy of 21 March 2006, was the first to greet "the memory of the martyr Kamal Youssef El Hage".

It is also based on the patriarchal proclamation that calls for "a list made of the sons and daughters of our Church who shed their blood for their faith in Christ . . . whose martyrdom goes back to different periods of history, like . . . the last Lebanese war” (Proclamation of the opening of the extraordinary jubilee).

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