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Lebanese cardinal: ‘The Church has a great duty’ after Beirut explosion

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by Hannah Brockhaus

Rome Newsroom, Aug 5, 2020 / 10:00 am MT (CNA).- After at least one explosion occurred at the ports of Beirut on Tuesday, a Maronite Catholic cardinal has said the local Church needs support to help the people of Lebanon recover from this disaster.

“Beirut is a devastated city. A catastrophe struck there because of the mysterious explosion which occurred in its port,” Cardinal Bechara Boutros Rai, Maronite Patriarch of Antioch, said Aug. 5.

“The Church, which has set up a relief network throughout Lebanese territory, today finds itself faced with a new great duty which it is unable to assume on its own,” the statement of the patriarch continued.

He said after the Beirut explosion, the Church stands “in solidarity with the afflicted, the families of the victims, the wounded, and the displaced that it is ready to welcome in its institutions.”

The blast, which occurred at Beirut’s port, has killed at least 100 and injured thousands, flooding hospitals. The death toll is expected to climb further, as emergency personnel search for an unknown number of people still missing in the rubble.

The explosion ignited fires and most of the city was without electricity Tuesday and Wednesday. Sections of the city, including the popular waterfront area, were flattened in the blast. Crowded residential neighborhoods in eastern Beirut, which is predominantly Christian, also sustained severe damage from the explosion, which was felt as far as 150 miles away in Cyprus.

Cardinal Rai described the city as looking like “a war scene without war.”

“Destruction and desolation in all its streets, neighborhoods, and houses.”

He urged the international community to come to the aid of Lebanon, which was already in an economic crisis.

“I am addressing you because I know how much you want Lebanon to regain its historic role in the service of man, democracy, and peace in the Middle East and in the world,” Rai said.

He asked for countries and for the United Nations to send aid to Beirut, and called on charities around the world to help Lebanese families “heal their wounds and restore their homes.”

Lebanon’s Prime Minister Hassan Diab declared Aug. 5 a national day of mourning. The country is almost evenly divided between Sunni Muslims, Shia Muslims, and Christians, most of whom are Maronite Catholics. Lebanon also has a small Jewish population, as well as Druze and other religious communities.

Christian leaders have asked for prayers after the explosion, and many Catholics have turned to the intercession of St. Charbel Makhlouf, a priest and hermit who lived from 1828 to 1898. He is known in Lebanon for his miraculous healings of those who visit his tomb to seek his intercession – both Christians and Muslims.

The Maronite Foundation in the World posted a photo of the saint to their Facebook page Aug. 5 with the caption “God have mercy on your people. Saint Charbel pray for us.”

The studio and offices of the Middle East Christian Television network Noursat was located about five minutes from the blast site and was “massively damaged” according to a joint statement from the network’s founder and chairman Aug. 5.

They asked for “intensive prayers for our beloved country Lebanon, and for Tele Lumiere/Noursat to continue its mission in spreading the word of God, hope, and faith.”

“We pray for the souls of the victims, ask our Almighty God to heal the injured, and give strength to their families.”

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