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Pontifical Mission at 50: Beirut

Lebanon’s diverse communities pay tribute on the occasion of the Pontifical Mission’s golden jubilee.

prepared by CNEWA staff
photographs: courtesy CNEWA-PMP, Beirut


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The busload of villagers from the Sunni Muslim village of Korhaya traveled over the mountains early on Sunday morning, 28 November, to Beirut to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Pontifical Mission. These villagers, thankful for the irrigation system and apple and lemon saplings provided for their village by the Mission, were anxious to express their thanks.

Korhayans are just one of many living examples of the sentiments expressed by Achille Cardinal Silvestrini, Prefect of the Congregation for the Eastern Churches and personal representative of Pope John Paul II, at the Pontifical Mission’s 50th anniversary celebration in Lebanon when he said: “Wherever the Pontifical Mission labors…it enacts a recurring theme of His Holiness Pope John Paul II in the Apostolic Exhortation, ‘New Hope for Lebanon,’ namely, ‘to work in a spirit of conviviality that fosters togetherness and transcends mere coexistence.’”

The celebration of the Pontifical Mission in Lebanon was truly a gathering of the people, whether Muslim, Druze or Christian. These communities gathered together not only to celebrate 50 years of service of the Pontifical Mission but to recognize all that was accomplished by these communities working together – even communities that were once bitter enemies.

The Beirut celebration marked the third day in a row of anniversary celebrations in the Middle East. Following the celebrations in Amman, Cardinal Silvestrini, Msgr. Robert L. Stern, Msgr. Denis Madden, Father Guido Gockel, M.H.M., Mr. Ra’ed Bahou and Msgr. Maurizio Malvestiti boarded a plane on Sunday morning and flew from Amman, over the Jordanian desert and parts of Syria and along the Lebanese coast to Beirut.

The group was met in Beirut by Archbishop Antonio Maria Vegliò, Apostolic Nuncio to Lebanon, their colleague Mr. Issam Bishara, Regional Director for Lebanon and Syria, and members of the Beirut staff.

After an informal lunch, the group assembled at the Basilica of Notre Dame du Liban at Harissa to prepare for the first event – the celebration of the Mass of Thanksgiving.

Fifteen hundred Lebanese, including four patriarchs and 45 bishops, priests, religious and laity made up the jubilant congregation. Not only Christians but a great number of Muslims and Druze from the many villages served by the Mission throughout the years came to give thanks. The importance of this event was evidenced by the live television broadcast of the Mass throughout Lebanon.

Msgrs. Stern and Madden assisted Cardinal Silvestrini, the principal celebrant, at the altar. The choir, in beautiful harmony, helped raise the minds and hearts of all. Minister Sleiman Traboulsi, Minister Hasan Shalak and Deputy Samir Azar represented President Emile Lahoud, Prime Minister Selim El Hoss and President of the National Assembly Nabih Berri, respectively, at the Mass.

As a theme for his homily, Patriarch Nasrallah Cardinal Sfeir paraphrased the words of Luke 1:43, “Why should I be honored?:”

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Tags: Lebanon Beirut