Lebanon needs U.S. Catholic help now, bishops say

Catholic News Agency

The Maronite eparchs of the United States are pleading for prayers and aid for the people of Lebanon in the wake of the large explosion in Beirut on Tuesday, August 4, as Lebanon’s bishops call for a day of fasting and prayer this weekend.

Dozens are feared dead and thousands were injured by the blast, the cause of which is still unknown. Harrowing images from Beirut show buildings reduced to rubble, and an estimated hundreds of thousands of people were made homeless by the explosion.

In the statement, Bishop Gregory Mansour of the Eparchy of St. Maron of Brooklyn, and Bishop Elias Zeidan of the Eparchy of Our Lady of Lebanon of Los Angeles described Beirut as an “apocalyptic city.”

“Hospitals, schools, businesses, and much more is destroyed, leaving people feeling hopeless and helpless,” said the bishops.

The explosion knocked out electricity for most of the city of Beirut. Seismic waves were felt hundreds of miles away from the blast.

The eparchs further lamented the declining civil state of Lebanon, which St. John Paul II once praised as a place where Muslims and Christians lived peacefully together, as the country faces continued widespread societal breakdown.

“This country is at the verge of a failed state and total collapse,” they said. “We pray for Lebanon, and we ask for your support for our brothers and sisters at this difficult time and in response to the catastrophe.”

The bishops requested that people “stand in solidarity with the Lebanese,” and that they are praying for an increased stability and “path of recovery toward peace and justice for all.”

The vast majority of Catholics, who make up 27% of Lebanon’s population, are Maronites.

Cardinal Bechara Boutros al-Rai, the patriarch of the Maronite church, said on Wednesday that Saturday, August 8, was to be a day of fasting, prayer, and repentance in the aftermath of the explosion in Beirut.

Cardinal Rai said that 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,” and appealed for global aid.

“Beirut is a devastated city, Beirut, the bride of the East and the beacon of the West is wounded, it is a scene of war without war,” said Rai in his letter, titled “An Appeal to All States of the World.”

Rai also requested that the United Nations set up a special fund to assist with the reconstruction of Beirut and called on charities around the world to help Lebanese families “heal their wounds and restore their homes.”

Several Catholic and secular organizations are already on the ground assisting with the relief efforts in Beirut, including Caritas Lebanon, the Catholic Near-East Welfare Association,  Lebanese Red Cross, and Beit el Baraka.

Pope Francis appealed for prayers for the Lebanese people in his Wednesday audience on August 5.

“Let us pray for the victims, for their families; and let us pray for Lebanon, so that, through the dedication of all its social, political, and religious elements, it might face this extremely tragic and painful moment and, with the help of the international community, overcome the grave crisis they are experiencing,” he said via livestream from the Vatican.

COMING UP: Lebanese priest: ‘We need your prayers’ after Beirut explosions

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A Lebanese Catholic priest has asked believers around the world to pray for the people of his country, after two explosions in Beirut injured hundreds of people and are reported to have left at least 10 people dead.

“We ask your nation to carry Lebanon in its hearts at this difficult stage and we place great trust in you and in your prayers, and that the Lord will protect Lebanon from evil through your prayers,” Fr. Miled el-Skayyem of the Chapel of St. John Paul II in Keserwan, Lebanon, said in a statement to EWTN News Aug. 4.

“We are currently going through a difficult phase in Lebanon, as you can see on TV and on the news,” the priest added.

Raymond Nader, a Maronite Catholic living in Lebanon, echoed the priest’s call.

“I just ask for prayers now from everyone around the world. We badly need prayers,” Nader told CNA Tuesday.

Explosions in the port area of Lebanon’s capital overturned cars, shattered windows, set fires, and damaged buildings across Beirut, a city of more than 350,000, with a metro area of more than 2 million people.

“It was a huge disaster over here and the whole city was almost ruined because of this explosion and they’re saying it’s kind of a combination of elements that made this explosion,” Antoine Tannous, a Lebanese journalist, told CNA Tuesday.

Officials have not yet determined the cause of the explosions, but investigators believe they may have started with a fire in a warehouse that stored explosive materials. Lebanon’s security service warned against speculations of terrorism before investigators could assess the situation.

According to Lebanon’s state-run media, hundreds of injured people have flooded hospital emergency rooms in the city.

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

Featured image: A picture shows the scene of an explosion near the port in the Lebanese capital Beirut on August 4, 2020. – Two huge explosion rocked the Lebanese capital Beirut, wounding dozens of people, shaking buildings and sending huge plumes of smoke billowing into the sky. Lebanese media carried images of people trapped under rubble, some bloodied, after the massive explosions, the cause of which was not immediately known. (Photo by STR / AFP) (Photo by STR/AFP via Getty Images)