17 August 2020, The Tablet

London prayers for Beirut blast victims

London prayers for Beirut blast victims

Lebanese Father Michel Aboud prays during an open-air mass near the site of Beirut's port massive explosion.
Marwan Naamani/DPA/PA Images

THE 1,500-strong congregation of London’s Lebanese Maronite Church has held a day of prayer for families and others caught up in the blast that destroyed a large part of Beirut last week.

The congregation quickly organised a special Mass at Our Lady of Lebanon in Cirencester Street, Paddington, after the explosion ripped through the port of Beirut causing immense destruction. More than 200 people are believed to have been killed, thousands injured and an estimated 300,000 people rendered homeless in the Lebanese capital by the blast, thought to have been caused by stored ammonium nitrate.

Parish priest Fr Fadi Kmeid said that the congregation had hundreds of relatives who had been injured, while some had family members who had died. Some members of the Church were in Beirut during the explosion but were safe. “We are just devastated by what has happened,” he said.

The congregation chose 15 August as its day of prayer as it was the Feast of the Assumption, honouring their Church’s patron. It had also organised fundraising for the people of Beirut via the parish Facebook page.

The Maronite Church has its origins in the arrival of the Maronite order of monks in Britain in 1983 to serve Lebanese Christians who had migrated to the UK after the civil war.

“Many of our parishioners are very distressed. It is a reminder of the very bad situations they have experienced before, although this is worse,” said Fr Fadi. “During the war the schools and the hospitals didn’t close. This time they have; Beirut is on its knees.”

Our Lady of Lebanon is working with the Maronite order, which has six monasteries in Lebanon, including one in Beirut badly damaged by the blast. All of them are helping displaced people and providing supplies of food, water and medication. A charity, Solidarity Lebanon, set up in recent months to help Lebanese people cope with the recent eco- nomic crisis in their country, is also helping distribute vital supplies. The situation is complicated further by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Maronite Church is one of the largest Eastern Catholic Churches in the world, with more than 3.5 million members in Lebanon alone. It has links to early Christians who heard the apostle Peter preach at Antioch. Some Consecration prayers are said in Aramaic, the language of Jesus.

Cardinal Vincent Nichols has written a letter of support to Cardinal Bechara Boutros al-Rai, Maronite Catholic Patriarch of Antioch and head of the Church.

Donations can be made to Lebanese Maronite Order Charitable Trust (sort code 60-83-75, account 12 02 38 02, ref: Aid to Beirut), based at Our Lady of Lebanon Parish in Paddington, or via Cafod or Aid to the Church in Need.

There is fury in Beirut. But Patrick Page, who has been living in the city senses a second, different explosion: of determination that there can be no return to the status quo; and beside the anger, a strange serenity and a defiant hope. Magazine feature read here.

  Loading ...
Get Instant Access
Subscribe to The Tablet for just £7.99

Subscribe today to take advantage of our introductory offers and enjoy 30 days' access for just £7.99