February 11-13, 2000
volume 11, no. 30
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NEWS & VIEWS     Acknowledgments
Articles provided through Catholic World News and Church News at Noticias Eclesiales and International Dossiers, Daily Dispatches and Features at ZENIT International News Agency. CWN, NE and ZENIT are not affiliated with the Daily CATHOLIC but provide this service via e-mail to the Daily CATHOLIC Monday through Friday.

Maronite Pilgrims in Rome for the Jubilee

    VATICAN CITY, FEB 10 (ZENIT).- In his words to five hundred Maronite Lebanese pilgrims who yesterday celebrated their Jubilee in St. Mary Major's Basilica, John Paul II asked this morning that an end be put to hatred and intolerance in Lebanon, so that this country can continue to be a "message" of coexistence between believers of different religions.

    He began by calling to mind the great figures of Maronite Catholicism. This is a Church that has engendered numerous saints throughout the centuries. The Pope reminded them of the hermit, Charbel Maklouf, canonized by Paul VI on October 9, 1977; of blessed Rafqa, a Maronite nun beatified by John Paul II himself, on November 17, 1987; and of Nimatullah Al-Hardini, a Maronite monk and priest whom he beatified eleven years later. The latter's cause concluded just after the Pontiff's historic visit to Lebanese soil.

    Making reference to the Apostolic Exhortation written at the conclusion of the special Synod for Lebanon held in Rome, he expressed his joy at seeing its prompt implementation. This was made tangible in the recent Assembly of Patriarchs and Catholic Bishops of Lebanon, organized last November.

    With heartfelt joy, John Paul II announced that yesterday, after long years of closure due to the consequences of the second World War and the delicate situation in Lebanon, he officially reopened the doors of the Pontifical Maronite College. This institution was created by Pope Gregory XIII in the sixteenth century and has made a decisive contribution to the cultural splendor that imbued the whole Lebanese people, forming some of their sharpest minds.

    For the Pope, Lebanon is not only a country, it is a "message.".Hence, the Lebanese vocation turns this country into a place where "Christians can live in peace and brotherhood with the followers of other beliefs, and where they will be able to promote coexistence." He added, "I wish to tell you today with the strength of love: 'The Pope is always close to you.' I am at your side as a father in this period when intolerance leads, at times, to the revival of the spirits of hate, which we would like to have disappear forever."

    Yesterday afternoon in the Basilica of St. Mary Major, Cardinal Nasrallah Sfeir, Patriarch of Antioch of the Maronites, presided the Mass in the Syro-Antiochian Maronite rite. Among those present were hundreds of Maronites, many from Lebanon, celebrating their Jubilee in Rome.

    In his homily, the Patriarch insisted upon the historical relations that unite the Maronite Church with the See of Peter. The Maronite Church takes its name from the hermit St. Maron, who died around the year 410 and whose liturgical feast is celebrated on the ninth of February. The liturgical language of the Church is Aramaic -- the language Jesus himself spoke. Following the Arab invasions, the Maronites began to use Arabic, especially from the fourteenth century on. They now use the language of the country in which they live, although the most sacred part of the Liturgy, the Consecration of the Eucharist, is conserved in Aramaic.

    The Maronite liturgy is quite simple; it was born in an austere monastery context. The rite has a stupendous spiritual and theological heritage, transmitted by Syrian Fathers such as Saint Ephraim (306-373), famous in both East and West for his hymns to Mary, and one of the 33 doctors of the Catholic Church.

    The total number of Maronite faithful in the world was given as 3,580,000 in the official 1999 statistics. However, the actual number is much higher, perhaps 6 million, since in many parts of the world, given that they cannot find a local Maronite Church, many register themselves in parishes of the Latin Rite. After Lebanon, the largest Maronite communities are to be found in the United States, Cyprus, Egypt, Mexico, and other countries on the American continents. ZE00021002


February 11-13, 2000
volume 11, no. 30

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