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A Pastoral Message to the Clergy and Faithful of our Eparchy 2020.

Updated: Oct 4, 2023

You can read the Arabic version here

A Pastoral Message to the Clergy and Faithful of our Holy Eparchy concerning the recent disaster in Beirut, 4 August 2020.

My Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

“The Peace of God which is beyond all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” (Phil 4:7)

There can be no one living in the media-created global village unaware of the catastrophic events that have occurred in the City of Beirut on 4 August 2020. The capital of Lebanon has long been for so many of whatever faith community or political persuasion an enduring exemplar of civilised living, and the fraternal respect upon which nations can be built.

My first thoughts are for your relatives and friends who were in Beirut at the time of the calamitous events of Tuesday, 4 August. May the Angelic Powers of Heaven keep a vigilant and unceasing watch over them.

A week has passed since the disaster took place, yet many are still so disoriented by these events that they are moved to despair, not only of the City but for the future of the entire nation. The future will bring what it brings; now there is much to be done, and done urgently. As for the future, let us take heed of the Psalmist, “Commit your future to the Lord! Trust in him, and he will act on your behalf.” (Psalm 37:5)

The ancient Church, when contemplating the seven days of creation recounted in Genesis, spoke also of the eighth day. In Christ is indeed the eighth day - the day of resurrection, renewal and restoration. During this last week we have, of course, found it difficult to look beyond the scenes of death and carnage. However, through our tears we must look forward; we must not fall into unbearable and debilitating grief, nor must we allow rumours and accusations to run riot.

If the City is to rise again, if the Nation is to recover in full, Truth, Fraternal Solidarity and Unfailing Faith must not be amongst the victims of that never-to-be forgotten day.

Our first response must be heartfelt prayer. Indeed, who could view the broadcasts from Beirut and not be moved to tearful prayer. This is why, our Eparchy and those of the Middle Eastern Churches in Sydney have not been negligent in calling for prayer as the most powerful remedy in the face of these unthinkable events. On the very next day, 5 August, the Vigil of the Feast of the Transfiguration, the Eparchs, Clergy and Faithful of the Middle Eastern Apostolic Churches responded with great urgency by gathering for a common service of prayer.

Try to set aside a little time each day to commend the City and its inhabitants to the loving-kindness of the Good Lord. On an immediate level, our most pressing task is to bring as much aid, relief and support as possible to the afflicted people of Beirut. In both these endeavours - prayer and action - St Augustine of Hippo, advises us, from across the centuries, “We must pray because everything depends on God, and we must act as if everything depends on us.”

It is not healthy, nor is it constructive, for us to look back in grief for our beloved Beirut, rather we must face what has happened, and even from a great distance, we in the Diaspora must do all we can, and then even more. I urge all people of good will, mainly all the Australian Children of the Cedars, Lebanese born or long settled, to answer this most urgent appeal of the ancestral homeland. Some will be able to give much, some perhaps only a little. However, let our gift be both honest and generous, as we keep in mind that thousands upon thousands are now homeless. And let us have always before us, the images of distraught, and often injured, children suddenly deprived of everything.

A pious legend says that St George, the Triumphant Great-Martyr, fought and killed the diabolic dragon near the waters of the Bay of Beirut, the City of which he is still her patron saint. Through his prayers, may he quickly slay the dragons of confusion, discord and distress that may arise to threaten his City.

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

We must not let the events of these last days dishearten us. We must stay focused and intent on whatever appropriate and positive courses of action are suggested by authentic and trustworthy authorities.

It is with the utmost confidence that I prayerfully invoke the maternal solicitude of the Holy Theotokos, our Blessed Lady, Queen and Guardian of Lebanon, she who is enthroned at Harissa.

As our thoughts turn to the City and people of Beirut and of all Lebanon, I would also encourage each of you to maintain our prayer campaign also for the health and safety of our fellow Australians as we invoke the Divine Compassion upon all humankind. May you, your families and those dear to you continue safe during this present pandemic.

In conclusion, I would like to thank all those who are keeping Lebanon in their prayers. I am also very grateful to those who started by offering their own “mite of the widow.” You can likewise contribute towards helping Lebanon by choosing one of the two options listed below. The collected funds will be shared with the needy and distributed where urgency demands in coordination with the Melkite Catholic Eparchy of Beirut.

With my paternal blessing and with prayers assured,

✠ Robert Rabbat, DD

Bishop of the Melkite Catholic Eparchy of Australia and New Zealand

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