It was late summer 1977, and war was raging in Lebanon. Journalists sat in the safety of West Beirut; while bombs fell on the Christians in the East. The western media portrayed the Christians as fascists. They felt abandoned. So Father Werenfried sent someone to survey the situation in the Christian area.

He came by sea from Cyprus, since the airport was unsafe, visiting the refugee camps, where no UN representative had set foot, and the overcrowded Maronite monasteries in the mountains. He saw the needs and wrote down what the people needed.

He brought them hope. Later his visit was followed by deliveries of medicines, milk powder and blankets. To this day the older Lebanese Christians still speak with gratitude of Father Werenfried’s messenger of hope.

‘During the war and in the decades that followed, you understood our needs and stood by our side’, 

writes Maronite Archbishop Chucrallah Nabil Hage of Tyre. In his diocese, which extends to the frontier with Israel, the persecution and oppression of the Christians has never really ceased. During the war they were caught between the Israelis and the Hezbollah militias.

The churches were their refuge, their help came from the priests. And the same is true today. Many of the refugees from Syria have found temporary refuge and a little bit of security here, either staying with relatives or in accommodation provided by the Church.

‘My 25 priests are wearing themselves out on their behalf’, says Archbishop Chucrallah. ‘I go begging everywhere in order to strengthen and encourage them. So that they can experience the solidarity of other Christians.’

In this same spirit the Archbishop is also asking us for Mass stipends. He has learned from Father Werenfried to place his requests in God’s hands. He writes,

‘If you can help me, then I will be very grateful to you. If you cannot, I will nonetheless never forget what you have already done us. I remain for ever grateful and loyal to ACN and you can be sure that I will continue to pray for you every day. May the Lord bless you and shower you with his abundant graces, his peace and his joy.’ 

In Saint Matthew’s Gospel we read how Jesus went ‘to the region of Tyre and Sidon’ (15:21) and praised the woman who pleaded with him for her faith. This faith and this Christian presence have survived, to an remarkable degree, despite all the persecution. The Maronites have always been in communion with Rome.

We have sent the archbishop and his 25 priests 1,250 Mass stipends. They will remember you all in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

This article can be found in Mirror 0717.