Lebanon Consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary Is Plea for Peace in Middle East
For the fifth consecutive year, faithful in the region have been consecrated to the Mother of God.
BEIRUT — For the fifth consecutive year, Lebanon and all of the Middle East has been consecrated to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
The consecrations were in response to a request of the Synod of Bishops for the Middle East held in the Vatican in October 2012 under Pope Benedict XVI.
Building up momentum for the first consecration in June 2013, the “Mother of Light” statue toured Lebanon, visiting 333 Lebanese villages and cities over 40 days. Since then, Lebanon has grappled with crises, including the ominous threat of the conflict in neighboring Syria spilling over; the strain of hosting some 1.5 million Syrian refugees; and a presidential vacuum that dragged on for more than two years. Meanwhile, the country suffers from a continuous economic downslide and severe unemployment.
Still, Cardinal Bechara Rai attested in his homily at the new consecration this year, which took place June 3, how, “for all these five years, Mary, with her invisible hand, has kept our homeland safe from collapse, every time it reached the brink.”
“With this need for mercy in our homeland and in the countries of the Middle East, we have come to renew our devotion and consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary,” he said.
Despite the instability in the region, there is hope that the fruits of the consecration of Lebanon and the entire Middle East to the Immaculate Heart of Mary will prevail.
“We believe that with the intercession of the Virgin Mary, wars can stop,” Maronite Bishop of Tyre Shukrallah Nabil El-Hajj, who heads the patriarchal committee for the consecration, told the Register.
“We don’t always know how the Virgin Mary works and protects, but surely there are graces for all the Middle East, and she is saving souls. We won’t know to what extent until we reach heaven.”
In his homily for this year’s consecration, Cardinal Rai also reiterated how the Virgin Mary appeared to the three shepherd children in the Portuguese village of Fatima and told them, “In the end, my Immaculate Heart will triumph.”
Last year, the consecration occurred in Fatima, commemorating the centennial of the apparitions.
Cardinal Rai and Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignace Joseph III Younan led a delegation of bishops and some 30 priests. Thousands of faithful from the Middle East as well as the Lebanese diaspora from around the world also made the pilgrimage for the June 25, 2017, consecration, which was preceded the evening before with the recitation of the Rosary and a candlelit procession.
In his homily at Fatima, Cardinal Rai said, “We have come to ask for the intercession of Our Lady of Fatima for peace in the Middle East region and for stability in Lebanon, to preserve our country’s mission and model of coexistence among religions and cultures, especially among Christians and Muslims.”
About 40% of the approximate 4 million Lebanese citizens residing in Lebanon are Christian.
“We have come to renew the dedication of Lebanon and the countries of the Middle East to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, according to her wishes. This dedication is to repent, to stop wars and to consolidate peace,” Cardinal Rai added.
Lebanon was graced in 2015 with a visiting statue from Fatima, which toured the country beginning on the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart, ahead of the consecration.
The statue of Our Lady visited all four patriarchal sees: the see of the Armenian Catholic, the Syrian-Catholic, the Melkite Catholic and the Maronite Catholic patriarchates, where in some locations more than 20,000 people visited. The statue was even carried through Lebanon’s Parliament, as the country was weakened at that time with institutional paralysis, amid a presidential vacuum.
In his homily, Cardinal Rai said, “To you, Our Lady of Lebanon and Our Lady of Fatima, we raise our prayers in this act of consecration, confident that you can share our emotions and feel what makes us suffer in Lebanon and the Middle East, especially in Palestine, Iraq, Syria and Yemen, due to fighting between good and evil, between light and darkness. With your maternal heart, listen to the cries of suffering from the victims of war, violence and terrorism, the cries of those who are tortured, driven from their homes, thrown on the roads of exodus. May our appeal today go straight to your heart, and intercede for us with your Divine Son, you who can speak to his Sacred Heart.”
Still, more devotion to the Blessed Mother is needed, for the salvation of souls.
“We should discover again the importance of the role of the Virgin Mary in salvation and for each one of us,” said Bishop El-Hajj. “She never asks for something for herself — she wants only the glory of God and our salvation.”
Doreen Abi Raad writes from Beirut, Lebanon.