‘Piece of Lebanon’ arrives at Maronite Catholic Church in Toronto – Catholic World Report

Our Lady of Lebanon Maronite Catholic Church in Toronto replaced a vandalized statue of Mary with a replica of the Lebanese Our Lady of Lebanon Shrine in Harissa on September 11. | Photo credit: Our Lady of Lebanon Catholic Church. See CNA article for a full show.

Boston, Mass., Sept. 18, 2022 / 9:00 a.m. (CNA).

Many parishioners of Our Lady of Lebanon Maronite Catholic Church in Toronto lost family and friends when a devastating explosion on August 4, 2020, killed hundreds of people and injured thousands in Beirut, the capital of Lebanon.

A large number of Maronite Catholics are of Lebanese descent, and some parishioners still consider Lebanon, as well as Canada, their homeland.

But the suffering intensified at Our Lady of Lebanon when just weeks after the explosion, on August 30, 2020, the statue in the Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary was beheaded. To add to the vandalism, there was no chance of repairing the statue since the head of the statue was also stolen.

“It was like continuing the trauma that happened in Beirut,” Laure Abou-Jaoude, a 71-year-old parishioner, told CNA.

The cousin of Abou-Jaoude’s mother, whom she considers an uncle, died two months after suffering serious head injuries following the explosion in Beirut. She also said that her childhood neighborhood, Mar Mikhael, was devastated and many of her friends were injured.

Many Our Lady of Lebanon parishioners have had similar experiences, as Father Walid El Khoury, OAM, pastor of the church, told CNA Abou-Jaoude.

Due to the two tragedies, the parish decided to raise funds for a new statue that would remind its inhabitants of Lebanon. This statue, 100% funded by donations from inside and outside the parish, came in the form of a replica of the monumental statue of Our Lady of Lebanon in Harissa, Lebanon.

The original statue in Lebanon, located about 26 km north of Beirut and more than 2,000 feet above sea level in the mountains overlooking the coastal bay of Jounieh in the Mediterranean Sea, is made up of seven pieces of bronze.

The statue, painted white, stands just under 28 feet tall and about 16 1/2 feet in diameter. Made in France, the statue weighs 15 tons and sits on a 66-foot-tall base that features 104 spiral steps leading to the base of the statue.

The statue has a chapel built into its base and is a popular tourist attraction in Lebanon, having immense spiritual significance for Lebanese Christians.

Abou-Jaoude said she always visits the statue to pray when she travels to Lebanon. However, she can no longer climb stairs due to a hip injury.

But she will be much closer to the top of her parish’s new statue, as the replica is only about 12 feet tall. The base is 8 feet tall and the statue itself is 4 feet tall. Both Abou-Jaoude and El Khoury say it resembles the Harissa statue, which depicts Mary in white, wearing a robe, hands outstretched, palms up, similar to the depiction of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception.

The replica, which is made of marble with a stone base in Italy, even has a small chapel built into the base, just like the original.

“It’s like a piece of Lebanon that is here in our backyard,” El Khoury said. He added that with the statue, parishioners feel at peace and hope to find life again.

Abou-Jaoude said the replica brought healing and happiness to the parish.

The replica was inaugurated in a celebratory ceremony on Sunday, September 11. The spiritual leader of the Maronite Eparchy of Canada, Bishop Paul-Marwan Tabet, presided over the mass and the blessing of the statue that followed.

In his homily who understood both Arabic and English, Tabet told the congregation that Maronites had been violently persecuted for 400 years in the Middle East for their belief in Mary.

“No one can take a Maronite away from his love for Notre Dame,” he said.

During the blessing, around 400 parishioners took to the streets, singing hymns and praying as the statue was covered in incense.

No suspects were found in the vandalism investigation. But parishioners are delighted with the new addition to their parish house.

“On the day of the consecration, we were happy; we were really happy,” Abou-Jaoude said.


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Martha J. Finley