The divine liturgy was presided over by His Beatitude and Eminence Mar Bechara Boutros Al-Rahi, assisted by Bishop Hanna Alwan, Bishop Antoine Aoukar, Bishop Antoine Abou Najm, Bishop Michel Aoun, General Supervisor of Caritas Lebanon, Archimandrite Sassine Gregoire Chalawit, representing His Beatitude Patriarch Youssef Absi for the Melkites, Father Michel Abboud, Caritas Lebanon President, Father Hadi Daou, Father Smirgawi and Father Edmond Rizk, General Guide of the League of Confraternities in Lebanon, and Father Youssef Nasr, General Secretary of Catholic Schools.
The mass was served by the Caritas Youth Choir, with the participation of the artist Rafik Khoury.
The festive mass was attended by Caritas Board of Directors, heads of departments, heads of regions, supporters of Caritas, volunteers and its youth, in addition to the Al-Khoueiry family, which celebrated its centenary jubilee.
Caritas Lebanon the Church's social pastoral organ
Patriarch Al-Rahi began his sermon with a speech welcoming Caritas Lebanon family as its supervisor, president, administrators, employees, workers and volunteers: We offer this divine sermon on the intention of Caritas Lebanon, its officials and employees, volunteers and youth, and benefactors from governments, international institutions, and individuals from both internal and external bodies, asking God to overflow His gifts upon them, so that they continue to bear witness for his love, and embody it in the love of the needy among our brothers and sisters.
We raise a prayer of gratitude to God for what Caritas Lebanon, the Church's social pastoral apparatus, has achieved in the service of social love in various fields. Over the past year, it has achieved more than 89 projects, which worth more than $20 million, on the Lebanese territory. Its programs are distributed as follows:
- Social services for children, the elderly, refugees, displaced persons, and foreigners, with different needs.
- Food kits for tens of thousands, with financial aid for the neediest.
- Providing shelter, emergency financial aid, and psychological and social support for the victims of the Beirut Port blast.
- Health services in the ten Caritas centers, and its nine mobile clinics that provide basic medical consultations and medicines for chronic diseases, in addition to hospital aid.
- Special care for foreigners, health, social, housing and legal.
- The educational sector in specialized education centers for people with special needs and educational difficulties.
- Sustainable development and securing job opportunities through agricultural cooperatives, food processing centers, and rural projects.
- Securing housing for vulnerable families.
- Restaurants that serve daily food for those who order it.
- Professionals that provide education and trainings for those who wish.
No to war...Yes to peace
Proceeding from the man with leprosy who came and knelt before Jesus and said If you will, you are able to cleanse me (Mark 1:40), His Beatitude addressed in his sermon the time of Great Lent, which is the time of healing from all kinds of spiritual, moral and political lepers, by the power of prayer, repentance, acts of love and fasting, in accordance with the pastoral measures that the church quoted it in the fasting message for this year.
Let us begin this Lenten journey, asking Christ the Lord for the grace of healing. The Church constantly calls: No to war! No to war! Yes to peace! No to solutions with weapons! Rather, through negotiation and diplomatic and political methods. War and weapons only produce destruction, the killing of innocent victims, and the displacement of safe people, creating wounded and disabled people, destroying achievements, impoverishing citizens, sowing terror in the hearts of children, expanding the scope of hunger, and destroying the harvest of life.
We wonder by what authority the warlords, who command it from their thrones, do that, while they are safe from its scourge? The Fathers of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council consider that the brutality of scientific weapons of every kind used in wars draws combatants into more barbarism than ever before. In the face of this sad situation into which humanity has descended, the Church reminds the Church of the inalienable values of human rights and international principles proclaimed by the conscience of humanity itself. Those that intend to violate these rights and principles, and the orders that impose these acts, are crimes. (The Church in Today's World, 79).
Al- Raii stressed that Lebanon is a nation that was created to remain, to remain free, a model, and a bearer of a message in its surroundings and on the shore of the Mediterranean.
No matter how much we love those in need, we will not love them as much as our Lord loves them
At the end of the Divine liturgy, Father Abboud launched the annual participation campaign 2022, and said:
Caritas grew up, started, persevered, and still works in times of crisis. Caritas works in the name of the church, which follows what Jesus Christ started. Jesus healed the sick, and we work to provide medicine to the sick. He feeds the hungry, and we try to provide food for the hungry. Jesus told them: Go and cast your nets, and we are trying to secure work for everyone in need. Jesus was close to the patient, physically and psychologically, and we are trying to put the spiritual life in the heart of every human being so that he lives in the name of our Lord.
And he continued: We will not be afraid, because we work in the name of Jesus, who we see in the face of every human being, and this is our pride.
Proceeding from the saying of God’s blessings upon us, people need us, we need, in this campaign, the support of every human being so that we can take from him and give to every person in need. Vulnerable patients may not tell us what they need, but we know about them through hospitals, clinics and doctors. A large number of people do not know the vulnerable people and their needs, at a time when millions are knocking Caritas’ doors all over the world, and tens of thousands are knocking on its doors in Lebanon. They come to us and we are surprised daily by the state of Lebanon and its people.
Father Abboud added: No matter how much we love the poor, and no matter how much we love the vulnerable people, we will not love them as much as our Lord does. Therefore, we thank you very much, our patriarch, because you always support us with your words, stances and presence. We thank you for your material and moral support at all levels, and we say to you: All the members of Caritas family who give from their hearts, and all those you see on the streets, in their offices, in their districts and everywhere, make the heart grow. There is no need to fear for our Church, because in it there are giving hearts that give from themselves. We repeat that we do not need money as much as we need people who give themselves.
He continued: You may ask: What can a person offer in the midst of great need? And I say to you: The money and aid that we received, did not come down from heaven or sprout from the earth, but were given to us by hands that heaven did in their hearts. Thus, the little became a lot. He said: It is not permitted to a person to come to this life without cultivating and preparing from this earth, his provisions for heaven.
Father Abboud thanked all those who trusted us, the donors, local and international, who come to us so that we can be partners together. We also want to thank all the people on the land of Lebanon for their support, as hardly a week went by when the Caritas campaign roadblocks were placed on the roads, until we were surprised by the extent People responded to us, which is what we thank God for, and all thanks to the Lebanese expatriates scattered around the world, who knock on our doors, contact us and help us, and without them and all of you, we would not have continued.
Caritas President concluded by saying: Caritas wants to continue its path. We want to work with each other, one heart, one hand, and one direction, and we want to see Jesus in the heart of every human being, so that there will remain a light that shines, no matter how unfair life is. It is not the light of missiles nor of weapons, but rather the light of hearts that give, a light that will continue to shine, God’s willing... We thank you and we thank everyone who stood and wanted to stand with us.