Monday, June 23, 2008

Vatican delegation beatifies Lebanese priest

Vatican delegation beatifies Lebanese priest
Line of dignitaries on hand as thousands attend Beirut ceremony

By Anthony Elghossain

BEIRUT: Miraculous, perhaps. Tens of thousands of Lebanese gathered in Martyrs Square in Downtown Beirut on Sunday to witness the beatification of Yaaqoub Haddad, the late Capuchin priest who gained fame for his prolific work in founding an order of nuns, expanding the Capuchin school network and conceiving or establishing a number of religious and social institutions, some of which have gained iconic status in Lebanon. Haddad, who died more than 50 years ago, took a step toward sainthood in the first beatification ever to take place outside the Vatican - and people flocked to the capital to observe the ceremony. The service itself was presided over by a representative of Pope Benedict XVI, and the head of the Vatican's office for sainthood, Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins, in tandem with Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Butros Sfeir. Attended by a litany of Eastern Christian prelates, other clerics, international envoys and local political figures, the event also included the Lebanese political troika of President Michel Sleiman, Speaker Nabih Berri and Prime Minister Fouad Siniora.

Thunderous applause greeted Sleiman as he arrived minutes before the Mass, and ovations were repeated many times during the ceremony, which bestowed one of the highest honors in the Christian tradition upon a Lebanese priest mere meters away from an Ottoman-era mosque in the heart of the capital. Indeed, while respectful or appreciative clapping often arose, the loudest rounds of applause came after "the nation" or the "Lebanese cedars" were mentioned in one context or another. A procession of the cross was held before Western Catholic - Latinized - renditions of Syriac and Arabic Christian chants held the massive gathering rapt. As Cardinal Martins read out a message from the pope, "hoping that this beatification will lift Father Yaaqoub of Ghazir as a happy servant of the Lord," a white veil cloaking a portrait of the late priest was lifted, symbolizing recognition of Haddad's beatification.

"The righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their father," the Maronite patriarch said as he took the pulpit, evoking reverent silence through the assembled thousands. "The hope of so many Lebanese was realized today - that hope was the raising of Father Yaaqoub's portrait above the altar of the Catholic Church." Sfeir then outlined how Haddad "passed through the narrow door leading to sainthood," attributing the priest's ability to walk "the difficult road of a saintly life to three virtuous practices: surrender to the will of God, Christian modesty and the work of mercy." "Father Yaaqoub would say that 'All God has given me belongs to Him and the poor of Lebanon," added Sfeir, in reference to his first point regarding the late pastor. "He built hospitals, schools and took care of the sick, yet he was a man of simple means - Father Yaaqoub put his trust in the grace of God." Sfeir, describing the four "pillars of modesty" that characterized Haddad's life, again quoted the priest, saying: "Do not bestow virtue upon yourself that is not present within you; credit the Lord for that which is good in us; do not praise yourself in the presence of others; and do not count the shortcomings of those close to you in order to raise yourself." With the sun beating down on the packed city center and with Lebanese girl scouts handing out hats and bottled water, the patriarch closed by attributing Yaaqoub's work of mercy to his love of mankind, saying that "the measure of love is to love without measure."

Applause and chatter followed Sfeir's sermon but soon gave way to quiet laced with anticipation as an orchestra and choir provided a powerful undercurrent for the placing of testimonials at the altar. Intermittent cheers rose from the crowd as a key to the city of Ghazir, a copy of the Capuchin statutes, the late monk's scapular and various other relics of Yaaqoub's life were presented, but in another display of a distinct nationalist bent, roars of approval met the presentation of a young cedar as a symbol of the expansion of Haddad-founded institutions throughout Lebanon and abroad.

Once communion had been received, Sister Mary Makhlouf, who heads the Sisters of the Cross order of nuns, a network founded by Father Yaaqoub, capped the ceremony in a speech touching upon the broader meaning of the day. In the shadow of Mohammad al-Amin Mosque, the nun spoke of "seeing Jesus in Father Yaaqoub, overcoming the divisions, barriers and [narrower] affiliations in the nation that is a humanistic message." The sister continued, as the crowd met nearly her every word with an ovation, saying that "sainthood is not a restriction, but a good turn ... and can lead one to the message of salvation. It matters not who, where and how we are - we all need someone to love, to help and be helped by." "This nation, whose concept was founded on the contact of cultures, must - no matter what the differences and difficulties facing us - serve as a model of coexistence," she said. "The 17 communities that form this country should be a source of wealth, rather than discord ... Lebanon should spread its wings like an eagle and shed light into the heart of darkness, as the sky is lit by the rising sun." Sister Mary ended by expressing her hope that "the years spent for Lebanon and the Lebanese people in an appeal [to heaven] will be accepted, allowing Lebanon to remain."

A Step closer to sainthood

BEIRUT: The man who would become Abouna Yaaqoub Haddad Kabouchi - literally, Father Jacob Haddad the Capuchin - was born Khalil Haddad in the Kesrouan village of Ghazir in 1875. The young Haddad spent his childhood in Lebanon and Egypt before joining the seminary for theological studies at the age of 18, when he received the moniker "Brother Yaaqoub." In 1998, a woman from the village of Maghdouche, about 5 kilometers southeast of Sidon, said Yaaqoub's spirit cured her of a malignant tumor. In 2007, Pope Benedict XVI officially attributed the miracle to the Lebanese priest. Kabouchi was beatified on Sunday, making him one step closer to sainthood. Beatification, which requires the recognition of one miracle, can be seen as allowing the Catholic faithful to pray to the soul in question for intercession, whereas canonization - the declaration of sainthood - makes obligatory a belief in the ability to intercede. - The Daily Star

Friday, June 13, 2008

Siniora predicts general public approval of new cabinet

Siniora predicts general public approval of new cabinet
Prime minister refuses to set date but expresses confidence

By Hussein Abdallah
Daily Star staff

BEIRUT: Prime Minister-designate Fouad Siniora said after meeting Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri on Thursday that he would not set a date for the birth of the new cabinet, adding confidently that the Lebanese people will be glad with their next government. Siniora told reporters that all parties were on the right track and that every day was witnessing some more progress toward forming the new cabinet. Siniora, who also discussed the prospects of the new cabinet with Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblat on Thursday, reportedly proposed two formulas for the distribution of portfolios, but the opposition has yet to decide which of the two suits it best. According to published media reports, one plan gives the opposition finance, public works, education, displaced, tourism, environment, youth and sports, and culture, while the other gives the opposition foreign affairs, energy, justice, economy, industry, agriculture, social affairs, and health. Mohammad Shattah, Siniora's adviser, told LBC television on Thursday that the prime minister wanted to distribute the sovereign portfolios (finance, foreign, defense, interior) in the next cabinet in a fair and balanced way.

Shattah reiterated that Siniora was not holding on to any specific portfolio in the next cabinet. "We have already agreed that the interior minister will go to the president, but everything else is still being discussed," Shattah said. Shattah, who sounded optimistic, said that his meeting with Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun on Wednesday was positive, saying, "Aoun has accepted both formulas forwarded to him by the prime minister and is consulting his allies before he comes out with a final position." Sources close to Berri told The Daily Star Thursday that the opposition was against the mechanism Siniora was using to form the new government. "Siniora should not be involved in the political bargaining over the portfolios as if he was negotiating on behalf of the parliamentary majority ... He should rather act as a prime minister," the sources said. The sources added that the efforts to eliminate all the hurdles to forming the new cabinet have not stopped, but stressed that the opposition was not likely to accept any formula which gives it less than nine portfolios in the next cabinet.

The opposition is due to get 11 seats in the 30-member cabinet, but only 22 of the 30 available seats are government portfolios. The eight remaining cabinet posts constitute no portfolios, with the holder of any of these being a "minister of state." But opposition sources told the Central News Agency (CNA) Thursday that the opposition has reservations about both formulas because neither includes the portfolio of telecommunications, which was allegedly demanded by Hizbullah. One source also said the opposition was not satisfied with the fact that two sovereign portfolios (defense, interior) would go to the president: "In Doha, we agreed that the Interior Ministry would go for a neutral figure appointed by the president, but nobody suggested that the Defense Ministry should be treated likewise." Earlier reports said the opposition was against keeping caretaker Defense Minister Elias Murr in his post. Murr, who was reportedly tipped by President Michel Sleiman for the Defense Ministry, is at odds with some opposition parties over his role in the highly disputed Siniora government, which assumed a caretaker role after the election of Sleiman.

Meanwhile, Sleiman said on Thursday that the May 21 Doha Agreement, which ended an 18-month political crisis in Lebanon, will be fully implemented because all parties were committed to the agreement and concerned about preserving stability and civil peace in the country. Sleiman met the head of the Arab Parliamentary Union, Jassem al-Saqr, who told reporters afterward that the president was optimistic about the formation of the new cabinet. "We will very soon see a national unity government running the country," he said. Saqr also met Berri, Siniora, and Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea on Thursday. Sleiman also met former Prime Minister Salim Hoss, who hoped the new cabinet would be formed "as soon as possible." "There are some positive indications regarding the new government," he said. "I hope it is formed as soon as possible ... the country cannot afford another crisis." Meanwhile, Geagea said the opposition's demands regarding the new government were political blackmail against the parliamentary majority. "At first, they demanded to get veto power in the new cabinet. After a long process of political bargaining, they got the veto power that they wanted, but they continued to ask for more," Geagea said. He added that the Lebanese Forces would not keep the Tourism Ministry: "We had enough of it ... We will leave the floor for other parties to contribute to tourism." Geagea refused to specify which portfolios the Lebanese Forces are seeking. Earlier reports said the party was likely to get two seats in the new cabinet as opposed to one seat in the current lineup.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Re- Submerging the Statue of Our Lady: Lebanon's Biggest Underwater Statue of Our Lady of Lebanon

Re- Submerging the Statue of Our Lady
Lebanon's Biggest Underwater Statue of Our Lady of Lebanon

On their wedding anniversary in 2005, a young Lebanese couple (Joumana and Kamal) submerged a statue of Our Virgin Lady Mary, facing the historical " Lady of the Seas church" on the coast of Batroun where they had gotten married. It was placed at a very nice drop-off at a depth of 39 meters (photos uploaded to the facebook group).

War and crisis hit the country and, as in every war, there are always looters, even at sea. The statue was stolen and sold off as an antique to a rich millionnaire. By pure chance (or maybe divine intervention), the couple got word of the theft and location of the statue about 1 week later.

The pirates were jailed and the statue was returned, only this time it will be submerged soon at a different location.

"Dive the Med Club" ( invites you to join hands in re-submerging Lebanon's biggest underwater statue of Our Virgin Mary, Our Lady of Lebanon.

None-diving friends are welcome to witness this event from the boat...

Places are limited. Please indicate number of people for reservations.

Kindly RSVP or reserve your spots on the following number 03119002 or by email to

Pricing as follows:
20$ for divers + $ 15 equipment rental
10 $ for non divers.

Divers, please be there 1hr in advance for logistics and equipment preparations. Non divers about 30mns in advance.

Plus multiple dives to the site are sceduled on the same day after the statue is submerged (about 2 additional dives). Please make reservations separately.

Kamal E. Greig
Club Director & Nitrox Instructor

Sunday, June 22, 2008
11:00am - 1:00pm
Safra Marina, Jounieh
+961 3 119 002

Friday, June 06, 2008

Lebanon Festivals Links

Al Bustan Festival:
The Next Al Bustan Festival will take place: Tuesday 17 February - Sunday 22 March, 2009.

The Tyre Festival:
Events scheduled for the month of July 2008 here:

Beiteddine Festival:
Mika, Majida El Roumi, Matteo, Kasem el Saher, etc...
Check out the website for more, and details about dates and venue

Baalbeck Festival:
Sunday July 27th 2008
MIKA@ Martyr's Square
Pop Concert In Co-Production with Beiteddine Festival & 2U2C
Mika is the new genius of pop music. Born in Beirut to a Lebanese mother and living in London, he writes his own lyrics and music. He is often compared to Robbie Williams, Scissor Sisters and Freddy Mercury. His first album «Life in Cartoon Motion» introduces such songs as « Grace Kelly», « Relax, Take it Easy» and « Love Today» and has beaten all records in Europe and the United States. His music is fabulous. His four-octaves voice drives the crowd wild.
The rest of the Baalback program will be announced soon.

Byblos Festival:
2008 Program will be announced soon.

Some events tickets for the above and others, like events at Casino du Liban, Murex d'Or, etc... can be purchased online at Virgin Ticketing:
You can subscribe to their mailing list for immediate notifications about tickets opportunities and events schedules.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

MIKA and MATTEO in Concerts this Summer in Lebanon

MIKA and MATTEO in Concerts this Summer in Lebanon

Our own Lebanese born International Stars:

"MIKA" Live in Beirut DT
Sunday, July 27, 2008 at 8:00pm
Martyr's Square
Downtown Beirut, Lebanon

Tickets will be on sales soon from Virgin ticketing, or online at

"MATTEO" Live in Beiteddine Festival

Tuesday, August 12, 2008
8:00pm - 11:00pm
Beiteddine Festival, Lebanon

Matteo, contre-tenor, will be singing Baroque and Romantic arias from his repertoire:
Handel, Vivaldi, Mozart, Purcell, Massenet, Bizet, Verdi... with the lebanese symphonic orchestra.

Tickets available in Virgin Megastores and Beiteddine Festival's point of sales (Starco building).
For more infos:

Monday, June 02, 2008

Magida El Roumy et la chorale

Magida El Roumy et la chorale

3000 personnes ont assiste a la messe celebree par Monseigneur Mansour Labaky et Pere Ramzi

Samedi 31 Mai, 2008

Procession et Masse in Beirut DT

Procession et Messe a l'occasion de la fin du mois de Marie le samedi 31 mai 2008
Location: Centre-Ville --> Achrafieh.
3000 personnes ont assiste a la messe celebree par Monseigneur Mansour Labaky et Pere Ramzi.

Athletes, students 'Run for Peace' in Beirut

Athletes, students 'Run for Peace' in Beirut
Thousands take part in event to 'bring peace and tourists again to the country'
By Eugene Yukin and Jay Heisler
Special to The Daily Star

BEIRUT: Thousands of people ran through Beirut on Sunday morning as part of the HSBC Vivicitta Run for Peace, amid a positive atmosphere still clinging to the city after the presidential election and the Qatari-mediated end to the nation's 18-month political crisis. Smiling faces peppered a sea of white t-shirts and red baseball caps as the crowd waited to run for peace. Family members waved from behind a uniformed marching band as their children mingled among international athletes and enthusiastic volunteers. Clowns towered over the crowd on stilts, clapping along with the music that blared from loudspeakers. A small child waved a large Lebanese flag. A line of athletes stood hand-in-hand at the front of the crowd, already sweating under the morning sun. At the sound of the horn they were off, with hundreds of children swarming behind them. When they returned to the finish line, young women with colorful plastic pom-poms cheered as they passed. First came the athletes, shooting by as if in the Olympics, one of them jumping to touch the finish line banner. The rest of the crowd arrived a few minutes later, led by children who clearly hoped to one day wear the jerseys of the athletes they so closely followed. The spectators included a man with his daughter sitting on his shoulders and a smiling soldier leaning against the barricades.

Roughly 7,500 people took part in two events, a 5-kilometer run and a 21-kilometer race. The winner of the 21-kilometer race, which involved an international selection of star athletes, was Ethiopian runner Alemayehu Shumye Tafere. "We have here all religions and races," said Jinan Mantash, an 18-year-old participant in the 5-kilometer race who won her age bracket. "Because children and youth are the new generations, now that they have united in this event they will learn when they grow up that a united Lebanon is a must. It feels great to work for Lebanon." "The students are from many schools in Lebanon. They are running from all Lebanon, and we can run hand in hand," said volunteer Patrick Rizkallah, who helped coordinate schools and universities to participate in the event. According to Rizkallah, about 7,000 students were recruited.

Edgar Abou Rizk from the Teachers' Syndicate of Lebanon said he expected the event to reflect that stability had returned to Lebanon following recent events. "Outside Lebanon when they are going to see through the news that all the Lebanese are gathered together, this will bring peace and tourists again to the country and we hope that this race will be the pioneer program for this summer to bring a peaceful situation to our country," he said. For this year's race the Beirut Marathon Association focused on bringing children from across the country to the event. Beirut Marathon Association director May al-Khalil said children participating were also asked to draw pictures and write about their visions of peace. Khalil said that the Beirut Marathon Association (BMA) has signed an agreement with the Unione Italiana Sport Per tutti to continue doing the 21-kilometer as well as the 5-kilometer race. With this in mind, she said she hoped that the event would become more popular in the coming years. "I believe this year was the first attempt for the Beirut Marathon Association and our partners to work together, but I have the feeling that next year the number you see today is going to be - if not twice - [then] triple next year," she said. "Everybody is supporting us - the government and the opposition," said Ziad Shaaban, a volunteer at the event. Shaaban has volunteered for the BMA for five years, since the first race. Shaaban said that this year's run for peace event benefited from better organization than the year before. "We learned from our mistakes," he added. There were some "incidents" the previous year, when the location of key points in the run led to some confusion among those taking part.

Volunteer Tony Hajj said he joined the event to serve a good cause and gain organizational experience to add to his resume. He said the size of the run was smaller than the year before, in part due to the fact that income and tourism had suffered from the conflict earlier this month. Howard Miller, a tourist from London, said he had decided to participate in the marathon after arriving in Beirut 10 days ago. Miller, who is traveling across the Middle East, learned of the event from posters in the city. "I think it's a fascinating time to be here," he said. "It's amazing to see people kind of relaxing, because I get the sense there was a lot of energy built up in two weeks when they just weren't doing anything." "It's a breath of fresh air," said Amine Daouk, president of the humanitarian non-profit organization Makassed. "It's what Lebanese, especially young people want: They want peace; they are all here as one."

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