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 CNS Story:

LEBANON-BEATIFY Jun-23-2008 (600 words) With photos. xxxi

Priest's beatification is milestone for Lebanon, Haddad family

By Doreen Abi Raad
Catholic News Service

BEIRUT, Lebanon (CNS) -- Tens of thousands of Lebanese witnessed the beatification ceremony of their beloved Capuchin Father Jacques Haddad in Martyrs' Square in central Beirut.

Anna Maria Chemaly, a great niece of Blessed Haddad, whose name in Arabic is Abouna Yaacoub, arrived in Lebanon from Cincinnati with her three children a few days before the June 22 ceremony. She said it was exciting to return to her homeland and see posters and banners of her great uncle across the country.

She attended the ceremony with her 13-year-old daughter, Hana, and about 30 other members of the Haddad family. They sat with 100 Catholic clergy, including patriarchs, bishops and priests. Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins, prefect of the Vatican Congregation for Saints' Causes, celebrated the Mass.

"It was quite an honor to be part of this celebration," Chemaly said.

Victor Haddad, Blessed Haddad's nephew and Chemaly's uncle, presented the family tree as part of the presentation of the gifts.

From the time she was a girl, Chemaly, 43, said she has been hearing "we have a saint in the family."

"It's something we always knew would happen," she said.

Her parents knew Blessed Haddad well. When they were newlyweds and were not yet established financially, they went to see the priest, hoping that he could help them in some way.

"Wait a minute," he said as he excused himself, Chemaly explained. When he returned, he placed a rosary in her mother's hand. His advice: "Pray the rosary and you will get what you need."

Chemaly inherited the black wooden rosary beads, a gift from her mother when she was married 14 years ago.

"Everything he needed, he prayed for," Chemaly explained. That's how Blessed Haddad was able to establish and build hospitals, schools and orphanages while helping Lebanon's most needy, she said.

"The beatification is good for Christians in general and especially for the Maronites," Chemaly said. "This will bring the Christians together."

In his homily, Cardinal Nasrallah P. Sfeir, patriarch of the Maronite Catholic Church, said: "The hope of so many Lebanese was realized today. That hope was the raising of Father Yaacoub's portrait above the altar of the Catholic Church."

He outlined how Blessed 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 Yaacoub would say that 'all God has given me belongs to him and the poor of Lebanon,'" the cardinal said. "He built hospitals, schools and took care of the sick, yet he was a man of simple means. Father Yaacoub put his trust in the grace of God."

Cardinal Sfeir quoted the priest as 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."

In closing remarks, Sister Marie Makhlouf, superior of the Franciscan Sisters of the Cross, the order founded by Father Haddad, said Lebanon must serve as a model of coexistence for the world.

"The 17 communities that form this country should be a source of wealth, rather than discord," she said. "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."

END


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