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Pontifical charity rebuilds Beirut churches

Aid to the Church in Need provides $6 million to help with reconstruction efforts in Lebanese capital

UCA News Reporter

UCA News Reporter

Published: November 16, 2020 09:59 AM GMT

Updated: November 16, 2020 10:04 AM GMT

Pontifical charity rebuilds Beirut churches

A man removes religious icons from the floor of a damaged church a day after an explosion hit the seaport of Beirut, Lebanon, on Aug. 5. (Photo: CBN News)

More than three months after an explosion devastated Lebanese capital Beirut, a Pontifical charity group has embarked on a US$6 million reconstruction plan focusing on the city's churches, cathedral, and convent.

Aid to the Church in Need announced that it had approved a package mainly for the reconstruction of church buildings in the devastated city.

The Aug. 4 explosion, billed as the world's worst non-nuclear blast, damaged the city's most populated part when some 2,700 tonnes of ammonium nitrate stored at a warehouse caught fire.

The explosion killed at least 204 people, injured 6,500 and damaged property worth an estimated $15 billion besides rendering some 300,000 people homeless.

One of several churches considered for reconstruction is the Greek Catholic St. Saviour's Melkite Church, which lost its roof in the explosion.

Its parish priest Father Nicolas Riachy told the charity that they want to give hope to people who still want to remain.

"It is not easy to be Christians, but many of our people are still very much aware that this land is the Holy Land and we cannot abandon it," he said.

The priest wanted a roof over the church before the winter becomes harsh.

Dwindling Christians

Father Riachy said the economic crisis and the blast have made people poorer, leaving them unable to help the church's reconstruction.

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"The blast has smashed the windows and blown off the doors of all the houses. And on top of this, we have an economic crisis. The banks have frozen people's assets, so now they have nothing. How are they going to help me rebuild this church?" he asked.

"Pope Francis has told us that the Middle East without Christians is unthinkable,' but if Christians have to remain in Lebanon, help is required." 

Christians have dwindled in the Middle East considerably. They formed 20 percent in the early 20th century but are reduced to just 5 percent now.

Some 100,000 Christians have fled Syria because of persecution. Christians are fleeing the occupied territories of Palestine. The Coptic Christians in Egypt are facing violence and fleeing. Some 300,000 Christians have fled persecution in Iraq in the past two decades.

Lebanon looks like the only Middle Eastern country where Christians enjoy relative peace and security. They form some 36 percent of 8.6 million people in the country.

But Father Riachy said many Catholics are leaving their homeland for lack of security. "Some 10 percent of the population of this particular suburb have left because they can no longer live in their homes," he said.

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