Prayer Intention – For all consecrated men and women
Live on Vatican News @ 18:00
On the fiftieth commemoration of the “Immaculate Conception” dogma declared by His Holiness Pope Pius IX in 1854, His Beatitude Maronite Patriarch Elias Hoayek and the Apostolic Nuncio Carlos Duval decided to erect a religious monument that would be a keepsake of this event. According to Father Henri Jalabert sj, Lucien Cattin, Father Superior of the Jesuits in the Middle East at the time, suggested to raise a big statue of the Virgin that could be seen from far and that would illustrate the honoring of and the attachment of the Lebanese people to Mary. After the Patriarch and the Nuncio had sought advice from bishops, priests, monks and laics, the sanctuary was named “Our Lady of Lebanon”, and the project was launched.
After consulting with engineers who were authorities in the field, a place at the top of the Harissa hill called “the rock” was chosen to build the sanctuary, and the implementation phase got close. Committees began to raise funds in order to execute the project. The generosity of the Lebanese people conveyed their love for Mary. After negotiations, Mr. Francis Yaacoub sold the land to the Patriarchate for the symbolic sum of fifty Ottoman Pounds. The laying of the foundation-stone took place in October 1904, but work was interrupted for several reasons; one of them was the fear the land could not carry a monument of that size.
In 1907, Patriarch Hoayek and Msgr. Fridiano Giannini, the new Apostolic Nuncio, resumed the work and made some adjustments to the project such as enlarging the west side of the sanctuary.
To make sure the construction was carried out appropriately, a deed was signed in 1906 with a contracting company, as the first party and, as the second party, skilled master-artisan Ibrahim Makhlouf (from Ain el Rihaneh). The statue was built in 1907.
It is good to keep in mind that Father Chucrallah Khoury, Superior of the Lebanese Maronite Missionaries was from the beginning, the Patriarch’s right hand man in the management and the execution of the project. He was elected Father Superior of the Congregation, after the election of Father Youssef Moubarak as Bishop of the Saida Diocese. With the help of the Apostolic Enunciator, and particularly Father Pere, Secretary of the Enunciator, and Cattin, Father Superior of the Jesuits, the Patriarch was able to overcome the financial problem – resulting from the volume and the cost of the project – by sending a letter to the Maronite “Wakfs” and charity organizations, asking them to pay a preset sum of money, to be collected by Father Chucrallah Khoury.
Building the Sanctuary and the statue cost approximately 50000 gold French francs, donated by believers; among them was a French lady who wished to remain anonymous and made a contribution of 16000 francs. The land was offered by the Maronite Patriarch and the Nuncio.
According to his last wishes, Bishop Duval’s body was transferred from Beirut to Our Lady of Lebanon Sanctuary. On the west wall of the shrine, is placed a commemorative marble plaque on which is engraved in the Latin language the history of the event, in appreciation of Duval’s love to the Virgin and his passion for her sanctuary in Lebanon.
At the beginning of 1908, the shrine and the statue’s pedestal were executed under the supervision of Father Chucrallah Khoury, officially assigned by the Patriarch to take the lead on the project. Shortly after, Our Mother Mary’s statue was built, and inauguration took place on May 3rd, the first Sunday of that month.
Read more on the shrine here Our Lady of Lebanon