As a preface to this AsiaNews story, I want to briefly mention something I learned on two different trips to Lebanon, including Pope Benedict XVI’s trip in September 2012 to present the Apostolic Exhortation that was the concluding document of the special 2010 synod of bishops for the Middle East. Muslims, in case you were not aware, have a very great devotion to Mary as the Mother of Jesus who, for Muslims, is a prophet. It seems from today’s story they also have an interest in St. Charbel.

Our Lady of Harissa, just outside of Beirut, is a very popular destination for Muslims who, like their Christian counterparts, have a special place in their hearts for this particular shrine. I was able to visit the shrine on both my 2010 and 2012 trips to Lebanon and I took some splendid photos of the shrine and adjacent area, Here are just a few:

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A view from the top:

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Now here’s a wonderful story: As I was trying to take one photo, bending backward over the railing that circled up and around the stairway to the statue, this young man asked if I needed help. I learned he was sure I was about to fall over the railing and wanted to help! He took the photo for me and the three of us spoke for a few minutes.  He said his name was Fadi and he introduced his mother, mentioning that they were Lebanese Muslims devoted to Mary. It seems that Fadi’s mother, after years of trying without success to have a child, made a journey to Our Lady of Harissa, did some serious praying and found out, four days later that she was pregnant. Fadi and his mother visit this shrine every year on his birthday!

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I first saw an act of Muslim devotion to Mary, if you will, when I was a member of the Holy See delegation to the September 1995 U.N. Conference on Women in Beijing. Some members of the Iranian delegation brought a beautiful poster of Mary to Abp. Renato Martino, adjunct head of delegation, on Our Lady’s September 8th birthday. A lovely gesture that delighted our entire delegation.


(AsiaNews – Beirut) – Milan, a three-year old girl from a Sunni family in Syria, was healed thanks to the intervention of St. Charbel, the Lebanese hermit saint, canonized in 1977 by Pope Paul VI. The family is a family of refugees from Damascus, who arrived in Lebanon after the civil war that has been destroying the country more than four years.

The girl had a tumor and during treatment was also attacked by a very serious virus. Her mother’s  prayer to St. Charbel healed her daughter and now little Milan, seems to have a very special relationship with “Father Charbel.”

The episode occurred two months ago and is documented by the reports of OTV (Orange TV), in Arabic.  Below we publish the literal translation.

Some Christian devotions have spread in many parts of the Muslim world (such as devotion to Mary, Our Lady, and the desire to be freed from the devil.

Click here to see AsiaNews and the video that tells Milan’s story (Translation of Arabic is below):

Speaker: Emigrated from Damascus to Ta’albeya, having fled the terror of Daesh [Arabic acronym for the Islamic State-ed], in search of peace and security she was gripped by a tumor just as she was blowing out the candles of her second year of life:

– (Mother) “Her type of cancer is very difficult, because her tumor, disappears and reappears regularly and each time it returns, it grows stronger threatening to take her away from us. This is due to the fact that following the transplant she was hit by a virus called CNP, a highly dangerous virus, as deadly as her illness. She took really powerful drugs but the disease didn’t go away. Indeed, over time, it worsened dramatically. So, we kind of reached a decision for her own peace of mind to take her out of hospital, placing ourselves in God’s hands, waiting to see what would happen”.

(Soundtrack: The song of Majida El Rumi dedicated to St Charbel: “He drowned in his own pain, light oil lamps“)

Speaker: A lengthy Golgotha ​​for little Milan who suffered so much pain, but the faith of her mother saved her.

(Soundtrack: The song of Majida El Rumi dedicated to St Charbel: “O Charbel Charbel help us oh help us, O Charbel protect us, O Charbel protect all of us”

– (Mother): I brought her here to Zahle [Christian village in the Bekaa Valley that houses a shrine of St. Charbel- ed] on a pilgrimage. The next day, Tuesday, we went to the doctor for another analysis of the virus, and the doctor told me that the test result was negative, all of a sudden there was no trace of the virus. A miracle had eradicated the virus from her body. ”

(Soundtrack: The song of Majida El Rumi dedicated to St Charbel: “You whose gifts give glory to Lebanon!”

Speaker: Charbel took the hand of this Sunni Muslim family to defeat, through his intercession, the disease of their small child, their little girl, through his intercession.

– (Mother): “It was 8 pm, and on the way back home, she had fallen asleep. When Milan woke up she said ‘Today, Father Charbel came to see me’ ”

– (Milan): “Father Charbel told me, I prayed to God to heal you! He gave me water and it was enough ”

(Soundtrack: The song of Majida El Rumi dedicated to St. Charbel, “Leave me like an Oak kneeling in front of  the vine that is pressed but never destroyed”.

Speaker: The relationship that unites the three-year old girl with St. Charbel is an extraordinary relationship, a friend in times of sadness, her refuge to feel less pain, his church is the only place where she feels safe.

– The Mother: “Whenever she feels pain, she goes and takes the holy card of St. Charbel, cries, then starts to talk to him, but I do not know what she says or understand the nature of this relationship that unites them. These things no one knows except the two of them.”

(Soundtrack: The song of Majida El Rumi dedicated to St Charbel: “O Charbel Protect, Protect us!”

Little Milan: “I love you very much St. Charbel!”




Today at 1 pm, in a briefing for the media presided over by Fr. Federico Lombardi, director of the Holy See Press Office, three different perspectives from three different parts of the world – Italy, the Middle East and Africa – were given on the work of the synod on the family by Archbishop Charles Palmer-Buckley of Accra, Ghana, Archbishop Edoardo Menchelli from Ancona-Osimo, Italy and by Patriarch Ignace Joseph Younan of Lebanon.

A Vatican Radio summary of their statements and their answers to questions by the media began by noting that Archbishop Palmer-Buckley said that the world needs to be patient with Africa when it comes to dealing with issues like homosexuality. “Give countries time to deal with issues from our own cultural perspectives,” he said. He added that the dignity and rights of all God’s son and daughters need to be upheld.

The speakers at the press briefing had come fom the morning work sessions in language groups.

Archbishop Menchelli told the briefing that there was an “open fraternal discussion” in his group and that there were divergent views emerging among the Fathers. The bishops, he said, were discussing the first part of Instrumentum Laboris on the current situation of the family from a wide perspective.

Patriarch Ignace Joseph Younan said that the Middle East was experiencing the opposite of the African Church where numbers are steadily growing. In the Middle East numbers are declining as young people and families want to “get out of hell” and they are being persecuted in tragic situations in places like Iraq and Syria. He said that the Church in the region felt helpless and deplores the fact that they cannot convince young people to stay in the places where Christianity was born.

Archbishop Palmer-Buckley said that African prelates are not blocking issues like the admission of the divorced and remarried to communion and a greater sensitivity towards homosexual people. He said that the African Church was at the synod to talk about how it feels regarding these issues and the pastoral practice of the Church. “We are here to share our view, we endorse the teaching of the Church,” he said. “The African delegates respect what Cardinal Erdo said and presented to us,” Palmer-Buckle said, referring to Erdo’s Relatio at the opening session of the Synod.

Asked if the role of women in the Church and the question of homosexuality should not be discussed at this synod but should perhaps be the focus of a separate synod, Archbishop Menchelli said that talking about the role of women in the Church and homosexuality was not out of context at the synod. He said that if one examines the mission and vocation of the family you realize that a gay brother, for example, is part of the family and impacts on all in the family. He said that the pastoral role of women was equally important but that the ordination of women deacons raised sacramental and theological concerns that would need to be studied.

Fr. Lombardi informed the media that the final list of the bishop’s working groups had been published. He also note that the press office had solved the information technology problems and that all the contributions and interviews done at the Synod are now available on the website in various languages.

The Synod Fathers said that they did not feel the synod was “western” at the expense of Africa. The synod, they agreed, was universal in its approach. Abp. Palmer-Buckle said that the concerns of the European Church are the concerns of Africa and vice versa. He added that often “everything that’s good in Africa is not good enough for European media but anything that is black is what’s good enough.”

Archbishop Menchelli pointed out that the Church in both the West and Africa face similar issues. In Africa, marriage is a long process and therefore takes time – often traditional marriages take place and only much later a church marriage. The archbishop said that marriage is often also delayed – for different reasons – in the West. This is a mutual concern even though the causes may differ.

Fr. Lombardi said the Synod Fathers would return to a plenary session on Friday morning where the various working groups would report on their discussions.


Check out these updates from bishops blogs and twitter accounts:

Archbishop Mark Coleridge:

Cardinal Vincent Nichols:

And our friend John Allen has a terrific take on the synod and the media in this piece:





(VIS) – Married couples are participating as auditors in this year’s synod dedicated to the family, presenting their concrete experiences as couples, parents or grandparents before the assembly of cardinals, bishops, priests and experts.

On 5 October the assembly heard the testimony of a Mexican couple, Gertrudiz Clara Rubio de Galindo and Andres Salvador Galindo, executive secretaries of the Episcopal Commission for the Family of the Episcopal Conference, secretaries of CELAM for the Mexico-Central America zone.


On 6 October, during the third General Congregation, the synod heard from Buysile Patronella Nkosi and Meshack Jabulani Nkosi, members of the Advisory Committee for the National Family Desk of the Southern African Episcopal Catholic Bishops’ Conference.

Rubio de Galindo and Galindo Lopez have been married for 45 years and have two children and four grandchildren. They commented that the early years of their marriage were difficult due in particular to the economic problems they encountered, and some relatives even advised them to separate for this reason. “In spite of insistence to the contrary, Andres and I decided to fight against the imbalance that this had caused and to persevere with our marriage and the family we had started to raise, although we took this decision without a clear awareness of what the sacrament of marriage meant”, said Gertrudiz Clara Rubio de Galindo.

“Shortly after, thanks to God we had the opportunity to have an experience with the Encuentro Matrimonial Catolico, in which we learned to communicate, to forgive, but above all to understand God’s plan for us as a married couple and as a family. And we continue to fight for our relationship, but now with more awareness, in accordance with God’s plan”.

“Years later, in other period of economic difficulty, after visiting the Basilica of Guadalupe, we decided to collaborate with the family pastoral ministry of the diocese. This decision led us to contribute in various parts of Central America, where throughout the years we have seen that the great problems that occur within families are caused by social, cultural, political, educational, economic and religious factors, and if marriage and the family are weakened, they need to be resuscitated through formation and teaching in terms of its identity and mission”.

Therefore, Rubio de Galindo concluded, the pastoral care of the family in the third millennium requires “pastors impassioned by God’s plan”, who accompany and form families so that they may discover and experience “their identity and mission”.

On 6 October the Synod Fathers heard the story of Meshack Jabulani and Buysile Patronella Nkosi, married for 35 years and with five children and eight grandchildren. Three of their children, Meshack Jabulani said, are married with non-Catholics and so they “are walking in two faiths but one love”. One of their sons-in-law and their daughter-in-law intend to convert to Catholicism and in Easter 2016 they will be welcomed into the Catholic Church.

During the last 33 years they have accompanied many young people with whom they have shared their life experience, the Word of God and the teachings of the Church. “We pass on the Good News of the love of God for us through His Son Jesus Christ, and we in our life every day try through God’s grace to become good news to each other and to young couples and the world. This is made possible by letting the Word of God, Christ Himself, be our compass”.

“We have and have had our numerous challenges, of perhaps not seeing things the same way or hurting each other in one way or another but our redemption has always been to try to be humble enough to say ‘I am sorry’. As in the words of the Holy Father, ‘pardon me, thank you and may I please’ are indispensable words if we are to live in peace and harmony in our family. It is important to remember to say ‘I love you’ to each other and to the children. Pope Benedict XVI, in his encyclical ‘Caritas in Veritate’, emphasises the importance of love as the principle of life in society, the place where a person learns common good since the family is the first place where a new person learns to love, to forgive, experiences forgiveness and learns to share”.

“The choice we made 35 years ago is the choice we continue to make every day to care for each other in the family and to be faithful to each other as we committed to love forever. To modern society, which unfortunately has developed a ‘throwaway culture’, this kind of commitment seems to be utter foolishness and is ridiculed and discouraged. Young people then tend to be afraid to get married, and look at this commitment as a burden. Part of our calling is to encourage them to enter into the journey of holy matrimony looking at Christ as their new hope”.

“We have experienced new life being born, and have seen our parents giving us support in raising our children. We have also seen them getting older and more frail and have taken care of them until they passed on. We have seen our children develop to parenthood themselves and us assuming a supportive role for them and their families. We continue to pass on our faith, all the Christian values and the culture of ‘Ubuntu’ – humaneness. This brings joy and fulfilment and has made our lives richer and fuller through the grace of God”, concluded Nkosi.




Most often the question is phrased the other way around: Why do bad things happen to good people? But there is another side to that coin. There is the question: Why do good things happen to bad people? And Pope Francis answered both questions at Mass this morning in the chapel of the Santa Marta residence.  (photo: OSSROM –


 Here is Vatican Radio’s report on the papal homily:

God does not abandon the righteous, while those who sow evil are like strangers, whose names heaven remembers not. This is the lesson Pope Francis drew from the readings of the day at Mass Thursday morning in the chapel of the Casa Santa Marta in the Vatican.

A courageous young mother with a husband and three children – and a tumor – “one of the ugly ones” – that keeps her nailed to her bed. “Why?” An elderly woman, prayerfully pious in her heart, whose son was murdered by the Mafia.

Pope Francis on Thursday used this perennial query of the heart – a heart that loves good and desires to know God’s plan – as the way into the mystery of iniquity and its relation to God’s providence, justice and mercy. He focused on the reading from the prophet Malachi in which the Lord rebukes the people, saying, “You have defied me in word, says the LORD, yet you ask, ‘What have we spoken against you?’ You have said, ‘It is vain to serve God, and what do we profit by keeping his command, and going about in penitential dress in awe of the LORD of hosts? Rather must we call the proud blessed; for indeed evildoers prosper, and even tempt God with impunity’.”

Drawing on that reading, Pope Francis asked: “How many times do we see this reality in bad people, in people who do evil, and seem to do well in life: they are happy, they have everything they want, they want for nothing. Why, Lord? This is one of the many questions we have. Why does this brazen evildoer who cares nothing for God nor for neighbor, who is an unjust person – even mean – and things go well in his whole life, he has everything he wants, while we, who want to do good, have so many problems?”

The Lord watches over the righteous

The Pope discovered the answer in the responsorial Psalm – Psalm 1 – which proclaims, “Blessed the man who follows not the counsel of the wicked nor walks in the way of sinners, nor sits in the company of the insolent, But delights in the law of the Lord.”

The Holy Father went on to say: “Now we do not see the fruits of this suffering people, this people carrying the cross, as on that Good Friday and Holy Saturday the fruits of the crucified Son of God, the fruits of His sufferings, were yet to be seen. And whatever He does, turns out well. What does the Psalm say of the wicked, of those for whom we think everything is going fine? ‘Not so the wicked, not so; they are like chaff which the wind drives away. For the Lord watches over the way of the just, but the way of the wicked vanishes.’”

This ruin, this scattering and oblivion, which is the end of the wicked, is what Pope Francis found dramatically and emphatically stressed in the Gospel parable of Lazarus – the symbol of misery with no escape, to whom the rich reveler refused even the scraps from his table:

“It is curious,” said the Pope, “that the [rich] man’s name is never spoken. He is just an adjective – rich: he is rich. Of the wicked, in God’s record book, there is no name: he is an evil one, a con man, one who exploits… They have no name. They only have adjectives. All those, who try to go on the way of the Lord, will rather be with His Son, who has the name: Jesus Saviour. It is a name that is difficult to understand, inexplicable for the trial of the Cross and for all that He suffered for us.”

(Thus, God does not abandon the just, and evildoers do not even have a name.)