Helping Lebanon by Preparing Seminarians
Until recently, Lebanon has been the only country in the Middle East with a Christian majority. Today, Christians make up no more than an estimated 34% of the total population.
Among those left, only one quarter of young people aged under 25 are Christian. The emigration of the Christian population continues unabated. The civil wars of 1975 and 1990 sent a diaspora of Christians outside the country and now only about 700,000 Christians are now trying to live in Lebanon.
The disastrous economic and political crisis that has afflicted the country over the last couple of years and more recently in August, a devastating and colossal explosion razed a section of the capital city, Beirut, including one of the Christian quarters. All this has only intensified the emigration trend.
“These young men have a strong missionary spirit. They want to serve the Church, whether in Lebanon, in the mission lands or elsewhere where there are large immigrant populations. They want to be priests forever. We thank God for these young vocations; they are already serving the diocese with apostolic zeal. ”Maronite Archbishop Hanna Rahme of Baalbek in a letter to ACN
In the very poor northeastern region of the Bekaa Valley where lies the archdiocese of Baalbek, the situation is even worse. Christians now account for barely 5% of the population. The overall situation is insecure owing to the proximity to the border with Syria; people are afraid. Those who can are leaving and seeking a better life in Canada or Australia, while many others are moving away to the capital, Beirut. The only thing that can prevent a further mass exodus is the presence of a strong Church, capable of supporting its faithful, spiritually, pastorally socially and economically. For this, young, well-trained and energetic priests are a must, with a crucial role to play maintaining the presence of the Church.
Maronite Archbishop Hanna Rahme of Baalbek is happy to have seven young men in his archdiocese currently training for the priesthood who are already active in parish work, like for example in youth work and catechesis.
ACN plans to contribute $14,500 towards the cost of the formation of these seven future priests.