Bethlehem: Mar Charbel Monastery set on fire

Posted on Sep 30, 2015

Bethlehem: Mar Charbel Monastery set on fire

Other forms of anti-Christian violence are especially feared by the Christian community of Bethlehem, which is experiencing a progressive Islamization of the city.

(Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem) September 30, 2015 – On September 26th, 2015, the monastery of Mar Charbel in Bethlehem has been ablaze, resulting in the burning of many rooms and damaging various parts of the building.

In the aftermath of the fire, the governor and the mayor of Bethlehem, the chief of police, the national security director and the head of Intelligence, went and inspect the monastery accompanied by Mgr William Shomali, and a number of priests from Bethlehem, Beit Jala, and Beit Sahour.

A criminal investigation has been opened to determine the causes of this fire.

Since last June, restoration work is underway after a 15-year closure of the monastery for administrative reasons. The Palestinian national fund, under the recommendation of president Mahmoud Abbas, has given the monastery 200, 000 dollars for restoration. The covenant, which follows the Maronite Church in the Holy Land, was founded in 1983 and had offered accommodation for pilgrims and teaching rooms for students of Bethlehem University.

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(asianews.it and abouna.org) September 30, 2015 – An arson attack was committed against the Maronite Monastery of St. Charbel in Bethlehem on Saturday September 26.”These are targeted arson attacks. The attack includes sectarian graffiti and is the work of a group or of individual perpetrators of radical Islam,” said Sobhy Makhoul, the Chancellor of the Maronite Patriarchate of Jerusalem to AsiaNews.

No one was harmed in the arson attack, because the monastery is currently uninhabited for comprehensive renovations. However, the damage is great. Other forms of anti-Christian violence are especially feared by the Christian community of Bethlehem, which is experiencing a progressive Islamization of the city.

The perpetrators “broke into a room of the convent, which was filled with furniture,” said the Maronite Chancellor. “They seem to have set there the fire that quickly spread throughout the convent.”

According to the investigating police, perpetrators could be extremist Muslim groups that are active in the area. According to unconfirmed information, the perpetrators had already been identified and would “soon be arrested.”

“The handwriting is clearly religious. It is the apparent attempt to strike at Christians. The Middle East is unfortunately full of such incidents. In the area there are extremist cells of Hamas and loner who let their ideology run wild,” says Chancellor Sobhy Makhoul.

The monastery of the St. Charbel of the Maronites united with Rome is located in Wadi Maali, a suburb of Bethlehem, which is predominantly inhabited by Muslims. The fire broke out in the basement and then seized the entire monastery and the monastery church.

“Last month, the Palestinian Authority had provided $100,000 for the renovation of the monastery. It was a gesture of appreciation to the Patriarch and a sign of willingness to participate in the renovation of the monastery,” said the Chancellor of the Maronite Patriarchate.

The incident had frightened the Christian community, “but we must look forward,” said the Chancellor. “We are part of this country. We have to live with moments of tension.” The Palestinian Authority “must ensure justice and arrest the perpetrators, as the Israeli authorities need to do regarding the arson attack on the Church of the Multiplication in Tabgha. Any form of extremism, whether of Jews or Muslims must stop,” said Chancellor Makhoul.

“We, as a Church, condemn these acts of violence. It takes a great effort to change the sermons in some mosques, where people are incited to hatred. This preaching of hatred, fuels this hatred and concludes in this violence against the Christians!”, explains the Maronite Church representative.

Saint Charbel Makhluf (1828-1898) was a Maronite monk in Lebanon. At the age of 23 years entered the convent of Our Lady of Mayfouk. In 1859 he received the sacrament of Holy Orders. In 1875 he retired to a hermit’s life in the Peter and Paul hermitage in Annaya, where he died on Christmas Eve in 1898.

His body is incorrupt and still contains bodily fluid such as multiple reburials confirmed. During his lifetime he was revered as a saint and miracles had been wrought through his intercession. Since his death are those have been confirmed. In 1965 Charbel Makhluf was beatified by Pope Paul VI., and his canonization followed in 1977.