Annaya, Lebanon, Saturday, September 24, 2022 — A view from the Hermitage of St. Charbel (1828-1898), where the saint spent the last 23 years of his life in work and prayer. Nearly 30,000 miracles have been attributed to the intercession if St. Sharbel in recent decades (even The Economist, a publication ordinarily not given to the investigation of spiritual phenomena, in 2016 devoted a piece to St. Charbels’s miracles entitled “Miracles are on the rise in Lebanon” (link).) In September 2022, our Friends of Lebanon pilgrimage visited St. Charbel’s Hermitage and the nearby tomb of the saint during our pilgrimage to Lebanon

    Fr. Jim O’Neal, an American priest who is one of our Friends of Lebanon members and who was the chaplain of our pilgrimage group, with Elie, one of the Lebanese volunteers who has helped to distribute food boxes and water filters to families in need in Beirut. The tangled telephone wires in the background of this September 22, 2022 photo in downtown Beirut are a testament to the difficulty of getting reliable electricity and internet service in central Beirut

    Lebanon Report 2023, #2: Saturday, March 4

    Miracles of St. Charbel and a Prayer for Unity in Lebanon

    By Christopher Hart-Moynihan, Director, Friends of Lebanon Project (link)

    Pope John Paul II once said Lebanon is a message more than a country (link and link).

    A “message of freedom” and an example of the real possibility people of various faiths may overcome divisions and come to live together in harmony. (link)

    Last week, I was on the phone with a Lebanese man, a leading figure in Lebanese society, who lives in Beirut and is playing a key role in keeping the country together as events both in Lebanon and in the Middle East as a whole threaten to spin out of control.

    We talked for more than an hour about Lebanon today, and Lebanon’s future: the economic crisis (many of Lebanon’s banks are closed and depositors cannot withdraw their money), the political crisis (Lebanon’s many different factions — including Sunni and Shia Muslims, Maronite Catholics, Orthodox Christians, Druze and also smaller groups, have been unable to elect a president since October), and the country’s possible bright or bleak future, depending on factors ranging from international politics to the faith and good will of the country’s people.

    I asked my friend about the single thing our small Friends of Lebanon initiative could do to help.

    He said something so simple it was surprising: “If we just stay and do not leave the country, just sit here, and wait, and live, things around us will change. We have been Maronites for 1,600 years. The only thing we did during tough periods was to stay and resist, and the parties and countries around us always changed.”

    I asked him how it would be possible for Christians to stay in Lebanon in such difficult, almost unlivable day-to-day conditions.

    “Christians should be supported,” he said. “By the West or by somebody else. Tell them there is a vibrant Christian, Catholic, stronghold in Lebanon.” (There are also several ancient Orthodox and Eastern Rite Christian communities present in Lebanon as well.)

    “The more people get involved in this knowledge — that there is still a Catholic stronghold in the Middle East, the more we feel that someone like you is thinking about us and supporting us,” he said. “That is very important. I receive letters every day saying, ‘We are praying for you.’ This is great support.”

    So with this idea in mind, of helping these communities of Lebanese Christians to “sit and wait and live,” we can take new inspiration for our work, especially as we try to help students impacted by the crisis to stay in school and to complete their studies.

    As always, it is donations from readers of this Lebanon Report that allow us to continue sending our regular monthly support to our partners in Beirut, allowing more than 40 students to continue their studies in 2022 alone.

    Please consider supporting this important work with a donation to the Friends of Lebanon. (Here is a link to our donation page, link).    

    This the message you will be supporting, the message that is Lebanon, as Pope John Paul II said:

    “How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity! It is like precious oil poured on the head, running down on the beard, running down on Aaron’s beard, down upon the collar of his robes. It is as if the dew of Hermon were falling on Mount Zion.” (Psalm 133:1)

    And, here are the stories of three more students who were helped by Friends of Lebanon scholarship funding in 2022 (last month’s report presented the stories of three other students, link):


    Marie-Therese is a living example of what it means to have courage.

    In December 2021, her father was diagnosed with terminal cancer, and she had to watch him grow weaker everyday. Marie-Therese’s father passed away in May 2021, on the day of her last exam at school. All she had left was her mother, who was unemployed.

    When her father was first diagnosed, Marie-Therese found that the only option she had was to start working to help her family. But after his death, she had to work even harder. During the summer of 2021 she juggled 3 jobs: one from 8 a.m. until 2 p.m., one from 3 p.m. until 8 p.m., and one from 10 p.m. until 3 a.m., just to try to make ends meet.

    Due to the lack of money, finding proper transportation to and from school was difficult, so Marie-Therese had no option but to drive her father’s car to go to school — without a driver’s license.

    Throughout all these struggles, she managed to keep the promise she had made to her father of being a good student, and she finally graduated from school in 2022 with an average grade of 16/20. 


    Maribelle is one of two children. Her father works in a soap manufacturing company and is the sole provider for the family. Her brother has severe asthma and needs constant medication.

    The family is having a very difficult time financially and they were behind on school fees until they began receiving help from Friends of Lebanon and Lebanese Young Talents (our partner organization in Beirut).        


    Charbel is a very passionate student who loves sports.

    His father died five years ago, while his mother is currently unemployed and suffering from chronic health issues.

    Charbel currently works at a restaurant in order to help his family and save enough money to continue his education.     

   A Proposal for a “Lebanon Unity Day” in Late 2023

    The following is a draft text that our Friends of Lebanon team has collaborated on regarding an event to help promote unity in Lebanon, while at the same time gathering support for the Christian community there to “sit and wait and live,” so that they can outlast this crisis and have hope for the future.

    This is a modest proposal and we publish it here simply so that you, our readers, may share it with others and begin discussing this issue — of how, precisely, to help the people of this proud country, and of these ancient and still-vibrant communities, to survive.

    We plan to share this proposal with officials in the Vatican and in the Maronite Patriarchate in Bkerké, Lebanon.

A Day of Unity For Lebanon

By the Unitas Initiative
of Urbi et Orbi Communications

    March 4, 2023

    Lebanon is the land where Christ walked, where St. Charbel worked miracles, and where the Maronites carved their monasteries into the walls of the Holy Valley. It is also the land of Hezbollah, of the fifteen-year Civil War, of intrigues and struggles between the great powers of the world. Over their long history, the Lebanese people have suffered, fought for autonomy, grown wealthy, fought again, and suffered again. The suffering has been so great that Lebanon as we know it should have crumbled —should have ended — a long time ago. Yet something is still holding it together.

    We believe that this “something” is faith — faith the size of a mustard seed, which believes and perseveres in spite of all obstacles. Throughout an unprecedented economic collapse, the wars fought on and within its borders, the destruction of the capital in a tragic, incomprehensible explosion, the faith of Lebanon and of the Lebanese people has not died. And, we believe, now is the time to begin to add “works” to this faith: to begin, after so many years and such great suffering, to once again turn the tide towards peace, charity, and unity.

    Our proposal for achieving this is modest: create a space for dialogue, and for prayer. Our goals are spiritual: namely, that Lebanon becomes once again the “message of peace” spoken of by Pope John Paul II, through the intercession of St. Charbel.

    In this mission, we have the support of the Friends of St. Charbel, and other devotees of this great saint. But our goals are also, of necessity, political: for Lebanon’s gridlocked Parliament to elect a sitting President, for a fair and impartial investigation of the Beirut Port explosion of August 2020 to go forward, for the tenets of the Taif Agreement of 1989 to be fully implemented. These political issues must be discussed because, without certain basic steps in the right direction, Lebanon will remain unlivable for the Lebanese people.

    A first step to opening this space for dialogue could be a small conference, sponsored by the Vatican, to be held later this year (2023) in Beirut or Harissa, Lebanon. Such a conference would not need to be a massive undertaking: if representatives of several communities were invited, a day could be spent in prayer, allowing for organic “encounters” to take place between participants, and a following (and final day) could be centered on outlining a “vision for Lebanon.” The outcome could be a statement on some of the major questions — concrete support for Lebanon’s sovereignty, an international “Fund for Lebanon’s Future,” coexistence between the country’s many faiths — which all participants could agree on. 

    In this limited way, those who will shape Lebanon’s future could begin to talk, to share a meal, to express a hope, a message, a promise.

    Perhaps they could begin to recommit to the “message of peace,” taking inspiration from the Psalm of David which references Lebanon’s own Mount Hermon: “How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity! It is like precious oil poured on the head, running down on the beard, running down on Aaron’s beard, down upon the collar of his robes. It is as if the dew of Hermon were falling on Mount Zion. For there the LORD bestows his blessing, even life forevermore.”

    Please consider the many miracles and the many blessings that could begin to unfold from such an event. We hope to have your support in moving forward with this proposal. We call upon St. Charbel and place our request under the protecting mantle of our Lady of Lebanon. 

    —Unitas Initiative, Urbi et Orbi Communications, March 4, 2023

    Latest Documented Miracle of St. Charbel, the “Padre Pio” of Lebanon

    I am ending this report with a story that I found while researching the miracles of St. Charbel.

    The story is originally from the Facebook page of Arma Christi, which seems to be a Catholic religious organization based in the Philippines.

    I republish the extraordinary story here, along with the accompanying photo, for the consideration of readers. (The original report of the miracle can be found at this link.)

    This photo was taken in 2016 at the monastery of St. Charbel in Lebanon, where his tomb is today. The woman was from Australia, and had come to the tomb to pray for the healing of her cancer. The photo was taken by the woman’s son. Later, they inquired at the monastery, asking who the monk might have been, and were told that there is no monk at the monastery who looks like this monk. They now believe the picture is a miraculous photo of St. Charbel himself… Later testing showed that she was free of cancer


    The latest miracle in Lebanon — an Italian lady from Australia heard of St. Charbel Makhlouf in Lebanon and decided she wanted to go with her Lebanese friend and son to visit his shrine because she was suffering from cancer.

    She arrived in Lebanon and went to the church to notice everything was closed.

    As her and her son walked back to the car a priest was walking past, the lady asked if the church was open and he answered “How can I help you?”

    She explained she had come from Australia suffering from terminal cancer and wished to just receive a blessing from the priest.

    The priest said to her that he would give her a blessing now.

    She asked her son to take a picture of her while the priest was blessing her.

    She thanked him, got back in the car and left.

    As they were driving back to the hotel she went through the photos with her Lebanese friend on the phone that her son had taken of her receiving the blessing and suddenly realized, that the priest in the picture is, inexplicably, actually St. Charbel — a miracle.

    She then returned to Australia, went to the hospital, and was told after she underwent testing for cancer that she was free of cancer.

    A photo of the author of this report in the courtyard at the Monastery of St. Anthony of Qozhaya during our Friends of Lebanon pilgrimage to Lebanon in September 2022. This monastery is nestled into the steep cliffs and sheer precipices of the Qadisha Valley and dates back to the 4th century A.D.

    Final Note: Amid Winter Chill, Cholera…

    Cholera spread in Lebanon in late 2022-early 2023

    The Lebanese people are finally nearing the end of a cold winter as nationwide issues with power outages continue.

    In addition, there has recently been an outbreak of cholera in Lebanon, demonstrating that there may be issues with the country’s water treatment.

    While cholera is a disease that can be fairly easily treated, Lebanon’s health care sector has been devastated over the last several years, meaning that access to medical professionals and effective treatments is not always guaranteed.

    As part of our “short-term help,” we sent 40 H2Go water purifiers to Lebanon in early 2022, ensuring access to safe drinking water for 40 in-need families in Beirut.

    During our in-person meetings with aid recipients in September, several told us that they use the purifiers every day, to make sure that the tap water their families are drinking is safe from bacteria and other harmful microorganisms.

    We will be monitoring the situation on the ground over the next several weeks to determine if providing more of these water purifiers will be helpful as Lebanon deals with this cholera outbreak.

    Note: If you would like to support this type of writing about Lebanon from a perspective of support for the ancient Christian communities of that region, please consider donating here. Thank you.

    Please consider becoming a “Friend of Lebanon,” and help us to bring “short-term help” and “long-term hope” to the land where Jesus Christ walked and performed miracles.

    As a “Friend of Lebanon,” you will be able to participate in our Zoom calls with the people we are working with in Rome, Beirut, and throughout Lebanon to support Christians in their ancient homeland.

    Please enjoy a complimentary digital edition of Inside the Vatican Magazine by clicking here.

    Please consider joining us.

    Christopher Hart-Moynihan
    Director of Programs
    Urbi et Orbi Communications