FATIMA, Portugal — Lebanese Cardinal Bechara Rai consecrated Lebanon and all the Middle East to Mary in Fatima, praying for peace and stability.
Thousands of faithful from the Middle East as well as Lebanese diaspora from around the world also made the pilgrimage for the “Lebanon Day in Fatima,” which began June 24 with the recitation of the rosary and a candlelit procession.
“We have come from Lebanon, Iraq, Syria, the Holy Land, Egypt, the (Persian) Gulf countries and various countries of proliferation — particularly from Australia, Canada, the United States, Europe — to continue, from generation to generation, to honor our Blessed Virgin Mary,” Rai said during his homily June 25.
He concelebrated Mass with Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignace Joseph III Younan and a delegation of bishops and priests.
“We have come to renew the dedication of Lebanon and the countries of the Middle East to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, according to her wishes. This dedication is to repent, to stop wars and to consolidate peace,” Rai said.
Beginning in June 2013, Rai has annually consecrated Lebanon and all the Middle East to Mary at Harissa, home of Our Lady of Lebanon. The consecrations were in response to a request of the Synod of Bishops for the Middle East held in the Vatican in October 2012.
This year, the consecration at Fatima commemorated the centennial of the apparitions, when Mary appeared to three shepherd children in the Portuguese village.
“We have come to ask for the intercession of Our Lady of Fatima for peace in the Middle East region, and for stability in Lebanon, to preserve our country’s mission and model of coexistence among religions and cultures, especially among Christians and Muslims,” Rai said in his homily at Fatima.
He stressed that “Lebanon’s significance lies in its open system of cultural and religious pluralism within a framework of cooperation, integration and mutual enrichment.”
About 40 percent of the approximate 4 million Lebanese citizens residing in Lebanon are Christian.
Lebanon has the only Christian head of state in the entire Middle East and North Africa. Under Lebanon’s power-sharing system, the presidency is reserved for a Maronite Catholic, while the prime minister is a Sunni Muslim, and the speaker of parliament is a Shiite Muslim.