Beirut, August 10, 2020
On Tuesday, August 4, a massive explosion in the port of Beirut shook the Lebanese capital killing hundreds and wounding thousands, leaving hundreds of thousands homeless and damaging churches. The Antiochian Orthodox Church in America is already collecting donations online to help.
There were, however some happy stories amidst all the horror; reports emerged of Orthodox Christians and churches which were saved by nothing less of a miracle, when they would have otherwise been completely destroyed and buried under rubble.
On August 5, 2020, the rector of the Representation Church of the Moscow Patriarchate in Beirut, Archimandrite Philip (Vasiltsev) reported that none of his regular parishioners died during the explosion, or received life-threatening injuries. Beirut has a Russian speaking diaspora of around fifty thousand people. Sadly, their homes were not so lucky to survive all intact.
“Unfortunately, several families of our parishioners, who live in Achrafieh (also called Ashrafia, an Orthodox district of the city, located not far from the port), have lost their homes and they now have no shelter. Therefore, we will have to think very seriously about how to financially support these people, who find themselves on the street,” Father Philip said.
Still, he was happy to share reports of miraculous interventions, which some families experienced.
“[There were some situations in which people] should not have survived, but the Lord saved them. One family was directly near the port in their apartment, and saw this explosion. Their house was completely destroyed, but the family members survived and received very minor physical injuries.”
Many of Father Philip’s parishioners are already donating blood and preparing to help those in need. According to Archimandrite Philip, after a thanksgiving service, it is planned to announce the creation of a committee that will financially help those parishioners who are in a very difficult situation as a result of this tragedy.
His Metochion Church of St. John the Baptist itself was practically not damaged by the explosion, and this can also be perceived as a miracle, he said, noting that the Russian Embassy located in the immediate vicinity of the church was significantly damaged. The church however, did not receive major damage, only one window was broken there, though Father Philip was slightly cut by a few fragments of the glass, “It’s just a few scratches,” he said.
Several churches of the Antioch Orthodox Church were damaged in the capital. Among the buildings in Achrafieh that have received very significant damage is the Church of the Great Martyr Demetrius at the cemetery, the Church of St. Nicholas, and the Orthodox Hospital of St. George. Even there, however, there was a silver lining.
Father Youil Nassif of Saint Dimitrios Orthodox Church described what he also regarded as a miracle, saying, “I left the church with my children twelve minutes before the explosion…we reached home [and when] I went back to the church to see what happened, I was shocked.”
As a dramatic video shows, the nave of the church itself was seriously damaged, but when Fr. Youil reached the altar, he was amazed.
“When I entered the altar, I was surprised. the altar was untouched! The Holy Chalice was intact, you can see the Holy Bible and the holy lamp didn’t move, the relics of the saints…even the glass was not broken! So, you know in times of crisis, we search for signs, for light in the darkness. I felt that this was a sign. But we need prayers, not just our church, every citizen in Lebanon—we need prayers. We are in a very bad situation, so we just need your prayers. Please pray for us.”
As OrthoChristian previously reported, the Antiochian Archdiocese of North America is preparing to help victims, saying on their website:
“We will send out an immediate appeal to our parishes requesting funds to aid our brothers and sisters in Lebanon. If you want to give directly, please send your donations to the Archdiocesan Headquarters (P.O. Box 5238, Englewood, NJ 07631-5238) and put “Beirut” in the memo of the check. You may also donate online here.
The Antiochian Church also called on faithful to “pray the Paraklesis service in church and at home, imploring the Theotokos – Mary, the Mother of God – to rescue the world from affliction and intercede with Christ our God to save our souls.”