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Thousands welcome the replica tomb of St Charbel in Sydney’s Punchbowl (The Catholic Weekly/Giovanni Portelli Photography)

Thousands of Maronite Catholics have shut down the streets of Punchbowl to welcome relics of Lebanon’s most well-known saint to their new permanent home in Sydney. Source: The Catholic Weekly. 

Queues of faithful braced the rain on Wednesday outside St Charbel’s Church and Monastery, spilling over onto neighbouring streets as more than 70 white-clad pallbearers carried a 110kg replica of St Charbel’s tomb atop a bed of 2500 roses. 

The glass-topped tomb held a first-class relic – a bone of St Charbel’s – and a replica of his body dressed in a cassock he had worn. 

Beginning at Punchbowl train station, old and young, families and friends processed for more than a kilometre alongside the tomb for nearly an hour-and-a-half.  

They sang hymns and prayed the rosary until reaching the tomb’s final resting place at the parish, which is celebrating its 50th jubilee year as well as the saint’s birthday. 

Locals lit candles in their front yards and streetlights were dimmed for the procession led by a marching band and four men carrying grand-sized incense burners. 

Parents raised children on their shoulders and the crowd moved in tighter to witness the tomb arrive at what is now only the second shrine in the world dedicated to the saint. 

The arrival of the replica tomb from Lebanon, made of the same rosewood timber of the original coffin and designed by the same artist, now establishes the parish as a significant Australian pilgrimage site for Catholics worldwide. 

Following the procession, Maronite Bishop Antoine-Charbel Tarabay led the celebration of Mass with visiting superior of the Monastery of Annnaya in Lebanon (where St Charbel is buried), St Charbel’s parish superior Abbot Tannous Nehme, Fr Assaad Lahoud and other monks as well as priests from Sydney’s Maronite parishes. 

“I have been a priest for 31 years and a bishop for 11 years. Tonight, I am speechless. Thank you Lord, thank you St Charbel, thank you to the Lebanese Maronite Order of monks,” Bishop Tarabay said. 

Calling it “a day to remember” in the life of the south-west Sydney parish and wider Australian Maronite community, the bishop said the saint’s birthday procession served as a public testament to “the faith of the Church, to your faith, and to the faith of St Charbel in God.” 


Thousands of Maronites welcome relics to new Australian home (By George Al-Akiki, The Catholic Weekly)