On May 8, 2024, over 10,000 gathered to welcome the arrival of Saint Charbel’s replica tomb and an extract of his relics to their new home in Sydney, Australia.

With more than 33,000 healing miracles attributed to Lebanon’s most renowned saint, the installation of the second shrine in the world to be dedicated to this powerful intercessor at Saint Charbel’s Church in Punchbowl in New South Wales, Australia, marks a significant milestone in the history of the Maronite Catholic Eparchy of Australia.

In the media release of Saint Charbel’s Church in Punchbowl (NSW) – a parish home to a thriving community of approximately 45,000 parishioners – it states:

“The Maronite Catholic community in Australia hosted the momentous occasion as the newly constructed sanctuary was unveiled, drawing a diverse crowd of believers and dignitaries to commemorate the opening of this significant pilgrimage site.”

It was truly awe-inspiring to see thousands of devotees braving the rain and cold in the dark of night for this solemn half-mile procession through the humble streets of Punchbowl NSW.

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Giovanni Portelli Photography / Used with Permission

Over 70 white-clad pallbearers carried the 240-pound replica of Saint Charbel’s tomb featuring a first-class relic of Saint Charbel, his bone, and a replica of his body dressed in priestly robes that he had worn. Locals lit candles in their front yards, the fragrance of incense permeated the streets and aromatic smoke wafted through the air as men carried grand-sized incense burners. Prayers and hymns also echoed through the streets.

Maronite Bishop of Australia, New Zealand, and Oceania, Antoine-Charbel Tarabay presided over the event and remarked:

“The monks who arrived from Lebanon [50 years ago], armed with nothing but a vision and a devotion to spread the monastic charism and love for Saint Charbel in this distant land, have become pillars of our Eparchy. Their dedication has helped shape and build the spiritual foundation for future generations.  
“It would be no exaggeration to say that we stand on the shoulders of giants—those who arrived with nothing yet left us with an enduring legacy. 
“Indeed, Saint Charbel is not merely a saint for a particular people or creed; he is a beacon of faith for all humanity. His miraculous deeds serve as a testament to the power of faith and the boundless love of our Creator.” 
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Giovanni Portelli Photography / Used with Permission

The Reverend Father Anthony El-Kazzi, Secretary of the Trustees of the Lebanese Maronite Order, spoke about the importance of this momentous occasion, saying:

“Saint Charbel holds profound significance within the Catholic Church, revered for his piety, humility, and miraculous intercession. He is considered one of the most famous and ‘powerful’ saints in the Catholic Church.
“There are churches and shrines throughout the world dedicated to him; in the United States, China, Africa, India, Italy, Russia and Mexico to name a few. It establishes a significant pilgrimage site on Australian shores, sparing pilgrims the need to travel overseas to visit the remains of this miraculous Saint.”

Who is Saint Charbel Makhlouf?

Saint Charbel was born on May 8, 1828, in the mountains of Northern Lebanon. He joined the Monastery of Saint Maroun in Annaya, Mount Lebanon at age 23, eventually entering the Maronite Order. He took the name Charbel after a second-century martyr from Antioch. 

Saint Charbel lived as a hermit from 1875 until his death in 1898, where he followed the Maronite traditions of the monastic life. As a monk, he prayed, fasted, and performed extraordinary acts of penance. His hermitage was extremely cold at 4600 feet above sea level, especially after snowing in the dead of night. He was deeply devoted to the Eucharist and spent hours in prayer both before and after Mass. 

While celebrating Mass in 1898, Saint Charbel suffered a stroke. He died eight days later at age 70. When monks from the nearby monastery discovered his death, they rushed to see him and to pray beside his body.

After Saint Charbel was buried in the monastery cemetery, many local villagers reported seeing a dazzling white light emanating from his tomb and radiating throughout the monastery.

After four months passed, permission to open his grave was granted and to the astonishment of all present, his body was perfectly preserved.

Saint Charbel’s body remained intact for 67 years. Today, he is buried at the Monastery of Saint Maron Annaya and only his bones remain. But reports of thousands of cures and miracles have emerged from those who visited his tomb, including from Christians and Muslims alike.

For Saint Charbel, silence, solitude, and self-denial were the language of God.

What is truly incredible is that he was unknown and hidden from the world during his lifetime. According to Three Lights From the East, by Father Mansour Awad, “People never saw his face when he was alive. He always kept his head down in church, at work, or when walking, always looking to the ground”.

Only after he died in 1898, his life of virtue and holiness was made known to the world. Although Saint Charbel chose to live a humble and quiet life of poverty, asceticism, and lowliness in Annaya, Mount Lebanon – it was only after death that this humble monk shone as a beacon of light for the world to see and was praised as Lebanon’s extraordinary miracle worker.

Saint Charbel’s life is a testament to Christ’s words that “many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first.” (Matt. 19:30)

Life is fleeting and one thing that is certain is that we are mere travelers.

Like a ship sailing away and fading on the horizon, many that have walked this earth – rich or poor, famous or unknown – have all been buried by the sands of time and are long forgotten.

But powerful saints like Saint Charbel live on through the ages through their legacies of holiness, faith, compassion, and humility. The heroic, admirable, and marvelous lives of the saints continue to resonate with us, inspiring us daily and helping us on our spiritual journey toward heaven.

As remarked by the Maronite Bishop of Australia, New Zealand, and Oceania Antoine-Charbel Tarabay:

“One of our greatest treasures is our devotion to Saint Charbel, who despite a life of simplicity, left us spiritual riches. His miracles, spanning continents, heal both body and soul, making him a beacon of faith for humanity. For those unable to make the pilgrimage to Lebanon to visit Saint Charbel’s tomb in Annaya, you can now find solace in visiting the replica housed at Saint Charbel’s Church in Punchbowl (NSW).”
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Giovanni Portelli Photography / Used with Permission

In a deafening world where many struggle with materialism, vanity, riches, and a thirst for popularity, let us ponder the extraordinary life of Saint Charbel and learn from his simplicity, silence, and deep humility.

Like Saint Charbel, may we strive to detach from the world and all earthly things, seeking true liberation and peace in Christ alone – our solace and refuge in this life.

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