Patriarch Estephan Douaihy


The Lebanese English language newspaper, The Daily Star, has today, Tuesday, 21st August 2007, published a report on the current position concerning the cause for canonization of Patriarch Estephan Douaihy. The basis of the report is the sending as what is described as "the latest profile" of the Patriarch to the Vatican, as part of the process for canonization. The report is reproduced below.

The procedural stages leading up to canonization begins with a local investigation of the candidate who can be declared a "Servant of God". Thereafter the cause is transferred to the Vatican where the candidate's cause is examined and in due course the candidate can be declared in stages: Venerable, Blessed and Saint. On 27th January 2006 the Pontifical Council for the Causes of Saints met, under the presidency of Cardinal Jose Sarajeva Martinez, and approved the examination of the beatification cause of the Patriarch, declaring him Venerable. A miracle attributed to the candidate after his death is an requirement for them to receive the title, Blessed. For the candidate to be declared a saint there has to be evidence of a miracle attributed after their beatification.

The Daily Star

Patriarch Douaihy in final stages of beatification
Sfeir sends former maronite prelate's profile to Rome
By John Ehab
Special to The Daily Star
Tuesday, August 21, 2007

DIMAN, QANNOUBINE: In the final stages of the beatification of former Maronite Patriarch Estephan Douaihy (1670-1704), Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Butros Sfeir sent the latest profile of the now-venerable to Rome. "Between now and then the church declares a saint. Before, it was Charbel, Rafkeh and Hardini. Currently, we are in the process of beatifying Patriarch Estephan Douaihy," said Sfeir in his summer residence in Diman North Lebanon.

The patriarch added that divine intervention could solve any obstacles.

Last March, the Maronite church, through its patriarch, chose a committee of 18 members to form "Patriarch Douaihy's Association." The association investigates and collects historical and medical evidence that would be sent to Rome as the "cause" for the nomination for sainthood.

A "canonization" is the official declaration that a person is a saint. Only the pope has the authority to approve canonization.

"'Beatification' is the final step in the process that eventually leads to 'canonization,'" Paul Azzi, the canonization postulator told The Daily Star. Only the approval of a new miracle that took place after the beatification is required for final canonization.

Last July the Vatican's Congregation for the Causes of Saints published a series of decrees advancing the causes of candidates for canonization and beatification.

"Heroic virtue is not enough of a 'cause' for someone to be declared a saint," said Azzi. Also "the case should be impossible to cure by medical means for the healing to be considered a miraculous one," added Azzi, saying the profile entails a medical proof for the claimed miracles. The proof requires a clinical record for the healed person before and after the moment that the supposed miracle occurred.

Lebanon had only three official Catholic saints besides Saint Maroun, a hermit and the godfather of the Maronite Church. First was Saint Charbel Makhlouf (1828-1898).

The suffering of Rafka, a nun blind for the last 17 years of her life, entitled her to sainthood for the whole Catholic Church in 2001. Neematallah Kassab al-Hardini (1808-1858) was the last to be declared a Saint by John Paul II in 2004. Hardini is credited with healing the blind and lame.

In 1641, at the age of 18, the young scholar Estephan was compelled to stop his studies unfinished and leave the Maronite College in Rome to return to Lebanon. It was a sudden eyesight deterioration that brought him close to blindness. Before leaving, the teenager sought the Virgin Mary's intervention to be healed. He was cured and proceeded after his studies to head back to Lebanon in 1655 with a doctorate in theology.

Centuries later, the story of restoring his eyesight inspired a Lebanese literature professor in Florence not far from Rome. Miriam Kabbi almost lost her sight but before retiring her post as literature lecturer she prayed for the restoration of her sight as Douaihy did. Miriam's sight was restored and the miracle was attributed to the to-be-declared saint profile in its final step between beatification and canonization.

Douaihy ascended the Maronite Church's hierarchy from a sub-deacon until elected patriarch in 1670. Douaihy became renowned as an author of numerous works in liturgy, history, theology, philosophy and in Syriac music.

He was a "historian, believer and protector of the Arabic language during the Ottoman Turkish rule," said Clemence Helou, mother superior of Our Lady of Qannoubine Monastery.

Helou said the Douaihy moved from Quannoubine to many other places escaping prosecution, but he was buried in the holy valley as per his will.

The valley of Qannoubine was home of 17 other Maronite patriarchs during a harsh era for Christians under the Ottoman Empire.

The word saint comes from the Latin "sanctus" meaning holy one.

In the first six centuries AD popular reputation was the only criterion by which a person's holiness was determined. Starting from the seventh century AD a formal court of inquiry was held where reliable information is presented in the form of a biography of a deceased person and a history of his alleged miracles.

In the case of martyrs who died for their faith, the miracle is relinquished.

Former Pope John Paul II canonized over 480 people, more than any of his predecessors.

Sainthood is one main topic under which main Christian sects split.

Catholics as well as Orthodox Christians consider saints who attained a special relationship with God as guides or as distributors of supernatural gifts. However the Protestants say God needs no intermediation to be reached.

"The popular and widespread understanding of a saint is a person having a miraculous power for healing even after death, but according to the Bible, sanctification, righteousness and justification are due to Jesus," said Jalil Choueiry, an Evangelical kids and youth minister at Abundant Life Church Ministries.

"Jesus Is our Intercessor," Choueiry added using a verse from the Bible that says: "For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus."

But Catholics believe that saints' intermediation doesn't put a Christian believer in a step below a saint.

"Saints are just brothers and sisters that proceeded and found their way, and they can lead me to the right path," said Farid Khoury, a Maronite. "Their experiences encourage me to face life's hardships ... I can learn through them chastity, love and quietness but not worship them," Khoury added.

"Holiness is a call for all believers not only for saints," said Louis Mattar, a monk from St. Maroun Monastery in Annaya North Lebanon, where Charbel Makhlouf, beatified in 1977, lived. "It's not only Charbel, Rafka or Hardini, we are all called to be holy ... but everyone chooses his path," he added.

Besides native saints, Christian Lebanese revere other figures in a way that could be unique to Lebanon. Elija (Mar Elias), the prophet from the Old Testament, is quite revered throughout Lebanon. St. Anthony, the father of monasticism, and St. Takla the Ethiopian are two other saints that found a home in the Lebanese enthusiasm for saints.