MARONITE Catholic priest Fr Fadi Salame was on his way to his parish church when he saw “the worst news from Beirut” – a massive explosion had wreaked havoc on his country’s capital.
The parish priest of St Maroun’s Church, Greenslopes, which caters to the Maronite community in Brisbane, watched in horror as the explosion rocked Beirut’s port and the city centre.
Video footage of the blast shows Beirut covered in a thick cloud of smoke, while the force of the explosion overturned cars, and damaged homes and surrounding buildings.
“Thank God we are okay, with the worst news from Beirut,” Fr Salame said.
Two hours later Fr Salame saw a photo on social media of his neighbour from his days in Lebanon – he was tragically killed in the blast.
“My friend is my neighbour, from old days, I lost him,” Fr Salame said.
“I saw him a few years ago when I went to Lebanon, the last time I saw him.
“He died in the explosion.”
Fr Salame believes other close friends who live in Beirut may have also been killed in the blast.
He said he would try to make contact with his friends later today.
“We need all the saints to pray for us,” Fr Salame said.
Dozens killed including one Australian
The explosion has killed nearly 80 people, and injured at least 4000, according to Lebanon’s health minister.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison confirmed at least one Australian was killed in the blast.
The cause of the explosion is unknown, but officials believe highly explosive material was to blame.
Fr Salame will offer a Mass tomorrow at 6pm for the people of Lebanon for the Feast of the Transfiguration.
Due to coronavirus restrictions, Mass at St Maroun’s have been held on Tuesday and Thursday only, and have been livestreamed on the parish’s Facebook account.
Fr Salame said the timing of the explosion was devastating to the Lebanese people, who were suffering from the coronavirus.
“On top of coronavirus and economic situation and corruption, we have something different now,” Fr Salame said.
“People can be devastated with the explosion now.”
Lebanese Catholics unite in prayer for Lebanon
The leader of the Maronite Diocese of Australia, Bishop Antoine-Charbel Tarabay, said on Facebook he was devastated to hear about the shocking explosion.
“My heart goes out to the Lebanese people who have suffered so much already and to the families who lost loved ones and whose homes and properties were damaged,” Bishop Tarabay said.
“Please contact your families and relatives in Lebanon and check on them at this time and offer any assistance you can.
“You may be their only source of help at the moment.”
Bishop Tarabay prayed for the souls of those killed in the blast, and asked for the intercession of Our Lady of Lebanon and all the saints “for an end to the suffering of its people”.
Images and video footage of the blast continue to circulate on social media, including the moment debris falls on a priest at Mar Maroun Church in Beirut while swinging the thurible before the altar.
Lebanon’s Prime Minister Hassan Diab announced Wednesday would be a day of mourning in the country.