Detroit — Maronite Catholics in southeast Michigan celebrated the past and looked forward to the future during Patriarch Cardinal Bechara Peter Rai’s visit to St. Maron Maronite Church in Detroit on June 29.
The patriarch, head of Lebanon’s Maronite Catholic Church, an Eastern-rite church in communion with Rome, stopped by the former Maronite cathedral during his tour of the Eparchy of Our Lady of Lebanon of Los Angeles, seeking to promote vocations and reinforce the faithful’s witness to Lebanese culture.
It was also a family visit for the cardinal, whose cousin, Dr. Daher Rahi, a longtime parishioner at St. Maron, presented the patriarch with a check for $50,000 to establish an educational scholarship in the patriarch’s name.
“Mainly, this was a personal visit to see my cousin and visit the United States Maronite parishes,” Cardinal Rai said. “I’m also here for the 50th anniversary of the Maronite diocese in the U.S., and it’s important for me to visit Maronites all over the United States.”
The patriarch was pleased with Dr. Rahi’s gift and hopes it will help preserve Maronite culture in the United States and Middle East.
“It’s important to preserve the heritage and tradition of the faith and enrich the tradition of Maronite culture,” Cardinal Rai said. “There are so many needy students that can benefit from the gift.”
The scholarship wasn’t the only gift of the evening, as Dr. Rahi presented the cardinal with another check for $50,000 for the poor in Lebanon.
“Your Eminence, we’ve know each other since we were 10 years and under, we went to school together, had fun together,” Dr. Rahi recalled. “You would leave, and we’d wonder where you were going. We’d find you at the church, praying at the altar. No words in the vocabulary can explain how much of a gift you are to mankind. We love you very much, and we’re proud of all your accomplishments.”
After the checks were handed off and hugs were shared, Cardinal Rai had a surprise of his own planned for the St. Maron community, elevating St. Maron’s pastor, Msgr. Louis Baz, to the rank of chorbishop.
“I’m surprised he promoted me on the spot,” Chorbishop Baz said. “For me, it’s a big responsibility and blessing from God. To receive it from the head of the Church, it’s an honor and a special honor to have the patriarch here for the anniversary as a diocese.”
The ancient rank of chorbishop, once also found in the Roman Catholic Church, is similar to an auxiliary bishop. Unlike auxiliary bishops, however, chorbishops can confer minor orders but not the diaconate or priesthood.
During his homily, the patriarch acknowledged prominent members of the Arab-American community in the congregation, members of Islamic communities of Metro Detroit and Lebanon’s consulate general in Detroit.
“I’m important always to have the patriarch visit the Maronite people all over the parishes in the eparchy,” Chorbishop Baz said. “He wants to keep the people around the world knowing about our tradition and culture while looking for men for the priesthood and people for vocations.”