On June 4, 2022 at the convent of the Franciscan Sisters of the Cross in Jal el-Dib, near Beirut, a place known by all Lebanese as the first hospital for the mentally ill in Lebanon founded by Blessed Jacques of Ghazir, a Capuchin friar, was celebrated the beatification rite of Leonard Melki and Thomas Saleh, two Capuchin priests killed in odium fideiduring the terrible moments of persecution against the Christians of the Ottoman Empire in the Anatolian peninsula between 1914 and 1917The Eucharistic celebration and the beatification rite were presided over by Cardinal Marcello Semeraro, Prefect of the Dicastery for the Cause of Saints and pontifical envoy for the proclamation of the apostolic letter in which the Holy Father, Pope Francis indicates the two Capuchin friars as "heroic missionaries of the Gospel of Jesus Christ” and sets their liturgical memorial for June 10th.
The celebration was attended by more than 4,000 Christian faithful, authorities from the Maronite, Melkite, Armenian Catholic, Syriac Catholic and Chaldean Rite churches and, of course, Bishop Cesar Essayan, OFMConv., Latin Rite Apostolic Vicar of Beirut. Also in attendance were, Cardinal Mario Grech, numerous bishops, the General Minister, Br. Roberto Genuin, OFMCap., the Custos of Lebanon, Br. Abdallah Noufaily, the Postulator General, Br. Carlo Calloni, OFMCap., Br. Antoine El Haddad, OFMCap., who moved forward with and concluded the valuable and devoted work of collecting the documents and testimonies of Fr. Salim Rizkallah, OFMCap., not to mention the presence of all the friars of the General Custody of Lebanon.The solemn moment of the beatification had been preceded by a week of meetings, prayer vigils, processions, and television broadcasts that invited the Christians of Lebanon to express their gratitude for the great gift of the beatification of Br. Leonard and Br. Thomas.
In his thanksgiving, Msgr. Cesar Essayan pointed out how the martyrdom of the two Capuchins, even though it happened over 100 years ago, still speaks to today's world because, he said, "we celebrate not two dead friars, but two friars resurrected in Christ, who show us the way to holiness."The General Minister, in a letter sent to all the friars, emphasized how the new Capuchin Blesseds stimulates the whole Order to show the world how the Capuchin vocation has in itself a strong missionary commitment and a radical trust in God, even in times of war and persecution, such as we see in today’s world.The great event of the beatification had as its natural conclusion the celebration of a Mass of Thanksgiving in the Maronite rite presided over by the Patriarch of the Maronites, Cardinal Béchara Boutros Raï, O.M.M., in the small church of Baabdad which was the birthplace of the two new blesseds.
It was from this small village of Baabdath that the two Capuchin priests and missionaries departed, who, as Pope Francis recalled, "were young, not even 35 years old," but knew how to offer their lives for the faith, in confident abandonment, in hope, and by giving their whole selves in charity to God and neighbor. "A round of applause for the new Blesseds!" concluded Pope Francis.