The Saint Maron Heliopolis Church celebrated its centennial last month with a huge ceremony attended by many religious and political figures.
written and photographed by Sherif Anis
Together, hand in hand along with the church Fathers, religious leaders blessed the consecration of Saint Maron Church in Heliopolis after renovation and celebrated its centennial anniversary. In a strong message of unity and peace, His Beatitude Patriarch Mar Bechara Boutros Al Rahi, Patriarch of Antioch and All the East of the Maronites, headed the Mass along with His Holiness Pope Tawadros II, Pope of Alexandria and Patriarch of Saint Mark Coptic Orthodox Church, and the Patriarch Abraham Isaac, the Patriarch of the Coptic Catholic and head of the Catholic Patriarchs and Bishops in Egypt.[caption id="attachment_436260" align="alignnone" width="620"] Patriarch Mar Bechara Boutros Al Rahi, Pope Tawadros II and Patriarch Abraham Isaac all attended the anniversary celebrations. The Fresco behind them was redesigned in a 3D concept, adding a beautiful Liturgical idea of the evangelists flying in the infinite sky, including the Holy Spirit Symbol and Saint Maron's well-known picture. St. Maron is the father of the Maronite Churche's spiritual and monastic movement. The painting is based on his hermitic lifestyle, as it was characterized by living in the open air during the hot summers and cold winters. He lived hte life of an ascetic, residing on a hilltop where an ancient temple to the Babylonian god Nabo stood. He converted the temple to a Christian church.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_436261" align="alignnone" width="620"] Patriarch Mar Bechara Boutros Al Rahi, Pope Tawadros II and Patriarch Abraham Isaac at the celebrations.[/caption]
Saint Maron Church, located in El Korba in Heliopolis, was commissioned by the Belgian Baron Empain in the early 20th century. El Korba is known as being one of the most attractive neighborhoods in Cairo and is especially renowned for its architecture. Fathers Nabil Rafoul, Joseph Haj, and Hanna Morany, the figures behind the church’s renovation, were motivated to protect Korba’s unique architectural glory. They contracted internationally renowned Lebanese artist Habib Khoury to create the church’s paintings. Khoury’s murals adorn the walls of many churches in Lebanon and his paintings are part of private collections around the world.[caption id="attachment_436263" align="alignnone" width="620"] Saint Anthony was a Christian monk from Egypt, revered since his death as a saint. For his importance among the Desert Fathers and to all later monasticism, he is also known as “The Father of All Monks.”[/caption]
The Syriac Maronite Church of Antioch is an Eastern Catholic Church in full communion with the Pope, Bishop of Rome. It traces its heritage back to the community founded by Maron, a 4th-century Syriac monk venerated as a saint. The Maronites, the followers of the Syriac Maronite Church, remain one of the principal ethno-religious groups in Lebanon. The remarkable nature of the Maronites’ history lies hand in hand with that of Lebanon, which for centuries was their retreat and fortress. It was in July 1745 that Father Moussa Helana Al Shamy arrived in Egypt and started the Maronite mission. Afterward, Maronite churches were established in different Egyptian governorates.[caption id="attachment_436264" align="alignnone" width="620"] Saint John Maron was a Syriac monk, and the first Maronite Patriarch.[/caption]
For 100 years, the Saint Maron Church in Heliopolis has served men and women who immigrated to Egypt from Lebanon as well as the generations of their descendants. In addition to the Lebanese families residing in Cairo, the Saint Maron Church community also includes men and women of different nationalities who are drawn to the spirituality and traditions of the Maronite Rite.[caption id="attachment_436265" align="alignnone" width="620"] Saint Joseph and the Christ Child: The idea is based on Italian Guido Reni’s original painting (1638-1640). The figure of Saint Joseph displays a tender, loving gaze at the newborn Jesus, expressing his adoration for the infant.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_436266" align="alignnone" width="620"] The Virgin of the Lilies: Copied from William Adolphe Bouguereau’s original painting (1899), which depicts Mary and the Christ Child; showing the Blessed Mother clothed in a black robe holding Jesus, with her eyes cast downward. Artist Habib Khoury altered the Virgin’s eyes, making it look as if she is presenting the child to the world.[/caption]