Blessed Jacob of Ghazir

Lebanon - On 21 December 1992, Pope John Paul II promulgated the Decree on the heroicity of virtues of the Servant of God Jacob of Ghazir, born February 1, 1875, in the village of Ghazir (Lebanon).

Khalil Haddad (his secular name), the third of 14 children, was brought up in an exemplary Christian environment. In his family he experienced a climate of solid faith and of active charity towards the poor, and he learned to value hard work. At the age of 17 he emigrated to Egypt and found a job teaching Arabic at St. Mark's College, run by the Lasalette Brothers. At the end of the academic year he returned to Lebanon and, after overcoming his father's objections, entered the Capuchin Order.

He received the habit and the name of Jacob on March 26, 1894. After professing temporary vows in 1895, perpetual vows in 1898, and finishing his theological studies, he was ordained in Beirut on November 1, 1901. After that he held various assignments: bursar, missionary, director of schools, assistant to the Third Order, and tireless apostle in works of mercy for the poor and needy.

He became famous for the numerous social works he undertook; construction of homes for the elderly, beggars and orphans, health centres for abandoned children, hospitals and nursing homes. He dedicated his life to doing good and was often referred to as the "Lebanese St. Vincent de Paul". Others compared him to St. John Bosco or Joseph Cottolengo.

In 1930, he founded the Congregation of the Franciscan Sisters of the Cross of Lebanon. They would become valuable assistants in his many charitable works.

He was always and everywhere an authentically holy person, conscious of both his priesthood and religious consecration. The long hours he spent in prayer were a sign of his profound interior life. He had a true sense of hope, doing everything for the glory of God. The love of God provided the meaning for his life and for all his activity. He literally gave himself to others, offering his life in order to experience the trials and sufferings of his people.

He was a calm, poised, reflective, balanced and sensible person. He avoided extremism and knew how to make the necessary decisions. In his observance of the vows he was a religious who gave the best of himself and set and example for others. For this reason he was admired by all the Lebanese and became a point of reference for Catholics, Orthodox, Muslims and Druse. As such he was a splendid example of dialogue and ecumenism based on the love of Christ.

Jacob died on June 26, 1954, at the age of 80. The reputation for sanctity that followed him throughout his life grew even greater after his death. The cause for his beatification was opened in Beirut just six years after he died. The first step, The informative process on his reputation for sancity, was concluded on June 19, 1964. The Apostolic process on the virtues, was conducted between November 28, 1979, and November 1, 1982. The Positio on his life and virtues was discussed by a panel of theologians, then by cardinals of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints in 1992. All were in favour of his beatification. His Christian and religious witness is a message that is full of meaning today, not only for the Oriental Church and for the people of Lebanon, but for the whole Church since it invites everyone to be aware of the dignity of all people, especially the poor, without distinctions based on religious belief.