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'We are bridge builders': Maronite Catholic youth gather in Lebanon


  • Young people attend the World Maronite Youth Days July 19 in Beirut. The July 15-25 event, organized by the Maronite Patriarchate Youth Pastoral Office, followed the World Youth Day model. (CNS photo/Johnny Antoun)
  • Young people attend the World Maronite Youth Days July 19 in Beirut. The July 15-25 event, organized by the Maronite Patriarchate Youth Pastoral Office, followed the World Youth Day model. (CNS photo/Johnny Antoun)
  • Young people clap during the World Maronite Youth Days July 19 in Beirut. The July 15-25 event, organized by the Maronite Patriarchate Youth Pastoral Office, followed the World Youth Day model. (CNS photo/Johnny Antoun)
  • A pilgrim poses with an inflatable animal during the World Maronite Youth Days July 20 in Beirut. The July 15-25 event, organized by the Maronite Patriarchate Youth Pastoral Office, followed the World Youth Day model. (CNS photo/Johnny Antoun)

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BEIRUT (CNS) -- They came from around the world, from Australia, South America, Europe and the United States. Some came from Africa, and some from nearby countries in the Middle East.

They clapped and ululated, creating a celebratory atmosphere as nearly 500 young people from other countries joined 1,000 Maronite Catholic youths from Lebanon for World Maronite Youth Days.

Some participants came with a durbakke, a popular Lebanese hand drum, to accent the mood with a rhythmic beat. When a troupe of folk dancers performed the traditional dabke dance, many youths rushed from their seats to form snakes on the perimeter of the seating area, hands joined for the step-and-stomp line dance. Even nuns joined in.

"Everyone is singing songs, outwardly praising," said Michel Kahwajy, 24, a Maronite Catholic from Richmond, Virginia.

"Meeting people that are my age that are passionate about their Maronite faith, that's been a really moving thing for me," he told Catholic News Service.

Although "America is a little bit more diverse ... being a 'melting pot' that it is, life is built more around religion here (in Lebanon)," Kahwajy said.

Archbishop Gabriele Caccia, the Vatican nuncio to Lebanon, welcomed the people "with great love" and told them "Pope Francis is among you and encourages you all." Each participant received the Gospel of Luke in booklet form, a gift from the pope, and the nuncio urged them "to be a living Gospel."

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