The head of the Maronite Church consecrated Lebanon and the whole of the Middle East to the Immaculate Heart of Mary during a pilgrimage to Fatima on Sunday.

The solemn act of consecration, by Cardinal Bechara Boutros Rai, patriarch of Antioch, was to mark the culmination of “Lebanon Day” at the shrine, which began with a candlelit procession and the recitation of the rosary.

In his homily, the the cardinal said: “We have come from Lebanon, Iraq, Syria, the Holy Land, Egypt, the Gulf countries and various countries of proliferation – particularly from Australia, Canada, the United States, Europe – to continue, from generation to generation, to honour our Blessed Virgin Mary.”

He concelebrated Mass with Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignace Joseph III Younan and a delegation of bishops and priests.

The cardinal said he was following Mary’s call for devotion to the Immaculate Heart: “We have come to renew the dedication of Lebanon and the countries of the Middle East to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, according to her wishes. This dedication is to repent, to stop wars and to consolidate peace.”

His visit to Fatima came as the shrine marked 100 years since Mary first appeared to three children at the site.

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