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Lebanese church restored after extensive damage from bomb blast, thanks to Christian charity

A 19th century Jesuit-run church that sustained severe damage in August 2020's devastating blast is on track to reopen next month.

St Joseph, which was built in 1875, was hit when last year's explosion ripped through western Beirut and has been restored with backing from Aid to the Church in Need (ACN).

ACN's support for the church repairs amounts to £283,000 (US$400,000). The aid is seen as vital as Lebanon is facing an economic crisis caused by the collapse of the Lebanese pound - which has lost more than 80 percent of its value against the US dollar.

The 2020 explosion killed 200 people and injured 6,000 when 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate ignited in a docklands warehouse.

Dr John Newton is from ACN, he told Premier about the scale of the damage: "The explosion ripped through it, as it did through much of the Christian quarter, which is located near to the docks. The damage was immense, the wooden windows were ripped out, 95 per cent of the stained glass was destroyed, wooden doors were taken off their hinges. The historic suspended ceiling in the church was destroyed, the timber roof structure, even the church organ - a very typically Christian thing - got damaged as well. And so they've been working pretty much flat out to try to get the church restored and the good news is that the restoration work has come quite some way and they are expecting to be able to reopen the church to services next month."

ACN also helped out with emergency aid providing food to families that were made homeless immediately after the blast.

Dr Newton added that the church is home to a number of different congregations in Lebanon: "There's a French speaking community that meets there on Sunday evenings for services. There's an English speaking congregation that gathers for services on Sunday mornings and there's also an Arabic speaking congregation that has Mass in the local Maronite [church], as well. So there's a number of different communities that the church caters for. And for all of them, they've lost an absolutely vital lifeline in their spiritual life and in a number of other ways, by having lost the church."

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