Just inside the door of the imposing Basilica of Our Lady of Guanajuato, on the well manicured Plaza de La Paz, is a statue of an exotic, hooded monk. He’s festooned with ribbons (listones) inscribed with prayers and pleas for healing.
San Charbel Makhluf (1828-1898), a Maronite Catholic from Lebanon, is credited with miracles of healing that occurred long after his death; he attained sainthood from Pope Paul VI in 1977.
But what does a kind-eyed Lebanese Monk from the other side of the world, who took a vow of poverty and became a hermit, have to do with devout followers in Mexico?
He was introduced to Mexico in the early 1900s by Lebanese immigrants of the Maronite faith, and has achieved an astounding popularity across the country. Among these Mexican-Lebanese descendants is Carlos Slim, one of the world’s richest men. Fascinating.