By Jessy Chahine
Daily Star staff
Wednesday, October 26, 2005

BEIRUT: An identical replica of The Miraculous Infant Jesus of Prague will now go on permanent display at the Carmelite Saint Elias Monastery in Mayssrah, Kesrouan. A gift from the Prague Carmelite Order to the Lebanese People, the statuette was placed at the monastery on Sunday, during a ceremonial mass celebrated by Latin Patriarch Paul Dahdah.

"This is a very precious moment in the lives of Czech and Lebanese believers," said Marek Skolil, Czech Republic Ambassador to Lebanon during a private interview with The Daily Star prior to the ceremony.

"For centuries, the Bambini di Pragua (Italian for Infant Jesus of Prague) has symbolized the spirit of tolerance and reconciliation and I think it’s a very good thing to have him coming to Lebanon at this moment," Skolil said.

"The beginning of the veneration of the Holy Infant in our country goes back to the 17th century. It was a period of war and conflict, full of tension," he said, "so I think symbolically, I wish and I pray that it will play the same role in Lebanon and bring peace to the region."

The history of the Infant of Prague started in the 17th century when the statue was brought into Bohemia (now the Czech Republic) by a Spanish woman and given as a spiritual treasure to the Carmelites at the Church of the Virgin Mary the Victorious in Mala Strana, a small town in Prague.

The 48-centimeter-tall statuette, which became known as the Infant Jesus of Prague, was the work of an unknown Spanish artist.

Clothed in a royal mantle, the statue wears a jewelled crown with its right hand raised in a blessing gesture and its left holding a globe signifying sovereignty. For many years this statue has been enshrined on a side altar of the church.

Legend has it that as long as the statuette was venerated, the Prague community prospered both spiritually and temporally.

One day, the statuette fell and both hands were shattered. The Carmelites then took it from the altar and stored it in the attic.

The legend continues that from then on Prague experienced bloody wars and unrest until one day the statue spoke to a praying Carmelite: "Have pity on me, and I will have pity on you. Give me my hands, and I will give you peace. The more you honor me, the more I will bless you."

After some effort, the Carmelites finally repaired the statue’s hands and soon after the war ceased.

Ever since, the small statuette has been referred to as "The Miraculous Infant Jesus of Prague" and is venerated not only in Europe, but also in India, the Philippines, Austria and several Latin American countries.

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