Church in 1980In order to meet the congregation’s needs some members of the parish, suggested building a second church adjacent to another concentration of Orthodox in the area. However, the cost of land made acquisition of the required area very difficult. Thus, the issue of building a second church was shelved. It was then decided to build a cathedral in place of the existing church. Consequently, several specialized architects were contacted to study the project of building a cathedral on the site of the old church. The study showed the impossibility of the project’s execution for the following reasons:
1. The need of a greater plot of land than the area occupied by the old church.
2. The nature of the land on which the cathedral was to be built. The land is mainly rocky. The rocky layers needed to be broken, smashed and extracted in order to build the foundations and the cellar. This would increase the costs of excavations and construction work. It would be difficult to ensure funds from the savings of the “Waqf” or from donations. The Trustees made extensive contacts with parish members who were considered financially able. Those contacted concluded that whatever amounts may be collected would not be sufficient to cover the costs of the project.
Thus, it was decided to expand the existing church despite the difficult financial situation. The Trustees had faith that the Virgin Mary would facilitate their quests. They also knew that the general trend among the congregation was toward expansion and modernization.
The existence of the school for boys leased to the Ministry of Education created an obstacle to the expansion of the church. However, the dilapidated condition of the building resulting from damage received during the Civil War, facilitated the inclusion of the school to the “Waqf”. In 1979 the school building was demolished as a preliminary step to start construction. The Trustees, with the assistance of architect Gregory Sirof, decided to give the expanded church building a Byzantine structure with some adjustments.
Architect Elie Chweiry was called upon to execute the project. The expansion work of the church continued until 1981. The rehabilitation of the front courtyard was a masterpiece of architecture. The courtyard was embellished with flowery gardens, a side water fountain and in the center a “ficus” tree. During this period, the financial condition of the “Waqf” improved through revenues from the secondary school established in 1973, donations in lieu of wreaths at funerals, and contributions from furnishings by the parishioners. Some major benefactors that contributed to the expansion of the church and the rehabilitation of the Church Center were: Mr. Issam Fares who equipped the Church and the Church Center with a central air conditioning system; Mr. Raja Arida, who donated chandeliers for the Church; Mr. Eliya Mikhail Rbeiz who with Mrs. Evelyn Ibrahim Rbeiz, donated the electric bell and its cupola; Mr. Nadim Najm who contributed the marble paving of the parish hall, Mr. Hassib Sabbagh who donated the chairs in the parish hall, and Mr. Adib Farha who donated a generator ensu
ring continuous lighting.