The Great Exhumation of 1950
1950 was a Holy year, and the faithful came in droves to the oratory adjoining the tomb of Father Sharbel to pray for help and protection through his intercession. One day, it came to their attention that the wall of the oratory was damp. The Superior, Fr. Pierre Youness, was notified, and it was confirmed that the moisture was not water but a sort of viscous fluid. Fr. Youness feared that the coffin and the body had decomposed, so gathering the monks together, he ordered the tomb to be reopened. It was the 25th of February, 1950.
The bloody liquid had penetrated the two coffins and the interior stone wall, and it was now dripping down the exterior face of the oratory wall. Abbot John Andary, Superior General of the Order, finding the body intact, alerted the Patriarch, His Beatitude Antoine Arida. A new investigation of the body was begun under the direction of his delegate, Ft. Mansour Awwad, of Youssef Diryan and of the secretary. A ministerial inquiry was called, bringing in three doctors for consultation, each one an expert in his field.
Present at this time were Bishop Paul Aql, Vicar General for the Maronite Patriarch in the district of Jbeil (Byblos), and the Superior General of the Order, surrounded by all the monks from annaya. The coffins were opened and the following evidence was recorded: "The bloody body fluid observed in 1899 and in 1927 has persisted. It covers the entire cadaver and has drenched the clothing. One part of the chasuble is mildewed, the bottom of the zinc coffin has fallen through at one end, the tube containing the documents of 1927 has rusted away, the documents themselves are still intact." There could be no doubt that it was this liquid that seeped through the coffins, filtering down drop by drop, which had dampened the walls. The witnesses noted that every piece of clothing was soaked with traces of blood here and there, especially on the alb.
This discharge, which covered the entire corpse, has coagulated and solidified in spots. The body, however, retained all its suppleness, and it was possible to bend the arms and legs. Annaya was innundated with waves of human tide, Even befor the results of the Commission's findings were made public, crowds of infirme began to arrive, the deaf the blind, the mute, and the paralytic. Suddenly, astonishing recoveries took place, filling the pilgrims with joy and enthusiasm, and causing them to cry out in the intensity of their religious fervour.
The body was once more carefully sealed up to protect it from removal and from every kind of worship. From that day on, crownds in increasing numbers arrived at the monastery door. They came from every corner of the earth seeking help and consolation from the hermit. Neither the bad road conditions nor the lack of shelter in that desolate spot could dissuade them. Day and might they came in. It was as if they were seeking a safe harbour.
Their prayers rose endlessly towards heaven. Many of these individuals rediscovered their God as they implored His mercy and the recovery of those sick in body and soul. The priests were busy night and day administering the sacraments of Penance and the Eucharist. The cry "Miracle" rang out over and over again to the pealing of belss and loud cheers. Everyone wanted some sort of relic; even the earth in the courtyard which lay close to the tomb was scooped up and treasured. The gigantic oak which had shaded the hermit for may years, was set upon; its leaves, branches and even its bark were removed. The greater part of these items were used in infusion for the infirm, who would, upon recovery, rush to the monastery to give thanks to Father Sharbel.