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AFRENCH Assumptionist was one of the heroes of the tragedy which cost the lives of 16 people when the 12,500-ton French liner Champollion was wrecked in Beirut harbour on the way to Palestine. He celebrated Mass on the sinking ship and was the last passenger to leave.
Fr. Leschat. leader of a group of 71 pilgrims, had planned to spend Christmas in Bethlehem, He led the passengers in prayer during the 36 hours when the liner was breaking in two on a sand bar.
Two passengers and 14 crew were drowned when many of the more than 300 on board jumped into the sea to swim ashore.
Mme. Boucher, a Canadian passenger, said that Fr. Leschat and four other priests on board "sustained our courage by their prayers," and that passengers of all faiths assisted at a Mass which Fr. Leschat celebrated on the bridge of the Champollinn during the long hours when the cries of frightened children could be heard above the sound of swirling seas and heavy winds.
Among the 71 Holy Land pilgrims were three nuns returning to their convent in Lebanon. One of them swam ashore.
Archbishop Beltrami, Papal Nuncio to the Lebanon, was among the clergy and nuns who waited gn the beach ready to help survivors.
Some 60 pilgrim survivors arrived in Bethlehem on Monday.