02/09/2010, 00.00
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Two services for Saint Maroun, a sign of divisions among Lebanese Maronites

Patriarch Sfeir goes to Saint George’s Church with highest authorities of the state and leaders of pro-government Maronite parties, whilst opposition leaders Aoun and Franjeeh, as well as former President Lahoud and an Assad advisor, are in Brad, Syria.

Beirut (AsiaNews) – The line that divides Lebanon’s Christians with some in government and others in opposition was further evinced by the Masses held today to honour Saint Maroun, father of the Maronite Church, who died 1,600 years ago.

Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir and top government officials commemorated the event in Saint George’s Church, in Beirut. President Michel Suleiman, Speaker Nabih Berri, Prime Minister Saad Hariri and several cabinet ministers, MPs and politicians, including Lebanese forces’ leader Samir Geagea.

Another service was celebrated in Brad, not far from Alep, in Syria. Hezbollah ally and Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun, Marada movement leader Suleiman Franjieh as well as former President Emile Lahoud, and Energy Minister Jebran Bassil attended the ceremony. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad advisor Bouthaina Shaaban was also present.

“Our visit today bears a historic importance since it sets a new track to revive true Eastern Christian culture because the Christian church originated from here," Aoun said.

As for Franjieh, he said his visit had a religious aspect although he hinted he was proud of being part of the Syrian-Iranian axis.

No one referred to Patriarch Sfeir’s homily in which he stressed the role played by Maronites in ensuring religious coexistence in the country.

The Ad-Diyar daily focused on the divisions, citing sources within the Patriarchate. "What's happening in Brad is an attempt to target the Maronite Patriarchate and hint that there is a Christian authority that can make decisions to weaken the Maronite Church," the newspaper said.

Patriarch Sfeir also hinted at the divisions in his Lent message, which was released yesterday. In it, the head of the Maronite Church said, “The Maronite centre of gravity is in Lebanon.” Maronites “wrote their first true history not on paper, but in the book, which is the land of Lebanon.”

More explicitly, Geagea said that the “political leaders who travelled to Brad did not do so for Saint Maroun, but for political reasons.” (PD)

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