The annual synod is extended to choose the successor of Mgr Boulos Matar, who has led the Archeparchy for the past 23 years. Various ecclesial, social and national issues are at the centre of the meeting. The Maronite patriarch calls on the government and political leaders to create a "healthy and responsible" climate, boosting the economy, without forgetting society and education.
Beirut (AsiaNews/OLJ) – Maronite bishops from all over the world are in Lebanon for their annual synod. They met yesterday in Bkerke to begin their work, following their retreat last week. One of the decisions that awaits them is the election of a new archeparch of Beirut to replace Mgr Boulos (Paul) Matar who is well pass the age of retirement (75), and has held the position since 1996 (23 years).
The Archeparchy of Beirut is symbolic for various reasons. With 123 parishes, it is by far Lebanon's largest ecclesiastic jurisdiction, with major economic installations, schools, universities and population.
The écoles de la Sagesse (Wisdom Schools) alone have 10,000 students. With its regional branches, the Diocese of Beirut also embodies Lebanon’s ethnic plurality. Geographically, it extends to Naamé, Damour and Mechref, Bhamdoun, Beit-Méry and Baabda.
Speaking to the bishops at the opening, Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi reminded them that they have a duty of secrecy with respect to the election, warning them against possible leaks of the results to the media.
"What can be announced will officially appear in the final communiqué at the end of our work, Saturday at noon, in Beirut and Rome," said the head of the Maronite Church.
To ensure confidentiality, the bishops were asked not to carry their mobile phones during the sessions. They also followed the patriarch and took the oath of office to vote in conscience and to keep their debates and prerogatives "within the sacred framework of apostolic succession".
The synod will address ecclesiastical as well as social and national issues, and more generally, all issues that affect the daily life of the Maronite community, said the patriarch.
After congratulating the government for its achievements, the Patriarch added that he, "like his fellow Lebanese, would like to see confidence in Lebanon reinvigorated through the development of a healthy and responsible political climate, far from any conflict, boasting or unfettered clientelism."
He also said he wanted to see "the economy rebound, the role of banks protected, and special attention paid to social associations and schools." Addressing the relevant authorities, he called for investment in construction, which is widely seen as a locomotive for the rest of the economy.
The patriarch also paid tribute to the memory of members of the security forces who sacrificed their lives, recently in Tripoli, in the fight against terrorism and warned against "this monster seeping into our society and settling comfortably,” expressing hope that such agents of disorder and death "and their sponsors" will be arrested.
Finally, the patriarch had a word for the Maronites living in other Arab countries (Iraq, Syria, Palestine) and those who live far from the Middle East.
To the former, he said reassuringly that the Maronite Church strives to defend their cause before civic, Church, regional and international fora, “encouraging them to remain rooted in their land, faithful to their heritage and history.”
Speaking to the expatriates, the patriarch advised them never to break the bond that ties them to the motherland. In particular, he urged them to register themselves and their children at the nearest Lebanese diplomatic mission in their countries of residence in order “to keep their nationality and civil rights." He equally invited them to contribute as much as possible to Lebanon's economic prosperity.
At the end of the synod, the bishops will take part in the inauguration of the ‘Patriarchal Centre for Human Growth and Empowerment’, which is located in the Church of Saints Serge and Bakhos in Rayfoun.