» 02/19/2010, 00.00
Beirut, "national" Islamic-Christian holiday in the name of the Annunciation of Mary
The official decision could be reached during the meeting between Pope Benedict XVI and Prime Minister Hariri of Lebanon, scheduled for tomorrow at the Vatican. It will have a more "national" than "religious" character and will be a symbol of unity among the citizens. The day of celebration marked by a common social, cultural and religious program.
Beirut (AsiaNews) - The news has been widely reported in Lebanon, especially among Christians. Yet, one of its most vigorous promoters is a Muslim. Yesterday the Council of Ministers meeting chaired by Saad Hariri, has approved a decree that the feast of the Annunciation on March 25 is "a common Christian-Muslim national holiday," unprecedented in the annals of dialogue between the two religions .
The new festival, which will have a "national" rather than "religious" stamp, will be celebrated alongside that of the Annunciation, not replacing it. It should help to make the figure of the Virgin Mary, revered in Islam almost as much as in Christianity, a symbol of unity among the Lebanese, and further the image of Lebanon as a "Country symbol” of pluralism and tolerance, in agreement with the words Pope John Paul II.
The feast will be a bank holiday and will also characterized by a common social, cultural and religious program that will highlight the cultural and religious aspects of Christians and Muslims. The final decision will be made Saturday, February 20, during the meeting that the Prime Minister of Lebanon has scheduled with Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican. The premier could then make the announcement from the Vatican itself.
On 16 February a Muslim-Christian delegation including MM. Eddé Michel, a former minister and president of the Maronite foundation in the world, Ibrahim Chamseddine (Shia, son of Imam Mohammed Mehdi Chamseddine), former minister, and Mohammed Nokkari (Sunni) university professor and former Secretary General of Dar el-Fatwa, Lebanon's highest Sunni religious authority, presented the project to Prime Minister Hariri.
According to members of the delegation, the Gospel and the Koran both say that Christ was born of Mary, who was still a virgin. It is a dogma of faith common to Christians and Muslims, even though the two religions then differ over the nature of Jesus who for Christians is divine in nature.
At the initiative of the Committee, for the past three years common celebrations have been held in Lebanon during the Feast of the Annunciation. They are held at the College of Our Lady of Jamhour and are guided by the Jesuits under the theme "Together around Our Lady Mary ", with the participation of foreign delegations, particularly that of Al-Azhar University, Egypt.
In parallel, the project promoters have obtained from the chairman of the municipal council of Beirut, Abdel-Monhem Ariss, a small portion of land in the Museum square for the construction of a monument that reproduces the emblem of the party and is characterized by a stylized face of the Virgin Mary surrounded by a crescent moon, symbol of Islam.
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Lebanese political and religious leaders call for such a feast. The Islamic-Christian celebration can be a model for meeting and exchange. An international Marian centre dedicated to dialogue will be set up in the capital. A garden dedicated to Mary, a beloved figure revered by both monotheistic religions, will also be established.
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On the occasion of the Feast of the Annunciation, Lebanon’s government launches a joint Christian-Muslim celebration in honour of Mary who is venerated in both communities. In the square in front of Lebanon’s National Museum a statue of Our Lady will be erected surrounded by a crescent. The initiative might be extended to other countries.
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