05/09/2007, 00.00
LEBANON
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Bishops against constitutional changes to presidential election process

by Youssef Hourani
At the end of their monthly meeting, Maronite prelates express their gratitude to the Pope for his closeness to Lebanon. They voice concern about the country’s deteriorating economic situation.

Beirut (AsiaNews) – In their monthly meeting at Bkerke chaired by the Maronite Patriarch, Card Nasrallah Sfeir, Lebanon’s Maronite bishops expressed their gratitude to the Pope for his closeness to the country as well as concerns for the deteriorating economic situation. The prelates also declared their loyalty to the country’s parliamentary system which gives lawmakers the power to elect the president and made clear their opposition to any changes to the constitution regarding choosing a successor to current President Émile Lahoud as demanded by General Aoun.

In a press release, the bishops said they were grateful to the Pope and the Roman curia for closely monitoring the situation in the country. Last week Patriarch Sfeir was in the Vatican where he had a long talk with the Pontiff and some Vatican officials in charge of Lebanon affairs. The bishops stressed how much Benedict XVI is concerned for the Lebanese, especially the Christians who “guarantee the Christian presence in the Middle East.”

The bishops made a strong appeal demanding that the established electoral timetable be respected and urged lawmakers to choose the new president through parliament, rejecting thus demands for constitutional changes.

They also expressed their deepest concern for the deteriorating economic situation, which represents a real threat to everyone, forcing middle class Lebanese who are leaving in great numbers for greener pastures. In doing so they are upsetting the country’s delicate demographic balance and undermining its bases.

Sources close to the Maronite Patriarchate have finally confirmed to AsiaNews that National Assembly Speaker Nabih Beiiwill pay a visit to Bkerke where he will meet with Patriarch Sfeir.

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