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    » 05/05/2014, 00.00

    LEBANON

    For Patriarch Rai slams "shameful" campaign against his visit to the Holy Land

    Fady Noun

    Two pro-Hizbollah newspapers criticise the patriarch's decision to travel to Jerusalem to meet the pope, calling it an "historic sin". For others, the controversy shows "bad faith" because it is "unthinkable" for the patriarch not to welcome the pope in his diocese.

    Beirut (AsiaNews) - Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai has reacted negatively to a "shameful" campaign that aims at stopping him from accompanying Pope Francis on his pastoral visit to Amman (Jordan) and the Holy Land (Jerusalem and Bethlehem ), on 24 to 26 May.

    "The protest is unnecessary," he said today at Lourdes, where he is accompanying a delegation of the Lebanese chapter of the Order of Malta on an annual pilgrimage to the French shrine.

    Yesterday, he led 25,000 people in prayer for "the tortured and blood-stained East, crucified on the cross by religious hatreds and political and economic interests."

    As for the controversy, "the Pope has honoured us with his visit to the diocese of patriarchy and it is normal that the patriarch should welcome him," he explained.

    The Maronite Church, the largest Catholic community in the East, has two separate archdioceses covering Israel, the Palestinian territories and Jordan.

    The first, which is a patriarchal vicariate, includes Jerusalem, Palestine and Jordan, and the second covers the territory of the State of Israel within its pre-1967 borders.

    In noting that he would not meet Israeli leaders, the patriarch said he was "aware that Israel is an enemy state that is occupying Lebanese territory," but he insisted that he respects "Lebanese law."

    What is more, "I am sorry to see that some Lebanese want to create problems where none exist," the patriarch insisted. "The Lebanese should stay calm and stop fuelling this debate. It is shameful."

    Here, he was referring to two pro-Hizbollah and pro-Syria Lebanese newspapers, which on Saturday criticised his decision to visit the Holy Land, especially Jerusalem.

    In an article titled 'Historic sin: Rai goes to Israel,' As-Safir called the trip a "dangerous precedent" that "serves neither Lebanon and the Lebanese, nor Palestine, much less Christians and Christianity."

    For its part, Al-Akhbar wrote that a group of Lebanese politicians would try to persuade Card Rai not to undertake the visit to Jerusalem as long as it is under Israeli occupation, since this visit means dealing with the occupier.

    In view of the situation, Mgr Boulos Sayah, vicar general of the Maronite Patriarchate and former bishop to the Holy Land, decided to clarify some points, noting that the patriarch will "go to Jerusalem only to welcome the Pope", that he would not have done it under any other circumstance.

    Mgr Sayah also noted that the anti-visit campaign "is acting in bad faith", that it would be "unthinkable" for the Maronite Patriarch to refuse a papal invitation to visit Jerusalem and Bethlehem.

    He further pointed out that the patriarch will not pass through an Israeli airport, but will go first to Amman, where the papal visit will start, before going by bus to Bethlehem, and then travel to Jerusalem. The Pope will instead fly to Israel from Amman.

    After the pope's departure, Patriarch Rai will go to the Galilee, including Nazareth and Haifa, to visit Maronite parishes, "as he is duty-bound," and which the "local bishop does on a regular basis with no one complaining."

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    See also

    08/05/2014 LEBANON
    Maronite patriarch in Holy Land to "welcome", not accompany Pope Francis
    Card Beshara Rai reacts to attacks by groups close to Syria, Iran and Hizbollah, who accuse him of wanting to normalise relations with Israel. Instead, he notes that, as head of the Maronite Church, it is his duty to welcome the pope during his apostolic visit, a stance backed by Mahmoud Abbas, for whom the matter is religious, not political.

    25/04/2013 ARGENTINA - LEBANON
    The pope of the poor: visiting Card Bergoglio's flat in Buenos Aires
    On a pastoral visit to Latin America, Patriarch Rai went to see Pope Francis's old flat when he was archbishop of Buenos Aires. He saw the crucifix the pope used to kiss when he went in and out of his bedroom, which had no TV or air conditioning. The patriarch is currently on a visit that focuses on the pastoral care of millions of people of Lebanese origin who for over a century have lived in Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, Uruguay, and Venezuela. The lack of vocations is a challenge for foreign missions. Pictures follow at the end.

    03/09/2012 LEBANON - VATICAN
    Patriarch Rai: Welcome pope by overcoming Lebanon's divisions
    The head of the Maronite Church calls on Lebanese Christians to anticipate the papal visit (14-16 September) with love and truth. During his visit, the pope will sign an Apostolic Exhortation written in the wake of the Synod of the Churches of the Middle East. In a statement, the patriarch stressed the important role Christians can play in a new "Arab spring" but bemoaned divisions and hatreds among Arab countries.

    20/08/2014 LEBANON - IRAQ
    Patriarch al-Rahi in Kurdistan for the future of Christians and the fight against Islamists
    The cardinal makes a short one-day stop in Erbil accompanied by civil and religious leaders. He will meet with Kurdish President Barzani and visit the archbishop's see. The trip will focus on the fate of Christians fleeing jihadists and the possible use of force to repel the Islamist threat. The issue of relations with Islam and interfaith dialogue will also be discussed.

    27/05/2014 LEBANON - THE HOLY LAND
    Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi prays for peace at the Holy Sepulchre
    The cardinal continues his pastoral visit. Yesterday he did not accompany Pope Francis when the latter met with Israeli leaders. On 8 May, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas welcomed the announcement of the patriarch's visit and, two days ago, awarded him the "Star of Jerusalem" for his visit to the city and for strengthening its ties with the Arab world.



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