Beirut (AsiaNews) – In a statement released yesterday Lebanon’s Maronite bishops reiterated their support for the country’s democratic system of government and its constitution, stressed the need to re-convene parliament, and backed the creation of an international tribunal to judge those responsible for the recent wave of political murders. The bishops also called for the election of a new president in accordance with the constitution. The press release, which came at the end of the bishops’ monthly meeting in Bkerke chaired by the Maronite Patriarch Cardinal Nasrallah Sfeir, endorsed by and large the positions of the current government and parliamentary majority.
The statement came after five hours of discussion and in-depth analysis of the situation, motivated by strong concerns over the dangers that threaten the country, its unity and the role Christians play in it. The prelates said they were alarmed by the danger that politics might move from the halls of power into the streets.
The eight-point communiqué begins by stressing the need to maintain Lebanon as an open and plural society in accordance with its traditions. It deals with the various aspects of its current crisis, calling, among other things, for a new and fairer electoral system.
The bishops urge all political factions to respect the principles and bases on which Lebanon and its institutions were built and rely on the existing political framework for a healthy political debate. This means respect for Arab and international agreements and institutions, which are part of Lebanon’s traditions, especially the statutes of the United Nations and the Arab League.
Within this context they raise the issue of the international tribunal that should investigate the political murders that have taken place in the country since 2004.
It is their hope that this tribunal will not be created under the influence of domestic political strife or regional pressures, but rather be based on the principles of law, justice and ethics.
The bishops renew the Maronite Church’s call on all parties involved in the ongoing political crisis to continue their dialogue to find a solution that would allow the government to rule.
The Church urges them, notwithstanding any questions concerning legitimacy and constitutionality, to avoid imposing conditions on the formation of a new government or on the reshuffle of the existing one.
Similarly, the bishops want parliament to re-convene and fulfill its role. This cannot be done unless the National Assembly is sitting. Hitherto Speaker Nabih Berri, who also heads the opposition Amal party, has refused to do so.
As part of their demand that the rules of democracy be respected the bishops want a presidential election to be held no later than next November in conformity with the constitution.
Just a few days ago, Patriarch Sfeir revealed that since Christmas twice he has asked President Émile Lahoud to resign.
However, Lahoud, whose mandate was extended when Lebanon was under Syrian “protection”, has claimed that since there is no “legitimate” parliament, his term in office should continue.