03/21/2005, 00.00
LEBANON

Palm Sunday, when hope lies with the young

Despite storms Lebanon won't die, says Maronite Bishop of Beirut.

Beirut (AsiaNews) – Lebanese Catholics on Palm Sunday prayed for peace entrusting the future of the country in the hands of the young.

Celebrations took place in an atmosphere highly charged by recent terrorist attacks, the most recent of which was a car bomb that wounded 11 people in predominantly Christian neighbourhood of New Jdeideh (East Beirut).

Mgr Paul Matar, Maronite Archbishop of Beirut, led the services at St George's Maronite Cathedral, in downtown Beirut. The mass was preceded by a procession that made its way through the streets of nearby areas.

This year's celebrations were particularly significant because the cathedral is right across from the Mouhamad el-Amin mosque where former Prime Minister Rafik Harir, who was killed on February 14, is buried.

The attack sparked an unprecedented wave of popular protests against Syrian occupation of Lebanon, backed by the student movement.

In his homily, Archbishop Matar illustrated the meaning of the celebration urging the faithful to examine their conscience and act respectfully towards one another. He expressed words of hope for the country's future, which won't die despite the storms it has gone through. He ended the service urging the young to be the builders of the new Lebanon.

In his homily, Abbot François Eid, Superior General of the Maronite Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary, spoke in hopeful terms as well. He stressed the need for a true peace, one born of love.

Key to this is Jerusalem which, in his words, should be a city of peace and not of "rebellion".

Abbot Eid also stressed how important it is for everyone to work together for the rebirth of Lebanon, a task which especially falls on the young, builders of peace and masters of their own destiny.

Similar trust in the young was expressed by Youssef Kallas, Greek Melkite Metropolitan of Beirut, whose homily acknowledged the efforts young people displayed in seeking reconciliation and opposing violence.

Card Nassrallah Sfeir, the Maronite Patriarch, was not in Lebanon. He celebrated mass in New York.

The Patriarch is currently un the US where he met US President George W. Bush last week. He is expected to fly home on March 22. (YH)

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