12/27/2011, 00.00
LEBANON

Patriarch Rai: A weapons-free Lebanon

by Paul Dakiki
At Christmas Mass the head of the Maronite Church asks that the country be "demilitarized". Hezbollah only armed militant group remaining. The Mass was attended by the head of state, Cardinal. Sfeir, the nuncio and Christian politicians of opposing factions, such as Aoun and Gemayel.
Beirut (AsiaNews) - The Maronite Patriarch Bechara Rai hopes that the government will undertake to liberate Lebanon from all weapons, leaving the national military as the only armed force. During the Christmas Mass celebrated Dec. 25 in Bkerke, Patriarch Rai pointed out that "it is the duty of the state alone to ensure public security and peace in the country, by collecting all the weapons and placing them under the sole control of the legitimate forces of Lebanon, Beirut and all of Lebanon will be weapons free. "

The words of the head of the Maronite Church seem to accommodate the desires of many parliamentarians who during the year, requested a "demilitarized" Beirut - after fierce gun battles between Hezbollah and members of the Islamic charitable Burj Abi Haidar - as well as a Tripoli without weapons.

But the Patriarch’s emphasis was on the situation of Hezbollah, the only military group that has never given up their arms, pleading with the need to be ready to fight against Israel. In this regard, the Patriarch added, "The State must also submit all the missions of defense and security decisions to the political authority and build confidence in its armed forces."

The Christmas Mass was concelebrated by Patriarch Emeritus Nasfrallah Sfeir and also the nuncio in Lebanon, Mgr. Gabriel Hunt.

The liturgy was attended by the head of state, Michel Suleiman, as well as Catholic politicians who are active in opposing groups, including leader of Kataeb, Amin Gemayel, and the head of the Free Patriotic Movement, Michel Aoun, a close ally of Hezbollah.

In his homily Patriarch Rai also asked for more justice and less corruption in the country, as well as a commitment to promote the living conditions of the Lebanese, tried by the economic crisis. He has also called for the Lebanese who fled to Israel to return to Lebanon and appealed for an amnesty on their behalf.

In 2000, on the Israeli withdrawal from southern Lebanon, many Lebanese, including the South Lebanon Army soldiers, took refuge in Israel, fearing reprisals. Last November Mikati's government passed a law that accepts the return of these Lebanese, but excludes those who have fought in the South Lebanon army.
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