Haifa ( AsiaNews) - The Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai has assured that he will work for reconciliation between the Lebanese state and its citizens who fled to Israel in 2000. He has stated that they are neither "criminals" nor "collaborators" (with Israel).
On the last day of his visit to Israel yesterday, the Patriarch celebrated mass in the church of Saint Louis of Haifa, for the ned of the Marian month of May, and conferred the title of Cor Bishop on Fr. Salim Estephan Soussan, a Maronite born in Kfar Bar'am before the exodus of 1948.
The city of Haifa is home to one third of the 10 thousand Maronites living in Israel. Several of them are wives and children of Lebanese who fought in the South Lebanon Army, which during the war in Lebanon, allied with Israel against the Palestinians and Hezbollah. In 2000, they withdrew to Israel and are currently condemned to a life that is often stunted and without a future.
In an interview with LBCI TV, the patriarch said that it is time for "reconciliation" with this part of the population, since they are neither "criminals" nor "traitors". " Had they fought against Lebanon? Had they fought against the Lebanese state? Had they fought against Lebanese institutions?" Rai asked rhetorically " They - he added - are Lebanese like others, in fact maybe more so" because they are not the ones who have "impeded the presidential election", have not created refugees and poverty, nor have they "created an economic and social crisis in Lebanon".
The allusion is to the Hezbollah and its allies who are blocking the work of the parliament, delaying the election of Lebanese president with serious consequences on the nation's economy and stability.
In fact, Hezbollah has strongly criticized the Patriarch's visit to Israel , calling it "a shame" that threatens to "normalize" relations with the Israeli state .
In theory, Lebanon and the Arab nations are at war against Israel. However, the Patriarch claimed the freedom of a Pastor of the Church to visit his flock wherever it may be, and stressed that his visit to the Maronite community in Israel has a "religious purpose".
On a visit to an Arab Druze village in Isfiya he reiterated: " I did not come here to make political deals ... I did not come here to make commercial, economic, military or security deals. I came here to see our loving people".