08/09/2016, 12.18
LEBANON
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Patriarch Rai: The Middle East must return to being the cradle of coexistence between Christians and Muslims

by Pierre Balanian

New appeal of the head of the Maronite Church for the election of the head of state, vacant for over two years. But the 43rd parliamentary session, which took place yesterday, ended with yet another postponement. The cardinal was inaugurating an amphitheater dedicated to the Armenian martyr Ignatius Maloyian. He spoke of the genocide and the witness of faith of the Armenians and the "new genocide" of the Christians of the Middle East.

Beirut (AsiaNews) - The 43rd parliamentary session, held yesterday in Beirut, to elect the head of state, a position vacant for over two years has once agin concluded in a stalmate. House Speaker Nabih Berri suspended the session until September 7, due to the lack of a quorum.

Lebanon has been without a president since May 2014, when the mandate of Michel Aoun expired and the clash began between the two main camps - March 8 and March 14 – which thus far has prevented the choice of his successor. According to the Constitution, the office must go to a Christian in the delicate mosaic of faiths, cultures and ethnic groups that shape the country.

The head of the Maronite Church, Cardinal Bechara Rai, has once again addressed the problem of the election of a President of the Republic. He issued a call to unity and joint effort to end the power vacuum. The Patriarch spoke at the opening ceremony of an amphitheater in Bzommar, dedicated to the Armenian martyr Ignatius Maloyian.

Here, below, the report of our correspondent in Lebanon:

On August 7, the opening ceremony of an amphitheater dedicated to Blessed Ignatius Maloyian was held in the ancient Armenian Catholic monastery of Bzommar, among the green hills of the mountains of Lebanon, 35 km from the capital Beirut.

He was an Armenian Catholic martyr, a victim of the Genocide perpetrated by Turkey in 1915, who died for not having renounced his faith in Christ. His executioners insistently invited him to convert to Islam to save his life, but he refused categorically and was executed.

The ceremony took place in a climate marked by ecumenism, as can only take place in Lebanon, thanks to the skillful organization of the father superior of the Armenian convent of Bzommar and the vicar of the Patriarch, Msgr. Gabriel Mouradian.

Cardinal. Bechara Rai, the Patriarch of the Armenian Catholic Gregory Bedros XX, the Patriarch of the Melkite Catholics Gregory III Laham, a Bishop representing theOrthodox  Armenian Catholicos of Cilicia  were present as well as the Apostolic Nuncio Msgr. Gabriele Caccia, the Ambassador of the Republic of Armenia in Lebanon, members of all religious denominations, the President of the Lebanese CSM, officers of the Armed Forces and representatives of various political parties, along with personalities from the world of art and culture. Those present participated in a ceremony that lasted three hours and was marked by prayers, speeches, hymns and sacred songs performed by the Maronite Louaize choir and Armenian Groung choir.

Addressing those present, Cardinal Bechara Rai said that in 2015 "we commemorated" the "first centenary of the Armenian genocide and the extermination of a million and a half children of the Armenian Church and sister of hundreds of followers of the Syriac, Chaldean and Assyrian in Turkey churches".

However, added the head of the Maronite Church, "the blood of martyrs is the seed of Christians" and as, "Our Master [Jesus Christ] taught us death is followed by resurrection." Thus, "the few Armenian survivors of that extermination" were able to "nurture an entire Church, that is strengthening and spreading to all parts of the world, preserving customs, unity and tradition”.

Card Rai drew a lesson for the present from those of recent history: "Today, the Christians of the Middle East -he said – are undergoing a new version of genocide, especially in Syria and Iraq. A matrix of an extermination within society, perpetrated by wars that continue to escalate through the intricate weaving of fundamentalist movements with terrorist organizations and the interests of regional and international nations .

"Hundreds of children of our churches - said the cardinal - have died, hundreds of thousands have lost what they had sown throughout an entire lifetime and have embarked on the road of emigration".

Despite all of this "our Churches resist, remain and progress, thanks to the blood of the martyrs mixed with the saving blood of our Lord and by the power of the resurrection," recalling the promise made by Jesus to Simon Peter: "You are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church and the forces of evil will not prevail".

Christianity in its essence, said the Maronite Patriarch, "is openness towards others, towards the different, to build a better and more civilized humanity ... We consider the presence of Christians in the East a vital and essential factor for this same East , with their intellectual, theological, cultural contribution dating back to periods preceding the emergence of Islam by six centuries". And with it, he said, "enriching humanity with cultural, scientific contributions known to all, by erecting a cultural and scientific bridge with the West, launching the values ​​of modernity and an atmosphere of interaction, cooperation and dialogue between these two worlds. "

At the same time, Card. Rai explained, "we consider Islam a necessity for our Arab world, however, that values moderation and openness, putting an end to terrorist and takfirist organizations that use violence in the name of Islam itself."

Together with Muslims, continued Patriarch Rai, "we are called to preserve the face of the Arab culture and protect it from the rejection of diversity, from sectarian, ethnic and linguistic differences."

"We in Lebanon - he added - with them and with Armenians in Lebanon have experienced the grace to aspire to a homeland, together, Christians and Muslims, we base ourselves on the agreement of communal living, separating religion and state, respecting the rights of each religion and its teachings".

In a country that "does not favor any other state, whether it is East and West, which is part of the Arab family and maintains a constant balance among all the nations, that does not take part in struggles and works for justice, for peace and for the 'of all its component units".

"We insist on participation in governance - the cardinal underscored - and management on a fair and equitable basis of democracy, through diversity, accepting the other, respect for others and human rights, as provided by our Constitution" .

"Lebanon - he said – has a very special experience in dialogue, common destiny and life ... The Christians of the East have had a key role in strengthening cultural and religious diversity".

Card. Rai concluded his speech by saying that "for these reasons, and from this place, together with the Armenian people, jealous of the destiny of this country and in front of the statue of the Blessed Bishop Ignatius Martyr Maloyian, I appeal to the parliamentary groups to elect a President the Republic. Today before tomorrow, to preserve these our values".

For his part, the Apostolic Nuncio Msgr. Gabriele Caccia invited the Christians of the East to take as an example the pain and triumph of the resurrection experienced by the Armenian people, persecuted in the East a century ago because of their faith.

The prelate urged believers to follow the strength, unique among all Christians, which led them to carve the cross in stone, bringing a stone cross, a symbol of maximum resistance. "A cross, the khatchkars [the Armenian stone crosses] - said the Nuncio – without the crucified, but which flourished as a symbol of rebirth of life in resurrection”.

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