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    » 05/03/2007, 00.00

    LEBANON – VATICAN

    Sfeir brings concerns about his country’s future to the Vatican

    Youssef Hourani

    Maronite Patriarch is increasingly worried about the institutional deadlock caused by the country’s political crisis, but especially by the increasingly bitter divisions within the Christian community. The synod of Maronite bishops will take place in a few weeks.

    Beirut (AsiaNews) – Lebanon’s Maronite Patriarch Card Nasrallah Sfeir is in the Vatican to see the Pope and bring his concerns about his country’s institutional deadlock caused by its ongoing political crisis. In addition, Lebanese sources close to the Patriarchate suggest that he will also discuss the growing divisions within the Christian community.

    The sources also see a connection between Cardinal Sfeir’s Vatican visit and that by David Welch, Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, who was received at the beginning of the week by the Vatican’s Secretary for Relations with States, Archbishop Dominique Mamberti. A former advisor at the Apostolic Nunciature in Lebanon, the archbishop is seen by Lebanese politicians as “a sharp-minded expert who knows Lebanon’s reality and mentality, not to mention a keen observer of how Patriarch Sfeir has led the Maronite Church for the past 21 years and more.”

    Similarly, they stress that Cardinal Sfeir remains concern about the increasingly permanent nature of emigration and his fears that the country’s economic crisis might end up depriving Lebanon of its more productive elements.

    The Maronite patriarch’s meetings are described as “rich in content.” Significantly, they are taking place just a few weeks before the next synod of Maronite bishops, which is scheduled for the first week of June, and only a few months before the end of President Émile Lahoud’s mandate on November 24. Lebanon’s presidency is reserved for the Christian community.

    A Maronite bishop who chose to remain anonymous told AsiaNews that “danger lurks behind our doors,” hence the need to elicit support from  the Holy See a month from US President George W. Bush’s visit to the Vatican.

    Divisions among Christians remain the Maronite Church’s main worry. So much so that some have accused Cardinal Sfeir of losing his neutrality and moving closer to the positions expressed by the March 14 movement, the alliance between Geagea and Hariri, which is opposed to the partnership between General Michel Aoun and Hezbollah.

    Many hope that the Vatican may also do something with regard to the Christian presence in the Middle East, a topic close to Pope’s heart.

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    See also

    11/01/2007 LEBANON
    Bishops act to end divisions between Maronite political leaders
    The initiative comes following the release of a statement last month highlighting the crisis within the Maronite community and offering some suggestions as to how to solve it. A bishops’ commission met Michel Aoun this morning and will meet Suleiman Frangieh and Samir Geagea later in the day.

    19/12/2006 LEBANON
    Maronite bishops urge Christian leaders to reconcile
    A special commission is expected to meet Christian political leaders, currently split between majority and opposition. Arab League secretary general should renew his mediation efforts, but the opposition no longer wants a national unity government; instead, it is demanding early elections.

    24/01/2007 LEBANON
    Tense calm in Beirut after general strike suspended
    The final death tally from yesterday’s clashes is still unknown. Prime minister arrives in Paris for donors’ conference. Clashes between Christians are worrisome, provoke rebuke by Patriarch Sfeir.

    04/06/2009 LEBANON
    International pressures and internal divisions mark Lebanon’s elections
    Two groupings are trying to win: the March 14 alliance backed by the West and Sunni Arab countries and the March 8 coalition backed by Syria and Iran. Whichever side wins, the impact will be felt across the Middle East. At the same time, both groupings lack internal coherence.

    15/02/2010 LEBANON
    Commemorating Rafik Hariri’s death, demanding answers from March 14 leaders
    More than 100,000 people gather to commemorate the death of former PM Hariri. Speaking to the crowds, leaders reiterate in measured tones the alliance’s goals. However, banners appear, asking, “What have you with my vote?”



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