12/27/2007, 00.00
LEBANON
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Concerns over ongoing crisis spoils Christmas for Lebanese

In their homilies Catholic and Orthodox bishops speak about the population’s fears over the continuing political vacuum, growing poverty and rising emigration. People pray that the country may find peace and tranquility.

Beirut (AsiaNews) – Lebanon’s bishops echoed during Christmas ceremonies the concerns most Lebanese have for the future as the instability caused by the country’s ongoing political crisis and the failure to elect a new head of state continues. As urged by Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir Lebanon’s Catholics and Orthodox worshippers prayed that the country may find “stability, development, tranquility and peace.”

Mgr Youssef Kallas, Greek-Orthodox bishop of Beirut, spoke about the “immense frustration” that Christians and the country feel this Christmas.

In light of the growing poverty and the rising costs of living and emigration that are splitting families, the bishop condemned the “the all-pervasive paralysis and corruption affecting all levels of society, be they social, political or administrative,” this at a time when politicians are entangled in “endless conflicts” and “petty calculations in which everyone is pursuing his own interests.”

He lamented that political scheming runs the risk of causing political chaos and general collapse so much so that “we have reached the point where some are raising doubts about the constitution.”

Mgr Boulos Matar, the Maronite bishop of Beirut, warned that the Lebanese must realise that “their salvation is in their hands and that they have no choice but to close ranks.”

Speaking about the country’s religious pluralism, Bishop Matar said that this “feature depends on a shared desire to live together taken years ago. Today however it appears that we have become strangers to one another.”

For his part Rev Elias Kfoury, metropolitan of Sidon and Tyre, said that “the nation expects us to make sacrifices for its sake” and “not pursue interests at its expense.”

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