Patriarch Sfeir in "critical condition". Card Rai postpones a trip to Africa

Rumors of his death denied. The patriarch Emeritus is hospitalized at the Hotel-Dieu in Ashrafieh. He is set to turn 99 next week. Known as  "the patriarch of the second independence". Patriarch Rai asks for prayers.

Beirut (AsiaNews) - The Maronite patriarch Beshara Rai has postponed a trip to Africa, due to the "critical health condition" of his predecessor, the patriarch emeritus Nasrallah Sfeir.

A statement released yesterday from Bkerké announces that Card. Rai’s journey to Nigeria, set for today, was postponed to 21 May. The statement adds that Rai wants to be close to Sfeir and asks all the faithful to pray for the recovery of the patriarch Emeritus.

Yesterday Card. Rai visited the Hotel-Dieu hospital in Ashrafieh, where Sfeir is hospitalized. After him, several political personalities also arrived. Prime Minister Saad Hariri telephoned the hospital to learn about the health of the patriarch emeritus.

Some media spread the rumor that Sfeir was dead, a rumor denied by Rai. Dr. Elias Sfeir announced that the conditions of the patriarch emeritus are critical but stable. He suffers from pulmonary and urinary infections.

Sfeir's last public appearance was next to Card. Rai on Easter Sunday, when they received greetings from the head of state, Michel Aoun.

Born May 15, 1920, Sfeir is expected to turn 99 years next week. He became the Maronite patriarch of Antioch in 1986. Benedict XVI accepted his resignation in 2011.

Sfeir was a witness and actor of the last part of the Lebanese war, of the Taef peace agreements, of the revolt against the Syrian occupation. For this he is called "the patriarch of the second independence".