Patriarchs gather to discuss political crisis, synod and schooling
by Fady Noun

The 54th extraordinary session of the assembly of Catholic patriarchs and bishops is scheduled to take place in the patriarchal see of Bkerké from November 8 to 13. Maronite primate's attack on Hezbollah, responsible for political and governmental stalemate. The unity of the nation in danger. Catholic education in its identity and mission. 


Beirut (AsiaNews) - The problems of the State are at the heart of the 54th extraordinary session of the Assembly of Patriarchs and Catholic Bishops of Lebanon (Apecl), which opened on November 8 in the Maronite patriarchal see of Bkerké and will continue until Saturday 13.

At the beginning of the session, Maronite Patriarch Card. Beshara Raï made a very critical speech towards Hezbollah, accusing it of wanting to "dismantle" the Lebanese State. In fact, forty days before the beginning of the work, the new government chaired by Nagib Mikati sees its action paralyzed by the ministers of the Shiite tandem (Amal and Hezbollah), who refuse to present themselves to the magistrate conducting the investigation into the explosion at the port of Beirut on August 4, 2020.

Behind the choice there would be the accusation to the judge of being "politicized" and the request to replace him, on pain of paralysis of the work. A decision, the latter, that the executive cannot take without violating the principle of separation of powers in force in the Lebanese Republic. And, at the same time, an accusation that the Superior Council of the Judiciary has repeatedly denounced as being of a mere political nature. 

In this context, the statement by the Minister of Information, Georgia Cordahi, whose criticism of Saudi Arabia triggered the break in diplomatic relations between Beirut and Riyadh, was later joined by three other Gulf monarchies: Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain. 

These considerations, while not being at the center of the life of the Church, will weigh in no small way on the debates scheduled in the assembly. At least three interventions will be dedicated to this, one by jurist Antoine Messarra, a former member of the Constitutional Court, another by former Interior Minister Ziyad Baroud and, finally, a third by former minister Ibrahim Chamseddine, a personality of the Shiite community opposed to the dictates of Hezbollah, who will speak about the "civil nature of the State".

In his opening speech, the Maronite patriarch said, "We do not exclude the fact that the purpose of those who obstruct the work of the government is to undermine the unity of Lebanon, dismantle and rebel against the state and break its relations with its brothers."

Jurist Antoine Messarra, on the first day of the session, quoted the former president of the Republic in the passages dedicated to Lebanon's neutrality and its historical foundations, also in light of what Patriarch Beshara Raï said.

He then spoke of the need to avert a drift of the country towards "a manifest or disguised division", in case of failure to build a state that exercises the fullness of its functions, according to the considerations expressed several times by the head of the Maronite Church. The former minister and deputy Ziyad Baroud will address the theme of "unity in diversity", familiar also to the Lebanese. 

Church issues

With regards issue more strictly linked to the life of the Church, the Apecl session will deal with the "Synod on Synodality," the path launched by Pope Francis, in its diocesan phase, within a process that will be coordinated by the Maronite patriarchal vicar Msgr. Hanna Alouan.

The ecumenical extensions of this process will also be discussed during the session, in a country where the Orthodox Churches (Greek, Syriac, Armenian) coexist with the Patriarchal Churches sui iuris and where their coordination, in this critical period of the nation's history, is more than essential: it is vital.

At the center of the Apecl session there will also be the problem of education through targeted interventions by the Secretariat of Catholic Schools, chaired by Fr. Youssef Nasr and the superior of the Congregation of the Sisters of the Holy Maronite Family, Sister Marie-Antoinette Saadé.

They will discuss both the foundations of this education, through the classic theme of "identity and mission," and the material difficulties encountered in the scholastic world, particularly due to the financial vagaries caused by the phenomenal depreciation of the national currency (which has lost almost 90% of its value).

This collapse has weighed heavily on the financial resources of schools, parents and teachers, combined with pre-exisiting difficulties regarding cash flow due to illegal banking restrictions imposed by the Banking Association.