Patriarch al-Rahi: Lebanese politicians must heed Francis and put aside ‘self-interest’
by Fady Noun

Back from Bahrain, the pontiff appealed to Lebanese leaders. The Maronite patriarch hopes that the pope will be heard. The apostolic journey to Lebanon was cancelled and never rescheduled. The pope remains close to the country and its people, praying for them.

Beirut (AsiaNews) – Pope Francis launched an appeal on Sunday to Lebanese politicians, urging them to "leave aside self-interest”. Since 1 November, the country has been without a president after President Michel Aoun’s term in office ended.

“We want the appeal made yesterday by the pope to be heard," Maronite Patriarch Cardinal Bechara Al-Rahi said yesterday.

"Lebanon is a sorrow for me,” complained Pope Francis, during the traditional press conference on board the plane bringing him back to Rome, at the end of his pastoral visit to Bahrain (3-6 November).

“Lebanon is not a country in itself, a pope said it before me, Lebanon is not a country, it is a message,” Francis said. “Lebanon” means a lot “for all of us. And Lebanon right now is suffering. I pray, and I take this opportunity to make an appeal to Lebanese politicians: leave aside self-interest, look at the country and be in agreement.

“First God, after that the country, then interests. God and the country. Right now, I don't want to say, ‘Save Lebanon’, because we are not saviours, but please, you have to support Lebanon, help so that Lebanon stops in this descent, so that Lebanon regains its greatness.”

Last spring, for health reasons, the pope cancelled a pastoral visit to Lebanon planned for June.

Earlier on Sunday, Pope Francis had cited Lebanon during his address to bishops, priests, consecrated persons, seminarians, and pastoral workers at the Sacred Heart Church in Manama.

“[S]ince I see that some of you are from Lebanon, I assure you of my prayers and closeness to your beloved country, so weary and sorely tried as well as to all [the] peoples suffering in the Middle East.”

After arriving in Lebanon on Sunday from Manama, where he had accompanied the pope, the Maronite patriarch, Card Bechara Al-Rahi said that King Hamad bin Issa Al Khalifa reaffirmed his "solidarity with Lebanon". Indeed, "The King of Bahrain told me that he will not abandon Lebanon," Card Al-Rahi said.

“Lebanon is going through the most dangerous phase of its political and economic history. We hope that they (lawmakers) will listen to the appeal launched yesterday by the pope," said the head of the Maronite Church on Monday at the opening of the annual session of the Assembly of Catholic Patriarchs and Bishops in Lebanon (APECL).

Despairing of the political leadership, the patriarch said he was convinced that "those who have made war will not be able to make peace."

After meeting several times for a month, Lebanon’s parliament has yet to agree to a compromise candidate for the country’s presidency. So far, no one has been able to gather the number of votes required for the election (65 votes).

In his Sunday homily, Patriarch Al-Rahi had already reproached lawmakers, or at least some of them, convinced that they “do not want” to elect a new head of state.

“What value is your parliamentary mandate if you are not free to decide in the election of a president? And if you are free to decide, it is a crime not to elect a free president,” he cried out.