07/25/2016, 17.42
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A patriarch on the borders

by Fady Noun

Patriarch al-Rahi’s visit to Qaa shows the sense of joint responsibility of Christian Churches in the Middle East. Careerism remains a temptation. The laity involved in politics is incoherent.

Beirut (AsiaNews) – Some might ask what difference does a visit and show of solidarity by the Maronite Patriarch make to the Greek-Catholic village of Qaa (Bekaa), targeted by suicide attacks that killed five people last week? How can it boost morale in this border village?

Let us first say that such a visit illustrates what Patriarch al-Rahi said recently when he met French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, namely that the head of the Maronite Church, and other Catholic patriarchs, feel a sense of responsibility for all of the Churches of the Middle East.

Thus, at the risk of overstating the case, acknowledging that "without the Maronites, Lebanon would not exist" so, historically, the visit of the Patriarch al-Rahi illustrates that Lebanon is now more than ever, thanks to the Maronites, a country that bears witness to the Christian presence in the East, and without which such presence would significantly diminish in influence.

Solidarity and unity of destiny of the Eastern Churches today is not only important, but it is vital. Its a question of life or death.

The Maronite Church does not take on just any vocation in the East. It is that of Peter, the one Christ entrusted directly on the Prince of the Apostles, after his triple denial, which is "once you have turned back, you must strengthen your brothers.”

At the time, the issue is not only about boosting their faith, which was to be shaken by the scandal of the Cross, but also urge them to realise at the price of their life, the societal project God expressed “once for all” by founding the Church.

What Patriarch al-Rahi’s visit to Qaa first underscores is the responsibility of the Maronite Church in the historic survival of Christians in the Middle East, if necessary by martyrdom. But, as a corollary, this visit also underlines its responsibility in their spiritual survival, undermined by careerism, as the recent crisis in the Greek Catholic Church shows.

Lest we forget, in June, 12 bishops out of 22 in fact refused to answer the patriarch’s call to hold a synod, one of them up going so far asking for his departure in a television interview. Something unheard in terms of Church careerism. Moreover, without going to such an extreme, careerism, the worldly temptation par excellence, spares none of the Eastern Catholic Churches, including the Maronite Church.

Moreover, the Eastern Churches do not suffer only from careerism that, but also from half-heartedness. How else can one explain the fact, for example, that the Maronite Church has one or two hermits and shows them off rather than hide them from shame and regret that they are so few? Let us go to Our Lady of Kannoubine, in Kadisha, to listen to the voice of Maronite memory! We are afraid of belonging to a Church that is no longer contemplative, that no longer points forward to Christ’ return but runs the risk of replacing the cult of love and holiness with that of efficiency and competence.

The Gospel warns against "bad leaven" that could spoil "the whole dough", i.e. society. The Maronites are not to blame alone; let us also slam the incoherence of those lay people from this church who are involved in political action. It is on the basis of the dough’s crumbling and hardness, that we can judge the leaven that made it grow so badly so that after two years since the end of the president’s mandate, we still do not have a head of state.

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