05/15/2019, 16.35
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As Lebanon mourns, the remains of Card Sfeir arrive in Bkerké

The hearse bearing the coffin travelled along a road lined with people holding flags, banners, and pictures of the late patriarch. The ambassadors of Saudi Arabia, Iran, Syria, and the UAE expressed their condolences. In a telegram, the Pope calls Sfeir "a great figure in the history of Lebanon".

Beirut (AsiaNews) – The Government of Lebanon has proclaimed two days of national mourning in honour of Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir, who died on Sunday a few days short of his 99th birthday. All public buildings will remain closed, along with schools. Flags will fly at half-mast.

From the Hôtel-Dieu de France Hospital in Ashrafieh, where his body was placed in a coffin made of olive wood from Qannoubine, the so-called "valley of the saints", where Maronite monks first settled in the 10th century, the patriarch travelled on the mountain road towards Bkerké, amid crowds waving flags, holding banners in his honour, as well as pictures of the "guardian of national unity", who worked for intercommunal reconciliation and against the Syrian and Israeli occupations of the country.

For the past three days, Lebanese and international leaders have been offering their condolences. The Saudi ambassador Walid Boukhari travelled to the presidential palace in Baabda to express his condolences. Other ambassadors – including those of Iran, Syria, and the United Arab Emirates – went to Bkerké to present their condolences to Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi.

Yesterday, the Vatican Press Office released the text of the telegram Pope Francis sent to Cardinal Rahi, the current patriarch of the Maronite Church, stressing his predecessor’s "gentleness and determination".

The pontiff also noted his commitment as an "architect of encounter, peace and reconciliation" and as an "ardent defender of the sovereignty and independence of his country", which made Nasrallah Sfeir "a great figure in the history of Lebanon".

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