10/19/2007, 00.00
LEBANON
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If they cannot agree, Christians will be marginalised, says Patriarch Sfeir

The patriarch insists on the duty of Maronite political leaders to decide together who will be the next president. The cardinal does not exclude another possible meeting between majority and opposition or a postponement of the October 23 parliamentary session that is scheduled to elect the new head of state. The 7th Congress of Eastern Catholic Patriarchs is currently underway.

Beirut (AsiaNews) – Failure by Maronite political leaders to agree on the next president would have great “influence on the Christian presence in Lebanon,” said Maronite Patriarch in umpteenth attempt to get Christian leaders to assume their responsibilities.

For weeks the head of the Maronite Church, Patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir, has put his prestige on the line to get an agreement on the next president, a post assigned to a Christian under Lebanon’s constitution, a process which in his words “should unite, not divide Christians.”

“The idea of a meeting of majority and opposition leaders is being studied,” the patriarch said yesterday in an interview with the Voice of Lebanon radio station. Should there be no agreement, the October 23 parliamentary session could be postponed, he said.

The Lebanese religious leader is concerned that the failure to find an intra-Christian accord will weaken the Christian community, thus echoing a statement by a majority lawmaker, Wael Abu Faour, who told An Nahar that Hezbollah’s proposal for a direct presidential vote or a public opinion poll on the next president is an attempt to marginalize Lebanon’s Christians.

Should Lebanese Christians suffer such a fate it would have disastrous consequences for Christians in the entire region because Lebanon is not only the country where the Christian presence is demographically significant, but it is also a land that enjoys full religious freedom, where Christian books are published for the entire region.

Lebanon is also where Christian religious leaders normally meet, which is what they are presently doing at the 7th Congress of Eastern Catholic Patriarchs.

At this congress, where Iraqi Patriarch Emmanuel III Delly was congratulated for his appointment as cardinal, participants are discussing the role of the Church in the defence of human rights and in the use of audiovisual technologies to perpetuate the Christian presence in the East. They are also looking at the Christian presence from an economic point of view. (PD)

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