04/04/2016, 18.12
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Lebanon’ Eastern patriarchs call for the election of a president, and a stop to the Christian exodus

For the heads of the Eastern Churches, meeting in Bkerké, the election of a new president is “a question of the highest importance”. Political leaders must solve the "economic and social crisis" that has brought the country to the brink of collapse, unable to handle the migrant emergency. For Card al-Rahi, "only mercy save Lebanon”.

Beirut (AsiaNews) – The patriarchs of the Eastern Churches gathered today for a spiritual meeting in Bkerké, seat of the Patriarchate of Antioch of the Maronites, under the guidance of Card Bechara al-Rahi.

At the end of the meeting, they issued a statement concerning the failure of the country’s parliament to elect a new president for almost two years, calling it “a question of the highest importance”, since the “presidential vacancy weighs heavily on the functioning of state institutions”. The prelates also called for a stop to the exodus of Christians in the Middle East, particularly from war zones in Iraq and Syria.

Since 25 May 2014, when President Michel Suleiman’s term of office ended, Lebanon has been without a head of state. Since then, the Lebanese Parliament and its political factions have failed to agree on a successor.

In recent months, the Maronite Patriarch and local Church leaders have repeatedly called - in vain so far – for lawmakers to elect a new president. Today, at the end of the spiritual meeting, the patriarchs of the Eastern Churches renewed their call for the election of a new head of state.

The prelates also urged lawmakers to "work hard and honestly" to solve the country’s "economic and social crisis," whose impact is especially hard "on young people," and to do so on the basis of "fairness".

As the possibility that Lebanese nationals might be expelled and their bank accounts frozen, the progressive deterioration in the relationship between Lebanon and other Arab countries was another point highlighted by the Christian leaders gathered in Bkerké. All this, they warned, has "a negative impact on the people of Lebanon and its interests."

The patriarchs – Catholic and Orthodox, together with the leaders of Protestant Churches – have been engaged for some time in finding a common response to the major local and international challenges. In today's meeting, they also addressed the issue of the exodus of millions of refugees from the wars in Iraq and Syria, many of whom are Christians.

For months, Lebanon, like neighbouring Jordan, has had to face a real emergency, which the local Church has been closely following.

"Lebanon does not have the means to accommodate Syrian, Palestinian, and Iraqi refugees,” the Christian leaders said. For this reason, “political solutions are needed from the international community to encourage repatriation.”

What is more, “The exodus of Christians from Iraq and Syria has reached the proportions of a genocide," like “what happened last century to the Armenians in the late Ottoman Empire."

The prelates discussed other issues as well, like the importance of citizenship as an element of national unity, care for the environment in the middle of an unprecedented waste emergency, and the need to fight religious and sectarian extremism.

Yesterday, Patriarch al-Rahi celebrated a solemn Mass for the Festivity of Divine Mercy. During his homily, the cardinal said that "it is useless to hope in Lebanon’s salvation, if mercy has no place in the heart of our rulers. Mercy, for Christians, must be reflected in everyday actions and deeds.”

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