06/12/2006, 00.00
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Lebanon is deeply divided and those responsible worry only about own interests, says Card Sfeir

Maronite Synod ends with 41 bishops from around the world attending. Patriarch meets High Shiite Council deputy chairman.

Beirut (AsiaNews) - Lebanon is a deeply divided society and "those responsible worry only about their own interests and are indifferent to the suffering of the population," said Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir during the Synod of Maronite bishops just held in Bkerke. A mass concluded the assembly that saw some 41 bishops attending from all of Lebanon's dioceses, Syria's three dioceses, as well as those of Cyprus, Egypt, Sudan, the Americas, Africa, Europe and Australia.

Cardinal Sfeir warned against "aggressive views" that "can never be part of building a country faithful to its historic vocation". For this reason, he met Sheikh Abdel-Amir Qabalan, deputy chairman of the High Shiite Council, who said, at the end of the meeting, that Christian and Muslin leaders had a shared duty "to renew the country and end tensions."

"As religious authorities," he added, "we must assume our responsibilities. If political leaders work with us, that would be in their own interest; if not, people will listen to and work with us." For the Muslim clergyman, the patriarch "has the power to keep Christian groups united, impose limits and show them what their rights and duties are."

Today the patriarch will inform the Maronite Church of the new directives formulated by the synod. Altogether 23 documents were approved and a statement released to the press. The papers, which concern the identity of the Maronite Church, its structures and relations to other domains (like politics, education, health, the earth, etc.), offer concrete proposals. Most significantly, the paper which received the largest number of proposals and recommendations during open discussion sessions was that about education.

The synod gave bishops, priests and Maronite Church elites the opportunity to understand how things have changed and new realities emerged like the transformation of Maronite emigrants into overseas Maronites.

In the final press statement, the bishops express their solidarity with their fellow Lebanese who are suffering. They call on all interested parties to continue the search for a just and dignified path that would perpetuate the noble history of the Lebanese people. They also reaffirm the need to respect and defend the country's historical, spiritual and Christian identity and make a plea against the violence that has beset the country in the last few months and years.

The bishops reiterated their faith in Allmighty God who will not abandon His people and indicated that conversion and forgiveness are the paths that can save the Land of the Cedar Tree.

Their final appeal is to all of the country's creative forces, asking them to make their own contribution so that the young remain in Lebanon.

Church sources reported that two new bishops were elected following the resignation of Mgr Youssef Mahfouz, Maronite bishop of Brazil, and Mgr Raymond Eid, Maronite archbishop of Damascus. The name of the new prelates will be communicated to the Apostolic See which can accept the choice made or nominate someone else.

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See also
Beirut on the brink of another civil war
Moderate voices in Lebanon urge people to read what the Pope actually said
Christian and Muslim religious leaders appeal for dialogue, reject violence
Bishops act to end divisions between Maronite political leaders
National unity government, a new president and elections are needed, says Cardinal Sfeir


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