11/15/2022, 10.16
LEBANON
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Maronite Patriarch attacks adversaries who 'do not want a Christian president'

by Fady Noun

The cardinal returns to the difficult process of choosing Aoun's successor. Already five parliamentary sessions have ended in a deadlock. The rift - albeit without naming names - with Hezbollah is deepening. The disagreements over Article 49. Lebanese patriarchs and bishops launch special "Truth and Reconciliation" commission. 

Beirut (AsiaNews) - The suspicions put forward by the Maronite patriarch are serious and destined to cause discussion. During his last homily at Sunday Mass, the cardinal spoke of Lebanon's adversaries "who do not want to elect a president, considering it unnecessary or of relative importance that he be a Maronite Christian" as per tradition and the Constitution. These words come two weeks after the expiry of President Michel Aoun's term of office (31 October), without Parliament having been able to elect a successor. 

"Our wish," are the brief words of the head of the Maronite Church, "is for a president elected by consensus, but the head of state that we want is the one who will challenge all those who challenge the Lebanese and Lebanon, and who will thwart all the hidden and visible efforts to distort the national and historical identity" of the Land of the Cedars. In doing so, Card. Raï has drawn a model portrait of a particular adversary 'with multiple loyalties' that, according to observers, ends up corresponding to Hezbollah. The great pro-Iranian Lebanese movement, which he continues to attack without explicitly naming it. 

"We will not allow the destruction of its specificity, of [Lebanon's] identity and pluralism, and of all that it represents in this East, a homeland that has been a safe national refuge for Christians as for all others [...] within the framework of a democratic and civilised nation. And it was on these noble objectives that Lebanon took shape in 1920 and on which it will continue to be founded'.

'We will not deny the sacrifices made for Lebanon and all Lebanese, nor those of the martyrs who fell to defend,' he continued, 'this model of civilisation and to save the national partnership'. In the course of his homily, he also did not spare attacks on those who 'invent justifications at every presidential election to control its conduct', whereas in this regard 'the Constitution is clear'. 

Controversy over Article 49

The Maronite Patriarch alluded to the 'controversy' concerning the interpretation of Article 49 of the Constitution, which provides that in the second round the head of state can be elected by an absolute majority of deputies (65 out of 128) and no longer by two-thirds of those elected, as in the first round (i.e. 86 out of 128 deputies).

According to the Patriarch, in the second round, the quorum required for the election must change; and this is also what the Speaker of the House, Nabih Berry, head of the Shia Amal movement, refuses to concede, requiring for each ballot that a quorum of two-thirds of the deputies be reached.

Referring to the five sessions that have already been held to elect a president, the patriarch considered that a new head of state can only be elected through 'successive daily ballots' accompanied, in parallel, by 'consultations between parliamentary blocs'.

Moreover, as it is impossible to elect a successor by consensus and able to stand up to the imperative of a sovereign Lebanon, the head of the Maronite Church again called for the holding of an 'international congress' under the auspices of the UN. "The United Nations, as well as any country that considers itself a friend of Lebanon, is interested in holding such a congress," the cardinal insisted.

'Those who make history are the parliamentary groups and no other entity,' argued instead the Jafarite Mufti Ahmad Kabalan, close to Hezbollah, on the very day of the patriarch's mass, as if to counterbalance him. "The international congress,' he replied, albeit indirectly, to the Maronite primate, 'dilutes Lebanese sovereignty [...] that is why the solution [...] passes only through parliament, and not through the intervention of an international congress'.

Earlier, on 11 November, Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah had stated that his party wants a president 'who will not betray the Resistance, will not plot against it, and will not stab it in the back'. As is obvious, he by the term 'Resistance' refers to his own party. 

'Truth and reconciliation'

At the same time, last week the Assembly of Catholic Patriarchs and Bishops of Lebanon (Apecl) commemorated - during its 55th session, from 7 to 11 November - the 25th anniversary of the Apostolic Exhortation 'A New Hope for Lebanon'.

The theme of this session was 'the purification of memory', as requested by Pope John Paul II in the exhortation itself. And to this end, Apecl decided to create a special 'Truth and Reconciliation Commission' composed of 'wise men' who will be called upon to make contact with all Lebanese parties - be they religious, political or civil - and with whom to prepare the ground for finalising this commemorative work. 

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