10/18/2021, 12.22
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Maronite Patriarch demands judiciary be freed of political 'interference'

by Fady Noun

Card. Beshara Raï expresses a "firm condemnation" of the violence of October 14. Christians and Muslims must know "the essence and values" of each other's faith, to safeguard coexistence. Condemnation of those who hold the nation hostage (read Hezbollah) for their own interests. Metropolitan Audi urges leaders "restore" the authority of the State. 



Beirut (AsiaNews) -  Maronite Patriarch Card. Beshara Raï yesterday responded to the In response  very serious clashes in Tayyouné Square, in Beirut, and that left seven dead and 32 wounded, issuing a "firm condemnation" in the homily at Mass while offering his condolences to the families of the victims.

Sensitive to their confessional dimension, the head of the Church said: "Lebanese youth are not made for war, but for fraternity [...]. Young Christians are invited to know the truth of Islam, its faith and values, and young Muslims are invited to know the true essence of Christianity, faith and values. It is the essence of living together that is the soul of Lebanon, its distinctive feature and mission, the essence of cultural and religious diversity in unity," the Maronite leader continued. 

Recalling the peaceful uprising of October 17, 2019, characterized by an aspiration to overcome confessional and communal peculiarities, the patriarch - who had supported it at the time - continued: "Let us make it easier for young Christians and Muslims in Lebanon to experience the joy of living and realizing their dreams [...] according to a spirit of citizenship."

He announced that he intends to invite the Lebanese, and especially the younger generation to remain faithful to a peaceful uprising of consciences that, in its early days, seemed to be "transparent, peaceful, civilized and united." And to show their desire for change at the ballot box, in the upcoming general elections scheduled for May 2022. 

In response to the Tayyouné protests, the patriarch praised Lebanon's democratic regime, stressing that it is through the "peaceful means" offered by democracy that the Lebanese must express their opinions.

"No party can resort to threats and violence and erect partisan or clan affiliation barriers on public roads, with the aim of achieving their goals through force," he then added, in a clear reference to the mass demonstration organized on October 14 by Hezbollah to obtain the exclusion of Judge Tarek Bitar. The magistrate is in charge of the investigation called to shed light on the thorny dossier related to the double explosion at the port of Beirut on August 4, 2020, which caused 220 deaths, more than 3 thousand injured and disrupted entire neighborhoods of the capital.

"We must free the judiciary from any political, sectarian and partisan interference, respect its independence in accordance with the principle of separation of powers and correct what should be corrected by judicial means," the patriarch said. The cardinal added that "the trust placed in the judicial system serves as a reference point for the trust that the world - donor countries, the IMF or the World Bank - places in the Lebanese State".

Card. Raï invited the government to meet "to reaffirm the authority of the State," also stressing the primary role of the Lebanese army in preserving security. He then denounced "the intervention of any other force that violates civil peace in the country," in a not too veiled criticism of the arsenal in the hands of Hezbollah.

Stating that he shared the views of Head of State Michel Aoun, who in a speech on October 14 after the violence rejected any attempt to "take the country hostage for their own interests or accounts", the Maronite Patriarch finally argued that "the government must meet to assert the authority of the State and take all necessary decisions for the nation.

In his view, "each minister should respect the authority of the State and assume his responsibilities on behalf of the Lebanese people and not on behalf of powerful third parties," with an obvious criticism to the Shiite ministers who seem determined to boycott the meetings of the executive until it has taken a clear position against Judge Tarek Bitar.

The Metropolitan of Beirut, Bishop Elias Audi, whose word is authoritative in Greek Orthodox circles, called on leaders to "restore and impose the authority of the state" so that the country acquires "true independence." The prelate denounced Thursday's deadly fighting that reminded the Lebanese of the beginning of the civil war, stressing that "they are not ready to relive it."

"There is no life or future for a nation without justice and law enforcement," he concluded, warning that "true justice consists in 'applying the law before all, without discrimination."

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