04/03/2008, 00.00
LEBANON
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Maronite bishops: all Lebanese should support the initiative of the Arab League

by Youssef Hourani
In a document, the bishops issue a new alarm on the need for unity in order to overcome the political and economic crisis. They denounce the confiscation of property belonging to Christians in the north, and in Bekka. Archbishop Matar says he hopes to gather representatives of all Christian groups over the next 48 hours.

Beirut (AsiaNews) - Seriously concerned about the endless political crisis, which is also harming the economic situation, the Maronite bishops are launching a strong new appeal for efforts on behalf of the common good, renewing their support for the mediation initiative of the Arab League, warning against the long-term damage from emigration, above all on the part of young people, and denouncing the confiscation of Christian land and wells, which "some groups" are carrying out in Bekka and in the north of the country.

All this is contained in the final statement issued by the bishops at the end of their monthly meeting, held in Bkerke, under the presidency of the patriarch, Cardinal Nassrallah Sfeir.

A glimpse of hope in this dire situation was offered by the Maronite archbishop of Beirut, Paul Matar, who is leading an attempt for dialogue among the Maronite patriarchate and other Christian groups.  While he is aware of the difficulties that continue to impede the smooth progress of the initiative, he expressed cautious optimism and revealed to AsiaNews the possibility of a meeting in the next 48 hours, indicating the strong desire manifested by all Christian groups to meet in order to study and examine the status of "Our House".

The "abnormality" of Lebanon's absence from the leadership of the Arab League is the point of departure for the document by the bishops, which emphasises the connection with the crisis that since November has blocked the country from having a head of state.  In this regard, the bishops highlight the fact that the leadership of Damascus "has insisted on its commitment with respect to the Arab initiative for a solution of the Lebanese crisis", and "ask all parties, within and outside of the country, to work together for the success of this initiative".  "The difficult circumstances that the country is facing", the document continues, "require all Lebanese to cooperate in order to find a way out of the crisis, which they must face with great calm".

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