07/07/2021, 12.32
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No winners or losers: The Pope's formula for the Lebanese crisis

by Fady Noun

Patriarch Raï says the July 1 meeting in the Vatican has a prophetic value. Meetings with President Aoun and Prime Minister Hariri are scheduled for the coming days. Necessary to rebuild "a Lebanon that belongs to all Lebanese". Msgr Mazloum: "For peace to be lasting it must be based on justice".

Beirut (AsiaNews) - Maronite Patriarch Beshara Raï said he had returned from the July 1 day of reflection and prayer in the Vatican with a renewed awareness of the meaning of the Christian presence in Lebanon and its importance.

Questioned on 2 July by a dozen correspondents from the French press (under embargo until 4 July) and on the initiative of L'Œuvre d'Orient, the cardinal said he had returned to the country "armed" with the Pope's word.

In his Sunday, homily, speaking on behalf of all the patriarchs who took part in the day of reflection and prayer, the head of the Maronite Church reiterated that at the pope's words "we felt pervaded by a force descended from on high and destined to heal our country".

Msgr Mounir Khairallah, Maronite bishop of Batroun, said that all the patriarchs who came to the Vatican were sensitive to the welcome they received and the sense of organisation that characterised the meeting, as well as the way the Holy Father listened to them.

Galvanised by this initiative, which he described as 'prophetic', Patriarch Raï assured that he would put it into practice immediately and methodically. To begin with, the Maronite Patriarch is expected to meet in the coming days with the Head of State Michel Aoun and the Prime Minister in charge, Saad Hariri.

"Lebanon,' the Patriarch said, 'is not dead, but seriously ill. All the countries of the world, including France and those of Eastern Europe, have experienced moments of political, economic, social or financial darkness. We are Christians, we believe that after the darkness comes the dawn. We firmly believe that we can rebuild Lebanon'.

In the spirit and in line with all his predecessors, what Patriarch Raï intends to rebuild is the Lebanon of all Lebanese. "A Christian Lebanon does not make sense. Neither does a Muslim Lebanon. What does make sense is "a Lebanon of coexistence. We want to transmit a message of humanity to the world". In his homily last Sunday, he went even further: "Lebanon is a project of encounter with God and its current drama is impossible to solve by ordinary means".

In his speech before the Patriarchs of the East, the Pope glossed over a phrase that could be one of the keys to this "supernatural" settlement: "We therefore assure our Muslim brothers and sisters, and those of other religions, openness and readiness to work together to build fraternity and to promote peace". The latter "requires neither winners nor losers, but brothers and sisters who, despite the misunderstandings and wounds of the past, can move from conflict to unity".

In doing so, the Pontiff quoted the speech he had delivered at the time of the inter-religious meeting in the plain of Ur of the Chaldees, in Iraq, on 6 March: "There will be no peace without peoples reaching out to other peoples. There will be no peace as long as we think in terms of ‘us’ and ‘them’. There will be no peace as long as alliances are against someone, because alliances of one against another only increase division. Peace does not seek winners or losers, rather brothers and sisters who, despite their misunderstandings and past wounds, walk together from conflict to unity".

"We cannot make peace between a victor and a vanquished," says the Maronite patriarchal vicar, Mgr Samir Mazloum. In order for peace to be lasting," he adds, "it must be based on justice and the rights of all the protagonists must be recognised and granted".

The formula 'neither winners nor losers' has emerged at various times in Lebanon's political life to create a favourable climate for compromise between two antagonistic camps. Used in times of serious crisis, it has made it possible to conclude 'peace treaties of the brave' without winners or losers.

The Patriarch took advantage of his talks with French journalists to again urge the international community to act quickly to "liberate Lebanon". "Lebanon can only play its unifying and peacemaking role if it is free of all external interference," he said, in an argument that echoes the principle of "neutrality" or non-alignment on the various regional axes that the patriarch has long defended.

The patriarch was clear and rather innovative on the issue of the presence of Syrian and Palestinian refugees in Lebanon. In opposition to the two-state solution, which the Vatican continues to defend "in view of the progressive fragmentation of the West Bank by Israeli settlers", the patriarch defended the idea that "Palestinians in refugee camps in Lebanon should be allowed to rebuild their lives" in other nations of the world.

As for the Syrian refugees, borrowing the lessons of the Palestinian precedent that 74 years after the division of Palestine have not yet managed to settle the dispute, he defended the idea of a return of these refugees.

"Otherwise," he stressed, "they will create a big problem, because they are all Sunnis. "If they stay, goodbye Lebanon!" he added, predicting that their stay would upset the demographic balance between Christians and Muslims on which the country is based, especially in view of the number of young people from all communities, especially Christians, who are looking to emigrate.

On the subject of a possible visit to Lebanon by Pope Francis in 2022, the Patriarch warned again that "there will be no visit by the pope if there is no government!". It is we, he cut short on this point, 'who are cancelling the Holy Father's visit!'.

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