Now that he is a cardinal, Patriarch Mar Bechara Boutros Al Rahi says he feels more responsible for improving Muslim and Christian dialogue in the Middle East. Cardinal Al Rahi told the media that he "feels the great responsibility to move forward in building communion with Muslims and Christians in a very divided and conflicted Middle East."
|Cardinal Al Rahi celebrating his first Mass as Cardinal at Saint Peter's|
Basilica in the Vatican
He is one of the six cardinals Pope Benedict created on Nov. 24, but the only one representing Arab Christians in the Vatican. There are around 13 million Christians in the Arab world, and Lebanon is home to 1.2 million Catholics.
"We have a very rich content in the life of the Christians in the Middle East, and in our coexistence with Muslims," the head of the Maronite Catholic Churches aid. Three of the six new men who were named cardinals come from countries with a large Muslim population.
Cardinal Al Rahi was informed he would receive the honor after Pope Benedict's three day visit to Lebanon in September 2012. "For me it's been a great honor for which I am very grateful to the Holy Father, but I know that he wanted to gratify the Church in Lebanon," Cardinal Rahi said.
"He's seen with his own eyes that Muslims and Christians received him with a die hard enthusiasm," added the cardinal, who was born in Himlaya, Lebanon. The Maronite patriarch believes that Pope Benedict thought it was important to elevate him to the level of cardinal "to give a push to our presence and to the new evangelization in the Middle East."
The Pope addressed all Arab Catholics in his apostolic exhortation titled “The Catholic Church in the Middle East: Communion and Witness” during his visit to Lebanon. “He returned from Lebanon as someone who has discovered the reality of this country,” Cardinal Rahi suggested. “The reality and strength of the Church is that there is a population opened to Islamic-Christian coexistence, which is also opened to generosity.”
And now that he has received the “great honor,” Cardinal Rahi says he has a “great responsibility to move forward in applying the apostolic exhortation and what the Pope said in some of his speeches.” “He said that the Middle East is a land chosen by God, because on this land the whole mystery of God was revealed as one and three,” he added.
The Middle East has also “seen the incarnation of the word of God. It has seen the cross of redemption. It's assisted the Resurrection. It has seen the event of the Pentecost and the creation of the Church. Like he (Pope Benedict) said, this is a land of peace, not a land of war and conflicts. That's how I read the consistory's ceremony, and I have a lot of trust, a lot of joy and a lot of courage," the patriarch stated.
"Nearly 1,500 people came to the vatican for the ceremony , including Muslims and Christians, people of all political parties, bishops, religious and priests. We're here with joy, and I think that it's with joy that we can give with impetus, responding to the optimal intentions of Pope Benedict."