In past days, what was surprising was Maronite Patriarch Cardinal Al Rahi’s decision to be present in Bethlehem and Jerusalem on the occasion of the visit of Pope Francis. So far no Maronite Patriarch had gone to Jerusalem after the creation of the State of Israel. Criticism regarding Patriarch Al Rahi’s choice had been expressed in particular by members of the Shiite party of Hezbollah, that saw in the patriarchal visit a gesture of recognition of a State considered an enemy. The Patriarch responded to criticism pointing out that his visit will be spiritual and not political. Approximately 10 thousand Maronite Christians live in the Holy Land. After the end of the papal pilgrimage, Patriarch Rai will also travel to Haifa to meet the faithful of the local Maronite community.
Maronite Patriarch, Cardinal Mar Beshara Peter Al Rahi celebrated mass at the Roman Catholic pilgrimage site of Lourdes in France on Sunday on the occasion of the international pilgrimage of the Order of Malta. The Order of Malta’s members and volunteers from all over the world travel each year during the first weekend of May to Lourdes. They accompany the sick and disabled and pray and bathe in the holy waters.
Around 200 Lebanese, among them 24 sick people, took part in the five-day pilgrimage and attended Sunday's mass. The 2014 international pilgrimage was attended by 25,000 faithful from all over the world. This year's event had a greater significance thanks to Cardinal Al Rahi's attendance.
The patriarch celebrated the mass in French but the bible was read in Arabic, the first time such a move has been made in the annual mass. Al Rahi said he prayed that Virgin Mary would salvage the Orient, which is engulfed with hatred.
Lourdes shrine attracts millions of visitors each year. The Catholic church recognizes 68 miracles linked to it and many disabled or sick people go there to pray for a cure. It has a famous grotto where the Virgin Mary appeared to Bernadette Soubirous, a peasant girl in 1858. The water fountain in Lourdes grotto is miraculous and many miracles are attributed to it.