Cardinal Al Rahi Intervenes On The Election of a New Lebanese President

The election of the new President of the Lebanese Republic is a choice that belongs only to the people of Lebanon "and not to the Iranians, the Saudis or the Americans". It must be carried by the Parliamentary Assembly, and not between underground extra-parliamentary faction agreements that for years have been blocking the proper functioning of state institutions. This is what Cardinal Mar Beshara Peter Al Rahi, Patriarch of Antioch of the Maronites, said in an interview on Tuesday, March 25th for LBCI television network. During the interview, Patriarch Rahi repeatedly referred to the president of Parliament Nabih Berri to convene the Parliamentary Assembly immediately in order to allow MPs to begin the choice of possible candidates for the Presidency of the Republic as soon as possible.

The call to immediately involve Parliament, expressed by the Patriarch, is in contrast to the moves of those who instead aim to entrust the choice of a new President to pre-agreements between the two political majority blocs - the March 8 Coalition and the March 14 Coalition - which for years affect the political life of the Country of the cedars .The current incumbent President, Michel Sleiman, will end his term on May 25. In the institutional system in force in Lebanon, the office of President of the Republic belongs to a Christian. The concerns expressed by the head of the Maronite Church concern the possibility that the contrast between the blocs could lead to an impasse.

The Patriarch reiterated that he does not intend to indicate the names of the presidential office. But he added that in the event of a deadlock, he will announce the list of candidates preferred by the people of Lebanon, on the basis of the guidelines documented by surveys and research opinion polls. With regard to the candidate profile, Patriarch Rai stressed the urgency of finding a "modern person who knows how to deal with the affairs of the state", reiterating that Lebanese citizens are the only ones allowed to choose their President, "and not the Iranians, the Saudis or the Americans".

The Cardinal and Patriarch Rahi also revealed meeting with diplomats from various countries to ask them to keep Lebanon out of the Syrian conflict, negotiations on the Iranian nuclear program and tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia, in order to ensure that the election of the President is not affected by regional and international tensions.When asked about the militias linked to the Hezbollah Shiite party, Patriarch Rahi stressed that they cannot operate outside of the jurisdiction of the State and must be part of the national defense strategy.

Monthly Meeting of the Maronite Bishops, March 2014

On March 5, 2014, their Excellencies the Maronite bishops held their monthly meeting at the patriarchal seat  in Bkerke under the chairmanship of His Beatitude and Eminence Cardinal Patriarch Bechara Boutros Rai and with the participation of His Beatitude and Eminence Cardinal Nasrallah Boutros Sfeir, and superior  generals of the Maronite religious orders. They discussed ecclesiastical and national affairs and published at the end of the meeting, the following statement:

1. His Beatitude informed the fathers of the results of his visit to Rome where he took part in the General Assembly of the Synod for Catholic Education, the meetings of the College of Cardinals, the promotion ceremony of the new cardinals and Papal Mass of His Holiness the Pope for the occasion. He was received by His Holiness Pope Francis and he thanked him for his positions on humanitarian issues, Lebanon, current events in the Middle East and the future of Christians.

2. Faced with national unanimity which has been the "national Memorandum" announced by His Beatitude on the feast of Saint Maron, the fathers hope that the new government would be inspired in his ministerial statement to define priorities for the coming short term period preceding the election of a new president.There was no need to address issues that can not be resolved but only through national dialogue and within the framework of constitutional institutions. Especially since the formation of the government was approved by the majority, both inside and outside, and that the Lebanese have welcomed, seeing a way for the due presidential election.

3. The Fathers deplored the campaign against His Excellency the President following his recent speech at the Holy Spirit University of Kaslik, alleging the infringement of his personal dignity and status of head of state and symbol of national unity, as stipulated in Article 49 of the constitution. Indeed, when the arrow hits the head, the whole body suffers. We call on all parties to put an end to this campaign, to respect the dignity of all, the dignity of the chief magistracy, and the dignity of the country. While his Excellency the President takes part today in Paris, with the accompanying delegation in the conference of countries supporting Lebanon, we wish the success of this conference and thank the participants for their support on the international recovery of the economy and stability of Lebanon, on strengthening the army and resolving problems related to displaced Syrians.

4. The Fathers praised the efforts of the Lebanese security agencies and army to deal with terrorism, kidnapping and all kinds of theft. They consider that the strengthening of the military and security forces are urgently needed in view of the state of insecurity in Lebanon and the attempts to establish a self-security. All this may make Lebanon a state without borders and in which citizens do not feel safe.

5. The Fathers severely condemn the latest Israeli raid on Lebanon and the continuous aggression from Israel against the sovereignty of the Lebanese state. Likewise, they strongly condemn the Syrian shelling affecting parts of Lebanon, and the usurpation of the border with Syria to sow unrest in Lebanon. Such usurpation shows how - oh excessive - some Lebanese factions are involved in the Syrian crisis, while it is required to play a different role which converge towards a peaceful solution to protect the lives of innocent citizens and avoid the destruction of homes and infrastructure, and displacement of people.

6. The Fathers received with great apprehension the reports about attacks against Christians in Syria, by fundamentalist forces, imposing laws that violate their religious and civil liberty, and which oppose the live- together Christians and Muslims for several centuries in the region. The Fathers call upon the UN, the Arab and Islamic countries, especially those weighing directly on these forces to intervene immediately and put an end to such attacks that have indeed nothing to do with Islam as we know it.

7. Lent is the to return to God and to oneself, so that man discovers his true vocation and sublime dignity, grounded in the love of God, and through Jesus Christ, has become close to every man so that every man, become closer to God. Faced with such a love, man discovers his greatness and, hence, his poverty, notably his moral poverty in what is called civilization of consumption and earning race, which has transformed humans into commodities rather "junk", according to Pope Francis. We invite our faithful to make this Lent a time to repent to God and solidarity with man, with every man whose dignity has been lost or humiliated, especially in our Middle East which has witnessed countless wars and dramas.