Monday, November 29, 2010

Lebanese Cardinal Urges Christians to Unite in the Face of Regional Hostilities
Beirut -- Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Butros Sfeir warned over the weekend against inter-Christian animosities in Lebanon and slammed attacks on Christians in the Middle East Sfeir toured several towns of the Jbeil district over the weekend, before heading to the Elige monastery, the historic seat of 18 Maronite patriarchs between 1121 and 1440. During a mass at the monastery to mark the 1,600th anniversary of Saint Maroun's death, Sfeir called on Lebanese Christians to unite to accomplish their objectives as they face mounting dangers against their presence in the Middle East. Sfeir's visit to the historic monastery was the first by a Maronite patriarch in 570 years. In 1440 the monastery hosted Patriarch Youhanna al-Jaji, who fled the Mamluk oppressive rule and relocated the Maronite Patriarchate's residence to the Qannubin monastery in north Lebanon. Public squares were decorated and posters welcoming the patriarch were put up throughout the Jbeil towns of Amchit, Abadat, Lefhed and Mayfouq, home of the Elige monastery. At every stopover, crowds gathered flowering Sfeir with rice and petals and ringing church bells. In Amchit, the hometown of President Michel Sleiman, Sfeir hailed "those committed to their beliefs and national principles" particularly the president, a man the patriarch said "knows how to surmount difficulties to preserve Lebanon." "If obstacles hindered the progress of our nation, officials -- particularly President Michel Sleiman, the devoted son of Amchit, who is navigating the nation's ship in a troubled sea -- know how to eliminate obstacles and surmount difficulties," Sfeir said addressing crowds gathered at the Amchit square. Amchit Mayor Antoine Issa conveyed to the patriarch the residents' support for the Maronite patriarchate and its solid principles, which promoted Lebanon as a model of coexistence between the West and East. "This town is homeland of Patriarch Aramyia al-Amchiti, the town of believers and that of President Sleiman who appreciates your patriotic stances that endorse Lebanon's sovereignty and freedom," Issa said. The patriarch called on Maronites to hold on to their beliefs and traditions irrespective of difficulties and follow on the footsteps of Saint Maroun, the patron of the Maronite sect. Sfeir said Saint Maroun, "the religious father of all Maronites living throughout the world," came to Lebanon where he preserved the foundations of the church with solid belief and convictions that "continue to live today." "The worst that we endure these days is divisions and schism particularly between two groups of Maronites, and Christ said: 'Let them be one, as I and my Father are one,'" Sfeir said, urging Lebanese Christian political parties divided between the March 14 and March 8 camps to unite. "Unity in objectives and opinions is the best way to guarantee the success of the cause we are defending," the patriarch added, referring to difficulties facing Christians in the Middle East due to security instability, particularly the recent attacks against churches in Iraq. Sfeir ended his tour in the coastal city of Jbeil, where Mayor Jean Hawat awarded him the key to the city. -- The Daily Star

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