Patriarch Sfeir Takes Step for Reconciliation in Lebanon

Meets Druze Leader Walid Jumblatt

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BEIRUT, Lebanon, AUG. 7, 2001 ( Cardinal Nasrallah Pierre Sfeir, Maronite patriarch of Antioch, met last weekend with Druze militia leader Walid Jumblatt in a historic step for reconciliation in Lebanon.

It was Jumblatt who led the 1983 «mountain war» that crushed Christian militias in the Chouf range and drove out 150,000 Christians.

On Sunday, Cardinal Sfeir appealed for reconciliation among Lebanese communities, urging them to bury their differences, which led to the cruel 1975-1990 civil war.

"Any divided kingdom, nation or city ends by ruining itself,» the patriarch emphasized during a Sunday Mass in Deir al-Qamar, in the Chouf mountain range, one of the areas afflicted by the fratricidal conflict.

On Friday, Cardinal Sfeir celebrated Mass in Damour, a city destroyed 25 years ago.

Previously, the patriarch had refused to visit the region because the state has failed to compensate Christians for the years of violence, and to guarantee the return of refugees to their villages.

The cardinal, however, decided to meet with Jumblatt, who attended the Sunday Mass. Jumblatt´s militias were responsible for the killing of thousands of people and the destruction of hundreds of churches and homes.

On several occasions after the war, Jumblatt headed the Ministry of Refugees. The cardinal will also meet Jumblatt at his residence of Moukhtara, to request that he accelerate the arrival of Christians in his land.

The rapprochement between the patriarch and the Druze leader takes place after both denounced Syria´s 30,000-man presence in Lebanon.

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