Patriarch Rai to Visit Pope This Week

Islamist Violence in the Region and Political Stalemate Likely to Be on Agenda

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Pope Francis is to meet Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai at the Vatican on Thursday for talks on Christians suffering in the Middle East at the hands of the Islamic State.

Anonymous sources quoted by Lebanon’s The Daily Star said the meeting would also focus on the exodus of Christians from Iraq and Syria as well as a three month-old presidential stalemate.

Lebanon has been without a head of state since former President Michel Sleiman’s term ended May 25, with lawmakers failing to elect a successor due to lack of consensus.

Patriarch Rai will also meet a number of bishops during his weeklong stay in the Vatican, the newspaper added.

During a visit last week to Irbil, the capital of Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region, the Patriarch urged the international community to help Iraq’s minorities, and asked the country’s Christians to hold onto their roots and not leave the country.

Earlier this month, the Islamic State seized its first territory inside Lebanon, raising fears that the terrorist group could upset the country’s uneasy sectarian balance.

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