Maronite Patriarch: 'Pray for Stability in Lebanon'

Patriarch Bechara Boutros Rai Explains Need of Christian Presence in the Middle East

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A bronze bust containing the relic of Saint Maron’s skull was part of the event on Monday, February 9, of the Maronite community of Rome. It began with a Mass presided over by Patriarch Bechara Boutros Rai, and was attended by Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, Prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, and several Ambassadors to the Holy See.

The Lebanese Catholic Patriarch, who spoke to ZENIT, said: “Today we have remembered all of the many martyrs and witnesses of Christ’s Gospel, at a time when situation in the Middle East is very critical.”

“We are increasingly aware of the value, importance and need of the Christian presence in the Middle East, because, today more than ever, the Muslim world needs to hear another language: the Gospel of peace, of brotherhood, of the dignity of the human person and of the sacredness of life,” continued the Patriarch.

“We have prayed to Saint Maron to keep us firm in the Middle East, to take this Gospel of love,” he added.

Asked about the genuineness of Muslim leaders’ statements against the violence of the Islamic Caliphate, he said: “The moderate Muslims pay a high price and want peace, whereas the fundamentalists don’t want it, but we know that the majority of Muslims want peace.”

The Mass was celebrated in the Syro-Antiochene Maronite rite, accompanied by a choir that intoned pertinent Eastern melodies. In his homily, Patriarch Rai reminded the faithful present that “when Saint Maron died in 410, already constituted was a numerous group of followers of his example and Christian life,” in keeping with Jesus’ teaching to the rich young man. This group, he added, reiterated its unity in the Council of Chalcedon, defending the doctrine of Pope Gregory the Great: “Jesus is true God and true man.”

This doctrine «was embraced by the first Christians that followed him on the banks of the Orontes in Syria, which in the 4th century sheltered some 500 monks. In 517 they paid a high price for being faithful to that doctrine with the martyrdom of 350 faithful,” which “was another seed grain in the land of Antioch,” he said.

At the end of his homily, the Maronite Cardinal asked for prayers “that the election of the future President of the Republic of Lebanon may be held after a presidential vacuum of nine months and for the stability of the country, which represents the bedrock of Christians in the Middle East, and for a just, lasting peace in Syria, Iraq, Palestine and the Holy Land, and for the intentions of Pope Francis who never ceases to ask us to pray for him.”

After the Mass celebrated in the church of the Pontifical Maronite College in Rome, Cardinal Sandri recalled that “one of the peculiar gifts that the Maronite Church has guarded zealously  is the affective and effective communion with the Successor of the Apostle Peter,” adding that the Pope “is not the supreme lord but rather the supreme servant, who guarantees the Church’s obedience and conformity with the will of God, the Gospel, Christ and the Tradition of the Church, putting aside all personal will.”

Saint Maron’s relic was brought to Rome — from the Cathedral of the Italian city of Foligno, by its Bishop, Gualtiero Sigismondi, on the occasion of the Saint’s feast. It is the first time in almost 1,000 years since the relic, which left Lebanon in 1096, returns to a Maronite church. 

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Sergio Mora

Buenos Aires, Argentina Estudios de periodismo en el Istituto Superiore di Comunicazione de Roma y examen superior de italiano para extranjeros en el Instituto Dante Alighieri de Roma. Periodista profesional de la Associazione Stampa Estera en Italia, y publicista de la Orden de periodistas de Italia. Fue corresponsal adjunto del diario español El País de 2000 a 2004, colaborador de los programas en español de la BBC y de Radio Vaticano. Fue director del mensual Expreso Latino, realizó 41 programas en Sky con Babel TV. Actualmente además de ser redactor de ZENIT colabora con diversos medios latinoamericanos.

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