بيانات صحفية / مواقف
Rai rejects claims of supporting particular political camp - The Daily Star 10/10/2011
BEIRUT: Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai rejected the notion that he has associated himself with any political camp, expressing his openness to all parties over the weekend.
“The patriarch has no political color except the color of Lebanon. Whoever wants truth, freedom, a great Lebanon and national coexistence will walk alongside the patriarch. Do not believe what is being written because there are many lies,” Rai told expatriates Saturday in the state of Illinois during his pastoral visit to the U.S.
Rai said the church’s members rallied to support him, just as they supported his predecessor Cardinal Nasrallah Sfeir, who defended Lebanon during his tenure despite claims at the time that the former patriarch was siding with one of Lebanon’s rival political camps.
Sfeir, who was a staunch critic of Syrian intervention in Lebanese affairs and Hezbollah’s possession of weapons, voiced his support over the weekend for controversial statements recently made by Rai.
Rai triggered a weeks-long debate over statements he made while on an official visit to Paris in September.
In his remarks in France, Rai warned that a deterioration of the situation in Syria would threaten the presence of Christians there, and urged the international community to pressure Israel to withdraw from Lebanese occupied territories to challenge Hezbollah’s pretext for maintaining its arsenal.
“We do not object to what the patriarch has said and he says what needs to be said. For this reason we are with what he says and we are not against it,” Sfeir told a local radio station Saturday.
“I have my own opinion and I voice this inside the Council of Patriarchs … I resigned as patriarch and there is a new patriarch now,” added Sfeir, who served as patriarch from 1986 to 2011.
Rai, who has said that his statements were taken out of context, earlier in the week dismissed any concerns over the future of Lebanon’s Maronite community, denying that he feared for the fate of Maronites.
In his interview with Voice of Lebanon Saturday, Sfeir said Christians in the region were protected by the state and the law and cautioned against special protection for individual sects.
“God protects all and God protects Lebanon and he protects the Christians in Lebanon, but if Christians requested protection, others also will ask for protection … Therefore the Christians are protected by the law and the state and they protect themselves.”
Asked whether he believed Rai’s stances had been prompted by instructions from the Vatican, Sfeir said, “I do not know if there were or were not any instructions, for he is the one who went to the Vatican and met [the] Pope [Pope Benedict XVI]. He is the person who receives letters from the Vatican.”
Sfeir added that changes in the region called for cooperation among sects to help protect Lebanon.
“Lebanon has maintained up until now its system and shall continue to do so if things stay as they are, but of course there are changes. There are many sects in Lebanon and sects dominate others, but there needs to be cooperation between all sects so that Lebanon remains as it is,” Rai said.
In his concluding comments, Sfeir asked, “Now has Bkirki changed? I don’t know but I do not think that Bkirki will change.”
During a book signing to honor Sfeir’s service during his 25-year tenure, the former patriarch said that despite the “miserable days that the Lebanese are witnessing,” Lebanon’s situation remains better than the situation in neighboring countries.
“We ask God to give us better days than these miserable days but despite their misery they remain better than the days that our neighbors are witnessing,” he said.