BEIRUT: Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai Sunday said he wished the term of former President Michel Sleiman was extended until a new president is elected and urged the international community to help the Christians of Iraq.
Addressing Sleiman during a mass to commemorate the anniversary of Mar Charbel, a revered Maronite saint, Rai said he wished the former president would have stayed in office until a new head of state was elected.
“But what to do, those who support void rejected the suggestion,” Rai said in a veiled reference to the Free Patriotic Movement and Hezbollah. “They opted for shutting down the presidential palace after President Sleiman kept it open.”
Rai called on lawmakers to free themselves from all allegiances and head to Parliament to practice their national duties.
“We had hoped that we will celebrate the anniversary of Mar Charbel with a new president but the dysfunctional Parliament has prevented us from doing so,” he said.
The Patriarch, without specifically mentioning him, has repeatedly blasted Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun over his continued boycott of parliamentary sessions.
Lawmakers have not yet reached a consensus on a candidate to replace Sleiman, whose six-year term ended on May 25.
Aoun, the head of the second largest bloc in Parliament, has been the March 8 coalition's undeclared presidential candidate and has attempted to hold contacts with his rivals in the Future Movement to convince them to vote for him as a consensus candidate, but to no avail.
The presidential hopeful has refused to officially announce his candidacy and continues to boycott parliamentary sessions until parties agree on a consensus candidate.
Rai also touched on the situation in Iraq, where dozens of Iraqi Christian families have fled the city of Mosul now controlled by the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria.
“We voice complete solidarity with the Christians of Mosul and the Church of the Christ in Iraq and we ask the international community to protect those people,” he said.