Patriarch Beshara Rai, left, receives former President Michel Sleiman in Bkirki, Monday, June 2, 2014. (The Daily Star/Dalati Nohra, HO)
BEIRUT: Maronite Bishop Boulos Sayyah said Thursday that ties between the Maronite Church and Hezbollah would not be affected by the controversial visit the Maronite patriarch paid to Israel last month.
“Nothing will change in our ties with Hezbollah,” Sayyah told a local television station. “Every human being has the right to express his opinion and we respect the opinions of everybody and that’s why we hope everybody will respect ours.”
Hezbollah has criticized Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai’s visit to occupied Jerusalem and areas in Israel last month. The party was particularly antagonized by Rai’s meeting with former South Lebanon Army members who fought alongside Israel during its 22-year occupation of south Lebanon.
Hezbollah launched a massive resistance campaign against Israel and its SLA allies during the Jewish state’s occupation of the area. Israel withdrew its troops from Lebanon in May 2000.
Rai said that his visit to the Holy Land was mere religious rather than political, describing ex-SLA members as victims and promising to work with Lebanese authorities to bring them back home.
“Do those who [during the Civil War] fought the Army, displaced people and stole people’s property bear less responsibility than those who were forced to collaborate with Israel?” Sayyah said in reference to Lebanese warlords who are now political leaders and with whom Hezbollah maintains contacts.
Sayyah said that whether Hezbollah would boycott the Maronite patriarchate after Rai’s visit to the Holy Land was up to the party itself.
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