File - Patriarch Beshara Rai speaks during a mass held in Roumieh, Wednesday, April 16, 2014. (The Daily Star/Mahmoud Kheir)
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A Vatican spokesman says that Patriarch Beshara Rai is not a member of the pope's official delegation set to visit occupied Jerusalem later this month, but that the head of the Maronite church is going on his own initiative.Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said Rai was not part of the official delegation and was going on his own initiative.Maronite Bishop Samir Mazloum confirmed that Rai's visit was a "personal initiative" and said there was no decision so far to cancel the trip.Sheikh Maher Hammoud, a pro-Hezbollah Sunni preacher, defended Rai's upcoming visit to the Holy Land, saying the head of the Maronite Church did not aim at normalizing ties with Israel.Hammoud said the Vatican had always supported the causes of Arabs.
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