TRIPOLI, Lebanon: The Maronite patriarch will make a one-day visit to Lebanon’s second city of Tripoli Friday to celebrate the upcoming St. Maroun holiday.
The city is not being adorned with banners in the run-up to the visit by Beshara Rai, and one of its leading religious figures – Sheikh Malek Shaar, who strongly supported the visit – is out of the country, due to security fears.
But local politicians welcomed Rai’s visit.
“Patriarch Rai’s visit is a visit to his city and his people ... the visit is a great honor and confirmation that Tripoli remains a symbol of national unity,” Tripoli MP Mohammad Kabbara said. “Rai doesn’t need anyone to ‘prepare’ Tripoli for the visit, because it’s a city of openness and coexistence. He is coming home.”
The patriarch will celebrate an afternoon Mass to celebrate the St. Maroun holiday, which falls on Saturday.
Future Movement official Mustafa Alloush, a former MP for Akkar, said Rai’s visit gave the holiday a “special meaning” this year.
Both politicians played down recent security incidents in the city, such as the discovery of hand grenades by police this week, and said they were unrelated to any attempt to sow tension in the run-up to Rai’s visit.
“We shouldn’t give these incidents any importance,” Kabbara said, adding that he hoped those responsible for “distorting Tripoli’s image” would be apprehended by the authorities.