KFAR HAYY, Lebanon: Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai issued a plea Sunday for Christians to remain in Lebanon and the Middle East to preserve their presence in the region.
Rai made his comments during a mass to commemorate the death of the first Maronite patriarch, Saint Yohanna Maroun, in the village of Kfar Hayy in Batroun. The village was home to the first Maronite patriarchate in Lebanon.
Environment Minister Nazem Khoury represented President Michel Sleiman at the mass, which was also attended by Minister Gebran Bassil as well as local and religious officials.
“We pray for God to enlighten the officials and citizens of Lebanon so they can work together to protect the country. [We hope Lebanon remains] a shining destination for its culture, model [of coexistence], and its historical message whether in the Arab world or internationally,” Rai said during his sermon.
“Our roots are deep and we pray that God will protect this region, so that the Christian Lebanese Maronites will maintain on their path without any stumbles,” Rai added.
The Maronite patriarch called on Christians to eliminate their fears and remain steadfast.
Rai also prayed for the former leader of the Catholic Church, Pope Benedict XVI, and praised his resignation as a great example for Christians.
“His holiness Pope Benedict XVI has left us with a great example. We pray together that God will fulfill his wishes. We pray with him so that Christ will send the church a shepherd to lead its ship guided by the Holy Spirit,” Rai said.
The pope relinquished his position voluntarily last month due to his deteriorating health and concerns that he would no longer be able to fulfill his duties. The pope’s resignation is the first since Pope Gregory XII in 1415.
Rai is scheduled to travel to Rome Monday to participate in the election of a new pontiff, marking the first time a Maronite patriarch has been eligible to vote in the conclave.