BEIRUT: Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai hailed Wednesday Pope Benedict XVI for his love for Lebanon and described the pontiff’s resignation as a surprising move.
“The Pope’s three initiatives toward Lebanon showed his love for Lebanon and aspirations at Lebanon’s [level]: its role as a message and position in the Middle East,” Rai said in a statement.
"This [pope’s] announcement, which stunned the whole world, leaves a positive shock in the hearts and [sets] a perfect example because it stems from a great act of faith,” he said.
Rai thanked the pope for his recent visit to Lebanon in September 2012; for appointing him a cardinal in the Catholic Church last November and for tasking Lebanon’s youth to present their aspirations for the stages of the Way of the Cross that would be celebrated by the pope in Rome on March 29, 2013.
Pope Benedict’s resignation marks the first since Pope Gregory XII in 1415.
Rai will participate in the election of a new pontiff, marking the first time a Maronite patriarch has been eligible to vote at a conclave.
During his historic visit to Lebanon in September, Benedict XVI prayed for peace, reconciliation and interreligious harmony in the Levant region.