Nasrallah Pierre Cardinal Sfeir Nasrallah Pierre Cardinal Sfeir
Function:
Former Patriarch of Antiochia, Lebanon
Title:
Cardinal Bishop, No titular church
Birthdate:
May 15, 1920
Country:
Lebanon
Elevated:
Nov 26, 1994
More information:
www.catholic-hierarchy.org
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English Syria visit would have legitimised Lebanon presence: Sfeir
Oct 24, 2011

BEIRUT: Maronite Cardinal Nasrallah Sfeir said that making a visit to Syria during his term as patriarch would have meant an acceptance from Bkirki of the Syrian presence in Lebanon.

“The visit would have meant that we accept the Syrian presence in Lebanon, and we do not want to walk in any direction but the Lebanese one,” Rai told Future News in an interview Monday night.

Speculation has mounted in recent weeks that Patriarch Beshara Rai will visit Damascus following his warning that the uprising in Syria could threaten Christians in the country should civil war break out between Alawites and Sunnis.

In his comments, Rai also said Syrian President Bashar Assad should have been given more time to implement reforms.

The patriarch later said his remarks had been taken out of context.

During the interview Monday, Sfeir said each patriarch has his own policies and beliefs.

“Rai knows whether it is beneficial or not to visit Syria to check on the community there. Every patriarch has their own way just like every president,” Sfeir said.

In 2000, while heading the Maronite Church, Sfeir declared opposition to Syria's three decades of domination over Lebanon, which ended five years later when Damascus withdrew its troops following former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri's assassination.

“We have had a position regarding the relationship with Syria and I do not think we can change history,” Sfier said Monday. “I do not believe that if we had accepted Syria’s presence in Lebanon the Christians would have been better off.”

Despite his opposition to Syria, Sfeir did not reject the idea that Christians were at risk in the region. “Christians have been in this region and especially in Lebanon since the foundation of Christianity and they have to fight to stay here,” Sfeir said.

The former patriarch also touched upon the division between Christian leaders in Lebanon, saying that he had put efforts to unite Christians who differed in their political policies.

“We tried our best to unite the vision among Christians in Lebanon and this division among them threatens their existence. That is the reason many of them are leaving Lebanon to find safer places,” Sfeir said.

During his term, Sfeir was vocal regarding his opposition to Hezbollah’s arms, and the former patriarch said Monday he did not regret such a stance, which led to the severing of ties with Christian leaders who were allied with the group.

In his September comments, Rai also tied the disarmament of Hezbollah to Israel’s withdrawal from Lebanon, saying that Hezbollah’s justification for carrying arms would collapse when Israel withdraws from Lebanese territory.

“I don’t regret remarks about the mini state and the illegal possession of arms ... Lebanese should be convinced that arms belong to the state which looks after their affairs so that peace can be achieved,” he said.


Read more: http://www.dailystar.com.lb/News/Politics/2011/Oct-11/151019-visit-to-syria-would-have-meant-acceptance-of-presence-in-lebanon-sfeir.ashx#ixzz1bhwvoFSq
(The Daily Star :: Lebanon News :: http://www.dailystar.com.lb)
Italian Libano: è crisi ai vertici della Chiesa maronita?
Oct 24, 2011

12 ottobre 2011- Il cardinale maronita Nasrallah Sfeir, ex capo della Chiesa, ha affermato che ogni patriarca ha una sua politica e delle sue convinzioni e che una visita in Siria durante i termini del suo mandato come Patriarca avrebbe significato un'accettazione della presenza siriana in Libano.

Nelle ultime settimane, si era diffusa la notizia che il nuovo Patriarca Beshara Rai avrebbe visitato Damasco, dopo aver dato un avvertimento ai cristiani riguardo la rivolta in Siria - seria minaccia per i maroniti nel caso di una guerra civile tra alawiti e sunniti.

Il Patriarca aveva anche aggiunto che sarebbe stato necessario fornire al governo di Bashar al-Assad più tempo per le riforme, ma aveva in seguito specificato che le sue dichiarazioni erano state "fraintese e decontestualizzate".

"Rai sa se è utile o no visitare la Siria per controllare la comunità lì. Ogni Patriarca ha il suo proprio modo, esattamente come ogni presidente", ha detto Sfeir.

Nel 2000, il capo della chiesa maronita Sfeir si era opposto ai tre decenni di dominazione della Siria sul Libano, finita cinque anni dopo, quando Damasco ha ritirato le sue truppe dopo l'assassinio dell'ex primo ministro Rafik Hariri.

"Noi abbiamo avuto una determinata posizione riguardo al rapporto con la Siria e io non penso che si possa cambiare la storia", ha aggiunto Sfeir. "Non credo che se avessimo accettato la presenza della Siria in Libano i cristiani sarebbero stati meglio. I cristiani sono stati in questa regione - e soprattutto in Libano - sin dalla fondazione del cristianesimo e noi dobbiamo combattere per stare qui".

"Abbiamo provato a fare del nostro meglio per unire la visione dei cristiani in Libano e questa divisione causata dalla minaccia alla loro esistenza. Questa è la ragione della fuga di molti di loro che lasciano il Libano per cercare luoghi più sicuri".

Durante il suo mandato, Sfeir è stato radicale nell'opporsi alle armi di Hezbollah, e nell'ultima intervista ha affermato di non avere rimpianti riguardo a questa sua condotta, che ha portato alla rottura dei legami con i leader cristiani che invece sostenevano Hezbollah.

"Non mi pento delle affermazioni riguardanti il 'mini Stato' e il possesso illegale di armi... I libanesi dovrebbero convincersi che le armi appartengono allo Stato, che si occupa dei loro affari in modo che la pace possa essere raggiunta", ha concluso l'ex patriarca.

http://www.osservatorioiraq.it/content/libano-%C3%A8-crisi-ai-vertici-della-chiesa-maronita
French Sfeir: "nous espérons que le Liban soit un jour libre comme nos fils l'ont voulu"
Mar 13, 2011

Le patriarche maronite Nasrallah Boutros Sfeir a espéré jeudi que "le Liban soit un jour libre comme nos fils et nos aïeux l'ont toujours rêvé".

Le cardinal s'est prononcé lors de la visite du député Elie Marouni qui a loué le rôle extraordinaire joué par le patriarche". "Votre empreinte sera présente jusqu'à la fin et la libération du Liban a commencé depuis le célèbre appel que vous avez lancé en 2000", a-t-il ajouté.

A son tour, le patriarche Sfeir a parlé de ses actions qui sont " une part minime de son devoir". "Nous avons lutté ensemble pour que le Liban soit indépendant et souverain mais des entraves existent toujours", a-t-il déploré.

Le patriarche a également reçu une délégation du Conseil général maronite présidée par l'ancien ministre Wadih Khazen qui a mis l'accent sur "la démission du chef de l'Eglise maronite et le rôle de Bkerké au sein de la patrie".

M. Khazen a en outre octroyé au cardinal Sfeir la plus haute médaille du Conseil.

Parmi les visiteurs de Bkerké, le président du parti Kataeb Amine Gemayel qui a souligné "la situation critique par laquelle passe le pays ainsi que les craintes pour le retour de l'hégémonie et des réseaux de répression".

"Le plan est de se venger de la révolution du Cèdre qui a réalisé le retrait syrien, la présence du Tribunal international ainsi que des élections présidentielle et parlementaire libres", a-t-il révélé.

Concernant la formation du gouvernement, M. Gemayel a estimé qu'un maestro "appelle les élèves à rentrer en classe". "Ils attendent le mot d'ordre pour former le prochain gouvernement", a-t-il précisé.

Et d'expliquer que ce qui leur importe "est d'activer le mouvement du 14 Mars". "En ces circonstances assez spéciales, nous avons urgemment besoin d'un mouvement populaire et national qui protège ce pays", a-t-il noté.

Le président Gemayel a finalement mis l'accent sur "les erreurs qui ont été commises au sein des rangs du 14 Mars ". "Il est largement temps de corriger les choses, d'avoir un commandement responsable et le plus grand nombre possible de potentiel libanais ou bien un comité général formé de grandes personnalités et d'intellectuels", a-t-il scandé.

Après sa réunion avec le patriarche Sfeir, le député Okab Sakr a réitéré "les propos du cardinal sur le danger de la situation dans le monde arabe".

"Il est essentiel que ces incidents ne se transmettent pas au Liban et que la résistance reste pacifique avec un pouvoir démocratique", a-t-il estimé.

Quant aux armes de la Résistance, M. Sakr a clamé que "toute utilisation desdites armes au niveau interne leur nuit plus qu'il ne leur en profite".

"Les armes doivent être dirigées contre Israël (...)", s'est-il exclamé, appelant finalement "à cesser d'utiliser la cause de la Résistance et celle des Libanais".

http://www.iloubnan.info/politique/actualite/id/57423/titre/Sfeir:-%2522nous-esp%25C3%25A9rons-que-le-Liban-soit-un-jour-libre-comme-nos-fils-l%27ont-voulu%2522&ct=ga&cad=CAEQAhgAIAAoATADOANAndvA6wRIAVAAWABiAmZy&cd=m9Ao0FG36bU&usg=AFQjCNH_7kRZJ2DzIC9joVpY-ziqfWmzyA
French Patriarche maronite: démission acceptée
Mar 13, 2011

Le pape Benoît XVI a officiellement accepté la démission du cardinal Nasrallah Boutros Sfeir, chef de l'Eglise maronite au Liban, la plus puissante du pays, a indiqué aujourd'hui l'agence d'informations religieuses I-media. Dans une lettre adressée samedi au patriarche des Maronites dans laquelle il annonçait accepter sa démission, le pape a salué "l'ardent désir de paix" au Liban de ce cardinal qui a dirigé son Eglise pendant 25 ans.

Désormais, le synode qui rassemble une quarantaine d’évêques maronites aura un mois pour se réunir et élire un nouveau patriarche dont le nom sera ensuite communiqué à Rome afin que le pape l’approuve en lui accordant "la communion ecclésiastique", rappelle l'agence.

Le cardinal Sfeir, âgé de 90 ans, qui était à la tête de l'Eglise maronite depuis 1986, avait annoncé en janvier avoir présenté sa démission "il y a plusieurs mois", attendant que le pape prenne sa décision. Au-delà de son leadership religieux, il a joué un rôle considérable dans la vie politique de son pays, où les chrétiens maronites, autrefois tout puissants, ont été affaiblis par une guerre civile (1975-1990) à caractère confessionnel.

C'est notamment à son appel en 2000 que le mouvement opposé à l'hégémonie de la Syrie, alors puissance de tutelle depuis trois décennies au Liban, a commencé à prendre de l'ampleur, jusqu'au retrait des troupes syriennes en 2005, dans la foulée de l'assassinat de l'ancien Premier ministre Rafic Hariri. Il est le 76e patriarche maronite depuis l'arrivée des premiers disciples de Saint Maron au Liban en provenance de Syrie, il y a plus de 1.500 ans.

http://www.lefigaro.fr/flash-actu/2011/02/27/97001-20110227FILWWW00120-patriarche-maronite-demission-acceptee.php
Italian Libano, forse Sfeir lascia
Feb 01, 2011
Il cardinale Nasrallah Butros Sfeir, novantunenne patriarca della influente chiesa maronita libanese, ha presentato le dimissioni alcuni mesi fa al Vaticano, che ancora non ha preso decisioni in merito

Il cardinale Nasrallah Butros Sfeir, novantunenne patriarca della influente chiesa maronita libanese, ha presentato le dimissioni alcuni mesi fa al Vaticano, che ancora non ha preso decisioni in merito. Lo ha riferito il ministro del lavoro Butros Harb, che ieri ha incontrato il patriarca e che oggi viene citato dalla stampa di Beirut. Il cardinale Sfeir guida la chiesa maronita libanese dal 1986, e si sente stanco e frustrato dalla situazione in Libano, scrive il quotidiano Daily Star. Una fonte autorizzata vicino al patriarcato ha precisato al giornale 'L'Orient le Jour' che, nel corso del suo ultimo soggiorno a Roma, il cardinale avrebbe espresso alcune settimane fa a Papa Benedetto XVI il suo desiderio di lasciare le sue funzioni. Lo stesso giornale sottolinea inoltre come, al di la della sua leadership religiosa, il cardinale Sfeir ha esercitato negli anni anche una significativa influenza politica, in particolare nel 2000, quando, dopo il ritiro israeliano dal Sud del Libano ha lanciato un appello affinché dopo quasi trent'anni si ponesse fine all'egemonia siriana sul Paese. Con il titolo ufficiale di Sua beatitudine ed eminenza, Sfeir é il 76/mo Patriarca di Antiochia e dell'intero Levante, nonché terzo cardinale maronita.

http://www.lastampa.it/_web/CMSTP/tmplrubriche/giornalisti/grubrica.asp?ID_blog=196&ID_articolo=1186&ID_sezione=396&sezione=
English Sfeir has handed resignation to Vatican
Feb 01, 2011

BEIRUT: Patriarch Cardinal Nasrallah Butros Sfeir, the head of Lebanon’s influential Maronite Catholic Church, submitted his resignation to the Vatican a few months ago, caretaker Labor Minister Butros Harb said Sunday after meeting with Sfeir at Bkirki, north of Beirut.

Harb said that the Vatican has not yet decided on whether to accept Sfeir’s resignation.

Sfeir, 91, led Sunday Mass at Bkirki’s church and received visitors as he does every day, the state-run National News Agency reported.

The Vatican has not yet accepted Sfeir’s resignation because six Maronite bishops have resigned after reaching the retirement age of 75 last June, sources told The Daily Star Sunday. These are: Roland Abu Jawdeh, Bulos Emile Saadeh, Francis al-Bissiri, Guy Bulos Njeim, Youssef Bishara and Samir Mazloum.

Another two Maronite bishops are expected to retire in March, the sources said.

They added that bishops to replace the retired men should have been elected during the spiritual conclave held in Bkirki recently but this did not happen because Sfeir has not yet accepted their resignations.

Ahead of a decision on Sfeir’s resignation, the Vatican and the pope are currently exerting pressure for the election of six new bishops, the sources said. So a decision on Sfeir’s resignation could take considerable time, depending on the Vatican, the sources said. According to the sources, Sfeir justified his resignation, saying he was frustrated with the situation in Lebanon and wanted to rest.

Several Maronite bishops have offered to replace him, the sources said. Among them are bishops Bulos Mattar, Bishara al-Rai, Mansour Hobeika and Nabil Anaderi, the sources said. Sfeir is expected to visit the Vatican in February during which he will discuss with the pope and other Vatican officials issues related to his resignation and the election of the new bishops, the sources said.

Sfeir is the patriarch of Lebanon’s largest Christian body, the Maronite Church, an Eastern Catholic church in communion with the Holy See. He is also a cardinal. He was elected patriarch of Antioch for the Maronites on April 27, 1986, after the resignation of Cardinal Anthony Peter Khoraish. He is the third Maronite cardinal and the 76th patriarch of the Maronite Church. His official title is “His Beatitude and Eminence the 76th Patriarch of Antioch and the Whole Levant.”

http://www.dailystar.com.lb/article.asp?edition_id=1&categ_id=2&article_id=123745#axzz1BJITXit0
Italian Le patriarche Sfeir appelle à l'unité face aux menaces israéliennes
Nov 18, 2010

Le patriarche maronite Nasrallah Boutros Sfeir a quitté mardi matin Beyrouth se dirigeant vers le Vatican où il prendra part à la cérémonie consistoire pour la création de nouveaux cardinaux nominés par le pape Benoît XVI.

Avant son départ de la capitale libanaise, Le chef de l'Eglise maronite a présenté ses sincères voeux aux musulmans à l'occasion de la fête de l'Adha et il a adressé un message de voeux au secrétaire général du Hezbollah Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah.

Le cardinal Sfeir a réitéré son attachement au jugement des faux témoins et il a dénoncé les menaces israéliennes permanentes appellant les libanais à l'unité pour y faire face.

http://www.iloubnan.info/politique/actualite/id/52306/titre/Le-patriarche-Sfeir-appelle-%C3%A0-l%27unit%C3%A9-face-aux-menaces-isra%C3%A9liennes
French Le cardinal Sfeir salue les relations séculaires entre la France et le Liban
Nov 03, 2010
Vêpres maronites à saint-Louis des Français

ROME, Jeudi 21 octobre 2010 (ZENIT.org) - Le cardinal Sfeir salue les « relations séculaires existant entre la France, l'Eglise maronite et le Liban ».

Le patriarche maronite d'Antioche et de tout l'Orient, le cardinal Mar Nasrallah Pierre Sfeir a en effet présidé des vêpres solennelles selon le rite maronite en l'église de Saint-Louis des Français mercredi soir, mercredi 20 octobre, à 18 heures 30.

Il s'agit d'une initiative de l'Ambassadeur de France près le Saint-Siège, M. Stanislas de Laboulaye. Un communiqué de l'ambassade a souligné que cette initiative était « l'occasion de rappeler les liens d'amitié, anciens et profonds, qui unissent la France et le Liban ».

Le cardinal titulaire de Saint-Louis des Français, l'archevêque de Paris et président de la conférence des évêques de France, André Vingt-Trois, a participé à la célébration.

Dans son allocution, le patriarch Sfeir a remercié l'ambassadeur de France près le Saint-Siège de cette initiative dans laquelle il lit un « signe éloquent des relations séculaires qui existent entre la France, l'Eglise maronite et le Liban ».

Il a rappelé qu'aux « moments cruciaux » de leur histoire, la France s'est « solidarisée avec le Liban ». Il a notamment salué l'accueil réservé aux Libanais émigrés « qui ont pu s'installer sur le sol français comme s'ils étaient chez eux ». Il a dit sa reconnaissance au cardinal André Vingt-Trois « qui veille spirituellement sur eux en tant qu'ordinaire ».

Il a aussi exprimé l'espérance, relayée au synode par différents patriarches, que le Saint-Siège pusise leur donner « un évêque maronite sur place ».

Le patriarche Sfeir voit aussi une dimension « symbolique » dans ces vêpres maronites à Saint-Louis « au moment où toutes les Eglises orientales catholiques » sont réunies à Rome à l'initiative de Benoît XVI qui a voulu « convoquer ce synode à une époque décisive de l'histoire des chrétiens orientaux qui subissent des persécutions et des sévices de toute sorte ». Il a spécialement mentionné le « drame des chrétiens en Irak ».

Le synode, a souligné le patriarche, est une manifestation de la « solidarité de toute l'Eglise avec les chrétiens orientaux » et c'est pour les Eglises orientales un grand « espoir » de voir reconnu leur rôle en tant que « citoyens ».

Enfin, le patriarche maronite a souligné que le mystère de la croix, célébré dans cette liturgie, est aussi pour les chrétiens un signe « d'espérance » , car il manifeste leur foi dans la résurrection ».

Le patriarche Sfeir et la communauté maronite ont été accueillis par les paroles du recteur de Saint-Louis, Mgr Patrick Valdrini qui a rappelé cette « affirmation historique de Jean-Paul II  dite avec appui et volonté de convaincre » au Liban en 1997 : « Le Liban est plus qu'un pays, le Liban, c'est un message ». Pour Mgr Valdrini cette formule « rend compte l'engagement des Libanais et spécialement de l'Eglise maronite au service de la paix civile et de l'entente entre communautés ».

Il a souligné les leçons à tirer de l'expérience maronite : « Quatorze siècles d'existence, souvent difficile » ont donné cette Eglise « l'expérience de la cohabitation, de la coopération, et de la compréhension ».

« Artisan d'un modèle politique unique, elle doit être soutenue dans sa volonté de promouvoir les relations avec les diverses communautés musulmanes. Elle sait le caractère symbolique et prophétique de cette volonté dans un Moyen-Orient divisé et pacifiquement fragile et dans un monde où, il y a peu, les relations entre communautés religieuses sont devenues brusquement premières », a ajouté le recteur.

Il a rappelé que ces vêpres maronites ont été « organisées à la demande de M. l'Ambassadeur de France près le Saint-Siège ». Une célébration qui a pu « réunir Libanais et Français dans un moment de prière, qui fonde notre solidarité entre nous et avec les autres, dans la foi en Dieu Créateur d'un monde d'amour, de respect et de fraternité », a conclu Mgr Valdrini.

Ce synode est depuis le synode pour le Liban - en 1995 - le plus « francophone » qui ait été célébré à Rome. Les liens du Liban et de la France sont en effet exemplaires mais pas uniques : le reste du Moyen Orient chrétien présent au synode est majoritairement francophone.

Et cette francophonie ce n'est pas seulement le signe d'un attachement profond à la langue et à la culture française - les auteurs français sont cités ! - , mais les catholiques du Moyen-Orient attendent « beaucoup » de la France, ont souligné à plusieurs reprises des acteurs du synode.
French Nasrallah Sfeir évoquera devant le Synode le dossier de l'exode des Chrétiens d'Orient
Oct 26, 2010

BEYROUTH - Le patriarche maronite, le Cardinal Nasrallah Boutros Sfeir, actuellement en visite au Vatican, s'est entretenu samedi avec des journalistes et a souligné que le dossier le plus important récemment, qu'il évoquera devant le Synode, est celui d'arrêter l'exode des Chrétiens de l'Orient.

Par ailleurs, le patriarche s'est prononcé en faveur de tout dialogue islamo-chrétien, en indiquant qu'un tel pas favoriserait la consolidation de la stabilité sociale au sein du Liban.

Il a de même appelé les citoyens du Levant à respecter les lois et à ne pas oublier, en même temps, les paroles et les leçons du Christ.

Parmi les visiteurs de Sfeir, durant son séjour, la directrice de l'Agence nationale d'information libanaise, Laure Sleiman Saab, l'ancien ministre Wadih Khazen et le prêtre Elias Khalifeh.

http://www.iloubnan.info/politique/actualite/id/51037
German Kardinal Sfeir besuchte Christen im Hisbollahgebiet
Jul 07, 2010
Der maronitische Patriarch warf der Hisbollah mehrfach vor, die besondere Identität des Libanon als "Schnittstelle zwischen West und Ost" zu gefährden

Beirut, 22.06.2010 (KAP) Das Oberhaupt der mit Rom unierten maronitischen Kirche, Patriarch Kardinal Nasrallah Sfeir, hat die schiitisch dominierte Region Bekaa im Libanon besucht. Wie regionale Medien berichteten, war Sfeir am Sonntag Gast der Einweihung einer Kirche in Zahle, der einzigen fast ausschließlich von Christen bewohnten Stadt in der Region. Der letzte Besuch eines Patriarchen in der an Syrien grenzenden Hochebene liegt nach Auskunft des libanesischen "Daily Star" 72 Jahre zurück.

In den Tagen vor der Bekaa-Visite war es nach Informationen örtlicher Medien zu einem verbalen Schlagabtausch zwischen dem Patriarchen und Führern der schiitisch-islamistischen paramilitärischen Organisation Hisbollah gekommen. Die Organisation ist besonders in der Bekaa-Ebene, im Südlibanon sowie in Südbeirut stark.

Der Patriarch warf der Hisbollah mehrfach vor, die besondere Identität des Libanon als "Schnittstelle zwischen West und Ost" zu gefährden: "Einzelne Gruppierungen" sähen nur die östliche Identität als legitim an. Zudem kritisierte Sfeir wiederholt, dass die Hisbollah eine eigene Miliz parallel zur staatlichen Armee unterhalte; diese werde "von Nachbarn des Libanon aufgerüstet". Der 90-jährige Führer der maronitischen Kirche gilt als erklärter Gegner syrischer und iranischer Einflussnahme im Libanon.

Am Freitag bezichtigte die Hisbollah-Führung den Patriarchen der Beleidigung. Sfeir hatte Reportern bei einem Frankreich-Besuch erklärt, der Libanon habe "Probleme mit dem Iran und mit der sogenannten Hisbollah". Dies sei ein schwerer Affront, heißt es in der Hisbollah-Erklärung.

Wenige Stunden vor Sfeirs Eintreffen in Zahle explodierte laut Pressebericht in einem örtlichen Geschäft eine Bombe. Ein Mensch starb, zwei wurden verletzt. Ob es sich um einen Unfall beim Bau einer Bombe oder um ein Attentat handelt, sei bislang unklar.
French Visite en France du patriarche maronite Nasrallah Sfeir
Jun 27, 2010
« Une occasion de réaffirmer les liens d’amitié entre la France et le Liban »

ROME, Mercredi 16 juin 2010 (ZENIT.org) - A l'invitation du président français Nicolas Sarkozy, le cardinal Nasrallah Boutros Sfeir, patriarche maronite d'Antioche et de tout l'Orient, effectue une visite en France du 14 au 18 juin.
Parmi les différentes rencontres prévues durant son séjour : une audience ce mercredi 16 juin avec le président de la République française, Nicolas Sarkozy, et des entretiens avec le président du Sénat, Gérard Larcher, et le président de l'Assemblée Nationale, Bernard Accoyer.

Il y a deux mois, Bernard Accoyer, avait effectué une visite au Liban, accompagné des quatre vice-présidents du groupe d'amitié France-République libanaise, pour un « tour d'horizon de la situation politique intérieure et régionale ». Il s'était également rendu à Bkerké pour y rencontrer le patriarche.

Le 16 juin au soir, le ministre des affaires étrangères, Bernard Kouchner présidera, quant à lui, « un dîner de travail » au Quai d'Orsay.

« Ces entretiens seront l'occasion de réaffirmer les liens d'amitié entre la France et le Liban et d'évoquer la situation au Liban et dans la région, notamment celle des chrétiens d'Orient dont les communautés constituent une richesse et un élément essentiel de l'identité de ces pays », précise le ministère français des affaires étrangères dans son communiqué.

Lors d'un point de presse, vendredi dernier, au Quai d'Orsay, la porte-parole adjointe du ministère français des Affaires étrangères et européennes, Christine Fages, interrogée sur l'accueil réservé au patriarche par le ministère, a précisé : « Bernard Kouchner a créé un pôle religions au sein de la direction de la prospective du ministère des Affaires étrangères, prenant en compte les dimensions spirituelles et religieuses des relations internationales ».

« On reste dans la laïcité mais cela participe des relations internationales », a-t-elle ajouté.

A la question d'un représentant des médias lui demandant « quel message la France voulait délivrer au patriarche », la porte-parole a déclaré : «  sur les sujets d'actualité comme le Proche-Orient, le Liban ou Gaza il sera intéressant d'avoir son point de vue », ajoutant qu'« Il y a une proximité entre la France et le Liban qui s'illustre dans des visites gouvernementales mais aussi par des échanges entre les sociétés civiles, dont les composantes spirituelles ».

Au cours de sa visite, le cardinal Sfeir s'entretiendra avec l'archevêque de Paris, le cardinal André Vingt-trois, et aura également l'occasion de rencontrer la presse arabe.

Le patriarche sera de retour au Liban pour la béatification du vénérable Stéphane Nehmé, de l'ordre libanais Maronite, le 27 juin prochain, au cours d'une célébration présidée par Mgr Angelo Amatao, préfet de la Congrégation pour les causes des saints.
German Libanons Patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir wird 90
May 21, 2010
Er ist Kardinal und politisches Schwergewicht im Libanon zugleich: Nasrallah Boutros Sfeir. Jetzt ist der "Vater der Nation" 90 Jahre alt geworden. Doch zur Ruhe setzt er sich nicht.

Wie viele 90-Jähige sind wohl mit einem eigenen Profil beim Internet-Netzwerk Facebook vertreten? Mit mehreren hundert "Fans", täglich aktuellen Blog-Einträgen und politischen Kommentaren? Kardinal Nasrallah Boutros Sfeir ist am Samstag (15.05.2010) 90 Jahre alt geworden - aber von Rente kann keine Rede sein: Sfeir gilt als "Vater der Nation", leitet bereits seit 24 Jahren die Geschicke der maronitischen Kirche und gestaltet die politische Landschaft des Libanon aktiv mit.



Ernannt zum Kardinal
Geboren am 15. Mai 1920 nördlich von Beirut, studierte Sfeir Theologie und Philosophie. Nach Jahren als Lehrer wurde er 1961 Generalvikar, ein Jahr später Bischof, gut zehn Jahre später Erzbischof. 1986 wählte ihn die Synode zum "maronitischen Patriarchen von Antiochien und dem Ganzen Osten". Papst Johannes Paul II. verlieh Sfeir Anfang der 90er Jahre den Kardinalstitel. Die Maroniten sind eine der größten und ältesten Religionsgemeinschaften im Libanon, ihre Anhänger sind Christen, sie sind mit dem Vatikan verbunden und erkennen den Papst als Oberhaupt an.



Politisches Gewicht
Aber Nasrallah Sfeir ist viel mehr: In den vergangenen Jahrzehnten hat seine Stimme im Libanon ein politisches Gewicht bekommen, das das politische Geschehen im Land entscheidend mitbestimmt. Sein Einfluss bleibt bis heute groß, obwohl der Anteil an Christen im Libanon durch Abwanderung stetig sinkt.



Unter anderem stieß Sfeir die libanesische Zedernrevolution mit an: Mehrmals kritisierte er den syrischen Einfluss im Libanon und verlangte den Abzug der syrischen Truppen. In einer Weihnachtspredigt forderte er den anwesenden, pro-syrischen Präsidenten Emile Lahoud ganz offen zum Rücktritt auf. Schließlich erreichte die so genannte Zedernrevolution im Jahr 2005 den vollständigen Rückzug der syrischen Besatzungsmächte aus dem Libanon.



Unangemessene Einmischung?



Kritiker werfen Sfeir schon lange eine unangemessene Einmischung in die Politik vor, die pro-westliche und anti-syrisch/-iranische Liga unterstützt Sfeir. In der Regel beschränkt sich der Patriarch auf politische Mahnungen. Als der Libanon zum Jahreswechsel 2007/2008 keinen Präsidenten hatte, forderte er die streitenden Parteien zum schnellen Handeln auf. Schließlich erstellte er für die internationale Gemeinschaft eine Liste mit möglichen Präsidentschaftskandidaten.



Humorvoll und geistreich



Generell galt Sfeir immer als starke Stimme für Vernunft und Mäßigung während Zeiten politischer Unruhe im Libanon. Er wird als humorvoller und geistreicher Mann beschrieben. Neben seiner Muttersprache Arabisch spricht er unter anderem fließend Aramäisch, Italienisch, Englisch, Französisch und beherrscht Latein. Auch wenn Beobachter sagen, Sfeir habe in letzter Zeit etwas "müde" gewirkt - an einen Rücktritt ist für den 90-Jährigen nicht zu denken. Lieber aktualisiert er wohl noch einmal sein Profil auf Facebook.

http://www.dw-world.de/dw/article/0,,5572685,00.html
German „Vater der Nation“
May 21, 2010
Der libanesische Patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir wird 90 Jahre alt

Die maronitischen Patriarchen sind im Libanon so etwas wie „Väter der Nation“. Umso mehr gilt das für Kardinal Nasrallah Boutros Sfeir, der bereits seit 24 Jahren die Geschicke seiner Kirche leitet - und gleichzeitig die komplexe politische Landschaft im Libanon mitgestaltet. Heute wird der Führer der mit Rom unierten Ostkirche 90 Jahre alt.
Als Seine Seligkeit Kardinal Nasrallah Boutros Sfeir im Jahr 2007 gedrängt wurde, eine Liste mit möglichen Präsidentschaftskandidaten aufzustellen, war das kein ungewöhnlicher Schritt. Sfeirs zierliche Gestalt täuscht nur auf den ersten Blick über das politische Gewicht des als humorvoll und geistreich beschriebenen Kirchenmannes hinweg. Geboren am 15. Mai 1920 in der malerischen Berglandschaft Kesrouan nördlich von Beirut, studierte der Priesteramtskandidat in seiner Heimat Theologie und Philosophie. Nach seiner Weihe 1950 unterrichtete er zunächst zehn Jahre lang an einer Schule.

Die kirchliche Karriere Sfeirs begann 1956 mit seiner Nebentätigkeit als Sekretär des Patriarchen. 1961 wurde er zum Generalvikar ernannt, im Jahr drauf zum Bischof geweiht. 1974 wurde er Erzbischof von Sidon, 1986 wählte ihn die Synode zum „maronitischen Patriarchen von Antiochien und dem Ganzen Osten“. Den Kardinalstitel verlieh ihm Papst Johannes Paul II. 1994 als drittem Patriarchen in der knapp 1.400-jährigen Geschichte der Maroniten.

Der politische Einfluss der libanesischen Patriarchen hat seine Wurzeln im Osmanischen Reich, als der maronitische Führer offizieller Ansprechpartner für die Belange der Christen war. Auch mit der jungen Republik war das religiöse Oberhaupt der einstigen christlichen Mehrheit im Libanon eng verbunden. Obwohl der Anteil der Christen durch Abwanderung und geringere Geburtenrate in den vergangenen Jahrzehnten gegenüber dem der Muslime deutlich gesunken ist, bleibt der Einfluss des Patriarchen groß.

Das liegt nicht zuletzt am teils diskreten, teils aber auch offensiven Auftreten Sfeirs in der Öffentlichkeit. Zumeist beschränkt er sich auf grundsätzliche Mahnungen, wie etwa während der lähmenden Vakanz auf dem Präsidentenstuhl 2007/2008, als er die streitenden Parteien zum Handeln aufforderte. Der Kompromissmann Michel Sulaiman, auf den man sich schließlich einigte, stand übrigens nicht auf jener Kandidatenliste, die Sfeir auf Drängen Frankreichs vorgelegt hatte.

Der Patriarch kann deutlich werden: So forderte er Anfang Mai, jedes Land dürfe „nur von einer Armee“ kontrolliert werden - ein Seitenschlag gegen die Hisbollah-Miliz. In der Weihnachtspredigt 2005 legte er dem anwesenden pro-syrischen Präsidenten Emile Lahoud unverblümt den Rücktritt nahe. Im selben Jahr hatte die kirchliche Synode in einem Appell den Abzug der syrischen Truppen gefordert und dadurch die „Zedernrevolution“ mit angestoßen, die die Syrer aus dem Land drängte.

Die pro-westlichen Gegner eines syrisch-iranischen Einflusses im Libanon sind dem Patriarchen dankbar für seine Stellungnahmen. Kritiker hingegen werfen ihm ungebührliche Einmischung in die Politik vor. Schwierig ist Sfeirs Lage geworden, seit der prominente maronitische Christenführer Michel Aoun 2006 auf einmal das Lager wechselte und zur pro-syrischen Opposition überging. Seitdem ist das christliche Lager gespalten.

Der Vatikan hat dem rührigen Patriarchen in allen Wirren immer den Rücken gestärkt. Dabei sieht die Kirche in Sfeir keinen rein politischen Kirchenführer: Die vom Vatikan angeregte Liturgiereform hat er energisch vorangetrieben und dadurch den zum Teil verloren gegangenen spirituellen Schatz der maronitischen Kirche wiederbelebt. Auch bei der Vorbereitung der Nahostsynode im Oktober spielt Sfeir eine gestaltende Rolle. Wenn der rüstige Senior auch nach Ansicht seiner Umgebung zuletzt „etwas müder“ wirkte - an seinen Rücktritt scheint niemand ernsthaft zu denken.

http://www.domradio.de/aktuell/64000/vater-der-nation.html
French Sfeir : Nous souhaitons que notre avenir soit meilleur que notre passé
Dec 28, 2009
Partout au Liban, la communauté chrétienne fête Noël. Des dizaines de délégations se sont rendues à Bkerké alors que plusieurs partis politiques ont organisé des cérémonies où des cadeaux ont été remis.

Le patriarche maronite, le cardinal Nasrallah Sfeir, a reçu hier plusieurs délégations venues à Bkerké présenter leurs vœux pour les fêtes de Noël.
Mgr Sfeir a indiqué qu'il « existe beaucoup d'obstacles que nous rencontrons sur notre chemin, mais nous les surmontons grâce à notre foi en Dieu. Nous souhaitons que notre avenir soit meilleur que notre passé et que les gens se pardonnent mutuellement ». Mgr Sfeir a également souhaité que « les fêtes de fin d'année constituent une occasion de rapprocher les gens ».

Le patriarche maronite a reçu le commandant en chef de l'armée, le général Jean Kahwagi. Il s'est aussi entretenu avec le directeur des services de renseignements de l'armée, le général Edmond Fadel, qui était accompagné du colonel Richard Hélou, directeur du bureau des services de renseignements de l'armée au Mont-Liban. Ils ont été les hôtes à déjeuner du patriarche.
Le cardinal maronite a reçu une délégation du Comité des supérieurs généraux des congrégations libanaises, présidée par sœur Daniella Harrouk, qui a souligné que le patriarche Sfeir a lutté pour la paix, la justice et la fraternité.
Parmi les personnes qui se sont rendues à Bkerké hier, citons les anciens députés Nader Succar et Auguste Bakhos, le Dr Toufic Hindi, l'évêque maronite du Batroun, Boulos Émile Saadé, l'évêque maronite de Beyrouth, Boulos Matar, l'évêque maronite de Zahlé, Mansour Hobeika, le vicaire patriarcal de Jounieh, Nabil Andari, le vicaire patriarcal de Sarba, Guy Boulos Njeim, le vicaire patriarcal d'Antélias, Youssef Béchara, le vicaire patriarcal de Jbeil, Béchara Rahi, le vicaire patriarcal de Bécharré, Francis Baissari, le vicaire patriarcal de Saïda, Élias Nassar, le vicaire patriarcal de Tripoli, Georges Abou Jaoudé.
Le patriarche maronite s'est aussi entretenu avec le PDG d'Indevco, Nehmé Frem, ainsi qu'avec une délégation des charismatiques et une autre des écoles catholiques présidée par le père Marwan Tabet.
Mgr Sfeir a reçu plusieurs appels téléphoniques lui souhaitant de bonnes fêtes, notamment de la part du cheikh Akl druze, Naïm Hassan.
Le patriarche maronite célébrera aujourd'hui à 11 heures la messe solennelle de Noël en présence du président de la République, le général Michel Sleiman.

Les détenus libanais en Syrie
De son côté, le vicaire patriarcal melkite, le métropolite Youhanna Haddad, a adressé son message de Noël aux Libanais et aux Syriens. Il a appelé « les frères syriens à libérer les détenus libanais dans leurs prisons ; ce sera comme un cadeau de Noël au Libanais, notamment après la visite effectuée par le Premier ministre Saad Hariri à Damas ». Mgr Haddad a rendu hommage « à la sagesse de M. Hariri qui souhaite corriger les relations avec la Syrie, et ce dans l'intérêt des deux pays ».
Il a également souligné qu'il « relève du devoir des chrétiens du monde, spécialement des chrétiens du Liban, de préserver leurs relations avec le monde arabe, spécialement avec la Syrie. Ils doivent également préserver leurs relations avec les autres communautés parce que le Liban est un exemple de coopération et de convivialité entre les peuples et les communautés ».
Par ailleurs, plusieurs partis politiques ont organisé des cérémonies pour célébrer Noël avec leurs partisans.
Ainsi, le député Kataëb Samy Gemayel a souhaité de joyeuses fêtes à tous les Libanais, notamment aux enfants du parti, espérant qu'ils « vivent heureux » et souhaitant que « les sacrifices faits pour le Liban portent leurs fruits afin que l'on puisse vivre dans un pays qui soit à la hauteur de nos ambitions ».
Le député du Metn a souhaité de joyeuses fêtes aux familles des martyrs ainsi qu'aux familles des détenus dans les geôles syriennes, soulignant que « le dossier de ces derniers sera prochainement clos et qu'ils rentreront prochainement au Liban ». Il a également salué tous ceux qui se trouvent aujourd'hui loin du pays, notamment les Libanais qui avaient fui en Israël en mai 2000.
M. Gemayel a tenu ces propos lors d'une cérémonie de Noël organisée par le régional Kataëb du Metn et destinée aux enfants Kataëb du caza. Étaient présents, parmi les petits Kataëb, les enfants du ministre assassiné Pierre Gemayel, Amine et Alexandre.
Les Kataëb ont également organisé une cérémonie à Furn el-Chebbak, en présence notamment du député de Beyrouth Nadim Gemayel et de l'épouse du député assassiné de Baabda, Lola Antoine Ghanem.
Prenant la parole, M. Gemayel, qui a remis des cadeaux aux enfants du parti, a souhaité de bonnes fêtes à tous les Libanais et que 2010 soit une année de résurrection pour le Liban.
De son côté, le PNL a organisé plusieurs cérémonies. À la tête d'une délégation, le député Dory Chamoun a rendu visite à la Maison du vieillard malade, un asile pour les personnes du troisième âge, à Mansourieh. Des cadeaux ont été remis aux têtes blanches.
M. Chamoun s'est ensuite rendu a Sin el-Fil, où il a pris part à une cérémonie destinée à 500 enfants et organisée en coordination avec la Fondation Camille Chamoun.
Le régional PNL du Metn-Nord, en coopération avec la permanence de Jdeideh Bauchrieh-Sed, a également organisé une cérémonie de Noël à laquelle ont pris part 200 enfants. Le PNL a également organisé des cérémonies à Zalka et à Bourj Hammoud.
Par ailleurs, la municipalité de Amchit a construit un village de Noël qui a été conçu par l'architecte Karim Abou Rjeilé. Ce village s'étend sur 900 mètres à partir de la bifurcation menant au couvent des frères mariamites et jusqu'à l'église Notre-Dame de la localité.
De plus, un sapin de dix mètres, conçu à partir de treize sapins de Noël, a été décoré sur la place principale de la localité.

http://www.lorientlejour.com/category/Liban/article/641891/Sfeir+:_Nous_souhaitons_que_notre_avenir_soit_meilleur_que_notre_passe.html
Italian Hezbollah chiede “spiegazioni” al patriarca Sfeir
Jun 22, 2009
Il leader del Partito di Dio all’attacco su una frase detta dal cardinale dieci giorni fa, alla vigilia delle elezioni, sui suoi timori per “l’identità araba e libanese” del Paese. Nasrallah accusa Sfeir di non aver mai denunciato gli attacchi e i massacri compiuti dagli israeliani.

Beirut (AsiaNews) – Il leader degli Hezbollah libanesi, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, ha improvvisamente lanciato un attacco contro il patriarca maronita Nasrallah Sfeir, chiedendo “spiegazioni” per un’afermazione fatta dal cardinale il 7 giugno. In tale occasione, si era alla vigilia delle elezioni politiche, il porporato aveva espresso timore per “l’identità libanese e l’identità araba del Libano”. “Il nostro dovere nazionale – aveva sottolineato - chiama tutti noi a porre attenzione a ciò che è stato pianificato. Dobbiamo lavorare duramente per evitare ogni attentato che, successivamente, potrebbe cambiare il volto del Libano”.

A dieci giorni di distanza, parlando ad Al Manara, la tv di Hezbollah, Nasrallah ha chiesto spiegazioni e ha accusato il cardinale di aver parlato contro il Partito di Dio, ma non contro gli attacchi degli israeliani. “Negli anni ’80 e in quelli che sono seguiti – ha sostenuto in proposito – non ho mai udito il patriarca parlare di minacce all’identità libanese”. Nel corso della permanenza del cardinale nella sede patriarcale di Bkerke, ha aggiunto, “abbiamo visto i massacri e le aggressioni israeliani e non ha mai parlato di minacce contro l’identità libanese. Non abbiamo mai sentito il patriarca ammonire contro gli attacchi israeliani”. “E’ vergognoso - ha commentato - che il patriarca non ha visto i pericoli israeliani come una minaccia all’identità libanese”.

Il capo di Hezbollah ha poi parlato della “identità araba”, dicendo: “non vedo come l’identità libanese avrebbe potuto essere minacciata se l’opposizione avesse vinto” le elezioni. “Credo - ha aggiunto - che l’opposizione, la Siria e l’Iran siano tutti arabi”, sostenendo poi di credere che l’Iran non sarà ancora a lungo persiano.
Italian Sfeir: a Hezbollah, chi perde cerca scuse per la sconfitta
Jun 22, 2009
Il patriarca maronita replica a Nasrallah, affermando che il Libano non deve essere né d’Oriente, né d’Ocidente, ma all’incrocio tra Oriente e Occidente. Alcuni volevano che fosse solo d’Oriente. Alle parole del cardinale fanno eco le proteste di parlamentari maroniti che ricordano al segretario del Partito di Dio che proprio lui aveva invitato a evitare attacchi contro i sentimenti religiosi degli altri.

Beirut (AsiaNews) – “Chi perde cerca scuse per la propria sconfitta”. In questi termini il patriarca maronita Nasrallah Sfeir ha risposto all’attacco lanciatogli dal leader di Hezbollah, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, che aveva chiesto “spiegazioni” a proposito di un monito rivolto dal cardinale alla vigilia delle elezioni sul rischio che il Paese perdesse la propria “identità libanese e araba”.

Senza nominare il segretario del Partito di Dio, il patriarca maronita, rivolgendosi a un gruppo di visitatori ha infatti affermato: “ci sono state delle elezioni, con dei vincitori e degli sconfitti. E’ naturale che il perdente cerchi delle scuse per giustificare la propria sconfitta. Ho detto – ha proseguito – quello che ho detto, convinto che il Libano ha un passato, una storia e un avvenire. Il Libano resterà quello che è per volontà del suo popolo. Non vogliamo che diventi come stranier a se stesso. Abbiamo detto che il Libano non deve essere né d’Oriente (Iran e Siria, ndr), né d’Ocidente, ma all’incrocio tra Oriente e Occidente. Alcuni volevano che fosse solo d’Oriente. A costoro abbiamo risposto che il Libano è il Libano che non è né con l’Oriente, né con l’Occidente. Questo dispiace ad alcuni e piace ad altri, siamo nella politica. Ma le cose avevano preso un certo corso e a noi è sembrato dover distinguere il filo bianco dal filo nero, di chiamare le cose col loro nome”.

Fin qui il patriarca. Più espliciti e più duri alcuni parlamentari maroniti. Il capo delle Forze libanesi, Samir Geagea ha definito “un inaccettabile insulto” le affermazioni di Nasrallah, aggiungendo che il segretario generale di Hezbollah “non ha il diritto di insultare” il cardinale. “E’ meglio per lui non parlare in questo modo del patriarca Sfeir e gli chiediamo di rispettare la nostra fede allo stesso modo nel quale noi rispettiamo la sua”.

Nassib Lahoud ha sottolineato come “l’inammissibile tono accusatorio” del leader del Partito di Dio non solo viola le regole di comportamento e i modi coi quali ci si rivolge a una istanza religiosa nazionale, ma è “in totale contraddizione con l’appello che lo stesso Nasrallah ha lanciato, ad evitare attacchi contro i sentimenti religiosi altruui”. Un altro deputato, Boutros Harb, ha affermato il diritto assoluto della sede patriarcale maronita “di suonare la campana se pensa che l’identità libanese è minacciata” e “nessuno ha il diritto di criticare Bkerke (la sede del Patriarcato, ndr) per il suo attaccamento a questo identità”.

L’ex presidente Amin Gemayel, da parte sua, si è detto “sorpreso dal contenuto negativo” delle affermazioni di Nasrallah e ha sostenuto che il cardinale “è la coscienza del Libano” e “l’autentico rappresentante di un’opinone pubblica che è preoccupata dalle armi di Hezbollah”. Carlos Eddé, che ha anche incontrato il patriarca, ha risposto anche all’accusa lanciata da Nasrallah, di non aver udito il cardinale esprimere le stesse preoccupazioni a proposito di Israele. “Israele – ha detto Eddé – ha minacciato il Libano, ne ha voluto le acque, l’ha occupato e distrutto, ma non ha mai minacciato l’identità libanese in quanto tale. Non ha mai tentato di trasformarlo in una entità sionista o di cambiare la maniera d vivere e di pensare dei suoi abitanti. Noi parliamo di una minaccia contro l’identità libanese, perché in Libano ci sono dei gruppi che fanno riferimento a valori venuti dall’estero, che non hanno un’esistenza libanese propria”.
Italian Appello del cardinale Sfeir agli elettori in Libano: “Fate ciò che è bene per la nazione”
Jun 09, 2009

“Fate ciò che è bene per la nazione, per il futuro vostro e dei vostri figli. Non prestate attenzione alle intimidazioni e alle promesse spettacolari che vengono fatte dentro e fuori i confini del Libano”, è l’appello rivolto ai libanesi dal cardinale Nasrallah Sfeir, che aggiunge:“Ascoltate la vostra coscienza e fate ciò che è bene per il vostro Paese”. Il patriarca maronita interviene in vista delle imminenti elezioni politiche di domenica prossima, per il rinnovo del parlamento locale. Nel Paese dovranno essere eletti 128 deputati, le sezioni elettorali saranno 5.200. Il cardinale Sfeir ha ricordato inoltre il recente documento, voluto dai vescovi maroniti, una “Carta di Azione Politica”, in cui si ribadisce “la necessità di tenere il Libano al riparo da conflitti regionali e da tensioni internazionali”. La componente cristiana arriva purtroppo divisa al voto: da una parte la fazione guidata da Michel Aoun, alleato di Hezbollah – scrive la nota del Sir- e dall’altra quella di Samir Geagea, vicino al leader sunnita Saad Hariri. Per questa tornata elettorale, che avrà luogo, per la prima volta in un solo giorno, le autorità libanesi hanno dispiegato, per garantire serenità alle operazioni di voto, 30mila poliziotti e 20mila soldati in tutto il Paese. A cui si aggiungono 2.200 osservatori nazionali e 250 internazionali, alcuni dei quali provenienti dall'Ue e dalla Lega Araba. Gli eletti, divisi tra cristiani e musulmani, resteranno in carica per 4 anni. I risultati sono attesi per l’8 giugno.

www.oecumene.radiovaticana.org
Italian MESSAGGIO QUARESIMALE DEL CARD. SFEIR
Mar 09, 2009

Un forte richiamo contro l’indebolimento dei valori morali, che si evidenzia specialmente nelle cadute del linguaggio, “un costume che non appartiene ai libanesi”: lo ha lanciato il patriarca maronita, card. Nasrallah-Butros Sfeir, nel suo messaggio per la Quaresima diffuso dal sito del patriarcato. “Lo svilimento del modo di parlare – afferma il cardinale – si manifesta a livello personale, familiare, educativo addirittura istituzionale. Tutto ciò mostra decadimento morale e corruzione”. Attraverso diversi passaggi del Catechismo della Chiesa cattolica il cardinale ripropone “il giusto sentiero da percorrere così da avere una condotta irreprensibile a casa, nel lavoro, nella società” e riafferma i diritti e i doveri dei singoli e delle istituzioni. “Nessuno tra i libanesi – si legge nel messaggio – ignora questa difficile situazione in cui viviamo. Mai come ora è necessario avere consapevolezza, capacità di autocontrollo per evitare di pronunciare parole cattive. Ci sono coloro che sembrano essere in attesa di attaccare la nostra patria, mentre siamo distratti, e altri, che tra noi, sono preoccupati solo di raggiungere posizioni di potere anche a danno della disintegrazione del Paese. Oggi ascoltiamo discorsi offensivi, parole disgustose che mettono l’uomo al livello degli animali. Tutto ciò è vergognoso”.
Spanish Patriarca maronita: El problema de la Iglesia en el Líbano, las divisiones
Nov 04, 2008
Entrevista con el cardenal Nasrallah Boutrous Sfeir

ROMA, lunes 3 de noviembre de 2008 (ZENIT.org).- El gran desafío de la Iglesia en el Líbano está en mantener la unidad de sus hijos, divididos a causa de la difícil situación que atraviesa el país, reconoce el patriarca maronita Nasrallah Boutrous Sfeir.

En esta entrevista concedida a Zenit al finalizar el Sínodo de los Obispos sobre la Palabra, en el que él participó en el Vaticano, el patriarca invita a sus hijos maronitas a optar por el interés de la nación sobre cualquier interés personal, porque "el día de la división no fue útil".

--En sus palabras al Sínodo habló de la esperanza, una esperanza ligada tanto a la presencia de los cristianos en el Líbano como al diálogo interreligioso dentro del país. ¿Cuáles son los elementos reales y concretos de esta esperanza?

--Cardenal Sfeir: Antes que nada, somos creyentes. Quien es creyente tiene esperanza y debe cuidar la virtud de la esperanza, así como la virtud de la fe. No es posible para nosotros tener una confianza en la esperanza de modo directo. Estamos en Oriente desde el el inicio del cristianismo y si seguimos estando es por voluntad de Dios.

Naturalmente, la situación ha cambiado. Los años pasados, quizá, eran más difíciles que los actuales. Durante quinientos años buscamos protección bajo la presencia turca y, a pesar de todo, los maronitas y los cristianos conservaron un único rostro de Oriente. Seguimos viviendo tiempos difíciles y nadie lo puede negar. Muchos emigran y van a países lejanos. Están en Australia, Sudáfrica, Estados Unidos y en los países árabes, como Qatar, donde estuvimos en mayo pasado.

La situación es cada vez más difícil para los jóvenes, sobre todo en estos días. Adquieren conocimientos de alto nivel, obteniendo diplomas y certificados, pero no encuentran un trabajo. Deciden así ir a otro país, ya sea cercano, como los árabes, o lejano, como Estados Unidos y otros. Quien emigra a un país cercano quizá un día vuelva a casa, pero quien va a un país lejano difícilmente vuelve.

--Durante la Asamblea General del Sínodo, se habló del papel de los laicos en la comprensión y profesión del Evangelio. ¿Qué programa piensa realizar la Iglesia Maronita para que estas decisiones y estas propuestas no se queden sólo en palabras?

--Cardenal Sfeir: Naturalmente, los laicos tienen un papel en la obra de la Iglesia y en la relación de la fe, pero no es posible decir, en este momento, qué instrumentos utilizaremos para implicar a los laicos. Este argumento merece una reflexión y una solución con la implicación de los obispos con motivo de la reunión general.

--Los cristianos de Oriente Medio sufren, especialmente en el Líbano, en Irak y en Tierra Santa. ¿Podemos hablar de Iglesia perseguida o de la parte perseguida de la Iglesia en general? ¿Cuál es su mensaje para la Iglesia de Occidente y qué papel puede jugar en esta situación?

--Cardenal Sfeir: La Iglesia es la misma en todas partes, tanto en Oriente como en Occidente. El hecho de que los cristianos en Oriente afronten dificultades no es nuevo. Como ya se ha dicho, los cristianos han pasado nada menos que quinientos años bajo los turcos, sin poder profesar libremente su fe, y todavía hoy subsiste esta realidad. Se habla de emigración. Los fieles emigran, sin saber si esta situación cambiará o quedará invariable. Hay un proverbio que dice: "Dios no cambia a la gente hasta que no cambia el ánimo de la gente". Sentimos una gran tristeza por los cristianos del Líbano, divididos entre sí. Deberían unir su facciones y asumir una única posición. Todavía hoy, entre ellos, hay quien sostiene que es una situación útil, pero las divisiones no han servido nunca para nada.

--¿Cómo prevé que influirá el Sínodo de los Obispos sobre los cristianos y sobre su situación en Oriente Próximo?

--Cardenal Sfeir: El Sínodo tiene un buen impacto en los cristianos. Todo el Sínodo está tratando de reagrupar las distintas realidades cristianas y conducirlas hacia la profesión de la fe. La fe es algo que nos invita al temor de Nuestro Señor, y quien teme a Nuestro Señor actúa según sus mandamientos, y se esfuerza en consolidar la relación con El y con el prójimo. No hay fe sino en el amor al prójimo. Si no hubiera amor al prójimo, la fe no sería sincera.

--En sus intervenciones en el Sínodo, afirmó que la situación de los cristianos en Líbano está siendo cada vez más difícil, con una reducción de su número año tras año. ¿Ha dirigido un mensaje a los poderosos del Líbano y del mundo para evitar que siga deteriorándose una situación que el país experimenta desde hace cuarenta años?

--Cardenal Sfeir: El mensaje que lanzamos desde el Líbano es el mismo mensaje que lanzamos desde aquí. Invitamos a todos los cristianos a la armonía, a la comprensión, a la ayuda y a la asistencia recíproca. Lamentablemente, la situación actual es diversa de la que nos auguramos. Los libaneses están divididos dentro de su etnia, por motivos externos. Dentro del pueblo, hay quien está de parte de un país y quién de parte de otro. Esto lleva a aumentar las divisiones y hace más difícil la vía para alcanzar un acuerdo.

--"Volved al Líbano aunque sea por unos días". Estas son las palabras que ha dirigido a los libaneses de Roma. ¿Cómo es posible que los cristianos expatriados que han construido una nueva vida en el exterior respondan a esta invitación? ¿Es posible que vuelvan a vivir en Líbano sin arruinar todo lo que han construido? ¿Qué garantías tienen, dadas las condiciones actuales de Líbano?

--Cardenal Sfeir: No les estamos invitando a una vuelta definitiva al Líbano sino a visitarlo como si visitaran otro país. Por un mes, por ejemplo, como sucede aquí en Roma. Hemos visto a muchos visitantes llegar a Roma e invadir las calles y plazas. Podrían ir al Líbano, su país de origen, por unos días, dado que, como he dicho, las condiciones no permiten una vuelta definitiva.

--Sabemos que la postura del patriarca es tenida en gran consideración en el Líbano. ¿Sobre qué basa sus intervenciones y las entrevistas que concede? ¿En qué se fundan sus decisiones y cómo se presenta?

--Cardenal Sfeir: Nos basamos, antes que nada, en Dios, que nos ha invitado a cumplir esta función. Nos basamos además en la verdad que comunicamos abiertamente a las personas. Entre estas, hay quién se indigna y quién se alegra. No tenemos intención de fastidiar o hacer feliz a alguien, más bien decimos la verdad sin tomar ninguna posición.

--Las elecciones en el Líbano están en boca de todos. ¿Cómo se dirigen al elector cristiano? ¿En qué debe basar sus decisiones y sus preferencias?

--Cardenal Sfeir: El elector libanés, como el de cualquier país democrático, debe orientarse a favor del interés del país. Debe expresar la preferencia por la persona que sirve al interés general antes que al privado. Si el candidato sigue esta vía, será la justa, si en cambio busca sólo el interés personal no será ciertamente una cosa buena.
Italian “Le divisioni non sono mai servite a niente”
Nov 02, 2008
Intervista con il Patriarca Maronita Mar Nasrallah Boutrous Sfeir

ROMA, giovedì, 30 ottobre 2008 (ZENIT.org).- A margine dei lavori del Sinodo, ZENIT ha intervistato presso la sede patriarcale maronita a Roma il Cardinale Patriarca Maronita Mar Nasrallah Boutrous Sfeir.

Durante l’intervista, si è discusso del Sinodo e della sua influenza sulla Chiesa in Medio Oriente e si è parlato della situazione dei libanesi in generale e dei cristiani del Libano in particolare, così come dei cristiani emigrati in altri Paesi.

Forte è stato l’invito, rivolto a tutti i Libanesi, alla comprensione reciproca, all’armonia e al far prevalere l’interesse della Nazione al di sopra di ogni interesse personale, perché “quello della divisione non è stato un giorno utile”.

Sua Eminenza, nelle parole rivolte ai partecipanti al Sinodo ha parlato della speranza, una speranza legata sia alla presenza dei cristiani in Libano che al dialogo interreligioso all’interno del Paese. Quali sono gli elementi reali e concreti di questa speranza?

Cardinale Sfeir: Prima di tutto, noi siamo credenti. Chi è credente ha speranza e deve aver cura della virtù della speranza così come della virtù della fede. Non è possibile per noi avere una fiducia nella speranza in modo diretto. Siamo presenti in Oriente dall’inizio del cristianesimo, e se ancora lo siamo è per volontà di Dio.

Naturalmente, la situazione è cambiata. Gli anni passati, forse, erano più difficili di quelli presenti. Per cinquecento anni abbiamo cercato riparo sotto la presenza turca e nonostante tutto i maroniti e i cristiani hanno conservato un unico volto in Oriente. Continuiamo a vivere giorni difficili e nessuno lo può negare. Molti emigrano e vanno in Paesi lontani. Sono presenti in Australia, Sud Africa, negli Stati Uniti e nei Paesi arabi, come il Qatar, dove siamo stati lo scorso maggio.

La situazione diventa sempre più difficile per i giovani, soprattutto in questi giorni. Acquisiscono conoscenze di alto livello, ottenendo diplomi e certificati, ma non trovano un lavoro. Decidono così di andare in un altro Paese, sia questo un Paese vicino, come quelli arabi, o un Paese lontano, come l’America o altri ancora. Chi emigrerà verso un Paese vicino forse un giorno farà ritorno a casa, chi invece raggiungerà un Paese lontano difficilmente tornerà.

Durante l’Assemblea Generale del Sinodo, si è parlato del ruolo dei laici nella comprensione e professione del Vangelo. Quale programma pensa di realizzare la Chiesa Maronita affinché queste decisioni e queste proposte non restino solo parole?

Cardinale Sfeir: Naturalmente, i laici hanno un loro ruolo nell’opera della Chiesa e nel rapporto con la fede, ma non è possibile dire, in questo momento, quali strumenti utilizzeremo per coinvolgere i laici. Questo argomento merita una riflessione e una soluzione con il coinvolgimento dei Vescovi in occasione di una riunione generale.

In alcuni suoi interventi, il Papa ha affermato che il Sinodo deve infondere maggiore speranza ai giovani, affinché capiscano, vivano e sperimentino la parola di Dio. Come si adopera la Chiesa Maronita in questo senso? Ci sono nuovi progetti da discutere con i Vescovi per far prendere coscienza ai giovani dell’importanza del loro ruolo e del loro impegno?

Cardinale Sfeir: La Chiesa si prende cura dei suoi figli. Esistono le parrocchie, i movimenti giovanili e le scuole cattoliche che trasmettono i principi dell’educazione religiosa. In tutto questo la Chiesa prova a consolidare i concetti religiosi nell’animo dei giovani.

I cristiani del Medio Oriente soffrono, specialmente in Libano, in Iraq e in Terra Santa. Possiamo parlare di Chiesa perseguitata o della parte perseguitata della Chiesa in generale? Qual è il suo messaggio per la Chiesa d’Occidente e quale ruolo può giocare in questa situazione?

Cardinale Sfeir: La Chiesa è la stessa ovunque, sia in Oriente che in Occidente. Il fatto che i cristiani in Oriente vadano incontro a delle difficoltà non è un fatto nuovo. Come è stato già detto, i cristiani hanno trascorso ben cinquecento anni sotto i Turchi senza poter professare liberamente la loro fede, e ancora oggi è presente questa realtà. Si parla di emigrazione. I fedeli emigrano senza sapere se questa situazione cambierà o resterà invariata. C’è un proverbio che dice: “Dio non cambia la gente finché non cambia l’animo della gente”. Noi proviamo un forte dispiacere per i cristiani del Libano, divisi nella loro entità. Dovrebbero unire le loro fazioni e assumere un unico atteggiamento. Ancora oggi, tra di loro, c’è chi sostiene che questa sia una situazione utile, ma le divisioni non sono mai servite a niente.

Come prevede che il Sinodo dei Vescovi influirà sui cristiani e sulla loro situazione in Medio Oriente?

Cardinale Sfeir: Il Sinodo ha un buon impatto sui cristiani. L’intero Sinodo sta provando a raggruppare le diverse realtà cristiane e a condurle verso la professione della fede. La fede è qualcosa che ci invita al timore di Nostro Signore, e chi teme Nostro Signore agisce nei suoi comandamenti e si sforza di consolidare il rapporto con Lui e con il prossimo. Non esiste fede se non nell’amore per il prossimo. Se non ci fosse amore per il prossimo, la fede non sarebbe sincera.

Nei suoi interventi al Sinodo, ha asserito che la situazione di cristiani in Libano sta diventando sempre più difficile, con una riduzione del loro numero anno dopo anno. Ha rivolto un messaggio ai potenti del Libano e del mondo per evitare che continui a verificarsi ciò che il Paese sperimenta da quarant'anni?

Cardinale Sfeir: Il messaggio che lanciamo dal Libano è lo stesso messaggio che lanciamo da qui. Noi invitiamo tutti i cristiani all’armonia, alla comprensione, all’aiuto e all’assistenza reciproca. Purtroppo la situazione attualmente è diversa da quella che ci auspichiamo. I Libanesi sono divisi nella loro etnia, per motivi esterni. Tra il popolo c’è chi sta dalla parte di un Paese e chi dalla parte di un altro. Questo porta ad aumentare le divisioni e rende più difficile la via per giungere a un accordo.

“Tornate in Libano, anche se per pochi giorni”. Queste sono le parole che ha rivolto ai libanesi presenti a Roma. Come è possibile che i cristiani espatriati che hanno costruito una nuova vita all’estero aderiscano a questo invito? È possibile che ritornino a vivere in Libano senza rovinare tutto quello che hanno costruito? Che garanzie hanno con le condizioni attuali del Libano?

Cardinale Sfeir: Non stiamo invitando loro a un ritorno definitivo in Libano, ma a visitarlo come se vistassero un altro Paese. Per un mese, ad esempio, come sta succedendo qui a Roma. Abbiamo visto molti visitatori raggiungere Roma e invadere le strade e le piazze. Potrebbero recarsi in Libano, il loro Paese d’origine, per pochi giorni, dal momento che, come è stato detto, le condizioni non consentono un ritorno definitivo.

Sappiamo che la posizione del Patriarca è tenuta in grande considerazione in Libano. Su che cosa basa i suoi interventi e le interviste che rilascia? Su cosa si fondano le sue decisioni e come si propone?

Cardinale Sfeir: Noi ci basiamo, prima di tutto, su Dio, il quale ci ha invitato a svolgere questa funzione. Ci basiamo inoltre sulla verità che comunichiamo apertamente davanti alle persone. Tra queste c’è chi si indigna e chi gioisce. Non abbiamo intenzione di infastidire o rendere felice qualcuno, piuttosto diciamo la verità senza prendere alcuna posizione.

L’evento delle elezioni in Libano è sulla bocca di tutti. Come vi rivolgete all’elettore cristiano? Su cosa deve basare le sue decisioni e le sue preferenze?

Cardinale Sfeir: L’elettore libanese, come quello di qualsiasi Paese democratico, deve orientarsi a favore dell’interesse del Paese. Deve esprimere la preferenza per la persona che serve l’interesse generale prima di quello privato. Se il candidato segue questa strada, sarà quella giusta, se cercherà invece solo l’ interesse personale non sarà di certo una cosa buona.
French Le patriarche maronite a regagné hier Sydney
Jul 11, 2008
Sfeir exhorte les jeunes maronites à défendre une série de constantes nationales.

(lorient-lejour.com.lb, 11 juillet 2008) Le patriarche maronite, le cardinal Nasrallah Sfeir, a regagné Sydney à l’aube d’hier au terme de sa visite à l’État de Queensland, où il a notamment rencontré la communauté libanaise à Brisbane, capitale de l’État.
À Sydney, le patriarche maronite devait donner le coup d’envoi du premier rassemblement de la jeunesse maronite dans le monde, qui précède les Journées mondiales de la jeunesse qui se tiendront à partir du 15 juillet en présence du pape Benoît XVI.
Dans un message adressé aux jeunes maronites à cette occasion, le cardinal Sfeir a invité ces derniers à « défendre les constantes nationales ». Le patriarche maronite a défini comme suit ces constantes nationales : préservation de l’unité nationale et de la solidarité entre tous les Libanais, parallèlement à une entente sur le projet de l’État qui doit être une garantie pour l’avenir et un rempart face à toute intervention étrangère ; le soutien à la légalité et au régime du président Michel Sleiman, ainsi que le renforcement des capacités de l’armée libanaise afin qu’elle ait le monopole de l’usage des armes pour la sauvegarde de la sécurité et la défense des frontières ; la terre libanaise n’est pas à vendre aux étrangers et l’implantation des Palestiniens doit être rejetée ; les règles régissant l’octroi de la nationalité libanaise doivent être révisées ; le décret sur les naturalisations doit être révisé ; la participation des émigrés dans la vie publique libanaise doit être renforcée de manière à accorder aux émigrés le droit de vote. « Telles sont les constantes que je voudrais que vous défendiez afin que vous puissiez contribuer à la défense de votre patrie », a conclu le patriarche maronite qui a également invité les jeunes maronites à contribuer à l’essor de leur seconde patrie, l’Australie.
English Lebanese Cardinal Meets With US President
May 23, 2008
Patriarch and Bush Discuss "Common Vision" of Independent Nation.

WASHINGTON, D.C., MAY 22, 2008 (Zenit.org).- The Maronite patriarch of Antioch met with U.S. President George Bush on Wednesday, seeking his help to keep Lebanon peaceful and independent.

The White House noted that Cardinal Nasrallah Pierre Sfeir and the president met in the Oval Office "to discuss the unique and important role of the Maronite Christian community in Lebanon. They discussed their common vision of an independent, sovereign and peaceful Lebanon.

"They also acknowledged the agreement signed by Lebanese leaders today in Doha is a step in the right direction. The president reiterated his commitment to supporting Lebanon, and to the full implementation of the Security Council resolutions 1559 and 1701 meant to bring it peace and security."

The cardinal said Monday in Texas that he planned to ask Bush's "help so Lebanon will be sovereign and independent and have the best situation with all her neighbors," the Houston Chronicle reported.

Cardinal Sfeir is on a multi-continent trip that he began May 4. His first stops included Qatar and South Africa, and during the U.S. leg of the trip, he stopped in New York, Philadelphia, and Houston, Texas.

A week ago, he addressed the U.N. Security Council, where he spoke of the various issues facing Lebanon. He also met privately with Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

Fighting in Lebanon escalated May 7 when the nation's cabinet banned the communication system used by the Shiite Hezbollah group. More than 80 were killed in what was the worst fighting since the nation's civil war.

The Pope appealed for peace in Lebanon after praying the midday Regina Caeli on May 11 in St. Peter's Square.

Lebanon's complex political and social situation has resulted in a power vacuum in the country. Since November, opposing factions have been unable to come together to elect a president.

But Wednesday in Qatar, with the help of the Arab League, the factions signed a deal that should pave the way to the election of a president. The agreement gives Hezbollah the power of veto.
English Cardinal Pleas for Lebanese Peace
May 15, 2008
Urges Citizens to Learn From the Past.

BEIRUT, Lebanon, MAY 14, 2008 (Zenit.org).- The Maronite patriarch of Antioch called for dialogue in Lebanon as he continues his international trip to personally meet with leaders, including the U.N. secretary general, about the deteriorating situation in the Mideastern nation.

Cardinal Nasrallah Sfeir made his appeal for dialogue in the daily L'Orient le Tour, asking the Lebanese to "remember the events of 1990 that brought hundreds of wounded and dead and massive destruction."

"We should learn from the past," he appealed.

Cardinal Sfeir left Lebanon on May 4. His first stop was Qatar, where he celebrated Mass at Our Lady of the Rosary, the nation's first Catholic church, which opened only in March. After several days in South Africa, he headed to the United States.

In addition to his meeting with Ban Ki-moon on Thursday, the cardinal will also talk to President George Bush on May 22. Bush is in Israel today for events marking the 60th anniversary of the establishment of the Israeli state.

Fighting in Lebanon escalated May 7 when the nation's cabinet banned the communication system used by the Shittie Hezbollah group. More than 80 people have since been killed. The Pope appealed for peace in Lebanon after praying the midday Regina Caeli on Sunday in St. Peter's Square.

Opposing factions in the nation have not been able to come together to decide on a president and Lebanon has had a power vacuum since November.

Cardinal Sfeir emphasized that "in light of the gravity of the situation, we appeal to all parties to avoid putting at risk the life and goods of the citizens. We invite them to return to the dialogue table to find a solution that is acceptable to all sides, so as to enable Lebanon to again enjoy a climate of peace, security and tranquility."

"If the Lebanese do not manage to re-establish the sovereignty of the state and security, the United Nations could take the necessary measures to achieve that goal," Cardinal Sfeir added. "Certainly, some will not appreciate this discourse and we hope that the Lebanese take hold of their destiny, on the condition that they set aside personal hatred and that they appreciate the advantages that the nation would obtain from the re-establishment of its independence and from the respect that would come because of its sovereignty and rediscovered stability."

Regarding the still-delayed presidential election, the cardinal urged Parliament to "assume its responsibilities" and he warned against possible violations of the Constitution.
German Libanon: Kardinal Sfeir trifft George W. Bush
May 06, 2008
Die internationale Gemeinschaft muss aktiver in die politische Situation des Landes eingreifen.

(Radio Vatikan, 04/05/2008) Das fordert der maronitische Patriarch, Kardinal Nasrallah Sfeir. Deshalb startet an diesem Sonntag eine mehrtägige Auslandsreise, die in u.a. auch in die Vereinigte Staaten führen wird. Am 22. Mai wird er in Washington den US-Präsidenten George W. Bush treffen. Auch wird er während seines einwöchigen Aufenthalts in Nordamerika den UNO-Sitz in New York besuchen sowie die libanesische Gemeinschaft in den USA treffen. Der 88-jährige Kardinal wird des Weiteren in Doha an diesem Sonntagabend einen Gottesdienst in der neuen katholischen Kirche zelebrieren. Das gab die Pressestelle des Patriarchats bekannt. Bei seiner Rückreise am 23. Mai wird er Halt in Spanien machen, wo er König Juan Carlos treffen wird.
(afp 04.05.2008 mg)
French Sfeir : Le patriarcat existe depuis 1 500 ans et continuera d’exister
Jan 17, 2008
Défilé de délégations populaires et de personnalités à Bkerké pour stigmatiser la campagne orchestrée contre le patriarche.

(lorient-lejour.com.lb, 17 janvier 2008) La campagne injurieuse et vile orchestrée par les ténors chrétiens de l’opposition du 8 Mars contre le patriarche maronite, le cardinal Nasrallah Sfeir, a suscité hier, pour la deuxième journée consécutive, une levée de boucliers dans les milieux politiques et populaires. Tout au long de la journée d’hier, de nombreuses délégations populaires et personnalités politiques se sont rendues à Bkerké pour exprimer leur solidarité avec le cardinal Sfeir et stigmatiser les attaques hideuses dirigées contre lui, notamment par l’ancien député Sleimane Frangié. Le siège patriarcal a par ailleurs reçu un grand nombre d’appels téléphoniques de Libanais de la diaspora, de plusieurs pays du monde, condamnant la campagne lancée contre Bkerké.
Le patriarche a reçu dans ce cadre en début de matinée le président Amine Gemayel et son épouse, Mme Joyce Gemayel, puis le député Boutros Harb, l’ancien député Mansour Ghanem el-Bone, et en soirée une délégation des pôles chrétiens du 14 Mars (voir par ailleurs), ainsi que le nonce apostolique, Mgr Luigi Gatti. En fin de journée, il a tenu une réunion avec plusieurs prélats, en présence du nonce. Le secrétariat du patriarche a publié, à l’issue de cette réunion, un communiqué remerciant toutes les délégations populaires et personnalités qui se sont rendues à Bkerké afin d’« appuyer les positions du patriarche ». Le communiqué invite sur ce plan tous ceux qui envisagent de se rendre durant le week-end au siège du patriarcat de s’abstenir de le faire afin que « le patriarche et les évêques puissent se consacrer à la prière et la réflexion en vue de sortir le pays de la crise ».
L’entrevue avec le président Gemayel s’est déroulée en présence de Mme Joyce Gemayel, du vice-président du parti Kataëb, Joseph Abou Khalil, et du responsable des régionaux kataëb, Michel Mekattaf. À l’issue de la réunion, le président Gemayel a déclaré : « Nous stigmatisons vivement les propos tenus à l’égard du patriarche, d’autant qu’ils ont été tenus par des responsables maronites qui devraient se solidariser avec Bkerké et être un rempart pour la défense du patriarcat, au lieu d’être à l’avant-garde de ceux qui s’en prennent à Bkerké sans aucune logique, de façon immorale, et d’une manière contraire aux coutumes, aux traditions, au sens des responsabilités. Les propos qui ont été tenus sont déplorables. On ne saurait les dissocier du grave plan qui vise toutes nos institutions nationales. »
« Ce n’est pas un hasard si dans le même temps la présidence de la République est vacante et si l’on porte atteinte au commandement de l’armée, comme l’a montré l’assassinat du général François el-Hajj, a déclaré le président Gemayel. De surcroît, nous lisons dans une certaine presse des attaques qui visent le commandant de l’armée qu’ils avaient pressenti pourtant pour la présidence, mais ils s’en prennent de temps à autre à lui, comme ils le font avec les autres institutions nationales. Ils semblent ainsi vouloir faire payer au patriarche le prix du premier appel de Bkerké, en 2000, qui a donné le coup d’envoi du processus de recouvrement de l’indépendance et de la souveraineté qui a abouti au retrait de l’armée syrienne. Il ne fait aucun doute que nous nous trouvons face à une campagne orchestrée, et les événements qui se produisent, dont l’agression contre un véhicule de l’ambassade américaine, prouvent qu’il existe un chef d’orchestre unique qui répartit les rôles. »
Le président Gemayel s’est d’autre part demandé « comment certains maronites ne prennent pas conscience de la gravité de ce complot et de ce plan diabolique qui visent leur rôle dans ce pays ainsi que leur avenir ». Appelant à un sursaut de conscience sur ce plan « loin de la vision partisane », le président Gemayel a indiqué que des contacts seront entrepris avec les prélats, les forces actives et les responsables dans les paroisses « afin d’aboutir à une position nationale pour faire face à la campagne dirigée contre la plus haute autorité » maronite. Le président Gemayel a, par ailleurs, relevé qu’une caricature portant sur un dignitaire religieux (allusion à une émission satirique de la LBC sur Hassan Nasrallah) avait provoqué un tollé « alors que nous, maronites, nous portons atteinte à ce siège patriarcal qui représente une autorité nationale ».
Après avoir souligné qu’« il est facile de détruire, alors que construire est beaucoup plus difficile », le président Gemayel a dénoncé « la logique qui consiste à répéter comme un perroquet le mot d’ordre » lancé par des forces occultes.

Les délégations populaires
Le patriarche Sfeir a ensuite reçu dans la journée le député Boutros Harb, M. Mansour el-Bone, l’ancien secrétaire général de la Ligue maronite, Khalil Karam, qui ont tous condamné les attaques contre Bkerké. M. Robert Boulos a souligné pour sa part que « les propos tenus par l’ancien ministre Sleimane Frangié sont contraires aux traditions de la région de Zghorta qui a donné au pays des personnalités telles que le patriarche Douaihy, Youssef bey Karam, Jawad Boulos et le président Frangié qui soulignait constamment la nécessité de respecter l’autorité de Bkerké ».
Par ailleurs, recevant en début de matinée une première délégation populaire, le patriarche maronite a déclaré : « Pardonnez-leur, Seigneur, car ils ne savent pas ce qu’ils font. »
Devant une délégation de Jbeil, le cardinal Sfeir a d’autre part déclaré : « Vous savez sans doute que le patriarcat maronite n’est pas né d’hier. Il remonte à 1 500 ans et il continuera d’exister. Malheureusement, certains de ses fils l’attaquent, mais ces attaques se retourneront contre eux. Nous ne voulons porter préjudice à personne. Tant que les Libanais seront divisés, le Liban sera en danger. Les circonstances nous imposent de resserrer les rangs afin d’être constamment au service du Liban et des valeurs que nous avons héritées de nos ancêtres. Le Liban ne sera préservé que par ses fils. Ceux qui ont reçu des leçons d’ici et de là savent qu’ils ne préservent pas le Liban, mais qu’ils servent plutôt ceux qui leur ont appris leur leçon. »
Le patriarche a ensuite reçu une importante délégation des Forces libanaises du Kesrouan. Prenant la parole, Mgr Sfeir a déclaré : « Nous déplorons vivement cette campagne menée par certaines personnes de mauvaise foi qui sont connues. Ce n’est pas la première fois que le siège patriarcal est la cible d’une telle campagne. Nous avons toujours en mémoire ce qui s’est passé à la fin des années 80 et au début des années 90 (allusion à l’attitude de partisans du général Michel Aoun qui avaient alors pris à partie le cardinal Sfeir et provoqué des dégâts au salon du patriarcat à la suite de l’approbation de l’accord de Taëf). Il semble que nous n’avons rien appris. Ce qui s’est passé auparavant se reproduit aujourd’hui. Nous demandons au Seigneur de leur pardonner et nous répétons avec le Christ qu’Il leur pardonne car ils ne savent pas ce qu’ils font. »
Le cardinal Sfeir a souligné par ailleurs que le siège patriarcal « n’est nullement notre propriété ». « De nombreux patriarches nous ont précédés et de nombreux autres nous suivront, a ajouté Mgr Sfeir. Nous invitons tous les Libanais à se tenir aux côtés non seulement de ce siège patriarcal, mais aussi aux côtés de toutes les instances religieuses au Liban ».
Le cardinal Sfeir a également reçu une grande délégation des Forces libanaises de Baabda, soulignant notamment que le siège patriarcal est au service « non pas du patriarche en exercice, mais de tous les maronites et tous les Libanais ».
English Lebanese cardinal admonishes politicians for destroying democracy
Dec 26, 2007
As Lebanon's presidential vacuum and ongoing political impasse continue, its Catholic cardinal admonished politicians for destroying the country's democratic system and abusing their power.

BEIRUT, Lebanon (CNS, Dec-24-2007) -- "We have destroyed our democratic system and the freedom that has been granted to us, a freedom that cannot be found in surrounding countries," Cardinal Nasrallah P. Sfeir, patriarch of the Maronite Catholic Church, said in his annual Christmas message.

"The presidency is lost and we have not been able to elect a head of state for the first time in the history of the republic. Parliament has been crippled for more than a year, and the government is incapacitated, with some of its ministers failing to carry out their duties," Cardinal Sfeir said.

Lebanon has been without a president since Emile Lahoud's term expired Nov. 23. Feuding political leaders have failed to elect a successor for the post, which is traditionally reserved for a Maronite Catholic, according to Lebanon's constitution.

A parliament session to elect the president was canceled for the 10th time Dec. 22.

The government and the opposition have agreed on the Lebanese Army commander, Gen. Michel Suleiman, for the presidential post but still remain at odds over the election process and the shape of a new government.

"Isn't it time to wake up and see the fatal vacuum that we have reached?" the cardinal asked.

"How did we reach this stage of power abuse?" the prelate asked. "We are about to destroy the vitals of the nation."

Cardinal Sfeir called for the country's leaders to abandon hatred, feuding and what he described as "cheap exploitation" and "narrow interests."

The prelate warned, "We might destroy our country due to conflicts and discords between us."

"The nation is for all," he stressed. "Let's have mercy on it so it will have mercy on us and on our future generations."
French Le cardinal-patriarche insiste : Pas question de s’aventurer dans la  « nomenclature »
Oct 12, 2007
Maniant l’humour, Mgr Sfeir confie, et confirme, à un visiteur que, cette fois, il prend bien soin « de ne pas glisser sur la peau de banane de la nomenclature ».

(lorient-lejour.com.lb, 12 octobre 2007) Beyrouth - En effet, cédant jadis, en de semblables occasions, à de pressantes sollicitations, il avait suggéré quelques noms. L’on n’en avait tenu aucun compte. Ce qui avait porté préjudice autant aux candidats qu’à l’autorité morale du siège patriarcal.
Mais en même temps, il insiste sur les critères rigoureux établis par la hiérarchie ecclésiastique maronite. À savoir, pour rappel sommaire, l’attachement aux constantes nationales (souveraineté, indépendance, État de droit seul armé), l’expérience, la probité, le savoir-faire de rassembleur. Des qualifications assez bien cernées pour ne laisser le choix qu’entre une poignée de candidats.
Un même réalisme anime le cardinal en ce qui concerne l’approche, la préparation de l’échéance. Dans ce sens qu’il ne s’est décidé à lancer son initiative que pour répondre aux souhaits du Saint-Siège. Ainsi qu’aux appels de multiples parties locales. En réalité, indiquent ses proches, également échaudé par de précédentes expériences, il a toujours su et pensé que des rencontres de conciliation ne mènent à rien. Car rien ne peut briser le mur de positions de base radicalement opposées.

Coup d’arrêt
C’est donc par acquit de conscience, pour ainsi dire, que Mgr Sfeir s’est résolu à convier les pôles maronites de la majorité et de l’opposition. Et voilà donc que son scepticisme initial se trouve justifié par la visite tardive, hier soir, du chef du CPL. Qui avait d’ailleurs annoncé en quelque sorte la couleur en rejetant auparavant la proposition d’un rendez-vous général, de retrouvailles avec les majoritaires pour indiquer qu’il préférait, dans un premier temps, ne venir à Bkerké qu’avec les Marada. Autre signe avant-coureur de perturbation : l’opposition s’est étonnée que certaines de ses formations, comme le Waad et le parti Solidarité, n’aient pas été conviées. Pour faire bonne mesure, elle a demandé pourquoi, de l’autre côté, Robert Ghanem n’a pas été invité.
Il va sans dire que ce développement influe négativement sur le climat politique. D’autant qu’il s’inscrit dans le droit fil de la récente sortie agressive de Hassan Nasrallah, pour qui « la personne du président est plus importante que le programme ». Entendre qu’il faut quelqu’un qui garantisse absolument la préservation de l’armement du Hezb. Et qui soit persona grata aux yeux de Damas.
French Dîner de travail Sfeir-Cousseran à l’ambassade de France à Rome
Sept 06, 2007
Le patriarche maronite reçu dès son arrivée par le numéro deux du Vatican.

(lorient-lejour.com.lb, 06 septembre 2007) Le patriarche maronite, le cardinal Nasrallah Sfeir, a pris l’avion hier pour Rome, où il assistera au congrès général des aumôneries de prison (5-11 septembre), mais le cachet politique du voyage a éclaté au grand jour, dès l’arrivée du patriarche en Italie.
Peu après son arrivée, le patriarche a été reçu par le numéro deux du Vatican, le cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, avec lequel il a fait un point de la situation politique au Liban et en particulier de l’échéance présidentielle. Le patriarche doit rencontrer le pape Benoît XVI dans les prochains jours.
L’entretien avec le cardinal Bertone revêt un intérêt particulier, car il précède des entretiens que doit avoir ce dernier successivement avec le vice-président syrien Farouk el-Chareh, arrivé hier au Vatican porteur d’un message du président Bachar el-Assad, le chef de la diplomatie saoudienne, le prince Saoud el-Fayçal, et le président israélien Shimon Peres.
Le cardinal Bertone a profité de ses entretiens avec le patriarche Sfeir pour manifester son inquiétude pour les Églises et les chrétiens d’Orient, pris dans la tourmente de guerres interminables et de conflits apparemment insolubles.
Le soir, le patriarche Sfeir a répondu à une invitation à dîner à l’ambassade de France à Rome, qui lui avait été adressée alors qu’il se trouvait encore à Dimane. Le chef de l’Église maronite y a retrouvé M. Jean-Claude Cousseran, émissaire du ministre français des Affaires étrangères, Bernard Kouchner, avec lequel il a eu des échanges qui se sont étalés sur deux heures de temps. Des échanges qui ont porté sur les points de convergence des diverses initiatives diplomatiques au Liban, et leur chance de succès.

Précisions patriarcales
Avant son départ du Liban, et en réponse aux questions des journalistes, le chef de l’Église maronite avait apporté des précisions au sujet d’un certain nombre de questions d’ordre interne.
Le patriarche a félicité en particulier l’armée pour la victoire de Nahr el-Bared, qu’il a attribuée à son unité. « C’est probablement la première fois, de notre vivant, que l’armée ne se divise pas et reste solidement unifiée au service d’une cause nationale », a affirmé le patriarche.
Au sujet du quorum des deux tiers exigé par la Constitution, pour l’ouverture de la séance d’élection du président de la République, le patriarche a réaffirmé : « Ce n’est pas moi qui le dit, mais la Constitution. La première séance de vote ne peut s’ouvrir sans la présence des deux tiers des députés. Je n’ai fait que citer la Constitution. Par la suite, le président peut être élu à la majorité simple. »
« Le quorum doit être atteint, pour peu que les députés soient animés d’un véritable sentiment national », a insisté le patriarche en réponse à une question.
« Le sentiment national doit surpasser les simples règles démocratiques », a-t-il renchéri, en réponse aux journalistes qui soulevaient la question du « droit » des députés de s’absenter de la séance de vote.
Au sujet du futur président, le patriarche a convenu que son nom pourrait être « parachuté » durant le dernier quart d’heure, mais a dit n’avoir « aucune information » à ce sujet. Il a refusé d’être considéré comme « premier électeur », assurant que plusieurs personnes, qui se réclament ouvertement de lui, font le contraire de ce qu’il dit. Il a également refusé d’être considéré comme candidat à la présidentielle, affirmant que ses charges pastorales lui suffisent...
Sur un autre plan, le patriarche Sfeir a affirmé qu’il pourrait rencontrer M. Saad Hariri à Rome, mais qu’aucun rendez-vous n’a été fixé à cet égard. Il a aussi affirmé qu’il n’avait aucune intention de se rendre à Washington.

Le salut du Liban
Sur deux questions en particulier, le dignitaire religieux a répété certaines de ses prises de position récentes.
Ainsi, il a réaffirmé son opposition à un amendement constitutionnel qui permettrait au commandant en chef de l’armée, le général Michel Sleimane, d’être élu président.
« Mais, a-t-il affirmé, si le salut du Liban exige un amendement constitutionnel, ce salut a la primauté sur d’autres considérations. »
Par ailleurs, au sujet des quatre hauts gradés considérés comme suspects dans l’affaire de l’assassinat de Rafic Hariri et arrêtés depuis deux ans, le patriarche Sfeir a affirmé : « La question est plus simple qu’on ne le croit (...) en termes de justice, leur cas doit être soumis à examen. Ils ne peuvent rester en prison deux ans simplement pour les besoins de l’enquête, sans aucun chef d’inculpation, c’est injuste ! »
Le patriarche Sfeir est accompagné, dans son voyage, de l’aumônier général des prisons au Liban, le père Élie Nasr, ainsi que de l’évêque Chekrallah Harb et du supérieur général des missionnaires libanais, le père Élie Madi.
English New Emphasis on Life and Family from Head of Maronite Catholic Church
Aug 07, 2007
The Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Peter Cardinal Sfeir, spiritual head of the more than 15 million Maronite Catholics spread throughout the world, has in the past few months launched a new emphasis on life and family issues.

By John-Henry Westen

BEIRUT, LEBANON, August 7, 2007 (LifeSiteNews.com) - The Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Peter Cardinal Sfeir, spiritual head of the more than 15 million Maronite Catholics spread throughout the world, has in the past few months launched a new emphasis on life and family issues.  Charbel El-chaar, the Founder of St Charbel for Life, the first Arab Catholic Pro-Life website on the Internet (http://lilhayat.com/ ), spoke with LifeSiteNews.com about the significant Development.

El-chaar quoted from homilies delivered by the Patriarch in June which addressed rejecting homosexual 'marriage', rejecting homosexual adoption, and the fact that those with deep-seated homosexual tendencies are not permitted to become priests.

Moreover, the Patriarch also preached about the right to life for unborn children and the low birth rate.

While the Maronite rite, like the Roman rite of the Catholic Church has always been pro-life and pro-family, El-chaar told LifeSiteNews.com that the recent emphasis coming from the Patriarch is both novel and instructive.  He hopes for a renewed effort on the part of Maronite Catholics around the world to promote life and family.

"The supporters of abortion consider the child a hindrance to autonomy, pleasure, and career," said Patriarch Sfeir in June.  Rather, said the Patriarch, life is a miracle and a child is one of the most significant gifts of God.

Speaking of the tragedy of abortion, the Patriarch said "The 20th century was the deadliest age of mankind." Citing statistics on the tens of millions of children killed by abortion and abortifacient contraception, the Patriarch said that the death toll "often neglects many victims, chief among the victims are the victims of surgical abortion, abortion pills and (hormonal) birth control."
Italian L’ostinazione delle due parti politiche può portare il Paese alla rovina
Jul 24, 2007
Il cardinale chiede di abbandonare l’atteggiamento di totale indisponibilità che ognuna delle parti ha nei confronti dell’altra. Oggi a Beirut arriva l’inviato francese, con l’obiettivo di dar vita ad una seconda tornata di colloqui.

Beirut (AsiaNews, 23/07/2007) – “L’inflessibilità e l’ostinazione” delle parti politiche libanesi, che restano ferme sulle proprie posizioni e non fanno alcuna concessione potrebbero portate il Paese alla rovina. E’ il monito che il patriarca maronita Nasrallah Sfeir è tornato a rivolgere, ieri, ai partiti, mentre continuano le polemiche sul voto per rimpiazzare i parlamentari scomparsi, ed in particolare per Metn, ove è sceso in campo Amin Gemayel, ex presidente della Repubblica e padre di Pierre, il deputato ucciso il 21 novembre. Senza intervenire direttamente sulla questione delle candidature, il patriarca ha chiesto ai parlamentari a prevenire ulteriori divisioni sulla scena politica libanese “piuttosto che contribuire a creare ulteriori contrasti”.

L’intervento del cardinale è parte di una riflessione dedicata al problema della famiglia. “La nazione – ha detto – che è la grande famiglia, subisce i medesimi danni distruttivi che ha la famiglia quando ognuno dei gruppi che la compongono si intestardisce e rifiuta di cambiare parere, anche a costo dello smantellamento della patria e della sua distruzione. Quando ogni frazione si blocca sulle sue posizioni, rifiutando di allontanarsene, questo non è un buon segno”, mentre “la nazione merita da noi un po’ di umiltà e concessioni per realizzare l’interesse comune”.

Realizzare una nuova riunione di dialogo tra le parti politiche, dopo quella della settimana scorsa a Celle Sain-Cloud, è l’obiettivo che si pone l’emissario francese Jean-Claude Cousseran, l’arrivo del quale a Beirut è previsto per oggi. Proprio a Cousseran, nel corso dei suoi colloqui a Damasco, secondo fonti francesi citate da As Safir, sarebbe stato chiesto “un chiaro riconoscimento francese dell’influenze e dell’interesse della Siria in Libano”. (PD)
English Presidential election at risk if constitution not respected
Jul 18, 2007
Maronite patriarch warns against the danger that ruling majority and opposition choose each their own president. A French envoy is said to be already in Damascus. Lebanese army death toll in clashes in Nahr al-Bared now stands at 100.

Beirut (AsiaNews, 07/17/2007) – Lebanon’s ongoing crisis saw two new elements today. Maronite Patriarch Card Nasrallah Sfeir spoke about the quorum needed to elect a new president, an issue that is still at the centre of discussions and controversy, and the announcement that a French envoy has probably arrived already in the region. Meanwhile the number of Lebanese soldiers killed in clashes in the Nahr al-Bared refugee camp now stands at 100 with Fatah al-Islam terrorists now cornered in a 300 m by 600 m redoubt.

Politically, both ruling majority and opposition in their public statements agree that the meeting at La Celle Saint-Cloud Château in France has improved the climate even though there is no agreement as to what steps should be taken next.

The bone of contention remains the government of national unity, which the opposition considers a priority despite the fact that current government’s mandate ends in just two months, and the presidential election, in particular what parliamentary majority should be required to elected the next head of state.

Cardinal Sfeir spoke about this issue in Diman, his summer residence, where he received a delegation from the Lebanese Democratic Party.

“If constitutional articles are violated and the president is not elected according to a two-thirds quorum, this will encourage other groups to elect their own president and then the country will plunge into chaos,” he said.

The Lebanese Constitution states that any president, by convention a Christian, must be elected by a two-thirds parliamentary quorum. If a quorum is not present for voting, a second round of elections is to be held, in which the president is elected by absolute majority.

The March 14 Forces have threatened to elect the next president by absolute majority, if opposition MPs decide to boycott the election session at the Parliament, scheduled for September, which should pick outgoing President Émile Lahoud’s replacement.

“The next president should be non-aligned and able to strengthen and revive the role of the president,” he added.

Cardinal Sfeir added that the La Celle Saint-Cloud meeting showed the need for dialogue among political groups.

The daily As Safir reported that French envoy Jean-Claude Cousseran is already in Damascus to continue the dialogue. His would be the first high-level meeting between the new Sarkozy administration and the Syrian regime. (PD)
French "Il faut un gouvernement d'union nationale au Liban"
Jun 11, 2007
Le chef de l'Église maronite appelle les Libanais à surmonter leurs divisions pour ne pas être les jouets de forces hostiles.

(La Croix, 29/05/2007) La Croix : l’armée libanaise encercle depuis dix jours les combattants du Fatah Al-Islam, retranchés dans le camp palestinien de Nahr-El-Bared. Quelle est la solution pour sortir de la crise ?

Cardinal Nasrallah Sfeir : La bonne solution, c’est qu’il y ait un nouveau gouvernement. Le gouvernement actuel est attaqué sévèrement et il fait ce qu’il peut pour maintenir l’ordre dans la mesure du possible. Il faut un gouvernement d’union nationale qui nous fasse passer cette période difficile.

Cette formule a déjà été utilisée plusieurs fois dans le passé et elle a permis de stabiliser la situation. Par ailleurs, le mandat du président de la République est arrivé à son terme. Il faut éviter un vide institutionnel au niveau de la présidence. Ensuite, il faudra procéder à de nouvelles élections parlementaires. Auparavant, une loi électorale devra être élaborée. C’est à ces conditions que les choses iront mieux.

Que peuvent faire le gouvernement et l’armée libanaise ?

Ceux de Nahr-El-Bared sont venus d’un peu partout. Ce sont des hors-la-loi, des mercenaires qui viennent attaquer dans le but bien déterminé de déstabiliser le pays. Certains leur donnent des armes et de l’argent. Ce n’est pas tolérable. Dès qu’on s’est aperçu de leur dessein, on aurait dû ne pas les admettre dans les camps.

Mais le mal est fait et la tâche de l’armée est difficile, parce qu’elle veut atteindre les malfaiteurs sans toucher les habitants du camp. Il y a eu beaucoup de victimes, plus d’une trentaine, des jeunes gens qui ont été attaqués avant même de se rendre sur le champ de bataille. L’armée doit mettre fin à cette situation.

Comment analysez-vous ces événements ?

Ce qui les provoque est déjà bien connu, par exemple la création d’un tribunal international. Beaucoup n’en veulent pas, des personnes aussi bien que des États. La crise de Nahr-El-Bared a été provoquée dans l’espoir d’entraver le processus de formation du tribunal et d’empêcher une entente interne et un règlement.

De même, 14 attentats ont été commis en 2005. Si leurs auteurs se sentent à l’abri, ils vont continuer. Le tribunal est le seul moyen de les détourner de leur noir dessein. Certains disent que cela va provoquer du désordre dans le pays, mais le désordre est déjà là. On tue et on continue à tuer.

La division politique des chrétiens ne risque-t-elle pas d’empêcher l’élection d’un nouveau président ?

Je ne crois pas, mais j’aurais souhaité que les chrétiens soient unis. Certains disent que ce n’est pas nécessaire et que les chrétiens peuvent être dans deux camps différents. Je veux bien l’admettre, à condition qu’ils ne s’attaquent pas mutuellement, ce qui malheureusement n’est pas le cas. Ce n’est bon ni pour le pays, ni pour les chrétiens.

Le général Aoun a fait alliance avec le Hezbollah et se situe dans l’opposition au gouvernement. Qu’en pensez-vous ?
Il affirme qu’il a fait cette alliance pour contenir le Hezbollah et l’empêcher d’aller plus loin. D’autres chrétiens ne partagent pas son point de vue. Les faits sont là. Je demande aux chrétiens de ne pas se disputer, même si les uns sont dans la majorité avec Hariri et les autres dans l’opposition avec le Hezbollah.

Les chrétiens peuvent-ils s’entendre sur le nom du futur président, une fonction réservée aux maronites ?

Ce n’est pas une chose facile, car il y a beaucoup de candidats. Chacun des deux camps a son propre candidat et ses attaches. Un candidat plus ou moins neutre pourrait percer, plutôt que le candidat d’un bord qui serait boycotté par l’autre. Ce n’est pas facile, mais c’est la meilleure solution. Le prochain président doit être élu avec le plus grand nombre de voix possible pour asseoir sa légitimité et avoir l’autorité nécessaire dans un rôle d’arbitre impartial, au-dessus de la mêlée.

Quelles sont les conséquences de l’instabilité politique et économique du Liban pour les chrétiens ?

Des industriels sont venus me voir récemment et ils se plaignent de la stagnation. L’économie du pays est ruinée. Beaucoup de jeunes diplômés qui ne trouvent pas de travail ici sont obligés d’aller ailleurs, dans les pays arabes, en Australie ou au Canada. Quand ils partent aussi loin, il y a très peu d’espoir de les voir rentrer. C’est appauvrissant pour le pays. Un retour à la normale est nécessaire pour mettre fin à cette hémorragie.
English Syria main problem in Lebanon
May 23, 2007
As the Lebanese army battled Islamic militants in a Palestinian refugee camp leaving 60 dead, Maronite Cardinal Nasrallah Pierre Sfeir of Beirut said that Syrian influence in Lebanon is still the main obstacle to peace.

(cathnews.com, 24 May 2007) "All the country's bishops are in agreement that the Syrian occupation, which is the cause of conflict in Lebanon, must end," the Maronite Catholic Patriarch Nasrallah Pierre Sfeir told Vatican Radio.

Cardinal Sfeir, who has long been critical of Syrian influence in Lebanon, called for international leadership to help the country escape from foreign domination.

"New initiatives are necessary" to break Syria's control over Lebanon, he said.

Earlier, the Lebanese government had vowed to wipe out militants who had been locked in three days of fierce gun-battles with government troops around the Nahr al-Bared refugee camp in northern Lebanon.

Militant group Fatah al-Islam's spokesman Abu Salim Taha said on Wednesday the group would abide by a truce but vowed its militants would not surrender.

"We respect the truce, but we will not surrender. If we are attacked, we will fight until the last drop of blood," Abu Salim said.

"The civilians are free to exit the camp. We will not stop them," he added.

Fatah al-Islam declared a unilateral truce on Tuesday after three days of fighting.

Refugees caught up in the clashes were continuing to flee the battered camp on Wednesday after the guns fell silent.

Meanwhile, the International Herald Tribune reports that the UN Security Council on Wednesday condemned the attacks by the Fatah Islam militant group in northern Lebanon "in the strongest possible terms," saying they constitute an unacceptable attack on the country's stability, security and sovereignty.

Council members reiterated "their unequivocal condemnation of any attempt to destabilize Lebanon and underlined their readiness to continue to act in support of the legitimate and democratically elected government of Lebanon."
English Cardinal Steps in to Prevent Lebanon's Political Breakup
May 12, 2007
The head of Lebanon's influential Maronite Catholic Church stepped in on Friday to try to head off what could be the next crisis to strike this conflict-torn country -- the increasing likelihood that Lebanon's divided lawmakers will be unable to elect a president.

BEIRUT (AP, 5-11-2007) -- Lebanon's parliament has not met for the past three months because of the sharp divisions between supporters of the Western-backed government and the opposition, led by Syria and Iran's ally, Hezbollah.

It is parliament's role to choose a new president before the term of Syrian ally Emile Lahoud runs out Nov. 23. But the unending deadlock and bitterness between the two camps makes it doubtful a compromise candidate can be found who would be acceptable to both sides.

Failure to pick a head of state could leave the post empty and could even lead to the creation of two competing governments, further deepening the crisis and raising the possibility of violence. The months-long political crisis has taken a sectarian tone and erupted into street battles earlier this year that killed 11 people.

Alarmed by the possibility of a presidential crisis, Maronite Cardinal Nasrallah Sfeir ended a boycott of Lahoud to discuss with him choosing a successor.

It was the first encounter in over a year between the spiritual leader of the church and the president. The church has a special interest in the presidency, a post traditionally held by a Maronite under Lebanon's sectarian-based division of political power -- making Lebanon the only state in the overwhelmingly Muslim Arab world with a Christian head of state.

Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Sfeir said he hoped the presidential election will be held "on time and that there will be the person who can take charge."

He refused to suggest a candidate but said the choice should be "an experienced person, be of the same distance from all people" and serve the national interest.

The anti-Syrian coalition swept into power in 2005 has been trying to oust Lahoud, seen as one of the anchors of Damascus' continuing influence in the country.

The anti-Syrian bloc, Sfeir and Western countries have refused to meet Lahoud, whose term was extended under Syrian pressure in 2004, months before the Syrian army was forced to withdraw from Lebanon in the wake of the assassination of former Premier Rafik Hariri.

Now with Lahoud unable to run for another term, the anti-Syrians -- who hold a slim majority in parliament -- see their chance to elect one of their own to the post.

But the Hezbollah-led opposition has vowed to reject any candidate they don't approve of. In theory, the anti-Syrian bloc could pass a candidate by a simple majority, but the opposition insists a two-thirds quorum is necessary and threatens to boycot any vote.

The resulting standoff could further inflame Lebanon's crisis. Already, the opposition is trying to oust the government of Prime Minister Fuad Saniora, which Lahoud does not recognize. Saniora has resisted the pressure, but has been unable to govern effectively because the speaker of parliament -- an ally of Syria and Lahoud -- has refused to convene the legislature.

The crisis has worsened the country's sectarian splits, with Sunni Muslims backing Saniora, who is Sunni, and Shiites backing the opposition. Christians are divided between the two camps.

If there is no president, the constitution calls on the prime minister and his Cabinet to assume his executive duties.

But some in the opposition are calling on Lahoud -- if it appears no successor is agreed on by the time he leaves office -- to appoint a Christian to head a new government to ensure that the presidential powers remain in Christian hands.

With Saniora refusing to quit, that would precipitate two administrations, raising the possibility of violence.

A similar crisis erupted in 1988, when two governments were formed, splitting the army and administration. Fighting erupted between the two sides and eventually a Syrian assault removed one of the administrations in one of the last battles of the 1975-1990 civil war.

"My message to the people is to remain calm ... I hope things will occur on time, in accordance with the constitution," Sfeir said after the 90-minute meeting with Lahoud.

Other religious leaders also hoped to avert a further meltdown.

Spiritual leader of Lebanon's Sunni Muslims, Grand Mufti Sheik Mohammed Rashid Kabbani said Friday he will work with the "wise leaders ... to prevent falling into the trap of a second government." He reminded the Lebanese of "the dark stage of conflicts and destruction of Lebanon when there were two governments."
English Cardinal Sfeir calls for unity, love and values in Lebanon
Apr 17, 2007
Maronite patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir has strongly reprimanded Lebanese “citizens and politicians” to “have piety on the country and to unite themselves to escape the present abyss”.

(yalibnan.com, 16 April, 2007) Beirut - “The freedom which God gifted man – he told the assembly gathered at mass yesterday in Bkirki – is an extraordinary weapon, we can use it to do good or evil, but what we hear from declarations made today show that we tend more towards evil than good. Otherwise how can we explain the threats that are exchanged between both sides of the divide? As if the economic crises that is afflicting the country at present and the scourge of emigration was not already sufficient”.

"Have mercy on your country so as not to be without one," he pleaded.

"The Lebanese should stand united in order to build a country in which understanding, love and values prevail," he added.

Cardinal Sfeir recalled the 80th birthday of Benedict XVI and highlighting the liturgical meaning of this “Sunday in Albis”, he urged the Christian community to rediscover the face of the merciful God and take up their role in society which they have played for centuries, once again.
The Patriarch also received General Michel Aoun, in a visit which sources closet o the general described as very useful in the period leading up to the coming Presidential elections.

Regarding the elections, Speaker Nabih Berri – who is also head of the opposition Amal party – announced that he intends to convoke the Parliament September 25th, but without the presence of the “unconstitutional” government, to proceed in the process of electing a new President of the Republic, to replace the current president, Emile Lahoud, whose term ends in November, following the illegal extension of his mandate in 2004, during the Syrian occupation of Lebanon.

Speaking to AsiaNews, general Aoun described his meeting with the Patriarch as “constructive and necessary in this moment of history”. Aoun attacked those that criticize his alliance with the pro-Syrian Hezbollah organization calling the alliance as permanent . Aoun also renewed his unconditional support for the formation of a National Unity Government, which would represent the entire Lebanese social structure and renewed his support for President Lahoud, because he represents "national dignity", criticizing foreign guests who “visit Lebanon without meeting its’ legitimate President”, as did the current UN general secretary, Ban Ki-moon.

Aoun during his exile in Paris always criticized president Lahoud ( as a puppet of Syria ), Hezbollah (as a Syrian and Iranian tool ) and Syria ( as an occupier of Lebanon) , but after his return from exile he did a complete U turn and switched roles , a move that was criticized by the majority of Lebanon because it divided the Christian community and gave legitimacy to Hezbollah belligerence. Many blame the summer war and the protest in down town Beirut on the alliance between Aoun and Hezbollah.
English Presidential elections first step to fix crisis
Mar 08, 2007
The patriarch of Lebanon's Maronite Catholic Church said early presidential elections could be the first step in resolving the country's ongoing political crisis.

BKERKE, Lebanon (CNS, 3/7/2007) – "I've addressed a letter to (Lebanese President Emile Lahoud) to tell him that he is the judge of the situation and that he must step down ... because the country will not support his position," Cardinal Nasrallah P. Sfeir, Maronite patriarch, said March 5.

Cardinal Sfeir suggested that a "simple solution" to the dilemma would be to elect a new president now in preparation to replace Lahoud when his term expires in November.

The presidential election would be followed by the creation of a new Cabinet and parliamentary elections, and the examination of the country's electoral law, which are all conditions stipulated by the Hezbollah-led government opposition.

However, Lahoud, a Maronite Catholic, has claimed he cannot hand over power to a government which he has been calling illegitimate since the resignation of all five Shiite Cabinet ministers in November.

Lebanon's Constitution says the president must be Christian, and the prime minister and parliamentary speaker must be Sunni and Shiite, respectively. Members of all religious sects must be represented at the Cabinet level.

Cardinal Sfeir said that despite his best efforts to unite Christian factions, they have not budged in their positions because of external pressures.

"Unfortunately the Christians are divided because each party follows an (external) party," he told CNS. "Some Christians are with Hezbollah and so definitely with Syria and Iran, and the others are with (government-coalition leader Saad) Hariri, who is close to Saudi Arabia and the United States."

The cardinal said this pressure was particularly true for Lahoud, whose term in office was extended in 2004 while Lebanon was still under Syrian occupation.

"Here in Lebanon nobody is completely free in their actions. Mr. Lahoud is allied to Syria, and Syria can influence his position. If he makes something against Syria he will be threatened," the cardinal said.

Since December, the Shiite militant group Hezbollah has led a campaign, backed by most Lebanese Shiites, the country's largest Christian bloc and some Druze, to bring down a government they claim is corrupt, unrepresentative and subservient to the United States. The alliance has been demanding the government be replaced by a national unity Cabinet in which Hezbollah's allies would wield veto power.

Government supporters – comprising most Sunnis, Druze and some Christian parties – argue the protest is merely a coup-attempt instigated by Hezbollah's backers in Syria and Iran. Government supporters claim Hezbollah would use veto power to thwart the formation of an international investigation into the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

The political crisis in Lebanon has crippled an economy still reeling after Israeli bombardment last summer and has led to an exodus of young workers.

The anti-government protest has been based around an ongoing three-month sit-in outside the prime minister's office in downtown Beirut and has sparked spates of sectarian street violence.

Cardinal Sfeir criticized the sit-in for forcing the closure of many businesses in the area. He said it exacerbated the exodus of young people from the country.

"The demonstration is useless and harmful and for three months has not given any result," he said.

Cardinal Sfeir said that there was currently no political leader who could unite the country's Christian factions.

However, he said plans were underfoot for a "third way," possibly in the form of a new party that could bridge gaps between Lebanon's widely divergent Christian factions. The cardinal did not elaborate.

"When we have faith we must be optimistic because our country has passed through many difficulties such as this which we are passing through now, and with God's help we will find a way to get out of it."
Italian Il Libano deve uscire dalla violenza
Feb 26, 2007
In Libano il patriarca maronita, cardinale Pierre Nasrallah Sfeir, esprime preoccupazione per il riarmo, come ai tempi della guerra civile, dei partiti politici

(Radio Vaticana, 26/02/2007) Si raddoppino gli sforzi in modo da far uscire il Libano dalla violenza. E’ l’appello lanciato ieri dal patriarca maronita, cardinale Pierre Nasrallah Sfeir, durante la messa presieduta ieri a Bkerke alla presenza di molti fedeli provenienti da varie aree del Paese. Il cardinale – riferisce l’Agenzia AsiaNews - ha criticato anche quanti “asfissiano” la debole economia libanese con il sit in, promosso dall’opposizione, che “ha costretto molti a licenziare impiegati a causa della chiusura forzata del centro commerciale di Beirut”. “Ci troviamo di fronte ad un fenomeno molto grave, cioè al riarmo dei partiti politici”, ha aggiunto il cardinale. Il patriarca ha rivolto poi un appello perché, in questo tempo di Quaresima, ci siano gesti di solidarietà verso i più bisognosi. La crisi libanese continua, intanto, ad essere al centro di conferenze e dibattiti: ad Islamabad, in Pakistan, i ministri degli Esteri di 7 Paesi partecipano ad una riunione per elaborare un calendario di lavoro per il summit dei leader arabi in programma per il 28 ed il 29 marzo. Il vertice si propone di esaminare i conflitti che agitano la regione, dalla guerra in Iraq alla crisi libanese e al confronto sul nucleare tra Iran e Occidente.
French Bkerké ne désemplit pas de visiteurs pendant les fêtes
Dec 30, 2006
Pharaon affirme que le patriarcat maronite a remplacé la présidence de l’État

(L'Orient Le Jour, 30 Décembre 2006) «En l’absence du rôle réunificateur que devrait jouer la présidence de la République et au vu de la violation de la Constitution, le regard des Libanais se tourne vers Bkerké et vers ses propositions nationales et réunificatrices. » Voilà ce qu’a déclaré, hier, le ministre d’État Michel Pharaon, au terme de sa rencontre avec le patriarche Nasrallah Sfeir.
Durant les fêtes, le patriarcat maronite ne désemplit pas de visiteurs. Hier, le cardinal Sfeir a notamment reçu hier le ministre Pharaon, une délégation du CPL et une seconde du bureau politique du parti Kataëb, présidée par Karim Pakradouni. Le député Mohammad Kabbani et l’ancien député Ghattas Khoury sont également venus souhaiter de bonnes fêtes au patriarche maronite.
Rayya Daouk, qui s’est exprimée au nom de la délégation du CPL, a souligné que « Bkerké représente une autorité morale pour tous les Libanais, toutes confessions confondues, comme cette délégation du CPL venue aujourd’hui à Bkerké ».
English Time to End Hezbollah Sit-in in Beirut
Dec 19, 2006
It is time to put a stop to the opposition sit-in that has blocked the centre of Beirut since 1 December, because it is harming the economy.

Beirut (AsiaNews, 12-18-2006) --- "Unchecked" gatherings taking place throughout the sit-in should also be stopped because "they could endanger the family". On the eve of the return of the Secretary of the Arab League, Amr Moussa, to Beirut, the Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir expressed his opposition to the continuation of a protest that is damaging the nation's already sorely tried economy.

Apart from internal developments of the situation -- yesterday two pro-government rallies were held in Chouf -- attention today focused on the visit of the Syrian President Bashar al Assad to Moscow. Lebanese dailies devoted their front pages to the trip, emphasizing that Assad's visit to Putin came three days after the Russian president met the head of the Lebanese government Fouad Siniora. Officially dedicated to the "difficult situation in the Middle East and ways to overcome the crisis", the meeting between Assad and Putin has political rather than economic aims, according to Evgeny Posukhov, a Russian diplomat in Damascus. Lebanese sources said one item on the agenda will be the international tribunal -- backed by Russia at the UN headquarters -- to try those responsible for the murder of ex-Lebanese premier, Rafic Hariri, and other political crimes perpetrated in the country of the cedars since 2004. Pro-Syrian groups in Beirut, including the President of the Republic, Emile Lahoud, have expressed several reservations about the formation of such a tribunal. Lahoud yesterday voiced his support for the candidature of Michel Aoun, a Christian leader allied with Hezbollah, for the highest position in the State. Lahoud exhorted Aoun to remain "steadfast" in his stands. "I support the opposition because it has the political values in which I believe," Lahoud told Al-Aalam television.

As for Cardinal Sfeir, at the end of yesterday's Sunday mass, which was dedicated to the family, he warned against "unchecked mixed gatherings" that were taking place during the sit-in. "We have been told that some participants of the sit-in have forbidden their children to spend the night in the centre: they are wise," he said. "In any case, it is time to put an end to this harmful situation, which is especially damaging to the economy of the country. Have the leaders of these manifestations forgotten that families have come to the point of a very big crisis? We pray for the success of the mediators and a return to normality."
English War begins with words, warns Lebanese Cardinal
Dec 12, 2006
Maronite Cardinal Nasrallah Sfeir has warned that insult laden politicians' speeches indicate "that war will soon ignite" in Lebanon, as Pope Benedict renews his call for urgent and just solutions to "this grave moment" in the Middle East.

(cathnews.com, 12 Dec 2006) In remarks made to an estimated 40,000 tourists and pilgrims gathered on 10 December in St Peter's Square for the midday Angelus, the Pope urged Lebanon's leaders to work towards building unity in the country and the international community to meet its responsibilities and commit to work toward a lasting peace, Catholic Online reports.

"I appeal to the Lebanese and to their political leaders to be interested exclusively in the good of the country and harmony between its communities, inspiring their commitment in that unity that is the responsibility of one and all, and that requires patient and persevering efforts, along with confident and permanent dialogue," the pope said.

The people of Lebanon, the Pontiff said, "on whose soil today as yesterday, men who are different on the cultural and religious plane, are called to live together to build a nation of dialogue and coexistence, and to favour the common good."

The Middle East is beset with tensions where the possibilities for a solution face the challenges of "fears of new violence," he said.

Also speaking on Sunday, Lebanon's Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir warned that the exchange of sharp speeches by rival political leaders could ignite war, Naharnet reports.

"What we see today ... warns of evil," Cardinal Sfeir told worshipers at a Sunday mass in Bkirki.

"As the poet says, war starts with words," warned Cardinal Sfeir. "Listening to all the showering (of speeches) which is loaded with insults and dirt indicates that war will soon ignite, God forbid."

"We ask God to lighten the minds of those in charge (political leaders) to have mercy on the people tolerating injustice," Cardinal Sfeir added.

"No one thinks about the (Lebanese) people," he said, "whose only worry is finding a source of income and meeting the various daily needs of their children."

"Most of the people are unable to meet these needs since the public and private sectors as well as the economic, and we may even say social, activities have been completely paralysed," the Cardinal added.
English Maronite patriarch criticizes leaders for sinking Lebanon into crisis
Nov 16, 2006
The head of Lebanon's Maronite Catholic Church has criticized the country's bickering leaders for plunging the nation into political crisis.

BEIRUT, Lebanon (CNS, Nov-15-2006) -- "Lebanon does not and should not encompass enemies, but brothers," said Cardinal Nasrallah P. Sfeir, Maronite patriarch. "This is not how brothers treat each other."

Referring to Christian politicians, Cardinal Sfeir asked, "If politicians were aware of the principles of Christian education, wouldn't they put an end to their challenges and insults of one another?

"Wouldn't they throw out hatred and envy and other feelings that do not reflect their respect for each other?" he asked.

Cardinal Sfeir spoke Nov. 13 at the 40th session of Lebanon's Assembly of Catholic Patriarchs and Bishops in Bkerke, the headquarters of the Maronite church in Lebanon.

The main focus of the assembly was adult education, but the cardinal also discussed the daily rhetoric-filled speeches by Lebanon's rival political factions that have been fueling fears the divisions would spill out onto the streets.

In a Nov. 13 statement after a meeting discussing the political crisis, the assembly urged the Lebanese people to avoid demonstrations and called on them to face the political impasse with "responsibility and patience."

They also called on the country's political leaders to remember their civic responsibility to "provide citizens with a peaceful life."

The assembly was expected to issue a final statement when their meeting concluded Nov. 18.

Participants discussed the dangerous situation in Lebanon following the recent resignation of six Cabinet ministers in what appeared to be an attempt by the militant Islamic group Hezbollah to topple the country's anti-Syrian government.

The resignations, by all five pro-Hezbollah Shiite ministers and a Christian minister, prompted Lebanon's pro-Syrian president, Gen. Emile Lahoud, to claim the Cabinet had lost its constitutional legitimacy. Lahoud said the resignation of all the ministers from the country's largest religious faction meant any further Cabinet decisions were null and void, but according to the Lebanese Constitution two more resignations would be required to topple the government of Western-backed Prime Minister Fouad Siniora.

Party talks aimed at easing mounting sectarian tensions in the aftermath of the war between Israel and Hezbollah collapsed Nov. 11 after Siniora's allies rejected demands by Hezbollah for representation that would have given the group veto power.

Hezbollah's reclusive leader, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, has called for demonstrations to bring down the government, saying it had "zero credibility" and would soon be toppled to be replaced by a "clean government."

On Nov. 12 during his Sunday homily, Cardinal Sfeir said certain parties "are rejecting" the international community's support for Lebanon.

"Civil society is afflicted by disorder, which we fear will expand. We fear that those who are seeking to help us will know that we cannot manage our own affairs and we are in constant need of someone to control us," he said.
English Hezbollah, proxy in someone else’s fight, says Sfeir
Sept 16, 2006
For the Maronite patriarch, the recent conflict was a war imposed on Lebanon by the United States and Israel on the one hand, and Iran and Syria on the other. Most Shiites are not with Hezbollah when it places itself outside the state, says mufti of Tyre.

Beirut (AsiaNews, 14 September, 2006) – Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir today called for “Lebanese solidarity” to put the country back on its feet whilst slamming Hezbollah. He said that through a Lebanese “proxy”, the country was subjected to a war between the United States and Israel on the one hand, and Syria and Iran on the other.

In meeting the press, Sayyed Ali el-Amin, mufti of Tyre and Jabal, distanced himself from Hezbollah. In his opinion, whilst “most Shiites are with Hezbollah against Israel,” they are “not with it when it becomes an obstacle to the state”.

Openly criticising those who want to remain outside plans to rebuild the Lebanese state, he said that it was a mistake not join the process. “We want to be in [this process]. There is no shame for Hezbollah to hand in its weapons and fully turn itself into a political party if the purpose is to protect the country.”

This morning Cardinal Sfeir met US Ambassador Jeffrey Feltman as well as the chief editors of Lebanon’s major dailies. He pointed out that in the last two months the situation in the country was getting worse and that more and more people were falling into abject poverty. Given the rising tide of emigration among the young—more than 200,000 with many still waiting for their visa—something has to be taken right away.

Responding to criticism directed at the Maronite bishops’ seventh appeal for not openly naming Israel, he said: “We have already expressed what we think of Israel, which remains Lebanon’s enemy, in the final communiqué released at the end of the last meeting of religious leaders held in Bkerke in late July. We have condemned Israel’s actions against Lebanon and the Arabs.”

Patriarch Sfeir finally reminded the country’s political leaders of the need to inaugurate a new historical phase, one that plants the seeds of trust between the authorities and the people.

In addition, he made an appeal to the Lebanese living abroad to come home and make their contribution in this phase of Lebanon’s history “because we cannot wait for outside help to restart living.”
English Hezbollah, Proxy in Someone Else's Fight
Sept 16, 2006
Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir today called for "Lebanese solidarity" to put the country back on its feet whilst slamming Hezbollah. He said that through a Lebanese "proxy", the country was subjected to a war between the United States and Israel on the one hand, and Syria and Iran on the other.

Beirut (AsiaNews, 9-14-2006) --- In meeting the press, Sayyed Ali el-Amin, mufti of Tyre and Jabal, distanced himself from Hezbollah. In his opinion, whilst "most Shiites are with Hezbollah against Israel," they are "not with it when it becomes an obstacle to the state".

Openly criticising those who want to remain outside plans to rebuild the Lebanese state, he said that it was a mistake not join the process. "We want to be in [this process]. There is no shame for Hezbollah to hand in its weapons and fully turn itself into a political party if the purpose is to protect the country."

This morning Cardinal Sfeir met US Ambassador Jeffrey Feltman as well as the chief editors of Lebanon's major dailies. He pointed out that in the last two months the situation in the country was getting worse and that more and more people were falling into abject poverty. Given the rising tide of emigration among the young--more than 200,000 with many still waiting for their visa--something has to be taken right away.

Responding to criticism directed at the Maronite bishops' seventh appeal for not openly naming Israel, he said: "We have already expressed what we think of Israel, which remains Lebanon's enemy, in the final communiqué released at the end of the last meeting of religious leaders held in Bkerke in late July. We have condemned Israel's actions against Lebanon and the Arabs."

Patriarch Sfeir finally reminded the country's political leaders of the need to inaugurate a new historical phase, one that plants the seeds of trust between the authorities and the people.

In addition, he made an appeal to the Lebanese living abroad to come home and make their contribution in this phase of Lebanon's history "because we cannot wait for outside help to restart living."
English 'We Don't Want a Proxy War in Lebanon'
Sept 11, 2006
More and more Christians are leaving Lebanon. Cardinal Nasrallah Sfeir, patriarch of the Maronite church in Lebanon, spoke to SPIEGEL ONLINE about the on-going Christian exodus, the future of Hezbollah and the influence of Iran and Syria on his country.

(Assyrian International News Agency, 8-11-2006) SPIEGEL ONLINE: Your Highness, what are you most worried about at the moment?

Sfeir: The progressive devastation of our country. And the growing outward migration of Christians, who are not returning to Lebanon. We held out in the Arab world for 2,000 years, but now things are going downhill at a rapid pace. The current crisis is dramatically amplifying this tendency.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: But Christians in Lebanon don't speak unanimously. For example, General Michel Aoun -- possibly Lebanon's next president -- has forged an alliance with Hezbollah.

Sfeir: Yes. Unfortuantely there are also some Christians who make arrangements with Hezbollah -- if only for tactical reasons. It may be unlikely, but if Hezbollah should one day take power in Lebanon, the Christians will leave the country in droves.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Does Hezbollah still have a right to exist after this war?

Sfeir: I support Prime Minister Siniora's peace plan, which calls for the disarmament of all Shiite militias. As soon as a cease-fire with Israel takes effect, as soon as the two sides exchange prisoners and the Shebaa Farms are returned to Lebanon, Hezbollah will no longer have the right to maintain an army. Hezbollah has become a state within a state, with help from Iran. That's not something we can continue to accept after the war.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: It's common knowledge that Iran takes a different view.

Sfeir: What does Lebanon have to do with Iran's problems? Our country mustn't serve as the one that makes it territory available as a proxy rallying ground and battleground for other states. Neither the conflict over Iran's nuclear program nor any other Iranian issues concern us Lebanese. Iran is a foreign country to us. All Lebanese should take this view.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Please describe your relationship to Syria for us.

Sfeir: What is true for Iran is also true for Syria. We refuse to tolerate proxy wars on Lebanese territory. The Syrian Golan Heights are as lifeless as a cemetery. So why should a struggle for the restitution of the Golan Heights be fought out in Lebanon of all places? We want orderly relations with Syria. That means Damascus must accept the demarcation of the Syrian-Lebanese border and release our prisoners. But today the greatest danger isn't coming from Syria, but from Iran. Iran is shipping weapons of all kinds into Lebanon, including rockets, and most of all a lot of money. How can an independent state be expected to tolerate that?

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Your Highness, you yourself come from the Palestinian territories. Hezbollah has always declared itself to be fighting for the "liberation" of Jerusalem. What responsibility does Lebanon have towards the Palestinians?

Sfeir: Of course we wish for the Palestinians to have their own state on their home territory, just like we Lebanese have our own state. The Israeli occupation must end. But the struggle for Palestine cannot be fought from Lebanon, the smallest and weakest state in the Arab world.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: When will Israel and Lebanon live in peace?

Sfeir: We won't follow the example of Egypt and Jordan. We can make peace with Israel only when all other Arab states have signed a peace treaty with Israel too.

Interview conducted by Daniel Steinvorth and Volkhard Windfuhr
SPIEGEL ONLINE
English Cardinal Sfeir of Lebanon Celebrates Mass for Peace in Washington
Jul 31, 2006
His Beatitude, Cardinal Nasrallah P. Sfeir, Patriarch of Antioch and All the East, celebrated a Mass for Peace today in Washington, DC as he wrapped up a three-week trip to the United States. This was the Patriarch's last public event before returning to Lebanon.

(adw.org, July 18, 2006) The Mass, at Our Lady of Lebanon Maronite Church, was concelebrated by Washington Archbishop Donald W. Wuerl; his predecessor, Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick; and several bishops and priests of the Maronite Catholic Church. Nearly 300 Lebanese Catholics attended.

The Patriarch's homily follows. Additional information is available on the website of the Eparchy Eparchy of Saint Maron of Brooklyn. Also today, the United States Catholic Bishops called for a ceasefire and an end to violence in the Middle East.

Homily of His Beatitude Patriarch Nasrallah Cardinal Sfeir
Patriarch of Antioch and All the East (Bkerke, Lebanon)
Our Lady of Lebanon Maronite Church
Washington, DC
July 18, 2006

Beloved in Christ:

I wish to warmly greet and thank Archbishop Donald Wuerl who in spite of his busy schedule as the new Archbishop of Washington took time to be with us and concelebrate this Divine Liturgy for peace in the Middle East, especially in Lebanon. I also want to welcome his predecessor, Cardinal McCarrick, a good friend of Lebanon. We take this occasion to congratulate Archbishop Wuerl and wish him a peaceful and fruitful journey in his new Archdiocese.

I also thank our Nuncio, Pietro Sambi, Cardinal William Keeler and Archbishop Edwin O’Brien for expressing their deep sentiments of solidarity although they are unable to be with us today.

It is a source of consolation to see several United States officials here present as well. I thank Ambassador Abboud was well as Miss Carla Jazzar, Charge d’Affaires, and the Embassy of Lebanon Staff, for taking the time to come and pray with us. I thank my Brothers the Bishops, Gregory Mansour, Roland Aboujoudie, Youssef Bechara, Chorbishop Faouzi Elia, representing Bishop Shaheen, Chorbishops Thomas and Beggiani, as well as all the priests for their exemplary work.

Last but not least, I thank Chorbishop Dominic Ashkar and all of you parishioners and friends of our Lady of Lebanon Parish, congratulating you for this beautiful church that will stand as a symbol of your deep faith. Today I stand before you at this Altar of the Lord that I also had the joy of consecrating during my last visit.

We offer today the same Liturgy used for the dedication of this church not too long ago. But this time, not to dedicate the stones of this building, but rather to re-dedicate ourselves to the Truth and to the One who gave His life for us and thus gave us the meaning and value of life. We must re-dedicate ourselves over and over again so that we may truly be the living temples of the Spirit of Truth, the Spirit of Life, the Spirit of Love, the Spirit of respect of life and coexistence.

My friends, I come today with a heavy heart because of what is happening in Lebanon. Are there no more peacemakers? I ask: is war inevitable? The course of history seems to confirm this fearful thought. The earth has been the scene of incessant wars among peoples. Millions have been killed, maimed, orphaned, imprisoned or made helpless refugees.

As Christians, we believe that war is not inevitable; people choose war and people can choose peace. In today’s gospel we see that Jesus himself restates, just after the curse of the cities, that the unity of people will be made around the hearing of the Word. Thus, one who hears God must not isolate himself from the modern city.

The Word of God abides where men multiply their effort for communion, and build around themselves the city of God, where His justice and truth are found. Let us pray for our homeland, for all the innocent victims, those who lose everything. Let us ask the Lord to enlighten those who govern to be faithful to His will for mankind, which is peace and good order among peoples.

Blessed are the peacemakers, Jesus said. May Our Lady of Lebanon, for whom this parish is dedicated, and to whom we turn to in prayer, protect Lebanon and help us to be, along with her, peacemakers. Amen.
English Lebanese patriarch tells Cheney Israeli response not proportionate
Jul 31, 2006
Lebanon's Maronite Catholic patriarch said he told U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney that Israel has a right to defend itself, but its reaction to Hezbollah actions is not proportionate.

WASHINGTON (CNS, Jul-19-2006) -- "The country is nearly destroyed, the runways, bridges, ports are all destroyed," Cardinal Nasrallah P. Sfeir told Catholic News Service July 18 after his meeting with Cheney. The cardinal said "the Lebanese government is so weak, it is not able to oppose (its offenders). It has no means to."

Cardinal Sfeir met with Cheney at the White House before celebrating Mass at Our Lady of Lebanon Church in Washington. Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, retired archbishop of Washington, and Archbishop Donald W. Wuerl of Washington were among those concelebrating the Mass for peace in the Middle East.

Cardinal Sfeir also met with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice at the State Department that evening before flying to Cyprus, where he hoped the U.N. would help him return to his homeland.

Rice told Cardinal Sfeir that the U.S. was "very concerned" about Lebanese civilians, reported The Associated Press July 18. Rice has been saying that there needs to be long-lasting peace, although she has declined to provide a timeline or specifics on the issue.

Cardinal Sfeir told CNS after the Mass that Cheney told him "he will see what he can do for us. It's not so easy because of a lot of complicated situations with a lot of countries." The cardinal said Cheney did not share the U.S. government's plan for the Middle East.

"He doesn't have a plan; at least he hasn't told me. I think, I hope he will intervene and put an end to this conflict," he said. "I think the U.S. government must be just."

By July 18, more than 230 Lebanese civilians had been killed since the outbreak of hostilities July 12, when Hezbollah militias based in southern Lebanon kidnapped two Israeli soldiers. Hezbollah had fired more than 700 Katyusha rockets at Israel, killing 13 Israeli civilians.

Cardinal Sfeir said he had sent messages to his priests back in Lebanon, instructing the parishes and the parishioners to "receive all the refugees in their classrooms and homes."

He said he had not had contact with any officials or Catholics in Israel, noting that "it is not possible for me to contact there."

About 400 people, including representatives of the Lebanese Embassy, attended the cardinal's midday Mass.

Cardinal Sfeir told the congregation that "as Christians we believe war is not inevitable. People choose war; we can choose peace."

Archbishop Wuerl said "prayer is one thing we can do. There is power in our supplication. When we pray, we show solidarity with the church and the people of Lebanon."

U.S. Bishop Gregory J. Mansour of the Eparchy of St. Maron of Brooklyn, N.Y., urged Lebanese-Americans to "present a true picture of Lebanon -- a cultured Lebanon, a religious Lebanon -- where Christians and Muslims live in fairly decent harmony. Pray that Lebanon is restored and takes its proper place among nations."
English On a pastoral visit to the United States Cardinal Sfeir welcomed with open arms
Jul 31, 2006
The Maronite patriarch, Cardinal Nasrallah Sfeir, is now in the United States making a 20-day pastoral visit. The head of the Maronite Church is accompanied by bishops Roland Abou-Jaoudé and Youssef Beshara: Father Richard Abi-Saleh, secretary-general of the Council of Patriarchs and Bishops, and other members of the clergy.

(mmorning.com, July 12th 2006) On the eve of his departure, the cardinal-patriarch received General Michel Aoun, who had come to bid him farewell. As to the declarations of Sleiman Franjié, former MP and minister, against Mgr. Youssef Beshara, patron of the Kornet Shahwan Grouping, they have aroused a great controversy.

Sfeir regrets what Franjié said

Mgr. Sfeir had time before his departure for the United States to reply to what Franjié said, regretting strongly that the statements had been made. “We know that the former minister and MP is the son of the Maronite Church and that he is concerned about this church and with its moral authority. But his attack against one of its dignitaries is inappropriate”, he said while wishing that this affair would “not go further”. Asked about whether the national dialogue would continue, he replied that it was “indispensable”, regretting the disfunctioning of civil institutions that made it necessary. Replying to journalists’ questions on the subject of weapons held by Hezballah, he said, “The regular forces must defend the country, and the Resistance is, so far, an accomplished fact. But it’s necessary that the discussion be directed in such a manner that the Army alone should be in charge of defending the national territory”.
Subsequently, a communiqué from the secretariat-general of the Maronite Patriarchate was issued in St. Louis, in the US, pointing out that the patriarch and the bishops are one and the same entity”, in reply to Franjié’s assertion that his criticism was not in any way directed against the Patriarchate but only against Bishop Youssef Beshara. The communiqué stressed that “when the Church treats of politics, it seeks only the higher interest of the nation…”

In St. Louis
It was in St. Louis that the patriarch first landed in the US, being received on his descent from the aircraft by Mgr. Robert Shahin, first Maronite archbishop in the United States, born in the US, and Francis Lay, a Maronite of Lebanese origin who is mayor of St. Louis, who presented the cardinal with the key to the city after an address in which he praised the patriarch’s action and his role in the service of peace and the dialogue of civilizations. In the evening the patriarch went to St. Raymond’s Cathedral for celebration of a mass to commemorate 40 years of the creation of the first Maronite diocese in the United States, in St. Louis. There he met with Lebanese who had come from all parts of Missouri and neighboring states, and he expressed his joy at seeing that “the Maronite Church in the United States is active and prosperous; that those who have immigrated here from Lebanon and the Middle East have found a welcoming land that enables them to practice their faith and customs in complete freedom”.
Cardinal Sfeir spent four days in Missouri, which has 40,000 Maronites and one of whose avenues bears the patriarch’s own name. His Beatitude received an honorary doctorate from St. Louis’ Jesuit university and the insignia of the Order of St. Ignatius de Loyola (founder of the Jesuits). On Saturday evening the Maronite parish of Our Lady of Lebanon held a dinner in the cardinal’s honor attended by Americans of Lebanese descent, among them Ray Lahoud, a member of the US Congress, who assured the patriarch that no American president had taken an interest in Lebanon like that of President George Bush. For his part, the mayor of St. Louis declared July 1 to be “the day of Patriarch Sfeir”.

And in Chicago
On Monday, July 3, Cardinal Sfeir arrived in Chicago to attend the National Maronite Assembly, which this year is debating the decisions of the Maronite Patriarchal Synod.
Questioned by journalists on the situation in Lebanon, he indicated, “The Syrian army has left Lebanon, but Syria has maintained its intelligence service”. The annual National Maronite Assembly, held this year in St. Maroun’s Church in Chicago, and of which Patriarch Sfeir is honorary president, was one of the principal stops on the patriarchal itinerary. It opened its discussions on July 4, Independence Day, and Cardinal Sfeir told the delegates he hoped “this great country will remain a beacon for all mankind, defending faith in God, freedom and justice for all”, declaring that “it is necessary to pass from words to acts”.
In the cardinal’s entourage it was believed that he might be received by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, or even President Bush. However, that may be, it was clear that the US had given the head of the Maronite Church a welcome of extraordinary enthusiasm.
English Back home, Sfeir calls assembly of Maronite bishops
Jul 27, 2006
On his return from the United States, Sfeir gave assurance of US hopes that a “reasonable” ceasefire will be reached. Shelling continues in Beirut and south Lebanon, while in northern Israel, 50% of the people were forced to leave their homes.

Beirut (AsiaNews, 21 July, 2006) – Patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir returned to Lebanon yesterday and has called a special assembly of the Maronite bishops for this afternoon. The aim of the meeting is to assess what the church can do in the very difficult situation the country is passing through, which the patriarch said “I followed day in, day out, hour after hour”.

Cardinal Sfeir returned to Bkerke at the end of a pastoral visit of a few weeks to Maronites in the United States. During his stay there, he had talks with the vice president, Dick Cheney, and also with the Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice.

Talking about these meetings, Cardinal Sfeir gave assurance that the United States was following the Lebanese plight closely and hoped to manage to impose a ceasefire “under reasonable and acceptable conditions”.

The patriarch returned by American helicopter and was met at the heliport of the US embassy by the justice minister, Rizk, and the US ambassador Jeffrey Feltman. Cardinal Sfeir then traveled to the patriarchal seat in Bkerke by car.

Today, in Lebanon, people are eagerly awaiting developments following the statement of Olmert, who left open the possibility of creating humanitarian corridors, and for tonight’s meeting between Rice and UN secretary-general, Kofi Annan, although no one has any information about this. As people wait for the arrival in the Middle East of the American Secretary of State, they are naturally hoping for Israel’s acceptance to call a ceasefire.

Meanwhile, in Beirut and south Lebanon, shelling, rocket launches and the flight of foreigners continue. The fear of bombs has touched not only Lebanon; Haaretz reported that in the north of Israel, 50% of the people were forced to leave their homes. In the cities of Naharya (57,000 residents), Kiryat Shmone (22,000) and Safed (26,000), the percentage of displaced people is 50%. In Karmiel (50,000) only 30% of residents left their homes. There are no proper figures for Tiberiade (40,000) as yet, although hotels “have emptied completely”. The daily did not manage to find out how many of Haifa’s 267,000 residents were still in town.

In Nazareth, Israel’s main Arab city, calm has returned after the launch of a rocket by Hezbollah that killed two Muslim children on 19 July. The population is however on alert, because it feels “unprepared” to face possible new attacks. Sources of AsiaNews said people were now expecting Olmert’s government to provide facilities like tents and medicines to tackle a possible emergency. Today, the leader of the “Party of God”, Hassan Nasrallah, apologized to families of the two victims of the rocket attack, saying it was “unintentional”. Even analysts on the spot held that the attack on Nazareth was accidental and did not aim to target a Christian symbol to get a message across to Europe, as many immediately claimed.

Meanwhile, a statement by the Lebanese defence minister, Elias Murr, on Al Arabiya satellite television, confirmed the differences between the government of Beirut and Hezbollah. Declaring that if the Israelis invaded the country, “the army will fight”, the Lebanese minister said the army “has no contacts and no coordination with the resistance” and the government “will not allow the resistance to fight in the place of the army nor will the army fight alongside anyone.”
English Statement of His Eminence and His Beatitude Nasrallah Peter Cardinal Sfeir, Patriarch of Antioch and All the East
Jul 24, 2006
Press Conference, Thursday, July 13, 2006 -- St. Anthony's Maronite Catholic Church, Lawrence, Massachusetts.

LAWRENCE, Mass., July 13 /PRNewswire/ -- The following is a statement
of His Eminence and His Beatitude Nasrallah Peter Cardinal Sfeir, Patriarch
of Antioch and all the East:
   "I began my pastoral visit to the United States on June 29, the Feast
of Sts. Peter and Paul. I have visited St. Louis, Chicago, and Detroit.
After these two days in Lawrence, I will proceed to New York. I have met
thousands of Maronites and friends from throughout the United States. The
Lebanese and Maronite people are proud contributors to American society.
   "I have come at the invitation of Maronite Bishops Robert Shaheen and
Gregory Mansour who have undertaken the planning and details of this visit,
which is made in honor of the forty years since the appointment of a
Maronite Bishop in the United States. Much progress has been made in 40
years. We look forward to a brighter future.
   "I am grateful for the solidarity that exists between the Catholics of
Lebanon and the Middle East, and those of this country. I am also grateful
for the solidarity expressed by the international community, and especially
President Bush and the United States, towards Lebanon.
   "I have come to strengthen the bridges between East and West,
Christians and Muslims. I have come with the demand that Lebanon steer its
own course, without the tutelage of any other nation. I have come to say
that the Lebanese are determined to live far from terrorism, tyranny,
corruption and despair.
   "The Lebanese are proud people and have inherited the oldest democracy
in the Middle East. They are well-educated, accustomed to hard work, and
eager to work in harmony with the community of nations.
   "In Lebanon we have difficult issues to resolve. We have been working
at these issues in the National Dialogue, which still awaits a positive
outcome. Syrian troops have left Lebanon, but their influence is still
there. We therefore ask again that our two nations develop proper relations
befitting of states, which means among other things, delineated boundaries,
embassies, respect for international law, and friendly relations.
   "The tragic events of recent days give us pause to pray and ask the
Lord's help. I am very concerned and anxious. As we have said in the past
and reassert again today, we are against all aggression wherever it comes
from. We condemn Israel's recent retaliations against Lebanon's people and
infrastructure. We also hope that Hezbollah will finally lay down its arms
and join the other citizens of Lebanon in reaching political solutions to
all of the Lebanese problems.
   "We look forward to a united, sovereign, free, and truly independent
Lebanon, where the Lebanese government exerts its sole authority over all
of Lebanon's territory.
   "We have known war first hand on our own soil. We have had enough. We
need the help and support of all our friends in the world, especially the
United States. We are determined to work together, through dialogue, for
peace and justice in the region.
   "I ask you to pray for Lebanon and help us to show in the news the true
Lebanon, the Lebanon that longs to reclaim its former glory. As Pope John
Paul II says, 'Lebanon is more than a country, it is a message of
fraternity for the entire world.'
   "Thank you for coming today."

SOURCE St. Anthony's Maronite Catholic Church
French Le Hezbollah est manipulé par l’Iran et la Syrie
Jul 12, 2006
Le patriarche pourrait rencontrer Condoleezza Rice lors de sa tournée américaine.

(L'Orient-Le Jour, 03 Juillet 2006) «Le Hezbollah se trouve au Liban depuis plusieurs années. C’est un parti armé qui a à son crédit le fait d’avoir bouté Israël en dehors du Liban. Mais personne n’acceptera plus qu’il conserve ses armes car tout le monde doit être égal devant la loi. »
C’est ce qu’a déclaré samedi le patriarche maronite, Nasrallah Boutros Sfeir, lors d’une conférence de presse à Saint-Louis, au Missouri, première étape de sa tournée pastorale américaine.
« Lorsque nous sommes en présence d’un parti non armé et d’un autre qui ne l’est pas, on ne peut parler d’équité. Le parti (chiite) en a été avisé. Dans la pratique, il est difficile de le désarmer parce que la Syrie et l’Iran se tiennent derrière » le Hezbollah et le manipulent, a ajouté le prélat maronite.
Et de poursuivre, en réponse à une question : « Les États-Unis sont une nation puissante. S’ils réussissent à demander à Israël de se retirer des fermes de Chebaa et de l’amener à admettre l’existence d’un État palestinien à ses côtés, ce serait une bonne chose. »
Au sujet du dossier nucléaire iranien, Mgr Sfeir a déclaré : « Si la technologie vise des objectifs pacifiques, cela serait accepté de tout le monde. Toutefois, si l’Iran œuvre à l’employer pour développer ses armes nucléaires, cela posera problème. »
Dans la soirée, le patriarche maronite a été convié à un dîner organisé en son honneur par la paroisse Notre-Dame du Liban à Saint-Louis, auquel ont notamment pris part plusieurs membres de la communauté américaine d’origine libanaise.
Prenant la parole au cours de la cérémonie, Ray Lahoud, membre du Congrès d’origine libanaise, a rendu hommage au cardinal maronite, soulignant qu’il était « toujours le bienvenu aux États-Unis ».
M. Lahoud, qui a souhaité l’arrivée, à la première magistrature de l’État libanais, de personnes véritablement représentatives de la volonté populaire, a déclaré n’avoir jamais « connu auparavant de présidents qui se soient autant intéressés au Liban comme l’a fait le président Bush ».
Le maire de Saint-Louis-Missouri a voulu à son tour honorer le prélat maronite, en déclarant le premier juillet « journée du patriarche Sfeir ».
Le prélat maronite est attendu aujourd’hui à Chicago où il doit participer à l’Assemblée nationale maronite qui consacrera cette année ses travaux aux décisions du synode patriarcal maronite. C’est la première fois, depuis plusieurs années, que le patriarche maronite assiste à cette assemblée.
Prévue pour être à l’origine une tournée pastorale, la visite du cardinal maronite pourrait acquérir, en cours de route, un caractère politique. En effet, les membres du Congrès américain d’origine libanaise insistent pour que le cardinal Sfeir rencontre la secrétaire d’État, Condoleezza Rice.
English USA “morally obliged” to encourage Mid-East peace
Jul 12, 2006
During a visit to the United States, the patriarch said resolving the Palestinian problem was crucial to calming the region’s conflicts. In Lebanon, Hezbollah must be disarmed, but “this is not easy”, given the ties of the Party of God with Syria and Iran.

Beirut (AsiaNews, 4 July, 2006) – The United States should commit itself with some urgency to encouraging the peace process in the Middle East, which would lead to resolution of the Palestinian problem, a key issue for peace in the region. And it is necessary for Lebanon to regain full sovereignty, so that only the army will bear arms. The first meeting with journalists of the Maronite Patriarch, Cardinal Nasrallah Sfeir, during his visit to the US, focused on these issues. His visit may include a meeting with the US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice.

The highlight of the early days of the patriarch’s third pastoral visit to Maronites in the United States – which kicked off on 29 June in Saint Louis – was a ceremony at the prestigious university of the Jesuits, during which the university rector, Fr Lorenzio Biondi, conferred a “Honoris Causa” degree upon the patriarch. The ceremony was attended by the highest civil and academic authorities. On this occasion, Cardinal Sfeir reiterated “the perennial position of the Maronite Church and its fidelity to principles already lived and preached by its predecessors”. He insisted on the fundamental role played by the Maronites in the renewal of Lebanon, “a message for the East and for the West”.

Patriarch Sfeir addressed a press conference in Saint Louis before leaving for Chicago, the second leg of his pastoral visit. He talked about the “urgency and moral obligation” prompting American leaders to “facilitate the path of the Middle East peace process, because the Palestinian cause is the sword constantly piercing the heart of the region, and once a solution to the Palestinian problem is found, many problems and conflicts in the region will be resolved”.

Patriarch Sfeir then reiterated his full backing for the re-establishment of a sovereign Lebanon, free of all armed presence that was not governmental. This would entail the disarmament of the Party of God, but “disarming members of Hezbollah is not easy by any means because they are protected by Syria and Iran”. The patriarch expressed his gratitude to the international community, for protecting the rights of the Lebanese people – downtrodden by the country’s enemies – through UN resolutions.

Reaching Chicago yesterday, Cardinal Sfeir presided over the annual meeting of Maronites of the United States (NAN), which this year coincides with the 40th anniversary of the erection of the first Maronite diocese in the United States and with the appointment of the first archbishop, Mgr Francis El Zayek. The patriarch told participants that his visit to the United States was “an immediate application of decisions taken during the latest Maronite Synod on the necessity of fortifying ties between Maronites in Lebanon and the diaspora”, with a “strong invitation” to contribute to the rebirth of Lebanon, the shared homeland of Christians and Muslims.

Sources close to Patriarch Sfeir told AsiaNews about the desire and commitment of Maronite representatives to arrange for a political meeting between Cardinal Nasrallah Sfeir and the Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, especially since the assignment of the Lebanese dossier to a new ambassador, Robert Danin, who replaced Elizabeth Debel.
French L’armée syrienne a quitté le Liban, mais ses services de renseignements et ses « amis » sont toujours là
Jul 12, 2006
À partir de Chicago, où il préside depuis hier les travaux de la convention nationale maronite (4-8 juillet), le patriarche maronite, le cardinal Nasrallah Sfeir, s’est vu de nouveau obligé de s’expliquer, devant les représentants de la presse américaine, au sujet des développements qui se sont produits au Liban depuis l’assassinat de Rafic Hariri.

(L'Orient-Le Jour, 05 Juillet 2006) Certes, l’armée syrienne a quitté le Liban, a-t-il affirmé, mais la Syrie a maintenu au Liban ses services de renseignements et elle y dispose d’« amis ».
« La conclusion, vous la tirerez tout seuls », a-t-il lancé.
Au sujet des armes du Hezbollah, le chef de l’Église maronite a redit tout simplement que lorsque, dans un même pays, certains sont armés et d’autres pas, cela constitue « une situation d’inégalité contraire à la Constitution ».
Mais le patriarche n’a pas manqué de souligner, non plus, combien la situation au Liban, et celle des chrétiens en particulier, est tributaire de celle du Moyen-Orient, et combien « une paix juste » en Palestine est cruciale pour l’avenir.
Ces propos ont été tenus par le cardinal à l’occasion de rencontres et de dîners marquant son séjour aux États-Unis, qui revêt une fois de plus un éclat particulier.
Ce ne sont pas seulement des maronites, mais aussi des membres de toutes les autres communautés qui tiennent en effet à venir saluer le patriarche, à son passage dans leurs villes.
La convention maronite nationale annuelle, qui se tient en l’église Saint-Maron, à Chicago, et dont le patriarche est le président d’honneur, a représenté l’un des moments forts de la visite pastorale.
Le patriarche n’a pas oublié, en inaugurant les travaux de cette convention, de souligner que celle-ci s’ouvre le jour même de la fête de l’Indépendance des États-Unis. Il a donc souhaité que « ce grand pays reste un phare pour tous les hommes, en défendant la foi en Dieu, la liberté et la justice pour tous ». « Mais, s’est-il empressé d’ajouter, il faut aller du verbe à l’acte. »
Le patriarche a abordé avec ses auditeurs les grands thèmes du synode patriarcal maronite qui vient de s’achever au Liban. Il a souligné en particulier que le dialogue islamo-chrétien est au cœur de la présence chrétienne en Orient. Mais il a rappelé aussi que le Christ n’a pas promis à ses disciples une vie facile, bien au contraire.
Sur les devoirs de l’Église, le patriarche a dit qu’elle est invitée à être « la conscience de la société » et à prendre des positions courageuses face à l’autorité, qu’elle soit politique ou économique, quand celle-ci est corrompue.
English Maronite Church leader visits St. Louis
Jul 03, 2006
Cardinal Nasrallah Peter Sfeir, patriarch of the Maronite Catholic Church, arrived in St. Louis on Thursday to begin a pastoral visit to the United States. His visit also will include stops in Chicago and New York.

(ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 07/01/2006) The Maronite Church, an ancient, eastern-rite branch of the universal Catholic Church, is based in Lebanon and is in full communion with the Vatican. Sfeir, 86, was made a cardinal by Pope John Paul II in 1994.

The patriarch is not just a religious figure in the Middle East; he's also a political player. He is frequently sought out by world leaders for guidance, said David Schenker, a senior fellow in Arab politics at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

Sfeir "has tremendous political and moral standing in Lebanon," said Schenker.

Last year, Sfeir met with President George W. Bush in the White House, and in February, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice paid the patriarch a visit outside Beirut rather than meet with Lebanon's Syrian-backed president, Emile Lahoud.

St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay greeted Sfeir at Lambert Field and gave him the key to the city.

In a ceremony Friday, the patriarch was awarded the Sword of Ignatius Loyola, St. Louis University's highest honor. Speaking at the ceremony, the Rev. Lawrence Biondi, president of SLU, said the university was recognizing "this man of peace, this man of faith." Sfeir also received an honorary doctorate of law from the university.
English Only Regular Army Should Undertake Lebanon's Defence
Jul 01, 2006
Only the regular army should be responsible for Lebanon's defence, according to the Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir.

Beirut (AsiaNews, 6-30-2006) --- In making this statement, he expressed his views about one of the burning issues of Lebanese political dialogue -- the weapons of resistance movements, especially Hezbollah. Cardinal Sfeir was speaking shortly before his departure for a pastoral trip to the United States, during which he will meet President George W. Bush and the UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan.

Yesterday, at the airport, he talked about the "inter-Lebanese dialogue", describing it as "indispensable", saying he hoped it would be successful. However, he added, the Lebanese people would not need this dialogue if the country's constitutional institutions were working as they should. Responding to a question, he emphasised that "the regular forces defending the country and the resistance are, right now, an accomplished fact. But the dialogue needs to be oriented in such a way that only the army will be responsible for the country's defence."

During the 20 days of his stay in the United States, Cardinal Sfeir will visit the American Maronite community to present -- nearly a month after deliberations closed -- the conclusions of the Maronite Patriarchal Synod, the first since the 19th century and since the latest political and religious developments. In Beirut, however, observers have underlined a political side to the trip; although this is not the Patriarch's first visit to the US, it is of particular significance because it is his first since Lebanon's liberation from the Syrian army. This was an event which, according to diplomatic sources in Lebanon, was the fruit of moves by Cardinal Sfeir and promises made to him by President Bush during a visit to the US in 2003, when the patriarch insisted on the role Washington could play in restoring full sovereignty to Lebanon.

The patriarch will be accompanied for the present trip by his "political right hand", the Maronite archbishop of Antelias, Mgr Youssef Bechara, who was the moderator of meetings with Kornet Chehwan, which contributed in no small way to developments in the political situation, seeing that it was born after a famous statement issued by the Maronite bishops in 2002. This statement maintained "the necessity of freeing Lebanon of Syrian occupation, because the presence of the Syrian army has destroyed the social peace and financial stability that Lebanon used to enjoy." Mgr Youssef Bechara was also appointed by Patriarch Sfeir to be the general secretary of the last sitting of the synod, and he is also considered by many to be Sfeir's most likely successor.

The patriarch's schedule in the US includes meetings with the Maronite community in the United States, where the Maronite hierarchy is represented by two bishops, one in New York and the other in Los Angeles (Mgr Robert Chahine and Mgr Gregori Mansour), to present the works of the Synod, especially the chapter dedicated to the importance of the Maronite diaspora. There has also been mention of the patriarch's desire to create a lobby capable of helping Maronites in Lebanon to remain in the land of their fathers.
English Cardinal is hope for future of Lebanese Christians
Jun 15, 2006
For Lebanese Christians, Cardinal Nasrallah P. Sfeir, Maronite Catholic patriarch, is their hope in an uncertain future.

Catholic News Service (www.catholicnews.com, 6/9/2006) BEIRUT, Lebanon – ''The patriarch should be credited really for being the only voice calling not only for Lebanese sovereignty, but also for the values that we all need for an independent, democratic and free Lebanon," said Farid el Khazen, a Christian member of Parliament and professor of political science at the American University in Beirut.

"He has a great knowledge of Lebanese politics," said el Khazen. "For this reason, he was able to make such an important impact on Lebanese politics at a time when Lebanese politics was difficult to handle: in wartime Lebanon when he was elected patriarch and in postwar Lebanon when Lebanon was under Syrian control."

Cardinal Sfeir, 86, is known for his keen intellect, artful diplomacy, openness, prudence, tenacity and humility. He was instrumental in the 1989 Taif Agreement, which ended Lebanon's civil war and gave Muslims a greater role in the country's political system. He was known for his outspokenness against Syria's occupation of Lebanon and for working to unite the Lebanese.

Even as a student at Jesuit-run St. Joseph University in Beirut, where he double-majored in philosophy and theology, the future patriarch was regarded as a wise man, said one of his classmates, Jesuit Father Saleh Nehmeh, now a priest at Our Lady of Deliverance Church in Bikfaya.

"The Jesuit training had a great influence on him: his respect for the church, his love for the people, his open mind, his freedom of judgment and especially his discernment," said Father Nehmeh.

Cardinal Sfeir's personality is a mix of three characters: the priest, the leader and the ancestral Lebanese man of the mountain, said Maronite Father Charles Ksas, parish priest for Amioun and Bziza villages in northern Lebanon.

"The young people love him and older people rediscover their heritage through him," he said.

Each Sunday morning, as many as 200-300 people – the poor, the wealthy, families with children – wait for a face-to-face meeting with Cardinal Sfeir. On the remaining six days of the week, he receives visitors from 9:30 a.m. until noon.

Maronite Bishop Bechara Rai of Jbeil said Cardinal Sfeir "greets you with a smile and listens to you patiently without giving the impression that he is in a hurry."

"For me, it is a sign of their confidence in the church," Cardinal Sfeir said of his steady stream of guests. "We have to be with our people, with their difficulties, with their questions."

International dignitaries – including presidents and prime ministers, U.N. officials and secretaries of state – typically meet with the patriarch during their visits to Lebanon. Muslim clerics and diplomats posted in Lebanon visit regularly, and impromptu evening visits from Lebanese government officials are not uncommon.

"Because he's nice, because he's friendly, because he's accessible, people assume that he can easily be manipulated and influenced," said el Khazen. "And this is not at all the case. He has very, very solid convictions. And these convictions are the convictions that we need for Lebanon to survive."

"I know that he has been offered incentives to engage in and support the political process," said el Khazen. "Syria sent him all kinds of people to try to co-opt him -- the politics of patronage, and so on – by offering to work with him, even directly. And of course, he was never willing to accept such offers."

Bishop Rai said the cardinal "makes his decisions calmly and after deep deliberation and careful analysis of the pros and the cons. He does not reveal his secret to anybody. He weighs and evaluates the things, the events and the persons involved. He proceeds by thesis, synthesis and conclusion."

"He prays constantly, especially the divine office," added Bishop Rai.

The patriarch still writes his own homilies and speeches and enjoys working on the computer. His stamina, he says, "is a gift from God."

Those who know him often remark about how little he eats.

"In a few minutes, he has his lunch. Ten minutes, top," said Msgr. Joseph Tawk, administrative secretary to Cardinal Sfeir. The secretary said the cardinal does not drink coffee or alcohol in a land where feasting and "taking a coffee" socially are an integral part of the Lebanese culture.

Of his time spent in a monastery school as a teenager, he once said: "The most important thing I learned there was developing willpower and perseverance, a life of austerity, and that a person should be content with little."

The cardinal personifies Maronite Catholics as they are described in a 1994 book by Father Michel Awit, the cardinal's personal secretary: "The Lebanese mountain gave the Lebanese an iron will and stern stubbornness.... They were open to all ideas, hospitable, generous and assured of their strength."

Cardinal Sfeir often tells the faithful that, despite the difficulties of these times, their circumstances are much better than "the miseries and persecution that befell our people throughout the ages. Our church is a church struggling for excellence."

What is Cardinal Sfeir's dream for Lebanon?

"To be independent, sovereign and to have the liberty to be with the other countries, free of any pressure," he said. "And our interest is to have the best relations with our neighbors, especially with Syria. But we cannot accept that Syria governs us and chooses our president, our ministers and our parliamentarians. Otherwise, we are not independent."

"We have to rely on providence" for the future, the cardinal said. "There is a providence that cannot leave us."
English Desperate Christians emigrating and selling properties
Jun 15, 2006
Cardinal Nasrallah Butros Sfeir has decried the state of schism plaguing the ranks of Lebanon's Christians, and called for better relations between them and their non-Christian surrounding.

(Ya Libnan, 12 June, 2006) Beirut- Speaking at the conclusion of a three-day Maronite synod, Sfeir said Christians were "selling their land and property. Out of despair, they are leaving in search of a new homeland."

"This is no source of reassurance," said the Maronite patriarch.

"There is a wedge; there's a conflict in (Christian) ranks and in the way of thinking," he said, apparently alluding to the widening divide between supporters of Lebanese Forces chief Samir Geagea and their rivals in Gen. Michel Aoun's Free Patriotic Movement.

At the core of the dispute is Aoun's support for President Lahoud, who Geagea and his allies seek to remove from power. Aoun, however, has indicated that if he were to be made president, he might support Lahoud's early departure.

"Everyone is chasing after his own personal interests, without any regard for the interests of the nation," said Sfeir. "No one can be happy alone, happiness has to be shared."

He concluded: "We wish for all (the Lebanese), especially the young men and women, to heed" the spiritual guidance released by the synod, so they may "recover belief in God, in their homeland and in themselves."
English Cardinal is hope for future of Lebanese Christians
Jun 12, 2006
For Lebanese Christians, Cardinal Nasrallah P. Sfeir, Maronite Catholic patriarch, is their hope in an uncertain future.

Catholic News Service (www.catholicnews.com, 6/9/2006) BEIRUT, Lebanon – ''The patriarch should be credited really for being the only voice calling not only for Lebanese sovereignty, but also for the values that we all need for an independent, democratic and free Lebanon," said Farid el Khazen, a Christian member of Parliament and professor of political science at the American University in Beirut.

"He has a great knowledge of Lebanese politics," said el Khazen. "For this reason, he was able to make such an important impact on Lebanese politics at a time when Lebanese politics was difficult to handle: in wartime Lebanon when he was elected patriarch and in postwar Lebanon when Lebanon was under Syrian control."

Cardinal Sfeir, 86, is known for his keen intellect, artful diplomacy, openness, prudence, tenacity and humility. He was instrumental in the 1989 Taif Agreement, which ended Lebanon's civil war and gave Muslims a greater role in the country's political system. He was known for his outspokenness against Syria's occupation of Lebanon and for working to unite the Lebanese.

Even as a student at Jesuit-run St. Joseph University in Beirut, where he double-majored in philosophy and theology, the future patriarch was regarded as a wise man, said one of his classmates, Jesuit Father Saleh Nehmeh, now a priest at Our Lady of Deliverance Church in Bikfaya.

"The Jesuit training had a great influence on him: his respect for the church, his love for the people, his open mind, his freedom of judgment and especially his discernment," said Father Nehmeh.

Cardinal Sfeir's personality is a mix of three characters: the priest, the leader and the ancestral Lebanese man of the mountain, said Maronite Father Charles Ksas, parish priest for Amioun and Bziza villages in northern Lebanon.

"The young people love him and older people rediscover their heritage through him," he said.

Each Sunday morning, as many as 200-300 people – the poor, the wealthy, families with children – wait for a face-to-face meeting with Cardinal Sfeir. On the remaining six days of the week, he receives visitors from 9:30 a.m. until noon.

Maronite Bishop Bechara Rai of Jbeil said Cardinal Sfeir "greets you with a smile and listens to you patiently without giving the impression that he is in a hurry."

"For me, it is a sign of their confidence in the church," Cardinal Sfeir said of his steady stream of guests. "We have to be with our people, with their difficulties, with their questions."

International dignitaries – including presidents and prime ministers, U.N. officials and secretaries of state – typically meet with the patriarch during their visits to Lebanon. Muslim clerics and diplomats posted in Lebanon visit regularly, and impromptu evening visits from Lebanese government officials are not uncommon.

"Because he's nice, because he's friendly, because he's accessible, people assume that he can easily be manipulated and influenced," said el Khazen. "And this is not at all the case. He has very, very solid convictions. And these convictions are the convictions that we need for Lebanon to survive."

"I know that he has been offered incentives to engage in and support the political process," said el Khazen. "Syria sent him all kinds of people to try to co-opt him -- the politics of patronage, and so on – by offering to work with him, even directly. And of course, he was never willing to accept such offers."

Bishop Rai said the cardinal "makes his decisions calmly and after deep deliberation and careful analysis of the pros and the cons. He does not reveal his secret to anybody. He weighs and evaluates the things, the events and the persons involved. He proceeds by thesis, synthesis and conclusion."

"He prays constantly, especially the divine office," added Bishop Rai.

The patriarch still writes his own homilies and speeches and enjoys working on the computer. His stamina, he says, "is a gift from God."

Those who know him often remark about how little he eats.

"In a few minutes, he has his lunch. Ten minutes, top," said Msgr. Joseph Tawk, administrative secretary to Cardinal Sfeir. The secretary said the cardinal does not drink coffee or alcohol in a land where feasting and "taking a coffee" socially are an integral part of the Lebanese culture.

Of his time spent in a monastery school as a teenager, he once said: "The most important thing I learned there was developing willpower and perseverance, a life of austerity, and that a person should be content with little."

The cardinal personifies Maronite Catholics as they are described in a 1994 book by Father Michel Awit, the cardinal's personal secretary: "The Lebanese mountain gave the Lebanese an iron will and stern stubbornness.... They were open to all ideas, hospitable, generous and assured of their strength."

Cardinal Sfeir often tells the faithful that, despite the difficulties of these times, their circumstances are much better than "the miseries and persecution that befell our people throughout the ages. Our church is a church struggling for excellence."

What is Cardinal Sfeir's dream for Lebanon?

"To be independent, sovereign and to have the liberty to be with the other countries, free of any pressure," he said. "And our interest is to have the best relations with our neighbors, especially with Syria. But we cannot accept that Syria governs us and chooses our president, our ministers and our parliamentarians. Otherwise, we are not independent."

"We have to rely on providence" for the future, the cardinal said. "There is a providence that cannot leave us."
French Nazek Hariri donne un dîner en l’honneur de Sfeir
May 29, 2006
Le patriarche maronite, le cardinal Nasrallah Sfeir, qui avait participé à Paris au 150e anniversaire de l’Œuvre d’Orient, a été l’hôte de Mme Nazek Rafic Hariri, qui a donné un dîner en son honneur à la résidence des Hariri dans la capitale française.

(lorient-lejour.com.lb, 20 Mai 2006) Mme Hariri a remis au patriarche Sfeir un cadeau souvenir constitué d’une icône antique. L’épouse de l’ancien Premier ministre assassiné a voulu ainsi montrer le respect et l’estime qu’elle porte au cardinal maronite. Mme Hariri, qui a remercié le patriarche d’avoir accepté l’invitation, a souligné l’importance du rôle joué par Mgr Sfeir.

Au cours de ce dîner auquel ont pris part des membres de la famille Hariri et plusieurs personnalités, Mme Hariri a montré au patriarche Sfeir les photos de l’ancien Premier ministre assassiné prises avec le pape Jean-Paul II au Vatican et à Beyrouth, en 1996, lors de la visite au Liban du souverain pontife.
English New UN Resolution on Lebanon is Necessary
May 29, 2006
The failure to disarm Hizbollah, draw the boundaries and establish diplomatic relations between Lebanon and Syria are the reasons that make another United Nations resolution necessary, this according to Card Nasrallah Sfeir, patriarch of the Maronite Church.

Paris (AsiaNews, 5-16-2006) -- In a long interview with French daily La Croix in Paris the day after meeting French President Jacques Chirac, the cardinal spoke about Lebanon's domestic situation and the ongoing 'national dialogue' which is set to restart today in a country divided between, on the one hand, Syrian- and Iranian-backed Hizbollah and General Michel Aoun, and, on the other, the March 14 movement "led by Saad Hariri and backed by the United States, Europe, Saudi Arabia and Egypt".

A new resolution on the Lebanese question that the United States and France are preparing for the Security Council "is a necessity because resolutions hitherto adopted have failed."

"Resolution 1559 called on Syrian troops to pull out, which they did, but other clauses--such as Hizbollah's disarmament, establishing diplomatic relations between Lebanon and Syria, and drawing the borders between the two countries--have not been implemented."

Hizbollah's disarmament was a major sticking point in previous sessions of the 'national dialogue' and will be so again in today's session. For the cardinal though, "we must find a compromise. It can be found perhaps through a frank and open dialogue or through foreign pressure as long as it is not violent."

Sfeir reaffirmed in fact his opposition to the use of violence when he talked about two other burning issues, namely intra-Maronite divisions and the disputed extension of the current president's mandate.

"They should find an agreement," he said when talking about tensions between Michel Aoun and Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea,"who so far have failed to do", adding that "past divisions have led to bad defeats".

On the issue of President Émile Lahoud's mandate, which was extended in 2004 by another three years as a result of Syrian pressure, the patriarch said he was against it "because in the past such moves never brought anything good to the country". But "now it's done," he said, and although "some have tried to force him [Lahoud] to resign, I am against it because it is dangerous for Lebanon and people would get hurt again."

Cardinal Sfeir also spoke about the repercussions of regional tensions on the country. "They [tensions] will continue," he said, "as long as a Palestinian state is not set up that has good relations with Israel."

"Relations between Christians and Muslims in Lebanon are at difficult point," he explained. "All Lebanese realise that they must live together despite real difficulties and should not split along confessional lines. Muslims themselves say that without Christians Lebanon would not be Lebanon."

"As John Paul II put it, Lebanon is an example of pluralism and democracy, a country where people can live together and accept one another. It is an example for Europe as well, since Muslims are already living there, everywhere."

As for Islam, the Patriarch stressed what Benedict XVI said, namely that "a dialogue between Christians and Muslims is possible at a human and social level, but has no future in the area of doctrine since each religion has its own. We are all believers, but Muslims have their notion of God and we have ours." In the meantime, the influential Lebanese daily L'Orient Le jour wrote that the national dialogue "will resume as always, in a political climate that is highly charged, despite moderately successful attempts by National Assembly Speaker Nabih Berri to defuse tensions".

The issue of the president's mandate will be on the agenda, "for the last time according to some". "In light of previous failures, no one expects anything to come of it. Now all are turning their attention towards Hizbollah's disarmament."
English Cardinal says government is dividing Lebanon
Apr 30, 2006
In an Easter message, the head of Lebanon's Maronite Catholic Church said that division among government officials is polarizing the country at the expense of the Lebanese people, who are on the verge of despair.

BEIRUT, Lebanon (Catholic News Service, April 24, 2006) -- Cardinal Nasrallah P. Sfeir also urged the faithful to have hope, reminding them God is ready to help Lebanon.

"The people are confused," said the cardinal. "They expect their leaders to lead them to a safe haven. Instead, they are leading them to peril and loss, poverty and despair."

Lebanese President Emile Lahoud, whom Lebanon's anti-Syrian parliamentary majority is seeking to oust, attended the Easter Mass at Bkerke, headquarters of the Maronite Catholic Church. Before celebrating Mass, Cardinal Sfeir met with Lahoud for about an hour in a closed-door session.

Lahoud's fate is the key unsettled issue in a series of national discussions among Lebanon's rival leaders. Talks are scheduled to resume in late April.

Lahoud, a Maronite Catholic, completes his term in November 2007. He was appointed to the post by Syria, which ended its 30-year occupation of Lebanon last April. According to Lebanon's sectarian-based system, the president must be a Maronite Catholic.

"The presidency has almost lost its prestige and dignity due to the controversy," Cardinal Sfeir said in his Easter message. As a result, he said, the position is losing its influence.

This "undermines the foundations of the country, weakening and diminishing it," he said. "The government seems to be abandoned; many governmental posts are empty, and there is no way to fill them because of the spats and misunderstandings among politicians."

The cardinal also was critical of a new tax proposal and its effect on the Lebanese -- who cannot bear such measures, he said -- and called for the government to put an end to "waste and futile spending."

The cardinal also addressed the continuing problem of emigration.

"The youth -- most of whom have achieved diplomas and university degrees -- are looking for jobs they cannot find. Therefore, they are forced to emigrate, and often to a faraway country, without returning," he said.

He said Lebanon's internal problems "encourage greedy outsiders to overpower the Lebanese government" and the country "will reach a desperate situation" if the Lebanese continue to put their own interests above the welfare of their country.

The cardinal said friendly nations "have relied upon the Lebanese to be wise and calm in dealing with the situation" and might "cease their help and support of Lebanon because help does not benefit as long as the Lebanese do not help themselves."

"God helps those who help themselves," Cardinal Sfeir said. "Heaven is ready to help us if we make up our minds and know how to help ourselves, so that God and the friends of Lebanon in the world -- and they are many, thanks be to God -- will help us.

"The sufferings that we endure in the world are not in vain if we unite them with the sufferings of mankind," said Cardinal Sfeir.

In a separate Easter message, Melkite Catholic Patriarch Gregoire III Laham of Damascus, Syria, said, "Let's pray to have a balance" between love and resurrection.

"This balance is the path for peace, security, cooperation, progress, liberty, justice and dignity for all the citizens of our beloved countries," he said. "Let's pray especially that love and resurrection will be a reality in the Holy Land, in Iraq and Sudan, and for all the countries that need security and peace and work opportunities so that people can obtain their daily bread with dignity in our region and throughout the entire world."
English Prophetic deeds needed to bring peace to Lebanon, says Cardinal Sfeir
Apr 27, 2006
On the eve of his departure for France, Maronite Patriarch criticises President Lahoud for “tying his fate to that of Syria”.

Beirut (AsiaNews, 11 April, 2006) – On the eve of Easter festivities, Card Nasrallah Sfeir has made a strong appeal to all Lebanese “to assume their responsibility and renew their commitment to bring peace to the entire country and to all social components of society, through prophetic deeds, worthy of the history of the Land of the Cedars, a land made by the Maronites and Lebanese themselves”.

The Patriarch’s appeal was made today after meeting French Ambassador Bernard Emier at Bkerke. Media sources indicated that the two men talked primarily of the Patriarch’s upcoming visit to France, scheduled for May 13-20, in the course of which, he will meet French President Jacques Chirac to renew French commitment to Lebanon, especially to the Maronite Church, a Francophone stronghold in the Middle East.

The Patriarch’s visit to France comes on the heels of his interview with French magazine Le Point in which he reiterated his disquiet vis-à-vis the “weakness of President Lahoud, who can no longer govern”.

He criticised Lahoud for “tying his fate to that of Syria” and reiterated his belief that “as a military man, President Lahoud is never going to resign”.

For some observers, the meeting between Sfeir and Chirac will play a “determining role” in the history of Lebanon and provide an opportunity to both sides to confirm once again the privileged connection France has to Lebanese Christians and Lebanon. The two men are also likely to talk about the future of the current Lebanese president.

According to Lebanon’s press, the US government is fully behind French involvement in finding a solution to Lebanon’s problems.

Others talk about a “Saudi-French” compromise worked out during President Chirac’s last visit to Saudi Arabia where he discussed the Lebanese question with King Abdullah.
English Lebanon's Cardinal Supports Government Talks
Mar 29, 2006
Maronite patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir has pledged his "full support" to "any initiative that leads the country out of its current crisis". Speaking on the eve of his departure for Rome where he will take part in the Consistory, the Patriarch said he was opposed to "the use of any violent language against the president of the Republic".

Beirut (AsiaNews, 3-22-2006) --- He said he hoped that the ongoing national dialogue would progress, calling on participants to assume their responsibility before history and warning against the danger of using force.

He also expressed his support for new elections under legislation that is fairer and more representative, adding that everyone should learn from history.

Today, the third and most difficult round in the national dialogue opened but was suspended immediately. At its core is the fate of sitting President Émile Lahoud and, in accordance with UN Resolution 1559, the disarmament of militias, in particular Hezbollah's.

For the daily L'Orient Le Jour, the atmosphere is particularly charged. The paper reports that the meeting was suspended partly because Saad Hariri, one of the 14 leaders involved in the national dialogue, is currently in Saudi Arabia.

Other sources say that the talks will resume after the summit of Arab heads of state in Sudan on March 28-29 which will also deal with this the Lebanese problem.
English Lebanon's Cardinal Sfeir Slams Political Bickering
Mar 04, 2006
As the date of Lebanon's national dialogue approaches, it was uncertain Sunday whether a Cabinet session would be held this week, despite a promise by Premier Fouad Siniora to hold a Cabinet meeting before the date of the dialogue, March 2.

(Daily Star, 2-26-2006) BEIRUT -- Siniora's promise came as Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Butros Sfeir chastised the country's politicians, asking them to use a more moderate tone in their "political bickering" over the need to topple the country's president.

The country's tense situation led the prelate to criticize political figures in his Sunday Mass, saying "some are discourteous and harsh and others are irrational and sarcastic."

Sfeir stressed the need for politicians to be "rational

and calm" when conveying their messages.

Indirectly criticizing President Emile Lahoud, who last week accused France and President Jacques Chirac of plotting to oust him and interfering in Lebanon, the prelate said: "we should rather work on strengthening constitutional bodies in the country, but this can occur without insulting each other and without some insulting friendly countries that are trying to help Lebanon emerge from this state."

"But the current situation in Lebanon doesn't show that we are people who are aware and who are able to tackle issues in a serious and wise way," he said.

On Saturday, following a visit to the vice president of the Higher Shiite Council Sheikh Abdel-Amir Qabalan, Siniora said everyone in the country knows public institutions should continue their work, "which is why work in Cabinet should continue."

"We have to keep in mind the interests of people ... In the next couple of days I will make all the necessary consultations and I am sure a Cabinet session will be held next week before the national dialogue starts," Siniora said.

Last week's Cabinet session was canceled because it did not have the necessary quorum, after the March 14 Forces ministers boycotted it for being held at the Baabda Presidential Palace, and declared they would not attend any session in Baabda as long as President Emile Lahoud resides there. Their position stemmed from their fresh campaign to oust Lahoud.

However, the position of the March 14 Forces' ministers was not clear on whether they will boycott another Cabinet session headed by Lahoud, but held someplace other than Baabda.

Contacted by The Daily Star, Industry Minister Pierre Gemayel said he would attend a Cabinet meeting, even if headed by Lahoud, as long

as it is not in Baabda.

"The Cabinet's work should go on, we don't want to paralyze public institutions," he said, and added the reason they refused to go to Baabda was "moral." "It represents our refusal to go to Baabda Palace as long as it is unconstitutionally occupied by Lahoud," he said.

However, acting Interior Minister Ahmad Fatfat said a decision had not been taken yet over whether to attend a session headed by Lahoud or not. http://www.dailystar.com.lb

"We will discuss this issue this week," he told The Daily Star.

The momentum to oust Lahoud has been growing recently, with March 14 Forces initiating several petitions asking Lahoud to step down, and waving the option of resorting to public demonstrations in the face of Lahoud to force him to resign.

Their threats, however, had been faced by a staunch opposition from Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun, who advised Lahoud to remain in power.

Aoun, who recently struck a political alliance with Hizbullah, warned the anti-Syrian forces of resorting to the street.

"If they think they can topple Lahoud by sending public protests to Baabda Presidential Palace, they should know that we can send protests to the Grand Serail," Aoun said, in a hint that the pro-Syrian forces in the country could push the premier to resignation.

Meanwhile, Al-Hayat newspaper reported Sunday that leaders of the anti-Syria coalition are trying to work out a deal with the main Shiite parties to agree on removing Lahoud from office in return for leaving the issue of Hizbullah's disarmament to dialogue.

According to the newspaper, Hariri would take charge of convincing Hizbullah and Speaker Nabih Berri's Amal Movement to approve a formula that would secure an end to Lahoud's term.

But talking to The Daily Star, Hizbullah MP Mohammad Raad denied the party was approached with such an offer, stressing at the same time that the idea was not "tolerable."

"The issue of maintaining the resistance's arms is not about to be traded with other demands by anyone," Raad said. "They either believe keeping Hizbullah's arms is a necessity to protect Lebanon, or they think we should disarm, and they have to explain why and then we will talk about it," he added. "But we will not accept such formulas."

Raad also said that discussing the issue of toppling Lahoud does not concern Hizbullah at the moment.

"We have other priorities, namely the issue of UN Resolution 1559, and we will discuss this during next week's national dialogue," he said.

The country's national dialogue, sponsored by Berri, is expected to begin next Thursday. Berri has already sent a delegation from his Amal Movement to invite political leaders to take part in the dialogue, which is expected to discuss three main issues, UN Resolution 1559, investigations in the murder of former Premier Rafik Hariri and Syrian-Lebanese relations.

The dialogue was also welcomed by UN special envoy Terje Roed-Larsen, who told Berri that he supported the national dialogue as a way to accomplish the disbanding of Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias in accordance with the 2004 UN resolution.

According to the UN Web site, Larsen, who is Secretary General Kofi Annan's special envoy for the implementation of Resolution 1559, talked to Berri Thursday over the phone, and conveyed Annan's views in that regard.
English Remove Lahoud from office only in accordance with the law, says Cardinal Sfeir
Feb 28, 2006
In an interview with AsiaNews, the Maronite Patriarch says he is in favour of Hezbollah’s disarmament, the pursuit of the international inquiry into Rafik Hariri’s assassination and new polls under “fair” election rules.

Beirut (AsiaNews, 23 February, 2006) – In a long interview with AsiaNews, Maronite Patriarch spoke about his country’s current predicament. For him, Lebanon’s President Lahoud’s can be removed if it is done in accordance with the constitution and according to legal procedures, but no one should boycott cabinet meetings just because he chairs them. Similarly, Hezbollah should disarm; the international inquiry into the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri should continue; and new polls ought to take place as long as election rules are fair. Altogether, he left few issues untouched not least Syria’s continued influence in the country.

“Although people gathered last February 14 to commemorate Prime Minister Hariri’s death, we cannot agree with all their demands, including those of a political nature,” said the 84-year-old Sfeir.

At the helm of the Maronite Church for almost 20 years, the patriarch is against Christian ministers boycotting cabinet meetings when they are chaired by President Lahoud; instead, he wants a solution that is worthy of the high office. Without mentioning his name, he criticised Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea who insists on demanding Christian ministers stay away. According to the patriarch, the latter’s February 14 speech was “too knee-jerk and argumentative and I cannot share the views of those who are led by their emotions”.

Moreover, he said he was very sorry to see “tensions between members of the Lebanese Forces and the followers of General Michel Aoun.” He urged them instead to “learn from the past, from the 1989-1990 clashes that left thousands dead and forced more to emigrate”.

In comments about calls for President Lahoud’s removal from office, the patriarch reiterated what he said months ago, namely that he was “opposed to actions based on the use of force in violation of the law and the constitution”.

He did though acknowledge the need to elect a new president when a general consensus emerges. Never the less, under current circumstances many baulk at the idea of having Lahoud removed.

For the patriarch, “everyone knows what is required. With 18 religious communities in Lebanon, [the new president] must be acceptable to his community for him to be able to preside over the affairs of all communities. He must be a trustworthy man, a man of integrity, one who is willing to sacrifice himself for the country.” What is more, the “next president, when he is elected, must be chosen by the Lebanese and must satisfy their aspirations and expectations”.

Patriarch Sfeir did not refrain from criticising last year’s elections, which were conducted under “unfair” rules in his opinion. Hopefully, he said, “we shall be able to get a more representative electoral law and, perhaps, hold fresh elections in the near future.”

Last but not least, the head of the Maronite Church spoke about relations with Syria, wondering whether Syria has actually pulled out of Lebanon given the continued presence of its secret services and its political influence in some parts of the country.

In light of this, he reiterated the need to continue the investigation into the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, and is hopeful that relations between the two countries can improve.

“Mutual respect and disinterested co-operation can renew historical ties between neighbours,” he explained.

As for the alliance between Syria, Iran and Hezbollah, Patriarch Sfeir re-stated his position that the latter “should disarm as a matter of principle because no one ought to bear arms even if they claim that their weapons are necessary to fight Israel”.
French Le Cardinal Nassarallah Boutros Sfeir reçoit Roger Abinader et formule des voeux de paix
Jan 30, 2006
Parti au Liban pour la levée de deuil de sa mère, Roger Abinader industriel et homme d’affaires ivoiro-libanais a été reçu par le patriarche Nassarallah Boutros SFEIR, chef de l’Eglise catholique et une personnalité très aimée et respectée au pays des Cèdres.

(eburneanews.net, 12/01/2006) Roger Abinader était allé lui exprimer sa gratitude et ses remerciements pour sa sollicitude lors des obsèques de sa défunte et bien aimée mère.

Le Cardinal qui on s’en souvient, avait effectué un séjour en Côte d’Ivoire en l’an 2000, s’est enquis du processus de réconciliation entre les Ivoiriens.

Il a formulé des prières et des bénédictions à l’endroit des peuples du monde et des ivoiriens.

Le patriarche a chargé Roger Abinader de transmettre ses voeux de paix et de prospérité à l’ensemble des habitants de Côte d’Ivoire et en particulier à Monseigneur Agré.
French Le général Michel Aoun chez le patriarche maronite
Jan 16, 2006
Michel Aoun, s’est rendu hier à Bkerké où il a été reçu par le patriarche maronite. Cette visite surprise intervient le lendemain de celle de son rival politique, le leader druze Walid Joumblatt.

(blog.france2.fr, 10 décembre 2005) Après la discussion avec le chef spirituel de la communauté maronite, Michel Aoun a renouvelé son appui à la demande officielle du gouvernement Siniora de créer un tribunal international pour juger les assassins de Rafic Hariri. Il a avoué que l’opposition ( le bloc parlementaire du général Aoun ne fait pas parti de la coalition gouvernementale), ne joue pas pleinement son rôle pour ne pas briser le pouvoir en place, toujours convalescent.

Au sujet des charniers découverts le week-end dernier à Anjar, qu’ils sont susceptibles de faire annuler la loi d’Amnistie. Cette loi date de 1991, les seigneurs de guerre proches de la Syrie, se sont dépêchés de la voter afin de se partager plus aisément le pouvoir, sans être inquiétés pour les crimes commis pendant la guerre au Liban.

Le chef du CPL n’a pas écarté l’éventualité d’une rencontre avec Walid Joumblatt. Ce dernier n’a pas ménagé le général depuis son retour d’exil, créant une dissension dans le camp qui s’oppose à l’ingérence syrienne.
English Lebanese Cardinal Blames Corruption for Lebanon's Current Dire Situation
Dec 26, 2005
Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Butros Sfeir on Thursday blamed corruption for Lebanon's current dire state of affairs. "Corruption has gotten us to this situation," the Prelate said, following a meeting with local and foreign officials.

(Daily Star, 12-22-2005) Beirut -- Sfeir had been visited by a delegation from the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, led by politburo member in Lebanon Ali Faisal, for a discussion on the ongoing internal Palestinian dialogue.

Following the meeting, the delegation issued a statement asserting there were many "pressing issues that can be solved by a decision from the Lebanese government, mainly opening a Palestinian Embassy" in Beirut.

The delegation also voiced its rejection of the "blatant U.S., European and Israeli interventions in the legislative elections (in Palestine), as they contradict democratic principles and are a blatant intervention in Palestine's internal affairs."

Separately, former MP Tammam Salam said the current government headed by Premier Fouad Siniora is "doing its best."

Salam's comments came after a meeting with Archbishop of Beirut Elias Aoude, and in response to MP Michel Aoun's demand the Cabinet resign and be reformed under the leadership of MP Saad Hariri.

The former MP also credited Speaker Nabih Berri with "playing a very great role" in the ongoing attempts to resolve the row within the Cabinet.

Noting the Cabinet's sessions are being boycotted by the Hizbullah and Amal bloc representatives, and President Emile Lahoud's refusal to chair a session until their return, Salam admitted: "The situation is uncomfortable and disturbing," adding, "The country is exposed on the security level."
English The UN commission headed up Cardinal Sfeir takes a decision of no decision on Lahoud
Nov 07, 2005
Lebanon's Maronite Christian bishops on Wednesday urged an end to mounting pressure on pro-Syrian President Emile Lahoud to resign. The Council of Maronite Bishops said that calls for Lahoud's resignation "has got Lebanon into an awkward situation. The presidency should remain above this dispute."

(yalibnan.com, 3 November, 2005) Beirut - The bishops said that the situation "harms the economic situation" and that the "constitution has the last word in such cases", indicating they support Lahoud completing his term.

Lahoud is facing pressure to resign following the February killing of Rafik Al Hariri, and after a UN report implicated Syrian security officials and Lebanese allies in the murder.

"This dispute is paralyzing political activity in Lebanon and distracting officials from taking an interest in deteriorating daily affairs of citizens", the bishops said.

by Judge Detlev Mehlis has reported that a member of the Al Ahbash group suspected of involvement in Hariri's murder had called president Lahoud on his cellular phone minutes before the bomb explosion that killed Hariri on February 14. Lahoud denied the report.

Some political analysts think that Cardinal Sfeir, the spiritual leader of the Christian community has been under tremendous pressure to act on replacing Lahoud. His reluctance to act stems from the fact that there is no clear cut candidate that he could name that will be able to satisfy all the Lebanese. Obviously Sfeir did not want to take the decision of no decision on his own and that is why the decision not to act on the presidency at this stage is a collective decision by all the bishops.

Will this decision of no decision stop the pressure on Sfeir? Not really...

Lahoud is so isolated at this stage that he has almost completely lost his legitimacy as the president of the republic. The majority of the Lebanese associate Lahoud with the Syrian occupation. Most feel that Lahoud should have stepped down when the Syrians left Lebanon in April. After all, president Assad forced the Lebanese parliament to amend the Lebanese constitution and again forced it to vote to extend Lahoud's term by another 3 years.

The most important issue here is not the president but the presidency. If the presidency loses its importance as a key power base, this will be bad news for Lebanon, since we will lose the check and balance system of government that was established by the Taif Accord.

Even though the president should be a Christian Maronite, he is supposed to be the president of all the Lebanese. Cardinal Sfeir therefore has a national responsibility to exercise and quickly. The time to act is now! If Sfeir does not want to name a single candidate, he should at least come up with a list of candidates, and let the parliament decide. There are many Maronite leaders that qualify. Lahoud should go to preserve the Republic, not a disgraced individual.
French « Le célibat est le joyau le plus précieux dans le trésor de l’Église Catholique »
Oct 24, 2005
« Le célibat est le joyau le plus précieux dans le trésor de l’Église Catholique ». Le cardinal Nasrallah Pierre Sfeir est intervenu au cours de la 8e congrégation générale de la XI assemblée générale ordinaire du synode des évêques, sous la présidence du cardinal Juan Sandoval Iñiguez, en présence du pape et de 239 membres du synode, vendredi 7 octobre.

ROME, Lundi 10 octobre 2005 (ZENIT.org) - Le cardinal Nasrallah Pierre Sfeir, patriarche libanais d’ Antioche des Maronites, chef du synode de l’Église Maronite évoquait cette proposition : « pour suppléer à la pénurie des prêtres, certains guidés par le principe : « salus animarum suprema lex », réclament l’ordination des fidèles mariés, de foi et de vertu éprouvées, plutôt que de laisser des paroisses sans service sacerdotal ».

Il reconnaissait : « Il y a là un problème que personne ignore. Il mérite qu’on y réfléchisse sérieusement. Dans l’Église maronite, on admet des prêtres mariés. La moitié de nos prêtres diocésains sont mariés. Mais il faut avouer que le mariage des prêtres, s’il résout un problème, il en crée d’autres aussi graves. Un prêtre marié a le devoir de s’occuper de sa femme et de ses enfants, leur assurer une bonne éducation, les caser socialement. Aussi la prêtrise a-t-elle été un moyen de promotion sociale au Liban ».

« Une autre difficulté surgit pour un prêtre marié, soulignait le patriarche Sfeir, c’est celle de ne pas s’entendre avec ses paroissiens. Malgré cela, il arrive que son Evêque ne peut pas le muter, en raison de l’impossibilité pour sa famille de se déplacer avec lui. Malgré tout, ces prêtres mariés ont préservé la foi du peuple dont ils ont partagé la vie dure. Sans eux, cette foi aurait disparu ».

« D’autre part, le Célibat est le joyau le plus précieux dans le trésor de l’Église Catholique, affirmait le cardinal libanais. Mais comment le garder dans une atmosphère érotisée : journaux, Internet, affiches, spectacles, tout s’étale sans honte et ne manque pas de blesser la vertu de la chasteté. Il va de soi que, une fois ordonné, un prêtre ne peut plus contracter mariage. Envoyer des prêtres dans un pays qui en manque, d’un pays qui en a beaucoup, n’est pas une solution idéale, si l’on tient compte des traditions, des habitudes et des mentalités. Le problème reste posé. Il faut prier le Saint Esprit de suggérer à son Église les moyens de lui trouver une solution adéquate ».
Spanish Un Cardenal explica por qué no conviene el sacerdocio casado
Oct 15, 2005
El Cardenal Nasrallah Pierre Sfeir, Patriarca de Antioquía de los Maronitas (Líbano), explicó por qué, pese a que el rito Maronita los admite, los sacerdotes casados no son una solución para la falta de clero, informa AD.

(ACI DIGITAL, 07/10/2005) Durante su intervención en la tarde del jueves, el Patriarca señaló que “la mitad de nuestros sacerdotes diocesanos están casados. Pero hay que reconocer que si el matrimonio de los sacerdotes resuelve un problema, también crea otros graves”.

El purpurado libanés explicó que “un sacerdote casado tiene el deber de ocuparse de su esposa y de sus hijos, de asegurarles una buena educación, de garantizarles el porvenir”. “Otra dificultad para un sacerdote casado puede ser la de no entenderse con sus parroquianos. A pesar de ello, su obispo no puede trasladarlo debido a la imposibilidad de que su familia se desplace con él”, añadió.

El Patriarca reconoció que en el rito Maronita estos sacerdotes “han preservado la fe del pueblo junto al cual han compartido una vida dura”; pero recordó que “el celibato es la joya más preciosa del tesoro de la Iglesia Católica”.
English Maronite Rite Cardinal defends, praises celibate priesthood, but admits can create other serious problems
Oct 15, 2005
Speaking to the 11th General Synod Fathers, gathered for their eighth meeting this morning at the Vatican, Cardinal Nasrallah Pierre Sfeir, who is Patriarch of Antioch of the Maronites in Lebanon--a Catholic rite which allows for married priests--addressed the issue, which has been brought up by many, particularly in light of the U.S. sex abuse scandal, of commonly permitting married priests in the Roman rite.

Vatican City, Oct. 07, 2005 (CNA) - The Cardinal defended the practice of the celibate priesthood and discussed the beauty of the tradition, calling it the "most precious jewel in the treasury of the Catholic Church."

While pointing out that "the Maronite Church admits married priests" and that "half of our diocesan priests are married", the Cardinal Patriarch said that "it must be recognized that if admitting married men resolves one problem, it creates others just as serious."

"A married priest", he said, "has the duty to look after his wife and family, ensuring his children receive a good education and overseeing their entry into society. ... Another difficulty facing a married priest arises if he does not enjoy a good relationship with his parishioners; his bishop cannot transfer him because of the difficulty of transferring his whole family.

He noted that "married priests have perpetuated the faith among people whose difficult lives they shared, and without them this faith would no longer exist."

"On the other hand," he said, "celibacy is the most precious jewel in the treasury of the Catholic Church,"

Lamenting a culture which is all but outright opposed to purity, the Cardinal asked: "How can [celibacy] be conserved in an atmosphere laden with eroticism? Newspapers, Internet, billboards, shows, everything appears shameless and constantly offends the virtue of chastity."

Suggesting that their are no easy solutions to the problem of priest shortages in the Church--an oft brought up point during the Synod--he noted that, "Of course a priest, once ordained, can no longer get married. Sending priests to countries where they are lacking, taking them from a country that has many, is not the ideal solution if one bears in mind the question of tradition, customs and mentality. The problem remains."
English Need for a Leader to Restore Confidence
Oct 07, 2005
Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Butros Sfeir highlighted the country's need for a leader to restore confidence in themselves and their country during yesterday's Mass. Sfeir said Lebanon was being plunged into "deadly confusion" regarding the impact of the expected report from the international probe into the murder of former Premier Rafik Hariri.

(Assyrian International News Agency, September 25, 2005) BEIRUT -- The Maronite Bishops Synod expressed concern for recent developments over the weekend and condemned this month's Jeitawi bombing, saying the latest attack was aimed at "undermining stability." The Bishops called on the government to provide adequate security to all sectors of the country, and compensation for those who sustained damages from the bombing.

At the closing ceremony of their annual conclave, which began in Bkirki on Monday, the bishops issued a statement urging the Lebanese to unify ranks and avoid sedition by establishing a constructive dialogue. Bishops from Lebanon, Syria, Palestine, Egypt, Cyprus, Europe, Australia, Canada, the U.S., Mexico, Brazil and Argentina were on hand for the conclave.

It added Lebanese should contribute to maintaining a country "of co-existence among all confessions," and urged officials to be a positive example of such cohesiveness.

During the meeting, the bishops also re-established an Episcopal Committee charged with examining the situation of Maronites in areas where there are no dioceses, such as the Arab Gulf, Africa, Europe and some countries in the Americas.

The committee is to prepare studies and determine how to establish dioceses in countries where Maronites are present.

According to An-Nahar, the Synod has elected five priests for vacant dioceses and submitted their names to the Vatican for approval.
Spanish Nuevo renacimento de iglesia católica de rito maronita
Sept 26, 2005
El Cardenal Nassrallah Sfeir, Patriarca de Antioquía de los Maronitas, alentó a los católicos de rito maronita a un mayor compromiso con su fe y su tradición, al concluir el Sínodo Patriarcal realizado en el Líbano.

Roma, (NE – eclesiales.org, 14-Septiembre-2005) El Purpurado destacó la necesidad de una “renovación” en lo espiritual, litúrgico y disciplinar, ante la presencia de cuarenta obispos de rito maronita reunidos en el convento de Nuestra Señora de la Montaña, al norte de Beirut. Asimismo, el Patriarca lanzó una especial invitación a los jóvenes, llamándolos a permanecer en el país, y pidió a las autoridades del Líbano mejorar las condiciones de vida para evitar la migración al extranjero. Las conclusiones del sínodo serán entregadas a la Santa Sede para su aprobación definitiva.

El rito católico maronita se remonta a San Marón, un sacerdote que a finales del siglo IV decidió salir de Antioquía y llevar una vida de soledad y oración en la montaña. Sus discípulos fueron enérgicos defensores del Concilio de Calcedonia, en el 451, afirmando la naturaleza humana y divina de Jesucristo. Debido a la expansión del islam, los maronitas se vieron separados del Patriarca de Constantinopla, y en el 687 eligieron a su propio Patriarca, San Juan Marón. Con el tiempo los Patriarcas maronitas harían explícita su unidad con la Sede de Pedro. En 1584, el Papa Gregorio inauguró el Colegio Maronita en Roma, alentando el crecimiento de este rito en el seno de la Iglesia.

Actualmente hay más de 10 millones de católicos maronitas, divididos en treinta diócesis alrededor del mundo, en especial en el Líbano y Siria. Cuenta con más de dos mil sacerdotes, 1.500 religiosos y alrededor de 3 mil religiosas.
English Family thanks Cardinal Sfeir for helping in Samir Geagea’s release
Aug 06, 2005
Ms Strida Geagea told AsiaNews that as soon as her husband Samir—the former head of the Lebanese Forces—is free, they are going abroad for three weeks. She also thanked the Maronite Patriarch, Cardinal Nasrallah Sfeir, for all he did to help getting Samir free.

Beirut (AsiaNews, 22 July, 2005) – Lebanese President Émile Lahoud signed on Wednesday the two amnesty laws approved by parliament in favour of Mr Geagea and some 30 Islamic militants imprisoned on suspicion of terrorism.

Mr Lahoud did however express reservations about the amnesty, saying that to be just and equitable it should include other groups as well.

He said he hoped that the new parliament will rapidly adopt new legal rules for a global and equitable amnesty.

Samir Geagea is Christian and the only warlord sentenced for crimes committed during the country’s civil war.

He was arrested in March 1994 for allegedly planting a bomb in Our Lady of Liberation Church in Zouk Mikael, in which 11 people lost their lives.

Although the allegations proved unfounded, he was still charged and sentenced to four death penalties—later reduced to life in prison—for crimes committed from 1975 to 1990.

Speaking to AsiaNews, his wife Strida thanked the Maronite Patriarch, Card Nasrallah Sfeir, for all he did on Samir Geagea’s behalf.

Samir’s father Farid, 80, has not forgotten his Tuesday and Thursday visits to the prison since 1994, the humiliations, the ten minute meetings that sometimes could surprisingly stretch to an hour when the whole family came. Now all he wants to talk about are injustices and forgiveness.

“We all sin and must forgive so that God may forgive us. I have prayed every day for the prison guards, because their fate is worse than that of the prisoners”.

Samir’s mother Marie said that in “11 years and 3 months I have not had a day of rest. I found courage telling myself that God is great, that injustices are not eternal. I never lost faith that I would see Samir free. But waiting in these last months has tired me a lot. I can forgive the injustices but I can’t forget them”.

The other amnesty law exonerates some 30 Sunni fundamentalists; some from Denneye in northern Lebanon, others from Majdel Anjer, in the Beqaa valley.

The former were accused of involvement in clashes with the army in Denneye that left 12 soldiers dead in 2000. The latter were accused of carrying out an attack against the Italian Embassy in 2004.

With the amnesty laws published in the official gazette yesterday, Samir Geagea is free.
English Lebanon's Cardinal Appeals for a New Beginning to Religious Life
Jul 09, 2005
Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir made an "urgent appeal" to all religious in Lebanon that they may begin a process of spiritual renewal that would lead all believers to the path of holiness.

Beirut (AsiaNews, 07-04-2005) -- The Patriarch spoke on the 50th anniversary of the death of the venerable servant of God, Fr Jacques Haddad, a capuchin who founded the Congregation of the Holy Cross that now counts some 300 nuns around the world. The anniversary also marks the Congregation's first centennial.

Lebanese President Émile Lahoud, the Apostolic Nuncio to Lebanon Mgr Luigi Gatti, and the Superior General to the Congregation of the Holy Cross, Mother Rita Makhlouf, attended the ceremony as did many prelates, ministers, priests, men and women religious as well as a thousand faithful.

The occasion gave Patriarch Sfeir the opportunity to meet President Lahoud, his second meeting of the last ten days.

Sources close to the Patriarch told AsiaNews that during their tête-à-tête both parties listened to each other and expressed their respective wish to see the country overcome the current crisis through democratic means, far from any bellicose attitudes.

The Patriarch spoke about the fundamental principles that inspired the consecrated life Fr Jacques Haddad, principles that he also preached: "My beloved daughters, love Christ through His poor brothers".

Cardinal Sfeir said that Father Jacques was a model of holiness and simplicity. Father Jacques, he said, "was a man of God, who entrusted all his deeds to Divine Providence, who sought special attention for those who most needed charity and their brothers' love".

Father Jacques's mission remains indispensable today to serve the poor, the marginalised, the sick and the invalid who suffer from mental or physical handicaps.

Cardinal Sfeir also spoke about Father Jacques's special affection for his fellow priests. "He founded the Maison du Christ Roi, a hospice for old and sick priests in Zouk Mosbeh, north of Beirut," the Patriarch said, "because he believed it was necessary to provide his fellow priests who had spent a lifetime in the service of the Church with a place where they could live out their last years in serenity and tranquillity before their final journey into the beyond."

Although Fr Jacques Haddad was poor in material terms, he was rich in spiritual terms like his charismatic father, Saint Francis of Assisi; he was a man faithful and totally respectful of his religious vows and gave everything for the love of God and of his brothers.

The Cardinal said he hoped he would soon see Father Jacques elevated to the honour of the altar like Charbel Makhlouf, Saint Rafqa al-Rayes and Saint Nimatullah Youssef Al-Hardini, devout children of the Maronite Church, "because the Church and the country need honest witnesses".
English No more fighting among Christians
Jul 09, 2005
Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir said he hoped that incidents like that of Koura in which two Christians were killed in clashes between followers of Suleiman Frangieh and Samir Geagea will be a thing of the past.

Beirut (AsiaNews, 5 July, 2005) – Saad Hariri, who recently met Patriarch Sfeir as part of his tour to meet the country’s main figures, told AsiaNews after the meeting that the “he [Sfeir] always has ideas for unifying the country. We shall coordinate our actions with everyone else since, after all, Lebanon belongs to all of us, and we must all live together. As Lebanese we can manage our affairs and should not quarrel among ourselves”.

For his part, Patriarch Sfeir used the Koura incident to express his hope that “wisdom would prevail over irresponsible behaviour, which threatens people’s lives. Instead, a sense of forgiveness should take the place of vengeance.”

The Cardinal also said he sent his condolences to the victims’ families and a message of well-wishes to the injured.

Suleiman Frangieh also spoke about the killings. In a press conference, he thanked the Lebanese Forces for not making political mileage out of the incident, however serious it might be.

He also stressed that he would not protect any of his followers involved in such deeds.

“We live under the rule of law and justice must follow its course even if the gunman is called Frangieh,” he said.

The former minister said that he had been in contact with the gunman’s family. Although unaware as to his hiding place, Frangieh said he tried to convince him to surrender to the authorities.

“This incident reminds me of the 1978 Ehden massacre and no one wants that to be repeated,” Frangieh said.

Finally, he reiterated his support for the release of Lebanese Forces’ leader Samir Geagea. And in response to a reporter’s question, he said that he was “out of power” and not interested in any ministries.

He also stressed that the rapprochement between General Michel Aoun and Saad Hariri was a good thing, expressing his appreciation for Hariri’s conciliatory politics even if it “does not please Walid Jumblatt who cares only for his personal interests”.

In last Sunday mass, Patriarch Sfeir raised the question of the fate of those Lebanese living in Israel, urging the Lebanese authorities not to ignore the issue, “especially now that we are moving towards an overall reconciliation”.

“Events pushed these fellow citizens to find refuge in Israel,” Sfeir said. “Now there are two possibilities, neither one very good: the refugees either opt for Israeli citizenship and stay in that country or they emigrate to a third country. By refusing both options, they show instead that they want to come home”.
English “Before voting, examine your conscience”
Jun 13, 2005
Maronite Patriarch, Cardinal Nassrallah Sfeir, yesterday made a strong appeal to the nation to respect rules of electoral conduct, inviting voters to refute the logic of “electoral money”. The Patriarch expressed his hope that “each will examine his conscience before casting his ballot next Sunday” and that an “effective parliament” will be elected “despite the dreadful electoral law, rejected by practically all honest Lebanese”.

Beirut (AsiaNews, 11 June, 2005) – The Cardinal has summoned, for this “explosive” weekend, the superior Council of the Maronite Synod – marked last spring with the participation of more than 200 delegates from around the world – for a study seminar in the convent of Saidet el Jabal. The seminar will be supervised by the Secretary-General of the Maronite Synod Joseph Bechara.

Sfeir released the statement from his seat in Bkerke where he received one of the Opposition candidates, Maronite Nasib Lahoud, who said: “The elections have ruined the national consensus of 14 March.” Talking shortly afterwards from his home in El Metn Chemali – in the northern quarter of Beirut – the man, who is founder of several charities, said “His Beatitude is the guarantor of a democratic process. I hope all follow the directives of the Patriarch, the only person who is seeking not his own interests but those of the Lebanese people.”

Tomorrow’s elections will carry weight especially as regards mixed regions, like Baabda-Alay, where Druze, Maronites, Greek-Orthodox and Shi-ites live together: in these regions, the Shi-ite vote will have clout. The scenario is not the same in the valley of Bekaa – a region shaken by internal conflict arising from the withdrawal of Syrian troops.

Last night, the final television debates among candidates took place: General Michel Aoun expressed his “full faith in the consciences of voters who have refused dirty money” and he also talked of his alliance with the vice-president of the parliament Michel Murr.

Nasib Lahoud, head of the Opposition list backed by Saad Hariri, was severely critical of General Aoun because of this alliance. Murr is one of those who was behind the persecution of Aoun’s followers in recent years.

Fares Boueiz, former Foreign Affairs Minister, submitted his resignation and – and in an interview with AsiaNews – levelled heavy criticism at “friends of yesterday” like Farid Haikal Khazen, who left him to join the list of Saad Hariri.
Italian In Libano ci sono forze malefiche, ma non ci fermeranno
May 15, 2005
In Libano esistono ancora “forze malefiche” che “fanno disinformazione, mettono le bombe e seminano il terrore”, mentre la scena politica è dominata da “menzogna e doppiezza di linguaggio”. E’ la denuncia espressa dal cardinale Nasrallah Sfeir, patriarca dei maroniti, secondo il quale, però, “non si riuscirà ad allontanare i libanesi dalla strada verso l’indipendenza”.

Beirut (AsiaNews, 9 Maggio 2005) - Il cardinale, che parlava nel corso della messa celebrata ieri a Bkerke, ha affermato che “la gente ha dato ai politici molto più di quanto abbia ricevuto. In ogni caso, l’ultima parola in una democrazia spetta al popolo, che presto si pronuncerà senza farsi confondere, senza paura e senza soccombere alle tentazioni, specialmente finanziarie”.

Dopo la messa, il cardinale Sfeir ha ricevuto una delegazione degli ex allievi delle scuole cattoliche del Paese, ai quali ha espresso la speranza che l’unità dei libanesi sia reale. “Anche se le barriere esterne sono cadute, restano quelle interne. Bisogna che noi lavoriamo, ognuno a partire dalla sua realtà, per serrare i ranghi al fine di far ritrovare al Libano la sua prosperità, la sua libertà e la sua indipendenza”. “Quando tutte le barriere cadranno ed i libanesi saranno capaci di lavorare insieme senza ingerenze straniere, sarà possibile affrontare tutte le questioni”.

Ad una domanda sulla vicenda del generale Michel Aoun, il Patriarca ha risposto dando “il benvenuto a tutti coloro che tornano”, ma ha rifiutato di commentare quanto accaduto sabato in Parlamento. Quanto al leader delle Forze libanesi Samir Geagea, ancora in prigione, ha dichiarato : “noi abbiamo sempre chiesto la liberazione di Geagea, ma queste richieste non sono state ascoltate. Ci possiamo consolare con il ritorno dall’esilio del generale Aoun. Spero che verrà un giorno nel quale Samir Geagea sarà liberato e la riconciliazione abbia luogo. Il Libano ha bisogno di tutti per riprendere le sue forze”.

Il cardinale ha infine osservato che “finora gli accordi di Taeff, che invitano alla riconciliazione, non sono stati rispettati ; noi vogliamo la libertà, ma sembra che la parola abbia significati diversi. Noi siamo per la libertà in senso assoluto : ogni persona deve essere responsabile dei suoi atti”.
English Lebanese cardinal wants dialogue, collaboration
Apr 24, 2005
Roman Catholicism’s relationship with Islam loomed large Thursday during a Memorial Mass that saw Lebanese Cardinal Nasrallah Pierre Sfeir cast John Paul II’s pontificate as a boon to interfaith and ecumenical dialogue and express a desire for continued openness between Catholics and Muslims.

(The National Catholic Reporter, April 15, 2005) In a ceremony laced with prayers in Arabic, chanted over chimes and mandolin notes, Sfeir recounted a number of visits made by the pontiff to trouble spots in the Arab world, including Israel in 2000 and Syria in 2001. Sfeir then described John Paul’s symbolic visit to Lebanon in 1997 as a model for church relations with Islam.

“The Catholic Church wants to be open also to dialogue and to collaboration with Muslims from other Arab countries,” he said.

Sfeir is known as a strong proponent of Christian-Muslim coexistence in a country where Christian political power has been in decline since the end of Lebanon’s decades-long civil war in 1990. Sfeir played a key role in convincing hard-line Christians to back the 1989 Taif Accord that ended the war and prompted political reforms that eventually undermined Christian control over the government. Sfeir has also voiced support for bringing Hezbollah, an Islamic rebel group, into Lebanon’s political fold.

At 84, Sfeir will not be voting in the next conclave. But in an interview with Italian state radio last week, Sfeir expressed hope that the Middle East would not be ignored in the voting.

“You know the cardinals can’t talk about the conclave,” Sfeir said. “But we hope the Holy Spirit sends us a new pope who understands the world and the importance of the Middle East.”

Sfeir concelebrated the Mass with cardinals representing Eastern rite churches in communion with the Catholic Church, including Syrian Cardinal Ignace Moussa Daoud and Ukrainian Cardinal Lubomyr Husar, both of whom will vote in the upcoming conclave.

Hardliners within the church have characterized John Paul’s papacy as being soft on Islamic governments that put restrictions on the religious freedoms of non-Muslims. A lack of reciprocity in relations with Islam has been especially apparent in the case of Saudi Arabia, which financed the construction of Italy’s only mosque near Rome while maintaining a ban on the construction of Christian churches on Saudi soil.

Sfeir referred to John Paul as the “pope of peace,” praising his opposition to the American-led war in Iraq. He also asserted that John Paul’s efforts to strengthen dialogue with Muslims did not diminish the Church’s standing in the Arab world.

“Opening to non-Christian religions never prevented the pope from raising his voice when human rights were ignored,” Sfeir said. “Nor did he accept establishing diplomatic relations with countries that denied the Christian religion the right to exist.”

The homily also touched on Ut Unum Sint, John Paul’s 1995 encyclical on ecumenical dialogue that many believe brought Catholicism closer to accepting other Christian denominations.

John Paul “confronted the problems of ecumenism, leaving an eloquent testimony of his ecumenical anxiety,” Sfeir said. “He never stopped promoting dialogue between Christians from different denominations.”

Some would say John Paul’s push for dialogue in the mid-1990’s has been overshadowed by the more recent writings of his top theologian, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger.

As the Vatican’s doctrinal czar, Ratzinger first took the wind out of ecumenical relations with a 2000 document titled Note on the Expression “Sister Churches” that classified the Catholic Church as the “mother” of other Christian denominations as opposed to a “sister,” the more common description in ecumenical circles.

The follow up to this letter came shortly thereafter with Ratzinger’s controversial Dominus Iesus, which suggested that the salvific powers of non-Catholic communities was ultimately rooted in the Catholic Church. In a blow to inter-religious dialogue, the document also insisted that Jesus Christ is the world’s unique and only savior.
French Le Liban doit redevenir exemple de coexistence entre chrétiens et musulmans
Apr 16, 2005
« L’Europe peut faire beaucoup pour que le Liban redevienne exemple de coexistence entre chrétiens et musulmans », affirme Sa Béatitude Nasrallah Pierre Sfeir, patriarche d’Antioche des Maronites dans cet entretien accordé la semaine dernière à Zenit.

ROME, vendredi 15 avril 2005 (ZENIT.org) – Le cardinal Sfeir, âgé de 84 ans, affirme que la paix est « un défi pour les Libanais ». « Je suis convaincu que le pays est en mesure de vivre en paix sans les troupes l’occupation », affirme-t-il.

Zenit : Etes-vous optimiste quant à l’avenir du Liban ?

Card. Sfeir : Absolument, car la Providence est à l’œuvre. Tout le monde pensait que les chrétiens et les musulmans ne pouvaient pas parler la même langue. En revanche on a vu que non seulement nous pouvons parler la même langue mais que nous pouvons vivre en harmonie.

Zenit : Qu’a fait Jean-Paul II pour le Liban ?

Card. Sfeir : En 1978, lorsque Jean-Paul II a été élu, le Liban était déjà en pleine guerre. Le pape a immédiatement écrit une lettre à tous les épiscopats du monde pour leur recommander la situation du Liban, et il a maintenu l’attention sur notre petit pays, en intervenant chaque fois que la situation empirait.

Le Liban lui tenait à coeur. Wojtyla disait que le Liban était comme la Pologne, écrasée entre deux pouvoirs : la Pologne entre l’Allemagne et la Russie, le Liban entre Israël et la Syrie.

Nous avons toujours été convaincus que le Saint-Père connaissait la situation du Liban mieux que ceux qui y vivent. Son œuvre a été providentielle. Avec sa mort nous avons perdu un grand défenseur de la cause du Liban.

Zenit : Quelle est la situation de la communauté chrétienne au Liban ?

Card. Sfeir : Il existe 18 communautés catholiques au Liban. L’Eglise maronite est la plus grande mais de nombreux chrétiens ont quitté le pays pour les Etats-Unis, le Canada, l’Australie, le Mexique et ailleurs.

L’émigration a commencé pendant la guerre et continue encore aujourd’hui.

Ils sont partis pour au moins deux raisons : d’abord parce qu’il n’y avait pas suffisamment de travail, et il s’agissait de personnes diplômées ; deuxièmement parce que le climat politique était déprimant et oppressif.

La présence des chrétiens au Liban est très importante car nous sommes au Moyen Orient, près de Jérusalem, un lieu où les chrétiens peuvent trouver la possibilité de pratiquer leur foi librement.

Zenit : Quels sont selon vous les principaux problèmes auxquels l’Eglise et le monde devront faire face ?

Card. Sfeir : Au siècle dernier les plus grandes menaces ont été le régime nazi et le régime communiste. Aujourd’hui le plus grand problème à affronter est celui du terrorisme islamique. Le terrorisme est alimenté par l’injustice et la pauvreté.

Pour combattre le terrorisme il faut surmonter les injustices et éradiquer la pauvreté.

Zenit : Que peut faire l’Eglise catholique ?

Card. Sfeir : L’Eglise a déjà fait beaucoup. Elle doit surtout convaincre les autres pays et les institutions à emprunter la voie de la justice et de la paix en renforçant et en diffusant les valeurs chrétiennes.

Il est très important de défendre la famille menacée par des idéologies qui favorisent sa division et par l’homosexualité.

Zenit : Rome est envahie de fidèles qui souhaitent rendre un dernier hommage à Jean-Paul II. Qu’en pensez-vous ?

Card. Sfeir : On n’a jamais vu une manifestation d’affection de cette ampleur, avec autant de jeunes arrivés à Saint Pierre des quatre coins du monde. Ils font la file pendant des heures pour rendre hommage au pape. Cela signifie que les gens ont écouté avec attention l’enseignement et les paroles du souverain pontife, et qu’ils ont beaucoup apprécié sa manière de dénoncer la violence et les injustices.

Zenit : Que peut-on faire pour aider le Liban ?

Card. Sfeir : Le Saint-Père a beaucoup fait pour le Liban et nous devons continuer dans la même voie, c’est-à-dire œuvrer pour que le pays redevienne comme avant la guerre. Comme l’a répété Jean-Paul II à plusieurs reprises, le Liban, plus qu’un pays, est un message de liberté et un exemple de coexistence aussi bien pour l’Occident que pour l’Orient.

Dans ce contexte l’Europe peut faire beaucoup pour que le Liban redevienne exemple de coexistence entre chrétiens et musulmans. Nous avons besoin d’apprendre à coexister entre cultures et peuples différents.
English Lebanese cardinal to meet with Bush
Mar 21, 2005
Maronite Cardinal Nasrallah Sfeir, a strong critic of Syria's control in Lebanon who left Monday for a meeting with President Bush, has emerged as a key opposition figure whose influence cuts across sectarian lines in this religiously diverse nation.

(AP, March 14, 2005) BEIRUT, Lebanon -- The soft-spoken 84-year-old patriarch, head of the 900,000-member Maronite Catholic Church, began criticizing Syrian interference in Lebanese affairs when few dared challenge the authority of the pro-Syria government and its Syrian backers.

His first major salvo came in September, months before Lebanon was thrust into the spotlight with the Feb. 14 assassination of former Premier Rafik Hariri, a killing that has triggered mass street demonstrations demanding that Syria get out of Lebanon.

Syria "gives orders, appoints leaders, organizes parliamentary and other elections, brings in whoever it wants and drops whoever it wants, interferes in all aspects of life in the administration, the judiciary, the economy and particularly the politics, through its representative here and his aides," Sfeir complained in September.

He was protesting Syria's role in the passage of a constitutional amendment that led to the extending of the term of Lebanon's pro-Damascus president, Emile Lahoud.

Sfeir's bold broadside, and his campaign for Christian-Muslim harmony, won wide respect among Lebanon's Muslim majority, and all the country's political factions have courted him at his seat in Bkirki, on a mountain hugging the Mediterranean shore.

After meeting with the cardinal in January, Hariri, a Sunni Muslim, told reporters that "we always consider him a national authority."

As Sfeir left for a Wednesday meeting at the White House, hundreds of thousands of protesters jammed Beirut's streets to protest Syrian dominance on the one-month anniversary of Hariri's killing. The crowds forced Sfeir to be flown by helicopter from Bkirki to the airport.

The invitation to Washington followed Sfeir's meeting with French President Jacques Chirac, who has joined the Bush administration in demanding a thorough inquiry into Hariri's killing and pressing Syria to remove its troops and intelligence agents from Lebanon.

Despite his tough stance against Syrian interference in Lebanese affairs, the cardinal wants good relations between both countries.

"Syria is our neighbor and we are obliged to establish the best relations with it," he said recently. "But it must not interfere in internal Lebanese affairs. We are responsible for our fate in Lebanon."

Sfeir has been a strong advocate of Christian-Muslim coexistence in a country where Christians' political power dwindled over the decades as their majority evaporated and where sectarian divisions led to the devastating 1975-90 civil war.

He was instrumental in persuading hard-line Christians to approve the 1989 Arab-brokered Taif Accord, which ended the civil war. It also called for a gradual Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon and for political reforms that saw Christians lose control of the final say in government.

Sfeir also supports integrating Hezbollah, the Shiite Muslim militant movement that opposes Israel and is listed as a terrorist group by Washington, into Lebanon's political mainstream.
English President Meets with Lebanese Maronite Patriarch Cardinal Sfeir
Mar 21, 2005
The Oval Office
For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
March 16, 2005
2:00 P.M. EST

PRESIDENT BUSH: Your Eminence, welcome. It is my honor to welcome you and your distinguished delegation to the Oval Office. We're -- thank you for your conversation.

His Eminence and I discussed, of course, Lebanon, and our deep desire for Lebanon to be a truly free country -- free where people can worship the way they choose to, free where people can speak their mind, free where political parties can flourish, a country based upon free elections. And I assured His Eminence that United States policy is to work with friends and allies to insist that Syria completely leave Lebanon, Syria take all her troops out of Lebanon, Syria take her intelligence services out of Lebanon, so that the election process will be free and fair.

His Eminence is a man of God. He brings great prestige of the Church to the Oval Office. And I'm proud you're here, Your Eminence, and thank you for your time.

Now His Eminence would like to say a few words.

CARDINAL SFEIR: Thank you very much, Mr. President. I come to the White House in response to the invitation of His Excellency, President George W. Bush, and to thank him for his courteous and warm reception. I would also like to express my deep gratitude for his sincere interest in Lebanon, the freedom of its people, and in peace in Lebanon and the world.

This was a good opportunity to exchange views on the situation in Lebanon, and the questions of freedom and democracy in our region. We profited from this occasion to convey to President Bush the views and aspirations of all the Lebanese.

(Inaudible) -- by the continuing migration of Christian and Muslim youth due to the lack of job opportunities and the suffocating political conditions at home. We look forward to see these conditions reversed because the future of Lebanon requires the talents and energy of all her children.

It is important to recall that Lebanon was the first democracy -- democratic country in the region. Maybe it was not a perfect democracy, but Lebanon remains the role and the point of departure for the spread of democracy in the region. This is why His Holiness, Pope John Paul II, stated that Lebanon is an ideal for freedom and democracy for the East and West, and this is what we have repeated here.

We are hopeful that the Lebanese, with the support of their friends around the world, will be able to build a better future in a free, independent, pluralistic and sovereign Lebanon.

Thank you.

PRESIDENT BUSH: Your Eminence, thank you, sir.

END 2:04 P.M. EST
French Le cardinal Sfeir pour un «gouvernement neutre de transition»
Mar 04, 2005
Le cardinal Nasrallah Boutros Sfeir, patriarche maronite d'Antioche, souhaite la formation au Liban d»'un gouvernement neutre de transition» qui «puisse bénéficier d'une assistance sûre dans le domaine de la sécurité». Il appelle le pouvoir pro-syrien à se montrer «conciliant» et à «suspendre (les responsables des organes de sécurité) de leurs fonctions».

PARIS (AP, 03.03.05) -- «On ne peut pas laisser s'installer le vide», estime-t-il dans un entretien au «Monde» daté de vendredi, ajoutant qu»'il y a toujours des mains qui viennent semer la zizanie dans ce pays. On n'est pas à l'abri d'une intervention extérieure qui diviserait les Libanais». Toutefois, selon lui, «nul n'est en mesure de faire la guerre actuellement».

Le chef de file de la communauté maronite libanaise juge par ailleurs qu»'il faut que le scrutin (législatif prévu pour le printemps, NDLR) ait lieu» et que «les Syriens doivent se retirer, sinon totalement, au moins vers la Bekaa (est). Ensuite, s'il y a un nouveau gouvernement, il traitera» avec Damas». Cependant «il est préférable qu'ils (les Syriens) se retirent une bonne fois pour toutes».

Le patriarche, qui doit être prochainement reçu aux Etats-Unis par le président George W. Bush et apparaît comme un modéré, dit en outre ne pas voir «de grandes différences» entre les accords de Taëf de 1989 et la résolution 1559 pour ce qui est du retrait syrien et du désarmement des milices. Damas pour sa part rejette la résolution 1559 et dit vouloir respecter Taëf.

Quant à la suppression du confessionnalisme politique en vigueur au Liban, où le président est traditionnellement chrétien, le chef de gouvernement sunnite, et le président du parlement chiite, il n'est «pas contre, mais il faut préparer le terrain».

«C'est une entreprise de longue haleine. Il faut élever des générations sur cette conception. Il faut que les gens apprennent à penser autrement», estime le cardinal Sfeir, qui déplore que «les Libanais continuent de se fixer sur leurs communautés alors qu'ils ont des problèmes en commun».
French Entretien avec le cardinal Sfeir
Feb 24, 2005
Pour le patriarche d'Antioche des maronites, "les Libanais savent ce que coûte une guerre" et il appelle le gouvernement Karamé à démissionner.

(La Croix, 23-02-2005) Entretien avec le Cardinal Pierre Nasrallah Sfeir, Patriarche d’Antioche des maronites

La Croix : Comment jugez-vous la mobilisation sans précédent autour de l’opposition depuis une semaine ?

Cardinal Sfeir : Ce qui est arrivé est sans précédent. Il n’est pas naturel qu’un homme tel que Rafic Hariri soit liquidé ainsi. C’est un grand coup pour le pays. Déjà, plusieurs personnalités avaient disparu ainsi et les enquêtes n’ont jamais rien donné. Mais ce crime a soudé les Libanais, musulmans et chrétiens, et ils réclament la même chose : le retrait de la Syrie du Liban. Spontanément, les gens se dirigent vers le tombeau de Rafic Hariri et là ils s’expriment : les uns prient, les autres pleurent, d’autres encore rient. C’est un sentiment unanime qui a unifié les Libanais.

L’opposition pourra-t-elle conduire seule cette bataille pour l’indépendance et la souveraineté du Liban ?

Elle n’est pas seule. Il y a aussi les Nations unies, qui ont déjà voté une résolution à ce propos. Il y a la France et les États-Unis, certes, mais les Nations unies en tant que telles sont favorables à ce que le Liban recouvre sa souveraineté, son indépendance et sa capacité de libre décision. Alors, je crois que cela pourrait aboutir. C’est un droit, et cela ne doit pas se faire dans une atmosphère d’inimitié contre la Syrie, au contraire : la Syrie est voisine du Liban, et nous devons nous arranger tous deux pour pouvoir être toujours dans une position qui nous permette de vivre ensemble, mais chacun à l’intérieur de ses propres frontières. Cela n’interdit pas qu’il y ait coopération pour tout ce qui ne regarde pas la vie intérieure de chaque pays.

Lundi, le président syrien Bachar Al Assad a annoncé qu’il allait redéployer les troupes syriennes dans la Bekaa, conformément aux accords de Taëf signés en 1989. Qu’en pensez-vous ?

On ne peut que le juger positivement, parce que les accords de Taëf avaient stipulé que deux ans après leur signature, les Syriens devaient au moins redéployer leurs troupes, ce qui n’avait pas été fait. Nous sommes en l’an 2005, vous voyez. Alors s’il a dit cela, c’est très bien.

Est-ce suffisant selon vous, alors que la communauté internationale et une grande partie du peuple libanais réclame un retrait immédiat et total ?

Il faut qu’il y ait une marge de compréhension entre le Liban et la Syrie. La Syrie doit retirer ses troupes, mais rien n’empêche qu’il y ait de bonnes relations entre les deux pays.

Estimez-vous que le gouvernement libanais a la capacité de réclamer ou, en tout cas, la volonté de réclamer que les troupes syriennes se retirent de ce pays ?

Je ne dis rien de nouveau quand j’affirme que le gouvernement actuel du Liban est contrôlé par la Syrie. Alors, il ne peut pas mener son travail comme il devrait le faire.

Devrait-il démissionner ?

Tôt ou tard, cela va se faire. Après un événement de la dimension d’un attentat contre un premier ministre de cette valeur, on ne peut pas laisser les choses comme si rien ne s’était passé.

Beaucoup de personnes dans ce pays ont peur d’une reprise de la guerre. Est-ce un risque possible ?

Non, je ne le crois pas. Les Libanais ont été en guerre pendant dix-sept ans, et les malheurs que cette guerre avait charriés sont toujours là dans leurs conséquences. Il y a les estropiés, les blessés, les malades, et beaucoup de destructions n’ont pas été relevées. Les Libanais savent ce que coûte une guerre. Personne n’a plus la disposition ni les moyens de la faire, à moins qu’il n’y ait des interventions extérieures.

En tant qu’homme d’Église, quel est votre message pour sortir ce pays de l’impasse dans laquelle il se trouve aujourd’hui ?

Il faut faire tout son possible pour installer la paix au Liban. La leçon du passé devrait nous imposer de ne pas retourner à la guerre, parce que la guerre a été trop coûteuse ; elle a aussi occasionné le départ de nombre de jeunes. Le Liban se vide, et c’était à cause de la guerre. Tout le monde a intérêt à vivre en paix. Nous souhaitons que les Libanais puissent vivre en paix ensemble, musulmans et chrétiens, parce qu’ils se trouvent dans les mêmes conditions.
Recueilli par Tristan KHAYAT (à Bkerké)
English Speach to the US House of Representatives
Nov 02, 2004
Tribute to his Beatitude Mar Nasrallah Boutros Cardinal Sfeir, Maronite Patriarch of Antioch and all the East: Hon. Nick J. Rahall II of of West Virginia in the house of representatives, Wednesday, March 7, 2001.

Mr. RAHALL: Mr. Speaker, today at a Congressional Luncheon hosted by myself and Rep. Ray LaHood, and attended by many Members of the House, we had the privilege of hearing remarks made by His Beatitude Mar Nasrallah Boutros Cardinal Sfeir, Maronite Patriarch of Antioch and all the East. This is the Patriarch's first visit to the United States since 1988, and he is here on the occasion of the elevation of the first American born Maronite Bishop Ralph Shaheen. While in the United States, the Patriarch expressed his vision of peace for Lebanon and the Middle East Region.

Lebanon, the homeland of my grandfathers and its people, cherish the same values of democracy, respect for human rights, independence and sovereignty cherished by the people of America. That is why the Patriarch, the Church and the people and government of Lebanon have supported the Middle East peace talks of the past, and hope for a resumption of those talks in the near future.

Mr. Speaker I submit the words of His Beatitude, the Maronite Patriarch of Antioch and All the East be entered in the Record, so that my colleagues will be enabled to hear his urgent plea on behalf of a continued alliance between the United States and Lebanon:

[italic]“I am honored to be here among members of the legislative body which makes laws for the United States and which have an influence on the whole world. I thank you for all the support you have given and are giving to Lebanon and its people. I wish to speak about Lebanon, a country of 10,000 square kilometers and 4 million people, but a country whose historical roots extend more than 6,000 years.

It is the country where the alphabet was invented by the Phoenicians, who spread its knowledge not by war, but through trade and human interaction. Lebanon is a peace loving country which wants to live in peace with all its neighboring countries, including Syria and Israel. As a matter of fact, the Maronite Church and the Lebanese people cherish the same values of democracy, respect for human rights, independence and sovereignty cherished by the American people.

The entry of the Syrian troops into Lebanon in 1976 was done without the request or permission of anyone, as stated by former President Hafez al-Assad in his speech of July 20, 1976. This was also noted by former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger in his book. From that time Syria has established its hegemony over Lebanon. While we have always advocated good relations between Syria and Lebanon, true international relations are possible only when the countries involved relate to each other on an equal footing. They cannot be established if one country dominates the other.

Within the country, the people of Lebanon seek to be democratic, where Christians and Moslems live in peaceful co-existence, unless an outside element provokes a conflict. We seek human and religious values--faith in God, justice, equality, respect for human rights. Lebanon stands in the Middle East between Israel and Syria, and has suffered difficulties for a quarter of a century--17 years of war, thousands of victims, and terrible destruction.

The Taef Agreement of 1989 was supposed to bring an end to the war. The United States was a principal sponsor. However, Taef has been implemented only partially and in a discriminatory fashion. As a result, Lebanon has yet to recover its institutional foundations. If the cannons are silent, anxiety still remains. The country suffers from a succession of crises due to the political situation in Lebanon, in which Lebanon lacks sovereignty, independence, and freedom in its decision-making.

The South of Lebanon is still in a state of instability. A large number of its citizens are either in exile, displaced or in prison, leaving their families in dire straits. The Israeli-Palestinian negotiations raise the question of the final settlement of the Palestinian refugees, who have a right to a just solution. However, no agreement should be made at the expense of the Lebanese people. Imposing on tiny Lebanon a large foreign population would have dire demographic effects, since Lebanon already has the highest population per capita in the region.

It destabilizes the balance between Christians and Moslems, and even among the Moslems themselves. It is in the interest of the United States to help Lebanon for the following reasons:

(1) Lebanon seeks to be a democratic country and to enjoy freedom.

(2) Lebanon has always had one face toward the East and the other toward the West. It possesses the culture of both East and West.

(3) The credibility of the United States requires that it help Lebanon, and to liberate it from all foreign troops, according to the Taef Agreement, sponsored by the United States.

(4) There is a large number of Lebanese immigrants in the United Sates who have achieved success in the higher levels of business and politics, and thereby can make an impact on the American political system.

(5) Christian influence is diminishing in the Middle East and in Lebanon which has always been a stronghold of Christianity. If there were no more Christians there, this would be a catastrophe for Christianity, but would also undermine respect for human rights.

I know that you have the same view as we, namely, that there should be no outside hegemony over Lebanon, even after the departure of non-Lebanese troops. Lebanon should remain an oasis of democracy, freedom, human values, and respect for human rights.

Again, thank you for your welcome and support. May God bless you in your important work.”
English Bilan de l’action œcuménique du pape
Oct 07, 2004
Le cardinal Nasrallah Pierre Sfeir, patriarche d’Antioche des maronites, est intervenu sur l’œcuménisme et le dialogue interreligieux durant le pontificat de Jean-Paul II, au cours de la rencontre des cardinaux, patriarches et présidents des conférences épiscopales, à Rome, du 15 au 18 octobre.

(DICI, 25/10/2003) Le cardinal Nasrallah Pierre Sfeir, patriarche d’Antioche des maronites, est intervenu sur l’œcuménisme et le dialogue interreligieux durant le pontificat de Jean-Paul II, au cours de la rencontre des cardinaux, patriarches et présidents des conférences épiscopales, à Rome, du 15 au 18 octobre.

Il faut se souvenir que le nouveau cardinal, résidant au Liban, a souvent montré du courage pour dénoncer l’occupation de son pays par la Syrie ou les tensions avec Israël. Cette situation entraîne naturellement chez lui une préoccupation spéciale pour les relations avec l’Islam et le judaïsme. C’est pourquoi il voit, dans l’œcuménisme, introduit par le concile et par le pontificat actuel, une solution aux problèmes du Moyen-Orient.

Le cardinal a rendu hommage à Jean-Paul II pour son encyclique Ut unum sint, sur l’unité des chrétiens, publiée en 1995. Il a par ailleurs rappelé les nombreux gestes de demande de pardon du pape, en soulignant comment le pape "a admis la culpabilité de l’Eglise malgré certaines objections et réticences manifestées par les uns et par les autres dans quelques sphères catholiques". "Pour Jean-Paul II, l’oecuménisme est un engagement définitif pris par l’Eglise catholique", a ajouté le cardinal Sfeir, en rappelant tous les contacts personnels avec les nombreux chefs d’Eglises ou de communautés ecclésiales pris par le souverain pontife au Vatican ou lors de ses voyages. "L’oecuménisme est intégré dans le ministère quotidien de Jean-Paul II", a-t-il insisté.

Parmi les problèmes qui ont entravé le désir du pape de parvenir à l’unité des chrétiens, le patriarche maronite a mentionné la question du ministère pétrinien (c’est-à-dire la primauté du pape, ndlr), en citant Jean-Paul II : cela "représente une difficulté pour la plupart des autres chrétiens dont la mémoire est marquée par certains souvenirs douloureux", et "pour ce dont nous sommes responsables, je demande pardon", en ajoutant cette phrase où le pape se félicite de ce que ce problème soit déjà "devenu un objet d’étude, en cours ou en projet".

Traitant, en seconde partie de son exposé, la question du dialogue interreligieux, le cardinal Sfeir a abordé les relations que Jean-Paul II a eues avec l’islam et le judaïsme. Il a rappelé les nombreux voyages du pape dans des pays où les communautés musulmanes sont importantes, et les rencontres interreligieuses organisées à Assise à son initiative, en 1986 et en 1999. Au cours de cette dernière journée, a rappelé le patriarche, Jean-Paul II avait souligné que "toute utilisation de la religion visant à promouvoir la violence est un abus de la religion. La religion n’est pas et ne doit pas devenir un prétexte pour les conflits, en particulier lorsque l’identité religieuse, culturelle et ethnique coïncident".

Quant aux gestes du pape à l’égard des juifs, le cardinal libanais a cité sa visite à la grande synagogue de Rome en avril 1986, sa prière au mur des Lamentations en mars 2000 au cours de son voyage en Israël, et, entre les deux, l’"accord fondamental" signé en décembre 1993 entre le Saint-Siège et Israël, par lequel des relations diplomatiques ont été établies entre les deux Etats.

Le patriarche n’a pas manqué toutefois d’évoquer également les sujets de controverses qui ont suscité des animosités entre l’Eglise et les juifs, parmi lesquels l’affaire du Carmel d’Auschwitz qui a été remplacé par un centre d’étude juif en 1992, les protestations des juifs face au procès de béatification en cours de Pie XII, ou encore la canonisation d’Edith Stein en 1998. Et de conclure : "Jean-Paul II a bien mérité et de l’Eglise et de l’Humanité, pour lesquelles, il a toujours tracé, au prix de sa santé, le chemin à suivre."
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