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Patriarch Rai Of Lebanon

December 27, 2011

Patriarch Nasrall Botrous Sfeir

I think many were saddened that Lebanon’s long-time Patriarch Mar Cardinal Nasrallah Boutrous Sfeir gave up his post after all these years in the position – I, was one of these people. Being an influential religious, and often political, character I believe that him resigning was a very scary thing for the Maronite Church and many of the Lebanese people. I, although not Maronite, found myself thinking about who would replace such a man. Then, Bechara Rai (or Patriarch Bechara Rai) took over the post.

I know his taking over the post has been ages but I didn’t know what to think of him. Really. I know the opinions of Lebanon’s Maronites is what matters most, however, one cannot deny the importance of Lebanon’s Patriarch. I do confess, many other groups in the country have for the most part “made null” many of the nation’s institutions and organizations *cough* – but I would love to think that the Bkerke still is as influential as it has been for hundreds of years prior.

Bkerke - The seat of the Maronite Church

So looking at Patriarch Rai now, I think the Lebanese Maronite Church is looking for a very bright future. Now, I know he is popular among many groups, simply because they think he “supports them and their cause”…but I do not think that’s the case, but let them pretend. His “cause’ is the Church and those who follow his leadership – I digress. The point is, looking at Rai’s decisions in his short time in leadership, I have to say he has won me over quite a bit.

I find him a breathe of fresh air for Lebanon’s Christians – and, ironically, Muslims. When I listen, or read, on Rai I find a man so devoutly in love with the nation he comes from and the history of it’s people and Church. Many times over the past few months Rai has made me feel more at ease when it comes to Lebanon. He is active, vocal, says his opinions honestly and openly, and couldn’t care less about what anyone thinks or says about his opinions. In other words, Rai has taken on the role as a LEADER and not a follower – something any religious institution needs.

Patriarch Bechara Rai

Lebanon, however, has a problem. When changes occur in the region, Lebanon changes as well – however, we as the Lebanese see this as hypocrisy and “timsee7 joukh“. In mid-September, speaking from Paris, Patriarch Rai upset many by stating that “as long as their is an Israeli occupation, Hezballah should keep it’t arms”. This, naturally, sent all the yellow-flag holding supporters of Hezballah into a love fest for Rai. Oddly enough, as the region and Lebanese politics changes again, Rai (this week) shared opinions with March 14’s Future Movement, calling for a “weapon free Lebanon”… he stated the following:

“It is the duty of the state alone, entrusted with the security of its citizens and peace in the country, to collect weapons and place them under the sole control of legitimate Lebanese forces so that Beirut and all of Lebanon can become weapons-free” – The Daily Star

Not surprisingly, this set many who once flocked to the streets of South Lebanon to greet the Patriarch soon after taking his post into a little bit of an angry fuss. Now, many will tell you “no”, so let me quote: “Rai changed his mind? Forgot what he said earlier? Brianwashed or he got a hefty payment”. Honestly, I do not think that Rai is one to accept bribes from ANYONE. His statements regarding France’s comments calling for “Christians to leave Lebanon for Paris” was enough proof of that. No?

Also, I think it’s important to mention one of Rai’s most amazing moments – calling the regions Christians to “remain strong and persistent and to not flee their countries”. Great! I think I also read once that Rai and the Vatican were trying to bring Christians who left Lebanon back home – even offering aid. Another great move on his behalf.

Patriarch Rai on his South Lebanon tour

Recently, he also addressed the issue of “Land Sale” in Lebanon, calling it “a treason for a Lebanese to sell his/her land”. No to mention the controversy he sparked by voicing his support for civil-marriage in Lebanon, stressing on the government to make it compulsory. He also renewed his call for a new social contract among the Lebanese based on the 1943 National Pact. Wow. Talk about a man tackling many of Lebanon’s problems. I really believe this man is looking for change and betterment in Lebanon – even if many believe it is for the interest of Lebanese Christians only. That’s ridiculous – the man addresses all Lebanon, and so what if he places emphasis on Lebanon’s Christians are we forgeting the man is a religious leader of an entire Christian sect?

On December 2nd, the Patriarch’s stance (and comments) about “not hiring non-Christian employees in Lebanon’s Christian institutions” sparked some outrage. Some called it sectarian. Others looked at it as a silly comment. I personally agree with him. Why? Well why should they hire non-Christians when so many of Lebanon’s Christians (including refugees) are out of work? I mean I would have said the same things after the murder of Myriam Ashkar. Are we surprised? Obviously many were offended. Plus I do remember Rai stressing on “non-Christian FOREIGNERS”.

The 77th Maronite Patriarch: Bechara Rai

So what if Rai is not all for the Syrian Revolution (even though hes not against it out of love for the regime, you can listen to his words to Vatican Radio here)? It does not mean he is for one political party over another – he made that clear in St. Louis, Missouri, USA by stating: “I do not follow any party. The Patriarch does not follow any party, he is followed by them”. Amen to that your Beatitude…Amen to that.

Looking at how active he is in Lebanon, especially at a time when we have psychotic Islamist groups jumping around the Middle East (yes, Sunni and Shia, lets not lie and say only one of them is to blame), it is a good time to have a Christian leader being so vocal about everything in his nation – no matter what they are. Now, after listening to the Christmas address by Patriarch Rai, I have even more hopes for Lebanon and it’s Christians.What do you guys say? Agree or disagree?

**Looking to discuss? I came across this Article on NowLebanon. It seem’s Patriarch Rai isn’t so popular with  many journalists. Take a read why and give me your thoughts: Between Father Paolo and Patriarch Rai, a mountain of disgrace
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