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Current Issue
September, 2018
Volume 44, Number 3
  
27 June 2016
Greg Kandra




Bechara Peter Cardinal Rai, Maronite Catholic Patriarch of Antioch, takes questions during a press conference in New York on 27 June. (photo: CNEWA)

As part of his pastoral visit to the United States, Bechara Peter Cardinal Rai, Maronite Catholic Patriarch of Antioch, visited CNEWA’s New York offices Monday for a series of events that underscored the challenges Lebanon is facing today.

The patriarch’s schedule included delivering an important statement on “the present situation and future prospects” of Christians in the Middle East, a news conference, personal interviews, meetings, and an interfaith luncheon — all held at CNEWA’s New York headquarters on First Ave.

CNEWA’s chair, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, greets the patriarch, left, who was welcomed to CNEWA by CNEWA’s president Msgr. John E. Kozar, right. (photo: CNEWA)

The patriarch was greeted by CNEWA’s chair, New York Archbishop Cardinal Timothy Dolan, who welcomed him to the New York Catholic Center. After exchanging greetings, CNEWA’s president Msgr. John E. Kozar accompanied him to CNEWA’s board room, where the patriarch held a news conference to discuss developments in the Middle East.

Msgr. John E. Kozar introduces the patriarch and his staff to reporters and CNEWA staff.
(photo: CNEWA)


The patriarch took pains to emphasize the rich history shared by Christians and Muslims in the Middle East, and the vital role Christianity has played there across the centuries.

“Christians helped spread the culture of diversity, moderation, openness, respect, acceptance and cooperation with those who are different,” he said in his opening statement. “The Christian presence has enriched the Middle East, its cultures and history, with evangelical values on the human, political, cultural and social levels.” He explained: “Christianity became an essential part of the culture of those countries and it has also benefited from Islamic values and traditions. This Christian-Muslim interaction has resulted in a spirit of openness and modernity for the majority of Muslims. This constitutes a sign of hope for a better future for the Middle East.”

During his remarks, the patriarch said “a political solution to the conflicts (in the Middle East) ought to be a top priority.” (photo: CNEWA)

But he also took note of continued turmoil in the region — civil war, terrorism, widespread displacement and a growing number of refugees — and called for just and lasting solutions.

“A political solution to the conflicts ought to be a top priority,” he said, “and a just, global and permanent peace should be established as soon as possible.” He called on the international community to work to secure the return of refugees to their homes and their land. He said he believes the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the origin of problems in the Middle East, and stated: “A solution to that problem ought to be found in according with the United Nations Resolutions, which would allow the establishment of a Palestinian State alongside an Israeli State.”

He also took note of the overwhelming number of refugees that have flowed into Lebanon, with roughly half the country’s population now comprised of people who have fled Syria or Palestine. The roots of the crisis, he said, run deep. “The countries of the Middle East,” he explained, “are victims of international competition motivated by political, economic and strategic interests related to oil and gas and linked more particularly to the most inhuman disregard for life, the constant profiting from the sale of arms.”

After taking questions from the gathered reporters, and elaborating on his statement, the patriarch attended a small luncheon, featuring some two dozen interfaith and ecumenical leaders — and a few familiar faces, including an old friend, CNEWA’s President Emeritus, Msgr. Robert Stern.

Bishop Gregory Mansour, Msgr. John E. Kozar, and Bechara Peter Cardinal Rai greet CNEWA’s President Emeritus, Msgr. Robert Stern. (photo: CNEWA)

This marked his first visit to CNEWA in five years — and it had great meaning not only for us, but for others working for peace in the world we serve.

“His care extends to not only Christians in need, but to men and women of good will of other faith traditions,” said Maronite Bishop Gregory Mansour, who accompanied him to CNEWA and who serves the Eparchy of St. Maron in Brooklyn. “They, too, have fled the bloodshed that has destroyed huge swaths of a once vibrant and diverse Middle East.”

The patriarch is scheduled to be in the United States until 10 July. His visit includes stops in a number of Maronite Catholic communities and parishes throughout the eparchies, or dioceses, of St. Maron of Brooklyn and Our Lady of Lebanon of Los Angeles. We hope he returns soon!

Bechara Peter Cardinal Rai, center, and Bishop Gregory Mansour, beside him, pose with some of the CNEWA staff after the patriarch’s press conference. (photo: CNEWA)



Tags: Lebanon Maronite Patriarch Bechara Peter Maronite Church