28 June 2016
Bechara Peter Cardinal Rai, the Maronite Catholic Patriarch of Antioch, has been an outspoken advocate for reconciliation in his homeland. (photo: John E. Kozar)
During a time of turmoil and violence in his homeland, Lebanon’s Bechara Peter Cardinal Rai — Maronite Catholic Patriarch of Antioch — has been a heroic voice calling for reconciliation. It was a subject he addressed during his visit to CNEWA yesterday, and it’s one he’s made a hallmark of his ministry to the people of Lebanon.
He was enthroned as Patriarch of Antioch and all the East on 25 March 2011, the Feast of the Annunciation. Fittingly, his name “Bechara” means “annunciation.” That day, he served as a kind of herald to the people of Lebanon, both Christian and Muslim, announcing a message of “communion and love,” the very words he chose for his patriarchal motto.
In his homily, the patriarch did something bold for a Catholic leader, quoting from the Quran and its account of the annunciation. He noted the esteem in which Muslims hold Mary, and he sought common ground:
For the sake of “communion and love” we work together in the countries of the Middle East and with you the representatives of the leaders of our brother and sister countries, and we work to preserve and strengthen our relations of solidarity with the Arab world, and to establish a sincere and complete dialogue with our Muslim brothers and sisters and build together a future in common life and cooperation. For one single destiny links Muslims and Christians in Lebanon and the countries of the region in which, a culture particular to all of us, was built up by the diverse civilizations which passed one after another in our lands and thus we have a common patrimony in which we all shared in its creation and now work at its cultural development. We accompany with anxiety the uprisings and protests which are taking place here and there in our Arab countries. We regret the victims and the wounded and we pray for stability and peace.
As an emissary of hope and healing in the world CNEWA serves, the patriarch has been a great supporter of our shared mission to uplift those who are suffering and to accompany those in need. In Lebanon today, that includes an overwhelming number of refugees, many fleeing war and terror in Iraq and Syria; they now make up roughly half the country’s population.
Visting Syria three years ago, the patriarch issued a passionate plea for peace:
“Here in Damascus we say together: ’Enough of war and violence! Enough of the killing and destruction of homes and landmarks! Enough uprooting and suffering inflicted on innocent citizens! … We preach together the Gospel of peace, we work hand in hand for reconciliation, the promotion of human rights and dignity. … Every drop of innocent blood that is shed is a tear from the eyes of Christ.”
To assist the patriarch and support the work of CNEWA in Lebanon, visit this page.