New Maronite Patriarch to Visit U.S.
Lebanons Maronite Catholic Patriarch Bechara Rai, center, welcomes a Syrian religious delegation, and Syrian Ambassador to Lebanon Ali Abdul Karim Ali, second from left, in Bkerke, Lebanon, 28 Sept. Also pictured are, Damascus Mufti Sheikh Adnan Afyouni, far left, Bishop Jean Kawak of the Syriac Orthodox Church and Sheikh Alaa Zaatari, far right. (photo: CNS/Georges Saad, Reuters)
03 Oct 2011 by Doreen Abi Raad
BEIRUT (CNS) — Maronite Patriarch Bechara
Rai will make his first pastoral visit to the United States
Patriarch Rai will visit Maronite Catholics in
cities such as St. Louis, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles,
Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Boston and Brooklyn, N.Y., to
encourage their faith and share with them the plight of
Christians in the Middle East.
While there are two dioceses and about 100
Maronite Catholic parishes in the United States , many of
the more than 2 million Maronites in the United States
attend Latin-rite Mass because their Maronite churches are
During his visit, Patriarch Rai, elected in March,
is scheduled to meet with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Kimoon.
It would help the United States and the Western
world to listen to Patriarch Rai, who has been really
analyzing the realities of the region in a very clear, simple,
straightforward and truthful way, the patriarchs vicar
general, Archbishop Paul El-Sayah, former archbishop of
Haifa, Israel, told Catholic News Service. This has had a
very positive reaction from the very large majority of the
people of Lebanon and the Arab world as well.
The new patriarch was elected in March at a time
of Lebanese political divisions, particularly among
Christians. Two months later, he held his first Muslim-Christian summit. In late September, at his suggestion,
spiritual leaders of Lebanons 18 religious sects met at Dar
al-Fatwa, the official seat of the grand Sunni mufti, who
has religious authority over the Sunni Muslims in
Patriarch Rai also has gathered Lebanese political
leaders in an effort to dissipate divisions among them.
Now he is working toward a spiritual summit for
the entire Middle East. Such summits, the Maronite
bishops said in a Sept. 28 statement, foster the
establishment of a lasting basis for dialogue.
This is certainly a sample of what Lebanese
society is like — that 18 religious communities can come
together, sit and discuss and come out with a common
statement, Bishop Sayah said, noting that the patriarchs
initiatives support the Vatican and what Pope John Paul II
had said: Lebanon is more than a country. It is a message
of freedom and an example of pluralism for East and
This is the spirit that is prevailing among the
various (religious) communities, without denying that
there are problems, Sayah said.
Speaking to CNS while visiting Lebanon in
September, Maronite Father Paul Mouawad of St. Sharbel
Church in Newton, Pa., said, The Maronite community is
very excited to meet with the patriarch. ... He has a new
hope and a new vision for Lebanon and for the Middle
East, especially for the Christian communities in the
The media and those associated with the White
House and State Department, especially those in charge of
the Middle East region, should listen to the leaders of both
the Muslim and Christian communities who are not
involved in politics, to advocate peace and change in the
Middle East, Father Mouawad said.
Tags: Lebanon United States Maronite Patriarch Bechara Rai Maronite Catholic