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7 December 2018 – At the monthly meeting on December 5th, the Maronite Church attacks a selfish political class. Too many personal interests hinder the emergence of an executive, instead of looking at the common good. Refugee crisis "even more complicated" who, together with humanitarian support, need plans for a "return to their land".

The lack of a government because of the personal interests and selfishness of the various political actors and the refugee crisis that is becoming increasingly complicated. These are the priorities that need to be addresssed according to the Lebanese bishops at their monthly meeting on December 5th at the patriarchal headquarters in Bkerke, under the leadership of Cardinal Beshara Raï. At the center of the meeting was the recent visit to the Vatican and the meeting with Pope Francis, the problems of the local Church and the problems that cast more than a shadow on the future of the country.

Since last May Lebanon has been waiting for the creation of a strong and united government, able to overcome the many threats and challenges that await the country: from economic difficulties to the immigration crisis; from growing poverty to the employment problem that affects young people with greater incidence. A situation, denounces the Lebanese Church, of serious difficulty, exacerbated by the war in neighboring Syria, which has triggered an unprecedented humanitarian emergency.

In the final declaration the Maronite bishops do not hide their concern for the "absence" of any "hope" of shortly forming an executive. A stalemate that exacerbates the already serious financial, economic and social difficulties of the Land of Cedars. Hence the appeal to political leaders and faction leaders, because "it is up to them" to save the nation from an even more serious crisis.

Secondly, the Maronite Church calls the already precarious situation of Syrian refugees "even more complicated". Without neglecting the duty of "humanitarian" support, the bishops say that the country can no longer bear the weight of this migration. It affects "the economy and security" of all Lebanese and it is the duty of the international community to intervene to try to resolve the emergency. The hope is that the refugees can return "to their land, to their homeland" to preserve their rights and history.

Looking towards the feast of the Immaculate Conception, which is being celebrated today, the prelates invite prayers to the mother of Jesus to strengthen the task of witness. And in this time of preparation for Christmas they ask to provide for the needs of children in difficulty, especially as "they are deprived of the joy of the Nativity". (Asianews)

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Thursday, 04 October 2018 20:48

LEBANON Churches call for a new government

4 octobre 2018 - An urgent appeal to political forces to accelerate the process of formation of a new government, to eradicate the instability in which they are dragging the country to pursue their own interests, in the face of increasing internal and regional challenges: this is the appeal issued this morning by the superior council of the Melkite Greek Catholic community, presided over by Patriarch Yusuf Al-Absi, in the presence of the various ministers and deputies received at the Patriarchal See in Rabwe.

As Fides learns, the Council appeals to political forces to make national institutions work instead of resorting to "unhealthy options" such as those sponsored by those who invoke a government of transition and management of current affairs.

The Council noted the existence of an economic crisis that is reflected in various sectors, the lack of liquidity and the high interest of loans, together with the increase in taxes that paralyze investments and afflict mortgage loans. Patriarch Absi joins the numerous appeals already released by the Maronite Church to draw attention to the crisis in Catholic schools, a "hot topic", once again neglected by Parliament in its meetings.

The voice of Absi joins that of the Cardinal and Maronite Patriarch Bechara Boutros Rai, who concluded yesterday his pastoral trip in Canada. In recent trips abroad, both Patriarchs spoke to the Lebanese diaspora, hoping for urgent government formation. In reference to the nation's structural and environmental problems, Patriarch Rai said that "the current government has failed to achieve anything in the electricity sector or in waste management. We need people who are committed to re-launch the Country's economy".

Lebanon has been without a government for five months and this uncertainty has an impact on fundamental policies regarding the future of the Country and on the basic needs of the population. (PR) (Agenzia Fides, 02/10/2018)

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Monday, 23 July 2018 21:19

LEBANON "A government is needed!"

22 July 2018 - National appeals are repeated asking the Lebanese political forces to urgently form a government to allow the country to concentrate its efforts and allow it to face the economic and regional challenges and therefore to give life to a new government. In an interview released yesterday to the newspaper "The Future", Maronite Patriarch Bechara Boutros Raie said aloud: "We want a government, I will repeat this appeal every day, I say today and I will say it tomorrow and every day and I hope everyone hears me".

The Patriarch referred to the consequences due to the delay in the formation of a future government, underlining the irregularities of this situation also from a juridical point of view. The situation of the country in general, and the economic situation in particular, make it essential to speed up the formation of the government, "May God help prime minister Saad Hariri who must please everyone!", said the Patriarch. The current government is considered a government of transition and management of current affairs, as the request formulated on May 24, 2018 by the President to the Prime Minister to form the government following the elections of May 8, with the official results of May 10, has still not brought fruit.

The Maronite Patriarch attended the meeting yesterday at the headquarters of the Economic and Social Council of Beirut (a government body that deals with socio-economic policies). In that context, the Patriarch urged political parties to respond to national emergencies concerning the growth of the economy that translates into development, work for young people, progress and production. The Patriarch expressed his displeasure on how politics has lived and how power groups protect their particular interests by neglecting the common good. "Let us see how they are delaying the formation of the government, showing absolute disinterest in the economic and social suffering of the people. The formation of the government by the representatives of parliament belonging to all the current political currents does not end in starting a government for the simple management of current affairs, but must aim at creating a genuine government that reflects the balance between the various parties present in parliament, underlined Boutros. We must return to the Constitution, the Patriarch said, because "abandoning it" means not finding a solution to the crises afflicting Lebanon at all levels.

Cardinal Bechara Boutros Rai had received, at his summer residence in Diman last week, the leaders of the reconciliation, which took place on January 18, 2016 and recognized as "the agreement of Maarab" between the Free Patriotic Movement of General Aoun (currently President of the Republic) and the Lebanese Forces. In the meeting, which lasted 3 hours, the Patriarch invited Christian parties to work together for the good of the Country and not to fall into the polemics unleashed by the various media apparatus. The patriarch insisted on the urgency of the formation of the government without producing artificial delays, respecting the Constitution and safeguarding the functioning of public institutions. (PR) (Agenzia Fides, 20/07/2018)

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5 July 2018 - Already 500 teachers have been discharged. The crisis in Lebanese Catholic schools seems to have worsened, which has resulted in the resignation, decided by Catholic schools, regarding 500 of their teachers. The large number of resignations ordered by Catholic schools fuels concerns and distrust among families.

A malaise that is also reflected in the drop in enrollment of students at institutions most affected by the crisis.

Today, Thursday, July 5, an urgent meeting of the heads of schools was convened at the seat of the Maronite Patriarchate in Bkerkè, to face the state of crisis together with Patriarch Bechara Boutros Rai. Local sources report to Agenzia Fides that the individual institutions have tried to follow reasonable criteria in narrowing down their teaching staff, by not renewing the contract especially to senior professors close to retirement, or those who carried out only a few hours of teaching. The individual schools are also implementing other measures to cope with the crisis, such as the unification of classes with few students. At the same time, the teachers' unions will have to decide in the next few hours what initiatives to take before the crisis worsens. Father Boutros Azar, current secretary general of Catholic schools, complains about the passivity of national institutions, inactive in the face of repeated alarms launched since last autumn on the severity of the crisis that now puts the survival of many non-state schools at risk.

The new provisions on the "salary grids" of public workers approved by the Lebanese government in August 2017 contributed to triggering the crisis of non-state schools. These provisions, applied to private school teachers, immediately put private schools in difficulty, called to find the resources to finance the similar increase in levels and wages required by their employees. The heads of Catholic schools and even senior members of the Maronite Church have asked on several occasions political institutions to take charge of at least part of the costs to finance the application of new salary grids to state school teachers, which currently host more than two thirds of Lebanese students.

Ecclesial interventions on the crisis in the non-state school sector have always recalled the decisive contribution made by these schools to the construction of national identity. (GV) Agenzia Fides, 5/7/2018)

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Tuesday, 22 May 2018 08:13

MIDDLE EAST Christians in Syria

22 May 2018 - Middle East Christians are in serious danger. However to really understand this we must consider the context of the whole region. Sectarian division, the absence of authentic democracy, security, respect for civil rights and legality: these elements affect all the people in this unstable region where religious identity and political identity are inextricable from.

Unemployment, despair, illegality, desperation, injustice and thirst for vengeance, are the real recruiters of terrorist groups rather than controversial phrases from the Koran. The more government institutions crumble, the more grow sectarianism, fear and hatred towards those who are different. The West must realise that its battle is against terrorism, not Islam. The solution for the life of Christians in the Middle East will be achieved only by working to stabilise the situation for all the different ethnic and religious groups in the fairest way possible. (An extended version of this contribution appears as a preface to the book " Dove i cristiani muoiono" (Where Christians are dying) written by Luigi Ginami, San Paolo editions 2018) (...)

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5 April 2018 - Lebanon's donor countries, meeting in Paris, are ready to allocate a 10 billion dollar investment plan to lift the land of cedars, from a serious economic crisis aggravated by the war in Syria and from the refugee crisis.

 The meeting (Cedre) scheduled today in the French capital is attended by 41 nations, along with delegates from the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and other leading economic, financial and humanitarian organizations.

French diplomatic sources say that economic support aims to create a "security wall" between Lebanon and regional "problems", at a time of "profound political uncertainty". Hence the choice to boost the coffers of the Arab country, tormented in recent years by a profound economic crises and mass immigration of Syrian refugees fleeing the war.

The aid plan provides for the total allocation of about 10.1 billion dollars, distributed over four years. The sum will reach 23 billion over the next 12 years. Loans at favourable rates and direct donations are provided in the package; the total sum exceeds seven billion dollars, a goal set by the Beirut government on the eve of the conference.

The Paris meeting comes about a month after the first general elections of the last decade, scheduled for May, after the parliament - elected in 2009 - prolonged its mandate three times, contravening constitutional provisions.

Analysts and experts stress that Lebanon urgently needs to reduce public spending, to avert bankruptcy. However, primary services such as public water, electricity and garbage management present serious difficulties and require large investments for an overall revival.

The goal, adds a French diplomat, is to allocate the money necessary for Lebanon "to provide services and infrastructure to the public", avoiding the intervention of third parties [the reference is to the Shiite movement of Hezbollah].

Saudi Arabia is present at the Paris conference while an Iranian delegate, the other great regional power that influences the life of the country, will be missing. Tehran, in fact, was not invited to the meeting unlike Riyadh welcomed with all honors.

Faced with funding, Beirut will have to take a series of measures to counter public debt (10 times higher than GDP); at the same time it will have to implement stricter measures in the fight against corruption, one of the country's endemic ills.

(Asianews)

 

Published in News
Tuesday, 16 January 2018 09:43

LEBANON "More vulnerable than ever"

15 January 2018 - Caritas Lebanon: The refugee crisis is increasing, citizens increasingly poor. UN: "More vulnerable than ever", more than half in conditions of "extreme poverty". The increasing "uncertainty" of aid. Fr. Paul Karam: At least 28% of Lebanese below the poverty line. We must "encourage" the peace process in Syria, the war will have "consequences for the next 50 years".

The Syrian refugee emergency in Lebanon is "becoming increasingly serious" because it involves not only those who have fled the conflict, but "the same local population that is becoming increasingly impoverished”, Fr. Paul Karam tells AsiaNews.  The priest who is also  director of Caritas Lebanon, has been at the forefront of welcoming Syrian families fleeing the war for more than six years, and he is now warning of the danger of a "serious economic, political and social crisis" for the country. "The problem is increasingly widespread - he adds - and today we know that at least 28% of the Lebanese population lives below the poverty line".

Recently, a Lebanese minister spoke of a decrease in Syrian refugees in Lebanon, which has just fallen below one million. However, according to UN experts, the situation is getting more complicated, so much so that today they are "more vulnerable than ever" and "more than half" live in conditions of "extreme poverty" and "more than three quarters below the poverty line". The confirmation comes from an investigation by UNICEF, the World Food Program and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), according to which aid and funding to respond to the emergency are more "uncertain".

Three quarters of Syrian refugees in Lebanon now live on less than four dollars a day; often money is not even enough to buy basic resources, like food and medicine. According to research, nine out of ten refugees have applied for cash loans and are now overwhelmed with debt. Each household spends on average $ 98 a month, 44 of which are used for eating.

In this emergency situation, Pope Francis in his 2018 Message for the World Day for Migrants and Refugees reminds us that in addition to welcoming we must "protect, promote and integrate". Fr. Paul Karam echoes this call warning it should  “not be lost in the void" but is essential "to awaken the consciences of the international community", often deaf to the growing needs. "The Church – he warns - must promote the value of peace, mutual aid and solidarity with ever greater force, promoting a peace that is founded on justice"

According to UN figures, 84% of refugees find refuge in Turkey (which receives 2.9 million people), Pakistan (1.4 million), Lebanon (over one million), Iran (979.400 migrants), Uganda (940.800) and Ethiopia (761.600).

"The problem - says Fr. Paul Karam to AsiaNews - is broad and complicated. The aid of the international community is diminishing and we cannot always count on solidarity and welfare". The emergency must be addressed, he continues, "by encouraging a peace process in Syria that has not really started yet. We must end this tragedy with negative consequences "on a regional and global scale”.

The director of Caritas Lebanon addresses those who have "managed" the war so far, inviting them to "think about the consequences that are more serious than the war itself" and involve Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey "for the next 50 years". There are many problems and urgencies, from housing to work, from the economy to infrastructures, he continues, "this is why we strongly urge an end the conflict" and call for "a real path of reconciliation".

"Meanwhile, the Lebanese are growing poorer - confirms Fr. Paul - at least 28% of the population lives below the poverty line and has no money to buy food. More and more citizens are turning to the Caritas centers; 2017 was a tragic year for us. Bishops, patriarchs, ministers, social workers are all aware of the seriousness of the problem".

If so far there have been no episodes of open hostility towards refugees, it is equally true that "people are increasingly tired of this emergency. There is the awareness of a social, economic and political problem to be solved".

"At the Church and Caritas levels - he concludes - for the Christmas period, we have promoted over 100 activities in support of both refugees and Lebanese citizens. These include the distribution of food, blankets and medicines to children. Our goal is to help the poorest of the poor. "(DS).(DS)

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6th november 2017 - Vigilance over "any sabotage scheme aimed at undermining Lebanon's stability". Following the sudden resignation of Prime Minister Saad Hariri, "there must be vigilance and full awareness against any sabotage plot or scheme aimed at undermining stability in the country". This is how Maronite Patriarch Bechara Boutros Rai voiced regret over Prime Minister Saad Hariri's shock resignation while on a visit to Saudi Arabia, warning of the destabilizing effects that this choice might have on the fragile national balance. In his homily during Mass celebrated on Sunday November 5, the Primate of the Maronite Church invoked everyone to support the appeal launched by Lebanese President Michel Aoun to protect and strengthen national unity, showing patience and discernment in the choices to prevent that the Country of Cedars sinks in the spiral of conflict which continues to torment the Middle Eastern scenarios. Lebanon - added Patriarch Rai during the homily - should not be dragged into "regional or international axes that do not befit its nature, values and role as an element of cooperation, stability and coexistence in its Middle Eastern region".

Lebanese Premier Saad Hariri announced his surprising resignation on Saturday November 4, while on a visit - for the second time in five days - to Saudi Arabia. The resignation announcement was given by the same Lebanese Sunni leader with a speech broadcast from al-Arabiya satellite TV. In his speech, Hariri harshly attacked the Lebanese Hezbollah Shiite movement -linked to Iran - accusing him of "targeting his weapons" against the inhabitants of Yemen, Syria and Lebanon, and highlighted the fear of threats to his life. Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah responded to allegations claiming that the resignation of Sunni Hariri was an "imposed" decision by Saudi Arabia, and that the resigning Premier's speech "was written by the Saudis".

A few days before the new Lebanese crisis, the official invitation to visit Saudi Arabia was delivered to Maronite Patriarch Bechara Boutros Rai by Walid Bukhari, Saudi Chargé d'affaires. The visit to Saudi Arabia – said Bukhari himself - should have taken place in the coming weeks, and Patriarch Rai would have also met King Salman and Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman. But now – said to Agenzia Fides Maronite priest Rouphael Zgheib, National President of the Pontifical Mission Societies in Lebanon, new developments make it very unlikely that the visit will take place. "A Patriarch's trip to Saudi Arabia, at the moment", explained Father Zgheib, "risks looking like a field choice, and this was certainly not the intention of the Patriarch who had already stated that he was willing to visit Arabia Saudi Arabia to open new bridges to all". (GV) (Agenzia Fides, 6/11/2017)

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Monday, 21 August 2017 14:16

LEBANON The giant statue of Saint Charbel

21st August 2017 - The giant statue of Saint Charbel, Lebanon’s Saint dear to the Maronite tradition has reached the heights of Kesrouan.

The statue was transferred Sunday morning from Haret Sakhr, north of Jounieh, to Faraya, on the heights of Kesrouan.

To allow the transportation of the sculpture, 27 meters high, 7 meters wide and weighs 40 tons, special traffic restrictions were imposed on the highway leading to Faraya.

The statue, the work of Lebanese artist Naef Alwan, is not yet complete; hands will be attached later. On September 14, which happens to be Feast of the Cross Day, a Mass will be held during which the statue will be sanctified. (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides, 21/8/2017)

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30th July 2017 - The Council of Eastern Catholic Patriarchs will meet before August 15th in Dimane, Lebanon, at the patriarchal summer home of the Maronite Patriarch, to focus on the complex situation of indigenous Christian communities in much of the Middle East. In recent years, the body that gathers all the Primates of the Eastern Catholic Churches present in that area of the world could not gather also because of the ongoing conflicts in Syria and Iraq.

The summit should begin on 10 August, while Lebanese media announce that on the first day participants should be received by Lebanese President Michel Aoun. The agenda is closely linked to the pastoral problems and to the political and social emergencies that are increasingly tormenting the indigenous Eastern Catholic communities, which in some countries in the Middle East have registered a drastic decline in the number of their faithful. Patriarch Youssef Absi, will attend the meeting for the first time as new Primate of the Greek-Melkite Catholic Church, and also Orthodox Patriarchs and representatives of Christian Churches and Communities should also be present. (GV) Agenzia Fides, 29/7/2017)

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