Posted by: Fr Chris | March 15, 2011

New Patriarch

After four days of voting, the Synod of the Maronite Catholic Church has elected a new patriarch: Beshara al-Rai, formerly the bishop of Jbeil. The Sunni Muslim prime minster was the first to extend his congratulations to the 77th Patriarch of Antioch, an unbroken line from the time of Saint John Maron.

The Maronite Church is the largest religious body in Lebanon, but it is no longer the dominant population. Many Maronites have emigrated permanently to Australia, Europe, and the Americas, so much so that there are more Maronites abroad than in their homeland! In addition, Maronite families have gotten smaller, while Shiite families average six to eight children.

In Lebanon, the president must be a Maronite,  the primer minister Sunni, and the speaker of Parliament Shiite. Maronites are no longer united politically, but the new patriarch gives all of them a strong rallying point. The patriarch has taken the name Mar Boutros, or Saint Peter, as his new name.  The new Patriarch is well-known in Lebanon due to his education, frequent media appearances, and his moderate politics.  Christians account for at least one-third of the total populace, and the Maronite patriarch has traditionally been seen as a leader for all Christians. The Free Patriotic Movement, which is composed of Catholic and Orthodox who are in an alliance with the Shiite Hezbollah, welcomed the election, saying that as bishop, Marboutros Beshara is a sign of “new hope”.  Ibrahim Kanaan said that this election gives the Free Patriotic supporters optimism and  that they “await His Excellency to announce his priorities” for the nation and church.

The Maronites, for the first time in their 1700  year history, are politically divided between those who support Saad Haririri, who is backed by the US and Saudi Arabia and who oppose a return of  Syrian control, and the Free Patriotic Movement, which is allied with the Iranian and Syrian backed Hezbollah.  The new patriarch announced that “partnership and love are the hallmark of my service.”

Let us pray to St Maron, St John Maron, and the Lebanese saints for their intercession so that Lebanon can once again be a united state, and a shining light of cooperation and tolerance in the Near East!



In these tense times, the election has been hailed by many Lebanese as the true work of the Holy Spirit.



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