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Lebanese patriarch leads Vatican mass
(retrieved from nowlebanon on April 15, 2011)

Maronite Patriarch Beshara Boutros al-Rai headed on Friday a mass at the Saint Peter Basilica in the Vatican.

“We will return to Lebanon committed to joint coexistence and affection within the family and the community,” Rai was quoted by media outlets as saying during the mass.Representatives of President Michel Sleiman, Speaker Nabih Berri and Prime Minister-designate Najib Mikati took part in the mass along with Lebanese and foreign public figures.Rai travelled to the Vatican on Monday and was accompanied by an official Lebanese delegation.Rai, 71, was elected to succeed the 91-year-old Sfeir, who resigned recently after serving for 25 years as patriarch of Antioch for the Maronites.

Al-Rahi Meets Pope Benedict XVI: Christian Meeting to Be Held Next Week, Muslim-Christian Summit on May 12
(Retrieved from Naharnet on April 14, 2011)

Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi continued his trip to the Vatican on Thursday by meeting with Pope Benedict XVI in the presence of a number of Lebanese politicians and officials.
He said during the meeting: "It is a great joy to stand before you among a number of Lebanese Christians and Muslims to express our appreciation for being accepted in the ecclesiastical communion."

"During these difficult times, we announce that we will work with all church institutions to maintain national principles and values that the church has been known for," he continued.

"We request your papal blessing for us, the Maronite church, and the whole of Lebanon," he concluded.

For his part, Pope Benedict XVI noted that this was al-Rahi's first visit to the Vatican as former Patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir's successor.

"Sfeir's presence allows me to express my gratitude to him for his 25 years of service to the Maronite church amidst turbulence in the region," he said.

"This region that was blessed by patriarchs, prophets, and Christ himself is longing for permanent peace. You will continue your mission through granting the youth a spiritual and humanitarian education," he stressed.

Al-Rahi held a press conference after the meeting during which he announced that the Christian meeting at Bkirki next week will be a spiritual occasion ahead of the Easter holiday.

"We are all in agreement over the principles … Political choices don't divide us," he stressed.

He also announced that a Muslim-Christian summit will be held on May 12 in order to prepare a document of national values.

"Challenges and hardships await us and we will set a work plan in order to restore the state and confront the developments in the Arab world," he added.

Asked about tackling Hizbullah's possession of arms, the patriarch replied: "They should be discussed at the national dialogue table and it won't be the first topic addressed at the Muslim-Christian summit."

The Christian meeting is scheduled to include Phalange Party leader Amin Gemayel, Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea, Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun, and Marada Movement leader Suleiman Franjieh.