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Maronite Bishops call for single national leadership

By Maroun Khoury

Daily Star correspondent

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Retrieved from Daily Star on August 17, 2006

BEIRUT: Criticizing what it called a divided national decision-making process, the Council of Maronite Bishops said Wednesday that "it is impossible to continue like this." "Decisions have to be taken by one leader, one leader represented by the government who has won the confidence of Parliament and is elected by the people, otherwise the country is doomed to suffer catastrophes," said Monsignor Youssef Tawq, spokesman for Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Butros Sfeir.

In a statement released following an extraordinary meeting chaired by Sfeir in Bkirki, the council said the cease-fire in the Israeli-Lebanese conflict - which has destroyed much of Lebanon's infrastructure as well as devastated thousands of homes and displaced hundreds of thousands of citizens - has been welcomed by the Lebanese.

But, the council added, "this does not dispel the people's fear of Security Council Resolution 1701's content, which is open to various interpretations."

A papal delegate, Cardinal Roger Etchegaray, took part in the meeting before his departure to the Vatican carrying along a message of gratitude from Sfeir to Pope Benedict XVI.

Etchegaray has been in Lebanon for a three-day visit to inquire about the situation of the Lebanese in the wake of the destructive war that left more than 1,000 people dead.

The cardinal also made a donation to the Caritas Lebanon League in support of the needy on behalf of the Vatican.

The council expressed gratitude to Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, who heads the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, and all Catholic organizations in the US and the world for their "generous" humanitarian aid. The council called on the Lebanese to unite to rebuild Lebanon.

Prior to his departure, Etchegaray held a press conference in Harissa where he said his meetings with the religious and political authorities highlighted the readiness of the Lebanese to rescue their country. "Peace was not the objective of those involved in the fighting only, but that of all parties," he added.

Commenting on the predicament of the displaced, the cardinal called on governmental and nongovernmental associations to expedite help, conveying the Holy See's concern about the spiritual and material needs of Lebanese.