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Maronite Catholics maintain identity in Islamic-dominated region

 BEIRUT, Lebanon (CNS) -- Members of the Maronite Catholic Church in Lebanon have been able to maintain their identity in an Islamic-dominated region, said a U.S. Jesuit priest based in Lebanon. "What I find admirable about the Maronites in Lebanon is that, in the many centuries since the Arab conquest, they have adapted themselves to that new culture without losing their own roots," said Jesuit  Father Martin McDermott, who has served in Lebanon for 31 years. "In the face of some fundamentalists who try to identify Arab culture with Islam stands the simple and obvious fact that the Maronites, the historical people of Mount Lebanon, have made their country a refuge for minorities, as well as a space where Arabic peoples can still breathe some measure of freedom," Father McDermott said. "When the muezzin's call to prayer sounds from minarets (of mosques) in the cities and villages of Lebanon, it is answered across the valleys by the bells of the Maronite churches, calling their faithful to worship God in a liturgy mostly in Arabic, but retaining many elements of Syriac," Father McDermott said.

 (Retrieved from Catholic News Services on January 7, 2005)