In Syria, Lebanon’s Maronite Catholic patriarch Cardinal Beshara Rai called for peace and criticized “the death of the world’s conscience” over the lack of action against militant groups such as the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) in the Middle East.
He celebrated Mass at the Maronite Cathedral of St. Anthony in Damascus where he provided the homily.
“We call for peace, for stopping the war, for political solutions and for the honored return of the displaced to their houses,” he declared. “We condemn injustice, the death of the world’s conscience and all those who provide arms and money for sabotage, destruction, killing and displacement.”
He did not attend any political meetings. His agenda only included those associated with the church. Walid Ghayyad, Rai’s director of media, said the cardinal will only participate in three major events: “inaugurating the Maronite Social Center, participating in a Christian spiritual summit, and attending the inauguration of the Orthodox patriarchate.”
The leaders of Middle East patriarches usually meet in Lebanon, but chose Syria to show unity with their brothers in faith. These men included “Antiochian Greek Catholic Church, the Syriac Orthodox Church, the Melkite Greek Catholic Church, the Syriac Catholic Church and the Maronite Church” along with the Vatican ambassador to Syria. From Catholic Philly:
“We will reflect together, we unite in thought, word and deed, bringing together the concern of our people in Syria and Iraq as well as in various countries of the Middle East … in the hope that this Way of the Cross is followed by the Resurrection,” Cardinal Rai said of the patriarchs’ meeting.
“We carry the cause of all Christians, people of Syria, Iraq, Palestine and Yemen and any country that suffers,” the cardinal said. “We, the five Eastern patriarchs, are here to pray for peace. We pray for peace in Syria and the region; we pray for the dead conscience of the international community. We pray for a peaceful resolution of the crisis in Syria, and that Syrians — Christians and Muslims — remain attached to their land, and for the return to their homes in dignity, of those that the war displaced.”
He stressed the need to end the violence at a sermon at another Maronite church.
“In this Levant, we are witnessing a strategy of absurd wars aimed at chaos, destruction and killing,” he said at a church in the Christian Bab Touma neighborhood. “We demand an end to the injustice against our people, we demand peace, we demand an end to the war and we demand political solutions.”
The Maronite Church, an Eastern rite Catholic Church, is in communion with the Church of Rome as they “profess the same Apostolic Faith, celebrate the same Mysteries (Sacraments) and are united with the chief Shepherd of the Church, the Pope, as all Roman Catholics throughout the world.” But they do “have their own distinct theology, spirituality, liturgy and code of canon law.” Their name derives from St. Maron, a hermit known by his miracles that attracted many followers. It is the only Eastern Church that did not sever ties with Rome. Maronites mainly live in Lebanon, but a few reside in Syria, Cyprus, Israel, and Jordan.