Lebanese Patriarch Pleads for Repatriation of Syrian Refugees

Lebanese Maronite patriarch Beshara Rai (C) speaks at a reception in Notre Dame Center in Jerusalem's Old City on May 27, 2014. A decision by Lebanon's Maronite patriarch to make an unprecedented trip to Jerusalem with the pope this month has drawn criticism from the Hezbollah movement and media close …
AHMAD GHARABLI/AFP/Getty Images
THOMAS D. WILLIAMS, PH.D.

The head of the Lebanese Maronite Church, Patriarch Bechara Raï, pleaded for the immediate return of Syrian refugees to their home country in his homily on Palm Sunday.

The bishop said that the refugees have become “the victims of two wars, the one fought with weapons, which destroyed their homes, and the one of the politics of ‘wait and see,’ which will destroy their cultural identity and their history.”

Patriarch Raï said it is deplorable that “for political reasons, the international community does not encourage them to return home.”

In his homily, the patriarch also prayed for peace in the Holy Land, especially in Jerusalem, “where the Triune God revealed himself and where Christ fulfilled the mystery of redemption.”

“We cannot accept that the plan of human salvation be thwarted, and that the Holy Land be transformed into the exclusive homeland of the Jews, and that Jerusalem, the city of peace, be reduced to being solely the capital of a Jewish Israel, rather than being the city open to the three monotheistic religions,” Raï said.

The patriarch’s words echoed a recent appeal by Pope Francis for the maintenance of the “status quo” of the Holy City.

During his visit to Morocco in late March, the pope launched a joint appeal together with Moroccan King Mohammed VI, calling for the protection of Jerusalem’s identity as the common patrimony of “the followers of the three monotheistic religions.”

The appeal underscored the two leaders’ belief in “the unique and sacred character of Jerusalem / Al-Quds Acharif” as well as “its spiritual significance and its special vocation as a city of peace.”

“We consider it important to preserve the Holy City of Jerusalem / Al-Quds Acharif as the common patrimony of humanity,” the declaration stated, “and especially the followers of the three monotheistic religions, as a place of encounter and as a symbol of peaceful coexistence, where mutual respect and dialogue can be cultivated.”

In November 2018, Pope Francis met with the president of Israel in the Vatican to discuss Israeli-Palestinian relations along with the “Jerusalem question.”

According to a Vatican press release, the two leaders discussed “the Jerusalem question” in its religious and human dimension for Jews, Christians, and Muslims.

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