Special File addressing the First day of the New Maronite Patriarch,
Beshara al-Rahi
March 15/2011

Beshara al-Rahi Succeeds Nasrallah Sfeir as Lebanon's New Maronite Patriarch
Naharnet/Archbishop of Jbeil Beshara al-Rahi was on Tuesday elected the 77th Patriarch of Antioch for the Maronites to succeed Nasrallah Sfeir, Monsignor Youssef Toq announced from the seat of the church in Bkirki. The election of al-Rahi, 71, will be celebrated during a mass on Friday, March 25 at 10:30 am on the feast of the Annunciation (eid al-beshara), Toq said. The new patriarch will receive well-wishers for three days starting Wednesday from 9:30 am till 12:00 pm and from 4:00 pm till 6:00 pm, Toq added. Maronite churches across Lebanon tolled bells from 12:00 pm till 12:30 pm upon the request of Bkirki's secretariat. Al-Rahi said after his election that Sfeir is the "permanent patriarch" and vowed to "preserve his patrimony." "Our joy has no limit," Monsignor Boulos Nasrallah, of Rahi's archdiocese in Jbeil, north of Beirut, said. The Synod of bishops gathered in a spiritual conclave in Bkirki last Wednesday in isolation from the outside world to elect the new patriarch. Al-Rai was elected after winning more than two thirds of the votes of the 38 bishops. He is known as a moderate with good relations with all Lebanese factions. Last month, Pope Benedict XVI accepted the resignation of Sfeir who had said he resigned to allow for a "younger bishop" to assume the responsibility. Beirut, 15 Mar 11, 11:35

Coronation Ceremony for the new Patriarch on March 25

NNA - Monsignor Youssef Taok announced that Bishop Bechara Raii is the new Maronite patriarch, pointing out that the coronation ceremony will be on March 25 at 10:30 am on the occasion of the Annunciation Day. Well wishers will be received on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday from 9:30 till 12:00 noon and 4:00 pm till 6:00 pm.

Suleiman congratulates Bishop Rahi and discuses general issues with Safadi and Khalifeh
NNA - President of the Republic General Michael Suleiman congratulated all Lebanese in general and Christians in specific, mainly the Maronite sect, on the election of Bishop Bechara Rahi as Patriarch of Antioch and the East. The president confirmed that Rahi will be "a good successor to a good ancestor regarding committing to the Maronite and national principles of the patriarchate throughout history," wishing him success through maintaining the position of the patriarchate as a national place that brings together all Lebanese.
Separately, Suleiman discussed with caretaker Public Health and Economy ministers Mohammed Khalifeh and Mohammed Safadi respectively general issues in Lebanon as well as those related to their ministries. He also met with the Interior Security Forces General Director, Ashref Rifi, who briefed him on the security situation and prisons' security, health and social issues. Suleiman was also met with the State security General Director, George Karaa who briefed him on the actions taken by the Directorate as well as the Directorate's issues and needs

Officials Laud al-Rahi's Election, Suleiman Stresses that New Patriarch Will Continue Sfeir's Mission

Naharnet/Lebanese leaders welcomed the election of Beshara al-Rahi as the new Maronite Patriarch on Tuesday, hoping he would be successful in keeping Bkirki a place of unity among the Lebanese. Al-Rahi will be "the best successor to the best predecessor," President Michel Suleiman said in a statement.
He said he hoped the new leader of the Maronite church would succeed in keeping Bkirki a "place that unites the Lebanese."
The president later held a closed-door meeting with the new patriarch at Bkirki after which he said that his election "holds great indications because it took place through consensus."
"Great hope lies in the new patriarch's role and former patriarch Sfeir will maintain his historic role," he added.
The election of a new patriarch is a "national event" for all Lebanese sects who consider Bkirki a "slogan to Lebanon's cultural and humanitarian message to the world and a site of inter-religious dialogue," Caretaker Premier Saad Hariri said in a statement released by his press office.
Hariri hoped that al-Rahi would "be able to carry out his religious and national responsibilities at this sensitive stage" and would "preserve Lebanon's unique coexistence and national unity."The caretaker PM later held talks with al-Rahi after which he announced that "Bkirki always united all Lebanese and it has always been on the side of righteousness."
"All we aspire to is mutual coexistence and for Lebanon to be united under the Lebanese flag," he continued.
Prime Minister-designate Najib Miqati also headed to Bkirki where he held a closed-door meeting with al-Rahi after which he announced that the new patriarch "is aware of the dangers threatening Lebanon and the region."Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea described al-Rahi as "a man of courage."
In comments to his party's website, Geagea said: "All Christians and mainly Maronites … should support the new patriarch."
The LF leader later visited Bkirki to congratulate the new patriarch. He expressed after meeting al-Rahi his happiness with his election, saying: "I can only but mention all that former patriarch Sfeir has done to protect Lebanon." "As much as I congratulate the new patriarch, I don't envy him because he has a long and difficult task ahead of him," Geagea stated.
Phalange party leader Amin Gemayel, who was among the first officials to arrive in Bkirki after the announcement of al-Rahi's election, told reporters that "there was no doubt" the new patriarch "would defend Lebanon's sovereignty and independence."
"He is a man of unity," the former president said. Beirut, 15 Mar 11, 18:23

Geagea: To rally around the new Patriarch

NNA - Following his meeting with the newly appointed Maronite Patriarch Mar Beshara Boutros Al-Rahi, Lebanese Forces Executive Committee chief Samir Geagea congratulated Christians and hoped Patriarch Al-Rahi would carry on what Cardinal Sfeir had accomplished during his mandate.
Geagea also called on all Christians especially Maronites to rally around the Patriarch for it is a fundamental factor for our victory.

Gemayel hoped Patriarch Al-Rahi would unite Christians

NNA - Jubilations and happiness overwhelmed the town of Hemlaya, the hometown of the new Maronite Patriarch Mar Beshara Boutros Al-Rahi. Deputy Sami Gemayel joined town habitants who crowded to celebrate as they learned of the election's outcome. Commenting on the event, Gemayel said Christians' happiness is beyond description whereby he solicited Patriarch Al-Rahi to hold on to his bravery in favor of justice, freedom, and peace in Lebanon. Also, Gemayel hoped the Patriarch would exert efforts to unite Christians around the Maronite Church's national constants.

Hariri from Bkirki: for national coexistence and a united Lebanon

NNA - 15/3/2011 Caretaker Prime Minister Saad Hariri hoped that the election of the new Patriarch Mar Bshara Boutros Raii will be in the interest of the nation, saying that Bkirki has always been a united place for all the Lebanese. Hariri was speaking after his visit to Bkirki where he presented well-wishes to the new Patriarch on his election. Hariri congratulated all the Lebanese in general and the Maronites in particular on "this blessed day" as he said. Hariri hoped that he will continue with the new Patriarch the march of independence.
He said "what we want is national coexistence and that Lebanon be united under the Lebanese flag... this is what we are seeking for..." he concluded.

Hariri holds a closed meeting with new Patriarch

NNA - 15/3/2011 Caretaker Prime Minister Saad Hairri holds a closed meeting with new Patriarch Mar Bshara Boutros Raii.

Kahwaji congratulates Patriarch Al-Rahi
NNA - Lebanese Army Commander General Jean Kahwaji arrived in Bkerki and passed on his good wishes to the new Maronite Patriarch Mar Beshara Boutros Al-Rahi.

Mufti Qabbani, US Transportation Secretary and Salam well-wish new Patriarch

NNA - 15/3/2011 New Patriarch Mar Bshara Boutros Raii received a number of congratulatory phone calls from well-wishers on his election namely from US Secretary of State for Transportation Ray Lahoud, Mufti of the Republic Sheikh Mohamed Rashid Qabbani and Deputy Tamam Salam.

Mikati well-wishes new Patriarch on his election
NNA - 15/3/2011 Prime Minister Designate Najib Mikati wished new Maronite Patriarch success in his mission, stressing that his Beatitude shall proceed in the path of former Patriarch Mar Nasrallah Sfeir and shall work for consecrating national agreement and spiritual values that have ever marked this nation. Mikati visited on Tuesday afternoon Bkirki to present well-wishes to the new Patriarch in presence of former Patriarch Mar Nasrallah Boutros Sfeir and senior Maronite Bishops. Mikati then held a closed meeting with Patriarch Raii.

Aoun wishes Patriarch Al-Rahi every success in his mission
NNA - Change and Reform bloc head Deputy General Michel Aoun chaired on Tuesday the bloc's weekly gathering after which he congratulated the newly appointed Maronite Patriarch for his election and wished him every success in his mission.

Hamadeh well-wishes new Patriarch

NNA - 15/3/2011 Deputy Marwan Hamadeh visited on Tuesday Bkirki to present well-wishes to new Maronite Patriarch Mar Bshara Raii, the 77th Patriarch on head of the Maronite Church. MP Hamadeh hailed the Patriarch as that of independence, sovereignty, freedom, democracy, reconciliation and national coexistence.

Kenaan well-wishes new Patriarch
NNA - 15/3/2011 "Change and Reform" parliamentary bloc Secretary, Deputy Ibrahim Kenaan congratulated the Christians in general and Maronites in particular on the election of Bishop Bshara Rahi a Patriarch for Antioch and the East, hoping that the coming year will be good for Lebanon and the Maronite Church.
On the other hand, MP Kenaan postponed his press conference till upcoming Friday at his office in Jdaideh to discuss the financial file and future steps at this level, Kenaan's Bureau declared in a statement. The conference was scheduled to take place tomorrow (Wednesday).

Harb, Sayegh arrive in Bkerki

NNA - Caretaker Ministers of Labor and Social Affairs, Boutros Harb and Salim Sayegh, arrived in Bkerki to pass on good wishes to the newly appointed Maronite Patriarch Al-Rahi.

MP Fadel meets with Patriarch Hazim
NNA - Member of Parliament Robert Fadel met on Tuesday with Greek Orthodox Patriarch Ignace Hazim the fourth who is currently on a visit to Lebanon.
"I came to take the blessings of his beatitude and to enlighten myself with his opinion amidst the current situation," Fadel said, adding that he held with Hazim a tour de horizon on the general situation in Lebanon, as well as on other issues involving the Christian Orthodox sect.

Hobeich: Maronite Patriarchate never interfered in political life details
NNA - Deputy Hady Hobeich, from the Future Bloc, said Tuesday the Maronite Patriarchate never interfered in the details of political life in Lebanon, and wrong is the one who thinks that Bkerki is supporting a political team in favor of any other when it calls out for the patriotic principles of sovereignty, independence and freedom. Hobeich congratulated through MTV station the newly elected Maronite Patriarch Beechara Rahi, indicating that religious men in Lebanon always play an essential role in safeguarding the national coexistence formula and stability.
Patriarch Rai to base tenure on 'partnership and love'
Sleiman, Mikati and others congratulate newly elected head of Maronite Church

By Elias Sakr /Daily Star staff
Wednesday, March 16, 2011
BEIRUT: Lebanon celebrated the election of Bishop Beshara Rai to head the country’s influential Maronite Church Tuesday as top officials, religious figures and ordinary people flocked to Bkirki, the seat of the patriarchate, to congratulate the church’s 77th leader.
Church bells tolled and fireworks exploded across Lebanese territories as early as 10:50 a.m. when Bkirki announced the election of Rai as Cardinal Nasrallah Butros Sfeir’s successor, six days after Wednesday’s summon of 39 bishops behind closed doors.
Rai, who headed the Jbeil diocese for the past 21 years, obtained a sweeping majority of votes after 14 electoral rounds, which began Saturday morning.
The Maronite bishops gathered in Bkirki’s hall following the announcement were unanimous in describing the electoral process as one in which peace and serenity reigned.
While politicians hailed the election of Rai as a guarantee of national coexistence, the latter dubbed the foundations of his tenure as “partnership and love.”
“This is my slogan for my tenure as patriarch starting with our synod of bishops,” Rai said, addressing bishops after prayers that followed the conclusion of the synod. “We pray for the end of Lebanon’s crisis, which is a country with a mission … under the current difficult circumstances the East is witnessing,” he added. Lebanon top’s three officials praised Rai and underscored their belief in the patriarch’s commitment to the Maronite Church’s support of Lebanon’s independence and sovereignty.
President Michel Sleiman said the election of Rai was a continuation of Bkirki’s historic and national principles, which his predecessor Sfeir defended during his 25 year tenure.
“The election carries a lot of meanings since it was unanimous and this choice was held under a very good and loving atmosphere,” Sleiman said.
“It is certain that Rai will follow [Sfeir’s] path based on his clerical history on the religious, social and cultural levels … The patriarch will continue the path to develop the church while preserving its principles, which remain a uniting factor in Lebanon and the region,” Sleiman added.
Prior to his comments, Sleiman had held discussions with Rai, similarly to caretaker Prime Minister Saad Hariri and Prime Minister-designate Najib
Mikati, who later arrived at Bkirki to congratulate the patriarch.
Mikati said he was confident Rai would stand as a firm “shield against strife and extremism” and stressed that the patriarch would play a vital role in strengthening national coexistence. “His Beatitude realizes the magnitude of the great responsibility that awaits him at the various levels nationally and regionally, and, God willing, his Beatitude will continue what his Beatitude Patriarch Mar Nasrallah Boutros Sfeir started,” Mikati said.
Echoing Mikati, Hariri told reporters that he would stand alongside the patriarch in defense of Lebanon’s independence and sovereignty.
“We always say the patriarch is Lebanon’s conscience and I told the patriarch that we will always follow the independence path and all we want is national coexistence and parity between Muslims and Christians and that Lebanon remains united under the Lebanese flag,” Hariri said.
Kataeb (Phalange) party leader Amin Gemayel said Rai, which means “shepherd” in English, was a “the true shepherd of the church” and “a worthy successor of a worthy predecessor.” However, Gemayel added that Rai succeeded Sfeir at a time when dangerous challenges lie ahead. “But we trust that the patriarch is fully capable of confronting it and will propose new ideas to unite Christians again as one body against all challenges,” Gemayel said.
Gemayel’s ally, Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea, voiced hope that the election of a new patriarch would unite rival Christian factions behind him as a guarantee to Lebanon’s success.
The election of Rai, who is a lecturer at several universities affiliated to the Catholic Church and a high-profile monk known for his frequent media appearances and academic credentials, comes at critical time in Lebanese politics and particularly for the Christian community, suffering, as it is, internal divisions.
March 8 Christian leaders, allied to Hezbollah and the party’s regional backer Syria, have criticized Sfeir, saying he was too involved in politics and biased toward March 14 Christian parties.
While Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun is scheduled to visit Bkirki Wednesday to congratulate Rai, his ally, Marada Movement leader Sleiman Franjieh, issued a statement congratulating Rai and voicing hope that his election would unite the Christian community.
Sfeir has been a staunch critic of Syrian intervention in Lebanese affairs. The Council of Maronite Bishops issued a firm call for the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon in 2000 and Sfeir is also a critic of Hezbollah’s weapons. – With additional reporting by Maroun Khoury
Bkirki joyful after the election of a new patriarch

By Marie Dhumières /Daily Star staff
Wednesday, March 16, 2011
BKIRKI: Well-wishers flocked to the seat of the Maronite Patriarchate in Bkirki Tuesday as soon as Jbeil Bishop Beshara Rai was announced Lebanon’s 77th Maronite Patriarch.
Shortly after the announcement, politicians, well-wishers and believers poured to the seat of the Maronite Patriarchate in Bkiriki, northeast of Beirut, to congratulate the new patriarch and celebrate his nomination.
“It’s a great day, I’m very happy, I can’t describe it,” said an obviously moved Joe Marwan, a 20-year-old student on his way to the Patriarchate.
Monsignor Youssef Tawk, head of the Council of Maronite Bishops, announced around noon that Bishop Rai of the Diocese of Jbeil had been named as the new Patriarch of Antioch and all the East for the Maronites, Lebanon’s most influential church. Rai succeeds Patriarch Nasrallah Butros Sfeir, who resigned last month.
The parking lot in front of the headquarters was jam-packed, and some had already stuck pictures of the new patriarch on their windshields.
“This is the perfect patriarch, he’s the best one ever,” said Simon Yasimi, 37, owner of a restaurant. Tuesday also witnessed a breach to the Maronite Patriarchate’s long-standing protocol, with Bkirki keeping its doors open all day long without interruption, including during lunch.
A passer-by, who preferred not to be identified, described Rai’s nomination as “spectacular,” and said it was a “positive surprise.” Thirty-nine bishops had deliberated for six days in total isolation from the outside world in the Kesrouan town of Bkirki to elect the church’s new patriarch, after Sfeir decided to end his tenure following 25 years in service.
“I think he might be the best one in such times,” said Hoda Beshara, a 55-year-old teacher.
“A lot of people are saying he isn’t moderate enough but he’s the one who deserves the job the most,” she added.
Inside the Bkirki courtyard, Maronite worshippers were congratulating each other and praising Rai.
“We are greatly blessed by the Lord, [who gave us] such a young, open-minded and cultured patriarch, devoted to the church,” said Leila Tannouri, a woman in her 50s who described herself as “very pious,” adding that she goes to church every day.
Rai, who is 71, is a well-known public figure in Lebanon, who served at the head of the country’s Catholic Media Council.
“We are very, very happy today,” said Iyam Rayes, 46, as she distributed pastries and baklava to those gathered in the courtyard.
“The Holy Spirit worked with the bishops for Monsignor Rai to become patriarch,” said a monk who refused to give his name.
“This is all new, I cannot express how I feel because I love him so much,” said Kounayna Chamoun, 52, who said that she was related to the new patriarch.
But well-wishers were not all Maronites. Sheikh Najib Adra made the trip from the northern province of Koura to congratulate Rai.
“Mabrouk to the Lebanese in general and to the Maronite sect in particular,” said the preacher. “I wish him good luck for his work in Lebanon and the Middle East.”
Maha Othman, a Muslim, said it was important for her to come congratulate the new patriarch.
“I came here to congratulate the Maronites and the patriarch. I wish him all success,” said the lawyer from the north Lebanon province of Minnieh.
In Rai’s hometown of Hemlaya, in the Metn region, the announcement provoked an explosion of joy.
Hemlaya’s residents and those of surrounding areas gathered to celebrate in the town’s main square, near the Maronite church. Church bells tolled and fireworks were set off.
A brief look into life, achievements of newly elected Maronite patriarch Beshara Rai
BEIRUT: Newly elected Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai was born in the Metn town of Hemlaya on Feb. 25, 1940. Before his election Tuesday, Rai was head of the Maronite Diocese of the coastal town of Jbeil, northern Beirut, from 1990. Rai received his intermediate and high school education at the College Notre-Dame de Jamhour. In 1962, he received a bachelor’s degree in philosophy and theology and in 1975 he received a PhD in canon and civil law. Rai also studied three years of law at the Pontifical Lateran University in Rome.
In 1995, Rai was appointed by Pope John Paul II as a member in the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerants and he has served on the council since then.
In 2005, he was appointed by the Council of the Catholic Patriarchs of the Orient as a coordinator for the Episcopal Commission for the Family in the Middle East in 2005.
More recently in 2010, Rai was appointed by Pope Benedict XVI as a member of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications.
The new patriarch has also worked in academia. He has been a lecturer in pontifical theology and the sacrament of matrimony at Universite Saint-Esprit De Kaslik since 2001. He has also been a lecturer in legal rights at Sagesse University in Beirut since 2001. In 1994, Rai received the Order of Merit, Commander Rank, by the Italian president of the Italian Republic and in 2007 he received the National Order of the Cedar. – The Daily Star 


March 14: New Patriarch Would be a Guide in Efforts to Establish the State
Naharnet/The March 14 general-secretariat vowed on Wednesday to continue to defend Lebanon through peaceful and democratic means and hoped newly-elected Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi would be a guide for Lebanese leaders. The general-secretariat "holds onto Bkirki's role in guaranteeing the independence and sovereignty of Lebanon," it said in a statement following its weekly meeting. The statement considered the new patriarch a "historical guarantee for the project and the structure of the state" and a "guide to leaders in their efforts to establish the state under the Taef accord."Beirut, 16 Mar 11, 12:08 

Syrian Ambassador Invites al-Rahi to Damascus, Says 'We Want All the Best for Lebanon'
Naharnet/The Syrian Ambassador to Lebanon invited newly elected Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi to visit Syria in the near future, stressing that Damascus wants all the best for Lebanon. "The new Patriarch is invited to visit Syria where he's always welcomed," Ali Abdul Karim Ali said Wednesday in remarks to the press after visiting Bkirki to congratulate the patriarch.  Ali relayed a message from Syrian President Bashar Assad to al-Rahi congratulating him on his election. "Syria wants all the best for Lebanon and Patriarch al-Rahi knows that," he said. Beirut, 16 Mar 11, 12:08

 Lebanon’s new patriarch invited to Syria
March 16, 2011
Filed Under  Christians, Hariri, Hezbollah, Lebanon, Maronites, Suleiman, Syria Syrian ambassador to Lebanon Ali Abdul Karim Ali invited on Wednesday the newly elected Maronite patriarch Beshara Rai to visit Damascus, after years of tense ties with the Lebanese church. “I am here to convey President Bashar al-Assad’s congratulations and warm wishes to his excellency and invite him to Damascus, where he is always welcome,” Ali told reporters Wednesday after visiting the Church’s ’s headquarters in Bkirki to congratulate the patriarch.“Damascus wants the best for Lebanon, and Patriarch Rai knows this” , Ali added Bishop Beshara Rai, 71, was elected on Tuesday as the 77th patriarch of Lebanon’s Maronites, the country’s largest Christian community which makes up about one third of the four-million population. He succeeds Nasrallah Boutros Sfeir, who resigned recently due to his age after serving for 25 years as Patriarch of Antioch for the Maronites. Sfeir, 90 had asked several months ago to be relieved of his post because of his age. Sfeir’s resignation was accepted last month during a meeting with the pope on the sidelines of a visit to the Vatican to unveil a statue of the Maronite Church founder Saint Maroun on the outer wall of Saint Peter’s Basilica. Sfeir in 2000 had openly declared opposition to Syria’s three decades of domination over Lebanon that ended five years later when Damascus withdrew its troops following the assassination in 2005 of former premier Rafik Hariri After several years of strained relations, Lebanon and Syria agreed to establish diplomatic ties in October 2008 for the first time since their independence 60 years ago. Ali is Syria’s first ambassador to LebanonPatriarch Rai is known for opposing Hezbollah arms. In April 2010 he told Voice of Lebanon that the Lebanese cabinet should have control over Hezbollah’s weapons arsenal.Rai, who was Archbishop of Jbeil at the time voiced concern over the party’s armament, and called for a unanimous decision regarding the general use of weapons in Lebanon.

Berri Hopes al-Rahi Would Unite Lebanese,
Speaker Nabih Berri hoped on Wednesday that newly-elected Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi would unite the Lebanese rather than stand at the same distance from everyone. Berri made the statement to reporters after congratulating al-Rahi in Bkirki. said. Beirut, 16 Mar 11, 08:03