Maronite Patriarch Bechara Boutros al-Rai said on Tuesday during a visit to the Metn town of Al-Arbaniyya that his recent ( controversial) statements were taken out of context and that the patriarchate “cannot relinquish any party and does not want to eliminate or marginalize any party, because Lebanon needs all its citizens, parties and sects.”
“You should forget all the statements that were taken out of context and have nothing to do with my personal opinion,” Rai said without trying to clarify what he meant in his statements
The patriarch also said that he will not abandon the “historical principles” of the church.
“I would like to reassure all who are listening to me that I would never give up on our people and our church,” he said.
Rai also expressed his sadness “over the misunderstanding that occurred following his visit to France,” adding: “I would not get involved in any disagreements inside or outside Lebanon.”
The patriarch also said that “ninety percent of disagreements are a result of misunderstandings and lack of honesty between people.” He did not elaborate
Rai came under fire last Friday from the opposition March 14 parties but won praise from March 8 politicians for indirectly defending Hezbollah’s arms and linking the party’s arsenal to the termination of Israeli occupation of Lebanese territory and the return of Palestinian refugees to their homeland . Even MP Walid Jumblatt who defected from March 14 alliance was very critical of Rai’s statements.
Last Thursday, Rai emphasized that only when the international community exerts pressure on Israel to vacate the occupied Lebanese territory ( the Shebaa Farms, Kfar Shouba hills and the Lebanese part of the disputed border village of Ghajar ) and Israel allows Palestinians in Lebanon to return to their homes, can Hezbollah be asked to hand over its arms because they will no longer be needed.”
He added that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is “open-minded” and should be given more chances to implement the reforms he already announced.
Fares Soueid, coordinator of the March 14 Secretariat General, rejected Rai’s remarks on the divisive issue of Hezbollah :“Patriarch Rai’s statement is coming in contradiction with the principles of the Maronite Church which has since 1943 been supporting the project of state building,” He said adding
“The Maronite Church is condemning the presence of non-legitimate weapons in the hands of any of the communities in Lebanon, Christian or Muslim.”
The opposition March 14 parties, including former Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s Future Movement, have launched blistering campaigns against Hezbollah, calling on the party to hand over its arms to Lebanese authorities. They also accused Hezbollah of running its own mini-state at the expense of state authority.“The state, and not any other Lebanese party, is responsible for defending Lebanon. It is the state that takes charge of forcing Israel to leave Lebanese territory and not any Lebanese party,” Soueid said.
Phalange Party bloc MP Elie Marouni said on Tuesday that some parties may boycott the upcoming meeting between Christian leaders and the Maronite Patriarch in Bkirki.
Christian party leaders and Rai are scheduled to hold a sit-down on September 23 to discuss the electoral law of the upcoming 2013 Parliamentary elections.
“The Phalange Party is accustomed to attend every dialogue session to voice its position, but let’s see if this meeting will actually take place; because it seems that some parties will boycott the Bkirki meeting,” he told Voice of Lebanon
Marouni also said that his party leader, Amin Gemayel, will meet privately with the patriarch to discuss the latter’s recent statements on Hezbollah and Syria.
Al-Jumhuriya newspaper reported on Monday that Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea will not be participating in future Christian meetings held by the patriarch if the latter sticks to his positions.
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