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Patriarch Rai outraged 2The See of the Maronite church announced on Wednesday that Patriarch Beshara al-Rai will not hold talks with Syrian officials during his visit to Damascus next week.

Bkirki’s press officer Walid Ghayyad said the June 8 trip is “pastoral and will not include any political meetings.”

Al-Rai’s visit to the Syrian capital has three objectives – Inaugurating the Maronite Social Center, participating in a Christian spiritual summit and attending the inauguration of the Orthodox patriarchate, he added.

Syrian deputy foreign minister, Faisal Mekdad (R) speaks with Lebanon's Christian Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rai (L) and Gregorios III Laham (C), Catholic Melkite patriarch of Antioch and All the East, of Alexandria and of Jerusalem, following the official enthronement of Patriarch John al-Yaziji as Syria's Greek Orthodox Patriarch of the Levant and Antioch at al-Salib Church in Damascus, Syria, 10 February 2013.
Syrian deputy foreign minister, Faisal Mekdad (R) speaks with Lebanon’s Christian Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rai (L) and Gregorios III Laham (C), Catholic Melkite patriarch of Antioch and All the East, of Alexandria and of Jerusalem, following the official enthronement of Patriarch John al-Yaziji as Syria’s Greek Orthodox Patriarch of the Levant and Antioch at al-Salib Church in Damascus, Syria, 10 February 2013.

This will not be the first time that al-Rai travels to Damascus as a patriarch. He visited the Syrian capital in February 2013  when he attended Greek Orthodox leader Youhanna X Yazigi’s enthronement. Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad   participated  in the inauguration ceremony and he and Rai exchanged few words according to reports from Damascus. Presidential Affairs Minister Mansour Azzam, a key adviser to Bashar Assad, was  also among the ministers representing the embattled government.

Back then a Saudi newspaper  al-Watan  criticized  his visit to Syria, according to a report by LBC. Rai’s controversial visit to Syria also created a heated debate in Lebanon.

 

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