Al-Rahi Back in Lebanon after Controversial Jerusalem Visit, Refuses to Make Statement at Airportإقرأ هذا الخبر بالعربية
Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi returned to Beirut on Saturday afternoon after his controversial visit to Jerusalem, but rejected to make any statement upon his arrival at the Rafic Hariri International Airport.
"Al-Rahi returned to Beirut at 4:30pm on board a private jet coming from the Jordanian capital Amman,” the state-run National News Agency reported.
He was accompanied by his envoy Boulos Sayyah and Bkirki spokesman Walid Ghayyad, the NNA noted.
But the same source remarked that the patriarch headed directly to Bkirki without making any statement at the airport, which is contrary to his rituals each time he leaves or returns to the country.
However, his latest trip to the occupied Palestinian territories was surrounded with a great deal of controversy, with many politicians and prominent figures openly criticizing it.
On Friday morning, the Bkirki media office announced also that al-Rahi will not head a mass on Sunday, June 1.
The patriarch has repeatedly defended his visit to the Holy Land.
“We have several times repeated that this visit is purely religious. I did not come here to make political deals … I did not come here to make commercial, economic, military or security deals. I came here to see our loving people,” al-Rahi underlined during a visit to the Druze village of Isfiya near the northern Israeli city of Haifa on Friday.
He added that he was “profoundly hurt” by those who have criticized his historic visit to Israel and the Holy Land.
“Can't we perform our duties? Has compassion died? Have social duties died?” the patriarch asked.
And on Wednesday, al-Rahi celebrated mass with exiled Lebanese at Saint Peter's church in the village of Capernaum on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, where Christ is said to have delivered many of his most famous teachings.
He considered that the Lebanese state must not deal with its citizens who fled to Israel in 2000 as “criminals.”
However, al-Rahi's comments sparked outrage among Hizbullah officials, and Loyalty to Resistance bloc MP Ali Meqdad announced on Saturday his rejection of the presence of “Israeli agents” in Lebanon, adding that the party is “not proud to call them Lebanese.”
Lebanon remains technically at war with Israel and bans its citizens from entering the Jewish state.
But Maronite clergy are permitted to travel to Israel to minister to the estimated 10,000 faithful there.