Al-Rahi, Meqdad Exchange Words during Yazigi's Enthronement in Damascusإقرأ هذا الخبر بالعربية
Greek Orthodox leader Youhanna X Yazigi was on Sunday enthroned in Damascus during a ceremony that was attended by Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi and the Syrian deputy foreign minister.
The ceremony took place at the Church of the Holy Cross in Qassaa, a central neighborhood of the conflict-hit Syrian capital.
Gregorios III Laham, Patriarch of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church, was also among the top spiritual officials present at the mass.
TV footage showed al-Rahi and Laham speaking with Syrian Deputy FM Faisal al-Mekdad as he entered the church to attend the ceremony.
Presidential Affairs Minister Mansour Azzam, a key adviser to Bashar Assad, was among ministers representing the embattled government.
Snipers deployed on the rooftops around the church and guests bearing official invitations were whisked through metal detectors at the door, but their chauffeurs were prohibited from parking, and throngs of devotees had to watch the liturgy on a giant screen outside.
Al-Rahi said after Yazigi's enthronement that he came to Damascus at a difficult time to confirm his solidarity with the “wounded” Syrian people.
“You have been chosen at a difficult time in Syria,” he told the Greek Orthodox patriarch. “We stress unity and love among us.”
“We are all brothers and sisters and we should preserve the life of humans,” he said.
Discussions on reform and democracy cannot be compared with the blood shed by a single person in Syria, he added.
In remarks to LBCI, al-Rahi denied that his visit had a political aspect.
Al-Rahi said on Saturday that reform in Syria is reached through internal efforts and dialogue, explaining that it cannot be imposed by any foreign interference.
During a mass he held at the Maronite Cathedral of St. Anthony in Damascus' Christian district of Bab Tuma on the occasion of St. Maroun, al-Rahi said: “Any role for the international community should not contradict with this.”
"We pray each day for the end of war and violence and that a unanimous peace may be achieved through cooperation,” he stated.
His visit -- the first by a Maronite patriarch since Syrian and Lebanese independence in 1943 -- comes as the revolt against Assad's regime nears the two-year mark.
Yazigi was chosen as the Patriarch of Antioch and All the East on December 17, replacing Ignatius IV Hazim who died earlier in the same month.
After his enthronement, Yazigi said: “Anything that harms Lebanon or Syria would affect all of us deeply.”
“We salute Lebanese President Michel Suleiman,” he said.
He also thanked Assad and said: “We hope that Syria would find a peaceful political solution so that violence ends and the country returns to stability and peace.”