Abbas Telephones al-Rahi: Your Visit Strengthens Jerusalem's Resistance, Isn't Normalizationإقرأ هذا الخبر بالعربية
Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas praised on Wednesday evening the Maronite Patriarch's anticipated visit to Jerusalem, considering that it contributes to “strengthening Muslim-Christian coexistence as well as the Arabic identity” of the occupied Palestinian territories.
"We highly appreciate, respect and welcome Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi's visit to the Holy Land and meeting with the city's people,” Abbas said in a telephone call with Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi, according to a statement published on the state-run National News Agency.
"This visit contributes to preserving the Arab identity and the resistance of Jerusalem and Palestine,” he expressed.
He continued: “We welcome Palestine's great visitor, the head of the Maronite Church which has a history of preserving Arabic language and culture.”
Addressing al-Rahi, the Palestinian leader said: "We welcome you in your second country. Your visit is not a normalization (with Israel) as those with personal agendas are claiming. They seem to be surrendering to reality by rejecting your visit to Palestine and Jerusalem, explaining that these territories are under occupation.”
"This is your city and that of besieged Palestinians. Our hearts and homes are open to welcome you, hoping that we pay the Lebanese back some of their favors in hosting hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees, and in supporting the sacrifices of our people.”
Al-Rahi is expected to travel to the Holy Land to welcome the pontiff during his brief May 24-26 visit.
He would be the first patriarch to do so since the creation in 1948 of Israel, with which Lebanon is technically at war.
Lebanese citizens are banned from entering Israel, but Maronite clergy may to travel to the Holy Land to minister to the estimated 10,000 faithful there.
While some considered the visit a “historical mistake that opens the door for normalization with Israel,” Church authorities have repeatedly assured that it has a strictly religious character.
Al-Rahi declared that it is "his duty" to welcome Pope Francis in Jerusalem.
"I am the Maronite Patriarch of Antioch and All the East, of regions expanding from Turkey to Mauritania, Saudi Arabia and to Iran,” he stated upon his arrival at Rafik Hariri International Airport coming from France on Tuesday afternoon.
"It is my duty to welcome the Pope in any country in these regions,” he explained.
And to those against his visit, the patriarch said they don't have "to accept it."
"Those bothered by my visit, I ask them not to come to Bkirki," he said.