March 8 Tight-Lipped on Al-Rahi's Jerusalem Visit as Alloush Wishes this 'Normalization' Would Not Happen

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On May 24, Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi will travel to Jerusalem to welcome Pope Francis during his brief visit to the occupied Palestinian territories.

He would be the first patriarch to visit the Holy Land since the creation of Israel in 1948, with which Lebanon is technically at war.

The expected visit was met with huge controversy in the country, with some considering it a “historical mistake that opens the door for normalization with Israel” and Church authorities repeatedly assuring that it has a strictly religious character.

Al-Rahi declared that it is "his duty" to welcome the pontiff 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 on Tuesday.

"It is my duty to welcome the Pope in any country in these regions,” he explained.

Kataeb Party MP Elie Marouni on Thursday praised in a telephone call with Naharnet the patriarch's step, pointing out that the visit is religious “par excellence.”

Quoting al-Rahi's own words at the airport on Tuesday, Marouni reiterated that the patriarch "is not required to ask for anyone's permission in this respect."

"He is going to Bethlehem and Jerusalem is our city,” he stressed.

Answering a question on what positive outcomes the visit might produce, Marouni acknowledged that it might not be beneficial for Lebanon.

“But it will very beneficial for Christians in the occupied territories. It would reaffirm Palestinians' right of return,” the Christian MP explained.

“Let them stop with this rhetoric and with trying to outbid (the patriarch),” he said, addressing those demanding al-Rahi to refrain from traveling to the Holy Land.

Meanwhile, al-Mustaqbal bloc will not announce an official stance on the controversial visit, former MP Mustafa Alloush told Naharnet.

"This is a matter that concerns the patriarchate and the Vatican,” he said.

However, Alloush expressed personal reservation over the visit, considering it normalization with Israel.

"I prefer if he does not go to Israel, or that the visit gets postponed until some issues are resolved,” he said.

“It is normalization, especially that the Israeli administration put some conditions on the visit,” he elaborated.

Alloush assured Naharnet that he is not “bothered or irritated over the matter," but clarified that he was trying to protect the patriarchate from any defamation.

"Neither I nor anyone else are eligible to evaluate al-Rahi's choice. He is more knowledgeable about the decisions he takes,” he said.

Naharnet contacted State Minister for Parliament Affairs Mohammad Fneish, a MP in Hizbullah's Loyalty to Resistance bloc, but he refused to give any comments on the visit.

As well, MP Michel Moussa of Speaker Nabih Berri's Liberation and Development bloc said: “I do not want to comment on this and the bloc will not announce an official stance in this regard.”

Samah Idriss, who is a member of a campaign that calls for boycotting Israel, had described the patriarch's visit as a “historical mistake” on Saturday.

But he assured Naharnet on Thursday evening that no steps have been planned to campaign against the visit.

"We already announced our stance, and if any protests are to take place, we will announce them via media outlets and social media platforms,” he said.

Asked about his opinion on Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' support for al-Rahi's visit, Idriss commented: "We do not recognize Mahmoud Abbas as a the president of the Palestinian people, and we do not recognize (the legitimacy of) the Oslo Accord.”

He also called for taking the opinion of “other Palestinians.”

Abbas telephoned al-Rahi on Wednesday evening, expressing that his anticipated visit contributes to “strengthening Muslim-Christian coexistence as well as the Arabic identity” of the occupied Palestinian territories.

"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,” the Palestinian leader told the Patriarch.

Al-Rahi is expected to travel to the Holy Land to welcome the pontiff during his May 24-26 visit.

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.

Al-Rahi said on Tuesday that the Lebanese “do not have to accept his visit.”

"To those bothered by it, I ask them not to come to Bkirki," he expressed.



Comments 9
Thumb FlameCatcher 08 May 2014, 23:02

Of course M8 is tight lipped ! It's none of their business !

Hezbollah doesn't have a say in this and unfortunately, Aoun cannot pronounce himself because he doesn't want to anger Hezbollah and appear like a "Zionist Traitor".

Aoun should pronounce his position and welcome this move that is stronger than any bomb or rocket Hezbollah can shoot at Israel.

I hope this opens a real dialogue over our future because no one is looking forward to live with enemies north, east and south for the next 50 years !

Thumb FlameCatcher 09 May 2014, 00:00

When will you get it in you empty little head that I'm not M14 !

What does it matter what Alloush says ? Or Hariri ? It's none of their business !

Default-user-icon JupiterDrift (Guest) 08 May 2014, 23:27

The way I see it, When this snake oil salesman Al-Rahi returns from Occupied Palestine and his passport shows the Zionist entry Visa, he should be thrown in jail according to Lebanese laws!

Missing _karim 09 May 2014, 01:41

So March 8 is tight-lipped on the visit, while members from the February 14 Saudi-Wahabi coalition (i.e. Alloush) are criticizing it. Shou, where are the Al Qaeda sympathizers now?

Thumb liberty 09 May 2014, 02:28

posting at 2 in the morning?

Thumb liberty 09 May 2014, 02:35

thanks for telling us about fake posters and hope your brother feels better now!

Thumb ex-fpm 09 May 2014, 07:27

hope so too:)

Thumb sophia_angle 09 May 2014, 10:35


Thumb -phoenix1 09 May 2014, 17:30

M8 should be tight lipped because last time they dashed what could have been one of the best concerts ever to be held in Lebanon, had it not been that the plane of the artist who was coming to perform in Lebanon, had one part that was manufactured in Israel. Days have changed indeed.