Al-Rahi's Jerusalem Visit to 'Assure Christian Presence' in ME, Says Holy Land Archbishop

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The Maronite patriarch's historic first visit to Jerusalem to welcome Pope Francis is aimed at strengthening the "Christian presence" in the Middle East, a church official said Wednesday.

Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi's visit was announced earlier this month, prompting condemnation from media close to Hizbullah, which said travelling to the group's arch-enemy Israel would be a "sin."

"This visit is to assure and confirm the Christian presence and identity in the face of all the attempts to weaken the Eastern Christian historical presence in the Middle East," the Maronite archbishop in the Holy Land, Mussa al-Hajj, told reporters in the Israeli city of Haifa.

"Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi aims to surpass borders," Hajj said.

Al-Rahi said on May 3 he would travel to the Holy Land to welcome the Roman Catholic pontiff during his May 24-26 visit.

He is set to be the first patriarch to do so since the 1948 creation of Israel, which Lebanon is technically still at war with.

In response, As Safir daily ran a critical piece headlined "Historic sin: al-Rahi goes to Israel".

The newspaper argued the trip was a "dangerous precedent" that would "not serve the interests of Lebanon and the Lebanese, nor those of Palestine and the Palestinians nor Christians and Christianity".

It speculated on whether the patriarch, who is also a Roman Catholic cardinal, "would shake hands with Israeli leaders who will be in the front row to welcome Pope Francis to Jerusalem".

Even if he does not, he would still have to coordinate his trip with Israeli officials, the paper added, claiming the visit "is part of the normalization between the head of the Catholic church and the occupier (Israel)".

Al-Akhbar daily, which is also close to Hizbullah, said a group of politicians will try to dissuade al-Rahi "from visiting Jerusalem as long as it is under Israeli occupation, which would signify a normalization with the occupier".

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 insisted that the trip has no political significance.

Comments 7
Thumb FlameCatcher 14 May 2014, 20:27

So Al Rahi is going to conquer back Jerusalem without a single bullet shot !

Sinners, Hezbollah are passing messages to Rahi telling him going to jerusalem would be a "sin" ??? Who are they to decide what's sin and what's not ?

They are a group of sinners, using the image of god holding a kalashnikov (Sin to represent God Islam), murdering people and waging wars when Islam is all about "peace". They have the audacity to talk about Sin ???

The gates of hell are wide open for Hassan Nasrallah and his crew...

Thumb kanaanljdid 14 May 2014, 22:17

From where do you take that nonsense assertion?

Thumb cedre 14 May 2014, 23:12

@pb : please elaborate about sla, subject interests me a lot, tanx...

Thumb FlameCatcher 15 May 2014, 00:04

Many politicians have expressed their support. Others are busy sending messages through trash mouthpieces because they don't have the balls to do it publicly because its none of their business !

Missing politik_buro 15 May 2014, 00:21

Is there any Lebanese land still occupied by Israelis? As in does the UN acknowledge that?

Missing cedars 15 May 2014, 04:32

I think when ra3i returns, HA will assassinate him and then claim that Israel did it to create a religious war in Lebanon.
This is how the Iranian and Syrian mafia operates. My way or the highway.

Missing phillipo 15 May 2014, 08:29

As soon as Lebanon and Israel re-sign/renew the Peace Agreement that the then Lebanese Government tore up under Syrian pressure in 1983, they will be able to visit Jerusalem.