Elias Bejjani: His Eminence Patriarch Mar Nasrallah Boutrous Sfier Passes away…His Blessed Soul Is Now In heaven/Patriach Sfier’s Biography


His Eminence Patriarch Mar Nasrallah Boutrous Sfier Passes away..His Soul Is Now In heaven/Patriach Sfier’s Biography
Elias Bejjani/May 12/2019

With great sorrow the Maronite Patriarchate in Lebanon said in a statement that was issued few hours ago that the retired great Maronite Patriarch Mar Nasrallah Sfier has passed away in Hotel Dieu hospital where he was under intensive for many days. Patriarch Sfier who is a well respected patriotic and religious figure was 99 years old. His patriotic and heroic role in reclaiming Lebanon’s dependence was a bench mark in the country’s recent history. He will be remembered as a great Lebanese Clergy and as a great national patriot. May Almighty God bless his soul and welcome him to rest in the peace of Jesus Christ in heaven alongside the angels and saints His memory will remain alive and vivid in the Lebanese both hearts and consciences for a long time.

To Read the Arabic Version of this editorial and the Biography click here
غبطة أبينا وسيدنا البطريرك مار نصرالله بطرس صفير في ذمة الله/الرب أعطا والرب أخذ فليكن اسم الرب مباركاً
الياس بجاني/12 أيار/2019

Patriarch Sfeir has passed Away
NNA/May 12/2019
Patriarch Nasrallah Boutros Sfeir passed away on Sunday morning at the age of 99, at Hotel Dieu hospital .

Patriach Sfier’s Biography
Nasrallah Sfeir was born on May 15, 1920 in Rayfoun, Kesrowan, Lebanon to Maroun Sfeir and Hannee Fahed. from Ghosta. He has five sisters: Matilla, Jaouhara, Odette, Laure and Melanie.
He completed his elementary and complementary studies at Saint Abda School, Harharya-Aramoun, Kesrouan (1933-1937); he completed secondary studies at the Maronite Patriarchal Seminary in Ghazir, Kesrouan (1937-1939) and at the Oriental Seminary Institute of Saint Joseph University (1940-1943), where he later pursued his philosophical and theological studies (1944-1950).
From Priesthood to Episcopal ordination (1950-1986):
May 7, 1950: He was ordained a priest and appointed Pastor of the Reyfoun Parish and secretary of the Diocese of Damascus (presently Sarba).
1951-1961: He taught Arabic Literature, the History of Philosophy and Translation at the Marianist College in Jounieh, Lebanon.
1953-1961: He was appointed General Secretary of the Maronite Patriarchate.
July 16, 1961: He was ordained Bishop and appointed Patriarchal Vicar.
From his Episcopal ordination to his enthronement as Patriarch:
1974-1975: Patriarchal Administrator with Bishop Antoine Khoureich, who was then Archbishop of the Diocese of Sidon.
1975-1986: President of the Executive Committee of the Assembly of the Catholic Patriarchs and Bishops in Lebanon.
1977-1986: Representative of the President of the Assembly of the Catholic Patriarchs and Bishops in Lebanon at Caritas-Lebanon.
1980-1990: Adviser to the Special Committee to revise the Oriental Canon Law.
1980-1986: Spiritual Director to the autonomous organization “Knights of Malta”.
From his Patriarchal enthronement to his appointment as Cardinal:
April 19, 1986: Elected Patriarch by the Synod of Bishops.
April 27, 1986: Was enthroned to the See of Antioch and All the East. He is the 76th Maronite Patriarch.
1986- Present: President of the Assembly of the Catholic Patriarchs and Bishops in Lebanon.
1986-1994: He participated in three general councils of the Synod of Bishops in Rome.
1991-Present: He is a founding member of the Assembly of the Catholic Patriarchs in the East.
From his appointment as Cardinal to the present:
November 26, 1994, he was made a Cardinal.
1994-Present: As a member to the Pontifical Council for legislative interpretation.
1994-Present: As a member to the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Health Services.
Writings and Translations
His writings in Arabic:
1975: From the Sources of the Gospel.
1983: Disappeared Faces, Volume I.
1984: Disappeared Faces, Volume II.
1986-2000: The Sunday Homily, 12 Volumes.
1986-2000: Fourteen Lenten Pastoral Letters, on various topics.
Translations into Arabic
1966: Jesus: The life of the Soul (from French).
1967: Apostolic Constitution Indulgentiarum Doctrina (The Doctrine of Indulgences).
1971: Pastoral Exhortation on the Media (from French).
1978: General Instructions concerning the Reciprocal Relations between the Bishops and the Monks in the Church (from French).
Documents of Pope John Paul II
1979: Encyclical Redemptor Hominis (from Latin).
1980: Encyclical Divis in Misericirdia”, The Divine Mercy (from Latin).
1981: Pastoral Exhortation: “Function of the Christian Family in Today’s World” (from Latin).
1984: Pastoral Exhortation: “Reconciliation and Penance in the Mission of Today’s Church” from Latin).
1984: Encyclical Salvici Doloris, The Saving Suffering (from Latin).
1984: Three Letters Concerning the Tragedy of Lebanon, (from French).
1985: Letter to all the Youth in the World (from French at the Occasion of the World Youth Day).
As soon as His Beatitude Nasrallah Peter Sfeir assumed the responsibility of the Maronite Patriarchate, he implemented projects in multiple domains. The following are some of his achievements:
In the ecclesiastical and administrative realm
1986-Present: Appointment of Patriarchal Vicars to reside in the regions of Byblos, Batroun, El-Jebbeh, Deir-el-Ahmar, Sarba and Jounieh. of the Patriarchate.
The ordaining of thirty new bishops.
The founding of new eparchies.
The modification of the status of some already established eparchies.
1989: Transforming the Patriarchal Vicariate of Damascus to an independent eparchy.
1990: Joining of the Patriarchal Vicariate of Deir-el-Ahmar to the Eparchy of Baalbeck which became the Eparchy of Baalbeck and Deir-el-Ahmar.
1990: Joining of the Eparchy of Sarba to the Patriarchal Eparchy and declaring the Patriarchal Vicariate of Byblos an independent eparchy.
1999: Joining of the Eparchy of Jounieh to the Patriarchal Eparchy and declaring the Patriarchal Vicariate of Batroun an independent Eparchy.
1986: The republishing of the Patriarchal Magazine.
1992: The promulgation of the new Maronite Liturgy.
1992: The promulgation of the Lectionary.
1995: The holding of the Synod for Lebanon.
1996: The promulgation of the Rites of Ordination of a Priest and a Bishop.
1997: The Holy Father’s visit to Lebanon.
2000: The promulgation of the Book of Ginnazat (Rites of Christian Funerals).
In the Social, agricultural and patrimonial domains:
1987: The creation of the opportunity to terminate the partnership situation on the land of Diman and giving homes to the partners.
1987: The establishment of the Maronite Maronite Fund.
1995-1999: The developing of the land in Diman (The summer Patriarchal See).
1996: The establishing of the common fund for retired bishops.
1999: The declaring of the Holy Valley of Kannoubine and the region of the Cedars as an International Patrimonial Reservation.
In addition to renovating the Patriarchal See in Diman and the Patriarchal Seminary in Ghazir, Patriarch Sfeir is also responsible for the following:
1992: The construction of a private cemetery for patriarchs and bishops
1995: The construction of a center to house the Maronite Tribunal and the Maronite Social Fund.
1996: The building of a new wing, south of the Patriarchal See, with a large documentation hall, a library, a hall dedicated to Pope John Paul II and bedrooms for the bishops.
1999: The building of a new Wing, north of the Patriarchal See, containing a residence for nuns, employees and assistant to the bishops and a large hall for meetings of the Assembly of the Catholic Patriarchs and Bishops in Lebanon.
1999: The housing of the Patriarchal Commission for Liturgical Affairs and the General Secretariat of the Assembly of the Catholic Patriarchs and Bishops and of the Synod of the Catholic Patriarchs in the East.
1999: The building of Patriarch Sfeir’s Medical Center in Reyfoun, Kesrouan.
2000: The building of a twenty thousand seat courtyard facing the Patriarchal Residence for official religious ceremonies.
Patriarch Sfeir also paid attention to Maronite institutions outside of Lebanon and achieved the following:
1994: The renovation of Our Lady of Lebanon Church in Paris.
1997: The renovation of the Franco-Lebanese Dorm in Paris.
1997: The renovation of Our Lady of Lebanon Church and the Franco-Lebanese Dorm in Marseille, France.
1998: The remodeling of the Patriarchal Residence in Jerusalem.
2000: The reopening of the Maronite College in Rome.
Pastoral and Official Visits
Patriarch Sfeir has gone on Pastoral and Official visits to:
The Vatican: Every Year.
France: 1986, 1994, 1997 and 1999
Soviet Union: 1987
Algeria: 1987
United States of America: 1988
Kuwait: 1989
Cyprus: 1989 and 1998.
Germany: 1989
South Africa: 1992
Egypt:. 1992 and 2000
Jordan. 1993 and 1998
Australia. 1993
Brazil. 1997
and in 2000 he visited Nigeria, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Togo, Benin, and Senegal.
The above is a list of some of His Beatitude Nasrallah Peter Cardinal Sfeir’s most notable achievements, from the beginning of his patriarchate to this date, 2000. He accomplished them with all that was given to him as virtues of a good shepherd: piety, personal courage, education and faithfulness to the national and spiritual values that were practiced by all Maronite Patriarchs.

Lebanon’s former Maronite Christian patriarch Sfeir dies
Associated Press/May 12/2019/The former patriarch passed away early Sunday at a Beirut hospital. The church issued a statement saying “The Maronite church is orphaned and Lebanon is in sadness.”
BEIRUT: Lebanon’s Maronite Christian church said its former patriarch, Cardinal Nasrallah Butros Sfeir, has died after several days in hospital. He was 98.Sfeir, an outspoken and feisty personality, served as spiritual leader of Lebanon’s largest Christian community through some of the worst days of the 1975-90 civil war.He then played a key role in shaping the country’s postwar politics as one of the most prominent Christian leaders in the mostly Muslim region. The former patriarch passed away early Sunday at a Beirut hospital. The church issued a statement saying “The Maronite church is orphaned and Lebanon is in sadness.”Cardinal Bechara Rai, who succeed Sfeir in 2011, called on churches to ring their bells and hold prayers for the late leader.

Ex-Maronite Patriarch Sfeir Dies Days before Turning 99
Agence France Presse/Associated/Naharnet/May 12/2019/
Lebanon’s former Maronite patriarch Nasrallah Boutros Sfeir, who wielded considerable political influence during the country’s civil war and was an ardent advocate of a Syrian troop withdrawal, died Sunday, the church said.
Sfeir, who was about to turn 99 on May 15, died at 3:00 am (0100 GMT) “after days of intensive medical care,” said a statement by the Maronite church in Bkirki. “The Maronite church is orphaned and Lebanon is in sadness,” the statement added. Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi, who succeed Sfeir in 2011, called on churches to ring their bells and hold prayers for the late leader.
The National News Agency said Sfeir’s coffin will be moved from the Hôtel-Dieu De France Hospital in Ashrafieh to Bkirki on Wednesday and that the funeral service and burial will take place on Thursday at 5:00 pm. Sfeir became the leader of the church in 1986 until he resigned in 2011 due to his declining health, and held the title “76th Patriarch of Antioch and the Whole Levant”. He was a respected power broker during the 1975-1990 civil war, which saw bitter infighting between rival militias including opposing Christian factions. Sfeir, who spoke fluent Arabic and French, was made a cardinal by Pope John Paul II in 1994. Born in 1920 in Rayfoun, a village in Lebanon’s Keserwan mountains, Sfeir studied theology and philosophy but was never shy to delve into Lebanon’s tumultuous politics. His backing of the 1989 Taef agreement that brought the 15-year civil war to an end bolstered Christian support for the accord. Sfeir also spearheaded the opposition to Syria’s three decades of military and political domination over Lebanon.
“His biggest struggle was to end the Syrian presence in Lebanon, which we all thought was impossible because of the divisions in Lebanon,” his biographer Antoine Saad told AFP. “But he worked on it steadily, objectively, meticulously and quietly,” he said. Sfeir refused to visit Syria during his time as patriarch, even when John Paul II made a trip to the country in 2001. His outspokenness helped swell the anti-Syria movement in 2000. It eventually led to the withdrawal of thousands of Syrian troops from the country five years later, following the assassination of former prime minister Rafik Hariri, whose murder the opposition blamed on Damascus. Sfeir’s opinion and advice continued to be sought by politicians of all stripes, not only Christians, after he stepped down. “He was completely against war,” Saad said of the cleric who enjoyed hiking in nature until his late years. “His loss can’t be compensated for.”

Thursday Declared National Vacation for Sfeir’s Farewell
Naharnet/May 12/2019/The Premiership has announced that Wednesday and Thursday will be national mourning days over the death of former Maronite patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir. According to the decree, flags will be flown at half-mast and radio and TV programming will be adjusted to suit the situation.
All public administrations and municipalities and public and private institutions will meanwhile close on the burial day on Thursday.

Maronite Patriarch: We Now Have a Patron in Heaven
Kataeb.org/ Sunday 12th May 2019/Maronite Patriarch Bechara al-Rahi on Sunday mourned the death of his predecessor, Cardinal Nasrallah Sfeir, praising him as an icon. “We now have a patron in heaven,” Al-Rahi said during a mass he officiated in Bkirki to pray for the late Patriarch. On another note, Al-Rahi said it is the duty of all political officials to work responsibly on forming a society that is based on diversity and unity, adding that no one must be excluded or neglected. “If officials in the parliament and government had had these principles in mind, they would have come out with a budget that promises reform, economic growth, financial stability and a decent social life,” he said.

Lebanese Leaders Mourn Death of ex-Patriarch Sfeir
Naharnet/May 12/2019/Lebanon’s leaders and politicians on Sunday mourned the death of former Maronite patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir, an influential figure in Lebanon’s modern history.”The national arena will miss a man who was firm in his defense of Lebanon’s sovereignty and independence and its people’s dignity,” President Michel Aoun said. Prime Minister Saad Hariri meawhile remembered how Sfeir cooperated with his slain father, ex-PM Rafik Hariri, over “the same national cause,” adding that they defended “independence, full sovereignty and the freedom of decision.”
Hariri also hoped “patriarch Sfeir’s image will remain an icon for those working loyally for their country.” Free Patriotic Movement chief and Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil described Sfeir as one of the Maronite church’s most prominent patriarchs. “We are very saddened and we are deeply determined to continue with (Maronite) Patriarch (Beshara) al-Rahi the path of preserving freely diverse existence and the final entity with its humanitarian message,” Bassil tweeted. Progressive Socialist Party leader ex-MP Walid Jumblat meanwhile said: “Farewell to the patriarch of independence, reconciliation, love and peace.”Jumblat was referring to the historic reconciliation between Druze and Christians in Mount Lebanon which was sponsored by Sfeir. Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Latif Daryan meanwhile described Sfeir as “a role model for moderation, openness, wisdom, dialogue, love and coexistence between Muslims and Christians.” Kataeb Party chief MP Sami Gemayel said Sfeir’s “smile, wisdom and firmness will remain carved in our heart and mind.”Higher Islamic Shiite Council chief Sheikh Abdul Amir Qabalan meawhile lauded Sfeir’s “patriotic stances” and said he was “a partner in immunizing national unity, deepening coexistence and preserving Lebanon.”

Former President Amine Gemayel Hails Late Cardinal as ‘First Resistance Fighter’
Kataeb.org/ Sunday 12th May 2019/Former President Amine Gemayel on Sunday mourned the death of Cardinal Nasrallah Sfeir, hailing him as the first resistance fighter. “He was our guide to the second independence and the one who sparked its start,” he said. “He was an essential pillar in the Lebanese resistance.” “Amid the hardships that the country is currently facing, we are in dire need of adhering to Sfeir’s teachings and experience in order to save Lebanon from the quagmire it is stuck into and from the blatant neglect of the foundations of the Lebanese entity,” Gemayel stressed. “Any settlement must not be sealed at the expense of basic postulates and sanctities because we must hold onto our constants in order to save Lebanon in the present and future,” he added.

Kataeb leader Samy Gemayel Mourns Patriarch’s Passing: We Have Lost a Man Who Never Compromised
Kataeb.org/ Sunday 12th May 2019/Kataeb leader Samy Gemayel on Sunday hailed the late Patriarch Emeritus Nasrallah Sfeir as an exceptional man who will be greatly missed, saying that the latter had not once compromised his constants and values. “Patriarch Sfeir was our main resort as a student resistance movement during the Syrian occupation era. He served as a catalyst for the Lebanese people’s opposition to the Syrian occupation,” Gemayel told MTV.
“We lost a symbol of a noble and honorable phase in the history of Lebanon,” he said. “Sfeir will always be a role model to all of us.” “The Patriarch was like a father to me. He was an exceptional person who we are all going to miss,” he said. “We hope we would rise up to the struggle fought by the late Cardinal in the difficult times, and pledge to remain loyal to his teachings and the political path he had paved during his mandate as patriarch,” he affirmed.

MP Geagea Says Sfeir ‘Stood by LF in Darkest Circumstances’
Naharnet/May 12/2019/MP Sethrida Geagea on Sunday described late Maronite ex-patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir as a “saint” who “stood by the Lebanese Forces party in the darkest circumstances, especially after the Taef Accord and between the years 1990 and 2005.””He carved irreversible marks in our history,” she said in a statement mourning the late spiritual leader. “His role was essential as a resistant patriarch who raised the voice against tyranny, especially when Samir Geagea was arrested together with Lebanon as a country,” the MP added. She also hailed Sfeir’s role in the Bkirki Declaration in the year 2000 and the Mt. Lebanon reconciliation, saying he stood by “right and truth in the face of hegemony and in support of the LF’s cause.”Geagea finally called on the Lebanese state to declare Sfeir’s burial day a national mourning day because “he worked for the sake of entire Lebanon.”

Rest In Peace – Patriarch and Cardinal Mar Nasrallah Boutros Sfeir
Eblan Farris/Face Book/May 12/2019
Rest In Peace – Patriarch and Cardinal Mar Nasrallah Boutros Sfeir. He was the Patriarch of Antioch and all the East – a seat that was established and first occupied by the Apostle St. Peter.Patriarch Sfeir passed away this morning at 2:55am Beirut time. I met with the Patriarch at his seat in Bkerke many times, he invited me to dine with him and we talked a lot. He pulled out a list of those who have held the seat of Patriarch of Antioch and all the East and showed me his name, then he said look who the first one is that occupied this seat? It was the Apostle St. Peter’s name listed under number 1., at that point I choked up and had chills running down my spine.
The history is amazing as it is a direct lineage all the way back to Jesus and his Apostle St. Peter. This is the main reason I am so proud of being a Catholic and will never ever entertain anything but this faith that has it’s lineage going all the way back to Jesus and the Apostle’s.
When Jesus ascended into heaven, the Apostles felt that they were under risk, as such St. Peter, St. Simon and St. Jude went to Beirut Lebanon – St. Simon and St. Jude built a Church in Beirut and developed the Mass there, St. Peter focused on developing the hierarchy of the Church by splitting it into 5 seats – 1st one Antioch and all the East, then Jerusalem, Alexandria Egypt, Constantinople, and finally Rome. To 3 of the Seats, he would elevate to Patriarch status, to 2 Bishop status.
“…And the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.” ACTS 11:26
The First Seat was established as Patriarch of Antioch and all the East. The history of this seat is one of continued persecution and survival of the faith. The seat continued in Antioch till 682 when it came under attack, the Pope at the time ordered John Maron to move the seat from Antioch to the protection of the Mountains of Lebanon – St. John Maron established the Patriarch of Antioch and All the East next door to my Mother and Father’s home in Kfar Hey, Lebanon – deep in the mountains. My Father and Msgr. Uncle went to school there. St. John Maron was the first Maronite Catholic Patriarch of Antioch and all the East, a seat that was later occupied by Boutros Sfeir – who passed away this morning at 2:55am Beirut time.
May God Rest His Soul in Heaven. Eblan


*Elias Bejjani
Canadian-Lebanese Human Rights activist, journalist and political commentator
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