Rahi Says Lebanon Needs ‘Real Statesmen’ to End Baabda Vacuum/Bishop Boulos Matar: Presidency Should Not Be Linked to Issues beyond Lebanon’s Borders


Rahi Says Lebanon Needs ‘Real Statesmen’ to End Baabda Vacuum
Naharnet/February 09/16/Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi said on Tuesday that Lebanon needs “real statesmen” to end the presidential vacuum.“We need real statesmen to be able to elect a president,” al-Rahi said in his sermon during a mass he celebrated on the occasion of Saint Maroun in Bkirki. The patriarch urged Maronites to “build bridges rather than walls” among different factions. He gave his blessing to any initiative that removes the obstacles facing the presidential elections. Al-Rahi was referring to Lebanese Forces chief Samir Geagea’s endorsement of the candidacy of his long-time rival Free Patriotic Movement founder MP Michel Aoun. Despite Geagea’s backing for Aoun last month, the parliament failed once again Monday to elect a new president over the growing differences between the rival blocs. Baabda Palace has been vacant since the term of President Michel Suleiman ended in May 2014. The Bkirki mass was attended by MPs Antoine Zahra and Gilberte Zouein, and Marada Movement official Youssef Saadeh as representatives of Christian parties. They later held a closed-door meeting with al-Rahi.


Beirut Maronite Bishop Boulos Matar: Presidency Should Not Be Linked to Issues beyond Lebanon’s Borders
Naharnet/February 09/16/Beirut Maronite Bishop Boulos Matar condemned on Tuesday the ongoing vacuum in the presidency, while hailing the recent rapprochements and initiatives that have been launched to end the dispute. He said during a sermon marking Mar Maroun Day: “Our national dignity should not allow us to link the presidency to issues beyond our country’s borders.”On the initiatives, he noted: “Respecting the constitution does not mean neglecting the National Pact.”The constitution will remain the “only guarantee” for the country, Matar went on to say. “If we want to elect a president, we must also ensure that he has a country to rule,” stressed the bishop. This also demands that the constitution and National Pact are respected. “We hope that the presidential crisis will be resolved within weeks, not months,” he added. Lebanon has been without a president since May 2014 when the term of Michel Suleiman ended without the election of a successor. Ongoing disputes between the rival March 8 and 14 camps over a compromise candidate have thwarted the polls. Initiatives to end the deadlock saw Mustaqbal Movement leader MP Saad Hariri, of the March 14 camp, nominate Marada Movement chief MP Suleiman Franjieh, of the March 8 alliance, as president. Lebanese Forces head Samir Geagea nominated his longtime rival Change and Reform bloc chief MP Michel Aoun as president as well. These efforts have so far failed to elect a president after Hizbullah, Aoun’s key ally, announced over the weekend that its lawmakers will not head to the polls unless an agreement is reached to elect the MP.


Bkirki Meeting for Christian Ministers over Marginalization
Naharnet/February 09/16/Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi is planning on inviting Christian ministers for a meeting on Friday to inquire them about the alleged marginalization of Christians in state institutions, An Nahar daily reported on Tuesday. The newspaper said al-Rahi wants to hear the ministers’ remarks on the status of Christian employees at their ministries and other institutions during the meeting in Bkirki. The issue has been in the public eye in the past years but it gained momentum when ministers from Speaker Nabih Berri’s Amal movement were accused of marginalizing Christians. Bishop Boulos Matar told Voice of Lebanon radio (100.5) that Friday’s meeting in Bkirki is aimed at sending a warning and at rejecting lack of partnership. Last week, Public Works Minister Ghazi Zoaiter denied claims that his ministry has been carrying out more development projects in areas with a Muslim population than in Christian regions. Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khali also defended a decision to allocate a senior post at the ministry’s taxpayers department that was held by Bassema Antonios, a Christian, to Shiite Muslim employee Mohammed Suleiman. The finance ministry has not witnessed any new appointments but rather a periodic reshuffle of incumbent employees, he said.