Lebanese bid farewell to Cardinal Sfeir at state funeral

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Lebanese bid farewell to Cardinal Sfeir at state funeral

Beirt-Agencies

Thousands of people in Lebanon attended the state funeral on Thursday, May 16, for Maronite Christian Cardinal Butros Nasrallah Sfeir, a former Maronite patriarch and leading member of the anti-Syrian political front in the country.

Lebanese media has devoted ample space to the funeral, which is taking place at the seat of the Maronite Catholic Patriarchate in Bkerke, in the mountains northeast of Beirut.

Sfeir died on Sunday at the age of 98 after a long illness.

He was born in the Syrian city of Tartus and was the Maronite patriarch from 1996 to 2011.

In the early 2000s, he made a name for himself through his insistent statements in favour of putting an end to Syrian political and military occupation in Lebanon, which formally ended in 2005 after 20 years.

The Lebanese government declared Thursday a national day of mourning and all public institutions, banks, and schools are closed.

Le Drian in Beirut for Sfeir's funeral

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian arrived in Beirut Thursday attend the funeral of former Maronite Patriarch Cardinal Mar Nasrallah Boutros Sfeir.

Le Drian, representing French President Emmanuel Macron, sat alongside President Michel Aoun, Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, Prime Minister Saad Hariri and a number of other Lebanese officials gathered in Bkirki for the, which began at 5pm/

Representatives from France, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Qatar and Cyprus arrived for the funeral Thursday afternoon as hundreds thronged outside the seat of the Maronite Church to the sound of hymns and chanting.

Visitors were able to express their condolences in the church until 1 p.m., the state-run National News Agency reported.
“Lebanon and the church will miss him as a pillar of Christian history in Lebanon," MP Chamel Roukoz said in a tweet Thursday.

He added that there will be an evening prayer procession starting from Fouad Chehab Stadium in Jounieh and finishing at the seat of the Maronite Church.

Speaking during a sermon delivered at the church Thursday morning, the bishop of the Maronite Catholic Eparchy of Jbeil, Michel Aoun, hailed Sfeir as a “voice of conscience” during Lebanon's 1975-90 Civil War.

"At a difficult national time, the voice of conscience in Lebanon did not retreat from the truth, or from his love for all the Lebanese because he believed in Lebanon as a free sovereign country,” Bishop Aoun said.

Sfeir was an outspoken critic of the Syrian regime and its military and political tutelage of Lebanon, and once famously said: “Every nation, if it wishes to remain a nation, needs to have elements. These elements are sovereignty, independence and free decision.”

Condolences have continued to pour in from abroad

The U.S. State Department offered condolences on behalf of the American people in a statement released Wednesday, describing Sfeir as a “courageous leader against tyranny and oppression and a champion for the idea of a sovereign and independent Lebanon.”

“His leadership and bravery, during some of Lebanon’s most trying times, shaped the course of Lebanon’s recent history. We offer our condolences to all the Lebanese people for the loss of such a profoundly national as well as spiritual leader,” the statement continued.

It added that the U.S. was prepared to stand with Lebanon "in support of these ideals embodied by Cardinal Sfeir."
In a statement, the French Embassy in Lebanon said, “Throughout his life, Patriarch Sfeir was one of the leading peace and reconciliation makers in Lebanon.”

Thu, 05/16/2019 - 19:23
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