Maronite Catholic patriarch calls for Middle East peace

Lebanon’s Cardinal Bechara Rai has urged the international community to strive to end the wars in the Middle East, and called for a return of displaced people to their countries of origin.

Addressing the European Parliament, the Maronite Catholic patriarch warned that the crisis has direct consequences not only for Christians in the region, but for the whole Mediterranean Basin and Europe in general.

“The rise of Islamic fundamentalism and the growth of terrorist organisations may remove the Muslim moderation that Christians and Muslims in this region have patiently built over 1,400 years of living together,” the cardinal said.

“We absolutely must not give this land to fundamentalists and leave (an) open field to terrorist organisations,” he said, adding that, “This would threaten world peace.”

He reminded the parliament that Lebanon, a country of four million people, is struggling to cope with two million refugees and displaced people, warning that “those human beings who live in deprivation and misery will be easily exploited by terrorist organisations, if this situation persists”.


Cuban meeting bears fruit in Syria

As an early fruit of Pope Francis’ historic meeting in February with Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill, Russia’s Catholic Church has launched a joint project with Russian Orthodox leaders to rebuild churches and monasteries destroyed during the war in Syria.

Stressing the move did not indicate support for the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad, Msgr Igor Kovalevsky, secretary-general of the Russian bishops’ conference, said “while we’ve been in contact with the Assad government, this isn’t a political matter”. Details of funds raised or the programme’s likely start date have not yet been released, he said, but he expressed the hope that “all Russia’s denominations will actively help this work and all Christians participate in raising necessary funds”.