BEIRUT: Maronite Patriarch Bechara Al-Rahi has called on Lebanese politicians to help play their part in the election of a new president following 10 failed attempts.
He appealed to politicians to stop impeding the process and to help create a situation in which the state’s institutions can resume work to help address the country’s economic crisis.
MPs have held 10 failed sessions to elect a president, with Hezbollah and its allies casting blank votes and repeatedly withdrawing from the second round of voting, resulting in a loss of quorum.
Al-Rahi said: “Arrogance is stopping the politicians from holding a dialogue to overcome the presidential election crisis, while the wailing of the hungry and grieving people does not reach the ears of their heart and conscience."
Maronite Patriarch Bechara Al-Rahi says he wants an international conference to help resolve the problems in Lebanon, under the auspices of the UN and friendly countries.
Al-Rahi, who added that some politicians seemed unconcerned about citizens’ suffering, was speaking at Sunday Mass in Bkirki.
His appeal came as Christmas was observed with midnight Masses and Sunday morning services amid strict security measures undertaken by the military and security forces.
Al-Rahi asked in his sermon: “How could they forget the face of mercy revealed to us at Christmas?”
The presidential deadlock was also referenced by other religious figures.
Armenian Catholic Patriarch Raphael Bedros XXI Minassian said: “We have spent the money of our parents and children and we have left them in a deep hole.”
While delivering his own speech, Al-Rahi was moved to the point of crying when stressing the plight of Lebanon’s people.
He said the value of the country’s currency was plummeting, and yet no one batted an eyelid.
He added that the investigation into the Beirut port blast awaited the judiciary, and the judiciary was awaiting the end of political and sectarian conflicts.
He added: “In Lebanese prisons, there are unsentenced prisoners from all religious sects, and in courts there are cases that have been accumulating for two years. The judiciary is on strike and the politicians are not concerned.”
The Maronite patriarch implicitly accused Hezbollah in his message, saying that the facts indicated that a plan against Lebanon was in place to establish a presidential vacancy in addition to a constitutional vacuum, complicating the election.
He asked: “Didn’t some political groups prevent the formation of a government before the end of Michel Aoun’s term, although they know that the present government is a resigned caretaker cabinet, the role of which will be problematic to determine?”
He said that the election was being obstructed on purpose so Lebanon would remain without any legitimate state.
He added: “They are preventing our state from having a president for personal, sectarian and foreign reasons.
“What do you want? Why are you taking revenge on Lebanon? Why are you destroying the state of Lebanon?
“Whatever the circumstances might be, electing a president remains the top priority.
“There’s no country in the world without a president. Those preventing the election of a president for the whole country are preventing the rise of Lebanon.”
He added that the Maronite patriarchate would continue its struggle and endeavors to enable the election to reach its conclusion as soon as possible.
He said: “The regional conflict is obstructing these endeavors, because someone wants a president who belongs to them, with a project that belongs to them, not a president for the historical Lebanese project.
“But we will not allow this. The country is not the property of one side without the other.”
Al-Rahi said he wanted an international conference to help resolve the problems in the country, under the auspices of the UN and friendly countries.
He added that this would help to “neutralize the country in the face of any military conflict, and the situation would remain under control in this unaccounted for period in the region.”
He said: “We call for this conference because we have lost hope in our politicians.”
Sister Marie Antoinette Saade, mother superior of the Maronite Sisters of the Holy Family, said: “Our families are not OK. They are being impoverished and they are struggling.
“The future of our young people is unknown. They are waiting for their passports and an opportunity to leave this country.
“However, and despite everything, we are still able to continue and carry on thanks to the assistance of our families and brothers in the world and the supportive organizations and associations that have been helping us since the outset of the crisis.
“But what if this assistance stops? What is our plan to continue? What is our strategy to secure a dignified living for our people? And most importantly, how do we stop ourselves and our people from begging?”