BEIRUT: Politicians need to commit to serving love, justice, and the good of humanity, Lebanon’s Maronite Patriarch Bechara Boutros Al-Rahi said on Sunday.
His appeal, which was made during a sermon, came as Christian denominations in Lebanon that follow the Western calendar celebrated Palm Sunday.
Economic and political matters were topics in Al-Rahi’s message as children carried candles and olive branches and participated in processions.
Al-Rahi began his sermon — after a mass held in Bkerke — by reminding believers of the many children who are denied the joy of the holiday.
He said: “The purpose of the power entrusted to politicians is service, not oppression.
“Those in power are not lords but servants of the common good. A true politician is a servant.
“If they are not, then they are bad politicians. Politics is a noble art in service of the common good.
“Politicians are thus called upon to destroy their inner tendencies to be corrupt and selfish and serve personal interests or embezzle public funds.”
Al-Rahi addressed the nation’s MPs by saying that good politicians would promptly elect a president so that order can be restored to constitutional institutions.
Al-Rahi is scheduled to meet Christian MPs on Wednesday in an attempt to smooth the way for a presidential candidate to emerge who enjoys broad support among the parties.
A presidential vacuum has now prevailed in Lebanon for six months and Nabih Berri, parliamentary speaker, has ended sessions to elect a president after 11 failures.
Suleiman Frangieh, the head of the Marada Movement and the presidential candidate supported by Hezbollah and its allies, returned from Paris on Saturday after meeting French officials, most notably Patrick Dorrell, an adviser to the French president.
Frangieh’s meetings were held as the French work to overcome obstacles impeding the presidential elections.
The Free Patriotic Movement and the Lebanese Forces party, the largest Christian blocs in parliament, oppose Frangieh’s candidacy, in addition to the Lebanese Kataeb Party.
Leader of the Lebanese Forces Samir Geagea said: “The presidential road ahead of a president affiliated to Hezbollah’s team will be difficult. The candidacy of any figure from the axis of resistance, whoever they are, is a void in itself."
Lebanese Forces and reformist MPs are still backing Michel Moawad’s bid for the presidency, but the Hezbollah team considers him provocative.
Mohammed Raad, the head of Hezbollah’s parliamentary bloc, said on Sunday: “This president will be subordinate to US orders, the International Monetary Fund, and the forces of global arrogance.
“Communicating with the IMF to obtain a $3 billion program will not benefit the country.”
Leaked information about Frangieh’s meetings in Paris revealed that he expressed readiness not to deviate from the Arab consensus in dealing with the issue of Syria, and gave guarantees that the government’s reform work would not be disrupted, stressing his desire to rescue the country from its economic crisis.
Frangieh reportedly reiterated that he wants better relations with Saudi Arabia and that he will facilitate the government’s work in agreeing with the IMF to develop a rescue plan.
According to unofficial reports, Frangieh spoke of being authorized by Hezbollah and its secretary-general to discuss defense strategy.
Meanwhile, Mohammed bin Abdulaziz bin Saleh Al-Khulaifi, Qatar’s foreign affairs minister, will arrive in Beirut on Monday.
The minister seeks to maintain communication with all political views, but he does not carry any specific initiative regarding any presidential candidate.
Al-Khulaifi’s visit follows a trip to the country by the US Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Barbara Leaf, during which she met Lebanese officials in Beirut.
Leaf urged Lebanese lawmakers to implement desperately needed economic reforms, and emphasized the urgency of electing a new president, especially as the IMF had warned that the country was at a crossroads and in a very dangerous situation.