WED 21 - 8 - 2019
 
Date: May 14, 2019
Source: The Daily Star
Former Maronite Patriarch Sfeir, 99, dies
PM declares May 15-16 national days of mourning for Sfeir
BEIRUT: Former Maronite Patriarch Mar Nasrallah Boutros Sfeir died early Sunday morning at the age of 99 following a brief illness.

The seat of the Maronite Church, Bkirki, issued a statement saying that “the church had been orphaned [and] Lebanon was in mourning.” Current Patriarch Beshara Rai, who took over from Sfeir in 2011, called for bells to be rung across the country to honor his predecessor, and led a mass in Sfeir’s honor at Bkirki, attended by his relatives.

Sfeir will be laid to rest in Bkirki at 5 p.m. on Thursday, May 16.

Tributes to Sfeir flooded in Sunday morning from the country’s leaders and other notable figures.

President Michel Aoun said Lebanon had lost “one of its most outstanding patriarchs ... who left a bright mark on the church.”

Prime Minister Saad Hariri described the patriarch as a “national symbol” and praised his efforts to “transition Lebanon to peace after bloody and destructive conflicts.”

Joumblatt tweeted Sunday, “Farewell to the patriarch of independence, reconciliation, love and peace.”

Following the mass held in Bkirki, former President Amine Gemayel described Sfeir as “a compass and a guide” for Lebanese.

Lebanese pop stars Nancy Ajram and Elissa also paid tribute to the Christian leader, with the latter describing him as “a rock of independence.”

Born in the Kesrouan village of Rayfoun in 1920, Sfeir became the church’s leader in 1986. He was later made a cardinal by Pope John Paul II, in 1994.

Sfeir was also active politically . An ardent critic of the Syrian regime, Sfeir refused to visit the country, because he did not have the support of the Maronite community. In 2011, he spoke out against a possible visit by Rai to Damascus, describing it as tantamount to Bkirki accepting Syria’s presence in Lebanon.

And he criticized Hezbollah, saying on multiple occasions that the possibility of war with Israel remains as long as Hezbollah carries out operations that the state should undertake.

The former patriarch was also widely revered for his peacemaking efforts. He led a historic reconciliation, in 2001, between the Maronite Church and the Druze sect, visiting Chouf and meeting with Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Joumblatt. The meeting enabled the return of Christian civilians who been displaced by war almost two decades earlier.

Sfeir was admitted to the Hotel Dieu hospital about two weeks ago after suffering a chest infection. He had been in intensive care since Wednesday evening and suffered from kidney failure.

PM declares May 15-16 national days of mourning for Sfeir
BEIRUT: The prime minister’s office Sunday declared May 15-16 as national days of mourning for former Maronite Patriarch Mar Nasrallah Boutros Sfeir.

Prime Minister Saad Hariri issued a memo saying that on Wednesday and Thursday, the Lebanese flag would be lowered to half-mast at public administrations, institutions and municipalities.

The memo also said that “programs at radio stations and TVs will be adjusted to suit the sad occasion.”

The former patriarch died early Sunday morning at the age of 98 following a brief illness.

“On May 16, when [Patriarch Sfeir’s] funeral will be held, work will stop at all public administrations, municipalities and public and private institutions,” the memo read.

Lebanon prepares to bid Sfeir farewell

BEIRUT: Condolences for former Maronite Patriarch Cardinal Mar Nasrallah Boutros Sfeir poured in Monday as Lebanon geared up for a state funeral in honor of the late religious leader. “Lebanon lost one of its blessings, graces and shining eyes,” Speaker Nabih Berri said in a statement carried by his office.

Berri mourned Sfeir, saying the cardinal had “lived for Lebanon and died so that Lebanon might live.”

The speaker’s statement also drew comparisons between the patriarch and the founder of Berri’s Amal Movement, Imam Musa Sadr.

Both men, he said, “embodied the project of national coexistence between sects.”

A delegation from Hezbollah, headed by Ibrahim Amin al-Sayyed, the head of the party’s political council, made a trip to the seat of the Maronite Church in Bkirki to offer condolences to current Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai.

In televised remarks, as they were leaving Bkirki, Sayyed said, “It is our duty to offer [our condolences] to Patriarch Rai and the Lebanese people ... Patriarch Sfeir [was] a great religious figure of Lebanon’s great men.”

Representing the Marada Movement, Transportation Minister Youssef Fenianos and MP Tony Frangieh offered their condolences.

President Michel Aoun and Berri received Sfeir’s formal obituary by Rai through a delegation from Bkirki earlier in the day.

The international community also remembered Sfeir in messages to Lebanese leaders.

Saudi King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman sent cables expressing their condolences to Aoun and Sfeir’s family, according to the Saudi Foreign Ministry.

“We have received the news of the death of Patriarch Mar Nasrallah Boutros Sfeir, and we express our deepest condolences to you and [Sfeir’s] family,” both cables read.

Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani and his deputy, Sheikh Abdullah bin Hamad Al-Thani, sent a cable to Aoun mourning Sfeir, while Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser bin Khalifa Al-Thani sent a cable of condolences to Prime Minister Saad Hariri, the Qatari Embassy in Beirut said, according to the NNA.

French President Emmanuel Macron issued a statement Sunday evening via the Elysee Palace describing the former patriarch as “a sincere friend of France, a francophone and a Francophile” who made great efforts to maintain a relationship between France and Lebanon.

Sfeir died in the early morning hours Sunday after having been hospitalized with a chest infection two weeks earlier.

Born in the Kesrouan village of Rayfoun in 1920, Sfeir became the Maronite Church’s leader in 1986.

His ardent criticism of Syria’s tutelage of Lebanon and his peace-making endeavors made him a widely revered figure both in Lebanon and abroad.

Sfeir will be laid to rest at 5 p.m. Thursday in a state funeral in Bkirki. Bkirki’s spokesman Walid Ghayad asked for those who wished to attend the funeral to leave their cars behind and make the trip to and from Bkirki using the buses that will be provided.

Ghayad said the convoy carrying Sfeir’s body would depart from Hotel Dieu Hospital in Beirut’s Ashrafieh at 8 a.m. Wednesday morning. “The convoy will proceed slowly in areas where there are [worshipers],” Ghayad said in televised remarks. The convoy is expected to arrive in Bkirki at 10 a.m. where prayers will be held until midnight in honor of Sfeir.

As for the funeral Thursday, buses will be present at the following gathering points for those who wish to attend: Casino du Liban, Fouad Chehab Stadium, Jounieh Port near Portemilio Hotel, Holy Spirit University of Kaslik, the Jounieh Serail, the Armenian Catholic monastery in Bzommar and Harissa.

“It is requested that no political flags are raised or slogans [chanted] other than the Lebanese and Patriarchate flags,” Ghayad said.

Condolences pour in over former patriarch

BEIRUT: Condolences over the death of former Maronite Patriarch Mar Nasrallah Boutros Sfeir poured in Monday, with many Lebanese officials mourning the late cardinal at an event at the seat of the Maronite Church in Bkirki.

A delegation from Hezbollah, led by head of the party’s political council Ibrahim Amin al-Sayyed, attended the event and offered their condolences to current Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai.

“It is our duty to offer [our condolences] to Patriarch Rai and the Lebanese people. ... Patriarch Sfeir [was] a great religious figure of Lebanon’s great men,” Sayyed said, according to local media outlets.

After offering his condolences in Bkirki, former President Michel Sleiman commended Sfeir for pressing for “dignity, grace, independence, sovereignty and freedom” for Lebanon, local media reported.

President Michel Aoun and Speaker Nabih Berri received Sfeir's formal obituary by Rai through a delegation from Bkirki.

Earlier in the day, Berri mourned Sfeir saying the cardinal had “lived for Lebanon and died so that Lebanon might live.” In a statement carried by the state-run National News Agency, Berri said, “Lebanon lost one of its blessings, graces and shining eyes.”

Berri’s statement also drew comparisons between the patriarch and the founder of his own Amal Movement, Imam Musa Sadr. Both men, he said, “embodied the project of national coexistence between sects.”

Transportation Minister Youssef Fenianos and MP Tony Frangieh also offered their condolences in Bkirki, representing the Marada Movement.

Saudi King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman sent cables expressing their condolences to Aoun and Sfeir’s family, according to the Saudi Foreign Ministry.

“We have received the news of the death of Patriarch Mar Nasrallah Boutros Sfeir, and we express our deepest condolences to you and [Sfeir’s] family,” both cables read.

Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani and his deputy, Sheikh Abdullah bin Hamad Al-Thani, sent a cable to Aoun mourning Sfeir, while Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser bin Khalifa Al-Thani sent a cable of condolences to Prime Minister Saad Hariri, the Qatari Embassy in Beirut said, according to the NNA.

Late Sunday evening, French President Emmanuel Macron also offered his condolences to Rai and “all those loyal to the Maronite Church for the death of Sfeir.”

A statement from the Elysee Palace described the former patriarch as “a sincere friend of France, a francophone and a Francophile,” who made great effort to maintain a relationship between France and Lebanon.

Sfeir died in the early morning hours Sunday after having been hospitalized with a chest infection two weeks earlier.

Born in the Kesrouan village of Rayfoun in 1920, Sfeir became the Maronite Church’s leader in 1986.

His ardent criticism of Syria’s presence in Lebanon and his peacemaking efforts made him a widely revered figure both in Lebanon and abroad.


 
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