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New Maronite Patriarch meets with Pope

CWN - April 14, 2011

Patriarch Bechara Boutros Rai of Antioch, the new leader of the Maronite Catholic Church, met with Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican on April 14.

The Maronite Patriarch was visiting Rome for the first time since his election on March 15 as the 77th Patriarch of Antioch. He succeeded Cardinal Nasrallah Pierre Sfeir, who retired earlier this year at the age of 90 after 25 years as the leader of the world’s Maronites.

In his remarks to the visiting Lebanese prelate, Pope Benedict underlined the need to proclaim the message of the Gospel in the Middle East, where the world’s Maronite Catholics are concentrated. The Pontiff said that it is vital to maintain an active Christian presence in that region, and to “rediscover the enthusiasm of the first Christians.”

Speaking about the challenges that face the Catholic Church in the Middle East, the Pope offered a short summary of the message of last year’s special Synod of Bishops for the Middle East:

This region of the world which the patriarchs, prophets, apostles and Christ Himself blessed with their presence and their teaching, aspires to the lasting peace that the Word of Truth, welcomed and shared, is able to establish.

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