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Background Paper
Sent to White House in Support of Request for Patriarch Sfeir's Appointment with President Bush

Sent to White House in Support of Request for Patriarch Sfeir's Appointment with President Bush

The Role of the Maronite Patriarch in Lebanon:

The Maronite Church was founded by the hermit Saint Maron in the fifth century and has continuously been in communion with the Holy See in Rome.

His Eminence Nasrallah Butros Cardinal Sfeir, the spiritual leader of the Maronite Church, represents an unbroken succession from the first Maronite Patriarch in 687.

The identity of the Maronite Church is inseparable from the role of the Patriarch. For the Maronites, the Patriarch is more than the juridical leader of his church and the head of the synod of bishops; he is the embodiment of Maronite history and identity.

Historically, Patriarchal leadership has been entwined with the political life of all the people of Lebanon. Patriarch Elias Howayek, widely regarded as the father of modern Lebanon, headed the Lebanese delegation to the Peace Conference of Versailles in 1919. The assembly at Versailles accepted his proposals for a sovereign and independent Lebanon. Lebanon was granted independence under the French mandate, with the restoration of its natural and historic borders.

The vacuum of leadership which was the result of the last 25 years of turmoil in the Middle East has required the Maronite Patriarch to take on a national role, even larger than that of his immediate predecessors.

Patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir has fulfilled this challenge with a powerful eloquence and personal courage. He has become the conscience of the nation. At great personal risk, he has questioned the presence of foreign occupiers in the country and has challenged the world community to guarantee Lebanon's independence and sovereignty. Patriarch Sfeir has sought to solidify the bonds between all Lebanese and improve relations with all the religious communities in Lebanon.

On Patriarch Sfeir's last pastoral visit in 1988, he was received by President Ronald Reagan. He now returns on his second pastoral visit. On February 15, he ordained Bishop Robert Shaheen in St. Louis. He is now visiting many of the Maronite churches from coast to coast.

A vision for peace in Lebanon and the area:

Patriarch Sfeir believes that the USA plays a prominent and unique role in establishing peace in the Middle East. To that end he would be honored to be received by President George W. Bush and to place his views before the new President

Patriarch Sfeir's vision is for peace in Lebanon and for Lebanon to have peace with all of its neighbors. These are his thoughts:

1. Lebanon historically is a peace loving country that wants to be at peace with all its bordering countries, Syria and Israel. The Maronite Patriarch and the Maronite Church support the peace talks for the Middle East sponsored by the USA.

2 .Patriarch Sfeir supported the Taef Accord in order to bring the Lebanese war to an end, yet the Taef agreement is still awaiting its complete implementation, as is the United Nations resolution 520 (1982). The withdrawal of Syria according to these accords is a necessary first step to restore Lebanon's sovereignty and allow the Lebanese government to gain control of all its territories.

3. In the absence of such an implementation, Lebanon will continue to face a deterioration of its political life, and will face an ever-worsening social and economic crisis.

4. The result of this deterioration is the increased immigration of Lebanon's new generation, especially Christians. If this continues, the Christians in Lebanon will eventually be reduced to such a minority as to have little voice in what was once a true and evolving democracy.

6. The USA, like the West in general, does not go by religious criteria, but it is expected that it will support a climate where the minorities in the Middle East and especially in Lebanon will have the opportunity to have equal status.

7. The USA had promised to both Patriarch Sfeir and his predecessor Patriarch Antoine Peter Cardinal Khoraich both in public and official statements, Lebanon's territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence. So far, this has not become a reality. The Patriarch hopes it will indeed happen.

8. Considering the situation in Lebanon today, the Patriarch urges the following:

a) The withdrawal of the Syrian deterrent forces from Lebanon, which should have happened, twelve years ago, as stipulated by the Taef Accord in 1989. Lebanon cannot suffer a continuous hegemony over its territories, and interference in its own internal affairs. In South Lebanon, even after the withdrawal of the Israeli troops, the Lebanese government still has not sent its security forces and the situation is still unstable.

b) The Palestinians should not be implanted in Lebanon for demographic reasons as Lebanon has the highest population per capita in the region.

9. The USA is expected to play a key role in establishing a lasting peace in Lebanon, which will greatly contribute to regional stability.

Other topics of discussion with President Bush:

1. Patriarch Sfeir wishes to convey his respects to President George W. Bush and to thank the American Administration and the American People for their untiring efforts for a just and lasting peace in the Middle East, and for the confidence, support and respect they have shown toward Lebanon.

2. As long as the present political situation persists and is not settled the Lebanese people will continue to suffer from a stifling economic crisis. Patriarch Sfeir desires to seek advice on stabilizing Lebanon's economy and restore it to the thriving business and financial center it once was.

3. Patriarch Sfeir is most interested in the President's views and suggestions.



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