BEIRUT — Eastern Catholic patriarchs related the Easter message of Resurrection and hope to the political situations in the Middle East.
Lebanese Cardinal Bechara Rai, patriarch of the Maronite Catholic Church, stressed that Lebanon’s parliamentary elections May 15 represent an opportunity for change in the crisis-stricken country.
Lebanon’s future depends on the quality of the majority group in the new parliament, he said, noting that, in choosing their representatives, they also are choosing the country’s next president, a Maronite Catholic, to be elected in October by the new parliament.
“Lebanon needs a national, sovereign, independent and pursued parliamentary majority,” Rai said April 17 from Bkerke, north of Beirut.
“If the people do not realize the danger of the current stage and choose the forces capable of defending Lebanon’s entity and identity, then these people themselves, not the political system, bear the responsibility for the great collapse” of the country, Rai said.
“Easter is the feast of hope. So, as we live on a long Golgotha, the stone must be rolled away from us by the power of the Divine Redeemer,” Rai said.
He called the planned visit by Pope Francis to Lebanon in June a “sign of hope.” The Vatican has not yet officially announced the visit.
“As we await him with love and longing, we pray that God bless this apostolic visit and fulfill the wishes of His Holiness, the pope, so that it bears its ripe spiritual, social and national fruits,” Rai said.
Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignace Joseph III Younan deplored the “torments, suffering and pain” caused by Lebanon’s politicians, “who have monopolized the rule of the nation, as a result of corruption, neglect and denial of the responsibility to serve the people who had elected them.”
The vote comes amid continued political polarization as Lebanon sinks deeper into an economic meltdown marked by severe electricity, medicine, fuel and food shortages. The crisis is rooted in decades of corruption and mismanagement by an entrenched political class.
“We hope and pray that the upcoming parliamentary elections will be a bridge, so that Lebanese citizens freely choose their conscience — without giving in to temptations and exploitation — their qualified representatives in parliament,” Younan said.
He, too, called the tentative papal visit “a sign of hope … that it will be a blessing for this suffering and threatened country. The night of suffering and pain must be followed by the dawn of resurrection and salvation.”
He also spoke of Syria, “suffering under the weight of the absurd war, despite the serious initiatives and ongoing contacts to end the conflict that destroyed and fragmented the country.” He prayed for God “to sow peace and security throughout this dear country, so that the displaced people return to their homeland.”
Regarding Iraq, Younan stressed that, despite the completion of the parliamentary elections, internal conflicts still prevented the formation of a productive government that could put an end to the “existing state of chaos,” particularly in ridding the country of “all terrorist enclaves.”
A week earlier, the Syriac patriarch participated in a Palm Sunday procession in Qaraqosh, Iraq, with more than 20,000 people. On Easter, he prayed that Iraq’s Christians “may continue to bear witness to its faith” despite “the great difficulties and challenges.”
From Baghdad, Cardinal Louis Sako, patriarch of Chaldean Catholics, called for every believer in God to “reject the logic of ‘war-death.'”
“Presidents, religious authorities and the whole society should work hard to end the war between Russia and Ukraine, to resolve problems through diplomatic means rather than fighting,” he said.
“Enough with wars, casualties, grief, destruction, migration, poverty and diseases! There should be an end to the production of lethal weapons everywhere,” he said. “Every honest person should reject this hell.”
Regarding Iraq, he called for political forces “to assume their national responsibility in adopting the language of dialogue and mutual understanding to get out of the troubling ‘political blockage’ in order to form a national government capable of real reform as soon as possible, because our citizens are getting extremely tired and exhausted.”
Armenian Catholic Patriarch Raphaël Bedros XXI Minassian, in his Easter message from Beirut, stressed the triumph of the Resurrection amid the tumultuous sea throughout the world.
“Today, as we see the world falling into a sea of hatred, injustice, immorality and war, Jesus comes to us assuring us of the resurrection. All the pain and difficulties we are going through are not the end, but rather there is a resurrection, there is light after every darkness, there is Christ the Savior, who triumphed over death (that) awaits us.”
“When we testify to the Resurrection,” the Armenian Catholic patriarch said, “the difficulties of this world and the pains that we suffer have a salvific meaning and a way to return to heavenly values.”