Lebanese Cardinal Bechara Rai, at Our Lady of Lebanon Maronite Cathedral in Brooklyn, N.Y., June 26. The patriarch of the Maronite Catholic Church, speaking in South Korea, urged the international community to end wars in the Middle East. CNS Photo/Gregory A. Shemitz

Lebanese cardinal decries terrorism at South Korea peace conference

By 
  • August 22, 2016

SEOUL, South Korea – Lebanese Cardinal Bechara Rai, visiting the South Korean capital of Seoul, urged the international community to end the wars raging in the Middle East "fueled by foreign countries."

Cardinal Rai, patriarch of the Maronite Catholic Church, also said that terrorist organizations "working for the destruction of the Middle East do not represent Islam or Muslim."

Such groups, he said in an address during the Forum for Peace on the Korean Peninsula that met Aug. 18-21, work to destroy "a moderate and open Islam, resulting from coexistence with Christians.

Cardinal Rai addressed the forum under an invitation of Seoul Cardinal Andrew Yeom Soo-jung.

He implored the international community "to speed up the solutions and impose a halt to the wars, fueled by foreign countries, raging in the Middle East."

Stressing the need for a "series of reforms" in the Arab states, Cardinal Rai called for the separation of state and religion, the development of democracy and "respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms."

He also called on the international community to "help the rapprochement between Iran and Saudi Arabia" which he said would reduce sectarian tension in the region.

Lebanon, the patriarch lamented, is "paying the price of all these political-religious conflicts to the point that it is without a president for more than two years." According to the Lebanese system, the presidential office is reserved for a Maronite Catholic.

Yet, Cardinal Rai stressed, "the Lebanese formula still remains unique, and our constitution is a model to be imitated by other states on the basis of civic equality and cultural community" within the same country.

The cardinal also called for world leaders to work toward the establishment of a Palestinian state, which would facilitate the return of all Palestinians expelled from their land, and for the enforcement of all resolutions of the Security Council.

In addition to some 2 million Syrian refugees that have swelled Lebanon's existing population of about 4 million, Lebanon also is home to more than 400,000 Palestinian refugees.

Cardinal Rai celebrated Mass Aug. 22 at the Korean Martyrs' Shrine in Seoul. In his homily, he prayed that "peace would reign in countries that are torn by wars, including Korea and the Middle East."

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