April 28, 2012
Mexico is the host of his Eminence Boutros Bechara Rahi, Patriarch of Antioch and all East for the Maronites. This is the seventy-seventh patriarch in the line of succession of the Maronite Patriarchate of Antioch. Its headquarters are in Bkerki, Lebanon. The visit will include several patriarchal cities in Mexico, Canada and the United States. He arrives at Mexico City on the first of May and departs on day five.
He was elected on March 15, 2011, at a time when the Arab world was undergoing movements of change in several nations. Patriarch Rahi is a charismatic church leader and eloquent, his motto is “brotherhood and love.” He expresses this message to the people of Lebanon and the church’s faithful around the world.
His message is to commit to their identity, customs and traditions.
The Maronite Rite Church headed by Patriarch Boutros Rahi, was founded in the fourth century by the followers of Maroon, a holy monk who lived in northern Syria near Antioch, the liturgy’s language is Syriac and Arabic. The Maronite Rite is the only Eastern Church which remained in full communion with Rome throughout its history, despite the battering suffered by monolithic first, then the East Romans, the Ottomans and the Mamluks. The independence of the church of any political power was evident from the first patriarch John Maroon (687AD), and remains one of its key features despite their integration into the Catholic Church in the sixteenth century.
The Maronites are a majority among Lebanese emigrants. This fact has given the Maronite Church an influential presence around the world, and it grows daily wherever there is a presence of Lebanese, from New Zealand to Australia, from Africa, Middle East to Europe and the Americas.
In Mexico, descendants of migrants are mostly Lebanese Maronites. The Maronite Rite churches are very active in several cities in Mexico. St. Charbel, who was a Maronite monk, is revered by a large number of Mexican believers. The Maronite Patriarch’s pastoral visit aims to strengthen the relationship between a spiritual leader; aware of his religious responsibilities in Lebanon and beyond the national borders, and communities who are exposed to circumstances that can distract or derive them from the rites and the particularities of the church of their ancestors.
It is also an opportunity to strengthen the human connection between people in Mexico and Lebanon. As head of an important church of the East, Patriarch Rahi keep in his thoughts and his heart the great concern about the existential crisis of Christianity in general and in this part of the world in particular. A concern was expressed by Pope Benedict XVI and people of goodwill who are interested in protecting and preserving the Christian presence within the historic range of Eastern societies and the sad fact that the number of Christians has been declining over time and crises.
Foreign invasions, as in Palestine and Iraq, infighting in Lebanon and now the conflict in Syria had a negative effect on the population in general and Christians in particular.
The “Arab spring” brought the promise of freedom, democracy and dignity to the masses, especially for minorities, instead Islamist political parties and their leaders in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen and probably soon in Syria grabbed and will not relinquish power.
The scene is dark and threatening to some. The concern of the visit of Patriarch Boutros Rahi is not just for his own congregation, but for all Christians in the Middle East. The message in his pastoral visits, will take these thoughts to a strategic thinking. His visit will shed more light on the current situation in the region. The Maronite Patriarch who’s hymns sings “The glory of Lebanon has been given to him.”
Nouhad Mahmoud: Ambassador of Lebanon in Mexico 1999 -2011