Bechara Boutros al-Rahi
|Cardinal Patriarch of Antioch|
|See||Antioch and All the East|
|Appointed||15 March 2011|
|Installed||25 March 2011|
|Predecessor||Nasrallah Boutros Sfeir|
|Ordination||3 September 1967|
|Consecration||12 July 1986
by Nasrallah Boutros Sfeir
|Created Cardinal||24 November 2012
by Pope Benedict XVI
|Rank||Patriarch (Cardinal Bishop)|
25 February 1940 |
|Coat of arms|
Patriarch Moran Mor Bechara Boutros al-Rahi (or Raï, Arabic بشارة بطرس الراعي Mor Bishārah Buṭrus al-Rāʿī) (born on 25 February 1940, in Himlaya, Lebanon) is the 77th Maronite Patriarch of Antioch, and head of the Maronite Church, a position he has held since 15 March 2011, succeeding Patriarch Nasrallah Boutros Sfeir. Rahi also holds the position of a Cardinal of the Catholic Church.
Early life and education
Mar Bechara Boutros al-Rahi was born in Himlaya, Matn District, Lebanon on 25 February 1940. He attended Collège Notre Dame de Jamhour, a Jesuit school in Lebanon. He entered the Mariamite Maronite Order on 31 July 1962 and was ordained as a priest on 3 September 1967.[better source needed] From 1967 to 1975 he was responsible for the Arabic programs of Vatican Radio. In 1975, he received a PhD in canon and civil law. He also studied for three years at Lateran University in Rome.
He was appointed titular bishop of Caesarea Philippi on 2 May 1986 and consecrated as auxiliary bishop of Antioch on 12 July 1986, by Patriarch Nasrallah Boutros Sfeir and his co-consecrators were Roland Aboujaoudé, Auxiliary bishop of Antioch, Georges Abi-Saber, titular bishop of Aradus, Chucrallah Harb, Eparch of Jounieh, Joseph Mohsen Béchara, Archeparch of Cyprus, Khalil Abi-Nader, Archeparch of Beirut, Ignace Ziadé, Emeritus Archeparch of Beirut, Antoine Joubeir, Archeparch of Tripoli, Elie Farah, Emeritus Archeparch of Cyprus, Joseph Merhi, Eparch of Cairo and Ibrahim Hélou, Eparch of Sidon. On 9 June 1990, he was elected bishop of Jbeil. In 2003 he was elected Secretary of the Maronite Synod, and in 2009 he was appointed President of the Lebanese Episcopal Commission for the Media.[better source needed]
At 71, he was elected patriarch of the Maronites on 15 March 2011, after getting more than two-thirds of the votes of the 39 bishops and replacing Nasrallah Sfeir. The new patriarch formally requested and received ecclesiastical communion from Pope Benedict XVI on 24 March 2011 pursuant to Canon 76 § 2 of the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches. The Mass for the inauguration of his Patriarchate took place on 25 March 2011, in Bkerké, the see of the Maronite Catholic Patriarchate. As is customary for all Maronite Patriarchs, Patriarch al-Rahi took the additional name Boutros, that of Saint Peter, who briefly held the See of Antioch before moving to Rome to become Bishop there. On 7 March 2012, Patriarch al-Rahi was appointed a member of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches.
Patriarch Bechara Boutros al-Rahi was created a Cardinal by Pope Benedict XVI in a consistory on 24 November 2012. Patriarch al-Rahi is the fourth Maronite Patriarch created cardinal, the first three being his three immediate predecessors Paul Peter Meouchi, Anthony Peter Khoraish, and Nasrallah Sfeir.
On 31 January 2013, Cardinal Patriarch al-Rahi was appointed by Pope Benedict XVI to serve as a member of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerants, and the Pontifical Council for Social Communications.
In February 2013, following the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI, Patriarch Rai, being a Cardinal, became a candidate to the papacy. He participated as a cardinal elector in the conclave that elected Pope Francis. Cardinal Rai was one of four cardinal-electors from outside the Latin Church who wore distinct vestments proper to their respective churches. The other three cardinal-electors from outside the Latin Church were Coptic Catholic Patriarch-Emeritus Antonios Naguib, Syro Malabar Major Archbishop George Alencherry, and Syro-Malankara Major Archbishop Baselios Cleemis. Cardinal Rai's attire during the opening day was distinct from most of the other electors in that he wore all-red vestments with distinct headgear proper to the Maronite Church.[a] Cardinal Rai is also the first Maronite Cardinal Patriarch ever to participate in a papal conclave.[b]
On March 18, 2015 Cardinal-Patriarch al-Rahi became the sole cardinal-elector from the order of cardinal-bishops when Cardinal Naguib turned 80 and ceased to be a cardinal-elector.
In April 2011, Rahi said that, for the sake of communion and love, he would work "to establish a sincere and complete dialogue" with Muslims "and build together a future in common life and cooperation." He said his predecessor "struggled with insistence to free both the national decision-making and the land of Lebanon from all forms of tutelage and occupation, worked for reconciliation in Mount Lebanon and realized needed church reforms. All of these constitute an extension of the church's springtime started by the Second Vatican Council." Patriarch Rai does not use the term "Arab Spring", but "Arab Winter" to express his unenthusiastic reaction.
Syria and Hezbollah
In September 2011, some of the Christian community of Lebanon, partly supportive of the March 14 alliance, were upset over his controversial comments in Paris, France supporting Hezbollah's right to hold arms in defense against Israel and that the 2011 Syrian protests could awaken the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood if President Bashar al-Assad was removed from office. The opposition March 14 alliance criticised him for the comments and sought clarification from him, especially seeing that his predecessor patriarch Sfeir had very different views and was almost fanatically supportive of the Lebanese Forces, the main March 14 Christian party. However the Christians of the March 8 alliance welcomed his comments. Prime Minister Najib Mikati also supported his stance saying "The Maronite patriarch spoke about a part [of the problem]. No one is against the resistance’s arms as long as Israeli occupation continues. There is Lebanese unanimity on the resistance’s arms in the face of Israeli occupation." 
He said that after his meeting with al-Rahi that he was satisfied with the explanation and that he was "very relieved and reassured by the Patriarch’s wisdom." President Michel Suleiman said that al-Rahi's comments were not "politics or political employment" and that he had an all-encompassing vision to show the French. He also added that "the Patriarch is not in need of anyone to defend him and his positions emanate from his central role as a person in charge of Lebanon's and the Middle East's Christians and that of Lebanon's independence and sovereignty;" and that "the patriarch does not need to be defended, and his stances represent his way of taking responsibility for Lebanon’s Christians."
Parliament speaker Nabih Berri said that Rai's "comments in Paris protect Lebanon from danger and I agree with what he stated and affirm his vision that is rooted in both a religious and national background" and that "If the situation further deteriorated in Syria and we reached a more radical rule than the current rule, like the rule of the Muslim Brotherhood, Christians there would pay the price, either in the form of killings or displacement. Here is the picture of Iraq in front of us."
Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun expressed support for al-Rahi and added that no one wants the Syrian government to fall. "Rai’s statements express the concerns of the minorities because he is entrusted with the Synod for the Middle East. Gradual changes doesn’t harm stability and wouldn’t get Syria into the [same] troubles as Palestine, Iraq, Libya and Yemen. [As some of the Syrian demonstrators are armed and are destroying the country] the Syrian government cannot but bring order to the country." Former 14 March Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblatt, who sits with the incumbent March 8 alliance in government, also criticised Rai's assessment of Hezbollah’s arms with the fate of the Middle East conflict on the grounds that "Lebanon cannot remain hostage to regional conflicts." He also criticised Rai’s assessment of regime change in Syria as posing a threat to Christians in the country.
In an interview with Reuters on 4 March 2012, al-Rahi said: "All regimes in the Arab world have Islam as a state religion, except for Syria. It stands out for not saying it is an Islamic state...The closest thing to democracy [in the Arab world] is Syria."
Visit to Israel
On May 26, 2014, the head of Lebanon's largest Christian group, Maronites, denomination has visited a parish in Israel, becoming the first Lebanese religious leader to come to the Jewish state since its creation in 1948. Cardinal Bechara Rai, a Maronite Catholic, made the trip despite some criticism at home. His critics say the pilgrimage implies normalization with Israel at a time when the two countries remain formally at war.
In Jaffa, he was cheered by several dozen faithful as he arrived at a Maronite parish, today part of Israel's second largest city, Tel Aviv. Rai had caused a stir in Lebanon, which is officially in a state of war with Israel, for his choice to join Pope Francis on parts of the pontiff's three-day Holy Land pilgrimage. Hezbollah and other groups hostile to Israel slammed the decision. The Maronite patriarch arrived late Sunday in Jerusalem after accompanying Francis in the West Bank, but he departed from the parts of the Catholic leader's itinerary that involved meetings with Israelis.
After visiting a monastery outside the city on his way to Jaffa, Rai joined the pope again in the afternoon for Mass at Jerusalem's Cenacle, the room where Christians believe the Last Supper was held.
In the end of his visit to the holyland, the Maronite partiarch, celebrated a Mass with his Lebanese community living in Israel and returned to his people and homeland, Lebanon.
While "Normalization" of ties with Israel is a taboo topic in Lebanon, especially for Iranian-proxy, Hizbullah, and where Palestinian forces played a major role against Israel. Lebanese citizens are banned from visiting Israel, and people with Israeli stamps in their passports may not enter Lebanon. But, Cardinal Rai, however, said that his journey is celebrating the roots of Christianity in the region. In a veiled response to his critics, he says he was misunderstood and that his journey is purely spiritual.
In 2011, Patriarch Rai was decorated with the Grand Cross of the Legion of Honor by the president of France, Nicholas Sarkozy. In 2012, he received the award of the National Order of the Cedar from the president of Lebanon, Michel Suleiman.
Patriarch Raï, at Chair of Saint Peter, last 11 October 2014.
- A tabieh (طابية) and an escime (إسكيم).
- The first two Maronite Cardinals Paul Peter Meouchi (made cardinal by Pope Paul VI) and Anthony Peter Khoraish (created cardinal by Pope John Paul II) turned 80 and died before having an opportunity to participate in a conclave and the third Maronite Patriarch to become a cardinal, Nasrallah Boutros Sfeir was over the age of 80 during the 2005 sede vacante and thus did not take part in that year's conclave.
- "Bishop Bechara Rahi". Facebook. Retrieved 15 March 2011.
- "Mons. Béchara Raï". Vatican Radio. Retrieved 16 March 2011.
- Malek el Khazen. "Election of the Maronite Patriach history". Khazen. Retrieved 19 March 2011.
- "Béchara Boutros Cardinal Raï, O.M.M.". Catholic-Hierarchy.org. David M. Cheney. Retrieved 23 January 2015.
- Naharnet 15 March 2011
- Richards, George (11 March 2013). "An Arab pope?". Daily News Egypt. Retrieved 14 March 2013.
- "Code of Canons of Oriental Churchs Canon 76 §2". Retrieved 5 September 2014.
- "Letter of His Holiness Benedict XVI to His Beatitude Béchara Boutros Raï, Patriarch of Antioch for Maronites Accepting His Request for Ecclesiastical Communion". Vatican.va. 24 March 2011. Retrieved 5 September 2014.
- "Rinunce e nomine". Catholica. Retrieved 6 March 2013.
- "Annuncio di Concistoro per la Creazione di Sei Nuovi Cardinali". Holy See Press Office (in Italian). 24 October 2012.
- "Rinunce e nomine". Catholica. Retrieved 6 March 2013.
- "Cardinal electors – Conclave of March 2013 – Arranged in alphabetical order". Salvador Miranda. Retrieved 18 February 2013.
- "Cardinal electors arranged by orders and precedence". Salvador Miranda. Retrieved 18 February 2013.
- "Cardinal electors arranged by age". Salvador Miranda. Retrieved 18 February 2013.
- on YouTube
- "No Arab in the running for Pope, but Maronite to get vote for first time". Albawaba News. 12 February 2013. Retrieved 20 August 2013.
- Maronite patriarch pledges to work with Muslims
- Khashan, Hilal (Summer 2012). "Lebanon’s Shiite-Maronite Alliance of Hypocrisy" (PDF). Middle East Quarterly: 79–85. Retrieved 20 March 2013.
- Michael Stott; Samia Nakhoul (4 March 2012). "Violence turning Arab Spring into winter". Reuters (Bkirki, Lebanon). Archived from the original on 5 March 2012. Retrieved 5 March 2012.
- "Lebanese Maronite Patriarch Visits Israel, First Since 1948". Haaretz. 26 May 2014.
- "Suite de la visite en France du patriarche maronite". La-Croix (in French). 6 March 2013.
- "Suleiman Grants al-Rahi Order of Cedar, Urges Officials to Attend Dialogue". Naharnet. 24 November 2012. Retrieved 19 July 2013.
|Catholic Church titles|
Nasrallah Boutros Sfeir
|Maronite Patriarchs of Antioch