Patriarch Mar Nasrallah Boutros Sfeir (الكاردينال مار نصر الله بطرس صفير ) is the patriarch of Lebanon's largest Christian body, the Maronite Church, an Eastern Catholic Church in communion with the Holy See. He is also a Cardinal. He was elected Patriarch of Antioch for the Maronites on April 27, 1986, after the resignation of Cardinal Anthony Peter Khoraish. He is the third Maronite Cardinal and the 76th Patriarch of the Maronite Church. His official title is "His Beatitude and Eminence the seventy-sixth Patriarch of Antioch and the Whole Levant".
Early life and ordination
Sfeir was born in Rayfoun, Lebanon. He was educated in Beirut, and at Mar Abda School in Harharaya where he completed his primary and complementary studies, and Ghazir where he completed his secondary studies at St. Maron seminary. He graduated in philosophy and theology in 1950 at Saint Joseph's University in Beirut. He was ordained to the priesthood in the same year on May 7. From 1951 to 1955 he served as priest to the parish of Rayfoun. In 1956, he was appointed the secretary of the Maronite Patriarchate, based in Bkerke. In the same year, he became the professor of translation in literature and philosophy at the Frères Maristes (Marist Brothers) School in Jounieh.
In June 1961, he was appointed the titular bishop of Tarsus and Patriarchal vicar. In July 1961, he was elected a Bishop. He was elected to the primacy of the Maronite Church by the Council of Maronite Bishops, on April 27, 1986.
Sfeir was made a cardinal by Pope John Paul II in the consistory of November 26, 1994. As the Patriarch of a sui juris particulr Church who has been made a cardinal, Sfeir is a Cardinal Bishop. Sfeir is fluent in many languages: Syriac, Aramic, French, Italian, Latin, and English, as well as his native Arabic, being proficient in both classical and Lebanese dialects.
Cardinal Sfeir sumbitted his resignation to the Congregation for the Oriental Churches in Rome in late 2010. The Vatican has not yet accepted Cardinal Sfeir’s resignation because six Maronite bishops have submitted their resignations after reaching the retirement age of 75 in June 2010. These are: Roland Abu Jawdeh, Bulos Emile Saadeh, Francis al-Bissiri, Guy Bulos Njeim, Youssef Bishara and Samir Mazloum. Several Maronite bishops have offered to replace him, the sources said. Among them are bishops Bulos Mattar, Bishara al-Rai, Mansour Hobeika and Nabil Anaderi, the sources said. Sfeir is expected to visit the Vatican in February during which he will discuss with the pope and other Vatican officials issues related to his resignation and the election of the new bishops, the sources said.
Role during the civil war
Serving as the Vicar for two previous patriarchs prepared Sfeir for the role in both the ecclesiastical and civil spheres. He became a strong voice for reason and sanity in the latter years of the Lebanese Civil War, which raged from 1975 to 1990. He has often spoken out against social and political injustices, and for the poor and disenfranchised. His writings and sermons set out his vision of how Lebanon can achieve a free and prosperous future. Like his predecessor, Sfeir largely stayed out of politics during the first few years of his tenure as patriarch, generally deferring to the stance of the Lebanese President, but by 1989, he had become embroiled in national politics.
Relations with the Free Patriotic Movement
On October 15, 2006, the predominantly Christian Free Patriotic Movement held gatherings in which anti-patriarchal slogans were raised, denouncing Cardinal Sfeir's political stands, which they consider contradictory to the will of the majority of the Christians in Lebanon. The FPM bloc, led by retired general and current MP Michel Aoun, constitutes the largest Christian bloc in the Lebanese parliament. Relations between The cardinal and The FPM and Hizbullah further deteriorated when the patriarch made an eleventh hour appeal diectly before the 2009 elections renouncing hizbullah and the FPM and warning Christians against voting for them. A stance which many believe to have severely cut Christian support to march 8 alliance, especially when Aoun emerged as the biggest loser in the 2009 elections according to some estimates The FPM blame the cardinal for losing 40% of Christian support, especially in Beirut and Zahle where the FPM lost 10 Christian seats. Currently the FPM and it's allies have one out of twelve orthodox seats, two out of eight catholic seats, two out of six Armenian seats and almost half of maronite seats with the rest belonging to 14 March yet FPM still retains the biggest Christian single parliamentary block of 27MPs, but these 27 belongs to the "movement of change and reform(حركة التغير و الاصلاح)" not only the to the FPM, also not all of them are Christians.
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