Patriarch Mar Bechara Boutros al-Rahi (مار بشارة بطرس الراعي) is the 77th Syriac Maronite Patriarch of Antioch, a position he has held since 15 March 2011, succeeding Patriarch Cardinal.
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. From 1967 to 1975 he has been responsible for the Arabic transmissions of Vatican Radio. In 1975 he was awarded a Phd in canon and civil law. He also studied for three years at the Lateran University in Rome.
He was consecrated as auxiliary bishop of Antioch on 12 July 1986, by Patriarch Nasrallah Boutros Sfeir and on 9 June 1990, he was appointed bishop of Byblos. 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.
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 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 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 he was appointed a member of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches.
In April 2011 Patriarch Rai 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." Patriarch Rai 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."
- 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 as long as there continued to be an Israeli occupation 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, 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 al-Assad regime 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 March 14 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 news agency on 4 March 2012, Patriarch 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.
In 2007 he received the award of the National Order of the Cedar.
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