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Visit of Lebanese Patriarch to Syria Sparks Controversy

Lebanese Maronite Patriarch Bechara al-Rai recently visited Syria, in a move that sparked controversy among Lebanon's already divided political circles, writes Elie Hajj.
Lebanon's Christian Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rai, attends an interview with Reuters in Bkirki, north of Beirut, February 28, 2012. Violence and bloodshed is turning the "Arab Spring" into winter, the head of Lebanon's Maronite Church said, threatening Christians and Muslims alike across the Middle East. Patriarch Beshara al-Rai, whose Maronite Church also has a strong presence in Syria, said change could not be brought to the Arab world by force and that Christians feared the turmoil was helping extrem

Maronite Patriarch Bechara al-Rai's surprise visit to Syria on the occasion of the appointment of Greek Orthodox Patriarch John X al-Yaziji, which occurred in the patriarchate's headquarters in Damascus, caused a lot of clamor in Lebanon.

This visit was the first of its kind since the two countries gained independence in 1943, and broke a long history of estrangement between the Maronite Patriarchate — based in Bkerke in Mount Lebanon — and the successive ruling authorities in Damascus.

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