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Contacts between the Vatican, Beirut increase ahead of elections

There have been increased contacts between Lebanese Christian figures and officials from the Vatican, reflecting the latter’s growing concern for the upcoming presidential elections in Lebanon.
Cardinal Leonardo Sandri gestures during an interview with Reuters in Rome, March 2, 2013.  In an exclusive interview with Reuters, Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, 69, an Argentine, said the next pope should not be chosen according to a geographic area but must be a "saintly man" who is "best qualified" to lead the Church in a time of crisis. Picture taken March 2, 2013. REUTERS/Tony Gentile (ITALY - Tags: RELIGION) - RTR3EIJ3
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Amid the accelerated governmental developments in Lebanon, it seems to be more than mere coincidence that a Vatican official has visited Beirut. Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, the head of the curial congregation in Rome that handles matters regarding Eastern Catholic Churches, visited Lebanon Jan. 10-13.

It seems that Sandri is the man who is still in charge of the Lebanon file at the Holy See, despite all of the changes that took place within the church curiae following the election of Pope Francis. He is a man who knows Lebanon very well, in terms of the country's churches, the state and the ongoing crisis. More importantly, he is the man who arranged the transfer of power within the largest Lebanese church — the Maronite Church — less than two years ago. He most likely persuaded former Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Boutros Sfeir to resign, and then oversaw the election process within the Maronite Synod of Bishops that led to his friend, Cardinal Bechara Boutros al-Rai, coming to the head of the patriarchate in March 2011.

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