Lebanon's Catholic Bishops Call for UN-Backed Ceasefire
Demand Steps to Prevent Humanitarian Crisis
Lebanon's Maronite Catholic Bishops called Saturday for an immediate ceasefire in Israel's attack on Lebanon. ("The Maronite bishops of South Lebanon (Mgr Nabil Hajje of Tyre and Mgr Elias Nassar of Saida) could not take part in the meeting.")
The uniate Maronite church has its own liturgy but recognizes the Pope as its leader. About 22 percent of voting-age Lebanese are Maronite Catholics. There are other uniate Catholics and a small number of Latin-rite ones. About 40 percent of voting-age Lebanese are Christians of one sort or another.
The Bishops put forward 8 major points:
" 1) Condemnation of Israel’s reaction to the kidnapping of two soldiers, indicating that response to the capture should not be a reaction against Lebanon, although the bishops did not subscribe one bit to the theory of kidnapping people;
2) An appeal to people of goodwill to help defenceless citizens who have been forced to abandon their homes and land of origin;
3) An appeal to the United Nations to double its efforts to arrive at a ceasefire, in such a way that will lead to opening the doors to mediation that could spare more innocent victims;
4) Appreciation for the “intelligent” effort of the Lebanese government and its [Christian] president [Emile Lahoud] through diplomatic means and backing for the government of Fouad Siniora;
5) Hope that all Lebanese political leaders, despite their different viewpoints, will overcome divisions and come together to seek a solution, avoiding useless challenges and clashes;
6) An invitation to all citizens to welcome their brothers without distinctions between Christians and Muslims, even opening schools and homes to offer solutions fitting the dignity of each person;
7)An appeal to those responsible for the violence to allow the arrival of food and medical supplies to people kidnapped or forced to remain in their homes subject to shelling. There was also an invitation to the Red Cross to assure aid to the needy.
8) The Maronite bishops hailed the initiative of the Holy Father Benedict XVI to pray tomorrow, 23 July, for peace in Lebanon, inviting all their believers to respect this desire of the pope, because only prayer can save the country."
As-Safir reports [Ar.] that that Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, Speaker of the House Nabih Berri, and reform bloc leader Saad al-Hariri have also called for an immediate ceasefire, but that Washington rejected their call.