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Monday, February 28, 2011


VATICAN CITY, 26 FEB 2011 (VIS) - Made public today was a Letter from the Pope addressed to His Beatitude Cardinal Nasrallah Pierre Sfeir for the occasion of his resignation from the office of patriarch of Antioch of the Maronites, Lebanon.

  The Holy Father notes how "the year consecrated to the 1600th anniversary of the death of St. Maron is drawing to a close. The Maronite Church has experienced a period of grace in this exceptional Jubilee Year, which has also been the coronation of your own service for the greater glory of God and for the good of all your faithful".

  "For nearly twenty-five years", Benedict XVI writes, "you worked with your two predecessors in the See of Antioch before being elected by the Synod to succeed them on 19 April 1986. ... You began your noble ministry of patriarch of the Maronites amidst the torment of the war which bloodied the face of Lebanon for so many years. With the ardent desire for peace in your country, you led the Church and travelled the world to console those obliged to emigrate. Finally, peace returned, ever fragile but still extant".

  The Holy Father recalls John Paul II's visit to Beirut in 1997 to sign the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation "A new hope for Lebanon" which, Pope Benedict writes, "re-emphasised your Church's constant bond with Peter's Successor". The Letter also mentions Cardinal Sfeir's participation in the 2010 Special Assembly for the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops, as president delegate "ad honorem".

  "You have chosen to resign from your office as patriarch of Antioch of the Maronites in this special circumstance, and I accept your free and magnanimous decision as an expression of great humility and profound detachment", says the Pope. "I am sure", he concludes, "that you will always accompany the journey of the Maronite Church with your prayers, your wise counsel and your sacrifice".
BXVI-LETTER/                            VIS 20110228 (330)

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