NEW YORK — The head of the Maronite Church, Patriarch Bechara Peter Rai of Antioch, will hold a press conference tomorrow at 11 a.m., at the Manhattan offices of CNEWA, 1011 First Avenue, between 55th and 56th streets, 15th floor.
Since he began his ministry last March, the patriarch of the estimated five million Maronite Catholics has worked to bring people together at every level, seeking unity among the children of Abraham — Christians, Jews and Muslims — as well as other communities, said Archbishop Paul Sayah, vicar general. “He is seen as a man of unity, a bridge-builder, a man who has taken the motto ‘communion and love,’ which sums up his vision.”
“He is not a political man,” said Maronite Bishop Gregory Mansour of Brooklyn. “Nonetheless, he is unafraid of speaking the truth or to say what is not politically correct, as long as it is true and promotes ‘communion and love.’
“The Lebanon in which he lives is divided,” continued the bishop. “It is not easy to describe these divisions as Christian/Muslim or Sunni/Shiite, the divisions seem more like political parties and/or personalities opposed to those who think differently. … However, in the midst of this ‘winner takes all’ mentality comes a father, a patriarch, a man who prays and dreams of something greater.”
Founded by Pope Pius XI in 1926, CNEWA is a special agency of the Holy See providing support to the churches and peoples of the Middle East, Northeast Africa, India and Eastern Europe. In Lebanon, CNEWA supports needy child, as well as sponsorship programs for seminarians and novices, along with projects to redevelop and revitalize the nation’s villages, working through and with the local churches.
Contact: Michael La Civita
Office: 212.826.1480, extension 550