Maronite Catholic patriarch to visit Twin Cities

| September 10, 2014 | 0 Comments
Maronite Catholic Patriarch Beshara Peter Rahi will visit two local parishes Sept. 13 and 14 — Holy Family in Mendota Heights and St. Maron in northeast Minneapolis. The Twin Cities is one of only three stops on the patriarch’s U.S. itinerary. CNS

Maronite Catholic Patriarch Beshara Peter Rahi will visit two local parishes Sept. 13 and 14 — Holy Family in Mendota Heights and St. Maron in northeast Minneapolis. The Twin Cities is one of only three stops on the patriarch’s U.S. itinerary. CNS

When Maronite Catholic Patriarch Beshara Peter Rahi is in Minnesota Sept. 13 and 14, the Lebanese cardinal is likely to speak about the threat to Christians across the Middle East, in his homeland and elsewhere.

As Patriarch of Antioch and the Whole East, he has been a fearless voice about the danger that militant Islamists present to non-Muslims, according to Msgr. Sharbel Maroun, pastor of St. Maron in Minneapolis.

When the patriarch pays a pastoral visit to his flock in Minnesota, he can be expected to “ring the bell of danger for Christians across the Middle East so that the world will do something before it’s too late,” Msgr. Maroun said.

The Maronite community will welcome Patriarch Rahi first at Holy Family in Mendota Heights, where he will celebrate the Divine Liturgy at 4 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 13. A banquet will follow at 6:30 p.m. in the Cedars Hall at St. Maron in northeast Minneapolis.

The following day, Sunday, Sept. 14, the patriarch will celebrate the 10:15 a.m. Divine Liturgy at St. Maron.

‘He speaks with no fear’

“It is our privilege and our honor to have the patriarch visit his flock here,” Msgr. Maroun said. “We’re very excited.

“The role of the patriarch is different than Church leadership in the West. Here, there is separation of church and state; there, the Church is the voice of the innocent, the voiceless, the weak. People wait to hear what he says in his homily every Sunday because he speaks with no fear.”

Guests are expected to come to Minnesota from several cities around the United States to attend the Sept. 13-14 activities. Archbishop John Nienstedt and Bishop Lee Piché are expected to take part in a portion of the weekend’s events, Msgr. Maroun said.

The Twin Cities is one of only three stops on the patriarch’s U.S. itinerary. He’ll also visit Maronite communities in Birmingham, Ala., and Cleveland, Ohio.

In Minneapolis, St. Maron parish includes primarily those with an ethnic Lebanese background among its 800 to 1,000 members, Msgr. Maroun said. Holy Family parish is about half that size, he said.

“We are a magnet for people from every part of the Middle East — Syria, Palestine, Turkey, Egypt, Iraq,” the Lebanon-born priest noted. “It’s a unique community, many non-Maronites, many Orthodox Catholics. It’s a mosaic of many beautiful colors who come to worship here.”

The Maronite patriarch was one of several patriarchs of the Catholic and Orthodox Churches who recently traveled to Irbil, in Iraq, to show solidarity with Christians who have been displaced by Islamic extremists.

Msgr. Maroun said the Maronite patriarch traditionally plays a strong role among his peers in the Eastern Rite churches, and is always a target in Lebanon and Syria; Patriarch Rahi’s predecessor, Patriarch Nasrallha Boutros Sfeir, certainly was.

“Osama bin Laden issued a fatwah (assassination order) to kill the patriarch in 2000,” Msgr. Maroun recalled.

As The Catholic Spirit goes to press, Patriarch Rahi is expected to urge the United States to act quickly to protect Maronites and others when he participates in the first summit “In Defense of Christians” Sept. 9-11 in Washington, D.C.

The summit will feature human rights experts, public officials and representatives from across the Middle Eastern Christian diaspora. According to indefenseofchristians.org, “Through greater awareness and advocacy, IDC hopes to influence the U.S. and foreign governments to adopt policies that will safeguard and empower minority religious communities in the Middle East, especially those vulnerable to violence, marginalization, and persecution.”

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