Aussie bishops visit Lebanon on Middle East solidarity tour

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The Daily Star
BEIRUT: A delegation of Australian bishops arrived in Beirut Monday afternoon to show solidarity with displaced Iraqi Christians and offer them moral and financial support.
The visit to Lebanon is part of an initiative by the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, which designated Dec. 7 as a Day of Solidarity with the Christians of the Middle East.
The delegation consists of Archbishop Christopher Prowse of Canberra and Goulburn, Archbishop Julian Porteous of Hobart, Melkite Eparch of Australia and New Zealand Bishop Robert Rabbat, Maronite Bishop of Australia Antoine-Charbel Tarabay, Chaldean Bishop of Australia Jibrael Kassab, the Coptic Orthodox Bishop of Sydney and Affiliated Regions Daniel, and Archbishop of the Ancient Church of the East Danil Bolis.

At the airport, Bishop Boulos Sayyah welcomed the delegation on behalf of Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai.

“We were in Australia a short time ago and it was a very important visit,” Sayyah said.

“Today, we are very happy about the delegation’s visit to Lebanon, and we thank you in the name of Patriarch Rai for this visit, wishing that it will be successful,” he told the members of the delegation.

“Our heart today is with Australia for what happened today, the holding of hostages in a Sydney cafe, and we have sent a letter to officials in Australia saying that we are by their side through our prayers,” Sayyah said.

Prowse said that the goal of the visit was to stand by those families that have been forced to leave their countries and to offer them some comfort, especially during the Christmas season.

“It’s the first time a delegation of Australian bishops has visited Lebanon and the Middle East region to see the conditions here and the hardships [its people] go through,” he said.

Tarabay then spoke about the motives of the visit and bilateral relations with Australia.

Asked about the fate of Christians in the Middle East, he said: “We always pray for [them], and there’s no doubt that today there are hardships and the region is going through an unusual phase.”

“Christians [in this region] have a mission due to history, it’s a mission of having consistency in faith and taking root in this land, and this mission will continue,” he said.

The delegation will leave for Irbil in Iraqi Kurdistan on Dec. 17 before returning to Lebanon two days later.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on December 16, 2014, on page 4.
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