Syrian bishop: Ahmadenijad’s antics not welcome in Lebanon

Chaldean Catholic Bishop of Aleppo tells ‘Post’ Lebanon is concerned about the consequences of Iranian President’s visit. ROME – Lebanon is concerned about the consequences of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s visit this week, Monsignor Antoine Audo – the Chaldean Catholic Bishop of Aleppo – told The Jerusalem Post on the first day of the Vatican’s Middle East Synod.

“In principal, Lebanon is hospitable to all heads of state, but if Ahmadinejad promotes Hizbullah, incites hostility between Shi’ites and Sunnis or creates disturbances on the Israeli border, he will not be welcome,” Audo said on Monday.

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“If he wants to make demonstrations, let him do so back home in Iran. Lebanon must maintain a very difficult and sensitive balance between opposing religious and political factions.”

Several of the Arab correspondents covering the Synod questioned the use of the word “Israel” in Pope Benedict XVI’s Sunday liturgy because they felt that this biblical reference could be misconstrued as a reference to the modern Jewish nation.

“This is a sensitive term and could be interpreted as referring to the state,” one journalist said.

“It means ‘the people of God,’” Audo explained.

“Different Catholic liturgies [Coptic, Syrian, Maronite, etc.] will be used day by day,” he added.

The bill approved by the cabinet Sunday that would require an oath of allegiance to the “Jewish, democratic state” also sparked debate.

“It seems to me to be a contradiction in terms,” said Antonios Naguib, the Coptic Catholic Patriarch of Alexandria. “This changes Israel from a ‘democratic’ to a ‘theocratic’ state, just like most of its Muslim neighbors, making it impossible for Israel to continue claiming to be the ‘only democracy in the region.’”

The 250 Synodal fathers are stressing the need for the separation of religion and state in the Middle East, where Christians are a tiny minority.

Instead of “secularism,” generally abhorred by Muslims, they have chosen the goal of “positive laicism” – as opposed to “negative laicism,” which permits what they call “Godless legislation” on issues such as euthanasia and gay marriages.

Two weeks of discussions ending on October 24 are aimed at strengthening Christian unity against inroads of Islamic extremism causing massive Christian emigration from the area.

The Synod will receive its one Jewish-Israeli guest speaker, Rabbi David Rosen, on Wednesday. Rosen is an adviser to Israel’s Chief Rabbinate and international director for Inter-religious Affairs of the American Jewish Committee.