The Maronite Patriarch, Mar Beshara Boutros Rai, visits the Diocese of Batroun during a two-day pastoral tour

Accompanied by Bishops Tanios el-Khoury and Shukrullah Harb, the Patriarch is welcomed to Batroun by Marcellino el-Herk and Minister Gibran Bassil

The Patriarch in silent meditation at the tomb of Saint Rafka

Acknowledging the welcome of the throng

The Patriarch on his arrival at Kfaraabida, first stage of his pastoral tour

In the context of his pastoral visits, His Beatitude the Maronite Patriarch, Mgr. Beshara Boutros Rai, received a great welcome on his arrival in the Diocese of Batroun. In each village he visited, the Patriarch was received with the same fervor by popular delegations awaiting him with impatience all along his route, which was lined with portraits of the eminent prelate, of Lebanese flags and placards welcoming his visit. And in each village he was received with showers of rice and rose petals.
The first step of his tour was Kfaraabida, where he was accompanied by Bishops Shukrullah Harb and Tanios el-Khoury. He was welcomed by Mgr. Boulos Emile Saadé Bishop of Batroun. After the entry of the Patriarch, who had to make his way slowly through the large crowds to the accompaniment of music by the band of Hadeth al-Jebbé, Tanios Feghali, president of the Federation of Municipalities of the Batroun District, recited a poem for the occasion. The Patriarch then spoke of the significance of the visit. “It comes in the context of what we are living together, ‘Partnership and Love’”, he said. “This means that we are building our relations with one another We are visiting you today because the partnership is constructed each day as we build our social tissue.” He then quitted the locality for Batroun, where he was welcomed by Water and Energy Minister Gibran Bassil, and Mgr. Mounir Khairallah, vicar-general of the Maronite Diocese of Batroun, who gave an address of circumstance. “You are a good shepherd whom the Holy Spirit has chosen to lead the Maronite Church”, he said, “in the footsteps of Saint Peter in the Church of Antioch and of Mar Youhanna Maroun in the Maronite Church”.
Mgr. Rai for his part indicated that in visiting Batroun, one was reminded of the first Patriarch, Mar Youhanna Maroun, whose memory is still green at his monastery at Kfarhay, which also contains relics of Saint Maron. The Christians, he said, are the heirs of Patriarch Elias Howayek, father of independence and of Greater Lebanon and a son of the Batroun region. And he recalled the saints who had come from the region and all those who had enriched the history of Lebanon and the Church. He saluted the soul of Patriarch Howayek, who is buried in a monastery in Ibrine.
From Batroun Mgr. Rai’s convoy moved to Kfarhay by way of Ibrine, Bejdarfel and Kour. In Kfarhay he visited the church of Mar Youhanna Maroun and listened to a speech by Mgr. Boulos Emile Saadé, who praised his initiative in bring together the senior Christian leaders at Bkerki. The Patriarch thanked Mgr. Saadé, “protector of the relics of Saint Maron” and pointed out that it was at Kfarhay that the Maronite Church took its first steps, led by its first Patriarch, Mar Youhanna Maroun.
On the second day of his pastoral visit to Batroun, Mgr. Rai visited the monastery of Kfifan. After moments of meditation at the tomb of Saint Neematallah Hardini and of Blessed Estephan Nehmé, he repaired to the salon of the church, where Abbot Tannous Nehmé, superior-general of the gave a speech of circumstance.
After Kfifan and Sourat, it was the turn of the church of Our Lady of Kfarskhmeilan, which dates from the fourth century and which contains frescoes from the twelfth.
Closing his historic visit, during which he met many delegations and personalities, Mgr. Rai celebrated the annual Mass of the Sea at the port of Batroun. In his homily he spoke of the importance of the Vatican Synod for the Middle East held last October, and called on Christians to rediscover their identity and their message in the region. He particularly stressed the “Christian, Antiochene Maronite, Syriac and Lebanese identity” of the Maronites.