Lebanese Catholic bishop defends upcoming visit to Israel

The head of the Lebanese Maronite Catholic Church, Bishop Beshara al-Rahi. Credit: Piotr Rymuza via Wikimedia Commons.

(JNS.org) The head of the Lebanese Maronite Catholic Church, Bishop Beshara al-Rahi, is being heavily criticized by Hezbollah supporters over his upcoming visit to Israel as part of a Catholic delegation with Pope Francis.

“I am the Maronite Patriarch of Antioch and All the East, of regions expanding from Turkey to Mauritania, Saudi Arabia and to Iran,” Bishop al-Rahi said concerning his Israel trip, the Lebanese daily Naharnet reported.

“It is my duty to welcome the Pope in any country in these regions,” he said.

According to reports, Hezbollah, a terrorist organization, has indirectly warned Bishop al-Rahi not to visit Israel.

“[Hezbollah] expressed wishes that the Patriarch would not visit the Holy Land,” a Lebanese Catholic Church official told the pro-Hezbollah Lebanese daily Al-Akhbar.

Additionally, op-eds in several pro-Hezbollah media outlets have criticized Bishop al-Rahi for his decision to step foot in Israel with Pope Francis, saying that it could have serious domestic repercussions on Christians and break the taboo on normalizing ties with Israel.

“Be loyal to the struggle of the Palestinian people who are crucified, like Christ, every day but who rise again every day and resist their enemy and boycott it,” stated an open letter to the bishop from the “Campaign to Boycott Supporters of Israel in Lebanon.”

Bishop al-Rahi would become the first Lebanese Catholic official to visit Israel since the Jewish state was created in 1948.

Posted on May 6, 2014 .